Section One: Venus, Gaia's barren sister, and Esau, Jacob's dispossessed brother

About four and sixth tenths billion years ago, the swirling cloud of interstellar gas circling the Sun condensed into planets. In the inner solar system, two planets formed that were similar enough in size and mass to be called sister worlds, Venus and E arth--Gaia. [1]

During the next few hundreds of billions of years, lighting and ultraviolet light from the Sun began to break apart the simple hydrogen-rich molecules of the primitive atmosphere on Gaia. Fragments of these molecules recombined into more and more complex molecules which precipitated out of the atmosphere and dissolved in the oceans. The complexity and interaction of these molecules continued to increase until primitive organic compounds formed as molecules made sophisticated links--bonds--with each othe r. Eventually, a threshold was crossed and molecules arose that were able to make crude reproductions of themselves. These were the earliest ancestors of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, the building-block of biological life. [Sagan 30-31]

On Venus, something different happened. Because Venus was closer to the Sun, she received more ultraviolet radiation than her sister, Gaia. The greater radiation raised the temperature of Venus, releasing carbon dioxide molecules from the world's surfac e. As carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere it trapped infrared radiation being reflected from the world's surface and the surface temperatures rose in what is known as the greenhouse effect. The surface temperature on Venus rose well above that on her sister world, Gaia. Due to the higher heat, simple hydrogen-rich molecules in the atmosphere of Venus that were broken apart by lightning and ultraviolet light could not recombine into more complex molecules. [Sagan 94-102] The threshold of complexi ty was never crossed and Venus remained lifeless, Gaia's barren sister.

On Gaia, four and a half billion years passed. Those primitive molecules, the building-blocks of biological life, continued to evolve in complexity. However, eventually, molecules with specialized functions joined together to form collections of molecul es--cells. The cells multiplied in number and form, leading to ever greater complexity in their specialized functions. Complexity continued to increase and eventually collections of cells emerged, the first multi-celled plants, followed by multi-celled organisms that were able to exchange elements of their building-blocks, their DNA, through sexual reproduction. In the Cambrian explosion, more complex life-forms with specialized organs--the first animals--emerged. The complexity of life continued to i ncrease [2]. The first fish and first vertebrates emerged. Plants began the colonization of the land, followed by the first insects and amphibians. Trees and reptiles emerged. The dinosaurs and first mammals appeared, followed by birds and the first f lowers. Even with the extinction of the dinosaurs life continued to become more complex. The earliest cetaceans and primates emerged. [Sagan 31-33] In short, a threshold had been crossed and Gaia became a living world in which ever more complex forms o f life continued to evolve.

* * * * *

"Two nations are in your womb, two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger."

Genesis 25:23

About 100,000 years ago, at the onset of one of the last great continental glaciations in Europe, a species of hominids known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis--Neanderthal man--appeared in Europe and the Middle East. We'll call this man Esau. Esau had a larger brain than the archaic Homo sapiens species that preceded him, but he also had a huge, forward-jutting jaw, massive front teeth, heavy brow-ridges, a sloping brow, an elliptical head, a short neck, and extra-thick arm and leg bones.

Esau and his fellow Neanderthals lived in an extremely cold climate and unlike the archaic sapiens that preceded them, they had few plants to eat, relying instead almost exclusively upon hunting to survive. They used stone tools and fashioned decorative objects from antlers, bone and animal teeth. They buried their dead. Esau's pharynx was much less developed than those of modern humans and more similar to that of chimpanzees. Esau's ability to speak was limited at best. Still, Esau's kind thrived fo r nearly 60,000 years. [Harris 86-89]

Then, a new hominid appeared in Europe--Cro Magnon man, Homo sapiens sapiens. We'll call this new man, the first modern human, Jacob. Jacob used more sophisticated and complex tools than did Esau, fashioning cutting, carving and drilling materials not o nly from stone but from bone, ivory and antler. Jacob and his fellow Cro Magnons sewed clothing and used hand-held devices to hurl projectiles. [Harris 92-94]

