The simple idea of one-dimensional patterns guiding three-dimensional behavior has important implications across many fields of research:


  • Human language is neither a tool of communication nor a tool of cognition. Rather, like all one-dimensional patterns, language is a tool of constraint, a boundary condition.
  • “How do children acquire language?” gets the question backwards. The more interesting question is “How does language acquire children?”

Anthropology & Cultural Evolution

  • Biological evolution and cultural evolution are not two different things, but rather two examples of one sort of thing. The same is true of DNA molecules and human texts.
  • As offered by Dawkins, meme fails to capture the important difference between the rate-independent and rate-dependent elements of human culture, the difference between composing an email and changing a tire.

Cognitive Science & Artificial Intelligence

  • Sequence processing in evolved complex systems is fundamentally entangled with and grounded in the underlying physics. Only in computation do we find Vygotsky’s deliberate semantics.
  • Computation anchors one end of a continuum with physics at the other end. In between are arrayed natural symbol systems displaying distinctive levels of abstraction.

Ecological Psychology

  • Language is grounded in perception and behavior, and Gibson’s idea of affordance is crucial to understanding grammar. Shuffling one-dimensional patterns allows affordances to be composed and then extended in time and space.
  • Biological and cultural evolution are processes of affordance discovery, exploitation, and memorialization.

Origin of Life & Astrobiology

  • How do we know if something is alive? Life is defined by one-dimensional patterns constraining three-dimensional activity.
  • The transition from the RNA world to the DNA-RNA-protein world parallels the evolution of culture from preliterate to literate through the invention of writing, measurement, and tools.

Complexity Science & Complex Systems

  • Abstract grammars allow sequences to constrain other sequences, but only if they are stable enough to be searched. Permanent storage media like DNA and writing are necessary for the open-ended evolution of complexity.
  • If you are handed a recipe, how do you know whether you are actually to prepare the dish or simply to photocopy the recipe? Von Neumann showed that interpretation and replication of one-dimensional patterns are logically independent activities.

Genomics & Molecular Biology

  • Sequence replication can be holistic or piecemeal. In cell division the entire genome sequence is replicated all at once; in horizontal gene transfer and human communication, short subsequences are replicated differentially.
  • Abstract concepts in human language behave like pleiotropic genes in the cell.
  • Split genes and alternative splicing arrange and rearrange the nouns and verbs of the genome.

Evolutionary Biology

  • Following Hull, sequences constrain the physical world through interactors, which recognize affordances and respond appropriately. Interactors function at all scales of the living and civilized worlds.
  • Interactors can either be constructed, like enzymes, or configured, like humans.