Equilibrium, Living Sys LO5933

Fri, 1 Mar 1996 08:19:06 -0800

Replying to LO5890
Steve Cabana writes

>In natural systems, Gaia for instance (Earth as intellegent system), the
future controls the present such that shorter (ie time) processes serve
the purpose of the larger processes which encompass and outlive them.
Nothing is undertaken that can interfere with the the continuity, stabilty
and hence perpetuation of the whole. Stability rather than change is the
basic feature of the living world.

In economic development, or progress, the opposite is true. Exclusively
concerned with immediate political and economic benefits its promoters
show no interest in the consequences of such behavior for future
generations. They will neither vote, nor save, nor invest, nor consume,
nor produce.

Extinction, the most serious discontinuity, is unlikely to occur in a
climax ecosystem where everthing conspires to minimize such incidence and
its severity. A high incidence of Extinction indicates the ecosystem is
still at a pioneering stage or has been reduced to a neo-pioneering stage
by an external agent, such as modern man, whose commitment to economic
development can only lead to ecological degradation.

I imagine this post will stimulate some debate and reflective thought.
** end of quote **

Steve It does. I offer this

Stability [dynamic equilibrium covers it for me too] as much as change is
indeed a basic feature of the living world. It appears in the record of
life on earth at all scales. Evolution is episodic revolution [more or
less]. But 'stability' does not need a conscious Gaia. The checks and
balance of natural selection drift towards dynamic equilibrium. From the
perspective of the selfish gene [genetic cartel] stability is good news.

In cultural/ economic evolution I discern a similar dynamic. The 'ruling
paradigm' [aka selfish memetic cartel] likewise thrives if it can lock a
social/ cultural system into a pattern of being in which the paradigm
replicates. That pattern may, by inhibiting change carry the seeds of its
own demise.

But so to do nature's. I think we can read some extinctions differently as
limits to growth in a coupled atmosphere-biosphere system [an inanimate,
unconcious Gaia if you will].They are the climaxes of success. The
grandaddy of them all in terms of scale, and time, was probably the first.
Prokaryotes 'ruled' the world until they poisoned it with oxygen [it took
a few hundred million years of global rusting first]. In the process they
inadvertently created the context for the rest of evolution. Several other
instances can be claimed if there are interested readers but I do not want
to take up to much space here.

Evolution, as Bateson reminds us, is learning - and it has been speeding
up -in jerks- ever since that first 'global crisis', and especially since
our species shifted evolution's gear to the none genetic domain. Runaway
'learning' [aka technological/ cultural/ economic progress] can be viewed
as just one more case [faster than any previous one] of an evolved
capability escaping the checks and balances of a stable system until it
encounters a limit to growth at some higher level.

I have some poorly perceived vision that if if we can get a handle on
intentional learning we may yet avoid the crisis of runaway unintentional
learning. I would welcome any conversation that explores the idea [or
helps me see that I am up a meta-scale speculative creek without a

Thanks Steve for opening [or is it reopening] this topic. I hope the
debate runs.

If Price
The Harrow Partnership
Pewley Fort Guildford UK

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>