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16th August 1993

Human Values as Strange Attractors

Coevolution of classes of governance principles

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Paper prepared for the 13th World Conference (Finland, August 1993) of the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF). Theme: Coherence and chaos in our uncommon futures -- visions, means, actions. Scheduled for presentation to the group 'Creativity and Actors in Chaos'. An abridged version entitled Values as Strange Human Attractors appeared in UNiS Journal (Dramatic University), 5, 1994, 3, pp. 12-30
Methodological preamble
Value confusion
Values as "attractors"
"Strangeness"; in value-governed behaviour
Comprehending the complexity of the value surface
Self-organization and its catalysts
Global structuring of value sets
Neglected values
Beyond 'equilibrium' values
Reconciling the established and the emergent
Demystification and self-mapping
Functional relations between classes
Phases, transitions and world views
Indications for understanding of value systems
Class discrimination and demonizing
Towards an enantiomorphic polity


Many have commented on the chaos of the times and the increasing impotence of institutions and disciplines in their response to it -- Bosnia is but the most blatant example. A major characteristic of the period is the role attributed to human values in guiding behaviour at all levels of society -- to the extent that even the most cynical commercial interests are obliged to recognize values held by the most 'other-oriented' market sectors. And yet despite the plethora of studies on values it would seem that we are no closer to understanding their nature or in agreeing on their variety.

The 1990s suggest a need to embrace chaos in some fashion, and chaos theory provides a fashionable set of insights that take us beyond those of past decades. This paper is concerned with exploring some ways of understanding human values in the light of such insights -- and what this could mean for both social innovation and social coherence in the immediate future.

There appears to have been little attention to human values in the study of complexity. Of the many eminent contributors to the United Nations University symposium on complexity, only two make significant mention of values. Peter Allen (1984) focuses on the ability to construct 'collective values' to take into account the different perceptions of policy makers of the possible future evolution of a system. Pentti Malaska (1984), in a concluding comment, raises the much more fundamental issue of the extent to which we can consider values as being rigid and unalterable:

'To what extent are they alterable and to what degree a matter of choice? Do we possess this type of value capacity?....If we accept that a capacity for changing values exists, we can more easily discuss moving over to a new society where things other than material values and the fulfilment of tangible needs are the major objectives.'


This paper builds on work undertaken since 1972 in connection with the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (1991), of which a fourth edition will be published in 1994. This long-term information programme of the Union of International Associations complements that of its Yearbook of International Organizations. Together these databases cover the networks of some 20,000 internationally active organizations and the networks of 13,000 problems they choose to recognize and with which their members choose to identify.

Of more relevance to this paper, is that most such nonprofit organizations explicitly acknowledge some values as the basis for their initiatives. Furthermore, social conditions can only be conceived as problematic in the light of some value, however implicit. Many aspects of human development, notably those inspired by different spiritual traditions, can be usefully understood both as achieving realization of new qualitative insights and as giving behavioural form to them. It is through the conflicting pursuit of such values, and in the interpretation of rival values as 'negative', that the majority of world problems are engendered.

It is for this reason that the Encyclopedia programme includes an extensive exploration of 'human values'. Currently this is based on some 1,500 'positive' or 'constructive' values, and some 1,900 'negative' or 'destructive' disvalues. The disvalue set has been developed in conjunction with the set of problems to ensure a reciprocal sharpening of focus. Positive and negative values are interrelated through some 250 value polarities. It is the set of these polarities which is the subject of experiments in classification to determine the nature of one (or more) coherent value sets. Hopefully the dimensions of such sets can be related to those on which so many initiatives towards value coherence have been based.

Methodological preamble

(a) The lesson of 'networking': The 1970s and 1980s may usefully be thought of as thenetworking decades. They saw the recognition of the limitations of hierarchy and a reinterpretation of many individual and collective behaviours in terms of networks. Networking became fashionable at all levels of society -- even amongst intergovernmental organizations. Given the mathematical tools available for the analysis of networks, and even the development of a discipline of social network analysis, it is surprising that few if any of those insights came to influence the operation of any social networks. Indeed it would be difficult to trace social or institutional networks that had been designed in the light of such insights.

Furthermore, despite the computer technology used to display networks of electrical grids, circuits, road networks, molecules, and the like, little (if any) of that has been used to visualize social or conceptual networks as a guide to improved psycho-social dynamics. Few people, social activists included, ever consider the advantages of visualizing their own network of colleagues and friends -- however neatly the addresses and phone numbers are held in each others' 'relational' databases. This may not be true within security and intelligence services.

It would be fair to conclude that in the social realm 'network' succeeded to a far greater degree as a metaphor rather than as a mathematical insight -- whatever the views of those with technical competence in network theory. This lesson should not be lost in considering the insights of relevance to social organization that are to be obtained from chaos theory and their probable impact on society.

