I’ve come to terms with the fact that I tend to ramble on without getting to the point, so I tried to start at the end. Now let’s explain it.
What are complex systems?
There’s no official definition, so I’ll give my unofficial one: Complex systems are systems with behaviors that arise from the relationships between their parts, rather than any particular part. If there’s an easily traceable, deterministic, unambiguous cause of all the system’s behaviors, then the system is probably not complex.
Let’s move to some examples.
Economics was probably the first field with a concept of complexity. Smith coined the phrase “Invisible Hand,” when referring to certain economic phenomena. The reason the hand was invisible was because no person actually intended for such phenomena to arise! Describing another actor-less action, Smith wrote:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
Economics exhibits many concepts of complexity studies because it studies systems made up of a vast number of parts (each individual economic actor), most of whom act without intent for the system as a whole.
Evolution and Adaptation
If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably read quite a bit on this one. From mating preferences and sexual strategies, to the eugenic or dysgenic effect of culture and policy, a lot has been written on this subject. Evolution and adaptation are complex phenomena in that no one intends for…really, anything, to happen, but stuff happens—systematically.
Moldbug has contributed a lot of things, but one undeniably important piece was the idea of the Cathedral. We often use language that attributes intent to the Cathedral—I do myself—but we know that it is not a single entity, but a large-scale phenomenon arising from the sum (and product, and quotient) of a billion smaller interactions. Hit pieces, predictably, reliably miss this point, thinking that we see the Cathedral as an actual conspiracy.
There are other terms for these sorts of phenomena; they include emergent behaviors, nonlinear dynamics, Here’s the wiki page.
So, Uh, Why Study It?
- Complexity science has relevance to the great majority of problems we discuss in this corner of the web. If we’re going to sit around discussing a bunch of problems that have relevance to each other, drawing from game theory, biology, and sociology, let’s at least be good at it
- One aim of neoreaction is the creation of memes to infect the populace (with knowledge!) I suspect a better understanding of memetics would go a long way here.
- Knowing stuff is good. I use concepts from complexity science in my day job and my personal life, although my knowledge of the field is extremely paltry.
Okay, But Why Popularize It?
Because the Cathedral is a beast that feeds on the ignorance of its host (the population). It is a mental parasite that thrives on soundbites. Gigantic impenetrable pieces of baroque writing did in fact work because they didn’t match the heuristics that memetic immune systems employ. But only for a small segment of the population that had the time and inclination to wade through the things.
Freed, ourselves, our thoughts should turn to the rest of humanity. And this time logorrhea won’t cut it. If soundbites are the antibodies of the Cathedral, then we’d better start making some viruses.
But! They have to be the right viruses. Just as a virus modifies the genetic code of its host, memes change the mind. But the old memes are unsuitable, because empirically, they were easy to unseat and even subvert to the dark side. So we need some new ones—ones that will provide better protection this time.
Can you infect people with the ability to think more abstractly? I suspect the answer is yes. Besides, lacking state control of the educational apparatus, infection seems the best delivery strategy anyway. And the state hasn’t been doing that great a job with their method anyway.
So far, neoreaction has mostly been a cabal of scientists, doing forbidden research. But we need educators, and education is freaking hard work. People don’t read blogs like ours. People don’t read at all. Can you deliver the payload in a Call of Duty-shaped package? (Civilization was actually quite a good attempt here.)
I’ll end here, because I can tell that anything I write after this will be garbage. But one thought: we should do good.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Further Readingthe dangers of hubris when dealing with complex systems Fluff on Chaos Theory (+ some game) (though caution reading too much into the above) Asimov’s Foundation
Tron final scene (and a clue, I suspect, as to how we get out of this mess), though you should watch the whole movie