Sunday 19 August 2007

The reasons against Otoom - again

In the previous post on that topic I mentioned some of the more obvious reasons why the Otoom model can grate against someone's perception of their world. Its descriptive framework focusing on functionality rather than content so that patterns become visible, the definition of an individual's or a group's situatedness within their culture in an objective, non-ideological sense, and so on.
There can also be deeper reasons for becoming uncomfortable with using such a view.
Since Otoom treats cognitive behaviour first and foremost as a system based on chaos-type attractors and hence affinities between clusters, the emergence of complexity as well as the deconstruction of affinities can be observed. These phenomena can relate to ideations as well as concepts and cultural memes at higher scales.
A human activity system that presents itself as a well-developed entity and featuring many subsystems can do so because its inherent characteristics (size, number of members, connectivity, processing potential, resources) allow it to be so. Similar developments can be observed in other areas of nature and indeed life itself, and so the evolutionary path from the simple to the highly complex does not need recourse to some mystical power but is a completely natural function of life's processes.Therefore Otoom builds upon Darwin's description of evolution, but goes one step further. Not only is natural selection being adhered to, but an ongoing development is also defined in terms of what feature does not [italics 1] meet a constraint. Take beetles - these insects have many useful functions allowing them to have grown into the most prolific order in its class, but with many an outlandish body shape emerged simply because it could. If in due course the environment presented no problem such a shape allowed the genus to survive (see an example in the stag beetle below).

From: E. Reitter, Fauna Germanica, K.G. Lutz' Verlag, Stuttgart 1909.

Similar dependencies can be observed in human behaviour.
Religionists, those who require the presence of a mystical god to bring the wonders of this world into existence, stall at such a deconstruction.
A corollary to the above is the progression lock. It refers to the step-by-step evolutionary path and its multitude of junctions, with each a determinant of what can follow given the already existing framework. Unless some event undoes a junction the developmental direction of that entity is laid down in a very specific way. Take urban development - to modify a building in a street is more easily done than changing the layout of the street (that's why the general plan of most European cities reflects the effects of a major fire some time back in their history). On a lower level similar cause-and-effect relationships hold too; for instance compare the general evolution of the skeleton in mammals to that in whales.
In human cognition a progression lock can have devastating effects. An ideologue may be open to all kinds of arguments, but dare touch on their core belief and the claws come out.
It would be a fascinating exercise to apply these principles to existence in its widest sense. How would a quantum physicist approach the question of the beginning of the universe: a rapidly following series of fundamental progression locks during the first few moments of its birth? What else could have been?
Because another major feature of complex systems is the sheer interdependence of its subsystems, any given characteristic is subject to an ongoing feedback loop ensuring that it appears useful to a casual observer. To go back to our example of urban layouts, once a certain street appears just so people will make use of its configuration and therefore such a utility will remain largely unquestioned. Sure, in a certain, contemporary sense that street is useful, but was that really the full intent of those who were responsible for its appearance, and could there have been something better?
Individuals who question those underlying assumptions are called iconoclasts and quite a few of them were murdered for their efforts. And yet, without their courageous ability we would still live in caves.
In a world of an ever increasing potential for self-destruction - a product of emergent complexity - we must unlearn our propensity to stand in awe before those who distinguish themselves by an unwavering adherence to their convictions. The emotional stamina for it should be recognised for what it is - the sign of a psychopath.
Otoom uncloaks their nature. Therefore it is dangerous.

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