These articles are my on-going exploration on self-organisation, system thinking and specifically the social workings of it. However, nowadays, because of my ex-girlfriend, I am also very much into learning more about self-organisation of eco-systems. The phenomena of self-organisation occurs on many fronts in many domains of science. It is, therefore, a cross disciplinary study. Feel free to follow along, and ask questions or add with subtle suggestions or make a whole quest out of it for some insights Xd
In the study of systems, and really in the study of life, many naturally assume that it is either a supernatural force that brings order to the world, or that it is us, we, as ‘rational’ human beings that govern the outcomes of our lives through making calculated decisions based upon our self-interest. The assumption here is that we are fully rational, calculated agents searching for pay-offs that reinforce our actions. ‘God is death’ as Nietzsche famously stated when we began to see ourselves as gods in the pursuit of mastering the outcomes of our lives through scientific laws and principles and rigorous rational thinking (Newtonian paradigm)
Traditional game theory is founded upon these assumptions that we are indeed fully rational, calculated and interested in pay-offs for self-interest. But what about altruism and people that decide to give more then they take? What about those that trust and rely on a force they cannot fathom themselves either? And why do we continue to suffer from so many dysfunctions in ecology, economy, society, health-wise etc if are mental models are correct? Or aren’t they?
When god and all the mystique of life was announced dead this set in motion a power vacuum that was beginning to be filled with what we thought could explain reality in a way god and religion could never have done through telling stories. What used to be faith that brought us together nor tore us apart, became science, a new foundation upon which to build and destroy our lives. The ‘mysteries’ of life that used to be described through stories filled with vivid mythical images, metaphors and symbolic interpretation, were now handed down through a cold and dead language of governing principles and natural laws, demystifying the reality we live in greatly. Life and the universe was being explained as an enormous clockwork, a machine that could be ‘controlled, predicted and understood’ by universal laws of physics and thermodynamics. This, however, is not valid in the truest sense of the word validation. Validating by the use of making ‘photographs’ in ones own memory of daily life could be useful in trying to get a hold on understanding subjective experiences and creating for oneself an objective viewing point what the heck is going on sometimes. This trick of using the method of photography in ones own being has turned out to be very helpful for my own development. Off course, I got this particular method from the MT.
What it really did was to replace a former mental model of how the world operates with a new, more complicated, mental model. The ‘truth’ of these mental models are only getting reinforced if reality responds in a way in concord with how we think it operates. All though this new Newtonian, rational, clockwork model of reality brought as many advancements and understanding, it also brought us more ignorance and, especially, arrogance. Fundamental issues and dysfunctions in entire ecosystems, financial markets and societies as a result of these mental models are pressing the call to readjust them to address these new and urgent matters in ourselves and the environment. So why aren’t we changing on a large scale, just like an organism in an ecosystem does when the conditions change?
Religion and science are both in the pursuit of truth, of universal principles, governing laws that explains fundamental questions of human existence. It is this pursuit of knowing, of becoming conscious of ourselves, of the world around us, the desire to understand, that we inherit a fundamental flaw or better said, a challenge of being human. This is a great distinction between self-organising phenomena in biology and nature against that of human and social self-organisation. This amazing ability of us as rational beings to form a mental model of reality enables us to mentally experiment with ideas to influence the outcomes of our lives, but it always leaves out more then it can take in. It builds up on itself and forms an EGO, an consciousness of mind, a framework, adapted, conditioned and suitable for the current environment we live in. But it shouldn’t end there, a mental model is never the ‘whole truth’, because the very need and existence of a mental model implies that reality is too complex and chaotic too simply form a model around. We need the simplification, a functional ‘ego or mental model’ to operate and make decisions around the complexity, the chaos of the world. In the sole act of forming a model, we already leave out more then we can take in, and the truth will thereby always remain ‘a rounded of truth’. So this creates an important distinction and an awareness over awareness, the silent observer within, which is a key attribute of self-organising systems in my view. As we take the human system as an example of a self-organising system, we can all agree and practice to the notion that we can be aware of our mental models, and, therefore, capable of change and learning. It doesn’t give an answer what the awareness of that awareness is then or where it comes from, a deeper you, a higher self? All we know, and probably need to know, is that we are capable of observing ourselves and creating this inter dimensional space between ‘ego’ and ‘self’ so that we can learn and adjust. Ecological systems also have mental models build into them, so that organisms can figure out trajectories through trial and error to find a ‘fit’ with the environment and adapt. These systems self-organise as well, but do not have the same fundamental challenge we as humans have. Biology, nature and organisms do not ‘fear’ death the same way we as humans do and are not ashamed when they take too much or feel pride when to give in plenty or capable of creating ethics and morality. They operate under different boundaries, and do not have the ability to be aware of their awareness. It takes the notion to be aware that you are alive, in order to be afraid to lose it. To be afraid for the future is not what a self-organising system in biology has to deal with, it always evolves in the now and picks a trajectory in the now based upon the changes in the environment. Obviously, self-organisation becomes more complex in human behaviour. We cannot expect principles of self-organisation in ecology to fully be applicable in sociology, since then we get the ‘slaving principle’. It wouldn’t matter then that employees are enslaved to the purposes and functions of an organisation, because they survive if the organisation survives. The greater system will then determine how the smaller components will behave and evolve, following the ‘rules’ of the greater system. In part this is true when we develop our functional ego’s during childhood in order to survive in the family system or greater sociological system. This does not hold up though when individuals become aware of their awareness and can get rid of their conditioning if so desired.
