Saturday, January 8, 2011

Genius and insanity

As I prepare for my colloquium that I will be giving at Case Western Reserve University, I have been thinking more broadly about smart materials. The morphing materials that I see in the far future are made of many integrated Photomechanical Optical Devices (PODs). As more nonlinear units are interconnected to enable interactions, the system becomes more intelligent - being able to process more information at greater levels of sophistication. At some point, one can imagine the system going through a transition to high-level intelligence, popularly referred to as emergence.

Interacting nonlinear systems are also known to become chaotic under certain conditions. As the complexity of a nonlinear system increases, so does its propensity for becoming chaotic. Highly intelligent humans are often quirky, and many geniuses are known to have been insane. This appears to be a universal quality of intelligence, whether its basis is in the interaction of neurons, electronic components, or PODs. While I often wonder if our creations will ultimately result in our doom, being an eternal optimist, I believe that our intellect will allow us to anticipate and mitigate disasters - provided that ideologues and politicians do not stand in the way.

Now that the semester is about to begin, my life is becoming chaotic. I have manuscripts to write, papers to review, proposals to write, deal with a plagiarist in my capacity as a journal editor, and classes to prepare; not to mention doing research and trying to generate an interesting thought in the midst of the mayhem. I don't know how I will get through the semester. The good news is that several papers have been accepted or are being returned with minor revisions. Life moves on...

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