Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Emergent structure

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to spend some quality time with Venkatesh and discussed in depth about the concept of legibility, proposed by James Scott in "Seeing Like a State" and developed by Venkatesh  in his recent book Tempo. A few days ago I watched the BBC documentary The Secret Life of Chaos. These two events had a profound effect on my views about SENSORICA's structure.

I think SENSORICA should NOT have a predefined structure. Roles within our value network must be emergent and fluid. Circumstances define functional roles. As conditions change the organization reconfigures itself. SENSORICA will mold to changing patterns underlying our society and our economy.

We need some level of legibility to connect different value networks (like SENSORICA) together into a super-network. This connection is first established at the level of the value system, to allow an unhindered flow of value between all the nodes. Knowledge must also be able to flow freely within the super-network, therefore some level of codification is required. Individuals must be able to start producing value shortly after they migrate from one sub-network to another. The accommodation time and the learning curve must be reduced in order to renter the super-network rapidly reconfigurable/dynamic. But we also need to realize that there is a price to pay for too much legibility, as Venkatesh brilliantly points out (see this short video).

How are we going to induce self-organization? What guarantees temporal stability? How can we make sure that emergent patterns optimize creativity and productivity? How can we make sure that the outcome will be a humane and ethical environment? I put all my faith into the human being.

I believe that humans are capable of spontaneously creating stable social patterns if their goals are aligned and if they know how to achieve their goals. We don't need to create a structure, we only need to create the conditions for the structure to emerge and evolve. I am in the process of designing data analysis and visualization tools that I believe will induce self-organization. At this moment I see 3 important systems: value, reputation and roles. Follow the previous link for more.

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