(b) Role of metaphor: This view is reinforced by statements from key members of the Sante Fe Institute (USA), specifically established by the best and the brightest to explore with mathematical rigour the science of complexity in the light of chaos theory. For the director of their first economic initiative (1987-89), W Brian Arthur: 'Nonscientists tend to think that science works by deduction. But actually science works mainly by metaphor. And what's happening is that the kinds of metaphor people have in mind are changing....Instead of relying on the Newtonian metaphor of clockwork predictability, complexity seems to be based on metaphors more closely akin to the growth of a plant from a tiny seed, or the unfolding of a computer program from a few lines of code, or perhaps even the organic, self-organized flocking of simpleminded birds.' (Waldrop, pp. 327 and 329; see also p. 149)

Arthur indicates that the institute's role is to look at the ever-changing river of complexity and to understand what they are seeing. 'So we assign metaphors. It turns out that an awful lot of policy-making has to do with finding the appropriate metaphor. Conversely, bad policy-making almost always involves finding inappropriate metaphors. For example it may not be appropriate to think about a drug 'war', with guns and assaults. So, from this point of view, the purpose of having the Sante Fe Institute is that it, and places like it, are where the metaphors and vocabulary are being created in complex systems.' (Waldrop, p. 334)

Ironically, the process of articulating such understanding with mathematical 'rigour' necessarily has to be contrasted with the 'mere' metaphors from which such understanding derives. When articulated in a rigorous computer simulation, the simulation may be recognized of greatest value as a new metaphor (Waldrop, p. 334), precisely because it is an abstraction of limited relevance to understanding the real complexities of current social concerns.

(c) Sociology of chaos: On the occasion of a conference on the relevance of chaos theory to social coherence, there is some merit in being attentive to the social psychology of those advancing understanding in this arena. Thus Katherine Hayles notes: 'Although the history of chaos theory has scarcely begun to be written, it has already become problematic. It has two main branches; and each seems determined to ignore the other. The first branch, represented within Gleick's book (1987) concerned with the order hidden within chaotic systems...The second branch focuses on the order that arises out of chaotic systems.' (Hayles, p 12). She notes that many practitioners in nonlinear dynamics now avoid the term 'chaos' as somehow 'unprofessional' in their concern with practical and technical problems.

It is tragic that an approach which is claimed to have so much relevance to social systems reveals such blatant weaknesses in taking account of psycho-social dimensions that are likely to be vital to making any effective use of it in such domains. Hayles asks: 'Why should the split have occurred between the two branches? That it exists is apparent. After reading Gleick's book (1987), one would not know that Ilya Prigogine's work has substantiated connections with the science of chaos; and after reading Prigogine's and Stenger's Order Out of Chaos (1984)... one would not know that many of the figures lionized in Gleick's text had made significant contributions to the field.' (Hayles, pp. 12-13) And even though she includes Rene Thom (1975) with Prigogine in the second branch, the personal dynamics around the failure to interrelate their perspectives is a matter worthy of study.

The history of the development of the Sante Fe Institute (Waldrop, 1992) cited above reveals similar phenomena -- even though the development of the institute was jokingly recognized by its science board as an emergent phenomenon in its own right -- 'a joke they actually took quite seriously' (Waldrop, p. 248). But from that text it would be difficult to conclude that any work of significance had been undertaken outside the USA 'in forging the first rigorous alternative to the kind of linear, reductionist thinking that has dominated science since the time of Newton' (Waldrop, p. 13). Furthermore it is made clear that it is only exceptionally that specialists from social sciences other than economists are included in its uniquely 'interdisciplinary' and 'rigorous' approach to complexity. And yet it is also made clear how the institute has been torn by personal and factional dynamics. After the disasters of 'global modelling', it is a pity that the rigours of such mathematics cannot be shown to be relevant to the complexities of value conflicts in the real world of government policy-making! It is precisely those values that economists have chosen to overvalue that are the origin of much of the difficulties at this time. And it is questionable whether the more rigorous sciences can have any understanding of 'value' in human systems.

One concern in this paper is therefore to respond more creatively to the process of making distinctions essential to greater insight. In this process it seems to be necessary to attach negative value to 'old' approaches in order to establish the identity of the 'new' -- this may even take the form of demonizing the old with appropriate political or religious labels. But both will continue to attract adherents in a learning society. To the extent that an emphasis is placed on coevolution, ways must be found to relate both such seemingly incompatible realities. It could be argued that an approach matures when it is able to track its own evolution and its own dynamics. At this point those most skilled in nonlinear dynamics would seem to be victims of dynamics to which there insights purportedly apply. As Hayles says, why do such splits form? For a discipline that specializes in understanding bifurcation, it has been remarkably unsuccessful in explaining its own evolution. Can a coherent approach to the challenges of governance emerge from such chaotic and unself-reflexive sociodynamics?

(d) Challenge for the valuing participant observer: To date the development of chaos theory has seemingly been based on the insights of detached observers pursuing the scientific programme of elaborating communicable explanations offering some predictive power -- notably for those in positions of power. The drama of the times is the manner in which individuals and groups, whatever their degree of empowerment, are faced with increasing levels of uncertainty. Human values are in flux and subject to challenge. People have to deal with incompatible values on a daily basis. Only in ideal circumstances can explanations be adequately delivered or marketed as products to respond to this condition.

In what follows the focus is therefore on how participant observers might envisage responding with greater confidence to seemingly chaotic value situations. The insights of chaos theory are used to suggest ways of structuring experience and response to such situations. The subjective experience of chaos should not be forgotten -- especially to the extent that each actively defines to some degree the reality he chooses to inhabit (as the social constructionists argue). It is worth noting the effort to apply catastrophe theory to subjective experience (Postle,1980).

