The Radical New Reality of Systems Science
Our Next
World View
More Systems Science Implications
From Interdependent Feedback to Emergent Order and Conscious Agency

Interactions between parts can result in unpredictable and inexplicable properties, such as those of water

Interactive feedback networks in complex systems generate nonlinear dynamics that can result in selforganizing operations

This selforganization produces measurable effects but emerges in unpredictable, partly undefinable ways

One such effect is the selective, selfdirecting, selfadapting ordering of systems we associate with agency and consciousness

This new understanding of how adaptive agency emerges from interactive feedback networks constitutes 'scientific mystery'

We now have measurable evidence for the creation of order that arises from dynamical relationships that are immeasurable
The Confounding Science of Proportionally Linear and Disproportional NonLinear Dynamics
Our Modern WorldviewOne Thing After Another:
The linearly dependent, mechanical dynamics that dominate our modern worldview are predictably consistent, thus exactly describable and potentially controllable. That view gives us the impression we can fully understand 'how things actually happen.' We reflexively understand the world as 'mechanisms.'
The New Scientific UnderstandingMany Things At Once:
The nonlinear, simultaneously interdependent dynamics of complex system networks are unpredictably inconsistent and often selfregulating, thus beyond exact description and our control. This understanding shows that we ultimately cannot fully understand 'how things happen.' The science thus confronts us with a 'way that things happen' which is incoherent with our existing cultural worldview.
Confronting these contrasting categories of dynamical events we are compelled to shift our thinking. It is no longer scientifically adequate to conceive the world as a series of predictable, thus potentially controllable, mechanistic sequences. We must now perceive 'how the world works' thru two dynamical models: predictably linear and unpredictably emergent nonlinear.
Linear dynamics have a predictable trajectory, like water flowing at a uniform speed through a pipe. But nonlinear relationships involve chaotic turbulence, such that these change unpredictably over time, even though they can continue to manifest relatively similar patterns of organization, like a river full of eddies and cross currents.
Conceiving Sequential or Diachronic versus Simultaneous or Synchronic Dynamics
To comprehend this contrast we can conceive it in temporal terms as events that occur in distinct sequences of time, or diachronically, verses events that occur concurrently in each instant for time, or synchronically. In the case of simultaneous or synchronic events, these can influence each other instantaneously. That is, numerous linear dynamical effects are interacting in each instant and 'going forward' over time. Think of the turbulence in a river's flow, with many eddies and currents constantly 'pushing and pulling' on each other within the overall mass of the water. 'The River' is not the water, but the synchronic, continually changing, totality of a network of interacting aspects.
It is this type of interactive activity that creates the conditions for feedback interdependencies, thus unpredictably emergent ordering, thus the further emergence of selfordering systems, thus complex adaptive systems, thus animal consciousness. However, though these concepts might seem coherent, how do we actually think about synchronic dynamics 'as causality?' What actually 'causes' what to happen? In linearly sequential, diachronic events, one follows the other. In simultaneous diachronic events, everything is happening all at once, continually.
A System Network as the Dynamic Totality of Synchronic Feedback Relationships
To comprehend this contrast we can conceive it in temporal terms as events that occur in distinct sequences of time, or diachronically, verses events that occur concurrently in each instant of time, or synchronically. In the case of simultaneous or synchronic events, these can influence each other instantaneously. That is, numerous linear dynamical effects are interacting in each instant and 'going forward' over time. Think of the turbulence in a river's flow, with many eddies and currents constantly 'pushing and pulling' on each other within the overall mass of the water. It is this type of interactive activity that creates the conditions for feedback interdependencies, thus unpredictably emergent ordering, thus the further emergence of selfordering systems., thus complex adaptive systems. However, though these concepts might seem coherent, how do we actually think about synchronic dynamics 'as causality?' What actually 'causes' what to happen? In linearly sequential, diachronic events, one follows the other. In simultaneous diachronic events, everything is happen at once continually.
A New 'BiDynamical' Scientific Understanding of Phenomena
These two dynamical modes of 'occurring' underlie the contrast between predictably deterministic causation and unpredictably emergent selfordering. In the first, ordering arises from preexisting order proportionally and predictably. In the second, increased ordering arises from instability disproportionally and unpredictably. Here, we can conceive an inherent paradox in 'how things happen' as arising from a 'bidynamical' reality. In this view, the predictably and proportionally consistent ordering mode provides the basis for the unpredictable emergence of increased ordering from the instability of chaotic but not random (not totally disordered) states. The deterministically 'fixed,' thus predictable, ordering of physics provides the basis for the interactive interdependency of complex dynamics in chaotic systems, from which emerge unpredictably selfordering feedback relationships, from which can emerge selfregulating, then selfdirecting, system networks, some of which can manifest adaptive agency in promoting their own continued existence. All that occurs in what has been termed the "complexity zone" of dynamical activity "at the edge of chaos."
