So… it’s complex in a way that our human minds have trouble holding in whole — so we attempt to break it down to study the parts. And the complex system we are observing stops working, because each part is somehow holding the whole thing together. And removing it, observing it independently, means that it’s wholeness is broken.
“In the same breath, it is important to establish the importance of the autonomy the smallest parts of a system possess. Each component of a complex system has the ability to fluctuate, randomly and unpredictably, within the context of the system itself.”
And it continues —
“Even lacking direction, parts of a system can combine so that the system generates multiple configurations of itself, displaying ‘order without predictability.’ These systems never land in the same place twice, but they also never exceed certain boundaries.”
And then, we can observe that some small part of the system acting on its own, transforms the whole system.
This is called the “Butterfly Effect.” And it reminds me of historical social transformation stories. Like the story of Christ, acting as a radical in the Roman Empire and the re-ordering of society that we still echo today. (Same for Buddha, Mohammed, Abraham, and others).
The boundaries that were established in the case of the faith traditions were society itself. All of them have offered transformation of our society.
Enter Cambridge Analytica — And now we learn that data collection companies have moved from meta-data (an anonymous, whole systems view) to micro-targeting (the parts of the whole) as a way to transform our culture to fit their vision of what society should be — to literally re-create the social boundaries and then energize parts of the system, using fear and anger.
This has been effective in establishing new norms of behavior, targeting the governance structures in our country. While the idea of puppet masters enacting a social change movement terrifies me, I’m also curious and hopeful. Could chaos be a part of my life’s work to facilitate the next iteration of a new social contract?
Hope is an assessment that the future holds joy.
If we can identify the whole system and engage as parts (participants), energized for transformation, perhaps we can collectively make conscious choices and co-create our future. This thought informs my hope:
“One recent development in the theory of social systems has been the move away from aggregate, large-scale models. New models inspired by complex systems build social systems from the bottom-up; behavior is simulated for individual agents, then taken to the aggregate level either through analytic methods or through explicit computer simulations.”
Rather than fear chaos, I now see chaos as part of natural order. Our old system was stagnating and actively breaking down. Our social contract is up for renewal. We need to accept our individual responsibility with awareness of the whole system in which we live.
Let’s commit our sacred honor to each other in pursuit of a more perfect union.