[ExI] [Soc]Complex Adaptive Systems - Tending Always to 50/50 split

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sun Oct 12 16:30:36 UTC 2008

On Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 5:23 PM, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 7:32 PM, Jef Allbright wrote:
>> More specifically, I'm referring to the tendency of political systems
>> representing a complex mix of values (perceived preferences) to arrive
>> at a roughly 50/50 split across populations.
>> More pointedly, I'm referring to the apparent lack of formal
>> recognition of this natural dynamic, fundamental in system-theoretic
>> and information-theoretic terms, toward high-probability **bipolar**
>> separation regardless of the complex hierarchy of the supporting
>> matrix of values represented.
> What is your evidence for this 50/50 split?y
> It happens in the US two-party system, but not elsewhere.

Yes, when I said "more specifically", I meant, and should have said,
"more concretely".  I think that the predominately bipolar US
political system is a particular concrete example of the tendency
toward drastically oversimplified separation into X vs. not-X, but I
didn't mean to imply that all perceived political groupings exemplify
this tendency.

I think it's also important (in this thinking) to distinguish between
an adaptive system's "values", meaning it's intrinsic nature, in
contrast with its "preferences",manifestations of its values/nature.
[I clumsily blurred this distinction in my original post.]  For
example, looking at the variety of musical preferences displayed by
humans might seem to work against my point, but I'm guessing that the
(unfortunately statistically sparse) data on the musical preferences
of genetically similar twins would be correlated, such that there
would be a fairly clear bipolar separation between the groupings
"music we like" and "music we don't like", but with sharply
diminishing differentiation of the relative perceived merits of the
individual objects within these major classifications.  Of course this
is a weak example, since we can assume that musical preferences are
only weakly related to the more direct objects of adaptation.

Likewise, in the case of US politics, it seems that the set of
preferences forming the complex hyperplane separating the two major
parties can be quite incoherent internally but with negligeable effect
on the dynamics of the strong bipolar separation observed as we move
closer to the root of the hierarchy based on what we clump together
(in US terms) as "liberal" vs. "conservative."  And as we move even
closer to the root of the hierarchy, we arrive, with increasing
probability, at the low-cost (in terms of information processing)
bipolar distinction of politics of self-identification, stripped of
virtually all consideration of the particulars of values -- their
internal coherence or areas of overlap outside the context of
self-identification -- reducing to the venerable (and computationally
simple) in-group/out-group distinction that served our evolutionary
ancestors so well for so long.

I'm not adequately familiar with the partitioning within UK politics,
but I'm guessing that the same principle holds -- that any such
distinctions would tend to resolve toward a bipolar separation -- with
decreasing "friction" and removal of obstacles impairing intergroup

I think that this tendency for bipolar separation inherent to the
dynamics of any complex adaptive system is fairly obvious -- look at
the (mainly) bipolar branching of so many natural taxonomies -- and I
can easily see why it has long been a theme within the field of
discursive analysis (as pointed out by Damien).  I also see a
considerable and growing engineering literature regarding dynamics as
applied to adaptive systems in electronics and mechanics and
cybernetics.  But so far I haven't found any academic resources
crossing the cultural divide, applying the rigorous treatment within
Engineering to the critical social issues addressed within the halls
of the Humanities.

And that is just the kind of analysis, evidence of the the existence
of which that I seek, that was the point of my post.

[Can you tell from that last sentence that I prefer post-fix, RPN calculators?]

- Jef

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