26 March 2010 / Draft
System Dynamics, Hypercycles and Psychosocial Self-organization
exploration of Chinese correlative understanding
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Integrative exercise for the future
System dynamics, hypercycles and psychosocial self-organization
Requisite map for governance in the future?
Configuring "sides" and "braiding" discourse
Relevant application of Le Chatelier's Principle
In quest of a compass imbued in myth?
This document develops commentary in Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations: a 40-year overview (2010). It is specifically concerned with how interrelated initiatives, such as those indicated there, might be understood as effectively mapping the territory of preoccupations with global governance -- especially given their problematic relation to each other and to alternative perspectives.
The question is raised there as to why self-reflexivity is resisted in relation to mapping psychosocial dynamics (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007). Factors for an "eightfold way" which might merit discussion could therefore include:
Essentially these points raise the question of whether designing a map of value for global governance should build in factors regarding the process of how it is designed, used and comprehended -- notably with respect to what may be ignored, as previously discussed (Mapping the Global Underground, 2010; Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). Basically the question is how self-reflexive is the map?
Viable governance for the future would seem to need to incorporate such disparate dimensions rather than seeking to marginalize some of them -- for in seeking to do so it increasingly alienates itself from voters, rendering the possibility of strategic traction problematic. The challenge may be one of reframing all strategic initiatives through new metaphors that can be readily communicated (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
The focus here is on traditional insights from Chinese culture and various efforts to highlight their relevance to the understanding of complex systems, especially in the manner in which they offer an explicit -- and much needed -- bridge between systematic formalization and its understanding through metaphor. The relevance of such exploration is enhanced by recognition that the increasing significance of Chinese foreign policy may be informed by insights that are outside conventional western patterns of understanding.
The following argument also serves as an introduction to further development of specific aspects in a separate document (Adaptive Hypercycle of Sustainable Psychosocial Self-organization: designing a mapping of a Chinese metaphorical pattern language, 2010).
Potential of Chinese insights?: The dysfunctional fragmentation associated with the bifurcations from the original insight regarding the need to address the "predicament of mankind", recalls the much-quoted warning of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Following recent concern with an integrative approach to the future, it would seem appropriate to point to possibilities that remain to be explored (Self-reflexive Challenges of Integrative Futures, Futures, 40, 2, March 2008).
Given that the Club of Rome initiatives of the past, and the bifurcations, together reflect a primarily western bias, the emergent role of China on the global scene suggests the special merit of giving some consideration to frameworks emerging from that culture. This is consistent with the argument of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) as separately discussed (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
The relevance of traditional cultural concepts has recently been recognized in relation to China's foreign policy (David Lai, Learning from the Stones: a go approach to mastering China's concept, Shi, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, 2004; Josh Kerbel, Thinking Straight: cognitive bias in the US debate over China, Studies in Intelligence, 2004). This follows from earlier strategic analysis of the Vietnam war (Scott Boorman, A Protracted Game: a wei-ch'i interpretation of maoist revolutionary strategy, 1971). It is appropriate to note that two metrics of fundamental importance to current decision-making -- with respect to financial risk-management and climate change -- were developed by sino-japanese mathematical economists (Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics: the Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else? 2009).
Of particular relevance to this exercise is the emerging recognition of the relevance of Chinese insights in cybernetics (Maurice Yolles and Paul Iles, The Knowledge Cybernetics of Culture: the case of China, International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Sciences, 3, 4, December 2006; Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye, From Knowledge Cybernetics to Feng Shui, 2005). There is some irony to this given that Chinese culture was one of the early inspirations for the binary coding system fundamental to computer operation.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (one of the "bifurcations") contained an experiment in the interpretation of the Chinese classic, the I Ching (or Book of Changes), for contemporary strategic issues, given the appreciation of its traditional role in Chinese governance (Transformation Metaphors -- derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997).
A much-debated, western synthesis is the AQAL framework of the Integral Movement, instigated by Ken Wilber, which endeavours to integrate eastern perspectives (Steve McIntosh, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: how the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality, 2007). It use was proposed as a means of providing an organizing framework for a conference of the State of the World Forum on climate change (Washington, 2009). The question is whether such inherently integrative perspectives would reframe the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations -- if new responses to the "predicament of mankind" are to be envisaged. It is of course also the case that any such initiative, however integrative its intentions, evokes bifurcations which presumably need to be understood as a feature of change itself, as tentatively discussed (Coherent Patterns of Schism Formation, Bifurcation and Disagreement -- and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they evoke, 2001) -- as indeed implied by the interrelated conditions of the "Book of Changes".
