Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chomsky's trajectory of complexity

I read today an interview with Noam Chomsky in New Scientist.

I have a lot of respect for Chomsky.  Although the interview started on a scientific footing with his academic speciality (language), it was nearly as wide ranging as he is.  What he said was all eminently sensible albeit not especially novel, but there was one comment that was more memorable than the others.

It's rather a throwaway line, but it struck a chord with me, because it coincides with a trajectory that I've been more or less following.  Bar the psychology (which, incidentally, my wife is currently studying).

In your new book, you suggest that many components of human nature are just too complicated to be really researchable.

That’s a pretty normal phenomenon. Take, say, physics, which restricts itself to extremely simple questions. If a molecule becomes too complex, they hand it over to the chemists. If it becomes too complex for them, they hand it to biologists. And if the system is too complex for them, they hand it to psychologists... and so on until it ends up in the hands of historians or novelists.

I don't know where he might place economics... maybe as a voodoo science?

In mitigation, I have to say that much as I'd like to, it's extremely unlikely I'll get around to a novel :)

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