Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quantum Flow

Given that there is quantum flow, one has to wonder what the implications of construcal theory are on quantum mechanics. In any case, this suggests that the constructal law, dealing with flow as it does, indeed is a fundamental law of physics.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on the Emerging Complexity Paradigm in the Social Sciences

We are seeing an emerging complexity paradigm in the social sciences, including economics. It is an emerging paradigm, but it has, as Eric Beinhocker observes regarding complexity economics in The Origin of Wealth,
a long and rich intellectual history. That history includes figures such as John von Neumann, the inventor of game theory and cellular automata; members of the "Austrian school" such as Friedrich Hayek; behavioral economists such as Herbert Simon and Daniel Kahneman; institutional economists such as Douglass North; evolutionary economists such as Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter; political scientists such as Robert Axelrod and Thomas Schelling; and computer scientists such as John Holland and Christopher Langton. (96)

This is no less true for the other areas of social science than for complexity economics.
Spontaneous Orders
The idea of spontaneous order is interchangeable with the idea of complex, adaptive, self-organizing scale-free networks with emergent properties. However, the idea of society as a spontaneous order, as developed by F. A. Hayek and M. Polanyi, was developed in parallel with the idea of self-organizing systems in the physical and biological sciences, and each has tended to retain the names associated with their development. This is particularly true of those influenced by the Austrian school of economics, while those not so influenced have tended to adopt the terms complex adaptive systems (CAS), self-organization, scale-free networks, and emergence imported from the physical and biological sciences. Whatever the terms used, we are essentially talking about the same thing for different levels of complexity. For a variety of reasons, we prefer the use of “spontaneous order” when discussing social processes, as it necessarily contains all of the concepts being imported from the other sciences, but itself has a long history. Further, it allows us to differentiate between social processes and biological (including psychological) processes.
A spontaneous order is, to quote the Scottish philosopher Adam Ferguson (1767), the “result of human action, but not the execution of any human design” (205).  To have a spontaneous order, all the participants must have equality of status, and follow abstract rules. Thus spontaneous orders are to be contrasted with instrumental organizations, which are hierarchical and require people to follow more specific, concrete rules. Spontaneous orders have instrumental organizations as part of their structure, as instrumental organizations allow people to better achieve their goals within any given order, but the two have quite different network structures, and neither can be turned into the other (Camplin 2011).
Hayek and Polanyi’s work emphasized the economy (which Hayek preferred to call the catallaxy) and science, respectively, as spontaneous orders. Hayek also, however, discussed the possibility of money and common law as spontaneous orders (1979), and more recent developments in spontaneous order research have been applied to the processes of democracy (diZerega 2000), philanthropy (Conversations in Philanthropy, L. Ealy, ed.), and the arts (Camplin 2010). Certainly, more work needs to be done in these areas. Further, F. Turner (2005) argues that there are a variety of economies: the market, the gift, the political, and the divine (32-3), the combination of which constitute civil society. Each of these kinds of economies are themselves made up of a variety of spontaneous orders – the market economy incorporates the catallaxy and monetary order, the gift economy possesses the philanthropic, scientific, and artistic orders, the political economy has the democratic order and common law, and the divine economy possesses the philosophical and religious orders. Please note that each economy does not necessarily have to have a spontaneous order within it. We certainly know the political economy does not have to be democratic. The divine economy of Medieval Europe was dominated by the Catholic Church, a hierarchical organization. Yet it is when an economy contains a variety of spontaneous orders rather than hierarchies that that economy becomes the most creative, contributing to the creation of wealth – whether that wealth be measured in money, knowledge, wisdom, beauty, or something else.
Each of the economies measures success in different ways. In the market economy, it is profits. In the gift economy, it is reputation. In the political economy, it is power. In the divine economy, it is virtue. Each has different kinds of motivations driving them. In the market economy it is material gain. In the gift economy, it is love of the good, the true, or the beautiful. In the political economy, it is the love of power. In the divine economy, it is the love of wisdom/God. Each economy finally has different kinds of interactions. The market economy has mutual trade. The gift economy has unidirectional subject-object love. The political economy has the master-slave dialectic. And the divine economy has sacrifice. Understanding each of these interactions, motivations, and measures of success will help us to understand each of these economies, and each of the spontaneous orders which make them up. And understanding that we have a diversity of interactions, motivations, and measures of success will help us to understand how the spontaneous orders and economies interact to create civil society – and how our civil societies interact to give rise to our emerging global society.
There are a variety of kinds of entrepreneurs. When we think of entrepreneurship, we think primarily of market entrepreneurs. However, there is also public entrepreneurship (P. Klein, et al. 2010), which includes political entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, such as philanthropists. Artists and scientists are in a very real sense entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs, artists, and scientists would be the entrepreneurs of the gift economy. In the divine economy we would find philosophers and religious entrepreneurs. We need to broaden our understanding of entrepreneurship, and understand what kinds of products and services each kind creates. Further, we need to understand the ways in which culture affects entrepreneurship. As Klein et al. observe, “three characterizations of the entrepreneurial function have been identified in the literature: alertness to opportunities (Kirzner, 1973), judgmental decision making about investments under uncertainty (Knight, 1921), and product, process, and market innovation (Schumpeter, 1934)” (2010, 2). All of these are found in the kinds of entrepreneurship mentioned above. And culture is going to affect which kinds dominate, what opportunities a person is even going to be alert to, what constitutes uncertainty, and the kinds of innovations which will take place. As Sobel et al. observe, “Entrepreneurship necessarily takes place within culture, it is utterly shaped by culture, and it fundamentally consists in interpreting and influencing culture” (2010, 269). Thus, each economy’s entrepreneurs are responding to the culture, the spontaneous orders, the economies, and the civil society. But let us focus now on the kinds of entrepreneurs, starting with the most familiar kind, market entrepreneurs.
Without market entrepreneurship, economic wealth cannot be created. It is the market entrepreneur who is alert to profitable situations, who makes judgments under uncertainty, who creates new products or ways of doing things that create waves of creative destruction, destroying the old ways of doing things as new, better ways are invented and made available. Each can result in either profit or loss, but because of natural selection within the market, those that profit provide signals to others about what works, where future profits will be made, etc., thus increasing knowledge and increasing wealth. Without market entrepreneurship, wealth can at best be maintained, as the same old products are produced the same old ways to ensure everyone continues to have those same products at the same price. There may be certainty, but certainty doesn’t create wealth-creating opportunities.
Political entrepreneurship can include innovations in the way government works, but also includes lobbying and rent-seeking. In the latter case, political entrepreneurship, particularly when engaged in by market actors directing energy toward rent-seeking rather than market innovations, can and often is wealth-destroying (C. Coyne, et al. 2010). Even when political entrepreneurship is not wealth-destroying, lack of market prices can make it difficult to determine how well something is working, if it creates more benefit than cost, etc. Nevertheless, we need to be aware of this kind of entrepreneurship, which can be quite common – and, in rent-seeking and corruption, costly – throughout the world.
The kind of social entrepreneurship identified with philanthropy also faces some of the same problems regarding price signals, even as their solutions are clearly influenced by market principles. Nevertheless, these kinds of transfers of money can create considerable social benefit, creating the conditions for increasing information, opportunity, and wealth throughout a society. Other kinds of gift economy entrepreneurship, such as scientists and artists, are able to work around price signals due to feedback from peers who are able to provide judgments of truth and beauty, respectively.
 Entrepreneurs in the divine economy – religious reformers, religious innovators, and philosophers – can create the conditions to strengthen or weaken societies. They affect culture at a variety of levels, including tolerance toward differences and diversity. More inclusive, tolerant religions can create the conditions for both greater diversity and greater wealth. More exclusive, intolerant religions can create the conditions for monocultures and poverty. Naturally, every religion has elements of inclusiveness and exclusiveness, tolerance and intolerance. When the conditions are good for divine economy entrepreneurship, new ideas in religion and philosophy can transform a culture, pushing it in a variety of directions simultaneously (R. Collins 1998). Philosophers such as Marx have had a profound impact on a variety of cultures and societies. Such complex interactions deserve greater understanding, particularly the conditions for divine economy entrepreneurship, and whether these conditions are the same for market, gift, and political entrepreneurship as well.

