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Complex Adaptive Systems & Revolution

by Coco the Clown Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003 at 5:25 AM

This paper proposes a new theory on revolutionary change. This paper is motivated by the desire to fill a gap in understanding between those bound to traditional anarchist methodology of change and the new disorganized resistance movement, a movement promulgated by the author. The hope is to facilitate understanding of this new paradigm of revolution among traditional anarchists. The disorganized resistance movement encourages multithreaded revolutionary activities and thus seeks not to replace the traditional methodologies but to increase their utility by supplementing traditional methodology, which we consider to be a necessary but insufficient component of revolutionary struggle with that which it lacks, a complete revolutionary methodology adapted to the realities of modern life. This new methodology embraces the concept of meme-warfare. However, before addressing meme-warfare in detail (as we will in a future article), we introduce you to the underlying concept space.

Very interesting article.....

Complex Adaptive Systems & Revolution

Author: Stephen DeVoy

Introduction

This paper proposes a new theory on revolutionary change. This paper is motivated by the desire to fill a gap in understanding between those bound to traditional anarchist methodology of change and the new disorganized resistance movement, a movement promulgated by the author. The hope is to facilitate understanding of this new paradigm of revolution among traditional anarchists. The disorganized resistance movement encourages multithreaded revolutionary activities and thus seeks not to replace the traditional methodologies but to increase their utility by supplementing traditional methodology, which we consider to be a necessary but insufficient component of revolutionary struggle with that which it lacks, a complete revolutionary methodology adapted to the realities of modern life. This new methodology embraces the concept of meme-warfare. However, before addressing meme-warfare in detail (as we will in a future article), we introduce you to the underlying concept space.

A Very Brief Introduction to Complex Adaptive Systems

A good, yet brief, definition of complex adaptive systems (CAS) may be found here: Complex Adaptive Systems : A Nominal Definition (Kevin Dooley). For the purpose of this paper, the salient concept is this:

"A CAS behaves/evolves according to three key principles: order is emergent as opposed to predetermined, the system's history is irreversible, and the system's future is often unpredictable. The basic building blocks of the CAS are agents. Agents are semi-autonomous units that seek to maximize some measure of goodness, or fitness, by evolving over time. Agents scan their environment and develop schema representing interpretive and action rules. These schema are often evolved from smaller, more basic schema. These schema are rational bounded: they are potentially indeterminate because of incomplete and/or biased information; they are observer dependent because it is often difficult to separate a phenomenon from its context, thereby identifying contingencies; and they can be contradictory. Schema exist in multitudes and compete for survival."

Complex adaptive systems are akin to genetically based systems that evolve across generations in response to environmental changes and competition with other systems striving to exist upon the same resources. With respect to ideology and methodology, as it applies to humans and human society, there is profound overlap between the theory of complex adaptive systems and the theory of memes. Memes are best thought of as complex adaptive systems evolving within the collective mind of society. Memes compete for resources (human minds), compel individuals to defend them and act in a way conducive to their replication (reproduction), and perform these tasks for one reason and one reason only - their own survival. Thus, humans are hosts to memetic parasites. In sum, ideologies use humans as tools for their own ("own" refers to the ideology and not the host humans) survival. Ideologies will destroy many of their hosts is if this will increase the probability of their replication (e.g. suicide often spreads memetically).

Very Brief Introduction to Memes

Memes are to the collective mental environment what genes are to the biological environment. Memes are ideas or complexes of ideas that replicate from one mind to another (in the case of humans, through imitation or communication). Memes exist for themselves. Their primary "goal" is to replicate, just as the primary goal of all living things is to replicate. Memes compete with one another for resources within the environment (in this case, the resource is the mind). In so doing, they evolve, find a niche, and/or perish.

