My blog, Infinite, is named on the basis that I believe there is no limit to creativity. Ideas, questions, solutions and creations and what we can do face only the borders of our imagination. There may be certain laws that govern what we create, such as the laws of physics, but as pointed out in my previous post on quantum entanglement, the way we understand our environment is changing, and with that, what we can do.
This is why theories fascinate me. They explore questions that we can’t necessarily explain or understand, and push these limits of imagination. This week, I want to introduce you to the chaos theory that investigates the behavior of complex systems. You may have heard of it explained in the context of climate, as a complex and connected system.
In a discussion on this theory, it was so clearly explained as such:
“In classical problem solving approaches we are taught to break complex systems into more manageable, and understandable components. This works up to a point, but for certain types of systems (complex, as opposed to complicated) it doesn’t. The behavior depends on the interaction between the many components, and the system cannot be understood by examining the components separately,” explains S.M..
The idea is that while these complex systems are just that, and they run through cycles in constant search of an equilibrium. In chaos theory, there are two names for this kind of dynamic movement towards an equilibrium. One is an attractor, and the other, a strange attractor. In the first situation a state is developed where a system finally settles. A strange attractor, however, represents a trajectory where the system runs through these cycles without ever settling.
I see a similar movement in technology. It develops based on our needs and wants and is distributed in the market based on demand. Can we use chaos theory to predict what technologies will develop? What if we can’t conceive of solutions, but can point out where there are needs, and from there, start planning for the development of a solution?
While it may be impossible to predict our systems trajectory, just as it’s impossible to predict the future, can we use chaos theory to choose the best path? And what if the best path is not the most profitable path?
I think of all the ups and downs that our society has run through and, all over the world, other societies that also experience constant states of flux. Sometimes change is fast, sometimes slow. Despite the fact that technology is changing and advancing at rapid speeds, we finally have all the tools we need to create socio-economic stability in our world, an attractor of chaos theory, and an attractive outlook too. Unfortunately, commercialism and consumerism is a strange attractor an an obsession in our society. On this path, the trajectory of ups and downs may never settle.
2 thoughts on “Chaos Theory and Technology as a Strange Attractor”
Historically I’ve avoided exploring the concept of chaos theory- I’d assumed that it was more to do with the study of the complicated rather than the complex. You and ‘S.M.’ have offered a much simpler model of the concept, which is, I now know, kinda the idea! Thanks for that.
Bit scary, though, your idea regarding the evolution of technology as a chaotic model. If it’s all stumbling towards the strange attractor of “comfort” over the attractor of “progress” then I don’t need a course in chaos theory to see we’re in for a bit of trouble!
Keep up the good work, regardless- your positive perspective on progress is a weekly fresh breath,