Here is Part II of the forum posting of Winston Smith on emerging collective patterns. The analysis is deepened and explained with the help of images.
Emergence and The Myth of the Ant Queen
For decades, and perhaps centuries, scientists recognized a phenomena that they couldn’t easily explain and, surprisingly, very few attempted to pursue the subject, because it didn’t specifically fall into any field of scientific inquiry. This phenomena exists everywhere in all systems. You and everyone you know are an example of this phenomena. The presence of life on this planet, the universe itself, and even the computer I type this on, is a result of this phenomena. In fact, I just fell into the trap that makes this phenomena so difficult to describe in typing that last paragraph. All of the things that I described are a result of the phenomena, but, paradoxically, they are just as much a cause of it.
Perhaps the oddest and most fascinating thing is that the phenomena is so simple and obvious that even a small child could recognize it when they see it. You recognize it everyday, but you’re so used to it, you just ignore it, except in certain instances to say, on some level, "well, there that is again". On another level, you’ve noticed that it produces beauty, and you’ve said to yourself then "Boy, I can’ t describe that. That’s beautiful."
It’s been said that Michelangelo proved that he was artistically worthy of painting the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel by drawing a perfect circle with his free hand. Keep in mind that this is a feat that is said to be nearly impossible. Yet, nature will produce an array of such perfect patterns out of sheer chaos, working only with its own static and dynamic forces.
Throw a stone in a pond and you’ll get a perfect circle. Moisture falls randomly from the sky, freezes, and lands in your hand in the shape of a unique and perfect crystal, full of perfectly straight lines and enough algebra to give a tenth grader nightmares.
But what about this?
How does this happen? Did the geese get together and "quack" the idea of flying in formation to each other? Do they hear some strange sound on some strange frequency that makes them behave accordingly? Is the goose at the front of the flock some kind of "squadron leader"? Is "the power of God" running through them?
What about the ants? Do they behave in such a way because The Queen of the Ants is beaming out some secret signal to all of them?
The answer to all of these questions, it turns out, is "no". Humans do the same things for the very similar reasons.
I trust that you’ll notice the similarities here between the formation of fighter planes and the formation of geese.
Similarly, the ants are working along a "highway" of sorts, in the same way that you are when we go to and from work everyday.
(The ants, btw, only form themselves into "highways" because instinct tells them to follow the pheromone trail of the ants in front of them. The geese fly in formation because evolution has created this pattern formation over time. The development of individual instinct via the process of natural selection is a good example of Emergent Patterns working downward to change the way the constituent elements behave.)
This is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is as natural as tulips growing out of the ground or a spider weaving a web.
This phenomena that science is just beginning to recognize is called "Emergence".
Emergence is difficult to define. In fact, if you look "emergence" up on Wikipedia, you’ll find that the entry is really just a bunch of different people trying to provide different definitions for it. It’s difficult to define because we’re not sure what it is, but we know that it exists and that it is extremely relevant to, well, everything.
Emergence is a ubiquitous, naturally occurring, pattern forming phenomena. It’s spontaneous occurrence can not be reduced to the simple causes and effects resulting from the behavior, action, or interaction of its constituent elements. The intention of the constituent elements, acting out of self interest, can only have a network effect on the overall emergent pattern.
Emergence breaks the rules of reductionist, cause and effect science.
Here are two models of Emergence:
You’ll notice that in both of the illustrations provided, a larger pattern emerges and dictates the behavior of the very elements that formed it in the first place. The elements, themselves, create the pattern, but their behavior and intention can not be "reduced" to account for the pattern’s effect upon them.
A rather simple example that can be provided of the network effect of emergence is the "curiosity slowdown" many of us have to deal with everyday in our commute to and from work. As you know, this phenomena occurs because some people, despite having 100 cable channels of television, internet access, and a family, find anything on the side of the road so fascinating that they have to slow down and gawk at it.
The individual behavior in this case creates an overall pattern. The overall pattern then has an effect on you, sitting a hundred cars back, and you can’t even see what is causing the overall pattern of the slowdown. You, though, (if you’re like me), become frustrated and find that you’re participating in this larger pattern, despite what you individually desire. The pattern can not be reduced to you, but you are part of the pattern.
That’s a rather simplistic definition and I wouldn’t overexamine it, as long as you get the idea. I’m having trouble because I’m trying to define the dynamics of emergent pattern and much greater minds than my own haven’t figured out how to do that yet, but they’re working on it.
The larger point is that emergent patterns exist, because we see them all the time; we are an emergent pattern ourselves. For example, your consciousness emerges out of your biology. Your personality emerges out of your consciousness. None of us though, can simply break down any of these phenomena to the elements that brought them about. We can’t even really define what we mean by "personality", we’re not even sure how the brain that produces that personality works. But I don’t want to get too philosophical here. I’m hoping at this point that I’ve made three points clear.
