Peter M. Allen
Cranfield University, ENG
This is the third issue of Emergence: Complexity and Organization, and in this issue there are some articles that tackle several of the fundamental questions that underlie the words of our journal title. The question of what is meant by emergence, and the relationship of this to complexity, and to the structures and organizations that we interact with and inhabit, is a deep one. My own view is that complex systems are what result from evolutionary processes, and hence that they necessarily are characterized by past and continuing qualitative change and self-transformation - emergence and self-transcendence. Since social and biological reality is all evolved and we are just a part of it, then it should not be surprising that it is more interesting for us to study such things than the simple, deterministic motion of some fixed set of mechanical relations. Although such systems run with perfect clarity, they do not correspond to our reality. They also represent a deterministic tyranny that in many ways is related to the driving vision of "modernism". We are fortunate that the real world is evolved and evolving and not mechanical, and hence leaves room for creativity, uncertainty, novelty and emergence. It is under determined, tracing out multilevel paths that reflect both contingent and necessary events and processes, and we are part of the evolving discovery as we experience life, and both learn and fail to learn from it.
This is the background that I would put to the papers in this issue. They concern epistemology and the level at which invariance is posed underneath agent based models. Its conclusions suggest that one should not necessarily throw out entirely the language and variables of the old paradigm. I would agree with that, because it seems to me that a new paradigm should normally include the old one as a "sub-space" of dimensions or as a particular temporal approximation. Another paper discusses an inter-subjective measure of complexity, and indeed what to do without "objectivity". A third paper is also epistemological in examining human knowing and its relation to complexity. As it points out, complexity is both "out there" and can be explored and modelled, and it is also "created" by our perceptions, based on our own potential and experiences, and only a partial view. Clearly, because language is what we use to think, there is also social construction in what we perceive, and a cultural slant to what we experience. Throwing out either approach therefore does seem unnecessary. The fourth paper discusses nonlinear transitions, and this is important because, as I recently discovered in some long discussions with evolutionary economists, the importance of nonlinearities is not generally understood by many who may still enthusiastically embrace much of complexity thinking. The final paper sets out an archetypal dynamics, and attempts to allow structural evolution in underlying semantic frameworks, on which representations and agents/users sit. This may allow us to capture better the truly transcendent nature of complex reality. Finally, the classic paper is a classic classic! It is Warren Weaver's writing (1948) on science and complexity that amazingly presaged so much of our understanding today.
If you feel stimulated or annoyed by what has appeared in this issue, please send us your own views and comments for possible publication. The journal hopes to be a forum for just such debate and discussion.