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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

2. Complex Local and Global Societies

Miller, John H. and Scott Page. Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Miller is professor of economics and social sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and Page is professor of complex systems, political science, and economics at the University of Michigan. A rapid tour of complexity modeling approaches such as emergence, self-organized criticality, automata, networks, diversity, adaptation, and feedback. But the work comes across an unorganized and unedited pastiche of subjects and claims with little sense of a common CAS as proposed by Murray Gell-Mann and John Holland, who are barely mentioned. Compare or combine with Eric Beinhocker’s magisterial The Origin of Wealth noted in A Planetary Physiology.

Mirolli, Marco and Stefano Nolfi. Evolving Communication in Embodied Agents. Nolfi, Stefano and Marco Mirolli, eds. Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied Agents. Berlin: Springer, 2010. Institute of Cognitive Science and Technologies, CNR, Rome, researchers employ a “complex adaptive system” model of interacting entities as the creative dynamics of emergent behavior. See also Nolfi’s chapter in Hooker, et al, eds. Philosophy of Complex Systems.

Mosko, Mark and Frederick Damon, eds. On the Order of Chaos. New York: Berghahn Books, 2005. Social anthropologists propose to set aside mechanistic models and counter postmodern qualms by reconceiving their field studies in terms of the iterative structures and dynamics of complex systems. The several quotes are from Mosko’s Introduction. A distinguishing quality of indigenous cultures, with reference to Claude Levi-Straus’ binary theories, is a recurrent fractal-like scale which spans individual, gender, tribe and cosmos. In addition to Piot, other typical papers are Jose Antonia Kelly: Fractality and the Exchange of Perspectives, and Mark Mosko: Peace, War, Sex, and Sorcery.

The organic analogy is only one anthropological instance among many of basic epistemological tropes exhibiting forms of fractal scaling. A major share of the classic analyses and interpretations of myth, ritual, social structure, political organization, and economic exchange is based on the notions of metaphor and analogy, for example, of specifically fractal proportions. Durkheim and Mauss’s Primitive Classification (1963), which outlines the recurrent patterning of spatial form at various levels of societal organization – the clan, the village, the tribe, the cosmos, etc. – among numerous tribal societies and early civilizations, is a straightforward illustration of fractal self-similarity. (26)

One of the more dramatic developments in the science of complex dynamic systems has been the discovery that systems which are considered to be different and unrelated exhibit certain behavioral features that are identical. This aspect of chaos theory, known as “universality,” was implicit in the discussions above regarding processes of nonlinearity, period doubling, bifurcation, fractal scaling, and so on. (28)

Charles Piot’s Chapter 3, “Fractal Figurations: Homologies and Hierarchies in Kabre Culture,”….explores the symbolic replications of gender and hierarchal encompassment across a wide range of Kabre (Togo, Africa) cultural contexts and regional variations – house structures, cosmology and myth, subsistence practices, reproductive theory, community organization, and ritual performance. The pervasive dualisms which cycle through the history of the region produce a series of self-similar nonlinear symbolic orders, from Dogon to Mossi, to Gourmantche, to Batammaliba, and to Kabre. (39)

Muthukrishna, Michael, et al. The Cultural Brain Hypothesis: How Culture Drives Brain Expansion, Sociality, and Life History. PLoS Computational Biology. November, 2018. London School of Economics, University of British Columbia, Arizona State University and Harvard University (Joseph Henrich) system anthropologists trace and verify the presence of a tandem interplay between human sociality, cerebral capacity, and a resultant common knowledge resource. Once again, as life and mind evolves and advances an oriented transitional ratcheting seems at work toward a more effective individual and group cognizance and viable survival.

