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Thursday, August 6 • 13:30 - 14:00
Principles of Redundancy

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Robert Merton once commented, according to Margaret Mead, that after WW2, “there wasn’t a person in the country (U.S.A) who was thinking hard about problems who didn’t have a folder somewhere marked something like circular systems”. In the present age that folder might read ‘universal patterns’. Human obsession with pattern is not new. Patterns, cycles, periodicities and all manner of repetition have been observed and measured for an unknown period of time throughout human history. We find in nature isomorphic relationships of pattern across vast scales. Indeed, it holds true that pattern formation has cosmic ancestry. From galaxy formations to the tiny neuronal assemblages of brains, or the branching structures of river systems and trees, one cannot help but be nagged by persistent pattern resemblance.

Notoriously, theories of isomorphies have become unfashionable in systems theory circles.  One can speculate on the reason for this but without question they exert a toll on the faculties of the mind that seeks to wrestle such a hydra.  Len Troncale points out a rupture between the holistic, heuristic methodologies—of what might be called broadly, soft systems—and those of isomorphy based approaches. Where traditionally the former is a non-prescriptive, interactive learning based approach and the later offers deterministic potential yet little in the way of an applied approach. Nevertheless, the original goal of Systems thinking remains: elucidation of isomorphies, and thereafter, their application as a methodological tool to solve a problem of function in a real world system.

It was with this in mind that a novel theory—the Principles of Redundancy—was developed during my PhD to provide a tentative proposal capable of explaining system dynamics. This is a novel rendering of the concept ‘redundancy’ that subsumes our traditional explanations and explicates the idea as the basis for the theory. Five Principles are introduced with the aim of exploring the oft used, but rarely examined concepts: order, development, complexity, emergence and stability.

This inquiry resides in the discourse of natural philosophy. It is proposed that Redundancy is a phenomenon that gives rise to order and increasing complexity from sub-atomic particles to supra-social systems. Pattern and form are ineluctably tied into this inquiry and constitute the backbone of the Principles. A focus on non-equilibrium processes, evolution and information informs the discussion and conclusions. The natural condition of the universe is for increasing energy degradation in non-equilibrated cascades of dissipative structures that develop patterns and patterns of patterns.

Development of this idea emanates from what Gregory Bateson called an ‘ecology of mind’ or ‘ecology of ideas’. Whilst Bateson, and others that have subsequently run in his wake, are right to point out the ineffable beauty and mystery of the ecological world—how it is given by physics and chemistry, but is intrinsically not explainable in the same terms—there persists a question of the unity of nature. Shedding light on the nature of pattern and order are, in the words of Bateson, nontrivial. Present in any question about existence is the conundrum in nature between the continuity of change and the discontinuity of the classes which result from change. Explanation, or more acutely exploration, of this conundrum plainly does not lodge in the language of physics, chemistry, ecology or the social sciences. Yet each of the disciplines surely has many ingredients that can and must be used in establishing a new dish—a new epistemology.


Presenter / Artist

Thursday August 6, 2015 13:30 - 14:00 CEST
Copenhagen 1 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

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