Implications for Everyday Systems

Issues of Modelling

In the previous chapter I showed how various general forms of behavior that are common in nature can be understood by thinking in terms of simple programs. In this chapter what I will do is to take what we have learned, and look at a sequence of fairly specific kinds of systems in nature and elsewhere, and in each case discuss how the most obvious features of their behavior arise.

The majority of the systems I consider are quite familiar from everyday life, and at first one might assume that the origins of their behavior would long ago have been discovered. But in fact, in almost all cases, rather little turns out to be known, and indeed at any fundamental level the behavior that is observed has often in the past seemed quite mysterious. But what we will discover in this chapter is that by thinking in terms of simple programs, the fundamental origins of this behavior become much less mysterious.

It should be said at the outset that it is not my purpose to explain every detail of all the various kinds of systems that I discuss. And in fact, to do this for even just one kind of system would most likely take at least another whole book, if not much more.

But what I do want to do is to identify the basic mechanisms that are responsible for the most obvious features of the behavior of each kind of system. I want to understand, for example, how in general

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From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]