Re: Noise Helps Signal! LO2751

Michael McMaster (
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 18:23:12 +0000

Replying to LO2726 --

Jim's comments about noise have prompted a recombination of a couple
of ideas relating to complexity. Jim says:

> The phenomenon was named "stochastic resonance" by the people who first
> looked into it. The examples given in the article set me to thinking
> about analog continuity and digital discontinuity; one of the homelier
> examples was I think a marble in an egg carton, being randomly jiggled
> until it pops out of one compartment into another.

One of the ideas of searching landscapes is that we want to introduce
distribution and variation so that we don't get stuck on a "local
peak". That is, so that we don't come to a best solution for what we
can see when we are likely not seeing the whole possibility. The
size, number and connection of teams is part of the technology of

Another might be the introduction - or allowance of the continuation
of - noise. What is seen as noise from a "local peak" may not be
noise from a "higher peak". Noise may be what jumps us out of our
local trap.
> In connection with some group-think sort of meetings I have conducted
> in the past, I was asking myself why I feel so uncomfortable with written
> "agendas" and predetermined outlines and whatnot. And it hit me that
> one thing we humans do best is exactly the extraction from noise that
> the article dealt with. I personally like to let a meeting begin with
> desultory "noise" talk. The signals that represent what _must_ be
> talked about will be in the noise. How could they possibly _not_ be
> in there?
> The written agenda is problematic not because it is written but because
> it is written by _one_ person. It is not an immediate experience by the
> group.
> In an extended sense, we need some noise, even when there is a formal
> or defined focus to our meeting, to be a constant reminder of what our focus
> is leaving out. Without that noise, our focussed attention would eventually
> delude us into imagining that nothing outside our focus could even _exist_.
> It's the noise that teaches us humility... .

Michael McMaster