This interview with the novelist from The Believer is a few months old, but it’s well worth a read:
Something truly interesting is happening in many basic sciences, a real revolution in human knowing. For a long time–centuries–empiricism has tried to understand the whole in terms of its isolated parts, and then to write out precise and simple rules about the controlled behavior of those parts in isolation. In recent decades, with the explosion of the life sciences and with a new appreciation in physics and chemistry of emergent and complex systems, a new kind of holism has emerged. Researchers, coming up against the limits of old-style reductionism while studying large, dynamic systems, have found that the whole can sometimes best be understood in terms of the whole. New attempts to describe richly interacting real-world phenomena have turned increasingly to complex models and simulations as valid scientific tools.
But that’s the way that fiction has known things for a long time: through complex, connected models. Through massive simulation.
And if you haven’t read The Echo Maker, then you are missing out on the best neuroscience novel since Saturday.