A participant in one of the discussions here on Iran and complexity challenged me to think about the implications of interactions in a complex adaptive political system over space and time. I suspect this is way beyond the state of the art of anyone's understanding of the dynamics of a political system, but I thought I would at least lay down a marker that this issue merits some serious consideration. I hope others will chime in...
My sincere thanks to the friendly, gracious, and enthusiastic folks of Anchorage who are making my visit so stimulating.
Remarks are based on the assumption that the system is one containing at least two countries.
I wonder if we need to discuss what is meant by "spatial distribution." Surely it includes geographic distribution, but that would seem to be losing significance with the spread of education and instant communication. Should we include other types of "distance," e.g., cultural distance?
Hypothesis 1 = The greater the cultural distance, the more
irregular the process of adaptation will be over time.
Explanation: Cultural distance will inhibit understanding,
which will interfere with one side's response to the other side by interposing delays between the impact on Side A of some event and Side B's recognition of it.
If the process of adaptation that enables a complex system to evolve is hindered, the implications in international affairs may well be serious, e.g., the provocation of a needless crisis because one side is irritated about the lack of sensitivity on the part of the other side simply because the other side remains clueless rather than because it intends to be dismissive. Progress in relations may be indefinitely retarded because Side A expects a response within a time frame too short for Side B to respond, so Side A gives up and perhaps behaves in a negative way that is more rapidly seen by Side B, which then responds in kind (I.e., also negatively), perhaps leaving Side A wondering why “they only understand the language of force.”
Consider the following quotation on the human heart from http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~jk45/Heart_CAS/heart_co.htm:
“There are many systems in nature in which a large assembly of autonomous parts
(agents) interacting locally, in the absence of a high-level global controller,
can give rise to highly coordinated and optimized behavior. The complex adaptive
behavior of global-level structures that emerges is a consequence of nonlinear
spatio-temporal interactions of local-level processes or subsystems. This form
of nested co-optation (across levels of organization) constitutes isolated
cells, organisms, societies and ecologies. Systems of this type are governed by
universal principles of adaptation and self-organization, in which control and
order is emergent rather than predetermined and have come to be known as complex adaptive systems (CAS).”
Countries are autonomous parts that interact locally without a controller (except for the UN). If adaptation is hindered by cultural distance, the rate of optimization of behavior is likely to be slowed. Does this help to understand the oft-remarked relatively high speed of technological progress in comparison to the slow progress toward improving the quality of world governance?