(P3): Models Summary

Standard Model Diagram of a Complex Adaptive System. Nothing Special in the Diagram.
Abstract CAS Model

In both of these models, note the following:

  • Every complex system has a history, and there is no way to avoid the effects of that history. This means:
  • You can’t go back to the beginning.
  • You can’t even correct something and try again. There are no do-overs. The effects of history always become part of the aging of the system.
  • You can improve part of the system, like getting a hip replacement when arthritis impedes the use of your leg, but
  • You (and any complex system) is still aging.
  • Improving the function of a complex system makes it more complex and makes the use of affordances more difficult and resource intensive.
  • Eventually, the sum of all this is some kind of collapse. When and how are not predictable, but all complex systems collapse, slowly or quickly.

A good “concrete” example of the overall process of complex system aging is the development and current state of the US freeway system.

I am old enough to remember when the freeway system was built. I was in elementary school and I saw the building process because my extended family all lived in Detroit, while my father worked at Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan. Before the freeway was built it took us nearly 4 hours to drive from Midland to our relatives’ homes. We had a long trip through small towns with two-lane 25mph roadways and stoplights. In bad weather, it was worse.

The first time we drove the freeway to Detroit, it took us less than one and a half hours. It seemed like a miracle. For a long time, the only problem was the increased use of the freeway by other drivers as they got more used to the idea of a freeway and its convenience.

Then the population grew, the number of people who used cars grew, the use of freeways for commutes allowed people to live further from their jobs, etc. So there were traffic slowdowns that increased the length of time it took us to drive to Detroit, and we had to be more careful when we made these trips so we wouldn’t run into the commuter traffic. And, of course, the increase in traffic density led to accidents that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

Then the roads needed repairs and maintenance, partly because of their increased use.  We all know this led to our current experience of freeways, not a miracle, but an increasingly useless tool which we must use, like airplanes.

If it was possible, we could simply eliminate the entire freeway system and start over again from scratch. We could use modern materials that wouldn’t break down as fast, we could have more lanes, we could rethink the way we use freeways.

But of course, we can’t do that. And the core reason why we can’t start over again from scratch is that we must use the freeway every single day without fail. And buying an entirely new land base for the freeway would destroy the economic system that was built around the existence of the freeway. And all that concrete would have to be removed before the land the current freeway system is on could be used for any economic purpose. And all that concrete would have to be transported and deposited somewhere.

If all of this seems obvious now, the question you should ask yourself is why it wasn’t obvious from the beginning?

(P3): Developmental Model of Aging

A simple model of A Developing Network; The three frames are an Infant and it's developing action abilities; An Affordance Interface, and it's feedback loop between Developing Skills and the Evolving Interface; and The World and it's constant Unpredictable Reconfiguration.
The infant as Developing Network

This model uses the commonly observed process of infant development as an analog for the growth of a complex system.

Infants are surrounded by a large, more or less infinite environment of possibilities. But it is in the nature of developing infants that the vast majority of these possibilities are of no interest and do not at any given moment contribute to the infant’s development. Instead only certain parts of the environment are of interest to the infant and these are exactly what the infant needs to engage with in order to further current development.

These parts ready for engagement are called “affordances” because they allow for action by the infant that supports the infant’s current development.

As development continues, those parts of the environment that can act as affordances shift because of the growing competence of the infant and their consequent shift in focus and interest. So, the infant’s “affordance interface” is constantly shifting as development occurs, and exactly tracks the current development of the child.

The deep part of this model is that even if you are 90 years old, you are still doing what the infant is doing, albeit at a different functional level and with a different set of strengths and weaknesses (i.e., a different affordance interface).

(P3): Simple Network Model of Aging

3 simple network models made from nodes and links; described as Centralised (A), Decentralised (B), Distributed (C)
Some Simple Network Models

In this model (very abstract), the world starts with a bunch of nodes (actually self-sustaining processes) that act for their own reproduction, however that happens.

When there is a reason to do so, one node connects with another to exchange food, goods, information, whatever. These first connections are done less because of need and more because of the ease of connection. Maybe I form a relationship with a farmer at a farmer’s market to get vegetables that are hard for me to grow for myself.

Over time, especially with the growth of population, more and more of these connections are made. This process is fairly straightforward until we have to change a connection.

Maybe the farmer dies, and the family leaves the farm, and it’s turned into a housing development project which we don’t need.