Cultural differences create the conditions for a wide range of spontaneous orders, economies, and civil societies, from perverse orders such as racism and mob behavior (discussed below) to the Smithian/Hayekian Great Society. Some, like the arts and the divine economy, are commonly identified with being part of the culture. Stories and other art forms, myths and other cultural narratives all contribute to the kinds of spontaneous orders and, thus, economies which emerge, in turn influencing that culture. Further, different societies have different levels of complexity, larger societies have subcultures of differing complexity, and each of these have different mixtures of psychological complexity as well. All of these contribute to the kinds of entrepreneurship which will dominate in a culture, and how those entrepreneurs will act, what they will be alert to, what uncertainties will exist, and what will be available to be used to innovate.
Science and Technology
A primary driver of economic growth and wealth-creation is the invention of new technologies. But the creation and evolution of technology, including its use in wealth creation, requires having the right kind of culture. When gunpowder was invented in China, it was used to invent fireworks; when it was introduced to Europe, it was used to invent cannons and guns. The ancient Greeks or Egyptians around the time of Archimedes actually invented a steam engine, but considered it a toy (Thurston 1883/2010). Cultural differences affected the direction these inventions took – including the loss of the technology in the case of the steam engine.

The relationship between science and technology is a complex one. We typically think of technology emerging from scientific discoveries, but in fact the opposite has more typically been true. The (re)invention of the steam engine led to the development of the science of thermodynamics, not the other way around. This typifies the history of the development of the physical sciences. However, more complex sciences like biology have demonstrated a more complex coevolution of science and technology, where the basic science has led to technological advances that have helped us understand scientific principles. A good example of this is molecular biology. We had to understand the basic molecular biology to do genetic engineering. Based on what we thought we understood about genetics, it was thought that adding another purple gene to a petunia plant would result in darker purple petunias. Instead, white and white-purple striped petunias were produced – a puzzle which led to the discovery of interference RNA (A. Eamens et al. 2008). Given this fact, it is increasingly important that people have the freedom to pursue both science and technology as they see fit, able to use their own local and tacit knowledge.

As noted above, science is a spontaneous order. Technology emerges on the borderlands of both the scientific order and the catallaxy. Too often people consider technological innovations to be outside the economy when in fact economic growth is not possible without it, meaning technological innovation is, as Schumpeter correctly identified, a part of the economy properly understood. Developing this understanding, and understanding how culture affects the directions taken in both science and technology are important directions for future research.

The term “diversity” is one fraught with problems. What does one mean by “diversity”? Is it diversity of race and ethnicity? Diversity of culture? Diversity of gender? Diversity in ways of thinking? Diversity of beliefs? Diversity of actions? In short, the answer to all of these questions is, “yes.” We could then ask a variety of quite similar questions for each of these examples of diversity, but for the sake of simplicity, let us consider the issue of culture. In the case of culture, does diversity mean radical separation, where different cultures are incapable of communicating with each other? Does it mean one cannot understand another culture? Does it mean rejecting cultural universals? Does it mean one cannot be influenced by another culture without inauthentically, and perhaps unethically, appropriating that culture? Does it mean uncritically accepting anything and everything done by people within another culture – such as female circumcision, prohibiting women from going to school, and racism – as simply part of the rich tapestry of human expression? No. In the latter case, we must admit that we cannot take a metacultural perspective, being thoroughly embedded in our own cultures, meaning we are always necessarily judging another culture from the perspective of our own. But this should mean we should be aware of this fact, and aware of the dangers that will necessarily arise in making such judgments – not that we shouldn’t make the judgments at all. This modesty should also point to the fact that we should always try to understand more thoroughly what it is we are criticizing. What may seem strange from the outside may make perfect sense from the inside. Further, one may be able to make a criticism from within the context of the culture itself – which would make the criticism far more effective.
A good example of the kind of criticism I am talking about comes from the paper on perverse spontaneous orders by Nona Martin and Virgil Storr (2008) in their discussion of “negative belief systems” (74). In this paper, the authors analyze how the B’ Rabby folktale in the Bahamas undermines commercial culture:
Rabbyism refers to the set of ideas and values which are transmitted through Bahamian folklore and more recent Bahamian cultural products. Cunning is not only how the successful get ahead but is an admirable quality. It is much higher on the totem pole than honesty and hard work. Greed is not only a character flaw. Rather, greed is also a dangerous vice that can place you in jeopardy. During slavery and under colonialism, the trickster hero at the center of the B’ Rabby tales who used his wits to “get one over” on those stronger than him was a useful model for a people who were denied their agency and independence. In a post-slavery, post-colonial context, however, B’ Rabby is arguably not a positive role model. (85)

