Montreal, March 19, 1999
Discussion surrounding Peter de Jager's Y2K related 'Doomsday Avoided' article can perhaps benefit by being viewed in the context of 'complex systems'. The main theme of the de Jager article, and the reciprocal backlash, seems to center around 'have we succeeded in putting a wooden stake through the heart of the millenial bug.?
To get a better look at this question, we might want to back off the zoom lens, bring out the fisheye, and look at the supersystem in which both people and computers are intimately interwoven. In fact, we might focus first on 'community as a complex system' since the entire man-and-technology system is in the service of human purpose (and hopefully 'natural purpose' or 'evolution' as well).
In cultivating healthy lives for a complex collective of people, ... in a 'geno-economy' one might say, ... we have some assumed yet unstated 'economic principles' and management practices. Since the geno-economy is a complex ecological system, we can think in terms of gardening here, ... but to think in terms of a vegetable garden, ... however tempting that may be sometimes, is perhaps less appropriate than thinking in terms of gardening a rainforest.
Now, we have all sorts of considerations in our geno-economy but one of the first is to ensure that the garden is not taken over by weeds.
For example, geno-cide is selectively used to ensure that one variety of geno-life does not strangle other varieties in the geno-economy.
We might well ask, then, what is the guiding theory or underlying premises behind, for example, taking a hundred Iraqi civilian lives and shortening many other Iraqi lives (by the ramifications of a bombing program), and this is not a new issue for us. Throughout history, we have felt comfortable that 'genocide' is a nasty-but-necessary tool for cultivating our geno-economy, .... we had to use it on the Nazi regime, and against Japan, and one of the particular forms of the tool which was deemed particularly effective was civilian-target bombing raids (e.g. in Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima).
But what are the geno-economic principles behind the use of this type of tool? ... and I shall be coming back around to Y2K a bit later, to tie it in to this preliminary establishing of the perceptual model backdrop/s.
It seems clear that the general principle supporting the use of geno-cide is the overall maximization of human life and the minimization of death, ... but that still doesn't say what the implicit and unstated optimization functions 'look like'.
It is equally apparent that there are magnitude and time considerations involved, ... in other words, the 'weed' has to reach a certain threshold of threat-magnitude, prior to our application of the geno-cide tool. Also, since present lives will be lost (invested) in a geno-cidal intervention, to remove the identified 'problem weed', the reproductive - generational cycle times must also be considered, and this is tricky; ... e.g. how do weigh the value of lifes lost against the value of the lifetimes extended and lives gained (the lives which will be extended as a result of killing the weed, and the new children spawned by those lives who would otherwise never be born)?
Clearly, in the geno-economy, we are faced with some of the same problems as in the financial economy, where our intuition tells us that we must apply some 'discounting' factor for innately uncertain future returns which of course, may not be realized for reasons beyond our control. For example, if the earth was hit by a large meteorite in the year 2001, which killed off the entire world population, ... the geno-cidal action in Iraq would look very pointless and wasteful (a moot point in that case, however)
So when we engage in geno-cide in order to maximize our net present livingness, what discounting factor should we use?
Something else begins to creep into the analysis, as we hit this point, as it does in economics, and this is, ... just how much of a 'sure thing' is this geno-cidal investment? What if the weed died of its own accord tomorrow? ... Sadam pops off and a Khatami or some less objectionable weed pops up? Our geno-cidal investment then starts looking like a rush on swiss clockworks on the eve of the Japanese bringing quartz digital to the marketplace.
Clearly the discount factor for optimizing net present livingness must take into account the probabilities associated with the overall geno-investment scenario.
If I were absolutely certain that my neighbour was going to produce a net decrease in the net present livingness index, I could shoot him today and cut our losses; i.e. i could be certain of a positive return without even having to apply any discount factor.
Or could I?
At this point, another 'reality' starts to creep in, in the form of the possibility of observer effects. In other words, my intervention may be interpreted, by someone else, in terms of MY removal being a surefire investment to improve net present livingness.
However, if I am to take this possible 'co-evolutional' effect into account, I am now into the domain of complex systems, relativity, quantum duality, deterministic chaos, ... the whole catastrophe.
Here we come to the familiar branch which economics hit as well, ... the split between neo-classical economics based on equilibrium assumptions, and the fledgling economics which is trying to shift to an assumed dynamical base. The former economics theories were based on the 'rational investor' (no memory and no emotional thresholds, ... factors which make the system nonlinear and give rise to 'emergent behaviors'). The modern economics is shifting towards an accounting for non-rational behaviors such as are kicked off by the imagination of the investor, as in a market crash etc. and this involves viewing the economy as a complex system.
So there is somewhat of a theoretical cross-roads here with respect to the supporting theory for our geno-economy, which will determine the timing and heaviness of the geno-cidal application, ... a calculation which insists upon the assessing of a 'discount' factor. Should that discount factor be quantum physics compliant, or not?
