Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Mathematics of Chaos

In light of the current anxiety with the world's financial systems and climate change, a brilliant BBC documentary talks about "the persuasive contrast between the modern, Newtonian mindset, intent on controlling things at all costs (and believing it is possible) whether it is in economics or as far as nature is concerned, and the postmodern insight into the kind of universe hinted at by PoincarĂ©’s mathematics of chaos" ~ Bert Olivier. Click to read the full article here.

We live in a world that is going away from anything like an equilibrium or a steady state. You want to have growth of two percent, three percent more and this means exponential growth, something that we KNOW cannot last forever. If something grows exponentially, it must break down at some point, that is something that can be predicted with safety, the process must end somewhere, how it will end, I don't know. (quote in documentary)

The world's climate is as complex as the world's financial system. We couldn't predict with mathematics that the global financial system would go over the edge as it has, a situation from which we may never recover (and to where we may never return), so too the world's climate is also reaching a tipping point from which we will never recover. We cannot use mathematics to predict global change just as we couldn't use it to predict the financial meltdown. What we can predict is that once it changes, it will be impossible to put the pieces back together as it was.













19 Opinion(s):

WHITEADDER said...

Highly interesting. Still, I believe a hell of a lot can be predicted. Maybe not a 100% correct result or with spot on timing,but a general outcome. In the context of South Africa it is not too difficult.

FishEagle said...

When people find their spirituality they will find their common sense and vision for the future again. Reduce the number of people, even if it means having to have a world war that makes the First and Second World Wars look like kindergarden. The motivation for such a change may only ever come from people with a deeper spirituality and VISION. Mathematics is no longer of any use. The imbalance of humanity's focus on logical thought (control, Newton's mechanics, etc) needs to be rectified with a swing back to spirituality. That means everybody goes to church on Sunday (especially Exzanian)! Lol. Thanks for a great post.

Exzanian said...

I did not have time to watch these vids, but there is no doubt that predicting the future in a large system is all but impossible (Hell, in the UK it is almost impossible to predict the weather 3 days in advance) The world as we know it is under threat, but I am always conscious of Prof Iain Stewart's comment that "The question is not whether the Earth will survive (it will) but will we humans survive"
http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/PlanetEarth

FE, I see you have already viewed my last post on:
http://exzanian.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-luv-jesus-mo.html

FishEagle said...

@Exzanian, lol. "The question is not whether the Earth will survive (it will) but will we humans survive." Just don't use this viewpoint as an excuse to let nature go it's course without trying to find solutions to the perceived doomed fate. We don't know if we have any options left. Do we die trying to find solutions or die overwhelmed in fear? Step one is to reduce the number of people on earth.

FishEagle said...

These comments by James Lovelock summarize the urgency of our situation:


"I suspect we are just about to drop off...I don't see how we can do much about it. I think one of the crucial bits of the system which everone knows, the change is the floating ice in the Arctic Ocean. As you probably know last summer 60% of it went and they think that in not many years, perhaps as little as 5, perhaps as much as 15, it will all be gone. When it does you can work out on the back of an envelope what difference this makes to the heat load on the earth and you will find it is about equal to all of the CO2 that we've added to the atmosphere to date. I.e. heating doubles by the time the ice goes. Do you think we can put that ice back? No! No way!"

Reality is setting in and it's FUCKING scary.

Vanilla Ice said...

Ha ha, predictions are something I do know about. My thesis was on the ability to predict the future movements of financial markets. The long and the short of it is that we cannot make short term predictions using fundamental analysis or the information available to us, and even our long term predictions are shaky, but we can design sub-optimal portfolios. In other words, we don't know what the future holds, but certain correlations seem to be fairly robust. On this basis we can build something that is never perfect, but is the second best option, which is usually something that is diversified, or where you hedge your bets. So, yes, I am a quant. I use predictive models, using stochastic simulations or randomness. The same would apply to politics. There are certain correlates that are robust, like black rule and corruption, for example. When you factor in these correlates you can derive a fairly good sub-optimal scenario. Nobody knows with certainty what South Africa will look like 50 years from now, but we can say with certainty that it will be nothing like it was or nothing like the first world countries. The sub-optimal scenario, for me, comes back to diversification. This diversification includes making sure your children are safe, move the bulk of your wealth into a first world currency, continuing to educate yourself, exploring opportunities to emigrate, developing an exit strategy for your business or gearing your business towards an international market.

FishEagle said...

