Saturday 29 December 2007

2050: Age of the Silverback

The year is 2050.
Climate change has been acknowledged as a way of life around the world. What differentiates the two broad demographics dominating the planet are their degrees of understanding.
Peak oil has passed and the race is on to move the production of essential chemicals to new sources.
The influence of regions which based their clout on the supply of oil and not much else has waned significantly, with considerable impact on global politics. A goal that could have been achieved far earlier has been reached by necessity.
The West as a label describing certain nations bound by their common history has given way to industrialised and under-industrialised regions. The former are able to employ ever more sophisticated methods of determining their status, while the rest function in an ad hoc fashion constrained by their ideological dependencies.
Electronic surveillance, gene technology, and computing power surpassing the historical limits of hardware make it possible to combine their respective potential to create the massively interdependent state.
Privacy has been substituted by meta-data encompassing lateral as well as longitudinal storage of personal information. From movements in terms of geographical locations to multi-level profiling in terms of behaviour patterns at any scale, humanity in the industrialised zones resides in a comprehensive storage of ever increasing complexity.
What prevents the data logs from becoming the authoritarian instruments of old are the lack of resources combined with the evaluation of efficiency quotients down to the minutest detail that are applied to the system of governance.
Derived from the concept of environmental footprints when climate change began to influence the agenda, governments adjust themselves in accordance with dynamic ledgers that feature the current effect of a measure against its ultimate efficacy - feeding back into the overall evaluation of society through its collected data.
Behaviour - whether on a personal or societal level - is no longer subject to ideological boundaries but has become a parameter in a formula that contains the algorithmic calibration of sustainability. These changes are not so much the result of wiser minds; they have been brought about by continually biting shortages of resources available to the administrative processes. Resource-wasting moral guardians are now enemies of the state; they have been replaced by data-mining technocrats.
The profiling of individuals, groups, and demographics consists of a multi-faceted evaluation from genetic to environmental factors and assesses the degree to which the respective elements interact with their system. Any freedoms or constraints in that regard are a function of the role they are able to play within their stratum. The feedback process of sustainability accreditation layers these roles with respect to the system overall. Data-mining provides the parameters, and efficacy measurements establish the boundaries.
Artificial mind simulations of increasing scope are used to play through societal scenarios via functional dynamics, their hypothetical content a substitute for the real world. Such modeling enables the analysis of demographic states on a continuous basis, updated and fine-tuned by synchronising the effects in one sphere with those in the other.
Within the under-industrialised regions the effects of the general resource shift are also felt, but the response lacks the depth only a sophisticated information flow can allow. The resultant pressure is uncoordinated and in tandem with the specific ideologies in force at the local level.
Migration surges occur at regular intervals, but are not permitted to spill into higher-level neighbours. Instead they contribute to changing population patterns inside those zones which could be analysed and responded to positively if only the means to do so existed. The availability of food and energy resources is at the constant whim of random power plays acted out on the basis of religious and political perceptions. What decides a region's membership in one or the other type of zone is its ability to ramp up to the necessities of the times. Sometimes the historical boundaries of nations will have been redistributed to better reflect the nature of their demographics.
Dissolution here and there within the industrialised bloc leads to the formation of niches, which are either made use of or pushed further and further to the edge of their host - on a geographical as well as a cultural level.
The boundaries and differences between demographics are in the end determined by the results of high-to-low and low-to-high conceptual intersections, that is the transposition of conceptualisations from high-complexity regions to lower ones and vice versa. As such the outcomes represent a natural selection process that always had been in operation but has now become more accentuated due to the restrictions prompted by economic contingencies.
The same goes for non-human organisms. The survival of species becomes a matter of their attractiveness to local perceptions, translated into economic utility. Some manage to maintain themselves within their respective eco-systems, some find respite through their usefulness, and others are restricted to special enclaves or computer simulations.
Aid programmes, channelled towards dirigiste governments by the former developed world, have been reduced to narrowly defined policies under the umbrella of sustainable efficiency determined by their source. While the ruling hierarchies at the receiving end are no longer kept artificially alive by such transfers, neither are their dependent masses. Survivability or otherwise has reverted back to the local potential and no other.
Success for the individual means being able to negotiate the constantly changing priorities of governments, businesses, and interest groups, which themselves are subject to similar considerations.
It is the age of the silverback.
Happy New Year.