Experiment: The question then is whether there is any degree of correspondence between the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations (as responses evoked by requisite variety for governance) and such schemes -- purportedly of relevance to governance from a different cultural framework. The following exercise should therefore be considered as an afterthought -- of potential value to the future -- evoked by frustration with the experience of a 40-year history and its inadequacy to the challenges of the times.
The procedure summarized by the diagram below has been to make use of the ordering of the 64 change conditions encoded as hexagrams in the I Ching. The 8 trigrams (of which the hexagrams are composed) are conventionally grouped in a circular configuration (BaGua), in one of two arrangements. The hexagrams are then typically grouped into a tabular arrangement of 8 corresponding "houses" (Organization of I Ching hexagrams in terms of traditional "houses" 1995). The approach taken below is to configure these "houses" in circular form, corresponding to the core BaGua (after which the houses are named) as a means of approaching the quadrant organization of the AQAL system. The question is whether the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations can be understood both as corresponding to quadrants of that system and to four paired sets of "houses". It should be stressed that this exercise is solely intended to evoke discussion and is not proposed as a definitive correspondence.
Configuration: One advantage of the elements of the configuration below is that each hexagram in the diagram is explicitly hyperlinked to a document interpreting its relevance from a policy/strategic perspective -- in the light of traditional commentary. These 64 documents are integrated into 6 complementary sets of corresponding documents (on sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, network, community and lifestyle), making 7 interlinked sets in all. The focus of each set might be said to be relatively closely related to the preoccupations of the Club of Rome and its bifurcations. Although the diagram below provides access to the "policy" set initially, the primary mode of access to the array of documents and related tools is via the above-mentioned page (Transformation Metaphors, 1997).
Correspondences?: A first question arising from such a diagram is the implication that the 8-fold BaGua set might bear some correspondence to the 4-fold AQAL system. This clearly calls for careful exploration. Surprisingly it would appear that this possibility has not been actively explored, although mentioned in earlier papers by this author (Interrelating Metaphors to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes, 2007). Of related interest within the AQAL framework is whether the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations correspond distinctly to the four AQAL quadrants -- if only as a demonstration of the requisite variety engendering the bifurcations..
If the various forms of "opposition" (noted in the earlier paper), both to the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations, are themselves to be taken as being a challenge to integration, one of the questions is whether the pairing of the "houses" -- possibly within quadrants -- offers a means of recognizing the functional role of such opposition in each case. Does one of any pair of "houses" correspond to an initiative and another to rejection of that initiative? The two together would then be complementary in a cybernetic sense as a cognitive sub-system.
Statics vs Dynamics: A diagram such as that above can of course be subject to useful criticism because its essentially static nature obscures both the dynamics of change (with which it is explicitly associated, as the commentaries clarify) and some fundamental issues about how such a document is to be "read" as a coding system -- especially to the extent that a degree of alternation is built into the significance of the hexagrams. Some of these issues have been addressed in separate experiments (Embodying Values Dynamically through Alternation: integrating sets of polarized static values through indicative metaphor, 2008; Sustainability through Magically Dancing Patterns, 2008; Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements: a dynamic representation of Neti Neti, 2008; Dynamic Exploration of Value Configurations: interrelating traditional cultural symbols through animation, 2008). Other experiments of relevance are the use of hypergraph techniques to explore such relationships (Mapping Songlines of the Noosphere: use of hypergraphs in presentation of the I Ching and the Tao te Ching, 2006).
Of particular interest is the effort of Robert Daoust (Map for an Algonomic Pain Management, 2009; Part 2, 2010), combining a mapping approach based on the I Ching. with a framing of the challenge in terms of complex systems dynamics -- especially in the light of the role of imagination in opposing initiatives in response to the "predicament of mankind" or favouring those variously held to be "unrealistic" (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). There is some irony to the 40-year history of the above initiatives in that the role of "imagination" was effectively deprecated and ignored, despite calls for "imaginative thinking", preoccupation with "image" and vast military expense on engaging "hearts and minds".
