Complex Adaptive Systems & Essentialities LO17536

Novick, David T (
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 11:41:09 -0800

Frankly and honestly, the content of the dialogue between de Lange
and Dressler is proceeding much too fast for this reader to get a word, or
question, in edgewise. For some weeks, I have been reading all relevant
commentary about the seven essentialities from de Lange as well as the
cross commentary, pro and con. I have viewed the content with extreme
interest, at first uncertain of its implication and relevance, and then
with fascination as it produced more ah-ha's.

Much of this printed dialogue has motivated me into reviewing what
I once learned about the thermodynamics of nonlinear, irreversible or
nonequilibrium reaction systems. Fortunately, my training is in solid
state materials from both the engineering and applied science points of
view. Also, I deal every day with nonlinear production and business
processes. Therefore, I not only understand the concept of entropy
production but also have a practicing knowledge of complex, nonlinear
systems. This experience and training leads me to accept the concepts
driving the study of complex adaptive systems, though I am not as
knowledgeable of the particulars as I obviously, at least to me, should

Recently, a member of the LO pointed to a government document of a
book pre-publication titled "Coping with the Bounds" by T. Czerwinski. On
accessing the document from the designated DoD web site, I almost jumped
out of my chair when I read the following:

"Complex adaptive systems, or cas, contain seven basic attributes.
These consist of four properties(aggregation, nonlinearity, flows and
diversity) and three mechanisms (tagging, internal models and building

The underlining and bold type are mine, for obvious reasons.

[Host's Note: underlining and bold type were lost when David's msg was
converted to plain text email. ...Rick]

Not certain of the implications, most of my free time these past
two weeks has been spent trying to relate de Lange's seven essentialities
to these seven basic attributes. I believe I have detected at least six
corresponding pairings with six of the seven essentialities. The missing
relationship is that of nonlinearity and becoming-being. (Some of the
following is taken verbatim from the Czerwinski document, however, much is
my attempt at paraphrasing what is in print.)

1. Aggregation: (open-paradigm; the open and transitive nature
of reality) Concerns emergence of complex large-scale behaviors from the
aggregate interactions of less complex agents.
2. Nonlinearity: The whole is not equal to the sum of its parts.
Interaction between distinct variables contribute to the complexity of the
behavior of the aggregate.
3. Flows: (connect-beget; the effective contacts between various
parts of reality) Two attributes; multiplier effect and recycling. Nodes
and connectors where nodes are processors (agents) and connectors
designate possible interactions. Appear and disappear as agents adapt or
fail to adapt. Patterns reflect changing adaptations in time as
experience accumulates.
4. Diversity: (quality-variety; the diverse nature of reality)
Unstable agents are replaced by similar agents, different enough to
achieve greater stability.

1. Tagging (identity-categoricity; the uniqueness of every part
of reality) Facilitates formation of aggregates. Allows agents to select
among agents or objects that would otherwise be indistinguishable and
provide basis for filtering, specialization and cooperation.
2. Internal Models: (associativity-monadicity; the wholeness of
reality) Tacit models prescribe a current action under an implicit
prediction of some desired future state. Overt models are used as a basis
for explicit, but internal, exploration of alternatives (lookahead).
3. Building Blocks: (quantity-bounded; the quantitative nature
of reality) Serve to impose regularity on a complex world, especially when
a new situation is encountered. Application of learned experience to
current, developing situation.

I am not certain de Lange would agree with the above
correspondences and there is the question of the unmatched pair. My
opinion is that in the de Lange model for creativity, nonlinearity is
implicit and he has simply not felt it was a driving requirement. After
rereading Priggogine, I am of the strong opinion, nonlinearity is an
essentiality. I also feel becoming-being is the flux-force pair that
defines the bifurcation point; cas, creativity or other nonreversible
action; that is to say, it is not an essentiality itself but still, if all
the remaining essentialities operate, emergence rather than immergence

What is of further interest, when one considers becoming-being as
a pair, becoming is nonlinear and being is linear. If I understand the
concept properly, when emergence occurs, the system becomes more ordered,
therefore, becoming-being is the proper order at the bifurcation point. I
may be way off the mark here, its been many years, but I seem to recall
that in order/disorder systems, the ordered state had higher entropy than
the disordered state at the same temperature. This has something to do
with the greater degrees of freedom in the disordered state. If that is
so, then the order produced by an emergence will require entropy
production as one goes from disorder to order on passing through the
bifurcation point.

Then again, maybe it is simply a difference in definition of what
is and what is not an essentiality. In that case, maybe there are truly
eight and not seven.

David Novick

David T. Novick e-mail:
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