19 March 2005 | Draft
Sustainability through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas
in the light of the coherence and visual form of the Mandelbrot set
- / -
Potential implications for interdisciplinary and intersectoral
Annex 4: Features of Mandelbrot and Julia Sets (not completed)
This exploration endeavours to frame the concerns of two earlier associated papers in terms of the insights of dissipative systems and the Mandelbrot set (hereafter referred to as the M-set). The first paper (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge -- positive vs negative, 2005) was concerned with the appropriate handling of "positive" and "negative" from a strategic perspective and as a judgement on the relevance of feedback. The second paper (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005) sought to demonstrate the importance of a set of 8 patterns of interaction in defining a coherent pattern within any system of relationships -- highlighting the role of the cardioid in that pattern, following the work of Edward Haskell (Generalization of the structure of Mendeleev's periodic table, 1972).
Given the prime importance of the cardioid in representation of the M-set, the argument that follows is initially descriptive in clarifying an explanation of dissipative systems in terms relevant to the strategic challenge of interpersonal and intergroup relationships of those papers. There is an extensive body of literature of varying levels of technicality that explains the M-set and related issues. The concern here is the potential relevance of those insights to contexts which have not as yet been a prime concern. Reference is therefore only made to the technicalities where they suggest insights of relevance to the strategic challenge that might otherwise go unrecognized.
The purpose here is to explore imaginative leads and framings -- possibly primarily metaphorical -- that may be a guide to more concrete interpretations. In that respect the isomorphism with Haskell's cardioid may bear a less than rigorous relationship to that discussed here. [This question is currently under investigation by Kent Palmer]
The stimulus for this discussion came from the dynamic between "positive" and "negative" and the developing widespread movement in favour of "positive" thinking and in opposition to "negativity" (see J K Norem and E C Chang. The positive psychology of negative thinking, 2002). Negativity may even be condemned as "bad", even sinful. The earlier paper (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge -- positive vs negative, 2005) endeavoured to show that in both strategic and practical contexts there was clearly a need for both modes -- if only in the cybernetic terms of positive and negative feedback required for systems control.
This polarity can however be seen as merely a rather "pure" and obvious example of many other forms of "incommensurables" between which an operational relationship has somehow to be ensured in practice and in daily life. Other examples range from economy vs environment, through peace vs conflict, female vs male, and including abstract vs concrete. They also include the ordering of the many interpersonal and strategic dilemmas faced in society (cf Value polarities).
The (re)discoverer of the M-set, Benoit Mandelbrot, recognized repeating patterns on all scales in numerous phenomena -- cotton prices, clouds, and coastlines. Whilst his research showed that the changes were unpredictable -- namely random -- the sequence of the changes was independent of scale. This means that the variation in each case is no more of a period of centuries, than over decades or years -- so-called scale invariance. This applied equally to shapes such as clouds, trees or earthquakes and resulted in the formulation of the concept of fractals as a measurement of roughness or irregularity that demonstrated self-similarity on all scales. In natural systems, the structure of the whole system is often reflected in every part of it -- especially when similar forces act at many levels of scale. Natural forms tend to reveal transformed copies of the whole in every part. Fractals are therefore widely found in nature. So in many ways fractal structures are potentially more relevant than more conventional idealized scientific concepts.
It was later established that chaos is a feature of many nonlinear dynamical systems. Their deeply cyclic structure does not however imply that the cycles repeat exactly. Whilst the amount of the variation within such cycles is constant, the variations with variations makes them inherently unpredictable at every level of scale. These nested cycles may be simulated by iterative procedures.
It is appropriate that relating the apparently incommensurable should be achieved through "fractal" techniques in contrast with the techniques of algebra" that have proved so appropriate to relating the commensurable. Algebra derives from the notion of "binding together", in contrast with Fractal that derives from "breaking into irregular fragments".
The term "Mandelbrot set" is used to refer both to a general class of fractal sets and to the particular instance of such a set derived from the quadratic recurrence equation zn+1= zn2 + c. In general, a Mandelbrot set marks the set of points in the complex plane such that the corresponding Julia set (J-set) is connected and not computable. It is the particular instance that is discussed in what follows (and referred to as the M-set). [more]
Although the M-set is indeed perhaps the best known fractal, there are many other types. In its more general form, the power in the quadratic recurrence equation may be increased from the standard "squared" form (with one symmetry axis) to the cubic form (with two such axes), the quadric (with three) -- with any number of "poles" by suitable choice of exponent. These raise fruitful questions which are not however addressed in what follows. It is the particular instance that is the focus here because it is the simplest that gives rise to an object of such great complexity.