This question brings us back to Heisenberg's Uncertainy Principle in its 'Observer Effect' formulation variant. That is, do we account for the observer effect or not? The observer effect is where our intervention into the system precipitates reciprocal activity, as in the case where someone else sees our geno-cidal intervention as proof that their extermination of us could augment the net present livingness index.
And this question pops up all the time amongst those studying complex systems; i.e. predicting the future implies a 'divine perspective'. If we can't predict the future, how do we know that something we call 'bad' may not tomorrow spawn something we call 'good', so that if we eliminate 'bad' today, we may destroy an essential catalyst of 'good' and unintentionally lower net present livingness.
Thus, the assumption that we can know 'good' in an absolute sense, is equivalent to the 'divine perspective' and to act on this knowledge assuming no reciprocal fallout from our intervention, is equivalent to a 'divine action'. The fly in the ointment in this 'divine' geno-economy management approach is, very basically, 'evolution' and the deterministic chaos (butterfly effects) associated with evolution. Evolution is what converts manure into living flesh. In following the 'divine' geno-economy management approach, we must deny our own evolution, or at least ignore evolution as being a factor, and visualize the geno-economy in terms of a mechanical or non-ecological (non-evolving) system.
On the other hand, we can view the geno-economy as a complex system, which means that we see ourselves, ... the observer ... as being an immersed participant-constituent in the system, ... one whose actions will innately induce 'reciprocal effects', ... thus the observer must think in terms of a co-evolutional relationship with other geno-strains in the geno-economy. This participative view leads towards the formulation, not of 'management philosophies', but of philosophies for 'navigating complexity' (as an immersed participant, ... as discussed in several recent essays).
In a nutshell, this 'geno-economy as complex system' view leads to the removal of the notion of a 'problem' since epistemologically, the notion of 'problem' implies a departure from an equilibrium state, .... an equilibrium state deemed the desirable or normal state. Relativity asserts that we cannot assume any base states (everything is relative) so that we must assume a dynamical base (evolving base). If we assume a dynamical base, then we cannot use the notion of absolute 'good' either, for the above-described reasons (i.e. good can catalyze bad and it's anyone's guess), ... and so we must shift up to the higher dimensional notion of 'harmony of whole-and-part', ... the basic optimizing purpose of natural ecologies. As also discussed, high performance creative teams (rare items) utilize both the 'immersed observer' perceptual mode and the 'harmony of whole-and-part' purpose. I deliberately use the word 'purpose' instead of something like 'optimizing function' here because the notion of 'optimization' involves lower dimensional attractors (static and periodic attractors), while purpose is associated with strange attractors, wherein what is being attracted is in a co-evolutional relationship with the attractor.
To digress for a moment, in order to cast a bit more light on the 'attractor' view of systems management (static, periodic attractors) and/or systems navigation (strange attractors), the important point to note is that it is impossible to 'control' the 'strange attractor' because as you move towards it, it responds reciprocally to you. Thus as you move towards the 'middle east' political (and geno-economy) attractor with a mind to optimizing 'good', the attractor changes with each move you make towards it (due to reciprocal 'observer effects') and you are forced to re-interpret 'good' in the context of the new configuration. Sometimes bad can go to worse, but sometimes in the other direction, there is no predicting. As we know in life in general, ... beautiful experiences or lifeforms can blossom forth from manure or vile circumstances.
Clearly, if there were only two opposing factions involve, Clinton and his men and Sadam and his men, the pre-geno-cide dynamics would be the same as if you were trying to out-manipulate your image in the mirror; i.e. everything you did would be immediately reciprocated in the opposite way, and you would never succeed in changing 'the basic face' that you saw in front of you (the attractor would continually reposition rather than changing in any fundamental way). This would put you in the position of having to continually redefine 'good' and 'bad' in the context of the new positioning of the attractor, a not entirely credible process.
In the presence of only two opposing forces, this would seem to lead to the 'final solution' of total extermination of the attractor, which would seemingly reduce the system to 'perfection'. One minor problem remaining, of course, and this is that perfection is not a living system, because it is no longer evolving, so while it may be 'deadly beautiful', achieving it is, in effect, 'sui-cide'.
Nature is not so perfectionist, however, and the other way of looking at, and approaching a strange attractor is in terms, not of geno-cide, but in terms of cultivating and evolving diversity. All that is required here is to back off the explicit defining of 'good' in terms of specific geno-entities (specific people), and leave the notion of 'good' tacit and therefore evolvable. Now Sadam obviously has a different view of 'good' than Clinton does, but in our scenario, they each keep a poker face as they confront each other, and they both say to each other, .. 'I want some changes around here'.
Obviously, there are more people involved and as they 'stalk' and encircle each other locked in eye-to-eye glare, new ideas and offerings are pulled into this tension of opposites, and the notion of 'moving towards the attractor' is replaced by 'being immersed within the attractor' (immersed observer, as required by quantum physics). In this mode, the diversity surrounding the opposition self-organizes on the basis of 'whole-and-part' harmony; i.e. it converts the tension of opposition into evolutionary dynamics which simultaneously satisfy the tacit perceptions of 'good' on both sides until the very notion of 'sides' blurs. This yields the familiar 'fibonacci' spiral, ... growth, opposing growth, evolution which subsumes opposition.
