Can something be more than the sum of its parts?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

Here's one for you:

Can things be more than the sum of their parts?

I'm going to share my answer later but for now I'm interested to here your thoughts.

If you stop and think about it, it gets really tricky.

Enjoy.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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You have to be more specific. Are you refering to matter or something more metaphysical? If it's matter, it would be more appropriate in the physics threads. As for something metaphysical or non-physical the question is mute because they have no "parts" to add together.
 
  • #3
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work together

If you are a designer and you create a site alone, you are going to earn X dollars a month. If you are a programmer and you create a site alone, you are going to earn X dollars a month. If a designer and a programmer work together, the site is going to be worth more than 2X.

We are splitted to work together!
 
  • #4
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help me

I need a better example (for the last post).
 
  • #5
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Of course.
Stripped down, you're water, carbon, metals etc. Rebuild these elements in any way, shape or form you wish and they'll never have a mind like yours.
 
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  • #6
hypnagogue
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jhe1984 said:
Here's one for you:

Can things be more than the sum of their parts?

I'm going to share my answer later but for now I'm interested to here your thoughts.

If you stop and think about it, it gets really tricky.

Enjoy.
You should be more explicit about what you're trying to get at. What is meant by "sum of the parts"? That's an ambiguous phrase that could have several interpretations. And what exactly would it mean to be "more" than the sum of the parts?
 
  • #7
DaveC426913
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hypnagogue said:
You should be more explicit about what you're trying to get at. What is meant by "sum of the parts"? That's an ambiguous phrase that could have several interpretations. And what exactly would it mean to be "more" than the sum of the parts?
Any old steamig pile of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and some trace elements is not going to compose 'Beethoven's 9th' or write 'I Sing the Body Electric' anytime soon.
 
  • #8
hypnagogue
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DaveC426913 said:
Any old steamig pile of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and some trace elements is not going to compose 'Beethoven's 9th' or write 'I Sing the Body Electric' anytime soon.
Well, that's one way to think of the "sum of parts": a mere numerical total of a bunch of atoms and molecules and so on within some spatial boundary. On that interpretation, a human body and an unorganized pile of H, O, and C might be thought to have the same parts and the same "sum." Another interpretation of "sum of the parts" might include the spatial and causal relationships that obtain among the various atoms and molecules, though.
 
  • #9
Rade
jhe1984 said:
Here's one for you: Can things be more than the sum of their parts? Enjoy.
A thing [A] can be the multiple of its parts, thus A = c*d*e. Thus if c=2, d=3, e=4, then clearly the answer to your question is yes, since c*d*e > c+d+e. But perhaps you do not mean mathematical things ?
 
  • #10
DaveC426913
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Rade said:
A thing [A] can be the multiple of its parts, thus A = c*d*e.
I have always argued that contact with another intelligent race will most definitely more than double the sum of their separate knowledges.

A sampling of 2 is way more than twice as informative as a sampling of 1.
 
  • #11
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ok lemme take my stab at it.

We are all formed into the basic Carbon Hydrogen etc. These make cells. and cells can make dogs. Now dogs are say instinctual.

What if!

you had a dog. which is made of absolutely exactly the same amount of carbons and hyrdogens as I was.

So on a subatomic level. ME and a Dog are exactly the same. but when you bring me together(sum me up) I am worth more then the sum of parts. which is the dog. as since I am more intelligent or whatever.


anyhow i can see a big problem.

Prove there is any corrolation between matter and intelligence.

so I try again. with a more chemistry example.
Take Graphite and take diamond.
they are EXactly the same chemically. But different through constuct of its structure.

so the sum of its parts is exactly the same to each other. but diamonds is more then.
 
  • #12
hypnagogue
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It's apparent to me that there are several interpretations floating around here of what should be meant by "part" and "sum." Without making those interpretations explicit, there is no basis for comparison for the various different responses-- they are not arguments so much as they are reflections of different implicit definitions. Let's try to be more explicit about what we mean in this thread.
 
  • #13
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It should be intuitively obvious that nothing can EMPIRICALLY be more than the sum of its matter/energy components. However, when one introduces the components of rational reality, matter/energy can have additional attributes that result from the rational arrangement of a given amout of matter/energy.

For example, when the parts of a car are arranged to produce a functional mode of transportation, the transportation ability of the car is more than the sum of the empirical (matter/energy) components.

To conclude: The empirical sum of the empirical parts can never be more than the sum of the empirical parts. But the ARRANGEMENT of the empirical parts can produce attributes that are more than the sum of the empirical parts.
 
  • #14
Les Sleeth
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Well, this issue isn't all that controversial. The concept of synergy has been around for quite awhile, and well documented. Bucky Fuller gave an example 40 years ago or so of the combination of nickle and iron. If one measures the hardness of each separately, they add up to substantially less than the hardness exhibited when they are combined.
 
  • #15
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From John Archibald Wheeler:

Paper in white the floor of the room, and rule it off in one-foot squares. Down on one's hands and knees, write in the first square a set of equations conceived as able to govern the physics of the universe. Think more overnight. Next day put a better set of equations into square two. Invite one's most respected colleagues to contribute to other squares. At the end of these labors, one has worked oneself out into the doorway. Stand up, look back on all those equations, some perhaps more hopeful than others, raise one's finger commandingly, and give the order "Fly!" Not one of those equations will put on wings, take off, or fly. Yet the universe "flies".
 
  • #16
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jhe1984 said:
Here's one for you:

Can things be more than the sum of their parts?

I'm going to share my answer later but for now I'm interested to here your thoughts.

If you stop and think about it, it gets really tricky.

Enjoy.
perhaps a variation of the same question would be: Are we more than our genes?
 
  • #17
selfAdjoint
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kant said:
perhaps a variation of the same question would be: Are we more than our genes?
The answer of molecular biologists would be yes, in that in addition to the genes that code for protein there are control genes, epistatic effects, and so far unresolved protein interactions independent of the genome. And at the macro level it has been shown that random influences in toddlerhood have a big effect on adult personality (in addition to gene effects, which are also big).
 
  • #18
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This is basically weak emergence and strong emergence.
I gotta go right now but look on the wikipedia for information on emergence.
Just thought I'd help out by defining a word for what you're asking, don't have the time right now to form an essay on it.
 
  • #19
Hurkyl
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To answer the original question from a totally different perspective:

In quantum mechanics, knowing everything about A, and knowing everything about B, is not sufficient to know everything about A and B.
 
  • #20
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Hurkyl said:
To answer the original question from a totally different perspective:

In quantum mechanics, knowing everything about A, and knowing everything about B, is not sufficient to know everything about A and B.

i am curious what you mean by this?
 
  • #21
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If you are up to being challenged intellectually, take a look at my paper http://thisquantumworld.com/PDF/transparent.pdf" [Broken].

The numerical identity of the so-called "ultimate constituents" of matter is not a metaphysical speculation but something that has real, observable consequences. The manner in which quantum mechanics assigns probabilities warrants the conclusion that the number of independently existing things is one. Let's call it Reality with an upper-case R. (If you prefer any other name, be my guest.)

I do not believe that we are equipped to say anything meaningful about Reality in or by itself. Our ultimate question concerns the relation (or relations) between Reality and the world. After nearly twenty-five centuries, it is no longer appropriate to ask, what are the ultimate building blocks, and how do they interact and combine? The right question to ask is, how does Reality manifest itself? Notwithstanding its mystical and New Age associations, no word describes this relation better:

manifestation = the spatiotemporal realization of what is (i) alone real by itself and (ii) in itself ineffable.

Here is what we find if we examine the quantum-mechanical probability algorithm with a view to learning, not how the world is put together, but how Reality manifests itself:

By the simple device of entering into spatial relations with itself, Reality creates both matter and space, for space is the totality of existing spatial relations, while matter is the corresponding (apparent but effective) multitude of relata.

By unpacking the ontological implications of the way quantum mechanics assigns probabilities, we obtain not only what is arguably the most concise creation saga ever told but also a unified conception of matter and space that is elegant and economical by any standard.