The M-set fractal corresponds to the simplest nonlinear function -- but is also as complicated as a fractal can get. It distinguishes the simplest boundary between chaos and order. It is recognized as the simplest non-trivial example of a holomorphic parameter space. Given the significance of pi in defining a circle as a simpler object, the generation of the M-set by iteration may be compared to the iterative calculation of pi (cf Alex Lopez-Ortiz. How to compute digits of pi ?; Dave Boll. Pi and the Mandelbrot set) [more]. One method, with a striking formal resemblance to that required for the M-set, is: zn+1= zn + sin(zn), especially if initialized to zn = 3 [more].
In the search for solutions to complex equations, experiments with iterations by computer have highlighted intricate global properties related to nonconvergence and the stability of convergence. The behavior of quadratic functions, as the simplest of all nonlinear mappings, combines ease of calculation with sufficient generality to illustrate most of the abstract properties of iterations. Just as using complex variables often clarifies the properties of functions of a real variable, studying complex iterations can be expected to generalize and illuminate real nonlinear mappings as well.
The complex space in which the conceptual and value concerns are significant has been usefully described by Vladimir Dimitrov (Glimpses at Mathematics and Physics of Social Complexity)
Dissipative systems, and the M-set, offer a language through which to explore and identify viable patterns of sustainable relationship between essentially incompatible modes of behaviour or anti-thetical modes of thinking. It is these which are typically fundamental to the strategic dilemmas in pyscho-social systems -- whether intrapsychic, interpersonal or intergroup. It is the continuing search for the resolution of these dilemmas that characterizes the dynamic of such systems. Typically however the resolution is of four types:
This approach offers a pattern language to explore the complexities of the periodic resolution to strategic dilemmas -- the space of not-this, not-that (the neti neti of Sanskrit). The emergent patterns there are those which characterize a multitude of dynamically stable experiential resolutions of strategic dilemmas. These dynamic resolutions can be depicted (through the M-set) as characteristic patterns of great variety. The set of all such patterns (the M-set as a whole) is of a coherent form that is reflected in many ways (isomorphically) in their detail ("when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I").
The pattern language is of significance because it enables agonizing psycho-social dilemmas, such as employment vs unemployment (environment vs employment, "affairs of the heart", etc) to be addressed in new ways -- unconstrained by the conventional binary logic and the logically excluded middle. In effect it is a language for exploring the viable patterns of the "middle way". It gives form, space and locus to particular dynamic resolutions of strategic dilemmas. The viability of these patterns, and the challenge to their comprehension, arises, however, from their characteristic dynamic -- in contrast with the stability normally sought in non-dynamic resolutions to such dilemmas.
The characteristic form taken by the set of patterns as a whole is also of particular significance because of the way in which its aesthetic potential can be used to mnemonic advantage. As with delightful melodies, it offers memorable features that reinforce the coherence of the pattern in practice. In addition, as depicted, these emergent patterns are in many respects intuitively recognizable and familiar rather than being alien to the human psyche. It is in this respect that they may echo -- and be echoed by -- cultural symbols of great archetypal significance. In these senses, "M-set" might more usefully be understood as the "Memorable set" or the "Mnemonic set". But the challenge to comprehension -- through "iterative "re-membering" of it as a gestalt -- might then be understood in the light of Antonio de Nicolas' poetic title (Remembering the God to Come: a book of poems, 1988).
The particular concern here is with how the geometry of the dynamic pattern is sensed experientially -- how the "geometry is felt" (using the "computing" and "graphics" capability of the brain) -- rather than with the technicalities that are important to its rigorous description. The challenge is to ensure that the latter serves in improving the quality, richness and viability of experience in engaging with strategic dilemmas. As a mathematician, Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space?, 1981) has addressed how geometry may be "felt" in a communication space (see Social organization determined by incommunicability of insights). .
The following points endeavour to provide a rationale for the approach taken:
In support of this approach, for example, Chris C. King (Fractal and Chaotic Dynamics in Nervous Systems, 1991) presents a review of fractal and chaotic dynamics in nervous systems and the brain, exploring mathematical chaos and its relation to processes, from the neurosystems level down to the molecular level of the ion channel.
This exploration offers an intriguing challenge in attempting to render comprehensible some rather subtle insights. For mathematicians the M-set is recognized as one of the most complex objects -- whilst at the same time claiming that its intricacies are basically accessible to those with a background in high school mathematics. For many, like this author, exposure to mathematics at that level may no longer be meaningfully remembered -- effectively grouping them with those who have not had that exposure. On the other hand, as visualized through dramatic fractal displays, the object lends itself to easy exploration and has aroused much enthusiasm -- supposedly avoiding the need for any mathematics.
