Conservation of Complexity

Is there some missing conservation law in physics, indeed all sciences, physical and social? Why do humans divide order (eh, structure, predictability?) and chaos (eh, randomness, unpredictable?) into two different things? I believe the universe doesn’t distinguish between the two, and so you can’t have one without the other! Order from chaos and chaos from order, going up and down the scales of spacetime! This law probably explains why even though we know so much detail about the sciences, and with the large amount of data on the internet, our society is still struggling with so many problems like climate change, fossil fuel depletion, social stratification, etc. Every “rational” solution we come up with to solve an “isolated” problem generates unending unintended consequences! We forget that everything is all interconnected and complex!

I call this law the conservation of complexity! I’m reading a book about the science of complex systems and it turns out that all these scientists and philosophers studying complex systems can’t decide on an “objective” definition of complexity!  I define complexity as a bunch of things that are all interconnected and interacting with each other in a seemingly chaotic fashion. By that definition, the science of complexity, with all the different scientists and philosophers with complex personalities (biases) studying complexity, is itself a complex system! Complexity is conserved! To me, this law states that at all scales of the universe both physical and social there exists complexity! Duh! I think a lot of people have thought about this.

What about the “physical” universe? Well, every physical scientist “isolates” a system in order to “fully” understand it… but, humans have to keep in mind that the universe doesn’t make a distinction between systems because isn’t it all the universe? Here we go: A single grain of sand “looks” simple, disconnected and static (order) at the scale of a single grain of sand but isn’t it made up of billions of atoms which are made up of other smaller particles which are all interacting in a chaotic quantum frenzy!? Each atom “looks” simple, disconnected and static (order) at the scale of an atom, but there’s a complex system inside each atom! And with billions of atoms comprising a grain of sand there is a complex system in each grain of sand! Even at the scale of a single grain of sand aren’t there microbes on the surface and chemical reactions happening on the surface of the grain? Another complex system on the surface of the grain! At the scale of a beach made of many grains of sand, the beach looks simple, disconnected, and static (order), but isn’t it subject to sea level change, waves, wind, chaotic weather and human engineering? Another complex system! The climate system, the lithosphere, the biosphere, and the human economy are all interconnected and complex and so the entire Earth is another complex system, but when you look at the Earth from very far away it looks like a simple orderly particle; the pale blue dot image that the Voyager spacecraft took. The solar system has a star, planets, moons, millions of asteroids, quadrillions of micrometeorites, trillions of comets, all interacting with each other. It is another complex system! Groups of stars, arms of galaxies, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters of galaxies, and the whole universe itself full of galaxies. Complexity is conserved at all scales!  Complexity from the scale below cancels out, but is replaced by complexity at the next scale up. The quantum mechanics complexity cancels out at the atomic and molecular scale but is replaced by molecular complexity in chemical reactions which then cancels out at the organism scale but is replaced by ecological and evolutionary complexity and chaos and so on. I think the law of conservation of complexity, the idea of evolution, the law of conservation of mass/energy and the second law of thermodynamics must all be related in some unifying law…

I can’t explain this with mathematical rigor because of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem which states that mathematics itself cannot be both complete and consistent. Scientists and mathematicians may be trying to quantify virtually infinite complexity…. and let’s not even talk about economics, yikes…
Reductionist science should still be undertaken, but we need to also understand the implications of the law of conservation of complexity.  All of the reductionist science experiments that have been completed since the beginning of civilization are pointing toward what we already know deep down: everything is interconnected. The reductionist experiments are verifiable by separate people but how are the results truly separate (isolated) from every other experiment?  Consequently, we have to understand that when we introduce a new technology or law or do anything in our society or in our own lives we are never doing just “one” thing with “one” effect! It’s all interconnected!

My life advice? Keep it simple folks! You need food, water, shelter, health, a community, and some “appropriate” technology is fine. What else? Should we be adding infinite technological complexity onto already infinite complexity? Why? I’m pretty sure that the singularity already happened; go meditate in a forest for a few hours and see if you don’t agree.


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