Cadell Last’s Paper Proposal

Information-Energy Metasystem Model

The human system is developing into a global biocultural superorganism (de Rosnay 2000; Heylighen 2007; Last 2014a; Stewart 2014). However, in the process of this development human control systems have failed to align towards global goal states (i.e., socioeconomic equality and environmental stability) (e.g., Glenn et al. 2012). In order to help humanity prudently navigate accelerating global processes I am proposing the application of an “Information-Energy Metasystem Model” (IEMM). IEMM merges two cybernetic theories – metasystem transition theory (MSTT) (Turchin 1977) and control information theory (CIT) (Corning 2007) – and may be applied to re-structure human controls towards important global goal states, increasing the chance of future peace and cooperation. According to MSTT, metasystems are evolutionary-cybernetic events characterized by a new level of system-order emerging from the coordination of less ordered subsystems (e.g., A1+A2+A3 → B) (Turchin 1977). The formation of new metasystems has been theorized to result from directional selection for more efficient information processing systems, which increase functional complexity (Turchin 1977; Smith & Szathmáry 1995, 2000; Coren 1998; Stewart 2000; Kurzweil 2005; Lloyd 2006). The emergence of the Internet (~1990-present) gives the appearance of the beginnings of a new metasystem (e.g., Mayer-Kress & Barcyzs 1995; Heylighen 2014). However, our knowledge of MSTT can be enhanced by the application of CIT, which posits that all cybernetic systems “control information” in order to acquire and utilize energy towards new higher-level goals. The merger of MSTT and CIT can be conceptualized within the IEMM as follows: (A) selection for increased information processing, (B) enables cybernetic agents to control and distribute a more abundant energy source to control more agents, (C) but to achieve higher stable organization agents must form new structural organization (i.e., a new “control system”) (A+B=C). This model is supported by empirical evidence of historical human processes from anthropology, biology, and history: the hunting, agricultural, and industrial metasystems (Last 2014b). During the hunting metasystem the evolution of modern language (A) allowed for the coordination of large-scale hunting (+B), stabilizing the formation of bands and tribes (=C) (Dunbar 2003). During the agricultural metasystem record symbols (i.e., written language) (A) allowed for organization of agricultural production (+B), stabilizing the formation of civilization (=C) (Cooper 2004). And during the industrial metasystem the printing press led to the flourishing of scientific and technical knowledge (A) necessary for the exploitation of fossil fuels (+B), allowing for the formation of modern nation-states and international networks (=C) (Harnad 1991). In the present, a lack of structural control system innovation between national and international organizations has prevented collective alignment with important human goal states related to economic equality, social rights, and environmental stability (Glenn et al. 2012). By utilizing the IEMM we can learn from the structural re-organization of past control systems and potentially re-align our system towards a stable long-term goal state.

Cybernetic traditions:

  • 9) Social sciences
  • 2) Control systems; automation; systems engineering

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