A Profound Realization.

I’m a huge science nerd, which anyone who reads my blogs knows, and I like to think about how the world works a lot.  Not very often, maybe once or twice a year, I will see how several cool things connect with each other.  In this blog I will try to explain one of the more amazing realizations I’ve had.  To do so I’ll have to explain a few different concepts (all interesting if you’re nerdy) and then tie them all together, so here goes.  I just wanted to let you know in advance that I really do have a point and I think it’s pretty profound, so please read to the end.

Anyway, the first is the notion of emergent phenomenon.  This is where patterns that seem designed or orchestrated emerge as a result of many individual things behaving the same way under similar conditions.  One example is a snowflake:

Something seemingly orchestrated and designed occurs simply because the water molecules all react the same way.  This is also what allows processes like fire to be possible, each carbon bond breaks apart which releases energy which breaks another carbon bond apart and so on, like dominos.  This is what allows a whole forest or house or city (without a fire department) to go up in a puff of smoke.  Another example is an instance where a bridge was built supported by cables on the sides instead of above – all was fine until people began to walk across it, then the slightest wobble back or forth caused all the people on the bridge to compensate by shifting their weight the same direction at the same time, which made it wobble even harder the other way, which made them compensate the same way in the other direction until it began violently wibbling and wobbling back and forth.  All of the individuals were behaving in a uniform way producing a large scale effect the same way the molecules above formed a snowflake or turn a spark into an inferno.

I knew this already, but a few days ago I started thinking about moods, how people react differently depending on what mood they’re in and how people are kind of random that way.  Sometimes you tell someone to fuck off and they ignore you, other times they want to punch you.  Sometimes you tell someone a joke and they smile, other times they laugh until tears roll down their cheeks.  I started thinking about this and it reminded me of yet another phenomenon in nature, something I saw on a nova science now episode about how trees grow.  Basically a tree has many branches and when wind hits it the branches all wibble and wobble in different directions which absorbs the shock of the gust of wind because while one branch is wibbling another is wobbling and the opposing forces largely cancel each other out, stabilizing the tree and keeping it from being uprooted.

This got me thinking and I realized that moods are like the wibble and wobble of the branches of a tree.  The random, conflicting moods balance each other out and allow society to be stable, they prevent emergent phenomenon in humans from running amok.  Because if you get a thousand people in the same place and they’re all pissed about the same thing it’s not hard to start a riot.  Because they are all in the same mindset and all react to each other much the same way just like the molecules in a snowflake or a forest fire which creates a wide scale effect. 

But it doesn’t end there.  The same principle can be applied to economic and political systems (and already has).  Because just as the contradicting wibbles and wobbles keep a tree from falling over and allowed the tree to evolve, checks and balances and conflicting political parties allow democracy to be possible and competition allows capitalism to function.  If you are a businessman your competitors are the branch that wobbles to your wibble, or wibbles to your wobble.  They are the reason why you offer a product or service at a price and a level of quality that is beneficial to society.  When you have a monopoly it is akin to all the branches of a tree wibbling or wobbling at the same time, the tree falls over.  And while I know democrats hate republicans and republicans hate democrats, without the other we would have a one party system and the whole thing would fall apart because power corrupts. 

I’ve always been sympathetic to the yin and yang idea in zen philosophy that without an opposite nothing good would mean anything, that light would be a meaningless concept in a world without darkness etc.  But only now do I think I fully realize that not only is this an interesting philosophical idea, but that it actually allows civilization to exist at all.  It’s an actual working part of our society just like the wibbling wobbling branches on a tree are a functional part of what keeps the tree alive.  It isn’t just an interesting abstraction.

Anyway, I thought you might find that interesting.


About agnophilo

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14 Responses to A Profound Realization.

  1. Doitean says:

    Very interesting, though I disagree with the assumption that a political system has to have either two parties or one; three or four parties would probably be much better, in my opinion, and no parties at all would be best (because then politicians would be elected on their individual merits, not based on party support). Unfortunately, America has embraced the two party system and isn’t very likely to change that.

