Complexity’s performance at Jack and Jack

Worldviews and partial understandings in complex systems

I was reading a chapter of my friends thesis this morning and discussing it with her. Most of you may not know, but I did a Ph.D. a couple of years ago, looking at how librarians and archivists can better help social workers do their work (which is incredibly complex and relies on a lot of insider knowledge of how to get people linked into housing, treatment, work etc). This has had a profound impact on me, and shaped how I view the world (i.e. my worldview). It also taught me about how you only ever partially understand how other people work, think, experience the world.

Why am I making a post about this on my 1d Larrie blog? Because I think with so much being unknown behind the scenes right now, and everything from the continued existence of the band to Larry being questioned, people are feeling anxious and stressed, but not getting the solid info they need to understand what is truly going on.

And I think that the difficulty we all face now is that none of us can really fully understand all the nuances because we only have small snippets of info, not all of which is reliable. And the situation is clearly complex, with (in my opinion) multiple teams and other entities all putting both truth and misinformation out there. Claim and counter claim. We as a fandom or fandoms can’t actually have a full understanding. And that’s tough to come to terms with.

What’s also difficult is that because of this complexity, we all use our life experiences and world views as lenses to try and interpret from day to day as best we can. That interpretation can change as ideas emerge. Our friends, mutuals or even blogs we follow may change their views profoundly in these circumstances and it feels sudden to us, maybe even another emotional loss after all our other losses.

Fandom for many of us has an added overlay of profound emotional investment and connection, in the band members, in the music, in their relationships, in our connections with other fans. I myself now have dear friends around the world who I met through fandom.

All of these issues are joining together at the moment to cause tremors and unease in the fandom right now, I think. But sometimes accepting the complexity and the unknowns can help, to allow us to be aware and be kind and understanding of other fans, who may be coming from a profoundly different place in terms of worldview and investment in the band and fandom.

Or you may not accept that you don’t know, and go on a quest for more information and understanding. That’s fine too.

Or you may decide you need to leave, take a step back, become a Finnish death metal blog, whatever you need. This is definitely ok. You can come back or not (you do not owe anyone to be a Teflon Larrie or stay when it is painful to stay).

I think…..we don’t know what is going on. I have beliefs about Larry still being real, and one direction still being a band, that are what I believe given all the info I know right now. I might be fully right or completely wrong. I’m ok with that but I understand from others they are not ok.

And that is ok. I just hope we all keep talking and analysing and dialoguing respecting each other. Because I love this band, the boys in it, the fandom and the shining stars in it. And I’m going to do my best to keep going and showing my support to all of those beings for as long as I can.

INFJs spend much of their time pondering their own complexity. While everyone has different sides to them, it is the INFJ’s obsessive exploration of their own psyche that makes them seem stranger to themselves and/or others. It is the thinking that makes it so. Remember this whenever you feel the need to impress anyone by being something you’re not. What you are is complex, and no one has the right to make you feel like that is not enough. You can be whoever you want. It is the thinking that makes it so.

A whiskey-drinking woman knows that none of us fit in these neat little boxes. She’d never pigeonhole other women—or men for that matter. She knows that each of us are infinitely full of gorgeous nooks and crannies waiting to be explored, and that the people who are willing to brave our fire in order to enjoy our warmth are the ones worth keeping in our lives.
—  Sara Crolick

Ask Ethan: is the Universe itself alive?

“Are we all just brain cells in a larger creature, on a planetary scale, that has yet to become self-aware? How would we know? How could we test this?”

The analogies between small-scale, living things and large-scale, cosmic entities are abundant: between a neuron and the Universe’s large-scale structure; between an atom and a solar system; between the stars in a galaxy and the atoms in a cell; between the cells in a living being and the galaxies in the Universe. It makes you wonder if, on a cosmic scale, some portion (or the whole) of the Universe could actually be alive and self-aware?

While we don’t yet know how to test for that, what we can calculate is the amount of information that a self-aware being does exchange, and compare that to the amount of information that could conceivably be mutually exchanged by cosmic entities on various scales. The conclusion is that while the entire Universe can’t do it, on timescales much longer than the present age of the Universe, individual bound galaxies, groups and clusters perhaps could.

Complex environments push ‘brain’ evolution

Little animations trying to master a computer game are teaching neuroscience researchers how the brain evolves when faced with difficult tasks.

Neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have programmed animated critters that they call “animats.” The critters have a rudimentary neural system made of eight nodes: two sensors, two motors, and four internal computers that coordinate sensation, movement and memory.

The researchers watched as the critters played a video game in which they tried to “catch” falling blocks, learning to detect where they would land. Then the scientists selected the best players of each generation and allowed them to replicate. The computer code that makes up the animats’ “DNA” codes for the wiring between the parts of the “brain” and also allows for random mutations, some of which made the animats better block-catchers.

While some animats played simpler versions of the game, which resembles the old video game “Tetris,” other animats played more and more complex versions over and over. At the end of 60,000 generations, they all had evolved more complex wiring in their neural networks, but the animats that did well in more complex versions of the game had developed particularly intricate neural networks.

“This shows that by adapting to a more complex environment, the organism itself becomes more complex,” says UW-Madison researcher Larissa Albantakis, the study’s lead author. More complexity in the environment requires the animats to develop more neural functions. But because the size of their brains was limited to the eight nodes, the animats adapted to complexity by creating more integration between the nodes. Neuroscientists have proposed this as a strategy for brain evolution.

“In principle, integration in the brain is not necessary if the brain could just keep growing indefinitely, but in reality, there is an energetic cost to big brains. Integrated neural networks are just more economic, because they can implement the same number of functions with fewer nodes,” Albantakis explains.

Co-authors Chris Adami and Arend Hintze, of Michigan State University, have evolved animats with larger brains that can master mazes and recognize hand-written numbers.

But Albantakis says her study was more interested in the question of how the brain evolved to environments of different complexity and whether that evolution looks like what is predicted by Integrated Information Theory (IIT). The animats were a simplified system for studying integration in the brain, albeit one that strains the ability of computers, given the need to analyze 60,000 generations of neural connections.

Albantakis is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of the study’s senior author, Giulio Tononi, professor of psychiatry in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Tononi has proposed IIT as a comprehensive theory of consciousness. According to the theory, consciousness reflects a system’s capacity for information integration (quantified by a measure of complexity called PHI). The theory accounts for many experimental facts about consciousness and the brain, has led to testable predictions, and permits inferences and extrapolations.

The current study looks at how such systems with high PHI evolve. It found that over thousands of generations, the animats learn a larger number of concepts about the game and they integrate more of the information, but that their learning and integration depend on being presented with a more complex environment – for example, a more difficult level of the game.

“This shows that a rich environment is a driving force towards developing both complexity and integration,” Albantakis says.