Point 1: Emergence is real and Emergent Patterns exist.
Point 2: Humans are constituent elements of Emergent patterns and our behavior creates these Emergent Patterns.
Point 3: Emergent Patterns work downward to the constituent elements that created them and dictate how the constituent elements behave.
The weather is another good example. Water is gathered from bodies of water everywhere via evaporation thus forming clouds and those clouds rain down again on the bodies of water affecting how they behave; creating floods, draughts, temperature variations, etc.
Though I will look into some of the characteristics of emergent patterns, I don’t seek to draw out all of the lines of cause and effect that create emergent patterns. Without a very involved knowledge of mathematics and physics, and a lifelong devotion to a subject that can’t be wholly explained, this invites, well, insanity.
As long as we’re willing to admit that we are part of emergent phenomena, we can take a macroscopic view, and move on to Big Patterns, the large forces really at work, only become apparent when you pull back very far. So, let’s do that.
Here is an image that I use quite often in this forum, because it fascinates me. This is a map of the 2000 election broken down by county, instead of state.
The emergent patterns clearly become visible. To realize how powerful this example is, it’s important to remember that there was no "man behind the curtain". No one "intended" for America to look this way. The pattern emerged naturally and we can now clearly see some clusters forming. Also, because we have the knowledge that this election was extremely close, we can realize that looking at this picture doesn’t tell the story of what happened here "on the ground". From just looking at the picture, the Blue looks like some kind of fringe anomaly while Red is king. We know, though, that this idea is far from the truth.
Nightlight has posted on this forum a great deal regarding Networks and Networks and Patterns are very difficult to distinguish from each other. They are more a matter of perspective. Networks, though, form Clusters and those Clusters become very clear when you take a macroscopic view.
You notice Clusters in the image above. The Blue trends around bodies of water, especially oceans but including rivers. Rivers form natural borders between states, so you’ll see some clusters that are taking place in relation to phenomena that aren’t even indicated on this map; in some areas, Blue forms around borders. In general, it seems that when people close themselves in on each other, when population reaches a greater density, more Collectivist views prevail. There are anomalies in the image, but the trend of the Clusters is clear.
We have some knowledge regarding how these clusters formed. We know that cities emerged around bodies of water because water provided in the past (and still today) a natural method of providing power for emerging American industry because water flows and moves watermills that turn turbines and provide power. Also, water provided ports where goods could be delivered via waterways. They also provided manpower because people, travelling via water, would be on-site when they arrived at their destination. People, of course, are seeking gainful employment. Gainful employment was available at industry that prospered around production. That production needed natural energy. Water provided natural energy Therefore, densely populated cities emerged around bodies of water.
Time goes by and people reproduce. Also, because of the awesome prosperity of America, people come here and tend to stay where they first arrived. There are many factors, but we can reduce this emergent pattern down at least a bit, from what we know of the past.
Due to population density, a network effect takes place much more rapidly among people, the constituent elements of the Emergent Pattern. So, like the geese forming the triangular pattern of a flock, emergent patterns evolve quite quickly, life becomes very regimented just in order to handle the mass population and the downward effect of emergent patterns becomes quickly evident.
In New York City for instance (mostly Manhattan), you’ll notice that the streets aren’t named, but numbered. Street 42 (42nd street) Street 52 (52nd Street), etc. The modes of travel are numbered or lettered (take the "D" train, for instance). Everything is run on this huge, imposed, static platform that is created to regiment the massive dynamic elements on its shoulders. The Emergent Pattern of a place like New York City invites regimentation and collectivism.
If you visit New York City and are not used to it, you will quickly notice that New York’s Emergent Pattern has an effect on you, that works very powerfully upon you. If you’re not used to New York, you’ll notice that all of this collective regimentation seems like a failure. Everything is lettered, colored or numbered, but you still feel clueless. Driving in New York City invites getting lost. If you want to take the subway and have never taken the subway before, you will be clueless (or at least I was).
You’ll quickly notice that people, when concentrated together, want some kind of intervening, authoritarian guiding principle. They act in herd. The fact that the emergent pattern is acting downward becomes instantly evident to an outsider. That outsider is probably visiting from one of the Red areas of our nation and everything seems alien and, in fact, it could bring a lone outsider, to tears.( Never try to negotiate a metropolis like New York without a guide who knows the territory.)
It seems ridiculous that a person can get lost in a city where the streets are numbered instead of named. If it’s so routed in systemization, why should anyone get lost?
Collectivism forms an emergent pattern that his little room for individual needs. A metropolis breeds an ant hill mentality. You can live in this metropolis and be an individual, but the hive will drown you out. A large network emergent pattern forms that serves the needs of those who created it and conformed to it. It has little room for outsiders.