Most importantly, Jacob's linguistic capabilities were more advanced than those of Esau. Jacob was fully capable of speech. With sophisticated speech came the advent of a complex culture that surpassed that of Esau and his fellow Neanderthals. Jacob's sophisticated speech enabled him to communicate much more intensely with his peers than the Neanderthals could as well as pass his complex culture onto his descendants--an intergenerational process of information "repackaging," which was much more powerfu l than the genetic "learning" facilitated by DNA [3] Within 5000 years of their coexistence in Europe with Cro Magnons, the Neanderthals became extinct [4]. Jacob had surpassed Esau and modern humans became the sole sentient hominid species on Earth.

The stories of Venus and Gaia and of Esau and Jacob are metaphors for increases in complexity and emergence. [5] In both the emergence of life on Earth (Gaia) and the emergence of hominid sentience and culture we see evidence of a threshold of complexity where increasing complexity led to a fundamental change of state: from the organic to the biological, from cunning and instinct to sentience and culture. [6] But these metaphors also suggest two distinct outcomes once such a threshold is reached. The t ransition across the threshold may be successful, leading to the emergence of a new state and a continuing increase in complexity: the emergence of life on Earth, the emergence of human sentience and society. On the other hand, the transition across the threshold may fail, leading to no further increases in complexity: the failure of life to emerge on Venus, the extinction of the Neanderthals.

These are the questions we seek to address here. Why is Venus barren? Why was Esau dispossessed?

Section Two: The Case for a Changing Paradigm (Literature Review)

"The times, they are a changin' . . . ."

-Bob Dylan

In the last forty years, from disciplines representing the natural and physical sciences, to those of the social sciences, to even those of metaphysics, we have heard a chorus of voices announcing a dramatic change in our understanding of reality. [7]

Third waves, quantum states, cyberian traits,
chaos, extropy, emergent complexity,
Of sentient Gaia with a morphogenetic capacity,
post-modern, post-industrial, post-spiritual, cyberspatial,
cybernetic post-reality.
Who am I? [8]

This plethora of poorly defined jargon is typical of attempted explanations of life circa 2K. [9] Many disciplines have identified profound challenges to their traditional paradigms and have developed their own lexicon of terminology and motley of theori es to incorporate those challenges into old paradigms or, in some cases, to begin to explore new paradigms entirely. In the policy sciences, for example, Kiel calls for "a new systems paradigm " which incorporates emerging theories from the natural and c ognitive sciences into new and improved models in the study and application of public policy and administration. [Kiel 27] Taylor calls for a similar shift for the disciplines of philosophy and media theory [Taylor 44, 1994], as does Lippman for psycholo gy [Usenet, alt.psychology, March - April 1995].

Similarly, drawing from the young but fertile soil of quantum theory and chaos mathematics, and commenting on the evolving face of western science, Prigogine, Zukav and Capra outline a new synthesis of science, blending Western rationalism with Eastern c onceptions of self-organization affecting, as Capra writes, a " conceptual transformation of science from the Golden Age of classical science to the present." [Prigogine 8, Zukav 5 and Capra 16, 1982] Wheatley notes the emergence of "new organizational fo rms" for the management of corporations. [Wheatley 5] And Pearson Darling, and Rushkoff identify a great transformation of spiritual philosophy which is profoundly reshaping the realm of spiritual discourse in the face of post-modern situations, paradoxe s and discoveries. [Pearson and Darling Introduction, Rushkoff 2 ]. Yet, though many explanations overlap, often teasing integration and "grand theories of unification," no discipline has described the phenomenon to the satisfaction of all. Citing some thirty-one different definitions of the term complexity alone, for example, Horgan notes that even among the most zealous harbingers of the new, broadly accepted definitions and agreements are rare. [Horgan 107]

Nevertheless, there seems to be a general acceptance in the literature that we are all talking about the same phenomenon with different words. John Holland suggests, for example, "Many of our most troubling long-range problems - trade balances, sustaina bility, AIDS, genetic defects, mental health, computer viruses - center on certain systems of extraordinary complexity. Despite appearances however, the systems do share significant characteristics, so much that we group them under a single classificatio n, calling them complex adaptive systems." [Horgan 105] In a similar vein, Rushkoff writes, "The different ways in which our culture is changing can be seen as aspects of a single renaissance." [Rushkoff 2] What is needed is the glue with which to bind th ese essentially similar discussions into a holistic explanation of what is happening to our selves, our society, and our world.

