Re: "Chaotic Forces"

Sat, 23 Apr 1994 00:34:08 -0400

>Sorry about attributing the quoted part of my note to the wrong person. I
>usually just look at the end of the note for a name and saw "Crowley!"

Poor old Aleister Crowley did many things in his life, but as far as I
know, no one so far has claimed to have necromantic contact with him...

> While you may understand that chaos theory refers to a certain class of
>nonlinerar differential equations, clearly there are a lot of folks who want
>to "apply" chaos theory who haven't done any of their homework and find some
>of the characterizations of chaotic systems (susceptible to small
>perturbations) as sounding right when looking at human systems and so
>assume that chaos theory is appropriate without knowing what chaos theory is

This is true. It's probably good to start with chaos at a simple level (the
swing of the pendulum, for example), before trying to apply it to more
complex systems such as human societies...

>As for your last comment:
>"To repeat an analogy I think I've mentioned
>before. Anthropology seems to look at societies as two-body problems:
>examining the social relationships between two bodies (oppressor-oppressed,
>ruler-ruled, male-female, parent-child, etc.) in various contexts, failing to
>realize that this a multiple-body problem, hence nonlinear and chaotic."
>It's kind of a big jump from saying that social relationships involve more
>than dyads to saying that the appropriate model for social relationships is a
>certain class of nonlinear differential equations that exhibit so-called
>chaotic behavior.

Well, to extend the analogy, if social relationships are purely dyadic,
involving only two actors, they can probably fit into a linear
Newtonian-type model of action-reaction... and this seems to be the way
that many anthropologists look at social relationships. But every type of
seemingly dyadic relationship (especially those within the family...) is
simultaneously being "pushed" and "pulled" simultaneously by many other
social actors. Hence there is no such thing as the the "parent-child"
relationship, in itself, since like the gravitational relationship between
the sun and the earth, this "force" is also being affected by at many other
gravitational relationships simultaneously...
And, again, in any complex system (neural networks, the solar system,
ecosystems, etc.) as you multiply the number of simultaneous
connections/interrelations/forces, the equations become more self-iterative
(using their own output as input), more nonlinear, and more chaotic. Is
"chaos theory" as presently constituted sufficient for describing human
societies? I would agree with you that it is not. Perhaps the weather, the
flow of water out of your tap, Brownian motion in a liquid, or even
electrical activity in your brain: but I do agree that human societies may
demand new sets of equations and models than those currently present in
existing chaos theory.
I still would return to my basic point, which is that I think human
societies will defy any attempts to reduce them to Newtonian
linear-deterministic equations, in any case... precisely because they
consist of self-conscious "billiard balls" which are capable of modifying
their own momentum and position, thus making it hard to determine initial
force vectors... thus equations from chaos theory may be more

>D. Read

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Matrix Master Control Node #3, Gainesville, Fl.
"I slept with Faith & found a corpse in my arms upon awakening/ I drank and
danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning." --