High Anxieties: The Mathematics of Chaos

This documentary looks at how developments in mathematics over the past 40 years have completely changed our understanding of the fundamental nature of the world we live in.

As we approach tipping points in both the economy and the climate, the film examines the mathematics we have been reluctant to face up to and asks if, even now, we would rather bury our heads in the sand rather than face harsh truths.

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  • Equinox

    Well done documentary.
    Although words like ‘unpredictability’ and ‘chaos’ can be misleading.
    For the misinterpreted mind:
    Just because the immense data of the universe is too great to process, does not make determinism false. Ultimately everything is predictable, it is just not posible for the human brain, or current processing capabilities (regarding computers), to do so.
    Too many variables involved.

    On the tipping points, discussed in the documentary:
    The tipping points lie within an equation of the structure being viewed. The only way of getting rid of the position on a slope, is by getting rid of the structure. And replacing it.
    By replacing the structure with one containing less variables, the drops and climbs will be less severe.
    The more that is created, the more that will be suffered.

    Also, poverty and crime (example) are not problems. These are symptoms. Find where symptoms place their origin, and you might find a cure.
    Throwing medicine (prisons, example) at symptoms, will not stop the disease.

    • http://twitter.com/realsandox realsandox

      It has nothing to do with the human brain or our technology’s processing power. In order to predict everything, you need to include everything and find a point in time where you know all initial conditions.

      For that to happen you need a computer which is (minimum) the size of the universe. That’s not to say that we should give up. If you start simplifying things, you’ll end up with approximations… and approximations are very useful for some things, but not as useful for others because the system is very chaotic, like weather on Earth/Sun/etc

      • glomerol

        “In order to predict everything, you need to include everything and find a point in time where you know all initial conditions.”

        Only you can’t know all initial conditions before the event that is being predicted. By the time your computer did, it would think and act upon its prediction (or at least there’d be that inbuilt risk) and render it unpredictable:

        That’s the paradox.

        The only way your computer would work if it was completely isolated from the universe about which it was making a prediction. But complete isolation would of course completely isolate it from observation:

        …And then you run into essentially the same paradox. :)

        Haha

    • Tgman44

      Your assumption that everything is ultimately predictable seems at odds with quantum theory. All systems have a level of uncertainty built into them. No matter how large your processing capabilities grow there will always be a level of uncertainty to the outcome of any process. It’s not our limitations that prevents us from predicting the future accurately, it’s the fact that Mother Nature keeps her cards close to her chest and we are forbidden to see her whole hand.

      • arlips

        The main reason quantum mechanics are largely unpredictable is because we still haven’t quite understood it yet and it’s still very much a part of ongoing research. Quantum physicists have quite recently begun to encounter breakthroughs that are allowing us to finally start understanding quantum mechanics in ways that allow us to control things with it, so I’d say the jury is still very much out on the unpredictability of it.

        I agree with Equinox. The doc makes a lot of incorrect assumptions about unpredictability going hand in hand with extreme complication. In many things, unpredictability disappears with understanding. Economy itself can be quite controllable and predictable, the problem in our world is that there are many people behind the scenes doing very shady things to negatively affect it that most people don’t know about, such as the large banking cartels and oil conglomerates. Not only that, but the people making our economic laws do not have the well being of people at the top of their minds; they intentionally make bad decisions that benefit the corporations they are really working for. If our society was built in a way where corruption wasn’t so easy to achieve and our leaders actually cared about economic stability, unpredictability wouldn’t even be an issue, especially when you take computers into consideration.

        Speaking of computers, don’t even get me started on how this fluff doc treats them. If programs are well written, they are 100% predictable. Again, human error plays a large part. Take that out of the fold and computers are perfectly predictable machines.

        This doc seems to have been made specifically for people that don’t think for themselves and don’t understand much about the world we live in.

        • Guest

          This argument of predicatability has been around for centuries, some of the greatest minds of history have battled this topic. There are two things that seems to be missing from your argument of computers being perfect predicatable machines and human error being the sole purpose of there downfall, the first one is the paradoxical falsfiability of a computer. Godels mathmatical argument helped prove that computers following a logcial finite/infinte procedure cannot always predict whether an argument/statement is true/false there are certain paradoxes which can come in to play, which Godel was able to illustrate through ingenius mathmatics. To demonstrate this point I refer you to a story in a book The mind of God by Paul Davies – Imagine a super intelligent computer, which people continualsy challenged to provide true/false answers to different forms of questions, which the computer would always get right.. Until one day a man asked the computer the following “computer you cannot prove that this statement is true”. If the computer says this statement is true it falsafied the statement because the computer would have just done what  the statement said it could not, if the computer says its false then the computer would have arrived at a false conclusion, contradiciting its much-vaunted infallibility. Hence the computer cannot answer true. We have therefore arrived at the conclusion that the statement is, in fact, true. But in arriving at this conclusion we have demonstrated that the computer cannot arrive at this conclusion. This means we know something to be true that the computer cant demonstrate to be true… Another flaw in the predicatbility of computers, comes from Alan Turing and the Turing machine, specificaly un-computable numbers. Alan Turing proved that a computer (or a Turing machine) even with an infinite amount of time, writing an inifinte amount of numbers would not be able to list every number in existence due to what are known as uncomputable numbers (numbers which physically cannot be determined/predicted), thus the computer itself cannot predict every number in existence, but can help us, arrive at the conclusion that it cant predict them..

