Diversity LO20207

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Thu, 17 Dec 1998 13:58:42 +0200

Replying to LO20173 --

Dear Organlearners,

Don Dwiggens < d.l.dwiggins@computer.org > writes:

>Nevertheless, I'd like to step back again and focus on the
>possibility of a larger rhythm consisting of diversification
>followed by a reduction in diversity as a natural, inevitable
>characteristic of the evolution of complex systems.

Greetings Dwig,

I think we have to discuss the word "rhythm".

I would like to use the phrase "recurring pattern" and then
distinguish between regular (cyclic) and irregular (stochastic)
catastropihies. Both regular an irregular catastropjies contribute to
this pruning process which you have described.

I am sorry that in your previous contribution I got the impression
that you ascribed this pruining to the regularity with which it
happpnes rather than the catastrophical nature with which it happens.

(Snip -- preyty good examples).

>Is it possible that, as a system diversifies, _some_ agent,
>internal or external, will always arise to "prune" the system's
>diversity? Could this be looked at as a kind of "annealing"
>that keeps a system from getting stuck at a "local maximum"
>of diversity or complexity?

Dwig, is not only a possibility. It has been part of this universe
ever since its creation to cut away "excess baggage" (as I prefer to
call it) in order to "purify what is essential" for a new higher order
of diversification. The excess baggage prevents effective contacts for
the new order to emerge.

It all has to do with where the control of the "entropy production"
lies, outside or inside the system. When the control lies outside the
system and the entropy production is massive, it usually results into
a catastrophy for the system. In other words, it usually results into
destructive immergences rather than contructive emergences. When the
control lies within the system and the system follows the route of
MINIMAL entropy production, then the system will bifurcate much more
into constructive emergences, even if the system needs several
attempts to do so.

Here is an example. A patient needs surgery as a matter of life and
death. The patient is on a prescription of an anticoagulating
substance like Warferin. Thus the person will bleed excessively during
and after operation because of a low PI (blood coagulating index). But
the person is also completely allergic to all blood products so that
the person cannot get a blood transfusion. Thus the person's PI have
to increase before the opeartion can be done. This can be done from
the outside by injecting high doses of vitamin K. However, every dose
may cause the formation of a blood clot. After the first dose it is
discovered by sonar technology that a blood clot has indeed formed in
the heart. Any further dose would be catastrophic. Thus the person's
own body now has to destroy the Warferine in the body. This can take
up to a week. In the mean time the person is in desparte need of the
surgery. Can you imagine how taxing it is to live the next week at the
edge of chaos while waiting for the body to prepare itself?

>To return to learning organizations: if this is the case, we
>should be able to observe the phenomenon in organizations
>that have been around for some time. If we look, for example,
>at the "visionary companies" of Collins and Porras'
>"Built to Last", they've certainly had their ups and downs.
>Could these be understood as inherent "long wave" cycles in
>successful systems?

As far as I understand it, definitely yes. But again, although the
pattern will be recurring "should the organisation be around for some
time" long enough , we must be careful not to assume a regular
ocurrance. In each of the ocurrance it may be a completely different
set of conditions which initiated the down and up.

The part where the dog bites its own tail, is to find a common pattern
among these seemingly different sets of conditions. The most
remarkable common pattern for me of such recurring changes in
organisation is the force-flux pairs giving rise to "entropy

>I'm concerned that, if there is a general principle here, we
>should learn about it, and how to work with it, rather than
>trying to fight it (as we're learning to do with forest fires,
>for example).

I am concerned just as you. But have you ever contemplated the fact
that this "general pricipal" may be part of a paradigm shift. In that
case, people will fight the shift screamingly because of vested
interests in the old paradigm.

Dwig, thanks to your contribution, I have a new metaphor to illustrate
what happens with a paradigm shit. A pardigm shift instigates a
mind-fire, doing some pruning like a forest fire.

Here is an interesting fact. The bushland and savannah biomes of
Southern Africa need periodic fires (we call them "veld fires") to
rejuvenate themselves. Thus almost all the shrubs and trees of these
biomes are resistant to veld fires. However, it is not the case for
the majority of alien (exotic) shrubs and trees from other continents
(except those from, example, the Gran Chaco of South America where
frequent veld fires also occur). You should see what our veld fires do
to them - destroying them in a wink.

Unfortunately, these exotic schrubs and trees usually get out of
control along water courses, wetlands and damp cliffs where these veld
fires do little damage. (They usually also have no other natural
enemies.) These regions originally served as gene reservoirs, but
because of having been repopulated by exotics, they cannot function as
reservoirs any more. This has a drastic influence on those indigenous
species which themselves are not very resitant to veld fires.

The metaphoric implications to human organisations are immense.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>