Working models and nature

Edward Lorenz came up with Chaos theory in the early twentieth century.


“Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”  Edward Lorenz


It is interesting as it is difficult to get every single variable within a model and Lorenz was a high ranking mathematician who saw the issue and theorised it. Even today with many satellites and other modelling computational systems the weather is still open to unpredictability. In a way everything is open to unpredictability but there are always some ways to see a pattern or set of patterns. That is it though everything follows rules but it is hard to see every variable. The laws of physics are still there but the measurements have small perturbations. There are slight discrepancies even within rules. Everything is slightly out of the flow though it is within it. I used to think of this as the mathematics of dirt. Where there are too many variables to see the actual world in the actual model. Obviously models can be incredibly convincing. It isn’t that you can’t make a working model but reality is still more complex.


Reality has all of these little things following it around that seem unimportant but in a way are actually a part of a highly complex model itself. It isn’t that you need an exact model to understand something though. That is why thought can still manipulate the world. You can create things as a working model within reality. Thus a skyscraper or any other thing in reality. It is just that you can only predict changes that will affect these models fairly accurately. Or in other words they are working illusions within a larger world that has so many elements that are unpredictable.


Funnily enough we will clean a buildings windows. We see that the elements are present. We understand that the world itself is imperfect yet ideas can be perfect. It works the other way around too. The world is perfect and ideas are imperfect. Maybe dirt and unpredictability are actually what we need. So we can think and apply ideas in a perfect world that always slips out of our models. Our ideas can never contain it. In the meantime we set about employing our ideas and cleaning the windows so we can pretend that the world is the illusion and our ideas are actual reality. Maybe that is just cold comfort. Order is never perfect. Chaos then is probably the best way to understand highly complex systems. Working models help us engage and manage complexities. Reality is so complex in fact that even the smallest insignificant elements keep us engaged. They remind us that our modelling can only go so far. We have to clean the buildings windows just to keep our models as we imagined.


My own idea about dirt was more about insignificance. Our modelling wants accuracy but sees that so many other elements as insignificant. To my mind that is the challenge. Nothing is insignificant. How then do you model it? It is probably a philosophical problem rather than a working one. Though Chaos is a working model in that it can be theorised and modelled. Insignificance is probably impossible to model anyway. What would be interesting though would be to take simply a small sample area and model that. That is what the Hadron collider does. It models such a small area of reality. That in itself is highly complex. All of the seemingly insignificant things inform reality. They seem so disconnected but are not.

They are simply too complex. Dirt though is just that. It is a by product of a complex reality. It just follows us around. Then to make matters worse we think about it and find smaller working models. There are a lot of connections and they make sense. Yet even an atomic sample that is so small throws up incredible challenges. For me though I feel and I am sure many other people do as well that insignificance is just a way we can generalise to not get caught up in a quasi world of endless complexity. It stops at a point though. It in a way doesn’t though. The models take on new complexity and we see more than we did before. We track and map then we watch through a camera and every now and then we have to clean the camera lens. We need accuracy yet we still clean the lens. The lens then is doctored to keep the illusion going. We need to clean it though to still see the reality. Or do we? Can we just accept that the lens is not perfect? That it was never actually how things were.


So Chaos theory is in fact an understanding of complexity and complex systems. Dirt is more about the complex system itself. It is mired in small details that sully the lens that sully the model. The problem is you know that the flap of the butterfly wing takes place but at the same you can only guess. What significance it has is actually unknown. You could imagine thousands of cctv cameras on one small area. Just watching. Simply modelling yet never able to see every detail as every detail seems insignificant. Yet the model needs to understand every detail. Though it doesn’t need every detail to work. Dirt itself is a quasi science. It is insignificant but reality it seems has a place for everything. Nature understands that everything can have a place. Human thought doesn’t need that level of accuracy. Truth is it may never but Chaos theory opens the challenge in a way. It shows the gap between the model and reality.


Nature though is what creates everything. It lets things be complex beyond human models. It fits though within models quite well. At the same time nature knows that to come to an understanding of complexity you need models that can’t actually be created. Nature it seems can’t be modelled exactly and it can simply be something to study. It has too many working parts and many of them are unpredictable.  

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