Morning, Noon & Night

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17 Sep 1995 ... omable night sky, Gal- ileo and Newton .... The incomparable Sidney Sheldon dazzles the reader with his ... Morning, Noon and Night. Sidney ...

4Q — News-Press • Sunday, September 17, 1995

IN PRINT

Finding order in the streams of life How is a city like an ant colony, antibodies, a tigex, and the Internet? e humans have long craved or- portant that researchers have labeled such phenomena complex adaptive systems der. For centuries, we saw (cas). We explore them in John Holland's greater beauty in a tamed,' ar- Hidden Order. How Adaptation Builds Comranged garden than in an unmanageable plexity (Addison Wesley, $24). Chaos theory and complexity, so scientifwilderness. , Looking ically chic these last few decades, have, to into the once unfathbe sure, attracted some hokum. Popular acomable night sky, Galileo and Newton counts have been known, while rhapsodizing soothed us by perceivover "new ways of looking at the world," to ing a clockwork regugloss over the complexity of complexity, larity in the stars. and to minimize the difficulties of unearthWith mathematics we ing its principles. summed up .the world, Holland, though, stands eminently qualismoothed out its con. fied to lead us, reasonably unflinching, tours, gulled ourselves through the 'cas thickets. He's the founder of into, imagining that we genetic algorithms, a science that may really understood its just may - allow computers to someday destorms' turbulence, velop flexible intelligence, and one of the pithe erratic flights of its oneers of the science of complexity. birds, and the bubbling, fussing chaos of its For several decades now, then, he's been j waterfalls. ' ; ••/ thinking about how systems adapt, comIn recent years,,scientists, after millen- pete, cooperate, and evolve. His meditations nia- of imposing order on''the world, have can roam into far-flung fields; here he dips had second thoughts. Finally acknowledging into economics, immunology, computers, the world's fundamental disorder -.clouds neurology, game theory, even ecology: the dancing in disequilibrium, .the nervous tics behavior of rain forests, richly diverse and of weather cycles* the twisting, tortured full-of progressive adaptations, in many path of rivers:- they've at last ceded that ways closely parallels that of our immune Nature doesn't fit snugly into their neat,.lin- systems. ear equations. . However fascinating such comparisons, Particularly vexing, and. profoundly in- cynics might well see in them only, tributes .triguing, is the behavior of systems. ; to human beings' considerable ability to deConsider, for.example, Savannah! The tect patterns, even where none exist, city is perpetually changing - new, gleamIn Hidden Order, though, Holland gives ing shopping malls rise, old houses crum- us a coherent synthesis of the 'principles ble; newborns wail'and human flesh, as governing cas behavior. He provides an transient as grass, is wrapped into the idea of how the things work.. earth/Buyers; sellers, politicians, buildings, "The quest," he emphasizes, "is new, so and .streets come and go. this book can only begin to map the territoSomehow, though no single constituent ry." • v . endures, the city persists. There's no cenThe careful reader, though, will get here tral planning of, say, food distribution, but at least a broad understanding of what the supply stays essentially intact; even as • promises to be a fecund science in the twenmarkets close, new. customers arrive, and ty-first century. . neighborhoods change. The city'V a pattern Not that the going's always easy here. in time like a standing wave in front of a The book, though relatively brief at 172 rock in a fast-moving stream -adapts and pages, is packed with insights, tightly and suryiyes. persuasively reasoned, that frequently deOr look inside yourself. Within your body mand re-reading. resides a community more complex than The systems' behavior, after all, is hard-. the greatest megalopolis on Earth, The hu- ly easy to pin down. "All too often," Holland man immune system. is made up of vast ..sighs, "with a careful research plan, under numbers of antibodies busily repelling .controlled conditions, using selected agents, hordes of constantly changing antigens: in- complex adaptive systems do pretty much vading bacteria; biochemicals, and viruses. as they damn please." To the relentless, teeming attackers, as unA fundamental difficulty in tackling the predictably various as snowflakes, the anti- systems' basic mechanisms - the flowing bodies must incessantly, fluldly adapt. For* of information, the introduction of mutaever changing, though, the immune system tions, the development of diversity - is somehow remains coherent. their non-linearity."( ; Or.ponder the lowly, stupid ant.'PresentWhat does that mean? Most classical ed with a new challenge, an individual ant math, from arithmetic to trend analysis to usually dies. An ant nest, though, often bril- differential calculus, relies on linearity ~ liantly adapts and survives: An emergent -. roughly, speaking, the notion that the value phenomenon .- intelligence - somehow of a whole can be found by adding up the seems to arise from an organism made up sums of its parts, the function 2x + 3y + 4z, of unintelligent parts. . For example, is linear. Ants,. immune -systems, and cities, of Complex adaptive systems, however/are course, are radically different entities. Yet stubbornly non-linear. The interactions of they share a central enigma: coherence un- their .components almost always make their ' der change. That •common, factor is so im- behavior more .complicated than • thai pre-

