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Sunday, July 09, 20061152482009

Comments on Verticalization and Progress

Complexity Rising: From Human Beings to Human Civilizations, A Complexity Profile," by Yaneer Bar-Yam, NECSI Research Projects, http://necsi.org/projects/yaneer/Civilization.html.

A recent article on complexity and human civilization has set the blogosphere on fire: Stephen DeAngelis, Larry Dunbar, Mark Safranski, and Curtis Gale Weeks have all commented on it. Particularly fascinating has been this graphic:



which, actually, is wrong. A history of civilization, scene through vertical rulesets, would look closer to:



Why? Because the history of human civilization has been the history of steadily increasing vertical control. 17,000 years ago, when the human brain began shrinking, man became a social animal and the State of Nature was overturned. The parts of the human brain that were lost deal with the ability to navigate pure network structures -- aggression and weariness. The success of the verticalization of human affairs took another step forward with the foundation of the Modern State and national police forces. A work still incomplete in many parts of the world, including Iraq, the Modern State has led to a hundred-fold decrease in murder of the past few centuries.


Verticalization of Society


Indeed, our greatest hope for peace is for another ratcheting up of vertical control. Thomas Barnett's Leviathan - a global military force that puts down aggression everywhere -- is an answer to the question for an analogy to Thomas Hobbes -- a state police force that puts down aggression within borders -- on a world stage. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker described the need for

a worldwide democratic leviathan that would penalize the aggressive competition, defuse the Hobbesian traps, and eliminate the cultures of honor that hold between the most dangerous perpetrators of violence of all, nation-states.


The end of war can result only from the greatest verticalization of power in human history.

Comments

“The end of war can result only from the greatest verticalization of power in human history.”
In a way you’re correct. Verticalization equal simplification and therefore can simplify a complex situation. But the way Dr. Bar-Yam describes our complex super-organism of a world is equivalent to what you would call 5GW.
How can we understand complexity if it hidden from us by complexity itself? If we only think of oil as something we put in our car, when in fact it proves to be the enabler or the potential force of this complex organism, how can we put the proper worth on something as simple as oil? The complexity he is talking about is at another magnification or scale that we can’t see from our present position.
Without the proper understanding, at the proper magnification, the Verticalization that you are calling for will most certainly be used wrongly and only against aggressions we are aware of and don’t really understand. While we may think these battles against aggressions are important to the ending of all wars, we will just as likely find out that the aggressions themselves are only an effect and not the cause of our complexities. In a way, aggressions are really the simplifications of a complex situation. Maybe our world is becoming too complicated for our normal vertical processes to handle? Maybe we should try to see that which is hidden? Just because you know the name 5GW don’t mean you, and I, are not a victim.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Sunday, July 09, 2006

Larry,

*But the way Dr. Bar-Yam describes our complex super-organism of a world is equivalent to what you would call 5GW.*

This anticipates a post I've been contemplating...

*In a way, aggressions are really the simplifications of a complex situation. *

Interesting point...

Posted by: Curtis Gale Weeks | Monday, July 10, 2006

*The end of war can result only from the greatest verticalization of power in human history.*

What shape would that "greatest verticalization" take? Are you talking about a world government powerful enough to put down all violent conflict everywhere? Would that government be elected according to a representative process and subject to the consent of the governed? If so, wouldn't that condition require the existence and importance of "non-vertical" structures like political parties, activist organizations, churches, and so on? In other words, how vertical can you get while remaining democratic? Or are you saying that the great verticalization will not result in a democratic structure?

If that's what you're saying, then this claim sounds an awful lot like what I've heard from a lot of communists in the past. It goes something like, "The world will be a whole lot more peaceful once you just succumb to our will." No matter whose will we're talking about, I don't think that a worldwide "succumbing" to any ideology is ever going to happen but, based on the model above, but this capitulation seems to be required in order for the "great verticalization" to be realized.

Or am I misunderstanding the model?

Posted by: Michael | Monday, July 10, 2006

Michael,

'What shape would that "greatest verticalization" take? '

An excellent question! Your next is just as good

'Are you talking about a world government powerful enough to put down all violent conflict everywhere? Would that government be elected according to a representative process and subject to the consent of the governed?'

War will always be with us. War means evolving and exploiting violence with a unifying vision, via a grand ideal or an overarching theme or a noble philosophy. [1] A hate crime is a form of low-intensity war, for instance, and it's clear that most "war" is the job of a police force and not an army. A Leviathan -- a national or global military force -- strong enough to end all meaningful violence just is not going to happen.

But there is hope: the evolution of warfare has in a real sense meant the civilization of warfare. War deaths as a percentage of the population are astronomically high in tribal violence. The more evolved you are, the more bloodless you get. We justly decry the horror and the terror of the World Wars, but our ancestors would have viewed a skirmish that killed that small a percentage of the population as not worth recording.

It is possible to end "wars as we have known them." [2] Interpersonal war dropped like a stone once a state-level power existed to enforce a rule-set. And of all the states that existed, generally the ones with the smaller vertical rulesets ("don't do X, or go to jail") thrived compared to those with larger vertical rulesets ("do X, or go to jail").

Interstate will drop like a stone once a system-level power exists to enforce a ruleset. Indeed, that is exactly the reason state-level war is dropping like a stone. America's hegemony have convinced nearly every state that it cannot possibly win a state-on-state war, because America will punitively reverse the victories (think Yugoslavia and Iraq).

America's rise as World-Leader is the greatest verticalization in history. America's globalization rule-set is much smaller than Britain's, France's, Germany's, Japan's, or Russia's. Let's hope she succeeds.

Larry,

In your opinion, how does Bar-Yam's complex super-organism and the 5GW model compare to Howard Bloom's global brain? [3]

Larry & Curtis,

Right on the simplifying power of overt aggression. Overt aggression is an attempt to force an opponent to match value-with-value, forcing him convert strengths across a spectrum of domains into just those domains that will help him win. By the same token, Sunzi-style mutual subversion is a complication -- a neurological addition to the complex adaptive system of our world.



[1] http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2006/07/05/empowerment-through-technology/#comment-109548
[2] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/12/23/embracing-defeat-part-iv-embracing-victory.html
[3] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/03/17/review-of-global-brain-by-howard-bloom.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Monday, July 10, 2006

“In your opinion, how does Bar-Yam's complex super-organism and the 5GW model compare to Howard Bloom's global brain?”

In my opinion Bar-Yam takes Howard Bloom’s global brain one step further. If I understand Howard Bloom, he understands complexity, but not scaling. I would think the gap between them is similar to the gaps between, Newtonian laws of physics and Quantum laws of physics. They are talking about the same thing, but not really. Howard Bloom seems to be thinking at only one scale, human; Bar-Yam is thinking at different scales, always rescaling to show the situation in such a way that the human mind can comprehend.
I can understand you thinking hunter/gatherers are networked. But what I believe is that Bar-Yam was showing the level of complexity as a unit of time. Hunter/gatherers are networked, but their OODA loop (network) is of the animals and plants they are hunting, and not their own. In other words, they are random moving object connected to their environment. Their complexity is equal to the complexity of their environment. The hunter/gatherers may move as a cohesive unit when hunting, but it is not with the complexity of an organ of a larger unit.
As an example, the blood that flows through us all could be considered a random movement of objects, but the organ’s relationship to us is not simple. The potential energy of the heart gives these random moving object cohesion. The heart adds displacement, friction, and a place to go, to an otherwise random body of movement. This cohesiveness turns a simple situation into a more complex situation. But these random moving objects with their added cohesiveness are still not networked with each other. The objects still, pretty much, move randomly about on their way to their destiny. However, they are networked with the other organs of the larger (super?) organism that is called human. This is where the complexity comes from and Bar-Yam talks about. It is not so much that we are networked with each other; complexity comes from our connection to the other organs of the super-organism. We can’t see this connection from the human scale. We have to Zoom out, so to speak, to see the sum of the parts. My guess is that Howard Bloom sees no larger picture than that of the human scale.

“This anticipates a post I've been contemplating...”
Well Curtis your writings have definitely point in that direction.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Larry,

"Hunter/gatherers are networked, but their OODA loop (network) is of the animals and plants they are hunting, and not their own. In other words, they are random moving object connected to their environment."

Hmmm.. This seems to be the central difference. Bloom constantly shifts scales -- from cells to animals to people and cities -- but emphasizes the power of offloading information processing, storage, and retrieval to other members of a population. Essentially, the rise of man as a social animal was the complex intermingling of his OODA with his fellows, and that this group then interacts to the environment.

So I guess I now strongly strongly recommend two books to you -- ZMM and Global Brain. Both take a systematic view of the world, and I think you would enjoy that.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I can't get my comments to post on this article :-(

Posted by: purpleslog | Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How would this ultimate vertical power look?

Won't ultimate verticalization (one-world-rule or world government) be a stagnating force?

Bobbit says that the evolution of the forms of states is driven by strategy and national security concerns. If that concern mostly goes away, the form of states will stagnant.

I would be concerned that vertical concentration of power without competing or alternative power sources would naturally flow to a bureaucratic ruling class that (per public choice theory) would really be concerned about its own self interests (and might actually be deluded into thinking what is best for them is best for everyone anyways as they are the privileged/special ones).

It might be interesting to think about how an ultimate world vertical authority could be designed to not follow the path of stagnation and authoritarianism.

Posted by: purpleslog | Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weird...I had to not include my url for the comment to post.

Posted by: purpleslog | Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"How would this ultimate vertical power look?"

I suspect that, broadly speaking, it will occur when vertical and horizontal controls become largely synonymous....Check the trackback I left above to see what I mean....

Posted by: Curtis Gale Weeks | Wednesday, July 12, 2006

“Essentially, the rise of man as a social animal was the complex intermingling of his OODA with his fellows, and that this group then interacts to the environment.”

This would seem to me to be completely backwards. We, as generations of individuals, were first imprinted by our environments. Our founding fathers were not just looking back at what they left in Europe when they wrote our constitution; I think the country itself molded much of their way of thinking that went into our constitution and bill of rights. We only knew we were destroying a native culture but perhaps did not understand that the land that shaped that culture in the first place was entering into our way of thinking, our Orientation if you will. Our country represented wide-open spaces, freedom I would call it. Looking at the East coast now it might be hard to understand, but the people first coming here must have thought it endless and free.
Another example of imprinting may be seen in the Congo. The people of the Congo don’t need castle walls and moats to protect its people; the people move out into the bush for protection. The bush gives the people of the Congo something that most people of Europe didn’t have, a place to go when the barbarians were at the gate. The people of Europe developed differently because of their lands physical qualities, as did the people of the Congo as well. I think it is reasonably to assume that the land imprinted both people with different implicit laws.
I now have two books on my list, thanks.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Purpleslog,

The verticalization needed to end war would be a stagnating force -- for war technologies. More people would build "peace" (businesses, medicine, etc) than "war" (different ways of killing things and blowing stuff up). That is not a bad thing.

"The form of states being stagnant" is also a good thing. England has maintained a stagnant form of lordship while most continental states have much more "rational" governments. Why? Because England succeeded in maintaining internal peace to an extent unrivaled on the continent. Likewise, the forms of the united States are essentially frozen in the late 18th century, while the forms of the States of the European Union are all over the place, because the united States have only fought each other once, while the European States have fought each other many times.

"I would be concerned that vertical concentration of power without competing or alternative power sources would naturally flow to a bureaucratic ruling class that (per public choice theory) would really be concerned about its own self interests (and might actually be deluded into thinking what is best for them is best for everyone anyways as they are the privileged/special ones)."

This is a brilliant point. When combined with the fact that democracy deveops best in countries with a large gini coefficient, it tells you how to build a stable system: funnel ambitious people away from politics. The American system works very well because if you are a bright young man willing to dedicate yourself to material aggrandizement, the Presidency and Congress are sucker's bets. Much easier to work in the private sector.

Weird about your URL -- sometimes that happens to me. If you (or anyone) ever has a problem posting, just shoot me an email and I will get it up.

Curtis,

I strongly, strongly disagree. Creating a system-level power while making horizontal and vertical power synonymous means creating Total Universal Totalitarianism. Not my cup of tea, at all. Much better to do the first (and end wars as we know them) while eschewing the second (to keep liberties as we have loved them).

