Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More on dynamic systems

Here's a link to a very technical paper called "The 'dynamic turn' in cognitive linguistics." The abstract:

"The introductory sections of this paper ask the following basic questions about the proper goals of linguistic theory: Why did linguistic structuralism fail as an explanatory endeavour? Why is the understanding of the dynamics of language a primordial goal of linguistic theory? In order to give an explanation of the notion "dynamics" basic notions of dynamic systems theory are introduced informally. Following these questions the paper considers major proposals by Talmy, Lakoff and Langacker and asks how they account for the dynamic aspects of causing/enabling (Talmy's force dynamics), for iterated metaphorical mapping (Lakoff) and for syntactic composition ("construal" in Langacker's terminology). The ad-hoc pictorial models proposed by these authors are compared to mathematically controlled models in dynamic semantics (based on catastrophe, bifurcation and chaos theory). Shortcomings and advantages of the informal and pictorial versus the mathematical description are discussed. The dynamics of phrasal and sentential composition is currently one of the central topics of neurodynamic models based on ERP and fMRI brain scanning. This perspective must be further developed in order to specify the possibilities of future dynamic semantics of natural languages."

Manuel de Landa was mentioned above. In his article "The geology or morals" he discusses both hierarchies and meshworks. Of the latter he uses the example of the autocatalytic loop as studied by Varela and Maturana via autopoesis.

"They are dynamical systems which endogenously generate their own stable states (called 'attractors' or 'eigenstates'), and they grow and evolve by drift. . {9} An example of the first characteristic are some chemical reactions involving autocatalysis (as well as cross-catalysis) which function as veritable 'chemical clocks', in which the accumulation of materials from the reactions alternate each other at perfectly regular intervals . This rhythmic behavior is not imposed to the system from the outside but generated spontaneously from within (via an attractor)."

We've seen this same process described above. Drift happens when a new, unplanned reaction appears from the internal processes thereby complexifying the aggregate, but it isn't generated by an external demand or a higher whole. Again I'm reminded of Bortoft's whole-in-the-parts rather than some overriding whole beyond the parts.

De Landa however is not an apologist for a merely rhizomatic universe in distinction from a hierarchical one. He says:

"The dichotomy between hierarchies and...meshworks, should be understood in purely relative terms. In the first place, in reality it is hard to find pure cases of these two structures....hierarchies give rise to meshworks and meshworks to hierarchies."

This is one reason I like Fisher's approach to altitude in that he combines both. I'm still a little unclear though about the mathematical modeling he uses to measure altitude if it is of the strictly hierarchical type, especially when there is dynamic systems math which seems more appropriate in measuring such dynamic systems as human development.

[Balder noted]: Wilber doesn't talk frequently about meshworks, except in passing, as I recall, but other Integral theorists do, such as Marilyn Hamilton. Here's something on meshworking from her website:

"What is Meshworking Intelligence?

Meshworking intelligence creates a "meshwork" by weaving together the best of two operating systems — one that self-organizes, and one that replicates hierarchical structures. The resulting meshwork creates and aligns complex responsive structures and systems that flex and flow.

Meshworking intelligences are triggered in the brain by dissonance (ie. constraints) in the environment. The brain's capability of re-organizing itself and releasing new potentials allows for the emergence of new values systems and new capacities. At the same time meshworking intelligence utilizes hierarchical structures and capacities to create sorting and selecting mechanisms that allow the brain to make survival choices. As values systems emerge, a level of complexity develops where our brains can meshwork hierarchies and make hierarchies out of meshworks.

Meshworking intelligence uses imagination, courage and powers of attraction. It articulates designs from the meshing of the diversities in people and thereby releases and reorganizes new intelligences that are currently locked and blocked in silos of sameness.

Meshworking catalyzes a shift in the system, so that new capacities emerge and the system reorganizes itself into something more internally resonant and externally coherent with life conditions.

So What?