A 'spectrum' has been conceived between fixed or predictable ordering and totally disordered or random activity, within which a 'bidynamical zone' manifests that includes both predictable ordering and
emergently unpredictable selforganization:
Causation as PreDetermined versus Evolved Constraints
Defined in strict accordance to the Laws of Physics, all events are causally predetermined by the constraints inherently imposed upon matter and energy by the 'physical rules' constituting our material universe. In this sense, causation, or 'cause and effect,' as 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction,' is by definition deterministic, thus potentially calculable and predictable given enough information about an existing physical context. However, when we ask, 'what causes a marriage to fail?' a person to think, or a society to collapse, we are asking not merely about physical phenomena but about the
The New Reality of Two 'Ways that Things Happen'A 'Visible' and a 'Hidden' World:
The linearly consistent dynamics of mechanistic events can be fully measured, thus are specifiable and effectively 'visible.' The simultaneous interdependency of complex network dynamics that create order unexpectedly, often out of disorder, are effectively 'invisible'we can only measure their effects not their full process. Emergent ordering arises from simultaneous interactions within recursive networks of turbulent feedback among parts and actions in ways that are not fully reducible to causal sequences.
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These networks are composed of flows of feedback between aspects or parts of a system, or between systems. But these flows are continual and concurrently interacting, so that the networks are in constant flux. The effects of simultaneously interacting impulses across a network give rise to its unpredictably emergent selfordering but are not, as such, entirely identifiable as explicit causal sequences. Thus the science describes "hidden layers" of mutually modifying interactions that occur between measurable "inputs" and "outputs" of a system  as in what is its quantifiable condition in one moment versus in a subsequent moment.
Understanding Phenomena as Networks  from Static to Dynamic, Mechanistic to Emergent
The mutually modifying flows of feedback within interdependent feedback networks are the dynamical basis of emergent ordering, which can arise in chaotic systems like hurricanes or as the selfregulating relationships in complex ones like ecologies and animal species.
The concept of networks can be applied any entity or condition that is identified by some ordered structure or behavior. An atom or molecule can be modeled as a configuration of 'nodes' (electrons, protons, etc.) linked by specific relationships. An electrical circuit is drawn as a network of 'flows' of current that have connecting or regulating nodes (wires, junctions, switches, etc). These are example of networks that are relatively static, in that they tend to be in one or another consistent, predictable state.
Adaptive SelfOrganization as the 'Harnessing of Stochasticity'
Random events are those that occur from relatively disordered activity, thus with little predictability, but often in a probabalistic way. Think of gambling at a casino on the chance that one particular number on a roulette wheel will be the 'winner.' There are so many variables involved that the odds of winning are low. Chaotic systems, like weather, have high levels of unstable, thus difficult to predict, randomness. Yet such conditions can generate feedback loops from which emerge more ordered patterns, turning a relatively unstructured tropical storm into a vastly more ordered hurricane. The feedback loops effective 'ramp up' the ordering that manifests in random events. Random events are termed "stochastic," indicating these have a probability that can be analyzed statistically. Stochastic probability seems to be the basis for the formation of orderenhancing feedback loops. Somehow, feedback networks can form that become selfsustaining by, in effect, harnessing the potential of stochasticity. The resulting increases of more orderly forms and operations are considered "emergent" because these do not derive in a predictably deterministic manner, yet are not fully random either. And it is this 'harnessing' of the creative potential of stochastic probability that ultimately gives rise to the selfdirecting agency of complex adaptive systems, such as life forms and societies.
Reflexive and Reflective Network Agency
Scientific SymbolismMaking the Invisible Visible
Science has generated various abstract models to represent the effectively 'invisible' form and functions of system networks, with their interdependent, simultaneous interactivity and selforganizing effects.
Scientific SpiritualityImagining Network Agency
Appreciating the capacity of complex networks to organize, maintain, and adapt their systems requires metaphoric imagination. Conceiving the creative agency of these networks as 'spiritual agents,' such as the gods and goddesses of mythology, provides us with an emotionally compelling model of what science now describes in abstract terms. The wisdom of ancient mythic symbolism now has a new, scientific basis.
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For more on complex systems and networks see these websites:
Systems Innovation , Complexity Labs, Complexity Explained , and
The Complexity Explorer
The 'harnessing of stochasticity' enabled by complex feedback networks