Just as physics can be built on information, there have been many attempts to build ethics on complexity — to make complexity the answer to those final “why” and “what for.” Such constructions suffer a circularity problem: you still need some bootstrap ethics to discern “good” complexity — its definitely not all good, nor all meaningful (even though complexity may have power to meaningify things). Also, complexity preachers have trouble accounting for the opposite drive — simplification, reduction, symmetry: the natural, aesthetically if not ethically sound, “healthy” response to the problem of “diminishing returns on complexity.” The dominant live ethics view eschews single-cause explanations but complexity remains a staple; the “complexity ideal” of culture as an intricate, meaningfully interconnected system of systems is as live as ever.  ■    Complexity has many synonyms, derived and affiliated concepts: irredundancy, meaningdom, extropy (if entropy counts microstates per given macrostate, extropy is how many distinct macrostates — “interpretations,” “futures” — are there for a given microstate; a zero-entropy perfect crystal and maximum-entropy gas both have near-zero extropy whereas an evolvable living being is highly extropic). Famously controversial is “organismal complexity”: what are we to make of complexity that is viable, even efficient, — but clearly non-optimal, inelegant, noisy, not quite random but stemming from inevitably stochastic evolving or simply an accumulation of lived? Wheres the line, if any, between aimless drift and lifesaving adaptations — so easily rethinged into one another?  ■    Do civilizations go through a zenith of “blooming complexity” to cool down into a golden autumn of “creative simplification” — followed by stagnation and death? Here, its not the rise-and-fall narrative thats controversial (societal pulsations on many levels from collectives up are well understood) but whether it applies to Earths civilization as a whole — and whether the peak of blooming complexity can be identified with modernity burning itself out into everdays “afterglow,” fadeout, “at best a post-complexity world” or “neoantiquity.” “Dont mistake sheer volume for complexity” though: by many reasonable measures, modernitys world — blooming or not — was simpler than what replaced it.

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