Thursday, 6 December 2012

Next thing you know, they'll invent the screwdriver

This is a screwdriver.

Insert the blade into the screw as hinted in the picture, turn the screw 90 degrees, remove the blade, go back to the original position, turn the tool so you can use the other blade, reinsert it, another 90 degree turn of the screw, and so on. A screw can be tightened or removed in no time. In narrow and tight spaces that's the only tool which works. By the way, the blade is straight (not tapered), which means no extra force is needed to keep the thing engaged as you turn.

I found this tool thirty years ago in Hong Kong when I visited it with the yacht. On board it had a special place and no-one could use it without my personal permission; that's how important it was. Since then, right up to today, I haven't found anyone in Australia who immediately identified it for what it is, let alone had used it. I just checked the internet: hardware stores here, in the UK and the US offer all kinds of screwdrivers but not this one. It's not a comprehensive analysis, but still.

Back in 1981 some department stores in Australia and some stores that sold watches offered the first couple of versions of the emerging digital variety; simple things, just telling the time. That same year there was a street in Mumbai where sellers sat at dozens of tables selling digital watches by the hundreds, if not thousands. They had the functions we have come to expect.

I remembered those times when the 2012 conference on climate change went through its paces in Doha. As usual the representatives of governments argued about who should do what. The outcome was not encouraging. Given that the latest update on climate change promises a 2C rise in global temperature over the next twenty or thirty years as just about inevitable, for some people thoughts might turn to panic.

But then I thought about that screwdriver and those watches. While the rest of the world - well, certainly the developed world - had its established stores and advertising catalogues and consumers who thought they had it all, there were places where you could get things the rest of the world had not even heard of. That's enterprise at street level.

Some big items: while they were arguing in Doha, China has the largest contingent of wind generators in the world. Germany is one of the world’s top solar cell installers. At a recent energy conference in Melbourne about 80% of renewable energy products were from China.

But there is also the everyday detail, the things that tell about the atmosphere besides the official brochures. Business at any time of the day, bustling night markets, a population that generally works in step with each other, school children who sit still in class and who actually have to prove they are ready to advance to the next year, a cultural memory anchored in centuries and millennia, and entertainment which would make our finger-waggers choke on their digits.

I wonder what her audience made of Julia Gillard's revelation last month that Australia has recognised the importance of Asia and yes, we are going to be part of it.

There is no reason to believe among the billions there aren't enterprising souls - possibly as we speak - who put together something which addresses the challenges posed by climate change. Not to stop the effects, that's the job of governments if they ever get around to it, and mostly the battle is lost already. Rather, to create devices and habits which allow us to live with it. There is no guarantee idealists or romantics or moralists will approve, but apart from the rather ossified West there is a world out there where people make things happen anyway. It's the reason they got to where they are today, a productive balance between governments who have their plans but not the means and inclination to enforce every detail.

And so I still have my screwdriver printout and every so often I show it to someone - no? never seen it? And in Queensland there is bound to be yet another marketing campaign to sell The Sandy Beach overseas for a "family holiday" (no smokers please!), in the schools the children boil their brains in 30+C heat but it doesn't matter because next year they'll move to the higher class anyway, and in parliament they sledge each other over who is a misogynist.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Of flowers and people: the EU and Greece

Much has been said about the financial disparities between the member states of the European Union. Right now the willingness - some would call it an obsession - of keeping Greece within the EU has resulted in setting aside another chunk of euro billions to patch over Greece's insolvency. According to the latest reports 31.5 billion euros are waiting to go to Greece which the nation needs to pay its debts. “We need to find creative solutions,” AustrianFinance Minister Maria Fekter said

One could phrase the situation as follows.

Someone is so much in debt that he can't even pay the instalments. So he gets more money with further conditions attached. Why yet another loan should suddenly solve the problem is anyone's guess.

So, for the lender the money paid to the borrower is now lost to the account of the former (where it could have done more work), instead it is in the coffers of the latter where it causes things to get worse. The idea is of course that eventually all these sums get repaid, but that is not happening.

What if the additional sum is not paid in full, but minus a percentage which is used to earn interest for the lender (that side of the economy works, remember), the interest thus earned is diverted to the borrower who needs it. The conditions there are less onerous, and the total loan is not growing as it otherwise would. The result - less turmoil on the borrower's side, less angst for the lender, and in overall terms the money has never left the entire bloc anyway.

