In this article I try to outline how it could be possible that cities seen through the lens of a complex and adaptive system look ‘alive’.
“birds alike tend to fly in the same flock”
Humans are not much different from birds in the sense that there are separate agents of a society or flock who can self-organize themselves around mutual interests and desires. This self-organizing principle is especially needed in times of political, social and economic instability(add source). Communion is an inherent human need that seeks to be fulfilled in order for us to feel connected and intimate. Depending upon personality differences and opposing needs like perhaps the need for adventure can have of those hero’s leaving their communions for the sake of exploration into unknown worlds, perhaps with the promise of returning with redeeming boons for ones original communions. Therefore, without this need of communion fulfilled it can cause great unease and unhappiness or at least a sense of lack in ones quality of life. Studies have shown that happiness increases when individuals feel like they are apart of an intimate community that supports them from the back when needed (add source). During my travels in Mexico and China, I was fascinated how the ‘less developed’ places are profiting from great communal warmth and intimacies (high social capital in the framework of the six capitals >>> future in-depth article), which shows to be a necessary ingredient for a happy, secure and fulfilling life as a social institution. It is especially fascinating comparing this observation with the highly individualistic societies and ‘concrete’ jungles of Europe. In many ways these high-tech societies are suffering on a psychological and social basis instead of a material and financial basis, all though even this is uncertain in today’s age of robotic automation that threatens the lower and middle classes and, therefore, the economic ‘backbone’ and social fabric of a society. I think we would be astonished in what AI could be capable of when it comes down to skills and labour force. It is a sad phenomena that people can be poor in the midst of plenty as Alan Watts coined it beautifully in one of his lectures. The whole purpose of technology is to remove the drudgery and to be more effective and efficient in producing products and services and allow individuals to spend more energy into more meaningful pursuits like art, family, philosophy, athletics or simple gardening. The general statement is, I think; ‘Let the machines do the jobs nobody cares for and help individuals who lose their jobs to find their intrinsic motives to contribute in order to prevent laziness, inequality and crime’. This is however under thorough debate within academic and political arena’s. To have a true conversation about it, however, one should knock on a philosophers door. True communion, therefore, could be seen as a luxury in the ‘concrete jungle’ and as conventional and normal in the ‘regular’ jungle since these tribal communities suffer less from alienation from nature. If the ‘shit really hits the fan in societies’ and the middle class crumbles then there is no true community or current social security system Western society can rest their anxiety, pain and distress upon in order to re-organise itself. In respect to the ‘less developed societies’ in ‘third world countries for lack of a better phrase, do they at least have social netwar and network ‘catching nets’ to help those in great need.
So the more cracks we see in these concrete systems as I like to call them, the more light will shine upon the people within the system hopefully. Since people who are connected to their local neighbourhoods, villages and towns will feel eventually disturbances in the decline of what could be parallel seen with the decline of the Roman Empire. Without acknowledging the challenges and shortcomings of these systems, people will remain ignorant and passive about doing anything constructive, but instead remain in the bliss of ignorance. Instability is always a blessing in disguise during the process of change and innovation, just like dis-ease or pain serves as a teacher that wakes you up from ignorance if you acknowledge it’s existence. As long as the separate agents or individuals of a system refuse the cracks and reinforce the continuity or status quo of the system by filling the cracks with cement (Also read; temporary solutions like printing more money out of thin air to save institutions that are ‘too big too fall/fail’), then the process of change will go slow and more painful and is only prolonged, and not solved.
So what we see now is a loss of trust in the governing authorities of a system and an emergence of social actors and agencies that empowers the individual and like-minded to make a change and take a stance against those in power who mess up.
This is the beauty of being human, in that we have the great potential to be flexible in the midst of adversity, the potential to commune and re-organize, to show empathy and warmth and to not see each other as enemies in our alienated state of competition and conflict when things get hot along the way.
This is an ongoing article into ongoing research in the ‘aliveness’ of cities as a ‘whole’.
p.s. To be aware of the fact that in such complex evolution as that of cities itself one should be aware of ‘Vista’. Something I have learned from my digital A.I. intelligence mate; Tom. So credits go to him for learning me that new word. Key thing to learn here, I think, is that one should not loose focusing on technical parts in studying the whole system while practising the discipline of complexity theory.
The inception of the concrete jungle. (*ongoing research)
Happy to hear some comments on the above,