Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Discussion of articles that appear in the magazine.

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Philosophy Now
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Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Philosophy Now » Mon May 23, 2016 4:39 pm

Peter Saltzstein finds that Chaos Theory yields unexpected philosophical results.

https://philosophynow.org/issues/114/Ch ... e_Tomorrow

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Mon May 23, 2016 5:25 pm

This article on chaos and unpredictability makes me think of the Middle East and how chaotic the situation is there. But I do think one thing that is predictable is that it will take a long time to resolve the chaos that exists there, due to the region's history and backwardness.

This article also connects chaos and complexity, informing us that complexity guaranties chaos. But it doesn't inform us that complexity is good and can combat the spiral into further chaos. For instance, if the Middle East had developed the complex political system as we have in the West it would not have spiralled into the chaotic mess it is in today. Complexity develops immune and backup systems to fight, repair and survive catastrophic situations. If the Western world had not developed the ultra complex network of nations working together it would not have survived and overcome the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which caused great chaos throughout the world. That event could have easily spiralled into another world war. And that we have learned from history. (If only the Middle East could learn from its history in order to combat chaos.)

Roger S
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Roger S » Wed May 25, 2016 2:50 pm

A very welcome article. Can I suggest a small refinement? As I understand it, in a chaotic but discontinuous system, it is the case that:
  • >Small differences in initial conditions result in exponentially diverging differences in subsequent conditions.
    >Consequently, (1) whatever the accuracy with which we measure the initial conditions, we cannot predict subsequent conditions to the same degree of accuracy, and this remains true as accuracy increases without limit. (This leaves determinism relying on the concept of “exact” knowledge of initial conditions, which the author evidently regards as metaphysically questionable).
    >Nevertheless, (2) whatever the accuracy with which we wish to predict conditions at a later time, we can specify an accuracy of measurement of conditions at an earlier time that would enable it.
So the question of whether the future is “predictable in principle” requires a clear understanding of whether predictability as implied by (1) or by (2) is being referred to.
In a chaotic, continuous system, my understanding is that even predictability in weaker sense (2) may not be possible. Finite errors of prediction can grow from nothing in finite time: everywhere is a singularity, and the exponential time constant is a function of scale. However, although this fact is hopefully chastening to dogmatic determinists, it is only a fact about mathematics, as the physical world is not infinitely divisible.
On the other hand, the author reminds us that our universe is governed at the smallest scales by quantum effects. The combination of indeterminate cosmic radiation and the butterfly effect is enough to ensure that Laplacean determinism is irrelevant. A cosmic ray in Colombia could affect a shower in Sherborne, stimulating the invention of a new type of umbrella.....

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Thu May 26, 2016 8:16 pm

Chaos Theory yields unexpected philosophical results.
One of the unexpected philosophical results seems to be 'what if''. Another, which Saltzstein didn't mention, is conspiracy explanations. However, conspiracy theories tend to mitigate or deny chaotic events, like accidents don't happen; everything is planned.

Anyway, I don't understand the 'what if' argument. It doesn't seem to relate to chaos. I think it's related more to the unpredictable. And conspiracy theorists have a good explanation for unpredictable events, like the killing of JFK, one being that he'd become an impediment to the war happing in Vietnam and thus a thorn in the side of the American military/industrial complex.

What if the war in Vietnam hadn't occurred? But for some it was a necessity, the belief being that if a communist Vietnam remained it could cause a domino/butterfly effect in the region. The war was meant to stop the expansion and influence of communism in the area. A communist Vietnam could lead to a communist South Korea or a communist Japan the argument went. To a great extent the war was driven by paranoia.

My feeling is that the war in Vietnam couldn't have been avoided. It was in America's DNA to wage it. And in the end it's had a positive outcome, albeit an expensive on. It eventually brought about the integration of Vietnam, and China, into the rest of the world. And it helped put a stake through the heart of communism's ambitions.

Nevertheless, the Vietnam war was a chaotic event. And how is it that it didn't lead to a greater war? Perhaps that is because the major parties involved knew from past experience that if it hadn't been contained as it was nuclear weapons may have been used, bringing an end to all.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:36 pm

Saltzstein doesn't give history much credit for understanding or dealing with chaos. He also seems to think that history is the incarnate of chaos itself. Therefore it's impossible to discern the future, let alone the present, from it.

I'm recalling the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union back in 1989. That should have been a chaotic event for the world. But it really wasn't; the world took it in stride. That's because the chaos that might have been was defused by history. History may have even anticipated it, acting in accordance and with restrain.