Assumptions: It is important to stress the degree to which it is appropriate to consider diagrams such as that above as experimental and speculative. This may apply as much to purportedly fundamental frameworks such as AQAL as to subsequent integrative efforts -- a challenge for any future approach to the "predicament of mankind". Ken Wilber makes a case for AQAL being fundamental in response to the effort to develop it further as made by Lexi Neale (Introducing The AQAL Cube Perspectives: transcending and including the AQAL square, Guest Blog, 12 June 2009):
Given the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations, how is "fundamental" to be understood and by whom? What then of integral futures in the future?
The integrative exercise above is potentially significant in relation to the original consideration by Erich Jantsch of cyclic self-organization of social systems (The Self-Organizing Universe: scientific and human implications of the emerging paradigm of evolution, 1980). As discussed in a commentary on Embracing Difference: system dynamics for the Global Strategies Project in the above-mentioned Encyclopedia, Jantsch draws attention to the work of Manfred Eigen in molecular genetics. Eigen explores the question of how new information originates (Manfred Eigen and Peter Schuster, The Hypercycle: A principle of natural self-organization, 1979). This is a general problem of evolution, which Jantsch relates to development and to learning.
With respect to the subsequent development of Eigen's thinking, William S. Dockens III (The Asimov Scenario: predicting outcomes of the struggle for cyberspace, 2000) notes:
In a subsequent study, Dockens (Time's Feminine Arrow: a behavioral ecological assault on cultural and epistemological barriers, Behavioral Science, 2007) argues
The question is how the new information emerges to provide the basis for any new patterns of ordering. Any given language, or "answer domain", effectively functions like a self-replicating ecosystem. Ramon Margalef (Perspectives in Ecological Theory, 1968) had described the evolution of such ecosystems as a process of information accumulation. Each such system seeks information from the environment, but only to use it to prevent the assimilation of more new information. Novelty is continuously transformed into confirmation. The question is how any new order can emerge under such circumstances. Eigen uses the term "hypercycle" to denote any such new order. A hypercycle is a closed circle of distinct transformatory or catalytic processes in which one or more participants act as autocatalysts.
The above set of images is indicative of the possibility of considering the interrelated set of psychosocial conditions represented by the set of hexagrams as based on what amounts to a hypercycle. As noted in a consideration of fractals by Giuseppe Damiani (Evolution and Regulation of Metabolic Networks, in: Gabriele A. Losa, Danilo Merlini, Theo F. Nonnenmacher, Ewald R. Weibel, Fractals in Biology and Medicine, 2005):
The last remark is developed from a different perspective by A. C. Graham (Yin-Yang and the Nature of Correlative Thinking, The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1986) and has been related to discussion of the credibility of "correspondences" (Theories of Correspondences and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007).
For Jantsch: "Hypercycles...play an important role in many natural phenomena of self-organization, spanning a wide spectrum from chemical and biological evolution to ecological and economic systems and systems of population growth." (1980, p.15). Eigen, in reporting on his detailed analysis with Peter Schuster of the emergence of such new order (1979), states: "The self-replicative components significant for the integration of information reproduce themselves only in a coexistent form when they are connected to one another through cyclic coupling. The mutual stabilization of the components of hypercycles succeeds for more than four partners in the form of nonlinear oscillations..." (p.252).
Such a hypercycle can be seen as a linking process between the participating (sub)systems, themselves cyclically ordered. The formation and maintenance of such a cycle which runs irreversibly in one direction and reconstitutes its participants and thereby itself, is possible only far from equilibrium. Its rhythm is controlled by the cycle of the slowest acting participant, thereby liberating transformative energy steadily rather than explosively (p. 90).
Of further interest is the effort by Chinese scholars to integrate understandings of the hypercycle with traditional Chinese concepts -- including the above-mentioned shih, considered of relevance to western understanding of Chinese foreign policy:
Within the framework of a discussion addressing complex micro-meso-macro systems couplings, Abir U. Igamberdiev (The Meso-scale Level of Self-Maintained Reflective Systems, 2005) argues:,
In a discussion of self-organization in the emergence of life and its processes, Omar Pandoli (Supramolecular Hybrid Organic-Inorganic Multicomponent Architectures in Solution and on Surface, 2008) notes that one scenario begins with catalytic cycles and "hypercycles" (cycles of multiple feedback loops) formed by enzymes, which are capable of self-replication and evolution. He however notes that creativity - in general sense, the creation of a new thing, a new thinking, a new functionality or a new structure - emerges from a "contamination process" of different disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, architecture, design, philosophy and science of complexity. Again he refers to Chinese philosophy, emphasizing movement and change, developing the notion of: dynamic patterns which are continually formed and dissolved again in the cosmic flow of the Tao. In the I Ching, or Book of Changes, these patterns have been elaborated into a system of archetypal symbols, the so-called hexagrams.
