Henry Adams and Stuart Kauffman

I recently read the chapter "A Law of Acceleration" in The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams. One of Adams's primary points is that knowledge / information / energy / force increase at an ever increasing rate, thus making it feel as if the changes in the world in the last hundred years are much larger than the previous changes. (The philosophy is relatively similar to some of Ray Kurzweil's ideas.)

This idea of ever increasing exploding knowledge made me think of a different book I read recently, Stuart Kauffman's Investigations. Kauffman suggests that the biosphere cannot be finitely describable, proposing that it is always expanding into the "adjacent possible."

I feel that a deep connection can be made between Adam's knowledge and Kauffman's nature, including how Adam's explanations help justify Kauffman's assumptions and how Kauffman's finite-representation argument illuminates the feeling of being overwhelmed by change (as expressed in Adam's work). Maybe I'll write an essay on this, if there is someplace that would be interested in publishing it.

Filed under: things that make you go hmmmmm... :)


Anonymous said...

Have you read Vernor Vinge's paper on the so-called "singularity?" It presupposes a exponentially increasing info/technology/etc.


mark said...

Adams basically says as much (though he doesn't use the word exponential). As does Kurzweil. As do a number of other people. Vinge's main insight/claim, as I understand it, is that the singularity itself: a point at which those before cannot comprehend or properly conceive of those that come after.

Anonymous said...

Right. That's my understanindg on vinge's position too.

I don't think the thought is attributable to any of them though. I think people have been talking about information increasing at an ever increasing rate for a long time.