Future of Our World as a Complex System

Samantha THOMAS — Complex Systems Of Communication

It’s not a surprise: we can no longer understand the world around us. The socio-economic relationships between states, companies and individuals have become so complex that we can not have a global reasoning. We went from a few tribes of hunter-gatherers, to villages of thousands of people, then states of hundreds of thousands to nations of millions of people. Globalization has connected this group of nations so that human civilization has become clearly interdependent. We can, therefore, by definition, consider it as a complex organism. The study of complex systems teaches us that an organization subject to a hierarchical system can not tolerate a certain level of complexity, and that this organization must adapt, find a new structure or decrease in complexity. In this article, we will look at the consequences of the increasing complexity of human societies.

Can the world be solved?

In these electoral periods full of surprises, the complexity of our societies is never discussed, but yet crucial. We divide ourselves trying to find solutions without questioning how the new modern world works. The truth is that, mathematically speaking, the world can not be solved. Let’s take the seemingly simple example of the distribution of food resources in a city. We add equity constraints: everyone must have the same share; Preferences: such one person prefer meat, the other fish; And transport constraints: taking the shortest paths between production and consumption areas. This problem is part of the category of so-called NP-Difficult problems in mathematics, which is characterized by the fact that it can not be solved in a reasonable amount of time (the calculation of this problem executed by a computer will be fast for 100 people but Very very long for a large number of people). In the real world, the difficulty of the distribution of resources is infinitely complicated, on one hand, because there are millions of different products, on the other hand because the earth has 7 billion inhabitants. The world today can not be solved optimally even by the most powerful computer (under the unrealistic assumption that we can access to all the necessary data).

There is, however, a very simple way to solve this problem: capitalism and market economy. A price results from the confrontation between supply and demand. To get this price: no calculations required, no supercomputers, very little mathematics. Capitalism, by the market, offers an elegant solution to the problem of sharing resources. This may explain one of the causes of the collapse of the communist model. Indeed, the Communist model requires a very limited number of products and professional specializations. Beyond a certain threshold, we can not guarantee to everyone a fair share because everything becomes too complex to manage, which engenders revolt and famine. A democratic society can therefore, through free trade and capitalism, tolerate a level of complexity superior to the communist model. The price to pay is the growing inequalities inherent in the capitalist model. The role of the state is therefore to contain these inconveniences so that society does not excessively polarize. We are now seeing the pitfall: there will come a time when the complexity of our society, made possible by capitalism, will surpass the level of human understanding of all socio-economic interactions and mechanisms.

From now on, the impact of the measures taken by a centralized government will become difficult to predict at best, random at worst. Indeed, how do we know if the beneficiaries of a measure are the ones we believe? Let’s take a very simple example: a tax incentive to purchase for first time buyers can have the effect of helping this category of person gain access to the property, just as it can result in an increase in real estate prices and end up in the pockets of the owners. Economists can attempt to predict the effects of such measures, however, as we saw earlier, it becomes difficult to model optimally the impact of these decisions. Our economic theories and models are very meagre compared to the complexity of the situation, especially since they are beginning to seriously date. Indeed, some economists intend to replace these old rigid economic models with more dynamic models, better matching the current world. (Steve Keens — Debunking Economics).

Will our world collapse?

This impossibility to govern in a centralized way has led in the past to the collapse of many civilizations. Thus, Joseph Tainter, in his book “The Collapse of Complex Societies”, finds that investment in socio-political complexity, as a response to problem-solving, often reaches a point of diminishing marginal returns. The collapse as he sees it is not apocalyptic, it is simply a shift to a lower level of complexity. One could imagine, with what we have seen, that our societies would thus have only collapsed for the future. However, in his study, Joseph Tainter points out that a society collapses only if it is politically isolated. Indeed, the population of one society collapsing next to another would be administered by the latter. Its level of complexity would, therefore, remain constant. That is why a well-surrounded state can not go bankrupt and collapse, it does not make sense, unless the whole world collapses what is unlikely.

Cindividual is the complexity of the individual who holds the authority. http://www.necsi.edu/research/multiscale/EOLSSComplexityRising.pdf

If our societies can not move to a lower level of complexity, what could be the future? The theory based on the study of complex systems tells us the following: When the complexity of an organization subject to a hierarchical system goes beyond the complexity of the individual who holds the authority, the organization becomes more efficient by adopting a Network control structure. We already have evidence that we are in the middle of this process. For example :

  • Authoritarian political regimes are increasingly being replaced by democracies.
  • State participation in the economy is declining
  • Large firms tend to employ fewer and fewer people
  • The patriarchal family is disappearing, with much more horizontal relations between the members of the family
  • Industries traditionally administered by the government are increasingly privatized

In addition, technology plays a leading role in this process. Computers, machines multiply our power of individual creation. Thus one can have fun making a parallel with the old periods and calculate how much virtual stopover we have. So I have the power to send a message to the other side of the earth to dozens of people (which may correspond to a full-time messenger team in ancient times). I have access to an unlimited amount of information and knowledge through the Internet (ie a team of experts in all areas). I can buy agricultural machinery where I can greatly accelerate my productivity (corresponding to hundreds of workers). So it is as if we were constantly controlling a thousand men. Thus, by associating in small businesses, modern man is capable of building great things and having an impact on the world through technology.

We might ask ourselves, how concretely, would this network civilization develop? What technology would it use? How will the transition take place? We can also question the risk of the emergence of a technocracy controlled by a few Internet giants.
For such a networked civilization to emerge, it would require decentralized technology, not based on private or public organizations and capable of managing the essential interactions in a market society: transactions and ownership. This technology is already there, it’s the blockchain. The Blockchain is an information storage and transmission technology that is transparent, secure, and operates without a central control device. The bitcoin was built on this technology, but only recently have we realized its potential. Indeed, the players in the blockchain are considering using this technology beyond a simple digital currency: energy, finance, industry. So the possibilities are immense. The blockchain could be the foundation of a future decentralized and horizontal society where decisions would be simpler to take.

We understand that there are two things to be developed,

  • Decentralize decisions — through the eventual blockchain? -
  • Create mathematical models simulating these decisions of the decentralized sub-parts of our societies

Combining this research, we could build a society where the political debate would be intelligible, effective and authentic.

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Ulric Musset