What was culturally beneficial in one context is no longer culturally beneficial in another. But these kinds of stories take on a life of their own, contributing to the culture, and to attitudes toward the different kinds of spontaneous orders. In this particular case, Rabbyism contributes to the continued poverty of those who are most influenced by it. There is much work that can be done in how stories affect the attitudes within a culture and, as a consequence, affect the kinds of spontaneous orders that emerge.
Cultural narratives are not the only things that can contribute to the creation of perverse spontaneous orders. Martin and Storr also point out that “negative belief systems,” like racism, and mob behavior are both perverse spontaneous orders (2008: 74). In a mob you have a group of people acting as a single entity, as a collective; in racism, you have an attempt to create a racial monoculture. In both cases, you have homogeneity preferred over heterogeneity, or diversity. It would seem, then that perverse spontaneous orders tend toward homogeneity, while healthy spontaneous orders tend toward heterogeneity. Yet, even so, it is not as simple as that. There is strong evidence from anthropology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive psychology, etc., that humans have cultural universals and instincts, which are expressed in a variety of ways. Thus, there is a kind of universality which gives rise to diversity. More, those diverse expressions have to learn to get along in an increasingly globalized context. To use a biological metaphor, in a healthy body, you have the same DNA giving rise to a diversity of cells that interact in tissues and organs – all of which have to work together to create a healthy body. An attempt to create cellular homogeneity in the body is known as cancer. Pure heterogeneity, on the other hand, would be equivalent to having an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself – or to a pond of single-celled organisms whose only interest is their own, and in devouring others.
Thus there are healthy and perverse individualisms and group dynamics. Hayek’s essay “Individualism: True and False” is an excellent discussion of these distinctions. Within the context of diversity, Martin and Storr’s work contributes to this understanding, as does D. Lavoie and E. Chamlee-Wright’s Culture and Enterprise (2000), and R. Sobel et al’s (2010) essay “Does cultural diversity increase the rate of entrepreneurship?” The issue of diversity is a tricky one. As Sobel et al. point out,
In previous literature, ethnic diversity has been repeatedly shown to result in inferior economic and social outcomes due to tensions and clashes within a society. Easterly and Levine (1997) show that high levels of ethnic fragmentation are a root cause of underperformance of African nations. They find that ethnic diversity results in worse government performance, worse infrastructure, and education systems. Alesina et al. (1999) show that spending on public goods is adversely affected by the extent of ethnic fragmentation in an economy. Provision of basic infrastructure like number of phones per 1,000 population, number of roads and highways has been typically found to be low in highly polarized societies (Easterly and Levine 1997; Alesina et al. 1999). The main explanation for these findings is that fractionalized societies have a more difficult time co-ordinating on the type and quantity of public goods. (272)

Much of the literature, then, suggests that diversity is bad for economic growth, positive political outcomes, and civil society as a whole. Sobel et al., however, challenge this in their study of levels of diversity within the United States, finding that the more diverse a state or city, the greater its wealth. Indeed, in “developed countries, the most vibrant major cities, like New York City or San Francisco, have in common a large diversity of cultures,” while “many of the poorest areas of the USA have the least range of cultural diversity. In West Virginia, for example, 94.5% of the population is Caucasian, and foreign-born individuals make up only 1.1% of the state’s population” (270). This suggests that “diversity can be both detrimental to, as well as beneficial to, economic growth and development. The key determinant we argue is the institutional structure within which these cross-cultural interactions occur” (270). With the right institutions, cultural differences can become cultural capital, creating entrepreneurial opportunities. Clearly, much more work needs to be done in this area.
There are other aspects of diversity which need to be investigated. One such aspect involves what N. Wenzel (2010) calls “constitutional culture,” changes in which can create conflict within the political economy, including respect for rule of law. Thus, different elements affecting the way people thinking, ranging from culture to gender to complexity of thinking giving rise to emergent new levels of psychology and social structures, as demonstrated by Clare Graves (D. Beck and C. Cowan 2005). Gravesean psychology goes a long way toward explaining much of the diversity within and among societies, as well as the changes individuals go through throughout their lives, and deserves much more investigation, particularly in its role as mediator between culture and the spontaneous orders. People at different psychological levels are going to notice different things, which will affect the kinds of entrepreneurs they will be. People with different psychological levels can also come into conflict, or find ways of positively interacting with each other. Again, it is institutions with will matter most in which comes into play.
As we can see, then, there is a diversity of kinds of diversity. There are diversities of cultures, diversities of races, diversities of genders, diversities of psychologies, diversities of spontaneous orders, diversities of economies, and diversities of civil societies. All are important, and we need to spend more time studying each of these, both individually and in their diverse interactions, if we are going to come to a complete understanding of our global civil society. The research possibilities in this area are endless.
Increasingly, the world is evolving toward a global society, constituted of global spontaneous orders and a variety of civil societies and their spontaneous orders. We have institutions and organizations with global reach, firms and NGO’s with a presence in a variety of countries with a variety of governments, economic structures, and cultures. With increasing globalization, new kinds of conflicts are emerging and are going to emerge. Yet, as we have seen, destructive conflicts do not have to take place. With the proper institutions, destructive conflicts such as ethnic strife can be transformed into creative conflicts such as economic competition (Fraser 1999) – and when this happens, poverty becomes transformed into wealth. It behooves us to then come to understand the varieties of institutions, and how they interact with different cultures, as what works in one situation may not work in another.
With globalization, economies are becoming increasingly interconnected, political decisions in one place affect not just their immediate neighbors, but the world as a whole, and ideologies spread across the globe, transformed along the way. Ideas, art, and products have been moving around the world for a long time now – perhaps for the entire time humans have been on earth. What differs now is the speed – in some cases, immediacy – with which they can move. With the internet, my ideas can become immediately available to everyone who has an internet connection. Those ideas can even spread to those without the internet – more slowly, true, but much faster than at any time pre-internet. Tribes previously unknown to Western scientists are found wearing t-shirts advertising products produced by Western companies, gained by trade.
And yet, despite what would appear to be a homogenizing force in globalization, we continue to see local expressions of these ideas and products. In some ways, local cultures are perhaps becoming stronger as they attract those with an interest in that culture beyond those born into it. Globalization gives people far more choices – not just in choice of goods, but in choice of ideas, of culture, of religion. We need to come to understand these emerging patterns, these emerging networks, these emerging opportunities.
Thus, globalization in fact creates the opportunities for greater empowerment. Good institutions empower people to make the best lives for themselves. Greater economic wealth empowers people to make more kinds of choices. The arts and sciences, philosophy and religion all are strengthened in free, wealthy societies. The more options people have, the more empowered they are. If I am poor, I have few life options. I may be stuck engaging in subsistence farming just to survive. If I am relatively wealthy, though, I may choose to continue to farm, or I may go off and become a scientist, a doctor, or a poet. With enough wealth, one can choose the gift economy; without it, the gift economy may not even be able to emerge in any real fashion.
Empowerment is then connected to having the right institutions, giving rise to individual-empowering spontaneous orders. Information must flow freely, and the channels for that flow made wider and more complex, for good information it itself empowering. People must be allowed to make their own decisions, for themselves and their own, and not be forced to live as others see fit.

