Far-reaching conversations with a worldwide network of scientists and mathematicians, philosophers and artists developing new frameworks to explain our universe's deepest mysteries. Join host Michael Garfield at the Santa Fe Institute each week to learn about your world and the people who have dedicated their lives to exploring its emergent order: their stories, research, and insights…


episode 67: Tyler Marghetis on Breakdowns & Breakthroughs: Critical Transitions in Jazz & Mathematics

Whether in an ecosystem, an economy, a jazz ensemble, or a lone scholar thinking through a problem, critical transitions — breakdowns and breakthroughs — appear to follow universal patterns. Creative leaps that take place in how mathematicians “think out loud” with body, chalk, and board look much like changes in the movement through “music-space” traced by groups of improvisers. Society itself appears to have an “aha moment” when a meme goes viral or a new word emerges in the popular vocabulary. How do collectives at all scales — be they neurons, research groups, or a society at large — suddenly change shape…and what early warning signs portend a pending bolt of inspiration?

This week we talk to SFI Fellow Tyler Marghetis of UC Merced about regimes and ruptures across timescales — from the frustration and creativity of mathematicians and musicians to the bursts of innovation that appear to punctuate civilization and the biosphere alike.

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Related Reading & Listening:

“Creative leaps in musical ecosystems: early warning signals of critical transitions in professional jazz” by Matt Setzler, Tyler Marghetis, Minje Kim

“The complex system of mathematical creativity: Modularity, burstiness, and the network structure of how experts use inscriptions” by Tyler Marghetis, Kate Sampson, David Landy

“An Integrated Mess of Music Lovers in Science” – press release with video playlist of the 2020 Musicology & Complexity Working Group

“Explosive Proofs of Mathematical Truths” – Simon DeDeo SFI Seminar on inductive networks

Complexity 29: David Krakauer

Complexity 33: Tim Kohler & Marten Scheffer

Complexity 35, 36: Geoffrey West

Complexity 37: Laurence Gonzales

Complexity 65: Deborah Gordon

Topics Discussed:

• competitive wrestling to complex systems science
• free jazz ensembles as a mode of distributed cognition like ant colonies
• creative transitions as analogous to ecosystemic transitions (loss of resilience due to autocorrelation, etc)
• the difference between composed and improvised music
• creativity and boredom
• the relationship between improvisation and trauma, exploration and nonlinearity
• the death of the genre (?)
• the role of the body in thought
• how can you tell an “aha moment” is about to happen?
• what does a healthy mathematical ecosystem look like?
• burstiness and virality


 2021-09-09  1h4m