We the expected
A book review on At Home in The Universe, by Stuart Kauffman
The origins of life, or even a more fundamental thing, the universe, is a thing that I stopped thinking about once I felt I had a formed opinion. Thing that happened early in my life (the year I took those lessons at school, by the age of 8).
I just believed in the Big Bang; the eventual formation of stars, planets, and stuff; the appearance of the primordial soup; and the evolution of life on earth.
I wasn’t exactly intrigued by what caused the Big Bang, or how primordial soup turned into life. Even more remote was the idea of doing the math to realise how improbable we are.
As I was growing, I started to learn more about the universe: gravitation, time, space, light, quantum, and some popular concepts that you can form by mixing some of those words.
But all that knowledge was just acquired. I rarely came back to think how we came to be what we are?
Earlier this year, I read A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. It is, as the name implies, a short history of nearly everyhing.
He describes the most important events between the Big Bang and today; and, near the end, he speculates about what the future will or should be.
One of the things he earnestly defended, was the old idea of the improbability of life (by old, I don’t mean it in a despective way).
That last thing, the improbability of us, is what Stuart A. Kauffman tries to contradict in his book At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity.
By explaining how self-organization works, he proposes that we are not the improbable. We are the expected.
He proposes his ideas in a very speculative way. And, it’s important to keep that in mind. He’s sharing his ideas on a new “complexity theory”. He’s sharing hypothesis.
But, even considering that, it’s a very insightful book that made me smile several times, and (in his own words) blew my socks off.
He builds his main idea slowly, sometimes, very slowly.