Complexity Is Not Complicated: Graham Morehead at TEDxUMaine

This talk was given by Graham Morehead, Curator of The Pangeon at the 2014 TEDxUMaine.

A man rots unjustly in jail, the sea urchins are dying, and Google Translate doesn't work.  Morehead ties together these three disjoint narratives using starlings.

His talk tackles the concept of a complex system.  Being complex is not the same as being complicated.  Even though no entity within a system can see the whole picture, undeniable large-scale patterns emerge from the system.  As we learn to describe this emergence mathematically, in terms of entropy, stability, and far-from-equilibrium dynamics, we will better understand systems like markets, ecologies, and life itself.

The Slings and Arrows of School and Career

Graham Morehead, the curator of "The Pangeon" talks at TEDxYouth@JBMHS in Bangor, ME at the Gracie Theatre.

Graham talked about his academic challenges and career pit stops mentioning 3 significant mentors who taught him important life lessons. His talk also tackled about how man's exploration made the world a better place. He ended his talk by challenging the listeners to do more of what they are required to do, quoting from him: "Humanity is waking up, be a part of it."

 

Here's a full video of his recent Tedx Talk:


What is Culture?

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We humans are all alike and we are all unique.

We love. We hate. We talk. We touch.

We wear clothes (most of us). We sing songs. We dance and we give gifts. We seek out water and meaning. We take care of the next generation.

What is "culture?" There are simple answers, and there are difficult ones. Any given culture is a set of symbols. The space of all possible cultures is a subset of humanity's behaviors and perceptions, but just how large is that subset?

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Obvious examples of culture include art, music, dance, theatre, food, and language. Others include relationship dynamics such as patriarchy versus matriarchy, monogamy versus polygamy, and egalitarianism versus capitalism. All of these can provide a window into a specific people's worldview.

An economist might say that a culture is a set of reasonable expectations which enable cooperation. We take these expectations for granted, but they are everywhere. You don't crash into other drivers because we all agree on which side of the road to drive, and on the meaning of red and green lights. We have norms for commerce, social interaction, and scientific exploration, and perhaps everything else we humans do. These norms make our lives more efficient, but they can also be the source of comedy. In my travels I've said some things that were very, very wrong -- unintentionally, of course.

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We find culture interesting because it highlights our differences. We enjoy discovering things that are universal to all humanity, but do such things comprise culture? Human behavior can be described as a complex path-dependent interaction between instinct and learning. All humans blink, sleep, and yawn -- it makes no sense to consider these in the domain of culture, but is smiling culture? Pointing at something with your finger? Nodding your head to mean, "No?"

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Culture is passed down from one generation to the next. It changes and evolves. As a community evolves, it drifts further from its neighbors. Each community's culture becomes slowly distinct from the others. It is only through this evolution that we learn to distinguish that which comprises culture from that which is innately human. What if some of our human "universals" are merely universal by accident? Perhaps there are untried modes of living that would be just as comfortable and fruitful as our current ones. Could there be "better" cultures that no group of people has ever dared explore?

Culture is almost always arbitrary, but also beautiful. My life, so far, has been a journey in understanding other cultures. I love them. I also have new love for my own.

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