June 17, 1998
I received some feedback on the style of these essays on a postcard a few days ago, which was not dissimilar to other comments I have received from time to time, noting the many 'quotes' and obscure word usage, and which after some initial 'venting' asked, "Could you write without quotes? ... space, time, matter, God, .... why not?"
I'm wholly sympathetic to the intent here, and to me, it simply boils down to the challenge of using a dimensionally limited medium (conventional language) to convey thoughts and images which are intrinsically higher dimensional. Once we all know what a 'strange-attractor' etc. is, then language is no longer a barrier and whenever we mention it, others will nod their heads knowingly. But before the terms are familiar?, .... imagine the challenge, in time-traveling back to the middle ages and being forced to stay within the bounds of their vocabulary in explaining 20th century reality!
With this qualification, I'll try to present some of the complex systems ideas which have been threading through these essays with minimal verbage, but I'll need a few navigating benchmarks for my own purposes as I go along, which I'll put in [[double square brackets]]. I'll leave these in 'for the file', so to speak, but the reader may either edit them out, obscure them with a felt-tip pen or simply ignore them, to follow the path of minimum linguistic complexity.
In order to bring out the central motif of these essays without pivoting the argument off of a maze of complex metaphor, the works of others or complicated and rare terms [[i.e. in order to use two-dimensional flatspace-speak to convey high-dimensional curved-space imagery]], I'll have to lean particularly heavily on the reader's ability to 'imagine' how iterative processes 'grow' or 'evolve' within the different spheres of activity we are all involved in. I am specifically referring to the iterative feedback between purpose, thought and structure which goes on as we try to improve our employment status, or as we pursue our hobby of tennis or golf etc. [[while we think of purpose as bivalent or good-or-bad in flat-space, in higher dimensional curved or phase space, purpose appears in the form of multivalent 'attractors' (torus or 'strange' attractors)]]. 'Thought', as used here is not about 'thought' in general but refers to the mental imagery of where we'd like to get to in a particular sphere of activity, while 'structure' refers to the current material or tangible status (e.g. our physical status or behavioral profiency or whatever) representing 'where we are', and 'purpose' is pull or attractive force set up by the gap between the 'to-be' 'thought' and 'as-is' 'structure'.
Any natural system, then, can be thought of in terms of a growth-producing iteration [[feedback]] between purpose, thought and structure. For inanimate ensembles, 'purpose' can be visualized in terms of mutual attraction; 'thought' can be visualized as the ability to perceive resonant states; e.g. crystals seem to be able to 'think' of and achieve a small variety of stable geometrical states through crystalline 'growth'. And, of course, 'structure' is simply the way things are, in a tangible 'matter and behavior' sense, at the current time. [[while we commonly refer to the process by which the system moves from one state to the next as 'growth' or 'progress', these terms in the flatspace paradigm are innately linear-quantitative whereas in the curved-space paradigm, 'growth' implies 'evolution' and 'evolution', i.e. it is innately nonlinear-qualitative and involves continuing subsumation of old within new, while the notion of 'progress' simply collapses. It collapses because it is based on the bivalent (linear) notion of 'better' and 'worse' which loses its meaning in a higher dimensional or multivalent environment. In a multivalent evolutionary environment, we can speak only of harmony and dissonance, qualitative entities which are not linearly mensurable]]
In exploring how these three entities, purpose, thought and structure relate to one another, the notion of a complex space comes to mind; i.e. purpose is the directional arrow given by a phase relationship between 'real' structure (the current material state) and 'imaginary' thought (the imagined complete state). Clearly the phase relationship between thought and structure changes through the life of the purposive project as the gap is closed between actual and desired system states. When the two finally converge, purpose goes to zero since purpose emerges from the gap.
So, this is a simple and familiar model, right?, ... the generalized model of purpose, thought and structure, .... and it comes in two basic flavors, one which involves assertive thinking (i.e. 'let's make it happen') and another which involves integrative thinking (i.e. 'I must act in such a way as to bring many dynamics into balance'). These two approaches are also familiar, right?, ... the engineer and musician approaches.
