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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random Processes Create Order

Random Processes Create Order wb 060916

Random processes, equipped with suitable constraints or interspersed with appropriate refiltration shape towards order. No news there. The best example: natural selection.

Here’s a simple case: I travel a drab, industrial stretch of a local road from time to time, where no one ever tidies up. Recently something left a mess of wood trash scattered all over the westbound lane. Next visit, it was all still there, but the lie was improving; now it’s all neatly over in or near the ditch, and the lane is clear.

Every time a vehicle passed over, it would bat the trash hither and yon. Some pieces landed outside the thoroughfare; the crowning of the road gave a sufficient bias so that little or none crossed over into the eastbound lane. The exiled trash remained in exile; the rest awaited further instructions.

Thank you, Mr. Darwin.

7 comments:

  1. This reminds me of how the NYPD filled the pothole outside of B-61: with plastic road barriers that errant drivers would knock into the pothole for them.

    (By the way, B-61 is a bar that has seen the likes of me, Wabulon, TT Tom, Jonathan Lethem, and other glitteratti pass through its doors.)

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  2. Wabulon, uh, does it matter that this isn't an example of natural selection and has nothing to do with Darwinism?

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  3. No, Bob, it does not matter. Of course my example is not actually natural selection as the term is usually used; it is a simple phenomenon which is, to me at least, clearly analogous to natural selection. Thanks are indeed due to Mr. D. for providing the referent.

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  4. Random? A manufactured throughfare with organized flow of traffic. A crowned road with gravity assisting distribution of stuff. The implication that the ditch is not well travelled. Debris neatly near the ditch?

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  5. Wabulon,

    Well of course we understand the analogy, but I'm just saying, this really isn't an example of natural selection or Darwinism. E.g. nothing is reproducing.

    What this IS an example of, is spontaneous order. But Darwin certainly wasn't the discoverer of this principle. You could just as easily have said, "Thank you, Adam Ferguson."

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  6. Point taken, Bob.

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