However the purpose of this exploration is to benefit to a higher degree from the mathematics, without getting lost in its technicalities, and to focus on its implications for offering an ordering for psycho-social insights that may have been acquired or intuited through other disciplines. That said, there remains the problem of how to structure this exploration so as to offer a link to the mathematics for those who may have some willingness to benefit from it (and be reassured by its formal features) -- without disturbing the flow of the argument and distracting from its integrative commitment.
Clearly the argument is primarily speculative -- a right-brain exercise. The mathematics may offer a left-brain framework for some. It must also be said that, for the author, endeavouring to make the technical arguments of mathematicians meaningful proved to be an extremely valuable exercise in triggering such intuitive right-brain insights.
This paper therefore carries the speculative argument. Extensive links to introductory explanations elsewhere are provided in the table below.
It should be noted that with respect to any "non-mainstream discipline", any reference to it here is not to be considered as an endorsement of that perspective. Its significance may however lie in the size of the constituency holding that view -- namely in the political and cultural implications of the dynamic arising from such alternative views in a global system. The purpose here is to raise issues for imaginative exploration, not to seek premature closure.
A very useful articulation of the challenge is in terms of dissipative systems about which the remarks of Kent Palmer (Steps to the Threshold of the Social: the mathematical analogies to dissipative, autopoietic, and reflexive systems, 1997) seem the clearest and most relevant for the above purpose. For him (pp 587-588):
Such language would seem to be a helpful way of handling the many fundamental strategic dilemmas that affect both the coherence of global debate and the experience of interpersonal relationships. The challenge is indeed one of two different "ordering" mechanisms, whether these are culturally defined (Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations", Snow's "Two Cultures", political cultures ( "right vs left", "mainstream vs alternative"), gender defined ("Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus"), or in terms of epistemological mindsets (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993).
As Palmer argues, this situation can be approached using the "imaginary" qualities of complex numbers, stressing the nature of the "illusion" involved:
In the other previous paper (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005), the challenge of "positive" and "negative" was handled through a coordinate system developed by Edward Haskell to map pairs of interacting biological species in terms of the nature of their transaction or "game". This gave rise to a "coaction cardioid". But as Palmer indicates in endeavouring to map out such relationships:
It was suggested that the cardioid intrinsic to Haskell's approach could possibly be understood as that feature of a M-set. It is indeed the case that the systems to which Haskell's coaction cardioid was applied could be understood as dissipative systems -- even though he did not use the axial representation conventionally used for complex numbers (as described by Palmer).
In order to offer a framework for any more detailed discussion of some of the technicalities of how the M-set emerges as a coherent pattern -- and its significance for the above purpose -- it is useful to provide a focus through the features of a visual image to which reference can be made.
As a representation of the M-set, Figure 1 is rotated 90o from that used conventionally. This is an orientation similar to that used in the earlier paper on the cardioid as an attractor. It is also that favoured by the many who compare it to the seated Buddha, especially when coloured to highlight the concentric "auras" (as in Figure 1). It could be rotated a further 180o to give prominence to the cardioid effect, for those who associate more strongly with representations of the heart.
As noted by Len Warne (A Meditation on the Mandelbrot Set, via Walt Whitman):
For detailed descriptions of features of the M-set, see the web resources in the above table.
The M-set can be divided into an infinite set of figures (typically represented as black, as in Figure 1) with the largest figure (in the center) being a cardioid. An (infinite) number of circles are in direct (tangential) contact with the cardioid -- but they vary in size, tending asymptotically to zero. Each of these circles has in turn its own infinite set of smaller circles in contact with it, and these surrounding circles also tend asymptotically in size to zero. Repeatedly indefinitely, this branching produces a fractal. In addition the M-set is characterized by filaments or tendrils within which some new cardioids appear, not attached to lower level "circles". [more]
The emergence of the M-set as a focus of disciplined reflection enables extremely useful distinctions to be made between levels of abstraction and the nature and credibility of any corresponding explanations. Any assumption that the M-set offers a simplistic, single-factor explanation should be carefully examined -- perhaps in the light of the relation between multi-period attractors and multi-factor explanations. The potentials of the M-set relate in fact to the concerns with meta-systemic perspectives, notably those developed by Kent Palmer (Autopoietic Meta-Theory, 1998; Deep Mathematics and Meta-Systems Theory, 1997; Vajra Logics and Mathematical Meta-models for Meta-systems Engineering, 2001).
