Ambition, the Avant-Garde, and Complexity Theory

Online discussions, plus how experimentation combined with engaged criticism generates the momentum to shift society, and how human cultural evolution might relate to complexity in the universe.

Thank you for reading! I have a few announcements:

Complexity Salon

The first is that this coming Monday 29th June at 9pm London Time I will be hosting an online salon on Complexity Theory, via the the excellent InterIntellect. You can sign up for it on the event page: “It’s Complicated: A Casual Introduction to Complexity Theory.”

The informal format — I love that it’s called a “salon” — involves pondering a few links in your own time, turning up to the Zoom call, introducing yourself, and participating in a discussion. I’m excited to learn about it alongside others, so I’ll give a broad overview, then it will be an open dialogue. (I’ve been to several other II salons and they are invariably great.)

Ambition and the Avant-Garde

I promised in my first post to showcase recent writing, which it has taken me some time to produce. However I have now composed around ten thousand words, which should suggest the shape of my current thinking.

I posted this as a series of loosely related (but tightly hyperlinked) essays. You can see the posts from the main page or start from these descriptions:

I will be continuing the culture series over the next few weeks.

Ultimately, I’m trying to establish that there are consequential patterns which occur in and across the origins of the universe, the origins of life, and the origins of human individuality and culture. I think that the step-changes in complexity occur during specific out-of-equilibrium cycles which, when sustained for long enough, find ways to reinforce the conditions which produced them. None of this is teleological, but instead depends on a generalised selection for stability over a vast number of experiments (Darwinian selection being a special and rather refined case). And I think that this pattern occurs at the levels of physics, chemistry, biology, and cultural evolution.

The problem now is how to articulate the argument, trace the patterns, and accumulate and present evidence. If any of this sounds interesting, I can definitely use your help in working out and refining these ideas, so I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reply to this email or reach me on Twitter: @bryankam.

If you’re wondering how all this is related to the novel I’m in principle writing, you’ll need to stay posted.

McGilchrist Talk

Finally, though I’m as yet unfamiliar with his work, several of you have told me that I need to read Iain McGilchrist. He will be in an online conversation with David Malone on Wednesday 15th July at 6:30pm London time. I’ll be there and thought you might be interested.

Until next time, I remain