What of those flowers? Let's say there is a sick flower bed; no amount of watering and fertiliser help. One option is to grow the same flowers somewhere else where they are healthy and introduce some plants gradually into the sick group to slowly take over. In essence the approach is the same.

Perhaps the time has come to be more creative after all.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Those tricky (re)interpretations!

Recently two articles of mine were rejected because their reviewers had certain issues with them. What those are and my responses are described in detail on my website (My Home, The ISAA...).
On a more technical level (in terms of the Otoom mind model) however there are issues that go beyond someone's personal or political opinion.

A preconceived notion represents an already established cognitive template about what is to follow. Even if subsequent paragraphs explain more their mind is already set; so much so that further statements are not accepted because it is not what has been expected. The problem has been recognised in Neuroscience for some time now. Norretranders' "The User Illusion" [1] provides many interesting results from experiments along those lines.

Should the reader - or reviewer in this case - get any further response to a criticism this is constructed as further proof that the criticism has been correct all along. If not responded to (and so this kind of information spreads unchallenged) the preconceived perspective becomes the norm, further strengthening the framework (the template) from which further a priori perspectives and starting points are created.

Anything now not in line with that ambience (the results create indeed an entire ambience) are seen as beyond the standard and hence fair game for attack. This happens within general society and also within groups who tend to isolate themselves from the rest.

If a group has a large enough membership or their perspectives cover many areas, overlaps with other groups are possible through their respective intersections, although whether the entire ambience of a group can be altered via such links would depend on the conceptual scope of the latter.

Which raises certain questions: to what extent is the interplay between a group's composition, its parts, their mutual influence on each other, and the potential of any of them to be an agent for change, being realised? Are some groups more susceptible than others, and so which types make up a certain society at any given time, and if the overall conditions change would the groups change as well?

In other words, do the groups operating within a society determine the effectiveness of its environment, or is it the other way around? More likely it would be a combination of the two, which of course complicates the entire scenario to a large degree. This is an example of how the complexity of such an observation and its analysis can explode in a very short time.

As for the mix of the two possibilities, since we are dealing with complex dynamic systems, it would be virtually impossible to decide for one or the other, especially since by the time an observation yields a result those interdependencies have already come into play. At that point to talk about any particular directional cause-and-effect relationship is meaningless.

Does that mean any further analysis is therefore useless? Actually no, because although the initial direction is indefinable, since the dynamics operate in any case any decision at a given moment will have an effect provided it is followed by some action that involves the existing dynamics; that is to say, if the action occurs within its conceptual space.

In other words, it doesn't matter what the action at that moment produces (ie, a cause-and-effect relationship in this or that direction), some result will be produced. The validity of that result does not depend on the identification of the previous direction but depends on the efficacy of the action itself.

When information has passed back and forth between two entities (individuals, groups at any scale) and a third party injects some further information, then at that point the salient aspect is the affinity of the latter with the existing context.

It doesn't matter how that context was formed, its precise history is neither here nor there. If there is an affinity between the new information and the context, new connections will form between the two. The dynamic continues to evolve. This is the reason new concepts - sometimes called memes - form with their exact source often remaining unclear. 

Nevertheless, in practice accusations and remonstrations can ensue, but both sides are justified in arguing they are not the guilty party. In the immediate sense they are correct, but we are dealing with a type of system in which our understanding of exactitude does not hold - it's the nature of complex, dynamic systems.

All this is another manifestation of progression lock (the ongoing development of a scenario based on what happened previously), and the only way in which such a situation can be resolved - if this is the right word - is by either having an outside force capable of unseating a sufficient number of participating elements, or the system exhausts its reserves on its own (ie, those entities become ineffective). Functionally speaking both outcomes are the same.

A scenario where all parties are arguing to the hilt, and every accusation only making things worse despite no-one really desiring that turn of events, and above all everyone being equally responsible but no-one ever admitting to it ... does this sound familiar?


1. T. Norretranders, The User Illusion, Penguin Books, New York, 1998.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Geert Wilders: friend or foe?

Politics is so confusing.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen seems not to intervene in issuing a visa for Dutch politician GeertWilders. After delaying the decision since August (normally a visa application for Dutch citizens is processed within three days) he appears to allow Mr Wilders to enter the country after all. Mr Bowen described Wilders as a “far right politician”, an “extremist”.

What does “far right” mean?

