Systems Evolution

Considering the dynamics of high order systems is probably a very useful approach to thinking about such systems. I call this approach Systems Evolution. And let’s start with the kind of systems I have been thinking about in this context:

  • Economic systems like feudalism, capitalism, state run planned economy
  • Political systems like monarchy, oligarchy, democracy
  • Value systems in general, including ethical value systems, societal value systems, and personal value systems
  • Knowledge generation systems like science and philosophy
  • Ecosystems

What we can say about those systems is that they actually tend to change over time. Most of the time they change at a very slow pace, but sometimes they can change rather quickly.

There are different models for the evolution of systems:

  • Continuous adaptation / modification / refinement, gradual evolution – Punctuated equilibrium (linked below) is an extreme version of this where this change usually happens very slowly and sometimes happens extremely rapidly
  • Paradigm shifts: The adapt a radically new way of thinking – this probably only applies to mental systems
  • Dialectics: An antithesis is posed against a thesis. Then a synthesis which combines and transcends thesis and antithesis resolves the conflict and brings us to the next level.

There may be other frameworks for systems evolution. These are merely the ones I am familiar with. Are there other ones?

What about the domains of a system? Don’t they govern the field where the system acts or even exists? What are the types of domain changes possible? Do similar domains make different systems interact? Is monitoring such a evolution of systems reliable and without statistical or historical bias?

Aren’t political, economic and value systems linked by people in their domain?
What about present day capitalism and asteroid mining? Is it an evolution of the system as such or a radical change in the underlying system domain? Is it a gradual change in the capitalist system, a couple of decades of space technology research or is the system evolution a system in its own place, with a potential to become a complex system, meaning that a system that changes becomes a system in which it’s own change becomes an emergent property?

What if there’s an economy of subsystems between two systems (economy and politics), and what if transactions between those systems are balanced? How do we reflect such changes in the Systems Evolution approach?

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Thank you very much for pointing out that systems cannot exist in a vacuum, or without context. It’s not clear at all how to models the domain or context of a system.

  • Do you seem that as set of interacting other systems?
  • Are they a set of parameters of the system in question?
  • Do they belong into the definition of the system components?
  • Or do you simply ignore them, at least at first?

I don’t claim to know a really good and universally satisfying answer. And any answer should probably depend on your model of the system you want to examine.

Earlier this year I went into the direction of considering multiple coupled systems:

But of course, reality is even more complicated, so you probably would have to consider all interactive systems at once, which would make your simulation only few orders of magnitude less complex than reality itself, and therefore make the whole model extremely difficult to compute, or even to set up. Perhaps we might solve this problem in a future when we have really powerful quantum computers and powerful AI, but right now it’s quite hopeless to even try something as ambitious as that.

Therefore, I think the outside world might best be seen as hidden in the parameters of the system. That would be a dramatic simplification of the model, but perhaps the simplification would still allow interesting and truthful results to emerge.

Quite certainly they are. Does that insight suggest a better way to model politics, economics and value systems? Perhaps. At least in economics there is the discipline of behavioural economics, which considers the psychology of humans. And in political science it is certainly researched how properties of humans correlate with their political affiliations.

In that specific scenario, I’d say that asteroid mining would rather behave as a change of the parameter of available raw materials, and not much more. It doesn’t feel like a very revolutionary change, but you never know a priori when some really dramatic quantitative change will translate into a tremendous qualitative change.

Well, as I’ve just written: It’s hard to predict. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Only time will tell.

In such a situation, I’d say it would be the right thing to view both systems as parts of a larger supersystem (polieconomics? politonomics?) and examine that supersystem as a whole. Personally, I think that it’s a grave mistake not to see economics and politics as different aspects of one and the same societal system. That’s also why there’s a subcategory “society” in this forum, but no categories “economy” or “politics”.

So, this points to the necessity to consider society as complex dynamic system that evolves over time. The society we live in today is something really different from the societies of our past or our future.

I’ve found it! Social theory gold.

Looks interesting. Here’s a link to the book: