Douwe Osinga's Blog: Evolution, Self organization and Democracy

Monday, September 1, 2003

Evolution, Self organization and Democracy

Stuart Kaufman discovered the principle of self-organization. If you have a complex enough system, with lots of subsystems that have random effects on each other, then the more complex the system becomes, the higher the chance is that somewhere in the system hides a positive feedback loop. Start with a huge amount of different chemicals, not unlike the situation before life emerged. Some chemicals will help the production of other chemicals. Some are needed for that production. Others hamper the again other processes. Anything could happen. The greater the diversity of chemicals and therefore rules, the greater the chance that something self sustainable will arise. Chemical A makes chemical B go into chemical C. C has some other effect with somehow a secondary or further removed effect that enhances the production of chemical A. A postive feedback loop is born. Kaufman thinks this is how life happened.

Starting with a random situation and random rules, in the end a system that looks very organized, will emerge. My Archean project is also a good example. You start with random noise, random rules and a minute later a complex mechanism has evolved with a certain logic to it. Run the program again and another system evolves.

It is the same with people. Throw a lot of people together and the way they interact will make them organize themself in a certain way. Usually you'll end up with a dictatorship. But run the simulation long enough and something else starts to happen. Little sub-positive feedback systems develop, like art, science and other parts of the civic society. These subsystems become harder and harder to surpress for the dictatorship, unless it wants to risk destroying the very fabric of the society it rules. In the end democracy happens. The longer you run the simulation, the more stable the democracy grows.

I know that a lot of people think this way to optimistic, but to me this seems to be happening in general. Democracy and the civil society is inevitable in the end, but it takes a lot of subsystems to sustain it. That's why democracy doesn't always work at first, but when it is established, it tends to stay. Hopefully some of these subsystems are available in Iraq.