It’s thousands of years, since human kind recognized its existence, human beings ask their selves who they are, where they come from, why they exist and what can they do.
Now the human being knows he’s the last link of an evolutive process that transformed the simplest matter, gas, in complex organisms. He knows his origin is life.
But why does he exist? Logic and reason induce us to believe we exist to exert a task belonging to the environment we are part of. Ok, but what task? Are we a simple manifestation of a creative power determining our own nature and our destiny, and therefore, one of the many expressions of a course transforming all that exists from the simplest condition to the most complex one, or are we or could we be ourselves the authors changing reality?
Do we exist by chance or by necessity? If we exist by chance then we would be the product of an evolutive process determined by a set of attempts with unpredictable effects. If we exist just because of necessity, we would be a transitory condition of a reality which tends towards an aim incomprehensible to us.
A third hypothesis is we exist due to necessity, and this is how we are, with our intelligence, as a result by chance. The cause could be the original necessity of the universe to pass, always in the balance between order and chaos, from a starting maximum simplicity condition to always more complex conditions. The case could be the way through which the transformation from the most simple condition to the most complex one takes place.
According to this perspective, we would need universe as universe would need us. Some support that because universe has existed for years without us, the same universe will continue to exist without us. As it happened with all the existent species that now are extinct.
But there’s a substantial difference between dinosaurs and human being: the brain, the intelligence quotient. Intelligence is the criterion between us and all the other living forms. And intelligence is power. It doesn’t matter if bacteria, as well as dinosaurs, and we are effect of chance. What is important is if we are intelligent enough to be able to change reality, or if we are completely affected by reality.
It could easily be that our intelligence isn’t enough to modify the evolutive process based on selection. In that case, any attempt by our part would be useless. But it could even be that humanity in its whole is an evolutive condition of reality able to affect the same reality it was produced by and which it’s part of. If that’s the way it is we have two possibilities: attempt to modify the evolutive process to discover if we are intelligent and therefore powerful enough to manage in this venture or to adapt to the evolutive process and accept our end. It’s not a case of being or not being but to be willing or not to be willing, to try or not try.
Not wanting means accepting the certainness of our end. Wanting means accepting the risk of rebelling to our end. So, for the first time since a universe exists, a whole of its parts, humanity, can choose, can decide, to do or not to do. This is the peculiarity of the human being.
It’s probably true that the universe could continue its evolution also without humanity. We could be a chance able to affect the whole universe but also a wasted chance, and in this case, there is no reason to think there will be other ones in future.
Even so, what we can understand isn’t the simple dichotomy between adapting to reality emulating the past or trying to build a different one with the risk not to succeed. This is a commonplace. The real dichotomy is between certainness of the end and the risk not to be able to avoid it.
The choice between these two dichotomies depends on fear. If you are afraid, you choose the maximum chance rate even if you know it will bring you to the end. If you win fear, you rebel to the certainness of the end and you try to avoid it. An example is death. At a certain point each one of us perceives death. We are afraid of it and we remove it from conscience, escaping in the hope or believing or accepting it as non-eliminable. From then on one surrenders to death, lives to die.
If, instead of removing it from conscience, we would decide to face the fear of death with reason, human kind would live to live, using life as unique chance to defeat death. So, living in order to change the world means having the defeat of death as final aim.
Can the world be changed? It’s time now the wise of every culture have been questioning themselves about this possibility, first through religious visions and philosophic speculations, then through testing and simulation. Finally, some started to search for an answer by weaving together every type of knowledge, from science to fantasy, from deduction to intuition, from empiricism to abstraction. Everything can be analyzed, verified, considered, reorganized and therefore in a certain sense, changed.
According to some, it’s impossible to change the world and it can only be improved. For these people, due to spatial and temporal limits it’s impossible to change the world. Therefore, they believe that those addressing themselves with the problem are such an infinitesimal part of the whole that they absolutely won’t be able to affect the whole. At the same time, they believe a real changing process would require much more time than that available to those wanting to change the world. So, it’s better to address and work towards improving life and environmental conditions, without straying in utopias. This way, they believe to face what’s faceable, solve what’s solvable and avoid sacrificing oneself for an unfeasible aim. One accepts evil as natural and non-eliminable character of reality and hopes to be able to find a new reality after this life.
