Email about self-organized criticality and power laws

From: Friend#6


I do not want you to fall into too much self hate, we are a wonderful country. 


From: Ray Gangarosa

Hi Friend#6

I deeply appreciate your framing my criticisms in that light of self-hate. I can see how you might think my comments stem from that source. I see that some progressives have fallen into that trap and some conservatives have pointed out how such cultural criticism could be damaging to our own self-image. I see on Fox News how a number of the commentators remark that emphasis on discrimination against black and brown people could damage the self-esteem of white children by beating them up with guilt trips. However, even though social justice is the currency — and a valid one — on which much of progressivism is built, that’s not the level on which I’m building my theory. 

I see the mathematics of this stage of our national and civilizational development that calls for deep introspection and self-criticism. Our job now is to bend linear curves that have too long conceptualized all economic growth as good into sigmoidal tradeoff curves that reflect an urgent and compelling need to separate the wheat from the chaff. On the cusp of intentional civilizational design, we must look critically at ourselves and our past to purge design flaws, lest we embed them in all future transformations. The push-pull of optimistic idealism and sincere confession will put us in good standing with the responsibilities to all future generations that we now face as the first era undertaking intentional civilizational design. We are entrusted with the sensitivity to initial conditions of accentuating constructive Lyapunov exponents and extinguishing destructive ones. This is not the time to pull punches or shrink in the face of current sensitivities, even as we realize that the transformation that we seek has roles for minorities, progressives, and conservatives that are richer than any of them have even conceived in their wildest imaginations. We are all, together, entrusted with nothing less than building the body of Christ into human civilization! 

Last night, I was struck by two profound realizations. I first found that a field that I first encountered in 1988, called “self-organized criticality”, still has no theoretical underpinnings. A professor from Georgia Tech who I met around then, Kurt Weisenfeld, had just coauthored a seminal article that showed how avalanches in growing sandpiles could explain many phenomena related to the spontaneous emergence of complexity in nature. The defining feature of self-organized criticality is that the phase transitions between operating regimes, called critical points or boundaries, are also dynamic attractors, so the systems naturally gravitate to a nonspecific choice of parameters that do not have to be finely tuned to lead toward phase transformation. Mathematicians now see such phenomena as ubiquitous, but they have no overarching framework for understanding how diverse isolated examples and various disconnected mathematical models all fit together into a coherent picture. 

Then I also discovered that the introspection I was directing at my own culture could play a profound role in understanding the important topic of self-organized criticality. Critical introspection of human culture to purge it of design defects could be a powerful way of conceptualizing the aspect of a dynamic attractor that is intimately aligned with a phase transition. Unlike all the other cartoon-like mathematical models, mine is founded on first principles, looking at how life solves the seemingly intractable Schrödinger equation of its chemical reactions at all levels of its existence. The sequence of steps closely follows the development of electronic, computer, and network technologies, but it also matches the life cycle of multicellular organisms from embryogenesis to maturation. Best of all, it identifies how, after the Trump administration has safely crashed and burned, minorities, progressives, and conservatives can come together in “new” (for humanity) forms of cooperation that emulate the glue that holds multicellular organisms together. What’s most exciting to me is that two features central to my theory, memory and inheritance, have been identified in previous mathematical models as leading to power laws. And power laws are the basis for constructive growth, like harvests and compound interest, but also for toxic harm that I’ve studied at various times throughout my career, like implicit corporate welfare to harmful industries, and now also to the cultural erosion of systemic racism. 

My theory points out how, at this critical inflection point, different tribal factions have become what they hate. However, even though that’s an important insight in itself, that’s not what I care to emphasize. 

The real value of my theory of civilizational design is that it provides a mathematical framework for conceptualizing how human civilization might proceed from here by emulating the evolution of multicellular life. And, best of all, that mathematical approach connects with theological concepts and doctrines, without being pinned to specific religions, that could frame a serious public discourse about the nature of cooperation, civilization, and transformative change. 

As I see it, that is the essence of self-love and the opposite of self-hate! 

Best wishes, 

Ray G


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