How people appropriate the insights of chaos theory and use (and misuse) them to structure their understanding and social relationships may be of much greater relevance to the structuring of the immediate future of society than how that future is explained within the social sciences in terms of chaos theory. Analysis aside, the social sciences have notably failed to contribute much to the actual process of social innovation and community design.

Value confusion

It could be said that there are various kinds of confusion about human values:

(a) What are values? There are many definitions and innumerable studies. No definition has attracted widespread consensus. One would be hard put to locate a useful definition of values within the international community that is not challenged by some alternative definition that is valued by others. This does not of course prevent frequent reference to the 'fundamental importance' of values by major organizations and other authorities. In an important sense it might be concluded that values do not lend themselves to ready definition (for which politicians are probably more than thankful). They may even be valued by the more sensitive precisely because they readily escape the facile definitions and labels with which they are associated. Important conflicts arise over differing interpretations of values, however defined.

(b) How many values are there? This question raises the issue of whether it is even appropriate to conceive of values as in some way discrete. There are a few checklists of values but they have attracted little attention. The international community has no checklist of values. What tends to happen is that values are buried in texts of declarations and resolutions in such a way that it becomes impossible to register them effectively or to deduce how many values are recognized by UNESCO, for example -- despite the importance attached to values by that body. Some academic studies of prime interest to commercial market research have given rise to a limited number of value clusters. Such clusters are however more descriptive of individual behaviour patterns of consumers than they are of values such as peace, justice, etc. How many 'family values' are there? There would indeed be many who would not regret the difficulty in enumerating values.

(c) Values and language: To what extent is the nature of values conditioned by the language used to refer to them? Whether from a deconstructionist or a constructionist perspective, any traditionally straightforward approach to values fails to account for significant advances in understanding of the cognitive implications of language over past decades. And what of the plethora of words through which values are labelled -- many of them synonyms or overlapping in connotation to different degrees, with many others carrying nuances which the arts cherish in articulating sensitivity to value variants ?

(d) Consensus on fundamental values: There have been many initiatives over the past decades to identify a core set of universal values on which 'everyone should agree'. It is safe to say that those constituencies who have been convinced by this perspective have each generated sets of 5 to 10 values that have significantly failed to convince others -- as religious initiatives failed before them in imposing their respective versions of the 'Ten Commandments'.

Conservative groups have expressed regret at the 'abandonment' of fundamental values. Walter Truett Anderson (1990) however reviews the challenge as follows: 'The conservative indictment is correct, and yet the strategy that logically follows from it -- to rebuild consensus, to get a core of standard values and beliefs in place in every American mind -- is doomed to fail. To see that you only need to look at the variety of things being offered by people who are in favour of some such consensus building' (p. 4). He comments on a group of conflicting proposals then continues:

Whilst token acknowledgement may be given to various forms of value consensus, initiatives of this kind tend to be based on an extreme form of naivety in expecting that such consensus will be of any operational significance across cultures. Preparations for the historic United Nations Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, June 1993) were characterized by considerable acrimony on the part of non-Western countries concerned at the attempt by industrialized countries to impose their values on developing countries. Also significant was the conflict between collective rights and individual rights and the trend towards imposing a single category of human rights as a condition of development assistance. The level of disagreement was such that by the end of 1992 it was doubtful whether the event would take place. It could be argued that this approach has been less than successful in part because of the almost pathological fear of any form of disagreement exhibited by its proponents. As a result any consensus is conceptually simplistic. Most tragic is that by asking defining the challenge in a simplistic manner it prevents exploration of richer patterns of coherence that allow for (and may even depend upon) a high degree of disagreement (Judge, 1992).

(e) Value relativism: As Anderson so clearly indicates, whatever the attitude to postmodernism, there is an increasing need to deal with value relativism and to be able to relate to those holding different values -- and especially the fundamentalists enraged by this apparent failure to distinguish between right and wrong. Value relativism is even advocated as a valuable advance over the constraints of traditional value patterns. For many 'anything goes', and rightly so.

(f) Value creation: The emergence of a high degree of value relativism, however much it is regretted in some quarters, has favoured educational programmes emphasizing the subjectivity of values and encouraging 'value clarification'. By this is meant that individuals should develop whatever values they themselves consider appropriate to their circumstances (Anderson, p. 14). In some sense values may themselves take the form of an 'emergent' phenomenon -- a matter of concern if their future emergence is not to be inappropriately constrained.

To what extent does chaos theory offer new insights through which a richer approach to values can emerge? This should presumably strike a more fruitful balance between the relativism of individual values and a measure of collective constraint in a turbulent society.

Values as 'attractors'

One of the key insights of chaos theory is that of strange attractors. Is there a sense in which human values can be usefully understood as strange attractors?

A prime characteristic of a strange attractor is that it is defined as the focus of a pattern of seemingly chaotic behaviour. But it is the pattern that signals the presence of that focus which cannot be identified in any other way. Like strange attractors, human values do not manifest in any tangible manner but rather through interpretations of the way behaviour is governed. But the intangible attractor may indeed be a matter of direct subjective experience under appropriate conditions of human development -- as practitioners of some spiritual traditions would claim.