This section will briefly identify three of the important ideological trends which we believe will be at the heart of any such convergence. Specifically we will outline hypotheses and predictions from the fields of sociology (Cyberia, which focuses on o ur current historical/structural conditions and how those conditions are affecting our future society), science (Complexity Studies, which attempt to identify the meta-principles which are driving the profound changes we're faced with by analyzing them in terms of Chaos Theory), and philosophy (Wave Theory, which discusses the meta-processes underlying the changing of our current perceptions of reality).

We choose these three areas of study because they have been the most successful so far in bridging the gaps between separate disciplines. Further, we take this generalist approach because we believe that only by stepping back and obtaining a broad perspe ctive of the ideological landscape can we distill the greater themes which underlie the experiences of each of the many aspects of culture, be they the experiences of science, sociology, or ideology.

Thus the goal of this research is not to formulate specific laws or policies, but to build bridges between still-isolated discussions. Our belief is that only by induction will we be able to accurately summarize the themes of the present, or preferably t he soon to come. Only through induction will we distill images from the pointillist canvass which is our current reality. In times of paradigm shifts, we believe, only by setting forth broad theories can we then focus enough to deductively probe for new metaphors. Unless we work top down, we will not be able to muster the creativity necessary to change our lenses. Our goal is thus to set forth a broad theory which will hopefully provide a lens which can be more thoroughly tested, and which will advanc e our ability to understand what is happening to us and how, if at all, we may take part in or influence the progression of our lives. For if our reality, or even our perception of reality, is indeed shifting, denial of the new "rules of the game" will o nly lead to clashes between ourselves and our universe, and the universe is unlikely to lose the fight. If reality is indeed shifting, it is crucial that we adapt to the new paradigms lest we decay into anachronistic lodestones. Petersen writes, "As we navigate between two epochal global shifts, information technology, new science, and environmental problems are converging to produce an era that is moving so fast that few can understand it. But we must try, for if we can't make sense of the context in which we must live, we guarantee that every significant new event will be a surprise - and many of those surprises will be disasters." [Petersen 9]

So there is some urgency to this discussion because unlike many of the theories we will browse in the following sections of this thesis, we do not take for granted that emergence is either inevitable or beneficial to humanity. It is an important critiqu e of many of our brightest theorists that they ultimately accept the manifest destiny of humanity through the process of emergence. It is as if emergence is taken for granted, and all that must be discovered are the methods to predict or control that eme rgence. The fate of Venus and Esau are conveniently swept under the rug. For example, speaking of his book, The Third Wave, Toffler writes, "This book ... assumes that, even though the decades ahead are likely to be filled with upheavals, turbulence, p erhaps even widespread violence, we will not totally destroy ourselves. It assumes that the jolting changes we are now experiencing are not chaotic or random but that, in fact, they form a sharp, clearly discernible pattern." [Toffler 12, 1980] Capra agr ees, stating that, "Cultural transformations of this magnitude and depth cannot be prevented." [Capra 33, 1982] In Complexity, Arthur's famous boat metaphor mirrors the same sentiment. [Waldrop 330] What is needed, he explains, is a better and more compl exity-friendly strategy for oaring ourselves down the river. What is not considered however, is whether or not the river will dry up, whether there are falls ahead, or whether our boat will sink.

Further, even if we do in fact have some impact on the development of the fractals of which we are a part, we may, in the process of trying to affect that future, prevent any emergence at all because we'd assumed the emergence could be taken for granted and adopted policies which in the end hindered the emergence. It reminds us of an old baseball maxim, "Catch the ball 'before' you throw it to first."