Natural memes do not exist for the benefit of their creators. They are selfish in nature and seek only to survive and replicate. Artificial memes are often created for the purpose of prompting individual humans or groups of humans to engage in behavior that benefits the creator of the meme. For example, advertising employs memes to prompt behavioral changes that benefit the sponsors or creators of the advertising. Once released into the world, unless fettered by an unnatural force, artificial memes evolve independently of the will of their designers just as natural memes do. Copyright law serves to provide an unnatural force to control the evolution of artificial memes.

Here is a brief definition of meme from the Hacker's Dictionary:

/meem/ [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the `hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.

Memes share many of the same properties as viruses. Many of the dangers associated with genetic engineering should hold true with respect to memetic engineering. In fact, human history provides proof. During various periods of human history artificial memes such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism, and Fascism have been let loose upon the world only to evolve into divergent forms some strains of which have done massive damage to humanity (e.g. in the form of war, environmental disaster, and genocide). Various memeplexes have benefited humanity greatly (e.g. the memeplex of science) and various memeplexes have harmed humanity greatly (i.e. the memeplex of fascism).

The Memeplex and its Relationship to Revolution

Ideological revolution is the victory of one memeplex over another. Individual humans, as hosts of one memeplex, organize themselves and overthrow the individual humans acting as hosts to another memeplex. For example, a communist revolution may be the victory of the Marxist memeplex over the Capitalist memeplex. Humans are used by the memeplex to accomplish its goal: replication and entrenchment. When one memeplex wins a revolution over another memeplex, all other memeplexes within the realm of the victor are either eradicated or become subject to the victorious memeplex. In no case can one really state, with honesty, that individual humans have won. The victory belongs to the memeplex and what follows is a new hierarchy of memeplexes, with the victor on the top.

Upon victory, a memeplex reorders the relationship between its human hosts so as to maximize its entrenchment. Humans are nothing more than resources to a memeplex. Anyone that has lived through Stalinism only to later leave and find themselves beneath a different memeplex will look back and see that the utopian dreams of Stalinism served only the ideology and not the humans sacrificed to its goals. The same can be said of American capitalism. It is no coincidence that within our corporatist culture we are referred to as "human resources," "tax payers," and "citizens." In no case does the state, the physical manifestation of the corporatist memeplex, recognize us as individual humans. We exist not for ourselves but for the benefit of the state and its supporting corporate entities. We are no less the hosts of a memetic parasite than are the subjects of a Stalinist state.

Within the context of the competition between memeplexes, revolution cannot be said to result in increased freedom. What humanity needs is to guarantee that it either does not become subject to a memeplex or that all successful memeplexes exist not only for their selfish replication but for the benefit of humanity and the individual humans that comprise humanity.

Revolution is Insufficient

Given that revolution cannot result in the liberation of humanity, a fact borne out by the nature of revolution (i.e. the victory of one memeplex over another), and given that the current situation is intolerable, an alternative to conventional revolution must be found. That alternative, I assert, is true anarchy. True anarchy will not permit the dominance of any single memeplex nor will it permit the organization of memeplexes into hierarchies. A permanent state of conflict between memeplexes is a necessary precondition to human liberation. Put in simple terms, only those societies in which no ideology prevails offer humanity true freedom.

What we need is not the victory of our ideology over all other ideologies, what we need is a permanent state of balance between order and chaos. Liberty resides in the region between order and chaos. That region is anarchy.

Anarchy is an Environment in Which Memeplexes Engage in Eternal Struggle

Many activists have criticized my methodology. This criticism is often based on a lack of understanding of this methodology. I have been described as "confused," "a pissed off liberal," and "opportunistic." Conversely, the reaction of non-activists to my methodology has been almost exclusively positive. This observation bolsters my theory. Most activists can be viewed as subjects of a memeplex. An activist, almost by definition, is someone that has chosen to spend much of his or her time for the benefit of an ideology (a memeplex) rather than for the benefit of himself of herself. Memeplexes use many methods of self defense. After all, their goal is to survive and replicate. Analogous to the defense mechanism used by biological systems, memeplexes often use individual humans as antibodies. Such deluded individuals give up their precious time and resources and dedicate themselves to destroying the invading memeplex and those that promulgate it. Since my philosophy aims to prevent the success of any and all memeplexes, it is not surprising that I would become the target of many of these "antibodies." (This is not to say that being an activist necessarily implies being an antibody for a memeplex. If one attacks another ideology in order to weaken it while embracing no ideology, one is acting as an anarchist. For example, I currently attack fascism and fascists not because I embrace an ideology, but because I believe it necessary to oppose whatever ideology currently dominates).