There is obvious merit in exploring the possibility that fundamental patterns of organization at the molecular level may be of relevance in psychosocial systems in the light of any degree of system isomorphism, if only in terms of the probability that they may be intuitively more comprehensible (Beyond the Standard Model of Universal Awareness, 2010; Climbing Elven Stairways: DNA as a macroscopic metaphor of polarized psychodynamics, 2007; Archetypal otherness -- "DNA vs. I Ching", 2007; Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004). If it "works" at the molecular level, why would the cybernetic pathways not be of relevance at other levels?
The relation of the "health" of psychosocial systems at the collective level to disruptions of systems at the molecular level in disease in individuals clearly also merits exploration (Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases of Rich and Poor: transforming personal entanglement with the natural environment, 2010).
The main paper (Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations: a 40-year overview, 2010) raises the question as to where is the map to navigate a turbulent emerging future? How best to understand the form and shape of the space "populated" by global governance initiatives -- and variously hostile reaction to them? The occasional celebration by myth that any such map is hidden within whoever is in quest of it holds an ironic truth if the pattern in question is evident in the organization of molecular pathways art the cellular level -- of metabolic pathways (Metabolic Visualizer; Doutor Pedro Silva, A general overview of the major metabolic pathways, 2002).
Given the arguments for self-reflexivity, another approach, in the light of current reflections by a number of authors on cognitive engagement with the environment is, controversially, to consider the territory as the map -- a practice common in indigenous societies (The Territory Construed as the Map: in search of radical design innovations in the representation of human activities and their relationships, 1979).
It could be fruitfully assumed that each of the initiatives, and their components, could be understood as a consequence of a form of speciation within an ecosystem of modelling/mapping approaches. The emergence of new initiatives would then be an effort to establish a distinct competitive advantage, whether or not the older efforts continue to co-exist with the newer, at least to some degree. The maps could then each be seen as partial approaches to a more comprehensive understanding. Mapping the "location" of the initiatives in relation to one another would then constitute a significant exercise in self-reflexivity -- compensating for the tendency of each to imply claims for more comprehensive significance that is appropriate. Why is self-reflexivity resisted in relation to mapping psychosocial dynamics (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007)?
Part of the challenge of "global" democracy is to configure the many "sides" into as close an approximation to the sphere constituted by the "globe" in reality (Spherical Configuration of Categories -- to reflect systemic patterns of environmental checks and balances, 1994). This is a cognitive challenge as well as a socio-political challenge, discussed separately in terms of polyhedral governance (Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, 2008; Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009). Whilst it is accepted as a fact that there are people on the other" side" of the world who are awake (whilst those on this "side" are asleep), it is remains difficult to integrate the reality of this awareness -- as jet lag so ably demonstrates.
To the extent that the initiatives (and those identified with them) effectively constitute or are associated with threads of discourse, the challenge of "mapping" may also be expressed as one of "weaving" together variously coloured threads (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways: noonautics, magic carpets and wizdomes, 2010). The braiding braiding together of threads in this way may indeed be implicit in the relations between "conversations" amongst the participants in the above initiatives over the years. The question is what explicit form this might take that would be as fruitful as the mythical Ariadne's thread -- for the guidance of global governance out of the labyrinth of challenges. Given the distinctive implicit "colouring" of the hexagrams, their pattern above might be considered indicative of cognitive "braiding" possibilities -- especially in the light of the knowledge cybernetics explored by Maurice Yolles (as mentioned above)..
Given the potential cognitive implication of self-reflexivity in relation to governance, "braiding" can then be appropriately considered in the light of the argument of Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979). Such a braid offers a further possibility of considering a simplistic caricature of the potential implicit in what the future may recognize as the "functionally requisite" bifurcations above (ignoring the cross-overs between them):
Given the shared original governance preoccupation with the "predicament of mankind", the potential implicit in these approaches can be reframed in terms of the refinement recently brought to his original argument by Hofstadter in I Am a Strange Loop (2007). There he sought to clarify the central message of Gödel, Escher, Bach by demonstrating how the properties of self-referential systems can be used to describe the unique properties of human minds -- and consequently of the human identity at the core of the "predicament" and any strategically relevant effort to comprehend it.
