Context: I am a big fan of Anton Petrov’s space and science YouTube channel. Today I was watching this video which inspired the spontaneous reflection recorded below.
Many of the shared, Global and effectively holistic problems that we face as an industrialised technological civilisation are fundamentally and foundationally matters of successfully characterising and negotiating – not the things or entities, artefacts and component parts of integrated planetary systems – but rather of engaging the combinatorial sum total entropy and logically serpentine enigmas that lie at the heart of concepts such as “whole” or “complete” information and energy-processing systems.
It is a difficult task to identify the autonomously self-propagating unity of a non-trivially complex dynamical system because such an aspirational unification (in theory and in practice) represents a mystifying principle of system self-containment, incompleteness and undecidable uncertainty that would be familiar to anyone that has encountered Gödel’s Theorem(s), Russell’s Paradox or Georg Cantor’s work on infinity. The component elements of such complex planetary systems can, however, still be differentiated in useful ways. Indeed, the discerning individuation and ontological isolation of “parts” of systems is a key insight upon which most technological and intellectual history is built. What is transparent, though, is that the astonishing diversity of the natural (and technological, industrialised) systems of which we are part is itself an inverse indication of a solution – that is, the lack of unity actually indicates precisely what such a unity and ecological, socioeconomic and usefully-constructive self-organisational resonance would assume.
Consider that humanity and nature are not separate entities but compose a single unified systems “surface” that, much like the unifying discontinuity that binds a Möbius strip into a singular topological presence, is constitutively impossible (or improbable) to identify or recognise and engage with as a singular system because the binding property is not located in one place or easily identifiable system or artefact – it is distributed both in and as, i.e. across, the entire surface of that system. There is a core symmetry here that consists, in this context, of two adaptive complex systems of humanity and technology that each (and in some profoundly irreducible sense) both contain each other in and autocatalysis of interdependent dynamical information and energy flows.
Two systems that contain each other mirrored in and as one unified system that contains itself. It may (or may not) be of interest here to also note that this kind of enigmatic recursion also underlies logic, mathematics, physics and – consequently – all of the astonishingly good and catastrophically bad industrialised and technological consequences human knowledge has invoked and incurred.
A closing note – the systems analysis indicated above represents at least one way to approach a Global theory that works to decompress the complex mess humanity has made for itself. Unfortunately, endemic psychological and cultural factors are holding us back and institutional reticence to engage any ideas which do not overtly work to recreate the self-validating and reflexive instrospection of those institutions is a critical problem here. The things we make, the ideas we inhabit – they are part of unified whole that far too much transient is gained by ignoring and the deeper, enduring logical enigmas – we almost certainly seal our planetary fate with proliferating environmental turbulence and effectively unmanageable geopolitical complexity.