Re: virus: Metasystem Transition

Dave Pape (
Sun, 2 Feb 1997 21:49:46 GMT

At 15:58 31/01/97 -0800, Dan Plante wrote:


>>But what I'm saying is that all your cognitive development is a process of
>>metasystems emerging. And... I suppose, memetically speaking, I'm saying
>>that the future process that you're proposing (and I think your prediction
>>could be close to what happens) is nothing qualitatively new... it'll just
>>be the natural extension of a process that has its roots back when nerved-up
>>animals first started to learn about and from each other.
>>Dave Pape
>I agree. It's quite often a matter of perspective and perception. I often
>take the perspective, when thinking about fundamentals, of stepping back
>and looking at the "big picture", that is, all facets of our existence.

It's called an Objectivity Rush. Can be pretty disturbing (eg "Oh shit, at
almost all levels of analysis, it doesn't matter whether I live or die." But
it's usually pretty good fun.

>It's from this view that I've
>come to see the process of evolution gradually producing what I initially
>tagged an "emergent systems stack", but I think I like the term "metasystem
>transition history" better.

I like your concept of emergent systems stacks as well though. I'd consider
my personality to be a stack of emergent systems of ideas/memes, and I'd
consider the whole Earth ecosystem to be a stack of metasystems of minor
ecologies, each of /those/ emerging from the interactions of organisms, each
of those being in turn a stack of metasystems... eg I am a colony of cells,
and my organism identity is an emergent of how my cells interact.

>I also agree with your previous post about the "control" aspect within
>the metasystem transition history table extracted from the Principia
>Cybernetica Project site.

Thanks. I think "control" is a word people leap for because they're into
analysing social situations for seniority dynamics. As soon as you see a
pyramid of systems in a diagram the deduction is that the top system's in

>The assertion of "control", in the sense used
>on those pages is obviously in error, especially when viewed within the
>context of a series of emergent systems. To be fair though, they do go
>on to refine the idea, with reference to /feedback/ and control systems
>(one of my areas of expertise), which, /eventually/, do have validity
>in a changing (mutation and selection) system.

I'll take your word here until I've had another look at Principia
Cybernetica. I just think we can let go of worrying about which system is
senior or cleverer or more important... I think that's a very human
(therefore subjective) worry.

>The pattern I percieve, in every (logically consistant) transition
>postulated, is this:

>Start with a system of (usually but not neccessarily) identical, self-
>reproducible components. Observe that there are no higher levels of order
>(there are, as yet, no emergent properties related to the interaction of
>the components).

I'm with you most of the way here. Trivially, I'm not sure how many real
world situations you could find that are this clean, though (ie situations
where you have a system of lots of units interacting with no higher-level
order visible ANYWHERE). And more basically... do you really need the
self-reproducing condition? I'd argue that atomic-scale interactors don't
self-reproduce, but interact to produce metasystems (such as molecules).

>Change (mutate) some small facet of the nature of the

Is this NECESSARY? Or... could just the addition of energy to the system be
enough? I think one of the critical metasystem transitions in the history of
Earth biology was just pre-DNA, when molecular units had interacted for x
hundred million years, and got in a state of highly complex equilibrium,
with lots of quite high-mass molecules in all sorts of bizarre
concentrations. I'm thinking... was the change to the system because of
energy input from the sun enough?

>Large, sudden changes in the system /typically/ result in
>instability of an extent that has a significant detrimental affect
>on the member components, and therefore do not sustain and/or propagate.

I'd certainly agree with this.

>Observe the system again. Sometimes, the small addition/change, given
>time to reach a critical number/density through component reproduction,
>will affect the mutual interaction of the components such that a
>previously non-existant order can be percieved in the system as a whole.
>This, as I understand it, is a meta-system transition.

I agree with "mutual interaction of the components" leading to a "previously
non-existant order" being perceptible in the "system as a whole". I've just
got reservations about the necessity of the mutation condition.