Of course if the myth of Ariadne (and the navigation by governance out of the labyrinth of that predicament) is to be taken further, consideration can be given to handling the Minotaur dwelling in that labyrinth (Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence, 2009). Paradoxically, an essential feature of the predicament for many individuals in navigating their lives is the sense in which the Minotaur is an extremely appropriate caricature of their own experience of global governance -- exemplified by 9/11 and its consequences (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). The "Minotaur" has become the strategic "elephant in the living room" serving to mirror denial and to enhance the credibility of the above-mentioned conspiracy theories.
In terms of the implications of the hypercycle, it is appropriate to consider to what degree it is indeed -- in Hofstadter's terms -- an "eternal braid". As such the challenge is render it comprehensible. There is a certain irony to the fact that the dynamics skills of braiding may be of assistance in this respect. Given Hofstadter's other metaphor -- the "strange loop" -- there is a case for exploring how human psychosocial identity may be understood through the dynamics of the hypercycle (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007).
Immediately predating Hasan Ozbekhan's original proposal to the Club of Rome, it would seem that these dynamics could usefully be built into any future consideration of global strategic management.
More intriguing is the assumption that the desirable global map is something to be "looked at" rather than being a new kind of psychoactive medium through which people can engage and by which they can be engaged. Steps in this direction are evident in the technology of situation rooms and in the experimental, scientific immersion environment of Allosphere (Topology of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations, 2008). A case can be made for the dramatically increasing role of interactive video games as a collective transformation towards an engaging, interactive map of relevance to governance (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).
It is not recognized how much is built into assumptions about the appropriatness of the flat surface on which the text of the above reports are all written. By contrast, a torus holds an interesting position in the discussion of the relationship between form and medium as fundamental to advanced theories of communication. This notably featured in the work of Niklas Luhmann (Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 1997) as discussed by Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003) in relation to the calculus of indications of George Spencer-Brown (Laws of Form, 1969/1994). Schiltz notes that form/medium is "the image for systemic connectivity and concatenation", as described by Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varela. He further notes, that the notion of "space" is the key to reflexivity appropriate to any discussion of form and medium, citing Spencer-Brown (see discussion in Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics, 2006).
Such considerations highlight the merit of embodying psychological processes in understandings of the governance challenges sustainability (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002). There is indeed a literature associating consideration of hypercycles with sustainability, various referring to information/knowledge management, and notably by authors of Chinese origin:
Missing from this literature, however, would seem to be the psychological dimension so intimately encoded by the hexagrams of the I Ching as a feature of change, decision-making and credibility. Given hypercycle arguments with respect to molecular biology, is the hypercycle to be understood in some way as the essence of life and living? The elusive quality of this comprehension, so directly and fundamentally accessible, is indicative of the challenge of sustainability.
To what extent is achievement of sustainability dependent on cognitive engagement with a hypercycle intrinsic to comprehension of a sense of identity of higher order? A potentially valuable metaphor is to be found in the art of sustainable breathing in the playing of the didgeridoo and other such instruments.
There is a certain irony to the fact that the I Ching itself has been used as a kind of map as with the geomantic compass (Feng Shui compass or luopan). Whilst these, and their western equivalents, are now deprecated as technologies of any value (except in construction work in Asia), they are indicative of a dimension missing from the kinds of mapping representation upheld as desirable for decision-making and govenance. Put succinctly, blockbuster movies and videos -- like Avatar (2009) -- have immensely greater capacity to engage the populations of the world (Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges: cognitive integration implied by the Lord of the Rings, 2009).
Whether "map", "myth" or "compass", perhaps there is a need to shift to a preoccupation with these (and other possibilities) as richer metaphors offering enhanced coherence in governance (Guiding Metaphors and Configuring Choices, 1991; In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
The question is what can be learnt about framing the future from what in reality engages people? Ironically video games may provide important clues as noted by Steven Poole (Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield, The Guardian, 13 March 2010) -- and as previously argued (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005). Does the "gap" between interactive games and global modelling highlight a vital gap in the cultivation of human ingenuity on which it has been argued that future survival is so dependent (Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap, 2000)?
Further development of specific aspects of the above argument in Adaptive Hypercycle of Sustainable Psychosocial Self-organization: designing a mapping of a Chinese metaphorical pattern language (2010).
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