Needing to change a connection can also occur because of changing technology (stores instead of individual farmers). Whatever the convenience of the new connection, it will almost always be more complicated than the one you had before, and there are additional costs associated with making the change and using the new connection.

This is the kind of change in a system that leads to aging at the large system scale.

(P3): The Adaptive Cycle

The Adaptive Cycle model, with two interacting cyles, a small fast one with reorganization and exploitation as its phases, and a large slow cycle with conservation and release as its phases
The Adaptive Cycle

The model above is the simplest version of the Adaptive Cycle I could find. There are a lot of more complex diagrams that are useful once you know how the basic model works. Think of how a forest comes back after a fire removes the previous forest. The recovery has 4 phases:

  • Fast Reorganization (Pioneer Exploration by First Weeds)
  • Fast Exploitation (Entrepreneurial Expansion by Most Successful Weeds)
  • Slow Conservation (Organizational Ecosystem Development by the Developing Forest)
  • Slow Degradation Followed by Fast Release (Collapse due to Increasing Brittleness over time)

This final phase of collapse creates the circumstances of a new cycle.

These cycles are not entirely predictable. But the larger phases can be recognized if not foretold by simple observation. (At least if you are looking for them.)

(P3): Aging in Complex Adaptive Systems

Portrait photo of the face of an old woman
See My History

There are two kinds of significant systems:

  • Complicated
  • Complex

Complicated systems are ones that have many mechanical parts, like a 777 plane. The parts have relationships with one another, but the parts don’t change just because they interact. Aging in complicated systems is mostly that the parts wear out over the lifetime of the system.

Complex systems also have parts and relationships, but the parts change all the time because of those relationships. The relationships modify over the course of the system’s lifetime as well.

Any system is some mixture of complicated and complex. Modern complicated systems only exist within a context of some complex adaptive system. See Drift into Failure: From Hunting Broken Components to Understanding Complex Systems for the best example I have run across, about how a complicated machine can break because of the complex system in which it must exist.

Aging in complex systems is, well, complex.

Part 3: System Aging

Kist of Ways Humans Age, including: Gene Silencing; Mineral Induced RNAs; Mitochrondrial Loss; Biophoton DNS Dance; Biophoton Song of Life
Ways We Age

All complex systems age. Even the universe ages, though I suppose we won’t have to worry much about the effects of that. We all tend to think such aging has no relevance to us. Our society is so big, and our concerns are so local.

In a sense that was true in the past, but no more. Our larger system affects our lives in important ways every day, and the impact seems to be expanding and accelerating.

We have to understand the contours of this aging in order to make reasonable choices about our future and to preserve our flexibility for those parts of our future that we can’t predict or control.

Once we give up the idea that complex, adaptive systems are machines, we must confront the reality of system aging.

(P2): Relentlessly Increasing Complexity Undermines Everything

Various interacting fields around a mythical planet in brown to white colors.
Too Complex To Grasp

As I will describe in more detail later, one of the ways that complex systems age is by becoming more complex. This increase in complexity is unavoidable and is in the nature of system aging. It can be slowed and rationalized, but the direction can’t be changed except locally. Even when local simplification is optimized, other parts of the system become less than optimal.

One of the results of increasing complexity is increasing uncertainty. Uncertainty is not the same thing as risk. A risk is a measure of the likelihood that something will happen. A roulette wheel allows the calculation of risk, and risk is something associated with systems that are machine-like.

You can’t calculate the probability of an uncertainty, even though people keep trying to do just that (think about the Fukushima nuclear accident). There are automatic and unavoidable unintended consequences to using risk calculation as a proxy for real uncertainty. We are largely oblivious to this reality.

Adding to this, because imperfect cycling is built into every complex system, even when things seem to be going smoothly, they are always a little off and get more off as time goes on.