And people need to be empowered at every level, in every economy and spontaneous order. Democracy empowers people politically. The catallaxy empowers people economically. Decentralized political and economic power contributes to the conditions for the emergence of healthy gift and divine economies, in which people can pursue their loves of the good, the true, and the beautiful, of wisdom and virtue. Empowerment consists of letting people live their own lives, succeeding and failing on their own such that they can learn from those experiences and become even more empowered as the learn what works and what doesn’t. This is how one becomes self-sufficient, self-confident, and self-supporting. One is not empowered by protecting people from failure – in that lies the road to disempowerment, dependence, and despair. The role of the social scientist is to learn the effects of institutions, laws and legislation, and actions on the creation of our social systems, to learn which are personally empowering and which are disempowering. It is then up to others to decide what to do with this knowledge.
 In an increasingly globalized world, we are facing more and more issues of globalization and diversity. How is it the world is becoming integrated? Are there ways that integration can be facilitated within the framework of creative conflict? How can the conflicts inherent in the world be made creative rather than destructive? What is the role of science and technology in these developments? These are but a few of the issues we will be investigating here.
Alesina, A., R. Baqir, & W. Easterly. 1999. “Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1114(4): 1243-1284

Beck, D. & C. Cowan. (2005). Spiral Dynamics. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Beinhocker, E. 2007. The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Camplin, T. 2010. “The Spontaneous Orders of the Arts.” Studies in Emergent Order. 3: 195-211

―. 2011. “Getting to the Hayekian Network.” Hayek in Mind: Hayek’s Philosophical Psychology. L. Marsh, ed. Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 15. R. Koppl & S. Horwitz, eds. Bradford, UK: Emerald Publishing.

Collins, R. 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Coyne, C., R. Sobel, & J. Dove. 2010. “The Non-Productive Entrepreneurial Process.” The Review of Austrian Economics. 23(4): 333-346

diZerega, G. 2000. Persuasion, Power, and Polity: A Theory of Democratic Self-Organization. Ney York: Hampton Press.

Eamens, A., M. Wang, N. Smith, and P. Waterhouse. 2008. “RNA Silencing in Plants: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Plant Physiology. 147 (2): 456-468

Easterly, W. & R. Levine. 1997. “Africa’s Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112: 1203-1250

Ferguson, A. 1767. An Essay on the History of Civil Society. The Online Library of Liberty: T. Cadell, London.

Fraser, J.T. 1999. Time, Conflict, and Human Values. IL: University of Illinois Press.

Hayek, F. 1973/1976/1979. Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Vol. 1-3. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Kirzner, I. 1973. Competition and Entrepreneurship. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Klein, P. G., J. T. Mahoney, A. M. McGahan, and C. N. Pitelis. 2010. “Toward a Theory of Public Entrepreneurship.” European Management Review, 7: 1-15

Knight, F. 1921. Risk, Uncertainty and Profit. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

Lavoie, D. & E. Chamlee-Wright. 2000. Culture and Enterprise: The Development, Representation and Morality of Business. London: Routledge.

Schumpeter, J. 1934. The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sobel, R. S., N. Dutta, and S. Roy. 2010. “Does Cultural Diversity Increase the Rate of Entrepreneurship?” The Review of Austrian Economics, 23 (3): 269-286

Thurston, R. H. 1883/2010. A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine. Charleston, SC:Nabu Press.

Turner, F. 2005. “Creating a Culture of Gift.” Conversations on Philanthropy 2: 27-58

Wenzel, N. 2010. “From Contract to Mental Model: Constitutional Culture as a Fact of the Social Sciences.” The Review of Austrian Economics, 23 (1): 55-78

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life as Information Flow Processing and Management

I believe an ontology of information will help us to understand the universe better. Paul Davies and Sarah Walker have certainly demonstrated that understanding information flows will help us understand the difference between nonliving and living.
"When we describe biological processes we typically use informational narratives -- cells send out signals, developmental programs are run, coded instructions are read, genomic data are transmitted between generations and so forth," Walker said. "So identifying life's origin in the way information is processed and managed can open up new avenues for research."
I talk about precisely these things in my book Diaphysics.One should also understand this as being the relation of the brain to the mind, and what it is social processes are doing. Each of these can be understood as Davies and Walker now (and I, for several years now) understand life:
"We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components," Davies added.
Again, this describes the relationship between cell and biomolecules, mind and neurology, and social orders and humans -- which is to day, spontaneous orders and their constituent parts. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Universe Is a Complex, Self-Organizing Network

The universe itself is a complex, self-organizing network, and biological networks, neural networks, social networks, and the internet all have the same structures. Thus, we may be sure that the universe is not at all random, but demonstrates power law distributions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Open Evaluation and the Scientific Order

Can science be made into an even more spontaneous order? Perhaps, with open evaluation. With the internet, there is no reason why scientific publications cannot both be open access and have open evaluation.