Well, he gave a speech at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. That’s right-wing, I guess.

He also criticised the European Union for telling the Dutch to finance cash-strapped nations such as Greece and Spain during a recent election campaign video. That is reminiscent of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) with its own Euro-skeptic platform.

But wait – the FPOe has roots that go back to Nazi Germany. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party on the other hand is against Islam which Wilders compared to Hitler’s totalitarianism.

So Austria’s FPOe is on the extreme right because it is echoing the Nazis, but Wilders is also on the extreme right because he is against anything that resembles a similar oppression.

But he doesn’t like the EU because it is pouring money into failing economies, does he? Yet the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany is now hearing legal challenges against the country’s role in recent bailouts, and that doesn’t seem to be a right-wing plot. What is at issue there sounds rather close to what Wilders expressed in an open letter to EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

Greece’s socialists for that matter don’t like the EU’s austerity measures either, in Spain the Socialist Party lost votes because of the country’s involvement in the Iraq war and the election win of the conservatives there means Spain is now more firmly nestled within the EU.

Going through the speeches by Geert Wilders on his Weblog one gets the impression he is for free speech and the general liberalism Dutch society is renowned for. But of course, he is from the extreme right.

It does seem the label ‘right-wing’ has moved away from the historic-political background it used to be associated with to a generic term for simply ‘bad’. A description that relied on ascertainable detail has been replaced by context and becomes defined, if that is the right word, by the ambiguous moment of this or that experience. In other words, we are talking about post-modernism.

‘Right-wing’ then is a derogatory tag, nothing more.

Comparing contemporary Dutch law – which Mr Wilders supports - with its Islamic counterpart – which he doesn’t - becomes especially poignant when considering the ongoing attempts at abolishing the death penalty around the world. While Islamic countries differ in its application, capital punishment continues to exist in all Islamic jurisdictions and is strongly defended, as William Schabas explains in his article “Islam and the Death Penalty”.

All this leads to an intriguing question: could it be that the venom directed against Geert Wilders by politicians in countries like Australia points to a certain subliminal animosity held by the latter towards a liberalism which includes gay marriage, nude bathing, drug laws, euthanasia etc, all of which are not condoned by them but many are loath to discuss openly?

Could it be that they favour Islam with its rigid conservatism because it allows them to condemn such freedoms by proxy?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Box politics

Party politics always have been a mixture of national interests and ideological perception.

It matters however whether an ideology emerges under the banner of national interests or whether national interests become fashioned in accordance with ideology. Over the last few decades the latter has overtaken the former.

Under the perspective of society as a complex dynamic system the phenomenon stems from the clustering of affinity relationships within a nation leading to the formation of subsystems representing such clusters until they have become entities in their own right, and which from then on continue in a self-serving manner. The result is a party that places its ideology ahead of the overall national interest.

In the US former congressman Mickey Edwards discussed that development in his book “The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans”. In his interview on PBS Newshour he said, “the one thing that George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson all agreed on was don't create political parties. And the parties they had in that day were things where a few people got together on three issues, four issues, five issues, but not like what we have today, permanent factions, Republicans, Democrats always on opposite sides, and the founders all warned against that”.

In Australia the situation is similar. So much so that addressing just about any issue in terms of some suggested solution will immediately categorise the speaker as being either left- or right-wing, depending on which party happened to claim ownership of the idea at some stage.

As a consequence the substance of one’s remarks becomes tainted with a whole host of connotations derived from the particular party. A conceptual transference takes place in which the speaker not only has to deal with the original concept but however unwittingly is seen as being representative of a much wider contingent and is responded to accordingly. This does not help the debate.