          • glomerol

            You know, I doubt one even has to contort themselves much in the explanation. I think it’s just a simple matter that; if you can predict something, then you can change it, which therefore makes it unpredictable. A simple concept really.

          • Lyna

            Quantum mechanics predicts observations, it does not explain them. Most likely, when a great mind (a new einstein if you will) is born into this world, and the predictions of quantum mechanics are explained. Quantum mechanics will cease to exist, or at least how we know it today. And who knows, one day even the theory of relativity stands to be corrected. Always keep your mind open, for if you speak as if your statement is an ultimate truth. Then you are most likely wrong.

        • THE RZA

          for someone who says this documentary is for people that “dont think for themselves and dont understand much about the world we live in” you seem pretty ill-informed and think WAY to much for yourself or however you form that contradiction. 

          First off, you should look up chaos theory, the name for this branch of mathematics and research it. One of, and i say one of because i dont pretend to be the most versed person in chaos theory, the main ideas behind it is that all life lives on an edge. Over the edge is failure complete destruction or something of that nature. As things become more complex it builds up all along the ledge, inevitably the system will tip over or digress. Then the process starts over again. Somthing along those lines again i dont pretend to know all about it just an overview i guess.

          As for the economy being predictable,…your out of your mind. while the big investment banks are at fault for the recent crash its not because they did shady things, and they most certainly didnt do them to “mess up” the world as you say it. why would you mess up a system that is making you literally millions of dollars. the economy crashed because hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of people defaulted on their loans because they didnt realize that adjustable rate mortgages meant that that initially really low teaser rate would balloon after its term was up and defaulted. prior to this however it was believed that the real estate market literally would always be increasing and why shouldnt it? with populations ever increasing it only makes sense that people are gonna be buying up some type of living space. This is the ledge that i was talking about, prior to the crash things were never better, the market was still rising people were still investing,…cash everywhere, then they realize that at the bottom of this ladde, those people paying their mortgages arent paying them anymore and the whole thing implodes. COMPLETELY unpredictable, what computer could calculate that the majority of people with adjustable rate mortgages would just all of a sudden default? no one.

          A simple way of dealing with all of this was laid out by a guy forever ago. He was budda and he outlined that we cling to much to material things and that they stay in these stagnate forms like a new car. its not gonna be new forever. kids scratch it or something and its all boo hooo. guess what its still the car you bought just a little different, but well still cry over it because we cling to this stagnate form of this car when it was new. We need to let go, change is inevitable and seemingly unpredictable as he puts it.

          SHAAABAM

    • glomerol

      Actually, from what is understood, everything is NOT predictable.

      I think I figured that out a long time ago, and researched it as well. My research took me to the McGill University’s library.
      I think it included Goedel and/or Heisenberg and maybe Einstein (‘spooky physics’?) and others as well.

      Paradoxically, if everything was predictable, then the prediction could be changed precisely because it was predictable!

      IOW, if what is going to happen is known beforehand, then consciousness/awareness of it can change the predicted outcome.

      Prediction renders unpredictability.

  • Lickmytaint

    equinox lick my taint!!!   other than that a nice comment.

  • http://profiles.google.com/swartz.jeffrey Jeffrey Swartz

    This documentary reminded me of the movie Pi.

  • http://profiles.google.com/swartz.jeffrey Jeffrey Swartz

    This documentary reminded me of the movie Pi.

  • Kristof Van Tomme

    I don’t agree that unpredictability means we can’t be optimistic. Safety is not a prerequisite for optimism. There are some very predictable dreadful futures possible. 

    So what if things are not predictable, emergent behavior and network effects add some very interesting, albeit unpredictable possible futures. I actually think it’s easier to be a deep optimist without a definite answer to what the future holds.

  • Kristof Van Tomme

    I don’t agree that unpredictability means we can’t be optimistic. Safety is not a prerequisite for optimism. There are some very predictable dreadful futures possible. 

    So what if things are not predictable, emergent behavior and network effects add some very interesting, albeit unpredictable possible futures. I actually think it’s easier to be a deep optimist without a definite answer to what the future holds.

  • Kristof Van Tomme

    I don’t agree that unpredictability means we can’t be optimistic. Safety is not a prerequisite for optimism. There are some very predictable dreadful futures possible. 

    So what if things are not predictable, emergent behavior and network effects add some very interesting, albeit unpredictable possible futures. I actually think it’s easier to be a deep optimist without a definite answer to what the future holds.

  • Ziffs86

    “What happens, happens”
                             Douglas Adams

  • Ziffs86

    “What happens, happens”
                             Douglas Adams

  • Ziffs86

    “What happens, happens”
                             Douglas Adams

    • glomerol

      “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream…”
      ~ Edgar Allen Poe

  • Ziffs86

    “What happens, happens”
                             Douglas Adams

  • Ziffs86

    “What happens, happens”
                             Douglas Adams

  • http://www.facebook.com/dana.haswell.corbin Dana Haswell Corbin

    10 stars

  • J

    Have the mathematics determined our level of anxiety.. or has our anxiety determined the outcome of the mathematics? I feel like this doc misses a lot of important points.

  • David Campbell

    I really think the answer is Fluid Pluralism. it allows chaos while adapting to it in the least catastrohic way. see more here :  http://iwillknow.jesaurai.net/?p=987

  • peterpieman

    aspect ratio!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://hyungnam.blogspot.kr/2013/06/web-design-tools-avatar-signature_63.html Hyungnam Gu

    World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war.