Online journals are very low-cost to maintain -- so low-cost that a few donations would cover it, if the editor didn't want to pony up the $10/yr or so needed to keep it going after the initial cost of setting the journal up. And imagine what it will do to science to have experts in a variety of fields commenting on a paper. More complex processes will be better understood, because more complex processes really require a more interdisciplinary approach than has been required for the simpler sciences, such as the simple physical and chemical processes we have mostly focused on since Newton.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that the spontaneous order of the internet is allowing the spontaneous order of science to become more complex, which in turn will allow scientists to better study more complex phenomena.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Robert Hercock's Cohesion asks how it is complex systems are able to hold together and create order. It's no small question.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Internet and the Future of Spontaneous Order

Prior to the Renaissance, church, state, economy, and culture were deeply intertwined. Government received its power from the Church, anti-usery laws were religious in origin, and the Church actively persecuted anyone whose ideas or art works contradicted established doctrine. In the aftermath of the Renaissance, we saw a variety of spontaneous orders trying to emerge -- free market economies, democratic governments, a wide variety of churchgoing options, and both non-religious and even anti-religious works and ideas emerging. Now we have a variety of spontaneous social orders of this kind in a variety of countries. The religious order in the U.S. creates new religions on a daily basis. The artistic orders create an incredibly wide variety of arts. The economy, to the extent it is allowed to be a spontaneous order, creates a wide variety of products and increasing wealth for everyone. Over the last century or more the U.S. has moved more and more away from democratic spontaneous order and has become more and more a centralized democratic organization.

But it appears we are on the cusp of a second emergence of spontaneous social orders. What do the revolutions in the Middle East, the Tea Party phenomenon in the U.S., the Netroots movement, and the fact that goods and services are starting to be provided in smaller and smaller units have in common? (Other than being discussed by Max Borders along similar lines.) One is that all of these follow a power law distribution. Self-organizing processes, or spontaneous orders, all follow power law distributions. (Not all things that follow a power law distribution are self-organizing processes, but all self-organizing processes follow power law distributions.) The second is that all of these are based on information technology, particularly the internet. It is no surprise to learn, then, that the internet and World Wide Web both have power law distributions.

Spontaneous orders seem to generate other spontaneous orders. More, the internet and WWW seem to have done something none of the other spontaneous orders were able to do: make people feel comfortable in the spontaneous order. Everyone is familiar with the complaint that capitalism is alienating. Well, there is a certain degree to which this is true of all spontaneous orders. We are used to living in intimate social systems, not in impersonal ones like spontaneous orders. Yet, spontaneous orders can coordinate our activities best, allow us to live well with a very large number of strangers, and create wealth for almost everyone in it (relative to the poverty humans were born into as a species, and live in for most of our species' life). But the internet and WWW are different. They allow us to have the feeling of it being a personal space while at the same time allowing for the impersonality. For example, how many of your Facebook friends are people you have actually met? Yet you interact with them almost every day on Facebook, exchanging ideas or at least pleasantries. They are strangers, yet not strangers. It is a category of people we once encountered in city neighborhoods as described by Jane Jacobs. We reinvented them online, distributed across geography. Now imagine how powerful these connections could be if combined with those city neighborhoods our governments have all but destroyed through their urban planning schemes.

Or do we have to imagine? Have the revolutions in the Middle East shown us?

The result of all of this does not have to be revolution -- though I have little doubt we will see more and more such in the future. The result -- no less revolutionary in a real sense -- could be massive decentralization in the government and economy, creating truly decentralized democratic governments (following power laws such that the small local governments have the most power, the middle-sized state governments have less, and the large national government has almost none at all) and generative, rapidly-growing economies that create a wide variety of goods to suit literally everyone's tastes. We are seeing the latter in products offered online. Shipping and storage costs restricted the variety of goods offered. But Amazon doesn't care what's on its shelves, and how much of it is there, so long as it can sell what it has. A small company can make a small amount of something, sell it to Amazon (or offer it directly on eBay), and be able to sell it to the few hundred people around the country that are interested in buying their product. Such a sales strategy was literally impossible prior to the World Wide Web.

The power of the internet has yet to be truly tapped. We are mostly sticking to what we know. eReaders are finally digitizing books, but for the longest time, the internet simply made more of the old fashioned kind of books available. Not much has come of the theories of hypertext literature. What we have seen is a limited amount of hypertext, acting primarily as reference links rather than bibliography (as I did above), in what are otherwise stardard forms of writing (like the essay -- this being an example of such). Even in politics, we have seen only limited use -- fundraising being an exmaple of a typical thing made more efficient. And perhaps that is all we will ever see. But, as with the advent of the book from the invention of the moveable type printing press, that may be enough. The real revolutions the internet is and will be creating are only in their infancy. Much we cannot imagine waits to be born.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Social Media Follows Power Laws

In a finding unsurprising to those who understand the structure of all self-organizing network processes, Facebook follows power law distributions in the size of communities.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Scientific Publication Network Evolving

Over time, and with increasing complexity, scale-free network architecture becomes increasingly democratic in structure. We are seeing that in the declining influence of the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world. Increasing specialization results, too, in greater complexity -- and greater specialization means more people are reading their specialist journals rather than generalist, multi-disciplinary journals. This hardly means the prestigious journals are on the way out. We just see a flattening of the heterarchy is all.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Oscillating Neurons and Memory

The brain creates short-term memories through oscillations. If you understand how strange attractors emerge, this is hardly surprising information.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Summary of the History of the Cosmological Evoluton of Complexity

Information gives rise to self-organization which gives rise to emergent properties. To have self-organization, you must have information communication, networks through which that information can flow, and paradoxical relations that create tensions which drive complex interactions. 1. Energy -- foundational information leading to self-organization and the emergence of structure 2. Quantum Physics -- free particle-waves -- atoms 3. Chemistry -- fluid dynamics -- solid-state -- complex systems (interface of solid and fluid, giving rise to flows, networks, etc.) 4. Biology -- monocellular (archaebacteria, eubacteria, eukaryotes) -- polycellular -- multicellular (combining features of monocellular and polycellular) -- social (requiring interspecies and intraspecies communication) 5. Human Psychology/Sociology (Tier 1 in Gravesean psychology) -- Tribal -- Heroic -- Authoritative -- Entrepreneurial -- Egalitarian 6. Metahuman Psychology/Sociology (Tier 2 in Gravesean psychology) -- Integrative (view the world in an interdisciplinary way) -- Holistic (view the world as fully integrated set of networks) -- Transpersonal (begin to personally identify with the whole of creation) -- ? -- ? -- ? 7. ? etc. As suggested, this evolution is an open ended process, with no given endpoint. However, we should be able to see patterns emerging. For example, each larger emergent process has a number of subprocesses that lead up to the next emergent process. As a level of complexity becomes "full," a new level of complexity emerges to create new environments in which to evolve. Here I combine J.T. Fraser's umwelt theory of time with Clare Graves' psychosocial emergent complexity theory of mental/social evolution. Both thinkers argue paradox is what drives the emergence of new levels of complexity, with each new level of complexity creating its own paradoxes which then get "resolved" (but not really, as their maintenance is necessary to maintain the level of complexity supporting the one which resolves the paradoxes of that previous level) in the next level. This model both demonstrates the interrelations among the different disciplines, showing we live in an interdisciplinary world, and demonstrates how important it is that all those who are studying complexity get together and understand what each other is doing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Neural Networks to Social Networks

Paul Zak -- bridging the neural order with the market order. There are places in the brain that compute value. Might be important for a science based on value-rankings and on the subjective theory of value.

