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Cascading effects of critical transitions

Monday, September 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — for Ali Minai and Mike Sellers, my complexity maven friends ]
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Complexity at intersections and overlaps.

My intuition catches this from memories of Carmel and Big Sur, and my general snese of waves crashing on waves –and with a little searching, I find my instinct beautifully expressed in this detail from Henrique Pinto‘s gorgeous Rocks & waves @ Big Sur #4, CA:

The approach from science-side delivers this:

The authors said their paper, published in the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.

Unwelcome surprises, unanticipated consequences, unknown unknowns, what’s the odds?

From the article page:

Cascading effects of regime shifts

The potential for regime shifts and critical transitions in ecological and Earth systems, particularly in a changing climate, has received considerable attention. However, the possibility of interactions between such shifts is poorly understood. Rocha et al. used network analysis to explore whether critical transitions in ecosystems can be coupled with each other, even when far apart (see the Perspective by Scheffer and van Nes). They report different types of potential cascading effects, including domino effects and hidden feedbacks, that can be prevalent in different systems. Such cascading effects can couple the dynamics of regime shifts in distant places, which suggests that the interactions between transitions should be borne in mind in future forecasts.

I’ve been saying this, notably here, and thinking it for quite a while longer: in particular, I’d imagine a lot of waves of climate migration will founder on the rocks of nationalism and religion..

Okay, Covington Scissoring the Overton Window?

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — different people have different insights, and if they’re any good, they may be worth bringing together to see how they intersect, overlap, intertwine, refute one another, or pass each other by unscathed ]
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Two concepts from political science that deserve to be interlaced:

The Overton Window:

The Overton Window is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.

But the Overton Window can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support. Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare. More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms.

Source:

  • Mackinac Center, A brief explanation of the Overton Window
  • **

    And The Covington Scissor:

    In a short story published last October, “Sort by ntroversial,” Scott Alexander imagines a Silicon Valley company that accidentally comes up with an algorithm to generate what it calls a “Scissor.” The scissor is a statement, an idea or a scenario that’s somehow perfectly calibrated to tear people apart — not just by generating disagreement, but by generating total incredulity that somebody could possibly disagree with your interpretation of the controversy, followed by escalating fury and paranoia and polarization, until the debate seems like a completely existential, win-or-perish fight.

    When you start arguing with someone over a Scissor statement, “at first you just think they’re an imbecile. Then they call you an imbecile, and you want to defend yourself. … You notice all the little ways they’re lying to you and themselves and their audience every time they open their mouth to defend their imbecilic opinion. Then you notice how all the lies are connected, that in order to keep getting the little things like the Scissor statement wrong, they have to drag in everything else. Eventually even that doesn’t work; they’ve just got to make everybody hate you so that nobody will even listen to your argument no matter how obviously true it is.”

    Source:

  • Ross Douthat, The Covington Scissor
  • **

    What happens when you Covington Scissor the Overton Window all the way open?

    One half of the answer can be found in this title and sub-title by Amy Davidson Sorkin:

    The Democratic Primary’s Moving Margins:
    In the first debates, radical ideas were as much at the center of the action as at the fringes.

    The other half is even more obvious, IMO — the Republican margin has been shifting to the further and far right, or at least that’s the view of political scientist Keith Poole of the University of Georgia:

    The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years

    And the result, Overton-Window-wise?

    Getting there..

    Achtung!

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    Whoa boy, Roy Lichtenstein

    Sunday, June 30th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from comix-pop to painting paint to a swirling portrait of complexity, aka tohu=bohu ]
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    Whoa boy, I had no idea Roy Lichtenstein ever painted anything like this:

    **

    I knew, of course, that he’d painted blown-up mersions of comic frames:

    Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Purchased 1966

    But that’s too easily “cool” to impress me much. Far more interesting is his painting of painting:

    He’s still doing a blow-up, in this case even more extreme than in his comic-book blow up Whaam, above — but this time it’s self-conscious, a painter taking paint for his subject, a serpent biting its own tail you might say, an exemplary ouroboros.

    **

    And in the course of my quick search for Lichtenstein images, I also found this, which interests me as, potentially, an image of multiple musical voices intersecting and separating — a strange, wave-like form of polyphony:

    Composition II 1996 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015

    This in turn reminds me of the “wavy music” in Reynolds Stone‘s bookplate for my aunt Esther:

    **

    But to return to that first image:

    That’s an astonishing image of tohu-bohu, the “formless and void” just before creation as envisaged in Genesis. And here’s my point:

    This image is both patterned (with formal properties) and abstract (formless), as befits that great mirror in which all forms arise and fade away, and thus a superb image for complexity, which is both patterned like overlapping waves, and swirling beyond our comprehension..

    **

    Here’s R Cromb‘s version of tohu-bohu:

    And that of the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493:

    **

    Ah, for a breath of theology hovering above the waters, see Catherine Keller & a theology of chaos, Part 1 and, no doubt, Catherine Keller, The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming.

    Rachel Maddow’s mille feuille explanation of Mar-a-Lago layering

    Monday, April 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — think of these screen-grabs as frames in a comic, okay? — delicious ]
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    Rachel Maddow:

    on having her first taste of mille feuille on her b’day —

    **

    Rachel:

    Apparently this is a whole category of dessert ..

    It looks like a normal cake from the outside .. That is what this news story out of Florida is .. So it’s not s million layers of cake, it’s a million layers of weirdness, one on top of another, that culminate in tonight’s news story ..