If physical space is the totality of existing spatial relations, then all that space contains - in the proper, set-theoretic sense of "containment" - is spatial relations. Space contains the forms of all things that have forms - for all forms are particular sets of spatial relations - but it does not contain the so-called "ultimate constituents of matter", inasmuch as these are formless. Instead, space exists "between" them; it is the "web" spun by their spatial relations.

We tend to think of space as a continuous, 3-dimensional, self-existent expanse, to which all existing spatial relations owe their quality of spatial extension. Here we arrive at a different conclusion: the quality of spatial extension is instantiated with each spatial relation, rather than derived from a pre-existent expanse. There is no space in the absence of matter. If (conceptually) we abolish the relata, the relations disappear as well, including their shared quality of spatial extension. What then exists is that by which everything else exists - Reality itself.
 
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  • #22
Hurkyl
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i am curious what you mean by this?
More or less exactly what I said.

Suppose you could write down three lists:
(1) All the "information" possible about A.
(2) All the "information" possible about B.
(3) All the "information" possible about A and B.

Classically, (3) is formed simply by concatenating (1) and (2).

But quantum mechanically, (3) is longer than that. The amount of "information" in the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the information in the individual parts. (In some sense, the information in the sum of the parts is the product of the information in the individual parts)


Hrm. Maybe this example is useful and not too misleading.

Suppose you have a (possibly biased) die in front of you. It takes five numbers to describe the die completely: the odds of rolling a 1, a 2, a 3, a 4, and a 5. (From which you can figure out the odds of rolling a 6)

Suppose you have two dice. How many numbers do you need to describe them?

Classically speaking, you only need 10 numbers: 5 for each die. (From which you can figure out the odds for each of the 36 possible outcomes, because classical dice are statistically independent)

But quantum mechanically speaking, you really need 35 numbers. (Because quantum mechanical dice don't need to be statistically independent)


The extra information comes from entanglement -- when you consider "A and B", you not only need to know about "A" and about "B", but you also need to know about the manner in which they may or may not be entangled.

Of course, if you have reason to believe the dice are not entangled, then you only need 10 numbers to describe a pair of quantum mechanical dice.
 
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  • #23
0rthodontist
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Well, one way to look at it is if you interpret "sum" informally as any kind of combination, then everything is the "sum" of its parts, whether the sums involved are multiplication, addition, concatenation, juxtaposition, entanglement, or whatever.

Loren Booda said:
From John Archibald Wheeler:

Paper in white the floor of the room, and rule it off in one-foot squares. Down on one's hands and knees, write in the first square a set of equations conceived as able to govern the physics of the universe. Think more overnight. Next day put a better set of equations into square two. Invite one's most respected colleagues to contribute to other squares. At the end of these labors, one has worked oneself out into the doorway. Stand up, look back on all those equations, some perhaps more hopeful than others, raise one's finger commandingly, and give the order "Fly!" Not one of those equations will put on wings, take off, or fly. Yet the universe "flies".
Nothing mystical here--we just need to get our hands on God's compiler.
 
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  • #24
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selfAdjoint said:
The answer of molecular biologists would be yes, in that in addition to the genes that code for protein there are control genes, epistatic effects, and so far unresolved protein interactions independent of the genome. And at the macro level it has been shown that random influences in toddlerhood have a big effect on adult personality (in addition to gene effects, which are also big).

The production of any and all proteins in our bodies is affected, either directly or indirectly, by our DNA coding.

Can you also provide an example of "random influences" in which toddlers are exposed to? Most innatists would argue that random influences during childhood will not greatly affect adult personality or intelligence. Steven Pinker is just one scientist who is a huge proponent of nature over nurture and believes that adult behavior and intelligence is largely heritable (over 50% as a matter of fact).

To answer the original question, can we be more than the sum of our parts? Simply put - no, we cannot. The sum, no matter how that sum is reached, of our physical parts can never be more than what it is or what it is capable of unless there is further external stimulation or an addition of matter. Anything contrary to that is purely perception... which is also just a product of hundreds of billions of neurons firing through trillions of synpases.
 

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