If I could spend all the time I wanted on the social science research I want to do, I would be bridging the neural order to the moral order and to the artistic/literary order and to the linguistic order, just to name a few. The embodied brain as a network node in a variety of social networks. Spontaneous orders in the networks of the divine, gift, market, and political economies in the network of civil society. In other words, an embodied network as a node in a variety of networks in the networks of a network. And this is ignoring the network structures of the cells and of the genes/regulatory process.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Networks -- Smoking, Obesity, and Epidemics

Not all spontaneous orders are good. For example, obesity has been shown to spread through social networks. If you hang out with fat friends, chances are you'll gain a few pounds yourself. Smoking also demonstrates network effects. If a person or people start smoking in a given network, more in the network will start. But if a person or people stop smoking, more in the network will quit. The elements that affect network effects are also interesting. For example, those with more education were more likely to quit if their network peers quit.

Albert-László Barabási also has an editorial in which he discusses network medicine in light of the article on obesity. He points out that these kinds of networks -- disease networks, genetic/regulatory networks, neural networks, and social networks -- all have the same basic architecture, meaning if we understand one network, we understand them all at a fundamental level. He also points out that understanding networks allows us to see connections among things we may not otherwise notice. Diseases can be networked together, and thus understanding one may shed light on another. And as he says "drug side effects are inherently network phenomena." Which is another way of saying there are unintended consequences/spillover effects in network processes. They can be positive, such as the "invisible hand phenomenon" of market economies, or they can be negative, such as drug side effects.

All of which shows that the content of the system matters as much as the architecture. Diseases spread through network effects, with emergent properties, as any epidemiologist will tell you. And there are tipping points. An epidemic is a spontaneous order, but I think we would all, from a human perspective (vs. the germs' perspective) agree it is a perverse one. But tipping points work both ways. Using epidemiology, we can also eliminate diseases. There is a tipping point for wiping out a disease as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Informational Ontology

I do not ascribe to a materialist ontology nor an idealist one, but rather, to an ontology of information. In other words, I take the following from John 1:1 seriously:

en arche hn o logos
"the foundation of all things is information"

Admittedly, this is a definition that comes about in light of information theory -- but if you truly understand both what information is, and all the meanings of logos, you can see that "information" is a good translation of "logos." Certainly a far better choice than "word," which is such a peripheral meaning of logos as to be almost completely inaccurate. When we "Logos," we communicate information one to another, process that information, and pass on that information. All things are information at different levels of complexity -- information processors, which all communicate different kinds of information at different levels. For biological organisms, the vehicle of communication tends to be chemical, though also photons and sound waves. Humans communicate using more complex information-carriers, particularly through grammatical, syntactical language. If we look at the ways to define information -- as a noun, it is that which is without form; as a verb, it is that which gives form to another. Thus, pure information is that which is without form, which gives form.

"The foundation of all things was information, and the information was 1) to the advantage of 2) at, near, by 3) to, towards, with, with regard to (the word translated as "with") God, and God was information."

That is the most literal translation of John 1:1 I can render. The story of the universe is one of foundation on information, and the increasing complexity of that information over time in the universe. Atoms have less complex forms of information than do chemicals and especially chemical cycles and systems. Biology is a set of highly complex chemical systems. The human brain is a highly complex neural system in complex interaction with other humans through complex social systems. That information is communicated through language, which itself must be highly complex in order to communicate most efficiently. One could thus view God as having most complexity of the universe, and thus have all the information. This is how God is both the Alpha (the inform information that gives form at the beginning of the universe) and the Omega (the most complex, most informed).

I suspect this may be too pantheistic for some. Call the all-the-information-at-its-most-complex what you will, then. Call it simply the universe at a future state. But humans are the most informationally dense entities in the universe we know of, and we are highly intelligent and self-aware. If the tendency of the universe is towards greater complexity -- toward increased density of information -- then we can expect more complex, more intelligent, more self-aware beings than ours to evolve. It may or may not be a descendant of ours. But that does not matter. What matters is that we understand this natural evolutionary tendency of the universe as a whole to evolve toward ever-greater complexity.

Complex processes emerge precisely because information is communicated to other entities in the process. In social processes, those entities are agents capable of processing that information and storing it as knowledge, then acting on that knowledge. Much of that knowledge is conscious, some unconscious. Much is tacit. Thus understanding information in the information theoretical sense of the term is important to understanding complex social processes as well as the physical entities that make up those social processes. If we understand that each is in fact made up of different kinds of information, we can bridge the gap among the physical, biological, psychological, and social sciences -- and even bridge those to the arts and humanities.

All the other theories I use in my philosophy, world view, scientific work, and art -- evolutionary theory, game theory, chaos theory, complexity theory, emergence theory, etc. -- explain the ways in which information interacts to create more complex things and how those complex things engage in complex interactions. Information theory is the foundation of all these things. Information is the foundation of all things.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Complex Feedback: Nature-Nurture

Many of us already know that the nature-purture debate is grossly oversimplistic. Still, all data supporting this fact is more than welcome.

We are all born with a set of genes which create our bodies, including our brains, the development of which informs our actions. We are born with instincts, which are genetically encoded. However, the environment also affects gene expression and the emerging structure of our brains' neural nets. This results in reactions to the environment, which change the environment, which in turn affects our brain's gemoetry and our genes' expressions. Etc.

This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a lot of complex interactions.

Nature-only and nurture-only explanations are simple -- indeed, simplistic -- explanations. This is true even though each of the systems involved -- genes and gene regulatory processes, neural networks, and social processes -- are each very complex in their architecture and processes. But let's face it: we are talking about three complex, self-organizing network processes interacting with each other. And we are not even talking about the complex sets and subsets of our social processes, and the interactions of each with the others.