Returning to the main 'thread', we have these two possible attitudes relative to the geno-economy, .... management by divine perspective and divine intervention to excise 'bad', ... an 'immersed observer navigation' which amounts to the cultivation of diversity as a means of subsuming opposition; i.e. rather than 'fixing problems', evolving so as to subsume the seemingly intractable opposition.
Now the situation with Y2K is clearly not one of 'computers versus man' because the problem springs from the fact that computers are woven into the very fabric of the geno-economy and so when the computers are hurting, we are hurting. Because computer technology serves both to extend human 'reach' and to enhance connectivity, they can serve to either enhance the amplification of a particular message or enhance the cultivation of emergent behaviors or both, i.e.;
'What's that little red button beside the president's desk mommy?', ... 'That's an amplifier button, Johnny, .. it amplifies his voice on a global basis.', .... 'Wow, .. he must have some humongous boomers!', .... 'He's a big man, Johnny, and big men like to have big tools to help them with their work. While the president doesn't use his as a rule, ... remember that terminal we saw on George Soros desk? .... he can make whole countries rock and roll with that one and he does it all the time. In fact if Mr. Clinton and Mr. Soros and all the other members of the Bilderberg, ... the global governance group, were to use their amplifying tools in concert, ... I'm sure everyone in the world would feel it. 'I hope they all know the difference between good and bad music!', ... 'No, Johnny, we hope that they all have different views of 'good' and bad' but that they all share the purpose of amplifying the harmony and music in the world.'
'What's that guy over there talking about, ... what's a resilient community?', .. 'That's an emergent movement, Johnny, cultivated by Internet communications, ... a movement wherein people cooperate in a kind of ecological way to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met in a sustainable fashion. 'Neato!... , you mean all different types of people join together and help each other out?'. ... 'That's the idea Johnny, as we know from nature, diversity is the key to resilience, and when people start imposing only one way on everybody, its unnatural and antagonism develops, things fragment and sometimes chaos and catastrophe ensue before diversity is re-established.' ..... 'Now I see what you meant when you said that you hoped the Bilderberg didn't all have the same view of 'good' and 'bad'. 'Yes, Johnny, ... we hope they don't take the path of Divine perspective and Divine intervention, but instead promote the harmony of the natural diversity.'
Sooo, ...... against the backdrop of alternative perceptions of the role of computers in the geno-economy, what are we talking about in the case of Y2K? .... is it a 'problem to be fixed' (the non-complex system case involving divine intervention), or is it an indication of insufficient 'resilience'? (computer- supported- geno-economy as complex system)?
Should it be repaired in the context of it's capability to reproduce a single message faithfully? .... the view where we see 'it' as being independent of 'us', as a separate tool?, ... or should we see the system of geno-economy and computers as one interdependent system and envision the desired performance of the unified duo in terms of cultivating harmony of whole-and-part?
Are we motivated by 'progress' towards 'perfection' (stability within a managed equilibrium) in the context of a periodic attractor (homeostasis) or are we motivated by purposive 'harmony of whole-and-part' (resilience within an evolving dynamic) in the context of a 'strange attractor'? The latter, by the way is a higher dimensional model which 'includes' the prior model as a special case (the case where the dynamical equilibrium does not evolve)
Y2K alerts us to the fact that logical systems structures (of which computers are a very important instance) are interwoven into the geno-economy. In dealing with this interdependency, we have the option of using the higher dimensional (geno-economy as complex system) model, or the lower dimensional (geno-economy as fixed dynamic equilibrium) model. While the former model eschews the notion of perfection and assumes continuing evolution, the latter model implies progress towards perfection in an environment of dynamical stability (no evolution), a path which leads through boredom to depression and 'sui-cide'.
Thus de Jager's article 'Doomsday Avoided' might more appropriately read 'Doomsday Deferred', or then again, 'Rebirth Assured' as in the 'resilient' view, ... depending on how we are in fact dealing with Y2K, .... but which is it to be? Death by perfection, death by disorder, or 'continuing evolution'?
Y2K gives us the opportunity to share our thoughts on fundamental issues of 'purpose' and 'perception', .... the unspoken underpinnings of our debates on the superficial issues of Y2K. Thinking in terms of 'eliminating' the Y2K problem is no more, no less than the continuance of a multi-millenial reductionist nightmare, ... , envisaging Y2K as detached problem, instead of as one incarnation of a perceptual dysfunction, is to give us a view as in the horror films, where we keep killing the ghoul and pushing him over the cliff, but he keeps climbing back into our reality, hideously mutilated from our attempts to exterminate it in all finality. Unfortunately, ... in a natural (complex) systems view of things,... we be the ghoul.
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