There is an order to the Universe we live in.
Roughly speaking, little things affect big things. Not the other way round. This is something you already know: particle physics underlies nuclear and atomic physics; atomic physics underlies condensed matter and chemistry; and so on up the chain. It’s certainly true that it can be difficult to make the leap from one level to the next, and new creative ideas are needed at each step, but this doesn’t change the fact that there is an ordering. Big things don’t affect little things. This is the reason there are no astrology departments in universities.
But there is another aspect to this story, one which is not often stressed. Little things affect big things, but they rarely affect very big things. Instead, little things affect slightly bigger things. And these, in turn, affect slightly bigger things too. But as you go up the chain, you lose the information about what came long before.
This again is something that you know. A zoologist who is interested in the way that starlings flock has little reason to study the dynamics of the Higgs boson. It’s also the reason that science is possible in the first place: neither Newton nor Einstein needed to understand how quantum gravity works on microscopic distance scales to write down theories that work extraordinarily well on larger scales."
But in complex systems/ system theory (biology, climate science, etc.) we have feedback loops where big things indeed affect small things.
Is there any contradiction? If yes, how to resolve?
Climate Change and Ecosystems:
- Little to Big: Changes in local ecosystems, such as deforestation or urbanization, can affect larger climate patterns, like the heat island effect in cities impacting regional temperatures.
- Big to Little: Global climate change can influence ecosystems and species distribution, with rising temperatures affecting the behavior and life cycles of individual organisms.
Biology and Genetics:
- Little to Big: At the genetic level, mutations in individual genes can lead to the emergence of new traits or diseases that impact entire populations.
- Big to Little: Changes in the environment, such as exposure to toxins or different diets, can lead to epigenetic changes in genes, affecting the health and behavior of organisms.
Economics and Market Behavior:
- Little to Big: Consumer behavior and purchasing decisions of individuals can collectively drive market trends and impact the economy.
- Big to Little: Macroeconomic factors, like interest rates or government policies, can influence individual spending patterns and investment decisions.
Social Systems and Cultural Change:
- Little to Big: Small interactions between individuals can shape cultural norms and lead to larger societal shifts over time.
- Big to Little: Major historical events or shifts in power structures can influence the behaviors and attitudes of individuals within a society.
Neural Networks and Cognitive Processing:
- Little to Big: Individual neurons firing in specific patterns contribute to larger cognitive functions and behaviors.
- Big to Little: Changes in brain structure due to experiences, such as learning a new skill or trauma, can influence the firing patterns and connections of individual neurons.
Epidemiology and Disease Spread:
- Little to Big: Individual behaviors like handwashing and vaccination can impact the spread of diseases in a community.
- Big to Little: Government policies and healthcare infrastructure can influence individual access to preventive measures and medical care.
Political Systems and Public Opinion:
- Little to Big: Individual opinions and actions contribute to larger political movements and elections.
- Big to Little: Political rhetoric and media coverage can shape individual perceptions and beliefs about issues.
Butterfly Effect: The classic example of chaos theory, often described as "a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas." In this scenario, a small change in initial conditions (flapping of a butterfly's wings) can lead to magnified effects in a complex system (tornado formation), while the reverse (tornado influencing butterfly wing flaps) is less plausible.
Epidemic Outbreaks: A single infected person can start an epidemic by transmitting a disease to others. The spread of the disease can escalate significantly from one individual to a larger population, without the wider population's state strongly affecting the initial infected person.
Invasive Species Disruption: The introduction of a non-native species to an ecosystem can have drastic impacts on the existing flora and fauna. The behavior and characteristics of the invasive species can reshape the entire ecosystem, whereas the ecosystem itself doesn't usually have as direct an impact on the invasive species.
Social Media Trends: A small group of influential users can initiate trends on social media platforms. Their actions can lead to widespread adoption of hashtags or challenges, whereas the overall social media environment doesn't usually have a direct impact on the actions of these influential users.
Dominant Cultural Movements: A small group of thinkers, artists, or leaders can drive cultural shifts and movements that impact society as a whole. The behavior and ideas of these individuals can shape the values and norms of larger populations, with less immediate influence from the general populace.
Opinion Cascades: In social networks, the adoption of opinions or beliefs by a few influential individuals can lead to a cascading effect where many others adopt the same opinions. The behaviors of these few individuals can disproportionately shape the larger discourse.
Nuclear Chain Reaction: In a nuclear chain reaction, the fission of a single atom triggers the fission of multiple others, leading to a release of energy. The actions of individual atoms can cascade into a large-scale release of energy, while the overall energy environment has less direct impact on the behavior of individual atoms.
Economic Bubbles and Crashes: The behavior of a relatively small number of investors or traders can trigger economic bubbles or crashes in financial markets. These market shifts can affect entire economies, whereas broader economic conditions might not have as direct an effect on individual trading decisions.