Sunday, February 03, 2008

Systems of Thought

The way I tend to view the world is in the form of a hierarchy of systems.

  • At the most basic level everything is composed of waves, particles, and the forces that cause them to interact. It is at this level that the much-vaunted “theory of everything” will work. Other rules that work on this level are quantum physics and thermodynamics. This level is often referred to as “physics.”
  • At the next layer of complexity everything is composed of molecules that interact in various ways. This level is often referred to as “chemistry.”
  • Above we find the interactions of discrete cells in biological systems to create everything from neurons to connective tissue; from ivory to limestone.
  • The next level consists of the creations of the human mind. This is everything that exists by virtue of human beings manipulating the layers below. Tools, engineering, electrical devices and artificial artefacts all fall into this category. However not all of the things at this level are material: some are expressed as patterns of information in material. Things like language (both human and computer), philosophical concepts like truth, beauty, morality and law, systems of rules and interactions.
  • Above this comes the interactions between minds and the creations of the human mind. Politics and economics come into play at this level. So does literature. The difference between this level and the previous level is vague. Should “law” be considered something we hold within our minds or is it something we have “created” and that is held externally?
  • Above this level is the sum of human endeavour. This could be described as “culture.” It is what Kevin Kelly might term “the Technium.” It is our civilization. It is where the Singularity will happen.

No comments: