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In Our Time - Complexity

Friday 20 December 2013, 15:22

Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg

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Editors note. In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed Complexity. As always the programme is available to listen to online or download to keep.


Complexity Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss complexity theory.



This newsletter is going to be short.  Principally because Ingrid – who types these missives for me – has already done a live In Our Time, a recorded In Our Time (on Plato, for broadcast on January 2nd), and is now doing a recorded Start the Week with Andrew Marr and Michael Gove and Simon Schama and others. I met Andrew in the corridor when I came out of the studio and it was great to meet him, especially here.

After the programme on complexity there was much talk, but especially about how advanced this country was in that area, not only in universities but in the government departments, and how strong Europe as a whole was, compared with, say, America or China.  After the Plato, there was a feeling that despite covering the territory remarkably well there was still so much to say about, and inside, this short work.  I think it was Professor Ryle who said that all Western philosophy was a footnote to Plato.

So, I’ll be off down Regent Street and into Green Park, and wonder again why the Japanese are fascinated by pigeons and why the French are entranced by squirrels and why intellectuals always veer towards the pelicans on their rock at the Horse Guards Parade end and try to associate those with the pelicans in the wilderness in the Old Testament.

Last night I had time on my hands so having been choked up with cold for a week or so I went for a long walk in Hyde Park in the twilight. Little Dickensian lamps along the Serpentine. Children feeding the ducks in the half-dark and a white swan coming over the lake like a sceptre from a medieval ballad. And a massive great funfair rocketing away on the Park Lane side: big wheel, all those amazing dive bombers and a fully lit-up ship. From there, back and after my wander this afternoon, I’m off to the East End to do a short film with Peter Blake

So, that’s enough. I hope you have a good Christmas and fine New Year, when Ingrid and I are taking a rest from the newsletter. Be back on January 16th.

Best wishes


Melvyn Bragg


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Just a quick demonstration of the phenomenon of Emergence, of blogging, from the facts of the web, and mass ownership of thereto connected devices.

    Happy festive season all, (especially the many postiviral and viral alike).

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    OK, the total number of neurons in the brain produces by Emergence, consciousness. Using the same model of Complexity , what does - or will - the total number of interconnecting internet subscribers in the whole world produce?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    2: I'd agree that consciousness, of a world, requires something, such as the existence in that world of an arrangement of neurons as described, along with relevant sensory systems.

    As to whether that arrangement of neurons also causes the existence, of whatever entity is possessing that consciousness or not, I'll leave others to put forward evidence, if they think they have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I would have liked the black box analogy – for feedback networks - to have been carried a little further. For example is there an equivalent of a real and reactive feedback network within Complexity? Are feedback networks always Emergent? Also. does the Nyquist stability criteria apply for a closed loop configuration?

    Started thinking about applying complexity to financial networks and wasn’t too sure how one would differentiate between a feedback element or an input. Would QE (Quantitative Easing) be regarded as an input or part of a feedback element?

    The enthusiasm exhibited by the panel for their subject was most pleasing. I think the panels, in general, are pretty good on IOT. Always worried that a Dr. Beaker [1], [2] character will appear when a technical subject is under consideration.


    [1] http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/~bat/GA/supercar-biog.html#Dr-Beaker
    [2] http://www.mikemercury.net/Photos.html

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Lawrence Jones
    "Always worried"




    How do you sustain that?

    Happy festive season, btw.


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