Distinctions might be made in terms of deductive ("top-down") and inductive ("bottom-up") approaches:
There are a number of sources distinguishing levels of abstraction:
Levels of abstraction, however clustered, focus two intertwined questions:
These questions might be discussed in terms of meta-levels and how communication about them can be ensured with minimal confusion (** Palmer). For example, David Wright (Talking 'about': Languaging, emotioning and communicating knowings, 2002) asks:
Whilst mathematics may offer formal distinctions, the mind may be much challenged to comprehend these distinctions. Much use can be made of metaphors in making the distinctions, as is typical of spiritual discourse. These do not necessarily offer an experiential sense of the distinction. It is here that the proposal of Kathleen Forsythe to use the term "isophor" to depict a feeling response to one thing in terms of another is relevant. Forsythe describes an isophor as something that is "experienced emotionally and, (that) as such, define(s) the experience of understanding." (1987)
Kathleen Forsythe (Cathedrals in the Mind, 1986) in a paper to a meeting of cyberneticians argues: "Analogy and its poetic expression, metaphor, may be the "meta-forms" necessary to understanding those aspects of our mind that make connections, often in non-verbal and implicit fashion, that allow us to understand the world in a whole way."
Forsythe uses the term isophors for isomorphisms experienced in the use of language. Isophors are distinct from metaphors in that they are experienced directly. With the isophor there is no separation between thought and action, between feeling and experience. The experience itself is evoked through the relation. She suggests that the experience of one thing in terms of another, the isophor, is the means by which domain is mapped to domain and that consciousness of this meta-action, when recognized, lies at the heart of cognition. Forsythe has postulated the development of an epistemology of newness in which learning is the perception of newness and cognition depends on a disposition for wonder leading to this domain of conception-perception interactions. She argues that the notion of metaphor is commonly understood to mean the description of one thing in terms of another -- presupposing an objective reality. This objectivity may be questioned and if, as suggested by Maturana, (objectivity) is placed in parentheses:
The challenge in what follows is to determine whether felt experience and insight resonate with formal representation. This is the challenge of aesthetic proportion in general and of sacred geometry in particular. The concern is not to force such an association but rather to provoke an imaginative exploration of possibilities. This exploration is not aimed at closure or reductionistic grasping of a subtle integrative pattern. The concern is more to offer a form (the M-set) that ensures an interplay between suggestive possibilities. It is however important to recognize that the very complexity of the M-set, however well understood intuitively in some way, poses a real challenge to explanation and comprehension of the M-set as a 4-dimensional gestalt. The challenge might in some ways be compared to explaining movement up a spiral staircase, without pictures, to someone who has never seen one. The length of this paper is perhaps a measure of the lack of full understanding of that gestalt by its author!
It is important to be as clear as possible concerning the challenge of relating what mathematics can discover, the possible beauty of its graphical expression, with reality as known and experienced. Each constitutes a different focus and their relationship is not necessarily evident or rigorously established.
It is perhaps appropriate to recall the early recognition of the paradoxical challenge of explaining chaos as articulated by Heraclitus (540-475 B.C.E):
In contrast with the uniqueness of a particular experienced phenomenon, a fractal models the essence of a species or type, not the appearance of a particular individual. Fractals can be found to fit any set of data, including inherently unpredictable and chaotic systems -- where linear equations fail entirely (as representations of the rate of change of a system at any given point). The question is how to understand the relation to the J-sets and M-set discussed here. Fractals emerge at the border between harmony and dissonance -- when rhythms fall into or out of sync. The human heart and the brain are dynamical systems in motion. In this respect, psychiatrist Arnold Mandell is quoted (by James Gleick. Chaos: making a new science, 1986) as follows:
There is now an interest in "dynamical diseases" -- when fractal rhythms fall out of sync. On this point, Dick Oliver (Fractal Vision, 1992) notes:
In a personal communication in 2005 on the questions posed by this paper, Chris Lucas (CalResCo: The Complexity and Artificial Life Research Concept for Self-Organizing Systems) makes the points:
The theoretical disconnect from experienced reality has been expressed differently by Dick Oliver (Fractal Vision, 1992):
You obviously can use fractal templates based on affine transformations to model nature. But all this Julia set business seems about as far from nature as you can get. chaotic, nonlinear transformations such as z squared plus c can produce pretty pictures, but they don't seem to have any connection with the physical world at all.... No one is certain how the spirals and branches in the Mandelbrot and Julia sets arise from nonlinear equations, let alone why they follow the archetypal patterns of nature so closely. these topics are at the forefront of current mathematical and scientific research.
It is curious the extent to which so much hangs on the understanding of "iteration". Clearly there is a sense in which the cyclic phenomena studied by Mandelbrot can be usefully understood through iterative procedures. It is also clear that recurrent daily experience -- such as starting the day with the state of one's office as left the previous day -- can be understood as an iterative process. Experience itself may be understood as having been built up through iteration -- repeatedly taking past experience and using it as the configuring seed for experience in the present moment.
