Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Complexity and the moon

Japan plans to land a man on the moon by 2025. A big first step is an unmanned moon launch scheduled for this week.

Technology is a funny thing. Back in 1961 when President Kennedy wanted to land a man on the moon it took eight years. At that time electronic computers had only been around for 15 years or so. With all the whiz-bang power, graphics, and communications capabilities of today’s computers, it’s going to take 18 years or ten years longer than the first time. How did that happen?

It turns out that a group of mathematicians and scientists believe the explanation could be found in chaos theory. Harvard Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam says, “The increase in complexity is directly related to sweeping changes in the structure and dynamics of human civilization: both the increasing interdependence of the global economic and social system, and the instabilities of dictatorships, communism, and corporate hierarchies.” He didn’t leave anyone out, did he?

So what’s next for humans? Bar-Yam says one future human organizational structure might be a fully networked system where hierarchical structures are unimportant.

Sounds good. No boss, and maybe we could even get back to the moon ten years sooner.

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