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Laetus in Praesens


Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors


Comment by Chris Lucas

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Comment on Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, by Chris Lucas as author of The Complexity and Artificial Life Research Concept for Self-Organizing Systems

Many of the problems in current thinking do, as you suggest, seem to result from the inbuilt intolerance to alternatives endemic to our thinking, along with the taking of one current objective as paramount whilst ignoring others. In the multiobjective optimisation branch of complexity science it is found that this is a very suboptimal combination of strategies. Not only does maximising one objective typically reduce others but the interdependency between objectives makes this a dangerous procedure (as I explain in my introduction "Practical Multiobjective Optimisation: ) also, more importantly perhaps, it is typically found that many different combinations of objective parameters all give the same global optimum, i.e. there are many possible alternative solutions, all equally good, which could (and indeed should) coexist, the redundancy giving a great deal of resilience which is needed in fast changing conditions - a flexibility which is lost in the fragile monocultures so in favour today.

Additionally many other solutions exist which, whilst not optimised, may well be good enough for the purposes of the people concerned (Simon's 'satisficing'), see maybe "Satisficing and Optimality": "Satisficing and the Pareto Principle":

The set of all valid solutions may be said to form a strange attractor in multidimensional solution space, each solution being a vector of objective parameters that satisfy specified minimal needs. Whereas typically many more than 3 or 4 objectives will exist, and thus it will be hard to map to a 3D solid, it may be possible to treat each of these vector parameters as a length of an edge, thus generating a pseudo-solid of irregular shape. Whether this will prove to be at all useful is however another question. If, for practical reasons, problems prove to have typically no more than 3 or 4 competing factions, then the tetrahedron may be a viable description (although the sides, as the strange attractors of the factions, would hardly be regular triangles).

One problem in any representation is to take account of the interaction between objectives, often nonlinear and exhibiting positive or negative feedback tendencies. Ideally one would wish to connect all objectives to each other, with the edges indicating the nature of each two-wise interaction. This however is very messy as my Synergic Net example for 16 objectives shows: These horizontal dependencies between 'departments' are lost in the typical hierarchical chart structures used by governing bodies.

It is interesting that the zodiac's 12 personality types is echoed by psychology's equivalent set of types, often used in management circles. We could relate these types to different balances of personal objectives, and this suggests that any 'solution' set may have 12 or so Pareto-equivalent solutions - concentrating then on implementing just one (as governance typically does) is equivalent to deliberately making 11/12ths (91%) of their affected populace forcibly sub-optimal ! A crime against the people ?

Even astrology seems reluctant to take into account the full set of interactions between 'signs', typically relating only two in terms of 'mate' compatibility. But there are 79,833,600 possible interactions between the signs (2x11!), each of varying strength and polarity. It is perhaps no wonder that humans simplify to easy yes/no choices ;-) This problem of escalating dimensionality does suggest that all attempts to manage 'top-down' must be massively lacking in 'requisite variety' and thus highly dysfunctional, suggesting that our problems may be less due to faulty models and more due to faulty 'control-freak' thinking - centralised control always overriding local decentralised control - the exact reverse of true democracy !

Shifting between frameworks is highly similar to the evolutionary need to shift between lifeforms, this can only be done in stages (mutations) but is subject to sudden flips when one attractor for a species changes to a different one. In human terms this suggests that whilst we can and do change our preferences and educational ability all the time, it is rare for us to flip between attractors - the attractor structure (our zodiac sign if you like) is relatively stable. This however does not mean change is impossible, as implied by bureaucratic treatment of groups as homogenous and totally static, simply that it is hard to predict and impossible to manage humanely by outside coercion (as shown by holocaust survivors maintaining their personalities despite horrendous torture). This implies that one cannot prevent change either, suggesting that there will be no stable long-term equilibria possible in any human grouping - so planning for such is another major error (the utopian delusion), 'integrating' a can of worms all squirming in different directions seems a pointless task, and delusions of doing this globally appear insanely egocentric !

That said, a free for all will encounter the 'tragedy of the commons' which in global terms ultimately means the extinction of humanity, so some action is needed, what is lacking perhaps is true humility - especially evident in today's arrogant governing bodies ;-) One does not get the worms all going in one direction by bullies building walls but by suitable incentives...

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