Larry,

Nature and Nurture definitely interact -- genes are not only commands, but also conditionals, for example -- but from before birth a baby's genes are detemrining actions. Lagnuage is not so much "learned" and "growned," for instance, and the very strong genetic correlation for political beliefs [1] /that grows with age/ show that the genetic program continues to run.

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/11/03/the-dna-of-politics.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Creating a system-level power while making horizontal and vertical power synonymous means creating Total Universal Totalitarianism."

Well doesn't that depend on whether we make horizontal powers to resemble vertical powers in order to make them synonymous, or the other way around: make vertical powers resemble horizontal powers?

Think 5GW. To the degree that more and more people buy into similar paradigms, the rule sets would be maintained by them as a matter of course without having to resort to strong vertical controls. They operate to change the world within the parameters of those paradigms, they turn around to see the changed world shaped by those paradigms, and as long as the rule sets are judged adequate (leading to peace, security, material comforts, etc.) they continue to operate by those rule sets. Others, seeing the beneficial effects of those rule sets on the world, would adjust their previous paradigms to accommodate those rule sets -- joining the crowd. So it's about self-regulation, of individuals and of society.

Unless I'm greatly misunderstanding the distinction of vertical and horizontal controls...this is what I meant by my statement.

Posted by: Curtis Gale Weeks | Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Curtis,

To give one example on the absuridity of making horizonal and vertical power synonymous:

there is an extremely strong cultural norm in the United States dictating that books are bound with the binding on the left side.
there is no law forcing books to be bound with the binding on the left side

to make horizontal and vertical rulesets synonymous, either teh binding of books would have to be prescribed by law or there would be a confusion of book binding practices.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I am not sure what you mean by this statement.” Well doesn't that depend on whether we make horizontal powers to resemble vertical powers in order to make them synonymous, or the other way around: make vertical powers resemble horizontal powers?” (Curtis Gale Weeks).
I can understand if you are talking horizontal and vertical forces, but not horizontal and vertical powers. The vertical forces are the only force with power; horizontal force only has energy not power.
Horizontal force would have a power like quality to it if it were feed by a neighboring country, say China and N. Korea. The Horizontal force of China is being fed (immigrants from N. Korea) and so is maintain its youth or growth so to speak, kind of power to its horizontal force.
Then again if a vertical force was able to hold a society together (fat chance of that!), then I suppose a vertical power could act like a horizontal force.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I am not sure that the vertical controls have increased through history. Haven’t we used explicit laws to control the friction between different elements trying to tear our societies apart? Friction simplifies this relationship and enables our societies to become more complicate. When friction leaves then war breaks out to simplify the non-relationship scenario that exist. Either that or both have learned to live together without friction.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Thursday, July 20, 2006

FYI, I read Bloom and have a few more comments on the differance between Bar-Yam and Bloom at: (http://connectinginconversation.org/larrydunbar/2006/08/31/connecting-with-the-beast/)

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Thursday, August 31, 2006

Larry,

I like your write-up of Bar-Yam and Bloom. I think they are seeing the same thing, but describing it with slightly different vocabularies. As you say:

"Both authors understand the Beast is out there; they are simply trying to give us the tools to see, understand, and possibly control the Beast, without having to destroy the earth unnecessarily, which what seems to be the plan of the future, or lack there of."

A common vocabulary is needed, because without common measures you can't have a coherent line of research.

How would you measure complexity in this system?

PS: I see Mark is going to be reading this book [1]-- I look forward to his thoughts, too!

[1] http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2006/09/on-deck-warming-up-in-my-reading.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, September 02, 2006

I don't think complexity can be measured. Like energy it is only proportional. Complexity is inverse proportional to connectivity. Connectivity represents a relationship with out friction. That means the relationship represents a vertex, no resultant force in the connection only cohesion. Complexity is full of friction and resultant forces, no cohesion. The sum of the complexity and connectivity of a society is zero! This would be the same as adding the Conformity Enforcers to the Diversity Generators, the sum would be zero. While Conformity Enforcers represent a cohesive force, they represent all the complexity of the society. Diversity Generators might be considered as building complexity into a system, but they represent movement. Movement is simple, because it has only internal force. Movement itself represents only displacement and not force.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Saturday, September 02, 2006

Larry -- but isn't Energy measured in Joules? (And therefore -- if connectivity is inversely proportional to complexity -- then would connectivity be measured in square seconds per kilogram-square-meter?).