VI, there is more at stake than just South Africa. Climate change affects earth. What is the sub-optimal scenario for earth?

Vanilla Ice said...

@FE. I know there is a lot more at stake. I defer to those that are more informed in those areas.

What I do know, is that I live in a province that is driven by oil and gas. The bulk of the Masters educated population believe that global warming is a myth. An obvious bias, for sure.

By the way, the robust correlates are similar to stereotypes. You model around these things.

Vanilla Ice said...

I also realise we are all inter-connected and I stand to be corrected, but Canada is a real emigration option in the face of global warming. Australia is going to dry up and die. The downside for us, is more precipitation or moisture. So it will snow a lot more, as we saw this last winter. But we are not about to be flooded or experience insufferable heat, other than the loss of thousands of Islands to the North. Just a thought.

FishEagle said...

If the earth's temperature rises 5 degrees there will be an event of mass species extinctions. I don't think any place will be safe then. Sorry.

FishEagle said...

VI, it kind of puts things in perspective. Maybe we are complaining about the wrong things - crime, illness, poverty. Shouldn't we be cheering these things on, provided we don't become the victims, for the sake of mankind? If I had my way, I would demand that ALL aid be stopped IMMEDIATELY! How would it affect the global financial economy if half of the people on earth miraculously dissappeared?

Exzanian said...

FE, the planet will survive, guaranteed, I can promise you that. It is humanity that is threatened, not the planet. Humans are a blip on the radar of a 4.5 billion year old rock we call earth. Tree huggers and greenpeacenick paranoia notwithstanding!

FishEagle said...

Exzanian, how can I make this clearer? I LOVE PEOPLE!!!!!!!

Exzanian said...

And by the planet I mean LIFE. Evolution will continue. Global warming will be studied in 1 million years time and catagorised as a "mild change" not nearly as catastrophic as the massive impact of 66 million years ago (which incidentally led to our own evolution)

FishEagle said...

Exzanian, aren't you making a few assumptions though? For one, people would have to evolve from blue green algae or some other low life form that survived the impact of the rise in earth's temperature. I'm sure that's not possible in a million years. Secondly, you are assuming that people will exist again, through natural selection. What are the chances of that happening? I don't believe we will ever exist again if we became extinct.

FishEagle said...

If things are truly as bleak as they seem, then I want to know where we went wrong.

Wikipedia defines mathematics as:

Mathematics is the study of quantity, structure, space, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns. They formulate new conjectures and establish truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions.

Wikipedia defines natural law as:

Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) is a theory that posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. The phrase natural law is sometimes opposed to the positive law of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law.

By giving each person equality we initiated the process of bringing mathematics into the foundation of our society. The resulting political systems were democracy and communism. If we developed the mathematics of these political systems further we may have attained a meritocracy. However, in the attempt to bring mathematics into our society, we have created a human population that is too large to be sustained by earth. Equality goes against nature's law that only the fittest survive. By the looks of things, we may not reach our next level of achievement, such as a meritocracy, given that we are facing a global climate change catastrophe within a number of decades. If we do survive such a catastrophe we had bloody well pick things up where we left off!! People will need to implement the meritocracy and not revert back to dictatorships and monarchies or democracies and communism. Leaders must not lose the mathematical achievements of our civilization and continue to build on them.

If we are simply learning to count, risking the entire human population in the process, we better learn to do it fucking good. A political system such as a meritocracy will provide a better representation of natural laws than the political systems of equality and the mathematical achievement will be greater too. What are we waiting for?

FishEagle said...

Maybe there can only be one single source of alternative energy - solar heat. There will always be cause and effect in our environment, regardless which natural resource we use for our energy requirements. The quantities that humans require are enormous due to the number of people on earth. It seems that at this stage the ONLY DESIRABLE effect may be a reduction in the earth's temperature. It may be achieved by converting solar energy to other forms of energy.

Dachshund said...

@Fish Eagle: I apologise to you for having flown into you about Patricia de Lille, but I didn't have your more complete understanding of her gaffe in calling for blog censorship because of the Simon Grindrod and the male prostitute story. Why the hell would anyone care about what somebody as wishy-washy as Simon Grindrod gets up to, in his political "career", or in his spare time. Very naive of de Lille to try to call for censorshop of a blog hosted by Web Press.

It's difficult to follow every single politician's scandals. It's like monitoring shit: everywhere, but deeper in some places than others.

FishEagle said...

Dach, thanks. It's in the past. No hard feelings.