Complexity Science

Evolution, Not Revolution

The next time you're tempted to praise an idea, a movement, or yet another photo-sharing app as "revolutionary"... remember how actual revolutions usually turn out. Like everyone else, I was really optimistic at the beginning of the Arab Spring. Now, Syria's a bloodbath. Egypt's torturing activists. Libya's descended into civil…


Emergent Evil

For my first collaboration with PBS Frontline, I've been reading lots of research on the psychology of genocide, massacres, and terrorism. Been doing this for a bit over a month now. Fun. Anyway, as it turns out, psychologists have come to a shocking consensus about the minds of these kinds…


Emergence is Frikkin' Magic

A bunch of individually dumb ants make a scary-smart colony. The unthinking process of evolution can create creatures that appear almost intentionally designed. Beautiful, symmetrical snowflakes spontaneously form as they fall from the sky. This is called emergence. And it's awesome. As a former game designer, I took emergence for…


The Building Block Hypothesis

First of all, this is not how evolution works: Evolution isn't linear, it's more like a tree. I used to believe evolution worked like this: 1) random mutation 2) non-random selection 3) repeat. And on the tree of evolution, mutation gives us more branches, while selection prunes the crappy branches:…