There is certainly a sense in which behaviour can be understood as 'meandering around' in such a way as to define attractor poles. Whilst there may be extremes, often of the most regrettable kind, behaviour is eventually pulled back into an orbit around one or more attractors. Some forms of behaviour may thus exhibit highly eccentric orbits, but the pull towards the attractor remains fundamental -- even if it may be barely sensed at its most extreme points by those involved.

There is also a sense in which behaviour may be described as trapped by particular attractors. However it may also drift in such a way as to be temporarily captured by another. From this perspective behaviour may be seen as swinging between and around attractors. Chaos theory may offer insights into the laws governing such behaviour.

There are also ways in which behaviour in society appears in some way to be 'pulled forward' as a whole by the value complex and away from the disvalue complex. There may however be many doubts as to the nature of such 'progress' and whether there is some Omega Point as a kind of psycho-social equivalent to the ultimate reversal of the cosmic Big Bang. Thus for Rupert Sheldrake: 'The final unified attractor and the primal unified state of the Big Bang have a symmetrical relationship' (Abraham, et al, p. 11)

'Strangeness' in value-governed behaviour

Maximization of behaviour in response to one value is subject to a well-known phenomenon of reversal -- named in classical Greek drama as enantiodromia (Thompson, 1985). In this sense no particular value is completely satisfactory to an individual or a social group --especially when experienced in its purest form. Paradoxical attractions to other values emerge quite unexpectedly. Much has been made of this in romantic literature and many have experienced the communication problems between the sexes. Equivalent surprises in socio-political systems are also not lacking.

What in fact makes values valuable? As with dietary variation, it is as though there was a need to vary the pattern of behaviour by which development is nourished -- even to the point of pursuing the illusory greenness of more distant fields. Within this metaphor, there are those who yearn for a single complete foodstuff (a form of mana from heaven or the ultimate food-pill). Others speak in terms of a regular diet of certain basic foodstuffs (carbohydrates, protein, etc) required for human health -- with passionate claims for particular diets. But when it comes to taste, the preferences pursued vary enormously -- irrespective of the value to health. As such, the sociology of diet producers and consumers offers useful insights into the sociology of value producers and consumers. A number of computer studies of complexity are based on the supply of 'foodstuffs' in ecosystems of artificial lifeforms. These could be adapted as a basis for studying values.

The current search for a sustainable pattern of 'sustainable development' poses many dilemmas concerning the balance to be struck between the attractions of different values -- for many of which there are calls for maximization. For example, the key figure in the Brundtland Commission, responsible for the concept of sustainability, has agreed to reopen whaling from Norway in response to the appeals from local whaling communities whose cultural and economic heritage is endangered. There is an incredible naivety to the assumption that the values embodied in the different chapters of Agenda 21, approved by the Earth Summit (1992), can be successfully balanced by treating each in isolation, or as the subject of bi-sectoral horsetrading deals. Any integrative perspective is significantly lacking -- especially after exclusion of the overpopulation issue (Judge, 1992).

Even in the much simpler situations of one-on-one psychotherapy, where integrative perspectives are assumed by both therapist and client, rationally agreed initiatives may prove relatively futile and unproductive. As a result one school of psychotherapy favours'paradoxical' strategies to trigger more appropriate modes of behaviour. The client may be encouraged to engage in precisely that form of behaviour that is recognized to be dysfunctional and opposed to the values that he purportedly seeks to cultivate.

Many values, which at first sight seem completely positive, can induce behaviour that is recognized as dysfunctional -- to a degree that compensating behaviours based on incompatible or opposing values are called for. This paradoxical feature is well-recognized in oriental cultures, notably Taoist, for which positive qualities contain negative elements, just as negative qualities contain essential positive elements

Comprehending the complexity of the value surface

Perhaps the great merit of chaos theory is its ability to orient understanding to respond creatively to complexity. As such it is a tool to counter-balance the simplistic efforts of the many honourable initiatives to come up with a set of values applicable to all in a complex, multi-cultural society subject to a wide variety of pressures. These often result in a construction as inappropriate as a horse-and-buggy in a down-town traffic jam, however elegant it may appear. These initiatives have so far failed to attract universal support but they continue to raise hopes and divert conceptual effort from more complex approaches that might prove more appropriate.

A conceptually richer approach might also give a more solid foundation to that widespread intuition that such a seemingly simple set of values should indeed 'exist' in some form. But just as a 3-stage space rocket may be composed of 3 cylindrical forms, this does not mean that juxtaposition of 3 cylindrical forms makes for an operational rocket. There is more to ensuring the viability of a 3-value set than the simple juxtaposition of 3 value charged words representing the flavours-of-the-month of the international community.

What makes for a viable set of values? And how is such a set to be comprehended? Consider the following progression:

What is it that is being ordered in the above processes, especially when the ordering process becomes significant to what emerges? What is the surface or space out of which value elements appear to gel for a time before dissolving back? Are David Bohm's insights into implicate order and holomovement relevant at this point?