An iteration takes all the past -- the past as a whole -- and feeds it into the function in the moment. From any "seed thought" (or intuition), one is then always recomputing the whole -- so the maths of iteration are extremely close to moment by moment thinking (life as "constantly computing z from c"), and our various cognitive habits (see Antonio de Nicolas. Habits of Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Education, 2000).
It is the pattern recognition (or imposition) ability of the human mind that bridges the mathematical disjointedness to which Chris Lucas refers. The iterative process of recomputing points to constitute an image has similarities to the pointillist, post-impressionist painting style founded by artist Georges Seurat. The semiotic challenge in relation to artificial intelligence has been addressed by Swinton Roof (MandelBug: A New Project, 2003).
It is fruitful to look for "levels of abstraction" from experience through to the M-set. But such a ladder is itself problematic as implied above. Furthermore, there is a body of literature stimulated by feminist scholars (cf Carol Gilligan, 1982, 1990) that questions use of "levels" and points to use of a configuration of complementary modes that may be variously accessible (see Learnings for the Future of Inter-Faith Dialogue : Insights evoked by intractable international differences, 1993). Such cognitive modes might be understood as attractors of different types. The configuration might be understood in terms of the M-set pattern. Some exploring fractals also question this asymmetrical viewpoint. Although a fractal image of the "lower" parts are contained within the "higher" whole, remarkably the "higher" whole is equally contained in the "lower" parts.[more]
In addition, "below" the experience of dynamics, there is the question of how one participates in those dynamics -- entering into them nonabstractly. And, "above" the abstraction of the M-set, there is the question of how one engages with it and embodies it. Both extremes are beyond the maths (and may merge together forming a "cognitive torus", as with the Ourobouros). The M-set may be effectively understood as an experiential standing wave.
These considerations may require a decision from the reader as to how to approach suggestions in this paper. The broader issues may indeed make it "too flaky" for mathematicians and decision-makers, and too formal for experiential people. But as such it does hold the dynamic of the dilemma their unrelatedness constitutes. Given the ambition of the paper in relation to strategic dilemmas, it is to be expected that this would be in some measure reflected in how its content is explored. Those with a relative dominance of left-brain over right-brain would seek any order offered by the mathematical abstractions in response to chaos, whereas those with a relatively dominant right-brain would be more persuaded by the aesthetic continuities of the patterns and what they imply for participative experience.
Possible psycho-social significance of the M-set (in Annex 2)
Imagination, Resolution, Emergence, Realization and Embodiment: iterative comprehension (in Annex 3)
Julie Thompson Klein (Interdisciplinarity and complexity: An evolving relationship. 2004) concludes her review of the challenges to more integrative thinking as follows:
Because of the relevance of fractals to many fields, they tend to raise questions about the limited specialized boundaries of science, thus facilitating a more integrated approach. As such hey require a different type of understanding than is typically associated with scientific understanding. The conventional approach is still based on the rational paradigm (which is limited in many ways). Fractals are claimed to require a deeper holistic appreciation involving both reason and intuition. [more]
As noted above with regard to "incommensurables", the stimulus for this investigation was associated with the the challenge of dealing with irreconcilable perspectives, notably a focus on the "positive" (as the "good") and an avoidance of the "negative" (as the "bad"). Using the axes of the complex plane, to position perspectives reflecting different kinds of "positive" and "negative", reframes the dynamics of the dramatic polarization on which much attention is un fruitfully focused. Furthermore this framing of the dynamics that characterize the encounter between polarized perspectives indicates the possible existence of various zones that merit greater attention:
The question is whether the M-set is indeed indicative of a zone of stability relevant to understanding of other paradoxically opposed, value-charged perspectives, such as:
In other words, does the M-set then perform a kind of "keystone" function sustaining a space. This challenge of balancing polarities has been explored in previous papers, notably in the light of the metaphor provided by tensegrity structures (Implementing Principles by Balancing Configurations of Functions: a tensegrity organization approach, 1979; Transcending Duality through Tensional Integrity: From systems-versus-networks to tensegrity organization, 1978), and subsequently explored by management cybernetician Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: Invention of Team Syntegrity, 1994).
In each case, the question is whether the tensions between the value-charged strategic polarities can be fruitfully dissociated into "real" and "imaginary" components such that the dynamics engender a sustainable boundary vital to psycho-social coherence -- without collapsing the dramatically opposed perspectives that characterize the polarity.
In a strategic context, "real" is associated with factual data. But as is evident in practice, proponents of opposing initiatives have divergent interpretations of "real" and of the weight to be attached to different "facts", held to be "true". Each is then free to accuse the other of responding to "imaginary" interpretations -- and this tends to be very sharply stated in debate (caricaturing the opposition with terms such as "dreamers", "deluded", "unrealistic", etc) regarding what is "false". In a sense each sees the opposition as responding to an unreal "image" of reality. It is the dynamics of disagreements of this nature that need to be held with a framework of requisite complexity -- transcending relativism -- in order for governance to articulate strategies that are sustainable.