This may seem to be a contradiction. After all, my theory itself is a memeplex. However, my theory has been designed specifically to prevent the victory of all memeplexes, including itself. My memeplex is somewhat unique in that it is political in nature yet contains no political content. It does not seek to support a victory of communism over capitalism and it does not seek to support a victory of capitalism over communism. It seeks to promote a permanent non-victory for all memeplexes.

There is No Need for an Overarching Plan

Often, in the course of speaking to people on the street, I've been challenged to present a plan for a better society. It is by intent that I have no such plan. Some have claimed this an irresponsible position, however I disagree strongly. Nothing designed by humanity has ever reached a state of perfection. No social plan ever laid down has accomplished all of its goals nor has any such plan lasted an eternity. It seems to me that the true goal of an anarchist should be to NOT put forward a plan but to encourage an environment where progress is always possible and likely. Put differently, we do not need a plan, we need an environment that encourages continuous improvement of alternative plans, puts them into competition with one another, and results in a continuously improving environment for life on Earth (and perhaps, one day, beyond Earth).

The promulgation of a overarching plan necessitates the subjugation of individual humans to the plan. That is, plans need resources and resources have no choice in the matter. I no more wish to be a resource for your plan than you wish to be a resource for my plan. Plans are oppressive.

Where Do Complex Adaptive Systems Fit In?

Each ideological system and all of its derivations are examples of complex adaptive systems. Each derivation exemplifies an evolutionary branch of the initial system. That derivations exist attests to the fact that ideological systems evolve. If we view each ideological system as a complex adaptive system standing in a relationship of competition or symbiosis with all other other ideological systems, we must assume that an environment that seeks to encourage the natural development and evolution of each ideological system increases the probability that at least some subset of the entire suite of ideologies will reach a state beneficial to the humanity. This progressive outcome can be fostered and made more probable by increasing the understanding of individuals with regard to their relationship to memeplexes, how memeplexes work, and how to verify whether or not a memeplex benefits the individual supporting it or harms said individual. Individuals knowledgeable of the self serving nature of memeplexes (i.e. the nature of memeplexes is to use individuals as a means to reproduction of the memeplex and not specifically for the benefit of the hosting individual) will play an active role in deciding whether or not to host a memeplex. Thus, empowering the individual over the memeplex is essential to pruning memeplex-space (i.e. the universe of memeplexes), thus encouraging the evolution and spreading of those beneficial to humanity and discouraging the evolution and spreading of those harmful to humanity.

Humans can no more free themselves of memeplexes than can the natural environment free itself of biological life. Where life can take root, it will. Where memeplexes can take root, they will. However, understanding the nature of memeplexes puts us in a position of inviting, fostering, or actively tinkering with memeplexes. If we must be hosts to memeplexes (i.e. ideologies), we, as individuals, can and should play an informed role in selecting which ones we do or do not host.

