The Radical New Reality of Network Science
The New Science
Science has Revealed a New 'Way that Things Happen'
Ordered systems can emerge from disorder in unpredictable ways
Some systems form feedback driven networks that purposefully self-order, sustain, and even adapt their activity
Such purposefully self-organizing system networks create most order in the world
This unpredictable network agency produces uncontrollable systems and events
Disruption of system feedback networks can disable their self-organizing agency and cause their collapse
Natural systems evolve cooperative relationships that human ones tend to disrupt and destroy
Animals and Humans are not the only Purposeful Actors in The World
Networks can Make Systems 'Think for Themselves'
Over recent decades, scientific study of complex systems, ranging from single living cells to societies, has revealed that these systems are much more than "the sum of their parts." Feedback driven relationships between the parts of these systems produce interactions that form their 'operational networks.' These networks can actually process information about their system and its environment in ways that enable the system to actually adapt itself in ways that promote its continued existence. In effect, many such systems have agency. They can effectively "think and act for themselves."
Feedback Relationships among System Parts Create Self-Ordering Actions
The actions of different parts of a "complex adaptive system" feed back into each other. This collective inter-action produces an overall system network of interdependent relationships. A shoal of fish is a system composed of many individual fish--the system's parts. The individual fish react to each other in ways that organize the entire system. This network of many interdependent interactions among the fish has no central controller. It is not being directed or pre-determined, thus is not predictable. It emerges from interdependent interactions from moment to moment. Thus the self-organizing effects of the network emerges from moment to moment, "from the bottom up," not in a "top down" process of "command and control." This is typical of natural systems but also plays a primary role in human ones.
The network of a fish shoal is an "emergent property" of its parts, the fish, interacting with each other and their environment:
Self-Organizing System Networks Create the Order of The World
From the systems of individual cells to those of forests and cities, interdependent feedback networks regulate and adapt their respective systems. They enable their systems function by behaving like living, intentional creatures. The biosphere itself is a meta version of such a network. It is composed of interacting feedback relationships among the countless other networks that are its parts. Each responds to feedback from other networks, acting to generate the collective self-organization of the meta-system. This self-creating, self-regulating, networked world is radically interdependent. By adapting to each other, interacting networks make if possible for each individual network to persist. Human systems do this as well as natural ones.
The networks of individual trees interact to generate the self-organizing meta-network of a forest ecology
The World is a Continually Emerging Interplay of Networks that Feed Back into Each Other
From ecosystems to climate, societies, economies, marriages, and human minds, we exist in and are the creations of mutually modifying networks. The world is an on-going, disproportionally emergent, often purposeful becoming. Its order and disorder are continually changing despite seeming continuities. Most profoundly, much of the order arises from the disorderly aspects of these massively complex feed back relationships.
Climate systems, ecologies, personal relationships, and societies are all complex systems that collectively 'make the world":
Human Manipulations of Systems can Disable Their Self-Sustaining Network Agency
Our efforts to manipulate and control both natural and human systems can disrupt their self-regulating, adaptive network agency. That can result in sudden changes in these systems and even their collapse, from the extinction of animal species to civil wars. Such effects are typical of human systems with hierarchically structured, command and control structure. Because these systems too manifest network agency, their impulse to sustain and adapt their systems produces behavior and effects we do not expect or intend. The very networks we create can become powerful agents in and of themselves, acting for their own purposes and control us more than we control them.
To Think Realistically We must now Learn to Perceive Hidden Networks Everywhere
To understand how the order around us is actually created and sustained, we must learn to perceive the activities and agency of self-directing networks. However, the self-organizing effects of their feedback driven relationships arise from concurrently interacting events, in which numerous actions influence each other simultaneously. Thus their activity is not fully identifiable as the separate parts and actions of their systems. It is not a predictable sequence of events but a continually changing constellation of interactions that become interdependent. That means we must now learn to think very differently about 'how the world actually works.' We reflexively think in terms of sequences of linear actions with predictable effects. Now we must also think in terms of constellations of simultaneous interactions--from which emerge unpredictable network agency and its purposeful behaviors.
Thinking events as sequences versus as concurrently interacting constellations of feedback effects: