Re: MD Diversity and Coherence.

From: Jim Ledbury (
Date: Tue Mar 23 2004 - 11:29:38 GMT

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    Hi Mark.

    Thanks for your reply

    My use of the term severe was intuition, and i liked it because it reminded me of laser light - and laser light was used as an analogy in ZMM for the extreme rational ability of Phaedrus.

    Well a lot of linguistic aesthetics is down to usage and the associations that we would make with a word in an unfamiliar circumstance, and also simple euphony (don't get me started on the use of 'farther' for 'further'! :-) ).  But the circumstances I would generally associate 'severe' with are:

    - severe drought (a bad one)
    - severe weather (extreme - hurricanes and so forth)
    - severe manner (stern, demanding, unkindly)
    - severe illness (life-threatening)

    I'm sure you get the drift! 

    Perhaps 'intense' would be a suitable substitution?    We can have 'intense drought' and 'intense manner' , but also 'intense concentration', 'intense rapture'.

    I also have no problems with Chaos or Complexity theory. However, i do not pretend to have a thorough understanding, and i do not wish to adopt a trendy mantle! But i feel these areas of scientific enquiry introduce it closer to aesthetics, and that is very intriguing!

    I wasn't being entirely serious. :-)  I'm anti-borrowing language for the sake of it.  For starters, that is what junk science does.  Anything that goes around covering itself with the shawls of science to simply try to evince some degree of intellectual respect will be shot down in the junk limiting protocols, no matter how good the underlying idea. 

    However we should actually seek parallels, especially physical, natural (non-human) ones in attempting to show quality as a universial and not simply a goal limited to the neurochemistry of the human brain, as you were showing in discussions with regard to coherence in different domains before I joined MD.

    I note that some physicists are turning to modelling social behaviour.  The outcome should be interesting: not least it will help us puncture some precious illusions we have about ourselves.  But it should also provide fertile ground for MoQ because it is dealing with interface of the quantifiable and (statistically) reproducible and actual human experience.

    One physical parallel that springs to mind with the resonance analogy is the electronic engineers' Q-factor, which is defined as the "fill width width at half maximum", that is the amount which a radio tuning circuit can be adjusted so that the output response is at least half its maximum value.  The Q-factor is important because it also indicates how well a tuning circuit will pick out a given frequency from all the others, i.e. the Q-factor indicates the sharpness of resonance.  Naively, one might think that the best circuits are those with the highest Q-factor.  Certainly these will respond best to a single frequency.  However any information bearing signal frequency will in fact be a combinination of frequencies which requires some width to the resonance (bandwidth).  The whole thing is a compromise between maximizing the information you can stuff down the channel and ensuring that the signal is sufficiently distinct from other signals and background noise.   In this case the ambivalent aspect of diversity is apparent.   No diversity means that that the information is pretty much limited to signal on or off.  Too much diversity, and the signal is broadened beyond the point of utility.  Of coarse we can up the information carrying capacity of the signal by changing to a different channel wich supports a higher bandwidth (more information you can squeeze down the line per unit time).  But then a multinational media organisation outbids everyone and fills it with mindless music which takes up most of the newfound information carrying capacity (junk diversity #1) or it becomes the conduit for virus-spread spam mail (junk diversity #2) .  

    I'm not quite sure where this analogy leads.  Maybe it's to dicuss the precision of the sweet spot with regard to quality.   The sweetness the spot would perhaps correpsond to a very high Q-factor.  This is appropriate to an acute adaption/degree of coherence where the need to deal with a large amount of diverse information is small.  It's cutting down the the things you need to deal with to a minimum so that you can devote yourself to cohering with the relevant incoming quality.   It's appropriate in sport, in music, in art, in religion, ... in intellectual analysis in fact.  In fact we could be said to engage in these activities precisely because of the high Q-factor (pun intended).   However for dealing with a wide degree of incident qualities we have to drop down from this fine resonance.  We have to be alert to a lot more, but in doing so we lose the fine response.  When we need the fine response, we concentrate, remove distractions.  However in dealing with the real world as opposed to the ideal world, the profane rather than the sacred we have to loose the fine tuning. 

    But it would be a mistake to say that we needed to adapt our tuning so that we always act on high Q-factor.  This is because we could only operate in specialised circumstances if we did.   The ability to diversify is pragmatic and requires that a low Q-filter exists so that we can react to a lot of different information.  What we need is to recognise the necessity of switching between low Q-filter and high Q-filter.   In fact certain analogies become plain: the operation of secular society versus the operation of a religious community.  The civil observance of law in wider society versus discipline appropriate to the military. 

    I might seem that diversity is contrary to what has been said with regard to coherence before, in that in the resonance case we need to broaden the response to cope with diversity (lower Q-factor).  It's just that high-Q-factor situations are necessarily specialised and cannot cope with all possible circumstances.  Too low a Q-factor, however, and one is not capable of responding at all.  I guess the ability to diversify is the quality of 'health'. 

    Resonance also feeds back into biodiversity again.   In nature there is a lot of linking of annual, tidal, daily and biological cycles, and their ability to survive climatic change is under much study.

    I sense tangential digression on my part, so I'll leave it for the mo'

    All the best.
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