According to others, the world changes naturally and continuously through evolution. For who believes this way, we are simple objects of a process of events partly causative and partly fortuitous that will repeat until the end of time. We may as well adapt to this natural process, trying to take and exploit favorable occasion and react as possible to the unfavorable ones, rather than rebel. Anyway evolution is based on selection and this suggests that live better those ho better adapt to the rules of nature. In this view, humanity isn’t other than one of the never-ending expressions of cosmic intelligence, without a particular function regarding the whole. We are just the result of evolution and live in a process condition started billions of years ago before us and that will continue after us, also without us.
Others again believe that while everything seems to change, really it remains as it was. Who shares this conviction believes that everything is substantially immutable and that changes just represent our perception of the events, which in fact, repeat endlessly. They analyze history and surrender to it’s repeating in the future. Nothing new under the sun. And because it seems true that the whole absorbs each part, considering each part of the whole pushed but also affected by the whole. The remaining, for them, is pure illusion.
Who dares to rebel to those three convictions (changing the world is impossible, the world changes on its own, it looks like everything changes but everything repeats) passes off as a visionary and is emarginated. Because his useless. Indeed, generates illusions that often resulted in disasters. Who thinks (and declares) that, even if it had developed by chance, that doesn’t mean humanity can’t undertake the function to affect everything and try to change the same laws that produced our intelligence, is considered mad. Who proposes and acts to build a future different from the one reason allows foreseeing is judged as a dreamer or even a paranoiac or megalomaniac.
Yet, there must be a reason if someone rebels and believes that the world can be changed. Why, instead of thinking just to himself, a person that for luck or for chance could live better should believe it’s possible, renouncing personal benefits and accepting costs, that everyone could live better and act consequently, if it wasn’t possible to change the world? It wouldn’t be logic.
Couldn’t it bee instead that, despite the acquired knowledge allows us to understand the great majority of the rules of reality and although it appears possible to adopt solutions able to transform it, we don’t want to make the effort to act consequently accepting the costs? Couldn’t it be that the puppet that could now be able to be the puppeteer prefers to keep doing the puppet? Because it’s easier, less engaging requires less responsibility and basically allows gaining more pleasure during a normal life. So, in the end, everyone thinks first of all of himself. And thinks and acts for himself setting the rest aside. Nobody feels the need to overcome oneself and believes renouncing requires more will than conquer.
What’s the world? What do we mean for world? For world we mean the universe humanity and its planet are part of. Therefore, for world we intend from the smallest part of energy to the universe as its whole. In this world, each human being is a microscopic particle and its life depends on the planet from which, as long as we know, the only kind of life in the whole universe exists. It could not be, it’ could be that there are other kinds of life in the universe; there could even be other universes. But while we can imagine any other possibility, we can only act according to the reality we know today. And the reality we know today is made by a huge universe were there is just one planet on which there is life. And in both cases, if this planet and the life existing on it are exceptions, or if there are other planets or other cosmic objects where there are other kinds of life, we must start from the reality we know. Which is already complex enough.
The whole universe is made of energy moving in space and time. Since universe had origin with space and time, the only essence before universe could have been motionless energy without time and space. That only essence wasn’t a whole of parts but one unique entity without space-time dimensions. Infinite, not being measurable is therefore energy without space and without time. Universe rises when the only primordial entity divides in two parts, of which one turns in to waves creating space and time. Since the beginning of time, the universe made of waves moving in space and time expands immersed within the motionless primordial energy with no time and space. Finished universe expands immersed in the infinite. The universe gives birth to the first system made of a whole of parts that, interacting with each other have become interdependent.
Why does world exist, i.e. why does something exist rather than nothing? One could reply, in a banal way, that for us the world exists so that we exist. It’s certainly a limited affirmation but at the time it’s the one that we can deduce from or knowledge. We can believe world is here for us. Or that we exist for the world. We could also believe the world exists for other reasons. But, in the end, the world is made of four elements: universe, Earth, life and us. On these four elements we must reason and according to them we can act.
How is the world? The world is a whole of systems. A system is a whole of elements forming an organic totality undergoing certain rules. The environment is the whole of energy, space, and time every system is part of. All systems are open. All systems interact with other systems and with the environment. There are no closed systems. The same universe, made of energy, space and time, in its whole is an open system in relation to the infinite in which it’s immersed.
Systems can be more or less complex. A complex system is a hole of more or less complex parts; each one of them interacts in a non-linear and inhomogeneous way with other parts of the system and with parts of other systems. Interaction is the fundamental process of complex systems. Each interaction is made of an action and retroactivity: each part acts directly or indirectly on other parts that in their turn retroact directly or indirectly on the acting part. Each part affects the closest ones by local and non-linear interactions (many interaction are contemporaneous).