Self-organization and its catalysts

The above progression to a more dynamic interactive relationship with the surface on which the elements of significance are configured appears to reach close to a stage at which chaos theory insights emerged. The Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical reactions result in the spontaneous emergence of patterning in the film of fluid in which they take place. From this arose some of the insights into the principles of self-organization. Perhaps a more evocative example is the standing wave Chladni patterns generated by vibrating a sheet of metal covered in sand (Waller, 1961).

To what extent does a configuration of human values emerge into individual or collective awareness through an analogous process of self-organization based on behavioural interaction? The behaviour of an individual or group would then be understood as governed by some kind of epistemic value space to which descriptors could not be attached. But the original (possibly uniform) space(time) becomes textured or featured as the consequence of global interactions through which a particular pattern of behavioural attractors emerges. Chladni pattern formation illustrates how a space can be configured in different ways as a result of different triggering vibrations. Unlike such physical examples, the clustering of significance in value space is qualitative rather than quantitative. As with the mandala, physical locations on any map are associated with qualitative values (hence the symbolic importance of compass points and their associated god-related qualities in such mandalas).

At the first Artificial Life Workshop (Los Alamos, 1987) Craig Reynolds presented a computer simulation of bird flocking based on 3 simple rules conditioning an otherwise unconstrained set of 'boids' (Langton, 1989). Each boid was required to:

These rules are all local, applying to individual boids, and yet their effect is that of flocking dynamics of striking realism and elegance. Flocking is here an emergent global phenomenon. It is interesting to reflect on the extent to which the three rules capture the essence of the standard 3-value set (Liberty (1), Equality (2), and Fraternity (3)) basic to French society.

Of special interest is the way in which the component elements emerging during such self-organization are both mutually constraining and mutually sustaining. Each is a vital local part of the global pattern within the bounded space. A different pattern can be engendered within the same space and with the same value 'stuff' -- but the significance is distributed into different clusters, whether differently located, of a different size, or of a different number.

But how is the emergence of a particular pattern catalyzed? There are perhaps clues in the way in which during the pre-organized phase the potential or proto-components are 'tested' against each other. A breakthrough for Brian Arthur was the recognition that a rich mixture of positive and negative feedbacks cannot but help produce patterns (Waldrop, p. 36). Comprehension of the significance of an emerging value acquires maturity to the extent that both its unique contribution and its limitations are tested in relation to other potential attractors. For individuals, whether through personal experience or in formal social roles, repeated exposure to the merits and hidden weaknesses of a valued principle, refine what emerges. Drama makes much of coming to recognize the importance of a value through a succession of failures to updold it. The differences in patterning of a set of values may result from the frequency of exposure to such value-response reversals.

Global structuring of value sets

The discussion above offers a way of thinking about the different value sets which have emerged from different social groups over the past decades (or centuries). Whilst a value label, such as 'equality', may appear in a 3-value (liberty/equality/fraternity), 5-value or 10-value set, the significance it carries in each case is different. In the 3-value set it carries a third of all valued significance, whereas in the 10-value set it contains a tenth. In the latter case it encourages a narrower and more precise connotation compared to the more profoundly abstract connotation called for by the former. But any such conclusion raises the question of the completeness of the value set captured by such cases and the adequacy of the variety captured by any further articulation.

From such a perspective it is clearly far less appropriate to attempt to focus on any particular pattern of values. The Tibetan Buddhists claim that 725 basic mandala patterns have been developed (Trungpa, p. 79)). Of much greater relevance is to recognize the process whereby different kinds of contextual circumstances can evoke such different patterns from the value space. It is somewhat like having a cake which people will choose to cut up in different ways according to different circumstances (big pieces, little pieces, segments, without-cherry, etc).

Another way to look at such patterning is in terms of the 'pathways' that may emerge between different value locations. Just as a pattern of mountain valleys may severely condition the nature of relationships between otherwise proximate zones, particular values may also affect (or be dependent on) each other to a greater or lesser degree.

There is of course a further step in the progression towards more appropriate mapping surfaces emphasizing a global quality. The limitations of 2-dimensional surface maps in relation to the Earth as a globe are obvious. It might be asked why it is appropriate to assume that a value set can be adequately represented on a 2-dimensional surface -- once the daring step beyond a checklist is taken. A spherical surface resolves the questions raised about the outer boundary of any matrix or mandala by holding the information on a surface that is finite but unbounded (Judge, 1980). Unexplored, mysterious zones on that surface can then be located rather than designed off the map. Like a window on a building, matrix patterns can too easily be oriented to give a carefully chosen view that is far from comprehensive. There is almost no constraint on creative editing of checklists.

Such a spherical surface makes it easier to discuss the need to configure the 'pulls' between the different attractors. This raises the issue of whether self-organization can be deliberately catalyzed or facilitated without contradicting the meaning of self-organization. The argument here is that the kind of self-organization possible is to some degree dependent on the contextual framework. Any shared understanding of that framework will partially determine the range of possible patterns that can emerge. It could be argued that patterns on a self-bounding spherical surface are of greater potential significance than those on an artificially bounded planar surface.