Note: for references see the next post.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Without Otoom, what then?

The Parallels, their special sections, and many posts on this blog have presented the Otoom model in various contexts.
The scenarios were the environment in which humans went through their actions, and Otoom supplied the framework to better understand their dynamics. Its predictive powers have already been shown in the Iraq/Afghanistan war, the riots in France, and the implosion of so many Pacific Island states, to mention only a few. The evaluation of human activity systems in those terms on an official level is not so much a question of if, but when.
But suppose such information is not available. How would the players fare under circumstances that are in the process of building up at this very moment? Here is a brief overview of the major items. They are deemed major because their effects are the most comprehensive.
The overriding factor in our time is climate change. The relevant data we leave to meteorologists and environmental scientists; what we are concerned with here are the dynamics of perception, feeding into our modes of conceptualisations.
The immediate cause for the changing climate has been identified as the industrial output by developed nations. That kind of information leads to different interpretations depending on where on the economic scale one stands. The historical dimension adds another factor, deemed more significant by those whose own history does not include the evolutionary cycles of the rich. In the absence of a formal framework the positive as well as the negative aspects of technology and industry are not included in a productive manner. The need for sophisticated infrastructure may be appreciated by those who own it, but its purpose is overlooked by the have-nots. For them the factors represent a one-sided wealth underlining their own victimhood. So far those differences are being expressed through words only. Increase the pressure and they will be followed by actions.
Any solution to a problem relies on its realistic assessment. Substitute realism with ideology - whether of the spiritual or the political kind - and the response will be inadequate. The negative outcome is sheeted home to outsiders. A people's ideal (a god or a political vision) is never held accountable because ideals are untouchable.
Terrorism, portrayed as the scourge of our times, is one manifestation of an idealistic obsession. But in reality it has existed in various forms throughout history, only the means and the responses have changed.
In the West our historical baggage in the form of Christianity drove us into the arms of the Middle East on so many occasions, now accentuated by oil. The latter will go eventually, but in the meantime relationships are cemented into what has been termed 'progression locks' under Otoom - situations that pull their members into a web of inevitability with often disastrous outcomes.
In the case of terrorism it is becoming evident that the countermeasures taken affect the societies they are meant to protect more than the terrorists themselves.
To neglect the functional, cognitive dynamics of those entanglements costs everyone dearly.
So not only conceptualisation matters, but also one's disposition. The moralistic remnants of Christianity are at the roots of an imperialistic evangelism that sees the world in black and white only. In some parts it is stoked by the advent of feminism (its ideological side, this is not about the rights of women) which transposed the concept of motherhood and carer into wider society with profound consequences.
The Child in this context is to be shielded from the outside, as it must in the case of a real child, and it is the outside which is held to account. Translate that into society at large and the traditional sense of responsibility and duty falls by the wayside. The "system" however, that which is forced to pay when things go awry, is made up of the very people who are gradually educated into dependency - a downward spiral of dissolution. Obesity, having already reached epidemic proportions, is but one example of diminished responsibility made manifest. Its costs will haunt us for decades to come.
The adulation of The Child is a consequence of a societal repositioning of priorities. To maintain the status of infancy, to spurn the process of growing up in favour of locking in childhood, represent the deepest urges of the Mother. In the home it is mostly the mother who even in the adult still sees her child. The feminised society of today follows that dictum. No wonder a Paris Hilton demands such attention. The adult body with the mind of a child - how attractive they have become.
Characteristically the converse is condemned - nothing endangers a myth more than the existence of its opposite in the real. Consider the child body with the mind of an adult. It is typical of certain societies that nothing invites greater social opprobrium than the paedophile and the misogynist. Not even a murder comes close. In tandem we have billion-dollar industries feeding the narcissism of the female regardless of her age, we have the child-like postures of models, and youngsters running wild. No-one dares to oppose; for example, teachers rather leave their profession than make a stand in the classroom.
To demonise the drive towards adulthood does not merely unseat the values of just about every healthy culture on this planet; it interferes with the designs of nature. The welfare of society has taken second place to womanhood.
Once again, without a clear understanding of how the dynamics of perception relate to interdependent scenarios, any countermeasures - if they are considered at all - will only ever be ad hoc reactions going nowhere.
The greater the sophistication, the higher the demand for commensurate conceptualisations. Given the diversity of current systems, the opportunity exists for the emergence of local variants which may or may not be recognised for what they are.
Diminished resources create their own pressures, and in conjunction with already existing factors pose a challenge for the participants. Not to understand oneself in the widest sense possible means remaining chained to unwitting consequences.
Most likely the near future represents a mix of insight and ignorance. A preview of what it will hold in about forty years time will be the subject of next week's post.