Argument from DREDF’s Amicus in the New York Assisted Suicide Litigation

https://diigo.com/0dhvd1

ARGUMENT

I. Assisted Suicide Discriminates Against People with Disabilities

A. Assisted Suicide is Part of the Long and Tragic History of Discrimination Against People with Disabilities
B. Assisted Suicide Denies People with Disabilities, Including Those With and Without Terminal Conditions, the Benefit of the State’s Suicide Prevention Protections
C. Assisted Suicide Denies People with Disabilities the Benefit of State Suicide Prevention and the Enforcement of Homicide Laws, in Violation of the ADA

II. Assisted Suicide Poses Serious, Unavoidable Threats to People with Disabilities that New York has a Significant State Interest in Preventing

A. The State Has a Critical Interest in Ensuring that Assisted Suicide Decisions Are Not Coerced or Made by Others
B. It is Dangerous and Discriminatory to Assume that the Suicide of a Disabled Person, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, is “Rational”
C. The Uncertainty of a “Terminal Prognosis” Means that Disabled People Who Are Not Terminal Will Receive the Lethal Prescription of Assisted Suicide
D. Appellants’ Position that Disability Intrinsically Deprives Life of Dignity and Value Is Dangerous and Discriminatory

III.The Creation of a Constitutional Right to Assisted Suicide For a Class of New Yorkers Based on Their Health and Disability Status is a Lethal Form of Discrimination

A. People with Disabilities, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, Are The Precise Class of People Who Will Be Affected If a Right to Assisted Suicide Is Found
B. There Exist No Safeguards Adequate to Protect People with Disabilities from Assisted Suicide
1. Limiting Assisted Suicide to Terminally Ill Persons Will Fail to Protect Nonterminal People with Disabilities
2. Limiting Assisted Suicide To “Voluntary” Requests will Fail to Protect People with Disabilities from Abuse
C. Assisted Suicide Prevents People With Disabilities, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, From Receiving Equal Protection of Laws Pertaining to Suicide Prevention and Homicide

(P2): The Forces That Undermine: Political

A concrete wall with a drawing of a rat holding an umbrella dressed in a tie and holding a briefcase with money falling out of it. On the wall is written, 'Let Them Eat Crack'
Time to Go

It is no longer possible to disentangle political, social, and financial elites. But the goals of elites haven’t changed in 7,000 years.

Elites politically manage non-elite communities through two related and now integrated processes:

  • Management of Expectations: The explicit face of elite management
  • Management of Constraints: The implicit face of elite management

We can modify our reaction to management by elites and we can create small systems that are not worth the while of elites to manage, but we are a very long way from being able to do anything systemically about elite management.

These forces that undermine have always been there, but they were manageable parts of a larger social system that performed actual good for the larger community, even while it allowed elites to parasitize us:

  • All public communication is inaccurate: Personal communication is still as accurate as it gets, but all communication that is intended for larger communities is framed by hidden agendas, and various lies, hedging, misdirection, and other forms of message fakery, some messages more so and some less so.
  • All political systems are corrupt: It isn’t that all political people are corrupt, but rather that all political systems and decision making are corrupted by elites and hidden organizational agendas. So, even principled decisions are tainted by corruption, even if no one knows this has occurred.
  • The legal system is too complex to be generally effective: Although we have a long history of using the legal/political system to redress the grievance, the effectiveness of redress has steadily degraded for almost a half century. And, there is no effective way to simplify it. Effective simplification in this context means that the mission-critical values of the original system are retained while the corruption is eliminated,
  • All saviors aren’t: You would think that this undermining force is too obvious to need to be stated. But, apparently, people still think that individuals or political parties or political subcommunities, or some other non-local social entity will be the salvation of what is good and right, that something other than hard work, the building of real and deep personal relationships, and creative flexible experimentation will be necessary to begin to take over our future. How can anyone in the current world believe that we will still be taken care of by someone or something else?

 

(P2): Offshore Sheltered Tax Funds as a % of GDP

A graph showing offshore wealth as a percentage of GDP for various countries, ranging from 1% for Korea to 70% for the UAE.
Where Did All The Money Go?

It is both astounding and terrifying that 10% of global GDP is allocated to offshore tax shelters. Apparently, this now amounts to $17-$20 trillion dollars. Almost no one but the 1% uses offshore tax shelters, so this represents what the 1% has extracted from global economies and permanently removed from the possibility for use by the rest of us. There is nothing remotely possible that we can do to restore these funds to nation states or change what they are used to accomplish.  Putin’s recent request of Russian oligarchs to return $1 trillion dollars of this tax-sheltered repository is the most obvious example of the potential impact of this lost wealth.

The recent national legislative tax law is designed to dramatically accelerate this process for however long it is politically feasible. Even if there is a shift in the political composition of the administration and Congress, nothing will be done about these trillions. It is the buffer for the 1% to deal with the unavoidable reality of recession/depression.