Nobody anticipated the outright collapse of the Soviet Union. But if they had I am sure they would have imagined a chaotic event because it could have unleashed the unknown. No one had ever experience the collapse of an economic/political system on such a grand scale. But from past experience history had learned that this was an evolutionary occurrence rather than a revolutionary one, like occurred during the Russian Revolution. Now, that was truly a chaotic event, especially for Russia.

The world has become more complex and getting more so. Saltzstein sees this as not so good because of the potential chaos and problems it creates for the world. Complexity does create more problems. But with complexity and problems has come efforts and systems to resolve problems. Problem solving has created vast networks of individuals working and engaging each other in seeking solutions. Such networking creates feedback loops that enhance the overall function of society. With such efforts immunities are developed to tackle the catastrophic and chaotic events that arise. Ironically we need problems to improve and better ourselves. Not only that, problem solving motivates and gives us something to do. And human existence is all about the doing.

We find sustenance in complexity. But open societies are necessary for that, with the freedom to exchange ideas so that we can develop methods and networks for our continuance. Communism and the old Soviet Union didn't encourage or allow for openness among its citizens, thus it didn't develop the human capital or meaningful complex systems that would give it a future.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:22 pm

"Chaos is the anti-calculus revolution.”

When calculus was discovered it was believed everything could be measured by it, including human governance. Marx was one who believed a society could be constructed on mathematical principles, thus removing all the chaotic differentials and uncertainties that came with being human. His ideas led to communism, a rigid political/economic system formulated to remove the randomness and chaos that was seen in its rival, capitalism. However, the rigidity and inflexibility that accompanied Marxism was so lacking in freedom and spontaneity that it was void of the creative tension that might have given it a future. Since there was no room for any measure of social chaos in its calculus communism eventually lost its dynamism and collapsed.

yiostheoy
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by yiostheoy » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:41 pm

I believe the author struggled with quantum physics because his background is in history, art, and philosophy. He made a stab at the physics but hardly said anything significant about it.

Chaos theory has been around for as long as I can remember -- at least since the 1970's. There is nothing really new about it.

The original view of it is that even chaos follows patterns -- which is paradoxical since chaos is the absence of any patterns.

Perhaps the ultimate conclusion then becomes that chaos is not random -- chaos is not really chaotic.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Thu Jun 09, 2016 5:12 pm

I remember once standing in a very disorderly line waiting for transportation to the airport. I said to someone standing beside me, this situation is chaos and terribly organized. He agreed but then added that he was Italian and therefore was used to it. I laughed.

But that chaos did not stop me from rightly predicting that sooner or later it would be over and we would be on our way.

Dalek Prime
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Dalek Prime » Thu Jun 09, 2016 6:02 pm

I can't predict what I'm going to have for dinner, or if I'll over nap, spoil my appetite, and not have dinner at all.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:10 pm

The future is not what it used to be.
The future used to include Britain in the EU.

Reflex
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Reflex » Fri Jun 24, 2016 6:44 pm

That's all you guys got from that article?

Wow. Just wow.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Sat Jun 25, 2016 2:03 pm

Reflex wrote:That's all you guys got from that article?

Wow. Just wow.
Reflex,

It seems all you got from the article is wow, wow.

Nevertheless, the article does evoke a sense of awe, a chaotic awe.

spike
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by spike » Fri Jul 01, 2016 4:32 pm

The Unforeseen Death of Predictability
I guess there was a time when we thought the future was predictable, that if we did certain things in the present we could expect certain results in the future. That was the reasoning behind the making of the European Union, the organization that was meant to foster peace and cooperation among the nations of Europe. For the most part it worked fine until a complacency and grandiose-ness set in. The project got too big and out of hand, causing the instability and the unpredictability we see today. Had the project not grown so complex and demanding it may not have become the unpredictable experiment it is today.

The Republican Convention that is going to be held in Cleveland this month is described to be "chaotic, freewheeling and unpredictable". The one most responsible for this turn of events is Donald Trump. But he is not the only one responsible for the way things have turned out for the GOP. The seeds of chaos, freewheeling and unpredictability were sown years ago, causing the upheaval and butterfly effect we see today in the Republican Party. Had the Republican Party through the years acted more middle-of-the-road and progressive it would not have been so alluring to unpredictable characters like Trump. Today the GOP is in disarray because of its past overly right-wing behaviour and exclusionary tactics.

Unpredictability is inevitable. Nothing can be totally predictable as long as humans endeavour.

Impenitent
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Impenitent » Fri Jul 01, 2016 7:11 pm

history never repeats

-Imp

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Gary Childress
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Re: Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

Post by Gary Childress » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:14 pm

Impenitent wrote:history never repeats

-Imp
I suppose whoever said, "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" was wrong. And those who say it's insane to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results are also wrong.

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