Deep and Dreamless

Day 8. (Notes on J.T. Ismael, How Physics Make Us Free, Chapter 2, The Rise of the Self-Governor)

There are simple groups, like a bag of groceries. There are dynamical systems, like a steam engine. There are self-organizing systems, like a colony of ants, a crowd, or the free market. And then there are self-governing systems.

Individual ants follow simple rules. There is nothing in the colony coordinating its activity. Each ant is unaware of what others are doing. A self-organizing system is a collection of parts that do their own thing. Yet under random external pressure, the system arranges itself into a collective whole.

Atoms in a crystal emit individual lightwave trains when excited. One observes only a superposition of uncorrelated wave trains at first. When field amplitude is high enough, the atoms oscillate with coherence. Crystal atoms in a laser is a self-organizing system.

A self-governing system is a self-organizing system with an extra feature. It has a super routine that collates information from constituent parts. A self-organizing system responds to stimuli immediately. A self-governing system acts based on this collection of information instead.

This mediating computational cycle decouples behavior from stimulus. In humans, the brain separates information about the world from one’s location in it. One’s sense of presence in space develops into a sense of oneself as an embodied intelligence. One then conceives of one’s self as a source of volition.

Enough for today.