Herrera-Paz’s broad, engaging look at complexity examines the natural balance between entropy and order on a multitude of scales, ranging from the quantum to the universal.
Beginning at the beginning—in this case, the Big Bang—the author, a medical doctor by training, examines the formations of complex systems from the simplest of beginnings, describing the natural struggle between entropy and order in comprehensible terms. His thesis is that as systems grow in biological, ecological, and technological complexity, the world as we know it is edging closer to becoming a universal superorganism—one that functions according to rules and dictates of biological processes, even if many of its aspects aren’t biologically based. To this end, Herrera-Paz examines the very nature of complexity, discussing, among other things, how systems become less simple and how different complex systems behave similarly while also noting areas in which systems may differ. Throughout this short treatise, the author explains his ideas and the associated concepts with clarity and elegance, patiently laying out the fundamentals of his theory before building up to more esoteric concepts. Refreshingly, Herrera-Paz also freely accepts opinions that differ from his and provides copious references to literature for and against his arguments, maintaining a reasoned, balanced perspective throughout. In fact, he arguably goes too far in this respect, providing so many citations that some readers may wish that he spent more time elucidating his theories and less time constructing such a thorough reference list. However, there’s enough careful logic and reasoned writing here that many fans of intelligent, considered science writing will forgive its possibly overzealous citation set.
Thoughtful arguments, measured prose, and a point of view firmly rooted in the scientific method make this short popular-science book a delight.