Pathways, Limits, and Clusters

How do things grow and self-organize in the face of entropy?  It is through the mechanics of feedback loops, both positive and negative.  If it were only one or the other, we would have bodies, cities, economies, hurricanes, etc. either growing out of control (positive) or not able to grow at all (negative).  It is only when the positive and negative interact that patterns form spontaneously.  There is no design necessary.  No one designed center city Rome.  If someone had, we would call it “abstract,” and that would be generous.  There are often guidelines based on a code or some other boundaries or paradigms, but complexity manifests out of a freedom to take whatever paths are open.

This is an interesting thought.  We tend to assume that more options are better, but I have a hunch this isn’t true.  There is a middle ground between too few paths that overly constrict complexity and too many paths that make the environment too chaotic for complexity to take hold.  We know that life has a limit on paths.  Only a certain subset of genetic options are viable.  That subset might grow over time… a consequence of complexity breeding the possibility of greater complexity… but only the strict limit of viability makes that possible.  If life had more options, the delicate balance that has kept evolution cycling may be upset.  Some species may see more of a need to eliminate others in the competition for resources.  This is the most fundamental of all examples of self-destructive success, and life has found a way to avoid it… most of the time.

So, it is limited paths that allow us to build and grow and develop.  This is why cities and industry clusters form in certain, very limited places rather than every few miles or so.  Limited paths lead to the possibility of increasing returns.