Assertive thinking comes into play where we select out, from our full background of experience, a particular 'problem-' or 'possibility-space'. These terms, which are common in scientific problem-solving, allude to the particular 'playing field'; i.e. are we speaking about problems and possibilities in the field of employment, the field of education, the field of health, the field of hobby, the field of relationships? We can have multiple 'problem-' or 'possibility-spaces'.
What we do in each of these spaces is to pursue questions of purpose and try to achieve desired structural outcomes. In this notional space, we compare current status (tangible material and behavioral structure) with our 'thought' of what we'd like it to be, and the gap between where it is now and where we'd like it to be establishes 'purpose' for us. That is, if the possibility space we select is 'transportation space' and the problem or opportunity concerns a river crossing, our purpose may be to build a bridge and our 'thought' is likely to envision the completed bridge even before its material structure can be quantitatively assessed.
In this scenario, our purpose is to close the gap between the vision of the completed bridge and the material reality represented by the current state (or non-state) of the bridge. In this mode, our thought is of a future configuration within the same possibility space; i.e. 'transportation space'. In this assertive flavor of the purpose- thought- structure model, it is easy to envisage growth in terms of iterative steps by building up the material structure of the bridge which then redefines the gap between the imaginary completed- bridge thought and the current material-structural status of the bridge, and this new gap constitutes our revised purpose. We typically refer to the measurable reduction in the phase angle between thought and structure as 'progress' and in fact almost everything in this system is quantitatively (i.e. bivalently or linearly) measurable. The actions which secure the fulfilment of purpose in this case can be termed 'assertive', and purpose reduces to 'cause' since there is a clear forward mapping or 'engineered-in-advance' path from our current to our desired state which we can 'cause' or 'make happen'.
Assertive thinking and assertive 'growth', then, apply to systems which fall within a single 'possibility space' such as 'transportation space'. In this type of growth, it is possible to draw a map or make an engineering diagram of both the imaginary thought state and the current structure state; for example we could map the desired 'thought' state with dotted symbols and fill in the current structure state, as it 'progresses' with solid symbols. Because our two states fall within the same possibility space, this type of problem is essentially 'linear' in the sense that we can map our 'progress' in moving from the current state towards the desired state (e.g. by measuring the growing ratio of solid symbols to total symbols).
The assertive mode of our purpose, thought, structure iteration is perhaps the most familiar to us, but it is not the sole mode. In more complex situations, we tend to move from current structure state towards desired thought state, through an integrative, rather than assertive process.
Integrative thinking and integrative growth (aka 'evolution') [[ontological is a far more expressive and appropriate term here than 'integrative']] involve multiple interfering 'problem spaces' and this changes the 'growth game' substantially by making it higher dimensional. For example, as a child 'grows' into adulthood, he and his father (and grandfather) will have a view of his 'material and behavioral structure' based on his current physical and mental traits, and they will also have a thought of him as they would like to see him when he is older. In this case, the desired future state emerges from the confluence of several different possibility spaces, including but not limited to health space, education space, job space and relationship space.
Each one of these possibility spaces, taken separately, could be perceived via the bridge building type of scenario but the reality is that they cannot, with any realism, be 'mapped' separately because these possibility spaces are interdependent; i.e. what happens in his health space may impact all of the other possibility spaces and what happens in his education space may impact his job space and his relationship space and could impact his health space (e.g. if it were too stressful). Similarly his relationship space could effect all of the other spaces (e.g. if he were gay) and his job space could do likewise. And the notion of integrative 'growth' in this case refers to a qualitative growth rather than a quantitatively measured growth. The notion of measuring 'growth' is innately 'bivalent' or 'linear' in that it assumes that we can assess whether the system is moving 'towards' or 'away from' the desired state. This is not possible in higher dimensional situations; i.e. while we can see that the child is evolving, we cannot say that he is 60% of the way towards becoming an adult.