In the last few million years, the hominin brain more than tripled in size. Comparisons across evolutionary lineages suggest that this may be part of a broader trend toward larger, more complex brains in many taxa. Efforts to understand the evolutionary forces driving brain size have focused on climatic, ecological, and social factors. Here, building on research on learning, we analytically and computationally model two closely related hypotheses: The Cultural Brain Hypothesis and the Cumulative Cultural Brain Hypothesis. The Cultural Brain Hypothesis posits that brains have been selected for their ability to store and manage information. The model reveals relationships between brain size, group size, innovation, social learning, mating structures, and the length of the juvenile period. We then derive the Cumulative Cultural Brain Hypothesis for the conditions that favor an autocatalytic take-off characteristic of human evolution. The resultant evolutionary pathway may help explain the rapid expansion of human brains and other aspects of our species’ life history and psychology. (Abstract)

Nowak, Andrzej. Dynamical Minimalism: Why Less is More in Psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 8/2, 2004. In a paper cited as a theoretical basis for the 2013 volume Complex Human Dynamics, edited by Nowak, et al, the University of Warsaw systems psychologist provides a succinct distillation of various takes upon complex self-organization found to be recur across nature and society. In essence, many local agents from proteins and people, with necessary autonomy, constantly interact via simple yet fluid rules, from which arise intricate, nested living assemblies.

The principle of parsimony, embraced in all areas of science, states that simple explanations are preferable to complex explanations in theory construction. Parsimony, however, can necessitate a trade-off with depth and richness in understanding. The approach of dynamical minimalism avoids this trade-off. The goal of this approach is to identify the simplest mechanisms and fewest variables capable of producing the phenomenon in question. A dynamical model in which change is produced by simple rules repetitively interacting with each other can exhibit unexpected and complex properties. It is thus possible to explain complex psychological and social phenomena with very simple models if these models are dynamic. In dynamical minimalist theories, then, the principle of parsimony can be followed without sacrificing depth in understanding. Computer simulations have proven especially useful for investigating the emergent properties of simple models. (Abstract)

The principle of self-organization, a fundamental feature of nonlinear dynamical systems, provides a very different picture of the relation between lower level elements and higher order structure. The basic idea is that the local interactions among low-level elements, in which each element adjusts to other elements without reference to a global pattern, may lead to the emergence of highly coherent structures and behavior on the level of the whole. Such structures then may provide in turn coordination for the lower level elements. No higher order agent is necessary for the emergence of such coordinate structures. (185)

Nowak, Andrzej and Robin Vallacher. Dynamical Social Psychology. New York: Guilford Press, 1998. A synoptic text introduces complex systems theory as a way to begin to explain the many diverse phenomena of social interaction. A 2008 update summary “The Dynamics of Human Experience” by the authors appears in Stephen Guastello, et al, eds. Chaos and Complexity in Psychology. A significant 2013 volume Complex Human Dynamics (search) by Nowak and colleagues, with many real world applications, continues valiant project.

Nowak, Andrzej and Robin Vallacher. Toward Computational Social Psychology. Stephen Read and Lynn Miller, eds. Connectionist Models of Social Reasoning and Social Behavior. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1998. On the growing perception that groups possess attributes of and operate as cognitive entities.

If one were to identify a candidate for greater complexity than the brain, it would have to be a structure composed of interacting brains - in effect, a social group. Like a brain, a social group is more than a mere collection of separate elements. To the contrary what defines a group is the set of connections among the various elements (i.e., individuals) comprising the group. Just as the network of connections among neurons gives rise to identifiable brain states, the network of connections among members of a group give rise to identifiable group properties. (277)

Nowak, Andrzej, et al, eds. Complex Human Dynamics: From Minds to Societies. Berlin: Springer, 2013. A unique community of systems scientists has formed over past years between the University of Warsaw and Florida Atlantic University (also home to Scott Kelso’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences) with a focus upon salutary reconceptions of psychological, social and cultural mores by way of nonlinear dynamical complexities. On message, a 1998 volume Dynamical Social Psychology (search) by Nowak and FAU psychologist Robin Vallacher scoped out the project. This major update covers a gamut from neural substrates to national conflicts. Sample chapters include A Dynamical Systems Approach to Conceptualizing and Investigating the Self by Urszula Strawinska, A Dynamic Approach to Multicultural Integration, Wouter de Raad, and Group as a Unit of Analysis by Karolina Lisiecka. A brave outreach of this endeavor is its application to better understand sources of incessant, internecine warfare, and then how to remediate and resolve them. In regard see a special issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology (16/2, 2010, search Vallacher).

