Looking at the broader context, I think that one of the chief generalizations that we can take away from modern science is that the world is full of complexity and interrelatedness. The ancients had a deep reverence for the unchanging and the “perfect”. This is very tidy and simple, and these days seems more and more inadequate. Systems thinking, an evolving, biological approach seems both more useful and accurate.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still an important roll for simplicity, but it seems tied to the power of simple things to produce rich, complex and to an extent, unexpected results, à la fractals and the like. If you look at the most biological of the AI schools, Jeff Hawkins’ HTM theory, the mechanics are still based on relatively simple mechanisms and processes. Jeremy England over at MIT has a theory which ties the laws of thermodynamics to the formation of self-replicating molecules, which then form the basis for the larger self-replicating structures of living organisms and so on. Emerging richness and novelty seems to show up throughout modern disciplines.
Understanding the rules that result in and drive complex, living systems is a very powerful cross-discipline trend. Of course one of the difficulties in this richer more complex view of the world is that it doesn’t have simple mechanical predictability of a clockwork world. When we look for clear cut, deductive, step-by-step explanations—do X and Y happens—we are frustrated. Trying to write such a description ends up with layers and layers of special cases. The perfect circles of the Heavenly spheres give rise to more and more epicycles and we find that solving N-body problems is a weighty task.