Consensus on the form of a surface thus influences the richness of the patterns that may emerge. There is also little difficulty in reaching consensus on the approximate sphericity of the Earth however much there is potential disagreement on the perspectives from any portion of that surface

Neglected values

Crawford Holling (1985, p. 217) points out that: 'The complexity of a system is in the eye of the beholder.' Chaos and complexity are very new to the sciences -- the stuff of paradigm shifts and Nobel prizes! This is less true for the arts and other cultural perspectives where some relationship to chaos has always been a theme. Katherine Hayles points out that this neglect is in part due to the tendency to value chaos negatively within the Western tradition that arises from the attachment to binary logic.

She cites Prigogine's and Stengers' endorsement and amplification (in a lengthy 'Postface', pp. 135-58) of Michel Serres (1982) suggestion that chaos represents not just hitherto unrecognized phenomena but an unjustly neglected set of values. But they may well have been less 'unrecognized' and 'neglected' from the perspective of disciplines lacking the rigour of the mathematical tradition -- or from that of other cultural traditions

Beyond 'equilibrium' values

Malaska (quoted above) raises the question of changing values. To this question should be added that addressed by Crawford Holling (1985). He notes a sequence of three viewpoints in the perception of causation in ecosystems: an equilibrium-centred view emphasizing constancy over time; a dynamic view emphasizing the role of instability in the maintenance of resilience of ecological systems; and an evolutionary view that highlights organizational change and the surprises generated by that change.

With regard to the equilibrium-centred viewpoint, he argues that the experiences in managing forests, fish, and other organisms can be viewed as 'weak' experiments testing that hypothesis. 'They have certainly subjected such a viewpoint to repeated disproof' (Holling, p. 220). With regard to the dynamic view, rightly applauded, changes to management institutions achieved apparent success by reducing the variability of a target variable (eg pests). But: 'the biophysical environment evolved to one that was more fragile and more dependent on vigilance and error-free management at a time when greater dependencies had developed in the socio-economic and institutional environment for continued success' (Holling, p. 225). He concludes: 'one can begin to see that resolving the paradox of resilience has set the stage for a new paradox. If every effort to reduce variability leads to self-simplification and fragility, then regulation and the development of structures and organization for regulation are doomed. Organizational evolution would seem to be impossible. A search is needed for still additional levels of understanding....The paradox of constraints and costs experienced at one level is resolved by recognizing that opportunities can be released at the next.' (Holling, pp. 226-7)

Related concerns are echoed within the Sante Fe Institute in the sharp differences between Murray Gell-Mann (head of the science board) and George Cowan (the former director). For Gell-Mann, as co-initiator of the World Resources Institute (Washington DC), human society must undergo six 'fundamental transitions' within the next decades to achieve sustainability and avoid global catastrophes. In his view this requires widespread agreement on principles (Waldrop, p. 351). One might ask what this 'consensus' could possibly constitute within the nonlinear dynamics of a social system subject to paradigm shifts.

For Cowan however: 'Somehow the agenda has been put into the form of talking about a set of transitions from state A, the present, to a state B that's sustainable. The problem is that there is no such state. You have to assume that the transitions are going to continue forever and ever...You have to talk about systems that remain continuously dynamic, and that are embedded in environments that themselves are continuously dynamic....A term like 'sustainable' does not really capture that.' (Waldrop, pp. 350-356). Genuine sustainability in a living system is maintained by the nonlinear dynamics of continuing instability. As currently conceived as a desirable stable state, 'sustainability' would remove that instability and thus render the global system unsustainable. Such stability is death; somehow the world has to adapt itself to a condition of perpetual novelty.

To what extent does this confusion not reflect that in dealing with human values? The 'equilibrium-centred view' in this case pleads for a universal set of fundamental unchanging values. The 'dynamic view' argues for slowly evolving values. And the 'evolutionary view' awaits crises which would evoke a reconfiguration of values. But a genuinely 'sustainable' pattern of living values would seemingly depend on a form of value instability -- beyond any simple equilibrium. Efforts to 'stabilize' that instability may then be precisely what would render the global system of values unsustainable

Reconciling the established and the emergent

As noted earlier, the world of value-making and value-defining is above all characterized by much demonizing of that which is rejected as inappropriate. It is easy for young tigers and self-selected people of sensitivity and wisdom to define boundaries within which their values shine brightly in comparison to those in the outer darkness of the unenlightened. Many can now create such boundaries, but unfortunately the numbers of the 'unenlightened' as seen from within any boundary do not appear to diminish. Regrettably, through its systematic exclusion of the softer social sciences, the Sante Fe Institute, for example, has proved insensitive to the way in which its own interpersonal dynamics and tensions provide an interesting metaphor for the substantive issues by which they are currently challenged.

The challenge would appear to be to find ways of integrating those holding incompatible perspectives within a framework for which a qualifier like 'common' might obscure a necessary degree of complexity.

A valuable lead is provided by the work of Christopher Langton (at the institute) based on insights of Stephen Wolfram. They identified four classes of dynamical systems:

Langton explored the nature of Class IV behaviour as a second-order phase transition between Classes I/II and Class III, namely a condition under which chaos and order are combined. In these terms Classes I/II corresponded to 'order', whereas Class III corresponded to 'chaos'. At the interface or transition between them, at the 'edge of chaos', the 'complexity' of Class IV behaviour could emerge (Waldrop, p. 234). Class IV is: 'a class of behaviours in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either. These are the systems that are both stable enough to store information, and yet evanescent enough to transmit it. These are the systems that can be organized to perform complex computations, to react to the world, to be spontaneous, adaptive and alive' (p. 293).