    Rachel:

    At this point in the delicious layer cake, we’ve got the massage parlor owner selling Chinese nationals personal physical access to the President, his family and cabinet-level officials in the administration, while she is simultaneously hanging out at the President’s private club, taking pictures with him, and working with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government in a number of murky organizations that seem to have no public-facing purpose.

    Rachel:

    Layer on top of that, the arrest on March 30th, of a new lady we had not heard of before ..

    Undisclosed cash flowed at Trump inaugural ball with ties to China, embattled Saipan casino

    and so forth…

    **
    And here’s the icing (?) on the cake:

    Three is a general purpose interest of embodied minds

    Friday, April 5th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — threes in knotting, braiding, math and bell ringing — in service to governance, and the recognition of pattern within complexity ]
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    One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so..
    Two is both duel and duet..
    and three:

    **

    Well, those are knots, of the Celtic variety. I cam across those images because Tony Judge pointed me to the animations in a piece he’d written, Exploring Representation of the Tao in 3D: Virtual reality clues to reconciling radical differences, global and otherwise?

    which gets me thinking about thinking in threes —

    — which has been an interest of mine for some time, see below —

    **

    And as is always the case with Judge‘s offerings, a plethora of his links called to me, and I wound up taking a look at his paper, Governance as “juggling” — Juggling as “governance”: Dynamics of braiding incommensurable insights for sustainable governance

    — incommensurable insights is another topic of considerable interest to me —

    — and that in turn brought me to this illustration of two instances of triple thinking about incommensurables from Australia — a triple helix and braiding:

    **

    Which brings us in turn to Borromean Rings and Knots:

    Now the question to consider with each and all of these illustrations of threeness is whether they trigger any thoughts about the juggling and hopefully braiding and balancing of incommensurable forces in governance.. okay?

    **

    You’ll have noted that the braiding illustration from the Australian double illustration above is a representation of a juggling pattern. Wikimedia has dozens of such patterns with various numbers of balls, heights to which they are lobbed, &c, — and they’re fascinatingly eye-catching — mesmerizing, in fact.

    Take a look at just three of them:

    Juggling trick 3b box3BallBurkesBarrage3-ball Mills mess

    Selection of animations of 3-ball juggling patterns by one juggler
    (derived from juggling patterns in Wikipedia)

    **

    I mean:

    **

    Wow, and okay:

    Now if a pattern of juggling can be represented as a pattern of braiding, we have a comparable situation to Ada Countess of Lovelace‘s brilliant cross-disciplinary leap of insight that the logical patterns Charles Babbage used to program for his proto-computing Analytical Engine could be represented in the punched cards used by Jacquard looms in the production of patterned fabrics:

  • James Essinger, Jacquard’s Web
  • **

    Am I — is Tony Judge — are we — out on a limb?

    Judge offers documentation of the mathematical side of things here:

    As indicated by Burkard Polster (The Mathematics of Juggling [excerpt], Monash University, 2003), the diagram above-right shows what the trajectories of juggling the basic 3-ball pattern look like (viewed from above). The three trajectories form the most basic braid. Braids are recognized as important mathematical objects. It has been shown that every braid can be juggled in that sense (Polster, 2003; Matthew Macauley, Braids and Juggling Patterns, 2003; Satyan Devadoss and John Mugno, Juggling braids and links, The Mathematical Intelligencer, 29, 2007). The implications have been further discussed separately (Potential cognitive implications of toroidal helical movement, 2016; Category juggling reframed through visualization dynamics, 2016).

    And again, let’s remember Tony Judge‘s reason for his interest in juggling and braiding in the first place:

    “juggling” is widely used as a metaphor to describe the challenge of responding to conflicting priorities in governance

    Judge has eighteen bibliographic supports for that assertion, including:

  • Trump Forced to Juggle Syria Response, Rage Over Mueller Probe (WSJ, 13 April 2018)
  • Trump juggling 75 pending lawsuits with a presidential campaign (CNBC, 27 October 2016)
  • The art of juggling political values and Trump (WaPo, 13 April 2018)
  • **

    Noting the correspondence between juggling — a circus-performer’s art — and braiding — not quite knitting, not quite knotting, and don’t those two words fit well together — an art associated with the decoration of hair and ribbons — I wondered whether there might not be a musical analog in counterpoint, and posted my inquiry on Twitter using this diagram of braiding:

    **

    I was fortunate: Change-ringing, surely very speedily responded to my inquiry:

    Change-ringing, surely

    The art of change-ringing in British churches and among hand-bell ringers is indeed the classic example of highly constrained and patterned musical counterpoint, so I happily Googled away in search of a change-ringing pattern comparable to my braiding patternc[left side, below], and came across the pattern [right side] in a page on the Cambridge Surprise Minor changes:

    Just Knecht, too, had some interesting observations & questions..

    **

    Metaphor, analogy, parallelism — these are avenues into the creative process in general, and threeness analogies and metaphors interrupt our usual binary cognitive processing in a way that enhances our capacity to comprehend complexity.

    I’m therefore offering this post to Ali Minai and Mike Sellers, in the hope that it will serve as a provocation to their already advanced thinking about systems dynamics. Tony Judge, obviously enough, it’s also a tribute to you…

    Previous posts of mine with threeness as a topic include

  • Of games III: Rock, Paper, Tank
  • Numbers by the numbers: three / pt 1
  • Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games
  • Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games
  • Numbers by the numbers: three .. in Congress
  • Spectacular illustration of a game of three
  • Threeness games — some back-up materials

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