There is a certain irony to the tendency of strategic proponents to plead for more "facts" (monitoring, research, etc) prior to action -- or to call for more "imaginative" thinking to respond more effectively to new kinds of crises or the inadequacies of previous strategies.
The argument here is that the kind of sustainability that would be sustainable -- rather than being itself a victim of these dynamics -- is at a level of abstraction to which the M-set usefully points. As a framework, it in no way denies the existence of the dynamics between constituencies with different understandings of what is real and what is imaginary. Rather the recognition of the M-set depends on those dynamics -- just as the 2D polarities within a tensegrity are essential to the emergence and viability of the 3D structure resulting from their configuration.
In this light the question becomes how to recognize and distinguish the strategic elements contributing to recognition of such an M-set. The need is to offer clearer understanding of the role of "real" and "imaginary", recognizing that "real" to one group may be "imaginary" to another. This reinforces the point made with regard to transforming the axes between "real" and "imaginary", or between "positive" and "negative".
Considering once again how such distinctions would be made in the absence of the cartesian understanding of axes, it is worth reflecting again on the notation used in the thinking basic to the I Ching, namely the system of trigrams configured in the Ho Tu or Lo Shu arrangements of the Ba Gua mirror basic to the discipline of Feng Shui (as discussed earlier). There the focus is on "directions" rather than axes. But clearly two distinct digrams (rather than trigrams) would provide an adequately complex notation to distinguish "positive" and "negative" on a "real" axis, with a second two to distinguish "positive" and "negative" on an "imaginary" axis. In this connection, it should not be forgotten that it was the exposure of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz to the I Ching that inspired his development of the binary coding system.
The nature of the relationship between "real" and "imaginary" can be further considered in the light of the Chinese categories of "yang" and "yin" which are not fruitfully treated as "opposites". All relationships based on yin and yang are considered as relative. Mutual interaction must be considered, therefore, nothing can be defined as strictly yin or strictly yang. Yin and yang are symbolically represented by the Liang-I (two symbols). The Yang-I is represented by a continuous straight line and the Yin-I is represented by a broken line. The conditions to which they refer cannot be considered as permanent states. There is always dynamic movement which is encoded through combinations. The first group of these is called Szu-Hsaing. These four figures (digrams) are formed by combining the Yin-I and the Yang-I. The Szu-Hsaing represent the maximum number sets that can be formed by combining two differing elements in sets of two.
This development is framed in a much-cited passage in the I Ching that relates these abstractions to the strategic challenges of human affairs:
As noted earlier, the question is then how to relate such digramatic codes to M-set axes in the light of greater insight into the contrasts between the Ho Tu and Lo Shu arrangements and understandings of "real", "imaginary", etc in the M-set mapping. There is a case for exploring these arrangements in the light of use of polar coordinate mappings of the M-set, notably in relation to the rotation number of "bulbs" (cf Linas Vepstas: Douady-Hubbard Potential; Mandelbrot Bud Maths; Parameter Ray Atlas. 2000) [more].
If it was also necessary to distinguish conditions that were "positive-real" from "negative-imaginary", for example, then indeed trigrams would be necessary. Finer distinctions (as with the compass directions SSW or NNE) could then be made by adding an extra line position to the digram notation. The 64 hexagrams of the I Ching ("The Book of Changes") provide the notation for a Chinese approach to the dynamics that emerge as the M-set from the mapping onto the complex plane. There is an extensive body of literature exploring the significance of the mathematical underpinnings of the I Ching [more | more | more], notably that of Stephen M Phillips (I Ching and the Eight-fold Way). It is appropriate to reflect on the justification for the incorporation of hexagrams into Version 4.0 of the Unicode standard [more]
In contrast with the mathematics of the M-set, this Chinese system was designed to embody qualitative value contrasts (rather than purely quantitative value contrasts) and was notably used in the clarification of strategic options by the emperors of China. The I Ching was in fact required reading for the Chinese civil service for about 1,000 years. One might well ask what tools of comparable complexity and scope are currently used with respect to global governance.
Of particular interest is the polarity between "objective" approaches ("real") and "subjective" approaches ("imaginary"). This is notably evident in the "objective" attitude of mathematicians to complexity -- in comparison with the "subjective" attitudes associated with the psycho-social phenomena noted above. However it is the "real" nature of the 40 religious conflicts around the world -- driven by a sense of "positive" ("good") and "negative" ("evil") in this "imaginary" dimension -- that can be contrasted with the "unreality" of mathematics to those engaged in those conflicts.