What follows are examples of themes, in no particular order, of which significant parts have been appropriated by political parties to varying degree and junked together under their banner instead of being allowed to form their own contexts.
  • Support for private enterprise is important, but a modern society requires public utilities so that anyone can have the opportunity to operate within that society regardless of financial means and personal standing.
  • Give due regard to individualism and personal rights, but there also is a place for collective measures because a complex society needs the means to facilitate interdependence among its various functionalities.
  • A handful of super athletes enjoy massive amounts of investment, yet physical dysfunction is spreading across the entire population sometimes in epidemic proportion because of insufficient resources for physical education.
  • As a consequence the pressure on the nation’s health system increases constantly, but anyone who suggests people should be less lazy and irresponsible is roundly condemned.
  • Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save a few koalas is accepted without fuss, but at the same time the laws undermine the productivity of fruit growers (ie, humans) because they are not permitted to act against pests which destroy their crops.
  • Against the growing competitiveness of other nations we remove one challenge after another from children’s lives turning them into clumsy incompetents while even punishing parents if they don’t toe the official line.
  • The emphasis is on keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in any given field (sometimes even measured in monthly intervals), yet we are supposed to stand in awe before indigenous demographics whose culture had not changed over tens of thousands of years.
  • We give lip-service to common standards since every society needs a certain homogeneity in order to function, while at the same time celebrating multiculturalism for making life more colourful and not considering that life is more colourful precisely because homogeneity is mitigated. Besides, cultures in exile invariably stagnate and so become a caricature of their live counterparts in the home country; the result is a society of fossils.
  • Asylum seekers should be processed properly and not be palmed off to another jurisdiction, but consideration should also be given to the quality of potential newcomers because it needs a viable population to create the standards where assistance is affordable in the first place.
Follow the parliamentary debates and it becomes obvious that any one of the above will be voiced by one or the other political party but to the exclusion of so much of the rest. In the current political climate is has become practically impossible to pursue a set of policies which are comprehensive in terms of a reasoned approach; choose one party for one idea but forego the other.

No wonder the electorate is becoming more and more disillusioned with its representatives.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The ESM as a function of Chaos

The European Stability Mechanism has been given the green light from a legal perspective and the markets are mostly relieved. Yet many see also danger. Since the ESM is part of the wider European economy and is therefore subject to the principles inherent in complex, dynamic systems, it is possible to examine its status in terms of Chaos, the technical term for this kind of environment, and so identify the challenge it faces.

A large-scale complex and dynamic system relies on the interdependency of its functional elements, which is another way of saying that those subsystems must be able to productively communicate with each other in order to maintain the feedback mechanism the system relies on. The larger the system, the greater the probability that the necessary synchronisation cannot be sustained because one or some of the elements enter a state not in congruence with the rest. 

There are essentially two ways in which the possibility for incongruence can be checked.
Either there exists a sufficiently strong authority which ensures that any subsystem adheres to its performance envelope and so prevents incongruent states from emerging, or the entire system is homogenous enough so that its parts autonomously adhere to the overall standard and/or theme.

The foregoing has been expressed generically on purpose to emphasise the universality of these principles.

As far as the EU is concerned, the ESM represents an entity that is designed to allow for and administer financial subsystems that failed.

In terms of complex systems we have Europe's financial framework (at that scale a subsystem in itself compared to the EU), containing further subsystems representing their particular euro-zone counterparts. Since the ESM is supposed to come into effect in case of failure (some economies have indeed already failed to live up to their intended designs), the mutual congruence is not given to begin with. Furthermore, the mechanism is meant to provide a functional envelope that is capable of overcoming discrepancies in its host system and correct them - and all this while still ensuring the internal integrity of each subsystem in question. That is the challenge.

Although there are many details - particularly in the current context - that have been omitted here, they are of a content-related nature. In other words, they are details relating to specific banks and their customers, their type of involvement in their own economies and the exposure to the outside, the types of businesses with their own performances and the exact components that make up a failure. Nevertheless, in terms of principle behaviour of and within complex dynamic systems the scenario runs along the lines described.

In the essay on Europe, written in 2006, the overall situation has been outlined with certain problems listed as potential developments inherent in such a system. As the ensuing years have shown, some of them did eventuate.

The present situation is once again a particular state of affairs, a phase state of the self-same system, which contains the potential for certain outcomes. In technical terms they can be seen as latent states, that is states for which the preconditions exist but which have not achieved a sufficient degree of import and/or bias for them to influence their surrounds.
Should that happen, that particular subsystem will have entered a new state and as such will change its host to some extent.

As far as governments are concerned, and its administrative derivatives such as the boards of banks, the idea still persists that an economy is essentially a form of some mechanical apparatus where an adjustment here and some input there have predictable consequences.

Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true. Economies are chaotic systems, they progress along their timelines via affinity relationships, the clustering and/or dispersal of functional modules, and pattern-seeking phase states subject to the occasional bifurcation or break point. 

Since such dynamics do not lend themselves to budget forecasts, political speeches, or investment newsletters, this part of reality gets shunted out of our consciousness. The result, failed policies, constant political arguments and confusing debates, social unrest even, remains an ongoing fare of nations.