Genetic (inter)actions --> complex bodies, including complex neural network/brain
--> actions and, with other people, interactions --> complex social processes
--> actions and interactions --> neural architecture and (inter)actions
--> genetic (inter)actions --> etc.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chemical Vapour Deposition Cauliflowers; or, Ignorance and Interpretation in Science

One of the reasons I think there should be a society that brings together all of those who are working in the various sciences involved in understanding emergent orders is that awareness of others' work will 1) reduce the rediscovery of laws/processes that have already been discovered, and 2) reduce the likelihood that there will be less right interpretations, given new information.

I would consider this article on creating cauliflower fractal patterns, summarized here to be an example of both issues. What conclusions would they have drawn if they had been familiar with constructal theory? It is obvious that their evaporation technique is an example of different kinds of flows interacting to create these patterns. Further, power law distributions are not random, so they have a less right interpretation of the data than they could if they had been familiar with the right data. The paper is interesting, but the interpretation coulduse some work.
Certainly part of the problem is that you can't read everything. And rarely does one read outside of one's area of expertise. But complexity science is, I think, necessarily an interdisciplinary science. We are finding these patterns, processes, and strctures everywhere in nature and society. Researchers in all fields need to familiarize themselves with what others are doing, and familiarize themselves with the work being done that is revolutionizing science.

Slow Power Law Avalanches Oscillate

Everyone familiar with complex systems are familiar with the fact that "avalanches" occur in a power law distribution -- few large avalances and many small ones. However, until now, it has been assumed that the avalanches themselves were random. Under the conditions described in the linked paper, under certain conditions, in which slow avalanches are created, the frequency of large and small avalanches actually oscillate. Thus, there is a pattern to the distribution of the power law distribution.

More and more, it seems that processes we thought were essentially random are in fact ordered. But the order is complex, not simple. And it is complex order on complex order -- giving the appearance of randomness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chaos Theory and Roulette

If there is anything truly random, surely it is roulette, right? Wrong. It turns out that using chaos theory allows us to discover patterns in roulette -- such pronounced patterns that the odds increase dramatically. Nevertheless, you have to have a lot of equipment available to be able to make the more accurate predictions, so even Mandelbrot's odds wouldn't have been able to have increased under normal conditions.

Does this suggest that there is no such thing as true randomness?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The journal Nature has a fascinating piece on cliodynamics -- computer analyses of patterns in history. What I find fascinating is that they end up with exactly the same analysis as I had on the revolution in Egypt. Each each case, we were looking at bubbles and the causes of bubbles. There is a bubble that resulted in the violence/unrest bubble. The bubble of my analysis seems to be the same as the bubble of Peter Turchin's analysis. One gets boom-bust cycles in complex processes when there is positive feedback. Cheap money is a kind of positive feedback. Third party payers, such as we see in health care with insurance, is another. And artificially low interest rates -- meaning, rates below what the market would create -- created the housing bubble that burst in 2008. There was an education bubble in the 1960's that led to the violence of the 1970's. I believe there is an education bubble now, as evidenced by the increasing prices and blooming number of bureaucrats -- and Turchin predicts revolutionary violence in the U.S. of the same kind around 2020. There are more aspects to cliodynamics than education bubble-created violence, and many more I am sure possible. One has to be careful, though, that one does not mistake the model for reality -- these are not accurate predictions, but pattern predictions. These are, nevertheless, very important.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Predicting the Unpredictable (But Not In Time to Do Anything About It)

One of the most important aspects of science is to discover universal rules. It is therefor perhaps not surprising that an interdisciplinary study of complex processes discovered there is a universal rule for transitions to the critical state. It constitutes an "early warning system" that a complex adaptive system is getting ready to jump a catastrophe cusp (also known as the moment of emergence). Very exciting work in complexity science!

Rediscovering the Constructal Law

The headline should read Physicists Independently Rediscover Constructal Law. The fact that we have so many rediscovering areas of complexity like the constructal law points to how important it is to bring together these disparate groups. Of course, any healthy system does have a certain amount of redundancy -- but at the same time, we don't have to keep reinventing the wheel, either.

Beauty and the Spontaneous Order

Beautiful works of art and literature help us to both understand and live well within spontaneous social orders. Indeed, beauty may be the missing piece that has caused us to feel alienated within these orders. We do not have to feel that way.

In On Beauty and Being Just Elaine Scarry argues that beauty brings us to justice because of beauty’s attention to symmetry, leading us to an understanding of “a symmetry of everyone’s relation to one another” (97, quoting John Rawls from A Theory of Justice). While symmetry is certainly part of beauty, it is in fact only one half of beauty, the other half being asymmetry. A perfectly symmetrical tree would be a ball on a column – hardly beautiful (equating symmetry with beauty also denies the fact that Japanese works, which focus on asymmetry, are also beautiful). Rather, a beautiful tree is one that has symmetry, yes, but also is ragged around the edges, uneven in its evenness, even in its unevenness. If this is the case, justice may in fact be distributive, as Scarry argues, but it cannot be purely symmetrical, as Scarry implies. Rather, it would exhibit qualities of symmetry and asymmetry simultaneously – as network theory in fact says happens in complex network systems. It seems likely spontaneous orders are the only systems capable of exhibiting such qualities – and of doing so without prejudice. This claim would be strengthened if it turned out that spontaneous orders were, themselves, beautiful.

One aspect of spontaneous orders is that they allow equal access to all (which is far different from equal outcome, as outcomes depend on many different things). In a truly spontaneous legal order, for example, there is equality under the law. In a truly spontaneous economic order, there is an equal ability to enter into economic transactions, broadly defined. Scarry observes that “the equality of beauty” in part resides “in its generously being present, widely present, to almost all people at almost all times” (108-9). Beauty is accessible to all, though the more engaged one is with the beautiful object, the more benefits one derives from it, the more beautiful it becomes. The same is also true of participation in spontaneous orders.