Both Physicist David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980; The Undivided Universe: an ontological interpretation of quantum theory, 1993) and those referring to his work, tend to cite the fractal nature of the M-set. In this light, the strategic challenge of "real" and "imaginary", from a psychological perspective, is helpfully discussed by Nicholas Williams (Psychological Entropy, 2003):
Notably with respect to the challenges of sustainability, at every level of society, the above argument raises the question as to whether the M-set offers a means of addressing the value-charged strategies that are currently so divisive in public debate. The nature of these strategic dilemmas was documented in relation to the concerns of the 1992 Earth Summit (Configuring Strategic Dilemmas in Intersectoral Dialogue, 1992). The possibility of configuring such dilemmas was explored, using the strength of opposition between polarized perspectives as a design feature, as a means of framing a new kind of space (Configuring Conceptual Polarities in Questing: metaphoric pointers to self-reflexive coherence, 2004). The work of Stafford Beer reflects this possibility, notably his articulation of the practice of adaptive "problem jostling", or "problem jostle", for team syntegrity. In this light, there is a case for exploring the relation between the complex dynamics of a spherical tensegrity structure and its fractal organization in seeking equilibrium (cf Donald E. Ingber. Tensegrity II. How structural networks influence cellular information processing networks, 2003).
From the perspective of management cybernetics, a key principle is that of the requisite complexity necessary for the management of a complex global society. This principle is known as Ashby's Law. As the most complex mathematical object known, and given the understanding of mathematics as the science of relationships, the M-set could therefore be understood as the most complex relational object that could prove to be a suitable candidate in that respect. There is otherwise the danger that "sustainability" will be sought -- and purportedly found -- at a level of abstraction at which it cannot be sustained.
It should not be forgotten that the principal management-related arena to which the fractal perspectives of chaos theory so far have been applied is that of the financial markets (see resources at Orlin Grabbe. Chaos and Fractals in Financial Markets, 2003; Fractal Finance; Chaos, Fractal Theory in the Financial Markets). Fractal equations are well-suited to the wildly random world of financial trading, where price fluctuations have been resistant to traditional mathematical models. This is also an application which Benoit Mandelbrot has himself explored (The (mis)Behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin, and Reward by Benoit B. Mandelbrot and Richard L. Hudson, 2004).
There appears to be no reference to the relevance of the M-set to strategy in other strategic domains. With respect to the concept of sustainability, again research seems to have had the same preoccupation (Benoit B. Mandelbrot. Fractal financial fluctuations; do they threaten sustainability?). Joanne Tippett (A Pattern Language of Sustainability Ecological design and Permaculture, 1994) refers to Mandelbrot's work but does not elaborate its relevance.
But, with respect to city planning, for example, Verna Nel (Complex Adaptive Systems and City Planning) argues that:
The M-set is however considered to be of much greater strategic relevance by Moshe S. Landsman (Toward a Fractal Metaphor for Liberation of Palestinian Women, 2001) in a discussion of stages of liberation where he considers that the fractal metaphor plays a significant part in both understanding the process and in planning intervention strategies. He considers that the fractal characteristics of M-set have at least a metaphorical potential for enhancing conceptualization of multilevel social processes. Among them are the following:
This suggests that the M-set may have wider implications for social change in situations fraught with strategic dilemmas. How to understand sustainability under such dynamic conditions may be intimately related to the challenge of understanding the M-set. For example, if the multiplicity of conceptual models (through which the dynamics of change are envisaged) were to be understood as J-sets, and represented by them, what significance would be associated with the corresponding M-set -- and how would it be understood?
As noted by Julie Klein (above) with respect to interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge generation of relevance to complexity, incoherent advocacy of distinct models, as currently practiced, fragments strategic initiatives and isolates their proponents (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004). There is clearly a case for reviewing such disjunction in terms of the language of attractors and repellors -- and event horizons.
The difficulty in seeking to apply strategies based on such models is that few of them take account of the existence of other models -- understood by their proponents as reflecting more adequately the priorities of alternative strategies. The existence of competing models engenders a dynamic in the dialogue relating to governance, especially at the global level. This dynamic is seldom based on rational discourse. In fact it is typically characterized by irrational argument and can usefully be described as constituting a nonlinear dynamic system.
The question is whether the M-set offers pointers to mapping the dynamic between alternative strategies. Given the structure of the M-set, this might then both distinguish and interrelate strategies that could be described (after an "iterative" succession of budgetary cycles) as characteristically:
The argument above suggests that it is precisely the dynamic between the "real" and the "imaginary" dimensions of such strategies that engenders the dynamic stability mapped by the M-set. The question is whether these dimensions satisfactorily hold the "reality" of radically opposed proponents in the light of the "imaginary" characteristics that they attribute to those whom they oppose (or by whom they are opposed).
