Complex dynamic dissipative systems consist of discrete elements acting in a continuous fashion through parallel processing. As systems containing discrete elements, they are digital (from the Latin digitus, for finger – that is, countable and separable, connected to the idea of a digit as a number). As continuous systems, they are analog (from “analogous,” alike; Greek ana, “complete” and logos “explanation”, “collection”, “discourse”, or “account”). We again have an agonal unity of opposites, a complete account simultaneously explainable only as parts, giving rise to greater complexity in the dynamic system arising out of their interaction. It is important to understand that the world is neither merely digital/fragmented nor merely analog/continuous in order to both have a clearer, more accurate understanding of the scientifically explainable parts of the world, and for aesthetic, ethical, and political reasons. There are important consequences for our aesthetics, ethics, and politics if we hold to this (or any) particular (meta)physical view.
If the world is merely digital, the parts cannot interact. If the world is merely analog, it is completely indistinct. If it is both simultaneously – analog-unified and digital-plural – it has communication, coordination, cooperation, and co-action among its parts. It has unity in variety, and is thus beautiful. But the question still remains as to whether or not the world really is beautiful in this way. So let us reconsider our likely story in these terms, ending this chapter by expanding it into the noetic realm of the arts and humanities.
Complex dynamic dissipative systems have the following features: they consist of discrete components which provide information to each other to communicate as they engage in Boolean (on/off, and/or) parallel processing, continually updating each other, creating a continuous system with more complex emergent properties than are discernable from understanding the parts of the system alone (S. Kauffman). On the level of quantum physics, packets of energy densify to high frequencies to interact with each other in more complex ways. Every interaction with its environment is a calculation – the packets of energy process the information in parallel (they do not merely take turns, as that would definitely take too long, considering the amount of matter and energy in the universe). Energy-matter would act Boolean – on/off, and/or – to give rise to atoms and other particles. One could imagine matter as being “on” and energy as being “off” – with every interaction, matter and matter, energy and energy, and matter and energy, having their own binomial choices (attraction/repulsion, amplification/dampening, etc.).
This approach can be applied to the level of chemistry, with each atom as parallel-processor and binomial (ions are either positive or negative, van der Waals forces act in and/or fashion). And Stuart Kauffman, in The Origins of Order, goes into great detail on the level of biology. Each biochemical is a parallel processor communicating with other biochemicals acting in parallel to create biochemical systems/cycles, which act in communicative parallel to keep each cell alive, which act in communicative parallel in multicellular organisms to create tissues and organs, which act in communicative parallel to keep the organism as a whole alive, which acts in communicative parallel with other organisms to create ecosystems. And each obeys the rules of its own emergent games. Thinking – and the minding function of the brain – is the consequence of the communicative parallel processing of the neurons of the brain. The more neurons, and the more complex the interactions and interconnections of those neurons, the more complex the minding of that brain will be. Human brains act in communicative parallel to create culture, technology, and the arts and humanities. Each level consists of distinct, discrete parts less complex than the emergent system they are a part of, and each system is the continuous processing of those parts in communicative parallel. If this were not the case, we would either have an analogical perfect symmetry, or a digital discrete world incapable of creating systems. “The impact, the influence of one atom upon another is likewise something which presupposes sensation. Something which is intrinsically alien can have no effect upon anything else. . . . Whether larger of smaller, these sensation complexes would be called “will”” (Nietzsche, “The Philosopher”, PT 96). Nietzsche’s “will” is what we would now call “strange attractors.” The consequences of this digital-analog view are not just profound for a scientific view of the world. As Nietzsche pointed out,
Individuals are the bridges upon which becoming depends. All qualities are originally only solitary activities, which are then frequently repeated in similar situations and finally become habits. The entire being of an individual takes part in every activity. Everything in an individual, right down to the smallest cells, is individual – which means that it has a part in all the individual’s experiences and past. Hence the possibility of procreation. (“The Philosopher,” PT 153)
Because the world is scalar, this applies to noetic concerns too. Politically this means we should be both communitarian and libertarian – personally communitarian and politically libertarian, desiring and working for community without wanting or trying to force people to do things.