Re: the mind of culture: tops-down or bottoms-up?
Tue, 09 Jul 1996 14:56:37 -0700

Gerold Firl wrote:

> I will use this post to examine some of the interesting
> questions which appear when we try to view a culture as a complex
> adaptive system which interacts with similar systems; it processes
> information, acts, reacts, and seems to operate as if it were a
> semi-conscious (?) entity with something like a mind of its own.

This is one area where chaotic theories a certainly applicable. In fact,
you seem to intuitively describe it as such: complex (non-linear) and
adaptive (implies a dynamic system, changing over time). Chaos theory is
also being applied to spatial systems which I think might apply. But
this aspect of the theory is still under development.

You state that it 'interacts with similar systems.' Actually, I can
think of few systems which act completely independent of other systems,
linear or non-linear. I would think it would be expected to see a high
level of interaction between similar systems.

You define the system as processing, acting and reacting (all aspects of
a dynamic system), and operating 'as if it were a semi-conscious enitity
(this I assume you are referring to complex responses to environment
rather than to self awareness?

You continue by describing the system in linear terms.

I thought that perhaps I might suggest that you examine chaos theories.
A good book for those with no mathematical inclinations would be any
book on fractals and especially one discussing strange attractors (this
aspect of chaos theory is similar to the qualities you describe as a
cultural mind, or a semi-conscious entity). The key is in remembering
that while such a book refers to fractals, the concepts behind the
theories are applicable to all complex dynamic systems.

Just a thought.