Disorder

The world feels a little like some complex tapestry in which we are constantly weaving design in at one end while the other end unravels. There appears to be some fine balance and pivotal ratio between the wilful addition of useful complexity and a simultaneous unwitting slide into dissolution, entropy and disorder. The endless disintegration into chaos is an expected, predictable function of physical reality and in many ways we might conceive of life, social order and civilisation as surfing on this collapsing wavefront and breaking symmetry which thermodynamic decay and proliferating entropy represents. The fine balance lies in laying down enough order at a rate which (as a median effect over a longer timeframe) counteracts the continuous dissolution of structure into meaningless randomness; at the interface between these two states or phases of information and complexity we find both tribulation and opportunity.

What interests me here is the ways in which we might choose to align ourselves, our lives, our social systems and political ideologies to misleading postures or stances which appear to be constructive and continuous, i.e. which appear to add useful informational structure and complexity to the world, but which are ultimately (if unintentionally) more destructive than constructive. I have a suspicion that the majority of ideological postures and political projects which find popular support do not find themselves centralised in narrative and culture for any reasons more substantial than that they are readily understood and easily communicated. It also appears to be very likely that those simplistic generalisations by which our self-representations, our collective self-interests and by which our economic and social programmes are justified – these are not for the most part adding useful or productive information and complexity to the world.

Adherence to narratives of linear, continuous and predictable processes, of concrete self-definitions and eternal certainty – these are the generalisations and caricatures by which we communicate but they fail to faithfully map to the actual complexity of the real world. This situation then creates a perverse incentive to continue to propagate the media and communications processes and networks which support this simplistic conceptualisation of self and world; in part as psychological compensation and longing for a certainty and continuity of truth which fails to materialise, in part because this simple message is what is “selected for” (i.e. short, simple, logically unproblematic ideas are more “successful” and easily conveyed) in the evolutionary context of a rich, fertile jungle of information over-supply such as that we are currently enveloped by.

We add useless, non-constructive structure and complexity to our social and cultural systems at the risk and collective existential cost of not seeing that the other end of this unravelling process of civilisation decay continues to grow at an accelerating rate. While we add sophistication and complexity at a technical or technological level to our overall social and cultural development, we are continuing to hammer the square peg of an anachronistic linear, mechanical understanding of self and world into the round hole of constantly evolving contexts. We shouldn’t expect a technological singularity to save us or in any way pull ourselves out of the proliferating entropy and ideological or material waste products of our civilisation, at least not if we are unwilling to embrace the sophisticated scientific theories, alternative narratives and non-linear facts which are actually constitutive of our shared reality.

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