  2. crazy2love says:

    Very interesting. Funny how things can be related back to nature and the way things work.

  3. agnophilo says:

    @Doitean – I agree that more parties would be better, no no way did I endorse the two party system.  I just said it’s far better than a one party system.@crazy2love – Yup.

  4. Aloysius_son says:

    You are quite astutely observant!

  5. Nous_Apeiron says:

    I was just thinking this afternoon about how those conflicting forces in many of our social institutions are both great at preventing catastrophe and also at preventing excellence.  Interesting that we were thinking about the same phenomena.

  6. catstemplar2 says:

    Reading you blog I am reminded of a tern called…The Butterrfly Effect.It comes from the suggestion, that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect weather in Texas,. Meaning, the slightest condition can effect another

  7. YouToMe says:

    Haha you said what I was going to say. @Aloysius_son – 

  8. YouToMe says:

    What John said. This was very interesting AND entertaining. I liked the last sentence too. šŸ˜‰ Har x10^24th

  9. TheSutraDude says:

    i think there is something to this. people keeping each other in check but there is the dark side and the light side. not everyone’s thoughts, words and deeds fall on the light side. 3 people on the dark side can hold 3 people on the light side back. on a lighter note as i read what you said about people making things worse by shifting their weight on the bridge i imagined Nelson from The Simpsons pointing his finger at them and saying “haaaa haaaaa!” 

  10. Civil society has nothing to do with moods. Civil society is caused by the pursuit of natural self interest within a social environment ruled by law.And since that is the false premise upon which you base your entire post, all your other conclusions are false.The world would be fine without Democrats (progressives). We don’t need them. Other parties would emerge just as they did at the beginning of the American republic.

  11. sleekpeek says:

    It’s like what the Tao Te Ching says. The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease.

  12. This was so beautifully written – you have really good control of your writing and I enjoyed your nerdy knowledge.

  13. Kellsbella says:

    Now I coulda sworn that I heard somewhere that no two snowflakes are alike. You’ve got me thinkin (never a good thing)……Why didn’t I see your post?

  14. My own ruinations to supplement your ruminations; intending neither to heartily endorse nor to take issue; merely positing observations which momentarily catch my fancy.On the emergency of patterns; I remember the whole Mandelbrot craze, but only in the past year have I learned about the math behind fractals.https://www.google.com/webhp?rlz=1C1SNNT_enUS344US352&sourceid=chrome-instant&ix=seb&ie=UTF-8&ion=1#hl=en&rlz=1C1SNNT_enUS344US352&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=nova%20hunting%20the%20hiden%20dimension&oq=&aq=&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&gs_l=&pbx=1&fp=e77a3c1558b6e631&ix=seb&ion=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1366&bih=653 As Mr. Spock used to say on Star Trek TOS, “Fascinating.”  Out of apparent chaos, we find the occurrence of order, down to the infinitesimal. I can truly say with Einstein that I believe, at least to whatever degree, in Spinoza’s god.On ‘god’ being a loaded word; I wonder if at times Hitch and Dawkins sort of stirred the pot themselves in the controversy.  The use of the word dates back to the fathers of Western culture, the Athenian philosophers.  I would cautiously submit that the animus I detect repeatedly among certain of our Xanga associates is as much a factor in the acrimony of exchanges as the intransigence of the theists.  I would say the word is ok to use.  I would say that off in the ether somewhere, both Spinoza and Anselm are perfectly comfortable with the overlap in their respective outlooks. The boundary of the Unknown is always being pushed back; it will never be eliminated.Have you read Arthur Clarke’s 3001, by the way? It’s one of his 2001 sequels.  It seems that in the Fourth Millennium, collective humanity is now using ‘Deus’ in their everyday conversation. Political correctness has trumped.The concept of Zen; many become antagonistic at religion over the problem of evil.  The idea that a Personal Deity would allow suffering is abhorrent.  But…take the Personality out of it, and suddenly the explanation that good cannot exist without evil is palatable.  Without sounding too cynical, this is less a triumph of philosophy than it is a triumph of marketing.

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