Highly Complex Systems  by Wayne M. Angel, Ph.D.

The Quest - A Preface




The Quest - A Preface

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Building a better world sounds like such a lofty venture.  However, if we add the words "one step at a time," it presents a different perspective.  It becomes clear that the fundamental reason for planning and forecasting is always "to build a better world" even if only one step at a time.  If not to make a better world, why would anyone want to make any change? Thus, we are all participants in creating a better world as soon we decide to make a change. 

The following dialogue takes place between Ellie and the Alien in Carl Sagan’s Book “Contact.” Ellie is an astronomer who discovers a radio message from an alien civilization.  The message contains instructions on how to create a machine.  The machine is built.  In it Ellie and 4 others travel via a galactic transportation system to a station near the center of the galaxy.  There they learn of an intergalactic civilization that has existed for hundreds of millions of years.   

“Don’t think of us as some interstellar sheriff gunning down outlaw civilizations.  Think of us more as the Office of the Galactic Census.  We collect information.  I know you think nobody has anything to learn from you because you’re technologically so backward.  But there are other merits to a civilization.”

“What merits?”

“Oh, music.  Lovingkindness.  (I like that word.) Dreams.  Humans are very good at dreaming, although you would never know it from your television.  There are cultures all over the Galaxy that trade dreams.”

“You operate an interstellar cultural exchange? That’s what this is all about? You don’t care if some rapacious, bloodthirsty civilization develops interstellar spaceflight?”

“I said we admire lovingkindness.”

“If the Nazis had taken over the world, our world, and then developed interstellar spaceflight, wouldn’t you have stepped in?”

“You’d be surprised how rarely something like that happens.  In the long run, the aggressive civilizations destroy themselves, almost always.  It’s their nature.  They can’t help it.  In such a case, our job would be to leave them alone.  To make sure that no one bothers them.  To let them work out their own destiny.”

“Then why didn’t you leave us alone? I’m not complaining, mind you.  I’m only curious as to how the Office of the Galactic Census works.  The first thing you picked up from us was that Hitler broadcast.  Why did you make contact?”

“The picture was, of course, alarming.  We could tell you were in deep trouble.  But the music told us something else.  The Beethoven told us there was hope.  Marginal cases are our specialty.  We thought you could use a little help.  Really, we can offer only a little.  You understand.  There are certain limits imposed by causality.”

“He had crouched down, running his hands through the water, and was now drying them on his pants.

“Last night, we looked inside you.  All five of you.  There’s a lot in there: feelings, memories, instincts, learned behavior, insights, madness, dreams, and loves.  Love is very important.  You’re an interesting mix.”

“All in one night’s work?” She was taunting him a little. 

“We had to hurry.  We have a pretty tight schedule.”

“Why is something about to  .  .  .  “

“No, it’s just that if we don’t engineer a consistent causality, it’ll work itself out on its own.  Then it’s almost always worse.”

She had no idea what he meant. 
           .  .  .

“I want to know what you think of us,” she said shortly, “what you really think.”

He did not hesitate for a moment.  “All right.  I think it’s amazing that you’ve done as well as you have.  You’ve got hardly any theory of social organization, astonishingly backward economic systems, no grasp of the machinery of historical prediction, and very little knowledge about yourselves.  Considering how fast your world is changing, it’s amazing you haven’t blown yourselves to bits by now.  That’s why we don’t want to write you off just yet.  You humans have a certain talent for adaptability – at least in the short term.”

“That’s the issue, isn’t it?”

“That’s one issue.  You can see that, after a while, the civilizations with only short-term perspectives just aren’t around.  They work out their destinies also.”

She wanted to ask how he honestly felt about humans.  Curiosity?  Compassion?  No feelings whatever, just all in a day’s work?  In his heart of hearts – or whatever equivalent internal organs he possessed – did he think of her as she thought of .  .  .  an ant? But she could not bring herself to ask the question.  She was too much afraid of the answer.
          Contact, Carl Sagan, pgs.  358-360 

Within this text I present a theory of Social Organization and the means to develop the machinery of historical prediction.  My intent is to identify what we need to do in order to develop a long term perspective so that humanity will be around for the long term.  I offer no master plan.  In fact my theory and simulations indicate that such a plan cannot exist.  There is no new world order that will insure survivability.  The solution is to be found in how we, as individuals, make decisions and in the design of the myriad of organizations, small and large, that make up our civilization.  The theory presented here can be applied at the highest level of organization, but its application at the lower levels is far more important. 

I am very aware of the long history of failures to create a theory of society.  I shall not take the time to analyze those failures and identify how my approach is significantly different.  I will simply state that I have taken a significantly different approach; a road not previously traveled.  In this approach I may have devised one or two new and useful steps, but for the most part my effort has been to combine the work of others into a quantifiable and verifiable theory of society.  I, of course, identify them and their contributions within the text.  It is the work of these individuals that represents the significant advance in our understanding of organization behavior that leads to the Theory of Society.


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