The world we experience operates according to a complexity
spiral. The world we experience includes the social system,
the economic system and the ecosystem.
The lion does not exist without the antelope . . . does not exist without the grass . . .
does not exist without the decomposers. This is a food web in which nothing exists
unless it fits within the pattern of interactions generating the flow of nutrients
through the system.
Consumers need businesses producing a full range of goods and services . . . need
employees to do the work . . . need suppliers delivering the raw materials . . . need
customers with jobs to be consumers. This is the basics of an economic system in
which nothing exists unless it fits within the pattern of interactions generating the flow
of money in one direction and goods and services flowing in the other direction.
In both instances there is a continuum. On one end of the continuum is the minimum
number and variety of participants to constitute an economy or an ecosystem . . .
beyond this point the system is barren and sterile. On the other end of the continuum
is the maximum number and variety of participants that can fit within the pattern of
interactions generating the flows . . . in this direction we think of the system as
Movement along the continuum appears as a spiral over time.
The variety of participants (different kinds filling different roles) (diversity)
determines the nature of interactions that can take place (more variety,
more kinds of interactions). The more kinds of interactions that can take
place (complexity) determines the number of ways that each participant
can meet its needs (stability, resilience) in order to continue participating.
As each interaction produces a flow (nutrients, goods, services, money),
the more interactions the more productive the system. The more that
there is flowing through the system the larger the number and variety
of participants that can fit.
Mathematically we would express it as:
diversity -> complexity -> stability -> productivity -> and diversity as a spiral. In an
ecosystem we are talking about the number of different species when we say
diversity - in an socio-economy we are talking about the number of different forms
of organization (businesses, governments, non-profits, social/religious organizations,
educational organizations) when we say diversity. In the whole system we are talking
An increase in the number of species/organizations (diversity) -> increases the number
of ways that each species/organization can interact (complexity) -> increases the
likelihood that interactions will take place (stability) -> increases the actual number of
interactions that do take place (productivity) -> increases the opportunity for additional
types of interaction (new niches) and if those niches are filled that is an increase in
diversity - completing the cycle. It also works in reverse if we reduce any of those numbers.
Imagine a graph on a horizontal plane with x and y axis defining four quadrants with each
of the quadrants labeled diversity/complexity/stability/productivity. Now imagine a z axis -
perpendicular to the plane - labeled time. As we increase the numbers in any of the
quadrants, the number in all the quadrants becomes higher and our reference point moves
away from the z axis. If we decrease the numbers in any quadrant, the number in each
quadrant becomes lower and our reference point moves toward the z axis.
Over time, viewed from the side, our reference point would spiral around the z axis
becoming wider or narrower as a function of increase or decrease in diversity.
Evolution uses a trial and error approach to filling niches that are created by
increases in productivity. If we understand system function in 3 dimensions,
we have the capacity to design new bridges to fill unoccupied niches. That
is not a new insight - every new business (or other successful new form of
organization) is exactly that. It is just that the organizations formed from a
2nd dimensional understanding sometimes result in the unintended
consequences of diminishing complexity in the system and have failed to
realize the potential value latent in the unrealized human and biological
potential of the system (poverty and environmental degradation).
This explanation of complexity spirals is expressed in quantitative terms.
The aspect of quality is controlled through the requirement that participants "fit" within
the pattern of flows. We cannot maintain a pattern of interactions unless every party
can continue to participate in the exchange of value. So our new forms must "fit"
within the patterns of flow - if they are going to persist and reproduce.
See Paul Krafel's, The Upward Spiral.
It is a different way of understanding the world as explained in The Power of Networks.
See Fritjof Capra's explanation of the "essence of life".
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