NOTE:For revised text and extended discussion please click on:Principia Cybernetica
* 7 Complexity and biological evolution

7.3 Do systems necessarily filter out complexity?


Heylighen and Luhman stress the importance of the reduction of complexity necessary for the effective reduction of environmental complexity for organisms and institutions respectively. Here we are talking about the evolutionary fitness complexity, but ... the environment ... the organism's (or instituition's) point of view. In the short term the only response is somehow to ignore or filter out most of it, since otherwise the entity's computational capacity would be overwhelmed. This ability will be closely connected to the evolutionary fitness of the organism w.r.t. the environment but the exact nature of this co-evolution .. is unclear.

Perhaps it is in the nature of the identity of such entities that it must do so. If such an entity did not filter out (much) complexity from its environment, then it becomes more difficult to separate it from that environment. This raises the possibility that we only recognise entities that do perform such a filtration, and so the observation is a tautology.

One often sees arguments of the type "entities evolve to the edge of chaos, since in the chaotic region it would be overwhelmed with change and in the frozen region it would not be able to sufficiently adapt". This can be roughly translated as the complexity of an entity's pattern of adaption can not be either too simple nor too complex. This sort of argument should be used with great care; it may well be that in one language of representation, an entity seems to be overwhelmed by change so that it is no longer recognisable, while still having sufficient continuity to be recognised as a specific individual in another. Again, the relativisation of complexity to a particular language is very important.


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