December 24, 2005

Statistical mechanics

Chris Anderson says that Wikipedia, Google, the blogosphere, markets and biological evolution are systems that "operate on the alien logic of probabilistic statistics, which sacrifices perfection at the microscale for optimization at the macroscale."
[N]obody's in charge; the intelligence is simply emergent. These probabilistic systems aren't perfect, but they are statistically optimized to excel over time and large numbers. They're designed to scale, and to improve with size. And a little slop at the microscale is the price of such efficiency at the macroscale.

But how can that be right when it feels so wrong?
His answer is that it is conterintuitive. He speculates that our "mammalian brains" have difficulty coping with it. Muck and Mystery suggests that the problem is not in our evolved brain but in our culture.


  1. Really interesting post. Type TIFIC into Wiki.

  2. I also recommend readers not already familiar with biodiversivist's work to look up TIFIC on Wikipedia , browse his book at Amazon or visit his website. Enjoy!

  3. Thank you for the plug, and just in time for the Christmas rush!