Re: the mind of culture: tops-down or bottoms-up?

Stephen Barnard (
Wed, 10 Jul 1996 11:06:11 -0800 wrote:
> 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?

One of the defining characteristics of chaotic systems is that small
effects can have large and ultimately unpredictable consequences -- the
so-called butterfly effect. This effect in social systems is described
by the famous ditty (about, I think, King Henry II) that goes something
like, "For want of a nail a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe a horse
was lost; for want of a horse a battle was lost; for want of a battle a
kingdom was lost."

Steve Barnard