Sunday, 2008 November 16, 12:47 — economics, medicine

chaos and health

In a private forum, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:

I remember that one of my early epiphanies on the road to libertarianism came when I was reading about chaotic, scale-independent oscillations in heartbeat frequency. One might naively think that the healthier the heart, the more regular its beat – but actually the opposite is true. A healthy heart chaotically wanders around a setpoint, as a result of interactions of millions of locally coupled oscillators, the spontaneously spiking cells in the AV node. But as you press your heart harder and harder, as in heart failure, the chaotic rhythms are becoming simpler, until one last AV frequency remains, usually quite high, tachycardic, produced by an ever smaller set of cells. The next step may be fibrillation, or asystole, and death.

So, in our hearts health comes from chaos, the absence of a rhythm for every cell to dance by. Networked interactions can be made much more robust using multiple, locally interacting oscillators, rather than relying on a single one. The analogies to the society, the share of activities controlled by a single global decision-maker versus multiple local ones are in my mind crystal clear.

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