Book 36 on the Kindle. The Brain is Wider Than The Sky by Bryan Appleyard. I didn't get on with this as well as I was expecting. Didn't get very far into it. I liked these bits though - More Is Different seems an important thing to understand: Maybe I should give it another go. I'm increasingly finding my working life full of thinking about complex sysytems.
"The first and still the most influential contemporary expression of the basic truth of complexity was in an article published on 4 August 1972 in the journal Science. The author was Philip Warren Anderson, a physicist who, in 1977, won the Nobel Prize. His paper, ‘More Is Different: Broken Symmetry and the Nature of the Hierarchical Structure of Science’, was an attack on reductionism. Galilean science is based on a belief in reductionism, that, in the words of Steven Weinberg, another Nobel Prize-winning physicist, ‘the explanatory arrows always point downwards’. This means that we understand the world by breaking it down into its smallest constituents. In some sense, this computer is ‘really’ atoms, protons and quarks. Reductionism is the belief that if we understand these fundamental units of matter, then we can ultimately understand everything."
"In complex systems ‘more’ is defined as ‘emergent properties’. These are things the system can do that are not predictable from the constituents of that system, because they do not arise simply as a sum of all the properties of the parts of the system. A computer may be predictable from parts such as its memory, processor, hard disc and screen; it is emphatically not predictable from the qualities of silicon, aluminium or glass. But the best example is the most complex system of all, the human brain. Somehow, this particular organisation of fat and water generates the conscious human mind. Cars, wars, office blocks and poetry are all emergent properties of fat and water."
"Implicit in all this is the realisation that complexity is a desirable thing; it stabilises systems and makes them robust, able to survive shocks."