Because communities and cities are emergents and artefacts of human life, they are outcomes of the brains that have created them. The meshworks in them seem to be fractal patterns that emerge at all scales of human systems. We can better understand how cities work and evolve by recognizing that their communities reflect evolving capacities to meshwork hierarchies and to make hierarchies of meshworks.

An enormous value of meshworking is that it embraces both the realms of the objective and interobjective space of physical people and built structures, and calls forth the capacities that lie in the subjective and intersubjective zones of the City. These are the inner domains of intention, purpose and culture.

Meshworking intelligences contribute to research, planning and management in the city.

Now What? Three simple rules for applying Integral City Meshworking Intelligences

Catalyze fractal connections within the human hive.
Build communication bridges across silos, stovepipes and solitudes.
Enable meshes and hierarchies that transform, transcend and transmute capacities."

[my responses] Let's take a closer look at the Commons article I cited above. The MHC describes two kinds of complexity, horizontal and vertical, which is often translated as heterarchy and hierarchy. The latter type of complexity is described in 3 principles:

"The hierarchical complexity of tasks, or actions, is defined in words as follows. Actions at a higher order of hierarchical complexity: (a) are themselves defined in terms of actions at the next lower order of hierarchical complexity; (b) organize and transform the lower-order actions; (c) produce organizations of lower-order
actions that are new and not arbitrary. These next higher order actions cannot be accomplished by those lower-order actions alone" (308).

The kinds of meshwork processes described above "produce organizations that are new and not arbitrary," and contrary to one of the MHC tenets, are "accomplished by those lower-order actions alone," not a "higher-order action." MHC modeling is to me a fine example of, in Commons' own terms, using a linear model to describe non-linear processes. Hence we get such "representational" limitations.

The catalyst in the meshwork process is an "attractor," which arises from within the process, not without like a higher-order action coordinating the process.

My research led me back to Visser's ITC presentation on evolution. He reiterates Wilber's insistence on Spirit as skyhook pulling the process of evolution upward, since it existed apriori and "came down" via involution. Or in more materialistic terms, teleos is the driving force, or eros. It's the same idea in the MHC, with its ideal Platonic forms existing apriori and pulling up simpler parts into higher whole, the latter initiating the process mysteriously before they were actually created by the simpler parts in known evolution.

Visser explores Darwin's natural selection as a better explanation, as does Dawkins in The God Delusion. All of which is supported by scientific evidence on how chemicals react via autopoeisis to create novel, more complex stews. Note that natural selection is not random chance, the boogeyman of teleosiacs like Wilber and Commons. What drives or motivates change in natural selection, instead of God, is, well, nature. Things change in the environment and to survive processes and beings must adapt to those environmental forces. I am reminded of the "original" Spiral Dynamics model (before integral) that placed emphasis on life conditions as what drives evolution, not some inner (or spiritual) structures pulling it up. More later.

So how does one develop to a higher stage, if the higher stage is not pulling it up? See this article by Sara Ross discussing the fractal nature of transition steps. An excerpt:

"Adaptation characterizes the transition steps, and is the process by which changes in stage come about. The steps describe the process of adapting: learning to perform tasks at the next order of hierarchical complexity" and

"The stages of hierarchical complexity are the axiomatically defined, mathematically specified performances of tasks. The empirically based transition steps’ dynamics are not yet mathematically specified (although they are partially described by signal detection theory)" (365).

I'm still leery of claims like this: "it's use of purely quantitative principles" (362). I just don't think there is such an animal and the nondual cogsciprago tradition would surely agree.

Moving on, the transition steps are an expanded version of Wilber's fusion, differentiation and integration but using 8 steps instead of 3. The equilibrium of one stage is upset when new task challenges arise that cannot be solved within the status quo. This leads to deconstruction and antithesis, followed by vacillation between the former equilibrium and challenge, into a chaos of mix and matching, and finally synthesis and integration of the new elements.