This book presents simple models of complex psychological and social phenomena. In complex systems, even very simple rules of interaction between simple elements may lead to the emergence of complex properties at the level of the system. It follows that at least some complex phenomena may have very simple explanations. Computer simulations are used to explore which simple rules may explain the complex phenomena that have been observed. Simple elements must interact in time for complex phenomena to emerge. Minimalist theories based on emergence must be dynamic. In this approach, unlike approaches in the traditional social sciences, one tries to concentrate on the most essential properties of the phenomena to be explained, rather than trying to capture the phenomenon in its naturally occurring complexity. The task of the researcher is to try to find the set of the simplest possible, but realistic, rules that can reproduce the essence of the phenomena to be explained. (Preface, vii-viii)

Perc, Matjaz. The Social Physics Collective. Nature Scientific Reports. 9/16459, 2019. The University of Maribor, Slovenia, polyscholar (search) introduces a special collection of papers within this journal to contain ways that our behaviors and activities across a wide domain such as epidemics, crime, warfare, financial markets and more.

More than two centuries ago Henri de Saint-Simon envisaged physical laws to describe human societies. Driven by advances in statistical physics, network science, data analysis, and information technology, this vision is becoming a reality. Many of the grandest challenges of our time are of a societal nature, and methods of physics are increasingly playing a central role in improving our understanding of these challenges, and helping us to find innovative solutions. The Social Physics Collection at Scientific Reports is dedicated to this research.

Perc, Matjaz, et al. Statistical Physics of Human Cooperation. Physics Reports. Online May, 2017. (arXiv:1705.07161) An international team with postings in Slovenia, USA, China, Italy, Israel, and Hungary, including Stefano Boccaletti, contribute to this project to explain social phenomena in terms of basic condensed matter theories and principles. Search each author, herein, Active Matter and throughout for more examples, as complexity science proceeds to join diversity with unity. An import, not yet realized but hopefully soon to be, is the presence of a common, independent program, which as a is similarly in formative, dynamic effect at each and every stage and instance.

Extensive cooperation among unrelated individuals is unique to humans, who often sacrifice personal benefits for the common good and work together to achieve what they are unable to execute alone. The evolutionary success of our species is indeed due, to a large degree, to our unparalleled other-regarding abilities. Yet, a comprehensive understanding of human cooperation remains a formidable challenge. Recent research in social science indicates that it is important to focus on the collective behavior that emerges as the result of the interactions among individuals, groups, and even societies. Non-equilibrium statistical physics, in particular Monte Carlo methods and the theory of collective behavior of interacting particles near phase transition points, has proven to be very valuable for understanding counterintuitive evolutionary outcomes. Here we review experimental and theoretical research that advances our understanding of human cooperation, focusing on spatial pattern formation, on the spatiotemporal dynamics of observed solutions, and on self-organization that may either promote or hinder socially favorable states. (Abstract excerpt)

Plotkin, Henry. Evolution in Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. A psychologist and philosopher employs a hierarchical view of evolution to sort out many conceptual issues whose latest phase is a global sentience.

It is often said that the human brain is the most complicated thing in the universe. Not so, say I. The most complicated thing in the universe is the collective of human brains and their psychological processes that make up human culture, which is defined here as shared knowledge and beliefs. In part this complexity arises from the extragenetic transmission that lies at the heart of culture. (222)

Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. Due by May, a former managing editor of U.S. News and World Report, and a University of Toronto sociologist coin a quite 21st century phrase: “networked individualism.”

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. In Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks. Rainie and Wellman outline the “triple revolution” that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information.

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