These classes could be represented together on Diagram I. That juxtaposition of classes can be used as a way of looking at the status of different value-governed behaviours in society. Thus:

It is easy to fall into the trap of distinguishing 'better' from 'worse' amongst such classes --especially in the effort to gain recognition for Class IV. Class IV then becomes the focus of attention as the new frontier onto which all illusions of progress can be projected. Class I can be disparaged as the 'losers' in the evolutionary process. But a coevolving system requires the presence of all such classes and the real challenge is to recognize their interweaving functions more clearly.

There would therefore be merit in portraying such annotations to Diagram I in two parallel forms: one reflecting the image that each class of behaviours has for the others (to reinforce their identities); one reflecting the self-image of each as the most significant class of behaviour

Diagram I: Four classes of dynamical systems
Four classes of dynamical systems

Demystification and self-mapping

It is quite possible therefore that there are useful ways of understanding some of the subtleties of the relationship between the classes of Diagram I. These may suggest metaphors throughwhich the 'established' and the 'emergent' can be more effectively related.

One devastatingly simple approach is to interpret the classes through the metaphor of the characteristic behaviours at different stages in the human lifecycle: Class II is readily associated with those of maturity and adulthood; Class III with the exploratory behaviours of youth and immaturity; Class I with those of the elderly. Remember however that such correspondences refer to behavioural patterns. A physically young person may exhibit Class I behaviour, just as a physically old person may exhibit Class III behaviour. Class IV behaviour is that associated with social innovation and the emergence of new patterns of relationship (partnerships, coalitions, teams, groups, etc) but especially that which ensures renewal (including reproduction).

The merit of this approach is to highlight the need for a healthy balance between the different classes of behaviour, despite the well-known challenges of relating youth and elderly within adult patterns. Some of the pathologies are clear in the 'dump granny' approach of Class I behaviour, and the obsession of whole societies with maintaining a youthful image of Class III behaviour. The confusions, typical of New Agers, are also seen in failure to distinguish between Class III and Class IV behaviour. And the positive function of Class I behaviour is better seen in that which is evoked by attitudes towards the elderly in Latin and Oriental cultures, and the respect in which the wisdom of the elders can be held.

Much operational understanding of complexity is mapped into current understanding of such social relationships. The question might well be asked as to whether it is only through such a form of self-mapping that complexity can most effectively be understood (Judge, 1984).

Other approaches to recognizing the balance between such classes of behaviour would include those of analytical psychology inspired by Jung, for which such a four-fold division is quite fundamental. Buddhists, as noted above, have explored such configurations through mandalas. And Taoists would see a relation to their four-fold logic.

Michael Kirby (Aida et al, 1985), in discussing democracy and governance, notes Elgin's suggestion that there are four possible responses to the crisis of system complexity: successful muddling through; descent into chaos; authoritarianism; and system transformation into a higher level of efficiency and simplicity. These could be seen as corresponding to Classes II, III, I and IV respectively.

Such views should encourage a re-evaluation of the class distinctions (as originally derived from behaviour of cellular automata with insights from phase transitions). It is likely that there may be subtler features through which such behaviours should be distinguished to be of relevance to the social realm. The mathematics may be obscuring insights which have been well articulated through more accessible metaphors.

Functional relations between classes

The above exercise helps to clarify understanding of the nature of the functional relationships through which the classes are integrated into a coevolving pattern of behaviours. These are represented in Diagram I

Phases, transitions and world views

Whilst there is undoubtedly merit in pursuing the four-fold set of classes, there is also value in recognizing the richness of the phase transition metaphor through which Langton identified Class IV. He was particular struck by Class IV as a phase transition between 'solid' (Class I and II) and 'liquid' (Class III). Other enthusiasts of four-fold symbolism would point to the traditional schema of Earth, Air, Water and Fire much scorned by modern science. They wouldundoubtedly respond to Langton's view that here 'solid' and 'fluid' are not just two fundamental states of matter (as in water or ice), they are two fundamental classes of dynamical behaviour, equally detectable in such utterly nonmaterial realms as the space of cellular automaton rules or the space of abstract algorithms (Waldrop, p. 234).

Given the attention by traditionalists to the subtleties of these distinctions, they might argue for the correspondences to be as follows: Earth (Class I), Water (Class II), Air (Class III) and Fire (Class IV).

In practice the relationship between such states is described in phase diagrams. Within these there are subtleties and variants that go beyond the ideal four-fold presentation. These include such notions as critical points and various solid states (7 of ice). These are healthy reminders that much remains to be explored

Indications for understanding of value systems

In the light of the above it would seem useful to distinguish sets of value functions. It is also useful to attempt to distinguish for each case between: a positive interpretation (p); a negative interpretation (n); a paradoxical negative interpretation of the positive (pn); and a paradoxical positive interpretation of the negative (np):

Class discrimination and demonizing

The sociology of value advocates and creators is characterized by much bitterness and demonizing. It is the argument of this paper that this is the consequence of a failure of class discrimination -- where the notion of 'discrimination' itself evokes the demonizing process.