The foregoing is again just a description of the process, but what is the motivator, the catalyst for this change process? "Equilibrium is supported by reinforcement. These initial steps ensue in the face of a drop in perceived reinforcement to continue the previous task behavior" (366). So someone(s) or something(s) in the environment no longer reinforce a particular performance; it is no longer good enough. New behaviors are tried and either reinforced or not. It might be for example that a parent says "goo goo" is baby language and you're a big boy now, it's time to use more appropriate language. The education system is a fine reinforcer and mover along the trajectory of development, at least up to formal logic.

The next section gets too technical for my understanding so I cannot comment. But aside from the above brief mention of reinforcement there was no further discussion of the catalysts of change, just further descriptions of modeling the what of change, not the how.

Returning to teleos, Maturana and Varela say in Autopoiesis and Cognition (Springer, 1980):

"Teleonomy becomes only an artifice of their description which does not reveal any feature of their organization, but which reveals the consistency in their operation within the domain of observation. Living systems, as physical autopoietic machines, are purposeless systems" (86).


  1. http://www.litsciarts.org/slsa08/slsa08-686.pdf

    Here are some excerpts from an interesting article called "Interstitial Life" by Steven Shaviro.

    "Darwin provides an immanent, non-teleological mechanism for the development of life.

    "I have elsewhere (Shaviro 2003, 205-212) criticized the way that devotees of evolutionary
    psychology, in particular, tend to invoke “purpose,” attributed to such reified agencies as “evolution.”

    "The outcome of a process is not the same as the conditions that led to its existence in the first place. To equate the two is precisely to confuse the “efficient cause” that gave rise to the trait with the trait’s concrete action as “final cause.”

    "But selection is rendered intelligible, in retrospect, only by means of the “teleological principle” that particular traits have been selected for because they are adaptive. Thus the theory of natural selection takes away teleology with one hand, but gives it back with the other. The “argument from design” is rejected as an appeal to a transcendent, external cause, but restored as an immanent principle of emergent order.

    "Kant thus insists that linear, mechanistic causality is universally valid for all phenomena. But at the same time, he also proposes a second kind of causality, one that is purposive and freely willed. This second causality does not negate the first, and does not offer any exceptions to it. Rather, “freedom” and “purpose” exist alongside “natural mechanism”: Derrida would say that they are supplementary
    to it.

    "Purposive (teleological) causality is not altogether eliminated, but it can only be accorded a ghostly, supplemental status.... But in cases of complexity, or of higher-order emergence, supplemental causality becomes far more important.

    "The idea of purpose, or of final cause, involves a circular relation between parts and whole. The whole precedes the parts, in the sense that “the possibility of [a thing’s] parts (as concerns both their existence and their form) must depend on their relation to the whole.” But the parts also precede and produce the whole, insofar as they mutually determine, and adapt to, one another: “the parts of the thing combine into the unity of a whole because they are reciprocally cause and effect of their form” (252). An organism must therefore be regarded as “both an organized and a self-organizing being.” It is both the passive effect of preceding, external causes, and something that is actively, immanently self-caused and selfgenerating."

  2. As I've said before, there is also downward causation in addition to its upward forebear. But it seems that capacity only arises, or rather emerges, at a particular level of development somewhere around egoic rationality. Recall Levin's scheme where it is only at his level 3 that the journey to integrate earlier levels can even begin, and in so doing the higher level integrates and transforms the earlier levels, that is, reciprocal downward causation. Hence prepersonal dream and deep sleep become subtle and causal transpersonal enactions. And all by virtue of the personal ego sans skyhooks, aka integral postmetaphysical nonduality.

  3. Also recall in the "real and false reason" thread, particularly from page 7 (see link below), the discussion of how basic categories arise in the middle of a representational, "hierarchical" scale.* It is much like the above, where the fulcrum in the middle (ego) is the nondual interrelation of higher and lower and without which those terms are meaningless. Ironically the ego created that duality (and its hierarchy) and only through it can it also thus "taketh it away."

    * Remember the caveat above about confusing efficient cause from final cause.



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