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.