As we have pointed out, dominance of any one memeplex leads to stagnation as the motivation for evolution is destroyed. Thus, we should encourage the simultaneous existence and operation of as many good memeplexes (i.e. those that benefit humanity) as possible. Towards this end we must support ideological pluralism, dissent, experimentation and ideological (rather than physical) conflict. As a means of arming individuals with the tools they need to make good choices about which memeplexes to host or to reject, we must encourage rational thinking, knowledge acquisition, scientific method and critical thought. This call applies not only to those with whom we disagree, but with those amongst our ranks as well. Too many anarchists have become non-thinking rhetorical agents antagonistically opposing the evolution of anarchism itself, favoring a traditional approach and a traditional conception of exactly what it is that we are fighting. I propose that we have not yet succeeded exactly because our traditional techniques do not work. While strikes, propaganda of the deed, and class warfare may have their place or even been necessary, they are not sufficient. If they were sufficient, they would have already accomplished their goals. Worse yet, they are often counterproductive. When we ignore the desire for tranquility and security that motivates the minds of most individuals and engage in acts that increase the sense of a threat to tranquility and security, we hand to the proponents of the state a powerful argument to oppose us. Such techniques only have a chance of success if we can provide an alternative structure in which the average man and woman already feels secure. Thus, real change requires providing an alternative to the current system before the current system is threatened. Capitalism did this by constructing a new economic order before its anti-monarchist revolutions and this is why capitalist revolutions succeeded. Marx himself recognized this. Lenin and Stalin failed to embrace this concept and produced a revolution that ultimately floundered.

There is much to be learned by the success of the capitalist memeplex. This is not to say that the capitalist memeplex benefits humanity. Many strong arguments support the opposite conclusion. However, what is important to note is that capitalism emerged as a reality BEFORE is became formalized in the form of the state. Communism, on the other hand, was born as an act of will and failed. The lesson seems to be that success is rooted in natural evolution of ideas and not in acts of will or planning by humankind. Successful alternatives for humanity, then, will emerge from the interaction of existing ideological systems and not as acts of will. Producing a plan by which others shall live is an act of arrogance. Reality is too complex and reality is subject to constant change. We have neither the individual or collective intelligence nor the foresight to design an ideology that will best serve humankind. The same can be said for the human species itself. We have neither the individual or collective intelligence nor the foresight to design, from scratch, the human genome, resulting in an entity as complex as the human itself. Without a God, however, such a complexity did arise. It arose not by design and not by the domination of a single species, but through the competition of many species through a changing environment over time. Humans emerged, they were not designed. If there ever will be a utopia or near utopia, it will emerge in a similar fashion and not be the product of design.

Thus, the most rational form of anarchism is one that recognizes that anarchy is the environment that best encourages the optimal operation of complex adaptive ideological systems. The environment best fit for the evolution of such systems is that region between organization and chaos (i.e. an environment where change is encouraged but natural constraints prevent chaos (in our case, the constraint is reason)). Anarchism, therefore, is the fine line between organization and chaos. As soon as we become rhetorical we cease to be anarchists. As soon as we become nihilists, we cease to be anarchists. Those that hold tightly to a single memeplex are not fully anarchists. They may be anarcho-communists and they may be anarcho-capitalists but they are not fully anarchist. True anarchism embraces the right of individuals to be anarcho-communists, anarcho-capitalists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and even Republicans, provided the choice to be any of these (or any other thing) is voluntary. The true anarchist chooses to be none of these but struggles to permit all of these to co-exist.

Conclusion

Anarchism is not an ideology, it is a methodology. The goal of anarchism is to encourage non-hierarchical competition of ideas and non-hierarchical relationships between individuals. However, anarchism does not dictate to individuals what their choices should be and what their ideologies should be. Anarchists should encourage, rather than discourage, the simultaneous existence of competing ideological systems. Anarchists should reject the notion that the goal is to provide a plan by which others should live. Rather, anarchists should focus on the goal of producing an environment where ideologies are free to develop and where individuals are sufficiently educated to make wise personal choices about which ideologies to embrace or reject. Anarchists should not confuse anarchism, the methodology, with anarchistic ideologies such as anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalism. There is a reason why these belief systems are merely qualified by the modifier "anarcho." True anarchism is neither communist nor capitalist. It neither encourages nor discourages both to exist.

Now..... the question is, does anyone have a freaking clue what it is about?

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my 'splanation more rational Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003 at 7:56 AM
Don't expect any one paper to cover everything. Constanza Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003 at 2:21 PM
He's a rational anarchist. Normal Anarchist Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003 at 2:35 PM

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