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John H. Holland plifier effect kicks in, how nonlinear re- embryogenesis of multicellular organisms." sponses arise from stimuli, how systems agMary Shelley, I suspect/would be fascigregate, flow, diversify, adapt, persist, and nated. . • evolve. ' .\ Is all of this a simply' academic quest, . OveTthe years, as he has sought to un- the province of high-falutin' theory? Hardly. derstand the systems' principles, Holland For complex adaptive systems can stretch has developed a scientific model that would our resources, even place our world in jeopillustrate the creation of complex structures ardy. by natural selection. He calls it Echo. An understanding of their behavior Much of the latter part of the book is der could, in fact, help us grasp why cities de-. voted to Echo, and to scientists' steps to- cay, and why AIDS can overwhelm .even the ward mimicking the complexities of a full- wondrpusly adaptable human immune sysfledged cas. , tem. Until we understand cas, we'll continA metazoan highly developed from a The level of that complexity can be stague, too, to fumble our attempts to use the resingle fertilized egg. gering. The example guiding much of Hol- sources of the world's ecosystems without land's work, the process he wants'to under- destroying them. The world economy, the stand, is the embryogenesis ofmetazoans: Internet, problems that lead to birth dedieted by summing or averaging. What are some of those complications? the development of a single fertilized egg fects: all sorts of systems could be illumiOne non-linear feature of the systems is an into, say, a tiger, a race horse, or a real es- nated by a developed theory. though Holland and his colleagues have • "amplifier effect:", a small input can pro- tate agent, . . • ' . . . advanced beyond making simple casual How do such complex, well-organized agduce major consequences. A couple of ex* ample's? A .sudden1 fright permanently gregates arise from a single "seed"? As we comparisons, complexity theory remains in changes the central nervous system. Rab- progress through the book, Holland offers a its infancy. Hidden Order stands as a worscience's embryonic bits, introduced into the Australian ecosys- sequence of increasingly sophisticated ver- thy distillation of the : "•^•" - •' . ' • ' '' * tem where they have no natural enemies,' sions of Echo, all capable of being imple- ••stage;- ' • ' • , - ' . ' • We'll just have* to wait to see what commented on a computer. "If my conjectures multiply like! well, rabbits. ~ Holland, and his colleagues, are trying to are correct," he says, Vthe final model in , plex theory, and brave new world, will . understand exactly where, in cas, the am- the sequence should enable usito mimic the emerge from this intriguing seed. •

B 0 (j K S

The incomparable Sidney Sheldon dazzles the reader with his latest bestseller. Not since The Other Side of Midnight has he written a novel with such searing intensity. Morning, Noon & tiight sweeps from the splendor of the Italian Riviera and the fashion salons of New York and Paris, to the elite of Back Bay and the social register of Florida's Hobe Sound.

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A COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEM: Savannah, however its buildings and people change, persists, a pattern in time like a standing™ - wave• in 'front of' a• rock in a moving stream. ..I'. *: •* , . • * . . . , . ** . * . . •• - . • i ' • • . * • •

Morning, Noon & Night

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As a novel, it makes a decent movie The Horse Whisperer. By Nicholas Evans. Delacorte Press. $23.95. By Nancy Pate Orlando Sentinel

As first novels go, The Horse Whisperer is a good movie. It unfolds with cinematic ease from the outset;

Break out your Klingon dictionary and your best space suit, it's time for Books-A-Million's first Sci-Fi Convention. Win prizes for best costume, watch the Star Wars Trilogy and learn to use the Internet (or use it better). Saturday, September 23rd, from 5-11 p.m. at all Books-A-Million locations.

Here is a young teen-age girl, Grace, waking on a snowy morning in midstate New York to go horseback riding. Cut to the truck driver at a nearby diner bemoaning the lack of snow chains on his Kenworth. Cut to the girl's mother Annie, a high-powered magazine editor, wondering if she can get away from

Manhattan for the weekend to join her husband and daughter. Cut to Grace and her friend Judith riding on the old mill road and starting up a slippery embankment by the bridge. Cut to the Kenworth rounding the bend, the bridge up ahead. You don't have to imagine what happens next. Nicholas Evans, an experienced screenwriter, spells it out for you, just as he spells out pretty much everything else in the book. Both Grace and her horse Pilgrim are horribly injured, as crippled in spirit as body. Grace becomes withdrawn and self-conscious; Pilgrim tries to savage anyone who comes near him. Enter the title character. A thousand miles away, Montana cowboy Tom Booker has gained a reputation as a trainer who can do wonders with horses. Annie, believing that Grace's recovery is tied to Pilgrim's fate, hears of Tom's wizardry. Leaving behind her nice lawyer husband

and her mercurial media tycoon boss, she loads up daughter and horse and heads for Montana. By far the most involving dnd affecting scenes are those in which the quiet-spoken Tom works with the frightened, distrustful horse and Grace and Annie react to his unusu^ al methodology. There's also a poignancy - if predictability - to Grace's mixed feelings for Pilgrim and their first hesitant steps toward some kind of healing. But the love affair between Annie and Tom seems less credible and too schematic. Of course these two opposites will be attracted to one another, and of course their relationship will jeopardize the recovery of Grace and Pilgrim, as well as threaten Annie's marriage and career. The ending's a cop-out. I can almost hear the violins. Or is it the movie score?