Without the awareness of such a distinction between ‘self and ego’ one might become overly attached to their current ego, understanding of the world through mental models or self-understanding and, therefore, will do their utmost best to maintain their current equilibrium. In terms of system language, the human system becomes more closed, more on itself, not willing to connect to those alien of itself, share, explore new avenues, but instead remains in a comfortable bubble in which reality always responds on how the mental models are constructed. In a way, this is a self-reinforcing mechanism by which the current state or equilibrium must be maintained. A practical example might be a person who defends himself through arrogant behaviour. Its ego tries to preserve itself through the fear it might be wrong about something, that its mental models might be inaccurate, and should be adjusted actually. It is almost as if this EGO, or also coined false personality or Maya in ancient times is having a life on its own. It tries to preserve itself, and when we as creative human beings are identified by this state, we think of it as ourselves. When this occurs, it blocks the process of self-organisation. A self-organising system does not have a static equilibrium, and when it does it is flimsy and quickly changing again. It thrives on fluctuations and change, whereas the EGO normally doesn’t like to ‘die off’ or ‘let go’ in order to become something else, not knowing what form or shape.
So when we talk about ‘self-organisation’, it must be an unconscious and spontaneous process by which the EGO or the current mental model/identity/persona is suggested to change in order to fit the new requirements of the situation that calls for it. It is not something you plan or can try to control, it is however something you can allow. So this shifts the attention of the question not to ‘How can we self-organise as human beings’, but sounds more like ‘How can we master ourselves, our conscious selves, and learn how to deal with others, so that we can continue to self-organise already?’. Hereby stating that self-organisation is a process that is already inclined in the human genome. We already have the inclination to self-organise in for example chaotic traffic situations, so why so much control over something which happens organically already within ourselves?
This conclusion leads me back to something profound I address often on this website, namely the simple stated but challenging pursuit of self-mastery, rather then to master the outside environment, or control the ego of others through fixed bureaucratic rules or replace god in the process, we must face the complexity of the reality we live in, and thrive in it with grace. Being willing to make mistakes, to test our mental models and change accordingly. Overcoming the fear of death, the fear things might not go well in the future, the baggage we carry along the way. Think about all those things that are blocking or weighing you down. These are the things we can consciously work on. We can consciously work on improving our health, the processes by which we do certain things, the way in which we respond and treat other people. But in the greater scheme of things we remain just as small as the world makes us, ignorant about our direction on a slippery slope called life.
An adventure that needs to be examined, but allowed in order to stay with the living.
For if not, there would be no quest hunting anymore, no daring thoughts to act upon, no supremity of the moments, no raptures of truly being alive, no excitement for what is in the loop for the next day, perhaps days to come. However, even stating that such a reality is fixed in stone like a marriage with a safe job to go to daily, I think is not valid. Even in a very rigid system like, for example, a Matrix nor a corporal traditional office floor or a lifelong pension plan, there exists some form of randomness and variables a.k.a. emergent gossiping a.e. around coffee machines. This is the beauty of chaos, since those ‘black swans’ could bring chaos around coffee corners, but also provide a new base on which an even greater civilisation can emerge nor organisation culture. Only so as long as there exists a level of integration rather then sticking to ideas, rumours and dreams about a better world enjoying the comfort of contemporary societies failing in executing any potent idea.
Happy to hear any feedback or just give me a visit in Breda.
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