We see, using two different ways of defining both beauty and the nature of spontaneous order, a commonality: paradox. A beautiful object must be both symmetrical and asymmetrical. To have a just legal order, one must have equal treatment under the law (laws applying to all people equally), resulting in unequal outcomes. Contrariwise, to get equal outcomes, you must treat people unequally and, as a consequence, unjustly – as Vonnegut brilliantly demonstrated in “Harrison Bergeron.” The affirmation of paradox seems to lie at the heart of both the nature of beauty and of spontaneous orders. Beauty must contain both complexity and simplicity. Simple rules and feedback generate complex spontaneous orders (see diZerega, Hayek, and also Stephen Wolfram’s The Making of a New Science). Indeed, feedback, or reflexivity, is another feature of beauty. Both beautiful objects and spontaneous orders are ordered, evolutionary (changing over time), rule-based, simultaneously digital and analog, generative and creative (as Scarry also argues of beauty), scale-free hierarchies (what Turner calls heterarchies in The Culture of Hope) in structure, patterned/rhythmic, unified in their multiplicity, synergistic, novel, irreducible, unpredictable, and coherent (see Turner’s The Culture of Hope on these qualities of beauty and Christian Fuchs on these qualities of self-organizing systems). It seems, as I note in Diaphysics, that “there is a correlation between self-organizing complex systems and beauty. Each have the same attributes.” More, “all beautiful objects are information-generating systems. And to the extent that something is a self-organizing system, it is beautiful” (84).

If one of the problems with understanding spontaneous orders is that they are more complex than we are, we being nodes within the network, and a less complex entity cannot fully understand a system more complex than itself (Hayek, The Sensory Order, 185), then understanding the relationship between spontaneous orders and the nature of beauty (especially in regards to the internal structures of beautiful things, and how they interact to create the beautiful whole) could help us to understand the nature of spontaneous orders. More, learning to better appreciate and understand beauty – whether in nature or in works of art, music, literature, etc. – should help each of us to learn how to better live within the extended order and positively contribute to its health and growth. This then brings us back to the importance of the liberal arts. Plato saw beauty as a sort of master concept informing all the other concepts (or, ideas, to come closer to the Greek word) (Phaedrus). As we see here, there is much truth to that – and, as Keats reminds us, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”). The truth-seeking orders, such as the scientific order, are more truth-seeking the more they are truly spontaneous orders – which is to say, the more beautiful they are. “Virtue aims at the beautiful” according to Aristotle (Nicomachian Ethics), and more goodness emerges out of the moral order the more it is a truly spontaneous order. And if beauty is fair, and the fair is just (Scarry), the closer the legal and the democratic orders are to being truly spontaneous orders, the more just they and the extended order will be. In fact, if beauty, truth, virtue, and justice are indeed so deeply related, it logically follows that spontaneous social orders, being beautiful, are going to generate people who are truthful, virtuous, and just – and if these are elements not typically associated with the market order, this is a failure as much of the critics of the market order as it is of the economy having yet become a full spontaneous order – or, more, the almost complete failure of money to have become a spontaneous order (which only serves to undermine the catallaxy).

If we come to embrace beauty, which is, as Frederick Turner observes, the “value of values” (Beauty), we can come to feel at home in the extended order. We evolved in the midst of an evolutionary drama – and this is precisely what a spontaneous order is (Turner, 131). We can find beauty in the social spontaneous orders precisely because they have all the qualities of the evolved, evolving natural ecosystem. Ironically, precisely as our social world has become more and more a set of spontaneous orders within the extended order, we have abandoned beauty as a value – thus cutting ourselves off from the very thing that would have helped us know how we fit in. As Roger Scruton says in his Beauty, “When we are attracted by the harmony, order, and serenity of nature, so as to feel at home in it and confirmed by it, then we speak of its beauty” (72). While I would argue against the inclusion of “serenity,” certainly the other two, and the list I gave above, equate beauty and spontaneous orders. Educated in beauty, we could learn to feel at home in the universe, including our spontaneous orders.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Instincts, Emergence, Evolution, and the Role of Literature in Culture

Humans have a number of cultural universals -- which one could easily understand as being human instincts. If we understand that our instincts, like our emotions and our actions, have narrative structure, we can come to see how important literature is to human psychological and social development.

Frederick Turner points out that the forty-seven cultural universals (to which he adds combat, gifts, mime, friendship, lying, love, storytelling, murder taboos, and poetic meter) make it "tempting to propose that a work of literary art can be fairly accurately gauged for greatness of quality by the number of these items it contains, embodies, and thematizes" (The Culture of Hope, 26), since "it is the function of [literature] to preserve, integrate and continually renew this deep syntax and lexicon [of cultural universals], while using it to construct coherent world-hypotheses" (26).

We have, according to Wilson (actually, George P. Murdock, who Wilson is quoting), sixty-seven cultural universals (On Human Nature, 160):
age-grading, athletic sports, bodily adornment, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labor, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labor, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethno-botany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire-making, folklore, food taboos, funeral rites, games, gestures, gift-giving, government, greetings, hair styles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names, population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation of supernatural beings, puberty customs, religious ritual, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool-making, trade, visiting, weather control, and weaving

Whereas I could identify in that list only twenty which chimpanzees share with humans: bodily adornment, cleanliness training (in some), community organization, cooperative labor (i.e., when they hunt), education (active teaching), family feasting (a true ritual in chimpanzees), games, gestures, gift-giving, greetings, hygiene (in cleaning each other of parasites), incest taboos (admittedly a questionable one, since it is clear the Westermarck effect is in effect, but not yet clear that it is also socially transmitted), kin groups, medicine (Frans de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master, 254-255), postnatal care, property rights (chimpanzees are very territorial), ritual (see family feasting, above), status differentiation, tool-making, and visiting. And this does not include the cultural differences found among chimpanzee troupes.

I say there are only twenty, but look at those twenty. Are we really so much better because we have developed calendars when chimpanzees have managed to develop medicine (albeit far more primitive than human medicine, to say the least, but quite impressive all the same). Many of those uniquely human cultural traits can be traced logically from this pool of twenty we share with our closest relatives. Religion rises from power (status differentiation), which would then naturally lead to things like divination and religious ritual (combining power with feeding rituals could do this). Government too would naturally arise in a species that has status differentiation and the need for rules. I could go on and on, but I think we can see how much of what we consider uniquely human is either shared by chimpanzees and bonobos or could arise quite naturally from a specialist species like chimpanzees to become a variety of things in a generalist species like humans.

This is highly suggestive of what ways we should investigate the similarities and differences between humans and chimpanzees. And as we can see, this also suggests how and why it's important to understand chimpanzees if you're going to understand the cultural role of literature.