No wonder economist Steve Keen calls his field the "naked emperor of the social sciences"*), and again not surprisingly, only few have the courage to agree with him.

*) Steve Keen, Debunking Economics, the naked emperor of the social sciences, Zed Books, London, 2004.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Man vs God

At the beginning of this month a court in Cologne, Germany, ruled that to circumcise young boys is against the law. The “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents” it said. In this case the boy was a four-year-old Muslim.

Since the circumcision of boys is practised under Judaism as well, the court’s decision sparked outrage among the Jewish community, even beyond Germany’s borders. Israel’s president Peres wrote to his German counterpart to support the right to ritual circumcision.

The way the protests are running is interesting in itself, but for now let us consider the issue under Otoom.

Human activity systems are essentially just that – systems. A nation constitutes a system, so does religion, so does an economy, a political party, and so on. Furthermore, they all contain sub-and sub-subsystems right down to the individual and together they form a whole at whatever scale happens to be under focus.

Systems also possess an identity, and since their constituent parts interact with each other the performance of any one of them has consequences for the whole.

How a system such as a nation identifies itself is in the end up to that society. Whatever its perspective (an aggregate of all its subsystems), it influences the overall outcome and by doing so establishes the degree of sustainability in the long term.

Here we have a large-scale system (Germany), containing another system (Judaism), and the question is, what happens when one law (a subsystem) is in opposition to another. What are the consequences?

If a society has decided that there are fundamental principles around which it turns, and if these principles have been arrived at by considering the untenability of changing the body of someone who is incapable of giving consent, then such a decision is based on a rationale which derives its validity from a conscious process of examining the possibilities inherent in not starting from such a base.

In other words, should some idea (or fashion, or custom, or ideology) suggest a transgression of the fundamental principle, the principle itself needs to be re-examined under the same auspices of rational consideration. This constitutes the ultimate protection against a lack of reason.

A religion functions under a different framework. The particular interpretation of what ‘god’ means, what is assumed to be that god’s law, and how the members of this system are supposed to act are immutable once the religion has established itself. That moment could have occurred 400 years ago, it could have occurred 4000 years ago. In any case, the identity is maintained because it is held to be immutable.

If a society contains members of a religion, then the hierarchy of principle rules has to be decided upon. What comes first, the principles of the society (let’s label them ‘S’) or the principles of the religion (‘R’)?

If S comes before R, then any demand from R is subjected to an examination based on S. If S is based on reason, R will be allowed or rejected dependent on what S has to offer.

Suppose R is held to be above S, and suppose further that it is claimed R conducts itself with due consideration given to the welfare of its subjects, therefore S has no need or indeed any right to interfere.

If S is above R, the opportunity, no, the guarantee exists that any problematic consequences are examined under due process (see above). But if R comes before S, what guarantee exists now? The consequences are not analysed under rational auspices but within the framework of a subjective interpretation of what is right and what is wrong. The outcomes will be a result of someone’s belief that they are right and so many others are wrong and the process stops there.

Therefore, however well-meant a decision may be, there is no assurance its consequences will reflect the current standard which the members of the entire system are capable of. R controls S, regardless what society wants.

Hence S must always be higher than R.

Chief Rabbi Meir Lau from Tel Aviv said that if Germany does not change the ruling, there is no reason for Jews to be there; “the Jews (in Germany) will realise this is not the place where they belong”.

He is right. If Jews identify themselves according to principles each one of which is held immutable, then a society where rational considerations apply cannot be their home. Of course, Jews are able to identify themselves without the orders from a rabbi; they could well decide to align themselves with a modern state where human rights are part of the ongoing debate.

Could they still manage to call themselves Jews?

That is not for me to decide.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Feedback in complex, dynamic systems

One essential feature of complex, dynamic systems is feedback and the mind is no exception, including the higher scale of society.

These systems contain functional elements that produce output to their environment, the environment is modified to some extent, and the resultant conditions impact on the system in turn, which then produces some output once again that feeds into the surrounds, and so on and so on.

To what extent does or can the feedback alter the system?

Since a complex system is complex no matter how intelligent its members are (even an ant hill is a complex system) the eventual result depends on the members to process the information. There may be exceptional members, but, if they are part of the feedback, the question revolves around the degree to which they are understood by the rest.

Their contribution may not be understood at all or it could be misunderstood. In either case it may not be acted upon out of fear of the unknown. Assuming a certain developmental curve towards increasing complexity, there is a time lag between what is not taken up and what is taking part in the feedback loop in any case.

If the latter is sufficient to sustain the exceptional contributors, the system will benefit from them because when the rest finally do catch up those contributors are still around. A similar effect is gained through the welfare system in those countries which can afford it. The exceptional contributors don’t survive because society values their input, they survive because they are kept alive anyway.

At the same time however the general wealth of the society making this possible needs to come from somewhere and in a competitive world a nation needs a sufficient degree of intelligence to stay ahead – which means it needs to be able to productively absorb the feedback and the more esoteric contributions (for want of a better word) may not be necessary to maintain the relative advantage.

And here is the rub: anything that gets assimilated and thus is enhancing the system’s validity has therefore a considerable impact; but likewise, a negative addition will have a destructive influence in the longer term.

Since feedback is self-defining, once a downward path has been embarked upon it becomes harder and harder to compensate for – the feedback itself will have become diminished.
A precarious phase has been entered from which it becomes impossible to recover.

Civilisations that have fallen followed that pattern. One of the most detailed descriptions of such a scenario is Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.

The gradual decrease of the complexity inherent in the information that gets passed around creates constantly diminishing responses which in turn generate poorer material for the feedback loop. Not only has the overall standard deteriorated, a relatively higher contribution has a greater chance of meeting opposition and the degree of the latter’s intensity becomes a measure of the conceptual distance between the exception and the norm. The result is a accelerating deterioration of the overall mindset.

A reversal is unlikely unless the prevalent feedback mechanism is unseated through the interference by a sufficiently powerful authority. Since this type of interference requires a structural framework to perform in the first place, ordinary dynamics in terms of information flow will have been affected too – the system has changed in any case.

Examples from the intellectual realm would be inventions that were dismissed because the general ambience had no room for them. They can also be found in politics, although here the sections within a party must be considered as they could play the part of the higher authority. A similar role can be played by polls which can create an affinity with certain sections of a party who could feel empowered by them.

Examples can also be found in the biological sphere in general where the complex dynamic framework is represented by an eco-system and its members are the flora and fauna. In this case the information flow does not consist of cognitive data but of the resources such as food which must be attained and needs dispersal in order to proliferate, and which can improve or deteriorate under certain conditions. Abrupt changes can come from climate (eg, floods or drought), a sudden change in the balance of plants or animals (eg, through disease), or the availability of food in general which may support one life form over another, and that in turn influences the eco-system from then on.

Furthermore, steadily worsening conditions are harder to turn around because once the previous equilibrium has been demolished a certain re-adjustment process has set in which actually mitigates against a reversal. The system as a whole has become inherently unstable; at that point anything can happen.

The question is, can such a state be regarded as a bifurcation under the terms of chaos? After all, it is not a change from one particular pattern to another; there is no other pattern.
Is this therefore an ‘extended’ bifurcation, a dynamic space which is pattern-less, has no discernible hierarchical order of any kind, and therefore has no ‘type’?

The next question is, for how long can such a state persist?

The usual determinants of impact, scope and size of its constituent elements are no longer applicable, nor can anything be gleaned from observing the in- or output. For that kind of analysis to be useful there has to be a pattern, yet this is exactly what is missing.

Perhaps this is one situation that most closely resembles what is commonly understood by ‘chaos’, a featureless, dynamic state. Just like the brain at its inception.

This also offers an answer to the previous question. The reason the brain can change from its featureless state to a more organised system is through constantly repeated input such as parents provide for their child. Therefore the one path out of that dilemma is constancy. Constancy in terms of input, overall conditions, and the availability of resources the system needs to sustain itself. Remove any one of them and the system cannot re-form, or form altogether in the case of the infant’s brain.

In principle the nature of that constancy does not matter except in the sense of how the system is expected to perform eventually. For example, abandoned children cannot fully attain their ‘humanness’ if left outside human society for too long, where ‘too long’ refers to the time spent laying down the alien patterns. After a time the already formed internal structures cannot be undone; a phenomenon characteristic of progression lock (the constraint imposed on new developments by already established patterns).

Considerations about feedback loops, continuing to bifurcations, and then on to instability and progression locks are part of complex dynamic systems such as the mind.
The fact that they can be entertained at all demonstrates the interdependency within these systems.