What does non-linear mean? A linear system is a combination of equations, i.e. a sequence of equalities between more expressions with different variables (unknown quantities) and one constant. A system of non-linear interactions is the one in which at least one of them isn’t linear.
Interactions can be positive or negative. They are positive when retroactions are excitatory. They are negative when retroactions are inhibitory. A negative interaction allows the system to achieve dynamic balance. In the organisms the dynamic balance obtained from negative interactions is called homeostasis. Positive interaction instead, pushes the system away from its balance point and can make it explode. In the organisms, the unbalance obtained from positive interactions is called autocatalysis.
With autocatalysis, the catalyzing parts intervene to favor the union or separation of other parts of the system. In the autocatalysis systems different catalyzing parts interact with each other forming new parts which in their turn have catalyzing properties, this leading to the formations of a network able to strengthen itself and assign a competitive advantage to the constituent parts compared to those not in the network. It’s an example of tight correlation between cooperation and competition. Beyond a certain level of complexity we have a condition transition and a system becomes autocatalytic. Autocatalysis organizes matter and encourages emergency.
Algorithmic chemical models based on variety and reactivity concepts are able to produce autocatalysis and allow the emergency of vital structures through condition transitions to a higher organization level. Once the autocatalysis process is triggered it’s difficult to stop. We have circular causality or avalanche effects. As an example, more wealth is concentrated and more will concentrate: rich are always more richer and poor always poorer.
The parts of the system to which we can associate a numeric value, i.e. those representing measurable sizes, are called condition variables. The interaction between the parts of a complex system and of the system with the environment brings variations to the values of the system condition variables. The changing of the system in time represents the evolution of the system.
The feature the most amazing of the evolutions of complex systems, but not just of those, is the so-called butterfly effect. Butterfly effect stands for the extreme sensibility of a system to the starting conditions, in other words to perturbations. Little variations in the system starting conditions can result with time in enormous variations to the evolution of the system. To perturbate even just a little the condition of a complex system can change radically its behavior and evolution. Since it’s impossible to forecast every little perturbation of a system, the evolution of complex systems is completely unforeseeable. An example of butterfly effect is the billiards game: small variations in the impact point of a ball against other balls or the edge of the table determine big difference in the final position of the balls.
The theory of complexity overcomes the dualism order-disorder, from which those of cause-case, reason chaos, need-contingency, determinism-indeterminism, predictability-unpredictability stem. Between predictable order and unpredictable disorder there is a third case: unpredictable determinism. The unpredictable determinism gives birth to that dynamic balance placed on the edge of chaos, between the crystallization of an ordered system and the chaos of a disordered system.
All complex systems balanced on the border of chaos are unstable and precarious. If a perturbation pushes a system off its balance, the possible effects are two: either the system falls in to chaos or it finds a new balance, usually completely different from the previous one, on the border of chaos. Instead there is no chance of an absolute order, as that would cause the evolution process to cease.
One of the features of complex systems is resilience, i.e. the capability of a system to tolerate perturbations without loosing balance. Resilience is the effect of the redundancy of the parts, i.e. of their abundance: therefore no part is indispensable. In a complex system, when a perturbation has a higher valence than the resilience, the system evolves again towards a new balance.
Complex systems are called adaptive. The adaptive capability is the speed with which the system finds a new balance after the previous one. Adaptation is the mechanism according to which selection determines the evolutive success of a part (as an example a species of animal) of the system. Adaptation stems from selection and random mutations within the reproduction processes (in biological systems) or from learning and experience (in social systems). The modification of the features of a part takes place to reply to stresses coming from the environment where it operates. The adaptation is strictly related to the co-evolution and is at its maximum when half way between the stable condition and the chaotic one, i.e. on the border of chaos.
Learning through experience causes the modification of inner patterns for interpreting reality and allows the parts to adapt their own behaviors and evolve. Learning and experience allow evolution in social systems. The learning acts on the single part or on groups of parts and produces evolution in the system only if it can be transferred. The kind of learning can be distinguished in:
Learning through exploitation (perfectioning the already owned links) or learning through exploration (modifying the configuration of links). The links that work better will be rewarded compared to those less efficient.
Learning and experience result determinant, in a stable context were situations arise again substantially unchanged and there is little space for the unexpected. In a dynamic context, dominated by many variables, its chance to gain a notable importance as the sphere of chances widens and the choice of the best strategy actually goes depending on chance.