Modern Leftist political interests are Collectivist. Collectivism is a naturally occurring emergent pattern. The pattern feeds back on itself from the constituent elements, then works downward upon the constituent elements in a manner that affects and confirms the behavior of the constituent elements, networking through them via natural paths of least resistance. This natural phenomena isn’t the Darwinian, biological evolution of living things, it is the natural evolution of the patterns themselves.
I said in my post "The New Communism" that the Cold War was like sickle cell anaemia emerging as natural defense against malaria. For half of the twentieth century, an emergent pattern of mutually assured nuclear destruction arose as a defense against the more destructive pattern of Communism. Free market capitalism, with an emphasis on individual rights, was creating a pattern of self defense against a powerful enemy. That powerful enemy is still with us and emergent patterns don’t care what names they are called by their constituent elements.
You’ll even notice a pattern in the labelling, like some lizard camouflaging itself against its environment. Neo-communism disguises itself in words that have meanings that are exactly the opposite of what they mean. There is nothing "progressive" in what neo-communism networks out with the label "progressive". There is nothing "liberal" in what neo-communism networks out as "liberal". There is nothing "tolerant" in what it calls "tolerance". There is nothing "fair" in what it calls "fairness".
You’ll also notice that it doesn’t bother disguising itself when the words have the meaning they want. After all, Jefferson* said "all men are created equal", and equality is a principle upon which our free society is founded upon, but it isn’t an externally enforced "equality", but an acknowledged equality that stems from an individual understanding of the idea that the idea applies to all. All deserve equal treatment in the context of being allowed to start at the starting line and not be set back. "Equal" doesn’t mean that someone gets a twenty yard head start, unless the individual, private entities in charge of the race make the agreement to make such an acknowledgement and accommodation. There was no intent to have this idea institutionalized via governmental force. Nonetheless, because Jefferson and the other Founders, in their historical context, could have never foreseen such circumstances that we have today, heavily used the word "equality", but only intended it in the context that individuals not be treated as lessers; not that they have a natural right to be "boosted up" to the level of those doing better.
This notion brings us full circle. The problem with trying to make someone "lesser" become "better" is that the label of "lesser" can be arbitrarily applied. Anti-smoking has institutionalized the notion that people who choose to smoke are "lesser" and they need to be "made equal" even if it means putting a gun to their head. The Emergent Collectivist Pattern that I call Neo-Communism works downward to its constituent elements to further this notion. The Neo-Communist pattern does the work.
Like the geese flying in formation or the ants working in formation in an ant hill, the emergent pattern created by humans that I call Neo-Communism serves its own interest, and seeks to impose itself on its constituent elements.
What needs to be reconciled at this point is the idea of Emergent Patterns being natural, organic or in the best interest of the whole. How can something that is working via nature’s own means and methods be destructive?
First, you participate in the emergent pattern, and the creation of the emergent pattern that you are a part of. Once that pattern "flows upward" and "becomes", it is nearly impossible to explain how irrelevant you, as an individual, can be, if you do nothing to change the pattern here "on the ground". An Emergent Pattern is a natural phenomena, and the paradox lies in the fact that even though we are the creators of these Patterns, they don’t act according to our individual needs anymore than a hurricane or an earthquake does. As long as the constituent elements continue to participate, the Emerge Pattern keeps on going on.
Second, though it wasn’t done explicitly, this question was addressed over 200 years ago, and ground into the founding fabric of ideas that brought forth the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth. The United States was created with an acknowledgment that better Emergent Patterns come forth through independent human action. In creating America, the Founders were able to identify some of the root causes of evil, unjust and oppressive Emergent Patterns forming in societies. They sought to stop the creation of these aberrations by making a guarantee to free people that they would be, in fact, free. Their rights as individuals to pursue their own selfish interests would lead to a more prosperous society than a society where rules, regulations and taxation would stifle the free will of the individual.
You can, in fact, externally force a human Emergent Pattern into existence via rules, regulations and force. It will operate exactly the same way as a naturally occurring Emergent Pattern will and follow it’s powerful course of least resistance like a river carving itself over the terrain and it will work downward onto the very elements that created it in the first place.
Third, a deadly virus is a natural force that works via natural methods, but we shouldn’t take that to mean that such a force is a good thing when it sweeps across Europe like the Black Plague and kills off the population. Viruses themselves act upon humans so that humans, in reaction to the virus, will act in ways that further spread the virus. For instance, you cough if you have an infection deep in your lung. It may relieve you of some congestion, but it will also serve to spread the virus. Some viruses will allow you to walk around for awhile, feeling relatively okay, because your doing so spreads the virus further. Others will lay you flat on your back, because that type of virus is spread more easily by your engaging in that behavior. And, of course, viruses can’t think. Rather, they Emerge, and create a Pattern, that Pattern dictates how you behave.
In Evil: Part III, I’ll attempt to address an idea that is popular amongst Collectivists; that knowledge of Emergent Patterns is a sign that we should start creating them ourselves by creating centralized, governmental methods of imposing them on society.