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Complexity in Big History Fred Spier

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Title: Complexity in Big History Fred Spier


1
Complexity in Big HistoryFred Spier
Complexity in Big History Fred Spier
Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies
UNIVERSITY of AMSTERDAM
2
UNIVERSITY of AMSTERDAM
Since 1994 Introductory Course in Big
History Johan Goudsblom and Fred Spier See
worldhistoryconnected
3
Big History
David Christian, Historian Macquarie
University Sydney, Australia
4
A Structure for Big History?
First published in 1996
5
Gina Giandomenico Spring of 2003
How would you explain all of this ?
6
A Theory of Big History ?
Social Evolution and History, 4 1 Moscow,
2005 Download at www.iis-communities.nl/bighist
ory
7
Emerging General Theory of Big History
  • Matter
  • Energy
  • Complexity
  • Entropy
  • Goldilocks Circumstances

8
What is complexity?
Whole is larger than the sum of the parts.
How can we define different levels of complexity?
9
Increasing Complexity?
  • My tentative answer
  • More building blocks
  • Greater variety of building blocks
  • More relations between building blocks
  • Greater variety of relations between building
    blocks
  • Sequence of building blocks
  • But what about emergent properties?

10
How common is greater complexity in
our Solar System ?
11
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12
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13
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14
How does complexity emerge?
Energy flows through matter
How does complexity continue to exist?
It all depends
15
Can we do the math?
Eric Chaisson Astrophysicist Tufts University,
Medford, MA
Published in 2001
16
Eric Chaisson Increasing complexity can be
measured with the aid of energy flows.
Free Energy Rate Density
Energy ______________
Watt/kg Mass x Time
? m
17
A few results
Eric Chaisson Cosmic Evolution, p.139
18
  • Some general problems remain
  • Efficiency
  • Size of objects

Conclusion Energy flows are required for the
emergence of complexity. Yet they provide only a
rough indication for the level of complexity
19
Are There Limits to the Rise of Complexity ?
20
Goldilocks Principle
21
Energy approach Goldilocks Principle
HISTORICAL THEORY OF EVERYTHING
22
Wright Center for Science Education, Tufts
University, Medford, MA, USA
23
Galactic Habitable Zone
24
Galactic Habitable Zone
Chaisson / McMillan Astronomy Today, p.770
25
Galactic habitable zone through time
26
Why is the Sun a sphere?
Why is the Sun a sphere?
Credits Chaisson / McMillan Astronomy Today
27
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28
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29
Credits Chaisson / McMillan Astronomy Today
30
CreditsChaisson / McMillanAstronomy Today
Density
Energy
__________ Mass x Time
?m

Watt/kg
Temperature
31
10 watt/kg
?m values ?
0 watt/kg
? ?
Solar Radius 25 -----------95
32
CreditsChaisson / McMillanAstronomy Today
33
Solar System Habitable Zone
Î Our Sun
40 Eridani
Î 40 Eridani
Credit NASA
34
Life on the Earth
35
Emergence of Humans
Laetoli 3.6 million years ago
36
Ian Tattersall The Human Odyssee, p.151 p.114
37
Emergence of Australopitheces 4 2
million years ago
Skull content 0.5 liter
1- 1.5 m. tall
38
How did early humans defend themselves?
Adriaan Kortlandt Dutch ethologist
39
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40
Vlak gezicht
Emergence of Homo erectus 1.8
million years ago
1.8 m tall
Skull content 1 liter
41
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42
Why bigger brains?
Leslie Aiello and Peter Wheeler
Brains- Intestines Hypothesis
43
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44
Why bigger brains?
Large brains use a lot of energy 11.2 Watt/kg
Intestines also use a lot of energy 12 Watt/kg
45
Australopithecus Homo erectus
46
Why bigger brains?
Pauze
Tool use from 2.5 million years ago Improving
Eye Brain - Hand Coordination
47
  • Externalization of chewing
  • Higher quality food

48
Why bigger brains?
Climate change ?
Rick Potts Paleoanthropologist Nat. Museum of
Nat. History Smithsonian Institution, USA
Pauze
? 540 million years ago
present ?
49
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50
Humans are Different With the aid of
collective learning (culture), humans have both
adapted to the environment and have changed it to
their own design more than any other life form
has done so far.
  • Humans do so by constructing unprecedented
  • forms of complexity with the aid of
  • Tools
  • External power sources
  • and have thus created unprecedented
  • Goldilocks circumstances!