Such concerns have been fundamental to initiatives to profile the many thousands of problems, strategies and values of international constituencies (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001). In particular such profiles endeavoured to capture understandings of the problem (or the strategy) as "real" -- in contrast with "imaginary" or in some way misleading. It is such differences in perspective that are the fundamental drivers of global dialogue.
In mapping dynamics onto a complex plane, the M-set suggests the value of mapping the dynamics between the complete range of human activities onto such a surface. This contrasts with current approaches -- even when based on mapping those activities onto what amounts to a generalization of the periodic table (Functional Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations, 1982; Alternation between Development Modes: reinforcing dynamic conception through functional classification of international organizations and concerns, 1982). This was partially inspired by Edward Haskell's original work (discussed earlier).
Seismologists, meteorologists, economists, chemists, hydrologists, and every kind of engineer, have been confronted with visual patterns that were more elegant than predictable. There is a trap to the graphical representation of the M-set and enthusiastic explorations of the strange imagery. This is partly indicated by the much-cited statement of Alfred Korzybski (Science and Sanity - an introduction to non-aristotelean systems and general semantics, 1933): The map is not the territory [more]. In distinguishing the M-set from J-sets, this phrase is especially apt.
The M-set is above all significant to individual and collective navigation of a complex reality -- to the extent that it can be embodied in a meaningful way (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002). How such "embodiment" is achieved is a preoccupation of many of the symbol systems and disciplines referenced above. It also reflects the concerns explored by enactivism (notably that of Francisco Varela et al. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, 1991).
At its simplest, "looking at" the M-set representation sets up a knower-known polarity without seeking to reframe the associated dynamics. The point is well made in the Chinese tradition by the Ba Gua Mirror (see above). This uses the 8 complementary trigrams to frame a mirror in which the observer is confronted with the real challenge to understanding -- the Delphic "know thyself".
"Looking at" should be challenged by "sensing the geometry" as discussed earlier. One approach to this is through shifting to a 3D representation of the M-set (cf Ralph Abraham. Complex Quadric Dynamics: A Study of the Mandelbrot and Julia Sets, 2001). Another approach is by understanding the use of the facilities of M-set fractal browsers as cognitive operations in their own right (cf (Computer Use as Philosophy in Operation: Metaphors of the Inner Game, 2003).
It is also useful to recognize the extent to which strategic thinking is trapped into the linearity of textual explanations and verbal discourse -- even though it may be endeavouring to encompass nonlinear dynamic phenomena. One response is to animate representations of institutions and their programmes (cf Animating the Representation of Europe, 2004). A more integrative approach is however called for -- justifying exploration of the potentials of the M-set.
A quite different approach is through sonification of the M-set, notably the production of "Mandelbrot music". For example, David Spondike (Hearing the Mandelbrot Set) presents an experiment in sonifying the M-set noting:
There are a number of other experiments in giving musical form to the M-set [more | more]. Related arguments are presented with regard to giving musical form to traditional Chinese conceptual coding systems (Musical Articulation of Pattern of Tao Te Ching Insights: Experimental sonification based on magic square organization, 2003).
The case for sonification of scientific data has been articulated by the US National Science Foundation and the International Community for Auditory Display (Sonification Report: Status of the Field and Research Agenda, 1997). For example, Davide Rocchesso (Audio effects to enhance spatial information displays, 2002) has given consideration to use of sonification in representing the complex plane. There are many experiments in relation to "fractal music" [cf Fractal Music Lab].
It is worth reflecting on the role of overtone chanting, notably in Tibetan Buddhism, as a means of articulating higher forms of order [more]. There are extensive web references by those concerned with the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence (notably in the SETI community) to the role of M-set representations -- especially in the light of crop circles purportedly of that form [more | more | more]. Clearly the ability of a civilization to recognize the full significance of the M-set could be considered an "entry qualification" for such communication (see Communicating with Aliens: the Psychological Dimension of Dialogue, 2000).
As noted in an earlier paper (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000), the embodiment of knowledge, in the light of the chanted hymns of the Rg Veda, has been explored by Antonio de Nicolas (Meditations through the Rg Veda, 1978), using the non-Boolean logic of quantum mechanics (Heelan, 1974). The unique feature of the approach is that it is grounded in tone and the shifting relationships between tone; it is through the pattern of musical tones that the significance of the Rg Veda is to be found. As de Nicolas indicates:
There is a case for exploring how this classical perspective is to be combined with that of enactivism in the light of possible articulation of experiential dynamics through the M-set.
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