Sunday 9 December 2007

The degeneration of a system

The conceptual tool set offered by Otoom makes it possible to analyse the dynamics of systems at any scale, large and small.

As to the former, societies move through their time lines determined by the interplay of their subsystems. They also relate to their environment, where other systems and their functional elements characterise their dynamics.

The more complex such systems have become the more details establish their functional boundaries, each with their own positive and/or negative potentials. What those boundaries mean depends on the elements they define and the latter's affinity with each other and the whole.

The West is one such large-scale system, and its variance across the nations, together with their demographics, has produced its history over time.

Our nomenclature (systems, subsystems, elements, etc) are not merely convenient descriptors. They stand for perceptions, interpretations; in other words, mind sets that evoke the actions among humans here and there. Those mind sets have their particular history, and that link with the past causes them to function sometimes in harmony, sometimes alongside, and sometimes in opposition to present developments.

Today there are number of conceptualisations that do not support their host. As such they undermine the foundations on which they grew.

Incongruence does not necessarily imply destruction per se, but it certainly means the existing frameworks become compromised. "Nature abhors a vacuum", as has been observed before, and in the absence of a maintaining force other influences will come to the fore.

The self-referencing nature of complex systems is but one of their aspects, but translated into more common language it stands for self-confidence and a clear view of oneself and one's direction.

In the case of the West the earlier confidence (often accompanied by brashness and arrogance, it has to be said) has given way to a more insecure disposition. Greater complexity in thinking, due to its heightened internal variance, makes for less compact and so more diverse opinions. For that reason a fanatic will always act more self-assured than their more objective counterparts.

If two of these disparate mind sets confront each other the outcome is a matter of the respective societal resources standing behind.

Today the West is a hotchpotch of many styles; sophisticated attitudes, brutish niches, profound education and superficial beliefs, they all vie for attention and their assumed right to make a difference in our affairs. And all this against the background of climate change, diminishing resources, and internal and external threats. All of which redefine our standards, and all of them are in the process of becoming even more influential as the years go by. Beyond its borders demographics assert their stance in a manner they simply could not have managed in previous decades.

Internally the succession of generations are interrupted by certain demographics - young and old - which have been allowed to negate authority and by doing so demonstrate the virtual paralysis of the system they are meant to be part of. Whether it be children performing like adult criminals or gangs battling it out with police in a suburb, in terms of the underlying dynamics both are similar in nature. They are joined by religious and political demagoguery that dismisses objective pragmatism in favour of moralistic attitudes forcing the rest of society to march to their idealistic tune. In tandem we have the veneration of the primitive, its sycophants falling on their knees before the demands of anti-intellectual fanaticism; and, when attacked, coming back for more.

Complex systems do not move in a linear fashion. They do not evolve - or devolve for that matter - in equal steps. History seems to stand still until suddenly the latent potential erupts and evolution surges ahead. Likewise, the status quo prevails until one more instance causes an implosion. The foundations grew all along, they just weren't recognisable at the time.

Is there a 'final straw' in the West's case? Just as the Otoom mind model predicted the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, the riots in France, and the difficulties in so many Pacific Island states, here too it has something to say.

More of this later.