About Our Connected Future, 3: Patterns of Complexity of World Society

  1. One of the necessary big transformations towards the future is the change of view & policies from:
  • [studying fragmented issues/ symptoms that might be correlated/ connected] to:
  • [finding patterns (repeated and causated) in the WHOLE interconnected complex organic grown system/ life form].

The former approach is still done by corporations and national governments who are panicked by their awareness of loosing grip and facing unsuccessful control of parts of the population that is emancipated enough to think for themselves. Often the governing actions and policies backfire or even result in the opposite of what they intended to achieve. And when the policy makers DO perceive that the issues are much more complex than they thought (as Trump’s team found when they studied the health care system) and linked to a huge amount of other issues, governments corporate managers try to escape into simplifying their world views (models) understandable for the public [close their mind to critique, media comments and scientific advice]. The next step is even more lethal. They start to Simplify Reality [by isolation (cutting links/ various ways of “cleansing”, which means putting people in prison or even killing them] to make model and their part of the world fit,  and confirm the views of the leaders and their established ruling class. This approach unfortunately results in killing, armed conficts and bombing each other: destruction and suffering.

2. An example of an approach that DOES take complexity into account and finds patterns that shows ways to take actions on a large scale and scope is the following research done by professor Bar-Yam of MIT and NECSI – New England Complex Systems Institute.

a. Press version (June 17, 2017) of Bar-Yams lecture (see b. and c.)


===================reblog of the MotherBoard article=====

The ‘Complex Systems Theorist’ Who Predicted the Arab Spring
Using big data and new number-crunching strategies, math can be used to predict global crises.

          By JASON KOEBLER 

In early 2011, a few days before Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the middle of a busy street, Yaneer Bar-Yam sent his research to the US government.

Bar-Yam’s message was simple: If drastic measures weren’t immediately taken to lower skyrocketing global food prices, widespread violence would occur. Bouazizi’s act set off food riots and are widely seen as the beginning of the Arab Spring.

Bar-Yam is a theoretical physicist turned “complex systems theorist.” He’s the president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, a group that tries to explain why the world works the way it does. He says that using a mix of big data, machine learning, and mathematics derived from the science of phase transitions, his team is able to identify the tipping points of a wide variety of global crises.

Violence and riots occur at the peaks of the food price index. Image: VICE

His team pulls from census and survey data, official government numbers from around the world, social media posts, and a host of other data sets in an attempt to explain the world around us. Our new video series, The Math That Explains the World, will feature Bar-Yam’s work on the Arab Spring, governance, ethnic violence around the world, and inequality.

The key, he says, is determining what isn’t important.

As the world grows increasingly complex, society becomes more interdependent and thus harder to explain the specific inputs that are causing a certain output. But with more data and more number-crunching capabilities, Bar-Yam’s institute has been able to narrow down the causes of crises in many cases. Surprisingly, the flashpoints of major crises can usually be traced to a few specific policies.

“There are many different things that people might think would cause food prices to increase, but it turns out by looking at them we can eliminate most of them,” Bar-Yam said. “For example, we can eliminate the possibility that changing diet in China caused rising food prices. Or that currency exchange rates caused rising food prices. Instead, it turns out that there are only two things that are important.”

According to Bar-Yam’s research, American policies on ethanol—which means a huge amount of US corn is used to power cars rather than food—and commodity market deregulation in the late 1990s were the major cause of skyrocketing food prices.

“Our ethanol policy by itself has lead to, by now, a doubling of global food prices. The deregulation of the markets leads to peaks that lie on top of a gradual increase that’s due to the ethanol policy,” he said. “The peaks are the triggers of the food riots and the Arab Spring, but the underlying increase plays an important part as well.”

============ end of re-blogged article in Motherboard==================

b. Segment of the lecture, October 20 2015, about cause and huge Conflicts effects of Food-Ethanol conversion and speculation/storage of food supplies (commodities).

c. The Youtube Full Version of the Lecture

d. And Bar-Yam’s warning article in New Scientist in 2011:


3. I recommend you see the whole video because he also gives advice (or at least sets the stage for discussion about barriers between “authonomic”*) ethnic/religious groups in order to avoid violent & armed conflicts. 

I will add the highlights of the lecture later in this blog.

(a) As outlined by the professor there occured a CASCADE of Parallel WORLD SYSTEM CRISES, each with its own avalance chain reaction:

–Lifting of the (federal policy) limits imposed after the 1930’s crash on Corn (Commodity) speculation  –> (federal policy) decision to convert up to 50% of American corn into Ethanol for combustion engines in cars & trucks instead of human consumption –> riots and revolutions in Northern African countries —>the 2008 financial crisis. The crash in US house prices in 2007 was followed by a stock market crash, then a puzzling peak in the price of commodities such as wheat and metals.–> conflicts in Lybia and Syria —> Terrorism and mass migration (refugee crisis, see in sheet down right corner) to Europe.

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 15.27.53

(b) The French, Russian, Cuban and Chinese Revolutions also had roots in food shortages and hunger riots, remember !??

4. So in hindsight many of these huge crises and crashes where not the cause but the effects of silly decisions elsewhere. It shows that we can no longer afford nationalism, but should implement new types of “federal = worldwide” collective intelligence & governace PLUS decentralised local authority.  I do have to warn you though that Complexity Studies have only recently been started and noticed. The field is in its early phases of development and possibly not flawless and should be persued much more widely all over the world. It is urgent that such academic projects should be funded urgently since our shared future depends on it !!

5. See also my blog about the crash of the financial system in 2008: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/the-financial-system-is-unstable/

*) “authonomic” is relatively light : deciding together about schooling system & cirriculum, language(s) of formal documents, etc.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

About broodjejaap

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This entry was posted in cascade, chain reaction, Complexity, Financial Crisis, Migration, refugee crisis, Terrorism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to About Our Connected Future, 3: Patterns of Complexity of World Society

  1. Pingback: The Financial System is Unstable !!! | The Connectivist

  2. Pingback: #NeoLiberalism is Finished | The Connectivist

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