In this integrative [[ontogenetic]] system, there is no equivalent to the situation in the assertive case where there is a direct mapping between the 'thought' state and the 'structure' state; i.e. there can be no engineered-in-advance solutions or 'mappings' in this case. Yet the three system components are nevertheless in place, the current 'tangible-structural' state, the 'imaginary' 'thought' state and the 'purpose' which is set up by the gap between these two. If these three entities did not exist, then it follows that the parent would be indifferent to his child's patterns of 'growth' or 'evolution' relative to his health, his education, his employability and his personal relationships.
Given the existence of purpose, thought and structure in this integrative [[ontogenetic]] system, there is a question as to how to interpret or visualize purpose, thought and structure, since they are all multi-dimensional. The implicit question in the assertive case was 'what does the current structure do? ... and what structure do we 'think' would achieve what we would like it to do?. In the case of our child, however, such a simple question does not emerge and we know that whatever 'we get' (whatever the child becomes) will be undefinable in advance. He is subject to developments in numerous possibility spaces since he is part of a complex ecology, unlike the 'bridge' in transportation space. [[The environment-informed envelope to his purpose-pulled space-time dynamics, coming from various possibility spaces are what shapes and contains his evolving structure. Or, more simply, his ontogeny shapes and contains his evolving structure.]]
Meanwhile, the bridge was not subject to the 'integrative confluence' of events in various possibility spaces. ... hmmmm, ..... or was it? Maybe we oversimplified that bridge example, maybe there were other interdependent spaces in that case as well, such as commercial space, political space, ethnic space? Perhaps a bridge-building intervention which considered only transportation space could have unforeseen consequences, like an 'unclean' intervention by a surgeon; e.g. there's that Irish song about how 'the coming of the road' leads to the irish lad's girlfriend running off with some foreign guy.
Anyhow, if we can't ask the utilitarian question 'what does the child do?' (i.e. 'what good is the child?') and what do we want him to do?', then what 'is' the right question to ask which we can assess along the path from the current structure to the thought of the desired structure? Or does such an all-encompassing question exist? Coming at it from another angle [[i.e. the ontogenetic angle]], how could we describe the thought of the desired structural state? This type of question arose In last November's SEG Wellspring forum when the group was trying to decide what advice they would give their child relative to pursuing his future state; i.e. the forum came up with the following generic specification of the desired state; 'doing what he loves to do in an environment he loves to do it in'. If this is a reasonable characterization of the child's desired future state, then there can be no single quantitatively assessible question we can ask and have answered and no assertive or causal path from the current to the desired state, because at each step of the way, his interactions with his environment are changing the definition of 'what he loves to do' and the changing environment is also making 'the environment he loves to do it in' a moving target as well. [[without the notions of multidimensional phase space, trajectories and attractors, it's going to be hard to wrap this point up and move on]]
There's no sleight of hand here, our perception and inquiry into complex systems runs right up against this question of assessing integrative growth or 'evolution' which transcends quantitative assessment, and requires an ability to tune-in to harmony.
Taking stock of where we're at, there are two flavors of purpose- thought- structure growth systems; i.e. assertive and integrative [[ontogenetic]]. In fact, there appears to be only one flavor, integrative, which contains the other (assertive) as a special case. That is, if we assume that it is valid to consider a single possibility space in its own right, if we assume that the possibility space we are working on is 'independent' of all other possibility spaces, then we can use the assertive approach with its linear attributes of 'growth', 'progress', 'causality' and 'engineered-in-advance' fully mappable solutions. If, on the other hand, there is interdependence between the subject possibility space and other possibility spaces, then our intervention in one space will induce changes in other spaces and these unplanned effects may well rebound back and effect the structure and notion of what is 'desirable' or 'needed' within the subject possibility space. For example, taking up a new opportunity in job space could prejudice a goal in relationship space; e.g. if one joins the British para's, one's chances with the Irish girlfriend may be impacted.
Looking at this dilemma from another perspective, if multiple interdependent possibility spaces are involved, then multiple purposes will be involved and we will not be able to reduce problem (the satisfaction of multiple purposes) to a simple question and answer. We must somehow respond to multiple purposes at the same time. Rather than this involving a heads-down assertive or causal construction mode, it will involve heads-up listening and 'tuning-in' to resonant or harmonious integration possibilities [[the notion of multi-dimensional attractors is almost essential here, as harmony and resonance is a multi-dimensional imaginary notion (a notion which transcends material structures). The notion of multi-dimensional attractors which purpose-pull new structure into being, or alternatively, the notion of an ontogenetic envelope guiding and containing the structural 'growth' is needed here. This ontogenetic view describes how natural systems evolve and needs to be applied in social systems inquiry as well, since these have the same basic multi-dimensional attributes.]]
In summary, the motif which continues to emerge and resolve itself out of this series of essays is that we have historically tended to perceive and inquire into systems on a single possibility space basis, assuming that interdependencies would be negligeable (which they rarely are). In effect, this equates to putting 'causality' or 'assertiveness' in primacy over 'purpose' and 'integrativeness' [[ontogeny]]. This is an unnatural state of affairs which infuses dysfunction into the complex of systems and spaces which together constitute our reality. The self-deception that we can focus our perception and inquiry on individual possibility spaces as if they were independent (as if the overall system were 'linear'), leads to the abstract, rationalist notion of 'cause' without 'purpose' and a delusional obsession with 'growth' and 'progress'. Growth which is causally measured and pursued on a single possibility space basis leads directly to dissonance in adjacent spaces since harmony can only be assured when the internal structures of the various possibility spaces are pulled towards their desired states in simultaneous, balanced consideration of the '*full suite of purposes* associated with these spaces. The type of solution demanded here is not the 'compromise' which derives from a 'static' view of the situation, but a harmonic or resonant solution which derives from a space-time dynamical view (i.e. where one juggles the pulls of purpose over time).
Resolving multi-dimensional 'purpose' through assertive actions in each of many possibility-spaces taken one at a time leads directly to conflicts; e.g. an exclusive focus on job space purpose (job objectives) will likely lead to conflict with health space, education space and relationship space purpose. In spite of the growth of this type of interdependency-based complexity, literality and assertive-causal responses appears to be on the rise.
A particularly nasty emergent behavior which derives from the dysfunctional proclivity for putting assertive problem-solving in the primacy, is the erosion of purpose. [[as Nietzsche says, the belief in purpose collapse with the belief in cause]]. Whereas, in simpler times, solutions were pulled into being by natural need or 'purpose', today's solutions are increasingly out of the context of purpose and are assertively or causally 'pushed' on the basis of new technology or new money-making opportunities; i.e. there is an explosion of 'solutions looking for problems'. As society becomes more and more assertively-pushed and less and less purpose and integration-pulled, each new generation of youth is greeted by a heightened level of non-purposiveness (meaningless), particularly in job space, and this has already become a source of anxiety or depression for many youths.
It appears that the assumption that we can inquire into problems and solutions within a particular possibility space independently of any other has sown the seeds of substantial dysfunction, which is just now coming to blossom. Since the gestation period for dysfunction can be long, there may much which is already in the pipeline
The solution to this problem is to ensure that purpose-pulled integrative growth [[ontogeny]] is brought back into primacy to provide a resonance-based envelope for assertive growth structures.
What has been termed 'possibility space' in this discussion is in mathematical terms, 'phase space', thus there is a mapping from the scenarios presented in this note to the mathematics of chaos and complexity, and to the metaphors and terminology which have been developed therein to fill holes in our existing euclidian (flat) space oriented language base.
This infusion of higher dimensional terms and metaphors may be a pathway for our return to the richness of expression of the oral traditions which preceded migration, roughly 2500 years ago, to the current 'flatspace' written standard. While the oral traditions of the Celts, Native North Americans and other aboriginal peoples were (and many still are) capable of conveying the high dimensional notions discussed above, our alphabetic language is distinctly deficient in this regard.
In conclusion, I guess the answer to the opening question of 'Why not?' , ... i.e. Why not use simple english to articulate non-euclidian concepts?, ... is that it is this simple use of language which 'holds us captive' in an abstract low dimensional dysfunctional world which is driving our children mad as it makes zombies out of us, just ask a Navaho or a Celt. That's not intended in an unfriendly manner at all, simply an honest opinion.
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