>Where I think the PCP people may be going wrong, is in mistaking an
>emergent property as "control". Influence may be a better term, but
>even that is not semantically precise. An emergent property is just
>that: an emergent property. Implicit in the term "control", especially
>in feedback and control systems theory, is a controller function /not/
>implicit in emergent properties.

I'd say that the system and the metasystem just interact, and leave it at
that, without describing which system has the balance of control over the
other. PROBLEM WITH CONTROL #3: If a metasystem changes the system from
which it emerged, then it'll alter itself as a system. I'd imagine that this
condition would make metasystems less stable than I think they are.


>A more accurate electronic analogy for a metasystem transition would
>be an oscillator. Connect random transistors and electrical power in
>various configurations, and nothing much happens (the configuration
>burns out some components, or the system is driven into a steady-state
>saturation or cutoff mode; nothing remarkable. But make one or two minor
>changes, so that the components are connected in a /positive/ feedback
>configuration, and so that the gain of the system is greater than
>unity, and something remarkable does happen. The whole system begins
>to oscillate at a frequency determined by the amount of inductance,
>capacitance and resistance in the system. A property emerges, a complex
>behaviour that is completely dependant upon, but whose existence or
>behaviour is not implicit in, the nature of any single component.

Lovely. Feedback's one of my favourite things. I think that severe
schizophrenia looks quite like cognitive feedback... with ideas setting off
similar ideas to the extent that the patient can't react effectively to
their surroundings. Is there a semi-analogy here to an information-choked Net?

>If I may take some license with your previous post:

We'll see ;)

>Atomic phenomena arise from sub-atomic interactions (the stable isotopes)
>Molecular phenomena arise from atomic interactions (chemistry)
>Self-reproducing structures arise from molecular interactions (life)
>Self-aware structures arise from self-reproducing interactions (mind)
>Memetic structures arise from self-aware interactions (culture)

Initially...? and And...? are the real late-night things.

>Comparing our two tables, it becomes apparent that a formal, rigorous
>definiton of a metasystem transition is needed, as well as a self-
>consistent rationale for that definition. There could be only a handful
>of true transitions in our history, or there could have been thousands.
>I believe the PCP site acknowledged this need.

Firstly, good list; secondly, I don't think we can EVER produce the
definitive list of the metasystem transition history of the Universe. I
think there have been an incalculable number, because I think metasystems
can be tiny or global- universal in fact.

For instance I think Duran Duran were a metasystem. IN NO WAY were "Union of
the Snake" or "Rio" implicit in Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Jon Taylor and
Thingy Taylor the drummer, before they began the memetic interaction that
was Duran Duran.

I also think that every molecule is a metasystem. I'm a metasystem, a colony
of cells, and every cell in my body is a metasystem. All the social groups I
become involved with are metasystems.

Books are cognitive metasystems, and all my ideas are metasystems of
simpler, more concrete, ideas.

I personally think that the tendency of systems to evolve (and I mean that
quite strongly) and then give rise to emergent metasystems is hugely
fundamental to how the universe works.

>Any thoughts?

Well, you did ask:

How about the whole Omniverse (including things at the Initially...? and
And...? ends of your list) being explainable as computation of some
algorithm? And, one of the properties of that algorithm is that, as it
computes, it gives rise to new computational spaces for itself to be
computed in?

So, if you look at the Omniverse as a grid, with the colour of each point in
the grid corresponding to how high the algorithm processing stack is at that
point, most points will be dark, because there's just little diddy particles
kicking around, but a few (proportionally) will be bright, because there's
subatomic, atomic, ecological, biological, organic (ie cells into
organisms), cognitive, and loads of layers of memetic processing going on there!

Huh? Huh? How about it?

Dave Pape
The memetic equivalent of a G3 bullpup-design assault rifle blowing a full
clip at my opponent. (Alex Williams 1996)

Phonecalls: 01494 461648 Phights: 10 Riverswood Gardens
High Wycombe
HP11 1HN