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, September 02, 2006

You got me on that one. What I should have said is that complexity is the negative of connectivity, with the negative sign representing direction. In a society, when you increase the connectivity, the complexity decreases or the reverse is true (if not you have problems).
During the depression our country more or less shut down; connections disapeared overnight. It became very complex to just maintain life. To offset this complexity our country began to move. Also, our government developed programs to increase this movement, work programs etc. Both complexity and connectivity have the same units of measure (whatever that is I am not sure). What I was suggesting was that, because complexity is too, well, complex, you have to make an equation out of it. If you have an equation with two unknowns (complexity+connectivity=0), you can solve it with two equations. If you make that equation with the initial complexity and connectivity on one side of the equation and the final complexity and connectivity on the other, the answer possibly can be found by solving for the known. I suggest we can define the connections as distance, frequency, and quantity (or how well connected physically they are) of a society. Possibly this would yeld enough knowns to solve for complexity. This would be where Bar-Yam's scaling could help, along with the elements of Bloom.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Saturday, September 02, 2006

"In a society, when you increase the connectivity, the complexity decreases or the reverse is true"

This sounds like you are defining complexity as the number of hobs between any two nodes. Is this true?

"t we can define the connections as distance, frequency, and quantity (or how well connected physically they are)"

Are you thinking of a complex number, with distance, frequency, and quantity as attributes?

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, September 02, 2006

I don't know nearly enough about these subjects and terminology but that hasn't stopped me from commenting before :>)

To speculate that the sum of complexity and connectivity is zero implies not only that both *can* be measured, but are measured using the same units with one set of values positive and the other negative. I'm not sure it's true but that's where the logic leads, doesn't it?

The hypothesis that complexity and connectivity are inversely proportional is about as true, I think, as saying that "Doing Something" and "Not Doing Something" are inversely proportional. Sure, the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. But that doesn't mean you add them together somehow and get 0. 0 would be the sum if someone does "the opposite" of the person "Doing Something". But that oppositional person is still "Doing Something".

And he doesn't spring into oppositional action the moment someone starts "Doing Something", so I think the premise that the sum (if there is such a thing) is always zero is false.

On the other hand, maybe I'm missing the point entirely.

I'm not sure that I understand Dan's last comment but I think it supposes that connectivity is somehow the inverse of energy, not complexity. But even if we assumed that energy and complexity were synonymous, I don't think that "inversely proportional" as Larry is using it, means the same thing as taking the inverse of a proportional measurement. For example, the inverse of 60 miles/hour is 1 minute/mile but both measurements are of speed. The second is not a measure of "The Opposite of Speed" simply because the values are flipped.

Or maybe I'm missing the point of that one too?

If so, help me out here :>)

Posted by: Michael | Saturday, September 02, 2006

About distance, quantity and frequency:

I think I know what you're getting at but I have a few questions:

1. Distance between what?
2. Quantity of what?
3 Frequency of what?

If the answers are along the lines of "nodes, connections, and exchanges" then I would suggest that distance (actual physical distance, anyway) needn't be measured in human systems because the effects (which vary) of distance in a given society have already impacted frequency by the time frequency is measured. Which is to say that two people 5,000 miles apart can enjoy more connectivity today than they could 500 years ago and this connectivity correlates with an increase in frequency, not a decrease in distance.

I'm not sure if "quantity" refers to connections, nodes, or exchanges but I'd say that it must refer to nodes in order to be meaningful in the calculation of connectivity. Or in human systems, quantity would refer to population, not the number of connections between them (which is already accounted for in frequency, I presume).

Put it all together and you'd have exchanges/node/hour or something like that. Any of this make sense?

Posted by: Michael | Saturday, September 02, 2006

Is there any other information regardless of this theme. I have to write an essay about development of civilization and it would help me a lot

Posted by: Marko | Saturday, January 05, 2008

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