In a dynamic context cooperation (implicit or explicit) between agents of a system allows acting mutual adjustments and leads the chance of choices towards common aims.
A constant tendency of matter towards placing itself in always more complex shapes despite the tendency to disorder is implicit in the second principle of thermodynamics. There is a strict link between selection and self-organization.
When complex systems are in a chaotic condition, no organization is possible. When they are in an organized condition, organization is possible but depends on outer factors (top-down). When systems are balanced on the border with chaos, the parts reorganize themselves spontaneously. Self-organization doesn’t depend on outer factors but on the local interactions between their parts (bottom-up).
Examples of self-organization are the monogenesis, i.e. the differentiation and specialization of cells starting from one only fertilized cell, the brain, with the specialization of cerebral areas and the location of mental functions, and the social organizations with no leader, with specialized and functional tasks.
The brain can be interpreted as a network initially formed in a fortuitous way which subsequently self-organized itself. Experience accumulates owing to a positive retroaction process were the synapses used often strengthen compared to those not used (Hebbian mechanism). Memories fix in the strong groups of synapses. Cells group forming the elementary components of thought as mind activities, natural phenomenon merging spontaneously from the interaction of cerebral cells.
Other two features of the complex systems are attraction and emergency. An attractor is whole a dynamic system evolves towards after a sufficiently long time. To allow such whole to be defined as an attractor, the trajectories getting close to it enough have to remain close even if perturbed slightly. From a geometrical point of view an attractor can be a point, a curve, a variety or even a more complicated whole provided of a fractal structure and known as strange attractor. The description of the attractors of the chaotic dynamic systems is one of the successes of the chaos theory.
Emergency is a phenomenon or, better still, is a process through which simple rules give rise to complex structures. The starting event of an emerging process must be unexpected and unpredictable by the same structure it draws origin from.
Chaos regards a narrow whole of phenomena evolving in predictably unpredictable. In the chaos theory even the most complex dynamics respond to prearranged mathematic equations with unalterable and not adaptable.
Owing to chaos we have chance. Chaotic and singularly unorganized phenomena show evenness if considered on a larger scale, but this unevenness doesn’t allow the evolution of individual phenomena if not just on a statistic level. The irregular, chaotic and unpredictable nature of universe allows a statistical approach regarding phenomena in terms of probability and trends studied by quantic mechanics. Chance plays a determinant role in evolution as, it inserts new elements that succeed or fail depending on natural selection. Evolutive success or failure can depend, in their turn, on fortuitous facts, as for mammalians and dinosaur’s vicissitudes.
The role chance plays tends to downgrade when it’s the case of demonstrating the unavoidability of certain processes (autocatalysis, organized critical states). That clashes with the idea view is also moulded by unpredictable and fortuitous factors. Also the concept of the indissoluble connection between chance and need could be included in this context. In a dynamic context, dominated by many variables, it’s chance to gain a notable importance as the sphere of chances widens and the choice of the best strategy actually goes depending on chance. In a dynamic context cooperation (implicit or explicit) between agents of a system allows acting mutual adjustments and leads the chance of choices towards common aims.
Collective intelligence rises from this cooperation, meant as different that the aggregation and intelligence of its parts.
The latter doesn’t mean anthropocentrism at all. The collective intelligence of the human system mustn’t be considered a central of the universe but one of the manifestations and also of the functions of it.
Living in a complex system requires lateral thinking, capability to simplify as much as possible (without making things banal), humbleness and not arrogance, limit excesses, discipline, responsibility, not hegemony, not to reason by slogans, reason by viewing the whole picture, not to search for absolute order or chaos, dealing with the phenomena rising from the bottom.
Who is part of the world? All the matter and the energy forming the matter are part of the world but, as far as we know, humanity is the most complex system, therefore the most advanced, of the universe. It’s made of all the human beings; each one is therefore a sub-system of the human system.
Our task in the world stems from our complexity and our intelligence. We can accept it or not, but we all have to gain conscience that, as far as we know, right now the world’s future depends on us.
What does changing the world mean? Changing the world means to interrupt the concatenation of events, repair the effects of the evolutive process as manifested until now and modify the fundamental rule of the evolutive process, i.e. the structure of the system, meant as relation among its parts. Means to make an enormous qualitative leap, placing us not at the center of the universe but as means of change of the universe.
Changing the world means facing human as well as environmental problems and target solutions towards the overcoming of the supremacy of the vital systems compared to its parts, through a strategy allowing to use ourselves and our intelligences to achieve the final aim of maximum complexity and, together with, maximum possible perfection.
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