51
Major Ecological Transitions
  • Tool Making (2.5 million years ago)
  • Domestication of Fire (2 M to 500,000 years
    ago)
  • Agrarian Revolution (10,000 years ago)
  • State Formation (5000 years ago)
  • Globalization (500 years ago)
  • Industrialization (220 years ago)
  • Information Revolution (50 years ago)

52
Powered Constructed Complexity
? m
0.15 Watt/kg
Av. output 10,000 Watt Weight 60,000 kg
Fulton, Mississippi, USA
53
Powered Constructed Complexity
Free energy rate densities in Watt/kg

Dutch windmill
0.15 Modern German wind turbine
2 Vacuum cleaner
180 Jet engine Boeing 747
2000 Space shuttle engine 2,120,000
Plants 0.09 Human body 2 Human
brain 15 Human societies 50
54
What about the Future?
55
Forecasting the Future?
Uncertainty as a major issue
56
Future Studies A Science without Data
  • Scenarios
  • Known trends
  • Expected change
  • Known unknowns
  • Unknown unknowns

Problem Small causes can have large effects
57
The fate of the Universe
Chaisson McMillan Astronomy Today
58
Five Ages of the Universe Inside the Physics of
Eternity 1999, The Free Press
Fred Adams Greg Laughlin
59
  • Five Ages of the Universe
  • The Primordial Era
  • The Stelliferous Era
  • The Degenerate Era
  • The Black Hole Era
  • The Dark Era

60
Cosmological Decade 10x years
Today Universe 13.8 billion years old
13.8 x 109 years Tenth cosmological decade
61
  • Primordial Era Decade
  • Big Bang - ?
  • Emergence of nuclei - 6
  • Recombination protons
  • and electrons 5.5

  • ( 300,000 years)

62
  • 2. Stelliferous Era Decade
  • First stars 6
  • Formation Milky Way 9
  • Formation Solar System 9.5
  • Today 10
  • Our Sun dies 10.2
  • Close encounter of our
  • galaxy with Andromeda 10.2
  • Death of smallest stars 13
  • End of conventional
  • star formation 14

63
  • 3. Degenerate Era Decade
  • Planets detached from stars 15
  • Stars evaporate from our galaxy 16
  • Planets and white dwarfs are
  • destroyed by proton decay 35

100000000000000000000000000000000000 years
64
  • 4. Black Hole Era Decade
  • Axions decay into photons 42
  • Stellar black holes evaporate 60
  • Larger black holes disappear 98

10000000000000000000000000000000000000, 0000000000
0000000000000000000000000000, 0000000000000 years
65
  • 5. The Dark Era Decade
  • Black holes evaporate 131
  • Higher order proton decay 100 - 200
  • Cosmological phase transition
  • reconstructs the Universe 1000

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0 years Current age 1000000000 years
66
The Solar System
67
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68
Life
69
Humanity?
Portrait of Humanity designed
by Jon Lomberg in Hawaii
70
Club of Rome Report
Dennis L. Meadows
Study commissioned in 1970 Published in 1972
MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology
71
  • Five Variables
  • Population
  • Resources
  • Food Production per capita
  • Industrial Production per capita
  • Pollution

72
Standard Model
73
Doubling of Resources Constant
Population
74
Graham Turner A comparison of The Limits to
Growth with 30 years of reality Global
Environmental Research, August 2008
Population growth Industrial
output
75
Graham Turner A comparison of The Limits to
Growth with 30 years of reality Global
Environmental Research, August 2008
Non-renewable resources Persistent
pollution
76
Energy and Progress
Most people think that man has progressed into
the modern industrial era because his knowledge
and ingenuity have no limits a dangerous
partial truth. All progress is due to special
power subsidies, and progress evaporates whenever
and wherever they are removed. Knowledge and
ingenuity are the means for applying power
subsidies when they are available, and the
development and retention of knowledge are also
dependent on power delivery.
Howard T. Odum, Environment, Power and
Society, 1971, p. 18
77
  • Proven Energy Reserves
  • Some recent estimates
  • Oil max 100 years
  • Coal max 100 years
  • Uranium several decades
  • Nuclear fusion?
  • Unknown energy sources?
  • Renewable energy resources such as
  • Solar, Wind, and Earth Energy?
  • Unknown unknowns?

78
Our Solar Future
New Scientist, December 8, 2007, p.37
79
Our Solar Future
New Scientist, December 8, 2007, p.34
80
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81
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82
Wind Energy
New Scientist, October 10, 2008
83
Wind Energy
New Scientist, October 10, 2008
84
Thermal Energy from the Oceans
New Scientist, November 19, 2008
85
Better be prepared for a mix of energy strategies!
  • Large, medium and small-scale generation of
    renewable energy,
  • preferably where it yields the most
  • Increasing efficiency of energy use
  • (well known theme)
  • Generation of renewable energy integrated within
    buildings and other structures
  • Downsizing of constructed complexity ?

86
The Big Questions
  • Are we genetically hard wired to harvest more
    matter and energy than we need in order to
    survive and reproduce?
  • If so, are we able to tame this biological
    instinct with the aid of culture?

87
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