There is an interesting recursive feature to the levels of demonizing:

The issue of demonizing is in practice far from trivial, as indicated by use of the epithet 'satanic' by fundamentalists in political and religious discourse. But whilst this might be expected of those focused on Class I or Class II values, the often rabid fanaticism is surprising in those advocating Class III values -- whether under a banner of postmodernism or political correctness.

Again the situation can be usefully illustrated with a family. Some families exhibit extreme suspicion of non-family members and their values (Class I). Whether in strong patriarchal or matriarchal systems, family values may be strongly laid down with severe sanctions for deviance (Class II). Adolescents and young adults may explore a variety of value systems consecutively or in parallel, adapting to others holding values which may be quite incompatible, and reacting very negatively against any dominant value pattern (Class III). Couples or colleagues, concerned to create a relationship characterized by viability and newness, are especially attentive to the complementarity of their values and the need to strike a balance between destabilizing tendencies towards Class II or Class III values (Class IV).

The 'demonizing' functions have their place in distinguishing different approaches. They become completely dysfunctional when they obscure recognition of their complementarity and thus oppose the coevolution of the different value classes

Towards an enantiomorphic polity

The cultural historian William Irwin Thompson has approached these issues from a quite different direction and has articulated most intriguing possibilities. For him: 'Values are not objects, they are relationships. When you overlay one pattern with another, a third pattern emerges, a moiré pattern' (Thompson, p. 38). He argues that: 'Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth is that which overlights the conflict of opposed ideologies....The Truth cannot be known in an ideology, but it can be embodied in an ecology; anything less does violence to human nature and to human culture.'(p. 36).

For Thompson: 'In a polity that has the shape of opposites, an enantiomorphic polity, the prophetic wisdom of William Blake's 'In opposition is true friendship' will be finally understood and not just poetically....If one does have an appreciation of the phenomenology of opposites, in which we become what we hate, then a politics of compassion, as contrasted with a politics of violent conflict, begins to become a cultural possibility.' (p. 37-39)

Linking directly to the concerns of this paper, Thompson quotes an articulation of this enantiomorphic polity from E F Shumacher's final work:

Thompson quotes complementary arguments from Henri Atlan's synthesis of information theory and biology:

Influenced by catastrophe theory (Thom, 1975), but not by chaos theory, Thompson uses the above insights, together with clues from mythology, as a basis for articulating a four-fold geometrical pattern of relationships based on William Blake's 'Fourfold Vision'. This is presented as Diagram II. There are significant similarities to the pattern presented in Diagram I, and some differences. It is possible that they can be reconciled in subsequent work (see Diagram III, for example, reconciling Jungian and Buddhist value perspectives with those of Erikson). All however stress a necessary complementarity of what Thompson terms value orientations.

Diagram III: Never-ending global mappping exercise
Never-ending global mappping exercise


Human values can usefully be understood and experienced as attractors. How 'strange' they are considered as attractors depends on the appreciation of the distinction between the four different classes of values derived from an interpretation of complexity studies. In one sense, all values may be seen as attracting in a strange manner -- especially when simplistic understanding is avoided.

Emphasis has been placed on the manner in which each class of values can be perceived as: appropriate (p), inappropriate (n), inappropriately appropriate (pn), and appropriately inappropriate (np). Such distinctions are important for understanding and patterning the dynamics between advocates of particular classes of values. It may prove useful to explore the recursive symmetry between this four-fold pattern of distinctions and that between the value classes. This could be used as a basis for generating more articulated patterns of values which respect the integrative dynamics between the values actually labelled. A software package could for example be used to explore value sets produced 'to measure' according to the challenge to which the user wishes to be exposed (Judge, 1992).

The need for the coevolution of different classes of values has been emphasized. Each class performs a vital function, even if from a superficial perspective it appears outmoded. In terms of an ecological metaphor, the shark is an ancient species that has evolved little in recent eras. It nevertheless continues to play a vital role in marine ecosystems -- despite human efforts to demonize it. (It would be a mistake to hope to replace it by a genetically tailored species to fit human preconceptions.)

A major concern here has been with dysfunctional demonizing. This is due to limited ability to handle the four-fold aspects of each class of values -- which through recursive symmetry handicaps ability to manage the relationship between the classes. However functional demonizing provides necessary protection for each class. It is one thing to cultivate tolerance but if it is accompanied by fanatical intolerance of intolerance then this regressive dynamic needs to be appropriately positioned within the pattern of value classes in order that it can be appropriately counter-balanced.

From this perspective any 'demonizing' can be functional to protect essential variety. It becomes dysfunctional and 'satanic' only when the coevolutionary context, as suggested by the pattern of classes, is lost. As Gregory Bateson stated: 'Destroy the pattern which connects and you destroy all quality'.

The relevance of chaos theory to social coherence will be determined by the ability to factor in such phenomena as arrogance, self-righteousness, and prestige, which have been sofundamental to the dynamics between those skilled in this emerging discipline. These phenomena bedevil all psycho-social dynamics relevant to governance, but this discipline has particular skills to handle the self-reflexive challenge. Psychoanalysts, especially those of Jungian persuasion, would argue that it is these shadowy phenomena that conceal import truths for the emergence of appropriate forms of social coherence.


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