Cyberia (Our Current State)

"The I Ching is thought to work the same way, and uses a sixty-four-part structure almost identical to that of DNA to help people predict future events and understand their personal roles in the overall continuum of time and space. Terence and Dennis McK enna used computers to compute the I Ching as a huge fractal equation for all of human history. According to their fractal, called 'Time Wave Zero,' history and time as we know it will end in the year 2012. This date has also been linked with the Mayan Tzolkin calendar, which many believe also calls 2012 the end of linear time. It makes the notion of a simple, global renaissance pale by comparison." - [Rushkoff 90]

I identify with the characters of Star Trek. [10] Don't you? Captain Picard, Captain Kirk, even Counselor Troi, an alien, she's basically like you or me. I mean, sure, she's an individual with her own unique qualities, but if I met her on the street I w ouldn't for one second think she wasn't a 1996 American woman. When we think about the future, what are we doing? [11] Images of the present. You and I frozen in .GIF format, and a click on the scissors icon, and a click on the clipboard icon, pasting t hem on top of "futuristic" technology. [12] BEGIN animation.

"Humanity is constant. It is only the environment that changes. Bill and Ted can cut Beethoven out of the 17th Century and paste him into one of those cheesy piano shops at the mall and he will jam Hendrix says the institution," say the holy holders of cultural identity. [13] "Who we are now, is good, is timeless, is correct, is true, is objective."

According to the Cyberians, this is simply not valid. Many of our "living" grandparents they argue, have difficulties comprehending the geometric rate of change of our evolving world, let alone Beethoven, or even some early Neanderthal, who experienced t he world so fundamentally differently that there can be no comparison.

The recent film Restoration illustrates the telling differences in historical identity. Set in Seventeenth Century England, the film portrays events in the life of a young doctor named Robert. This doctor is something of a visionary and is often critici zed for his non-traditional approaches to medicine. In one scene a young woman named Katherine is treated for "mania"--what contemporary psychologists would call depression--following the loss of her child by the process of "bleeding"--the draining of bl ood meant to remove the "evil spirits" that are believed to be afflicting her mental state. Katherine has been undergoing this "treatment" for some time, but to no apparent effect. Robert intervenes and over the objection of the other doctors halts the bleeding and instead begins a process of discussion with Katherine of her loss--what a contemporary psychologist would call "therapy." Katherine eventually recovers to the amazement of the other doctors who can not comprehend Robert's revolutionary form o f medical treatment that fails to acknowledge the presence of supernatural forces.

As with the emergence of life and then of culture, nothing argue the Cyberians, is constant. What makes us think that Picard or Troi or anyone else in the far future will look like us, think like us, or have our cultural institutions? How far into the fu ture can we extrapolate from where we are? What will it mean to be sentient in 2100, 2050, or even 2012?

The study of Cyberia, primarily interested in the transition phase between industrial and information society, focuses on such questions. [14] Old school Cyberian theorists like Toffler, McLuhan, and modern commentators like Barlow, Taylor and Negroponte , have asked which cultural, physical, and psychological factors have been and will be changing in the era between 1950 and 2012 and how these changes will affect our identities. Their answers are dramatic and profound. Futurist John Petersen writes, "[ We] live in a period of time that will produce more change for humanity than any previous era in history. Wholesale change is taking place in almost every segment of our reality--and the pace will only increase in coming years." [Petersen 3]

Essentially, the Cyberians hope to predict what the emerging culture will look like by scanning the trends which affect our modern identity much like Neanderthals, contemporary with the first modern humans, might have attempted to understand what was happ ening to their way of life by observing the new and strange breed. In terms of this research however, the scans and forecasts of the Cyberians provide useful clues as to whether or not emergence will occur at all. Cyberia becomes our laboratory and the observations of the Cyberians, our experimental data. Certainly all generations herald change all about them. What we must ask is whether the change that the Cyberians propose supports the idea that we have reached or have crossed a complexity threshold , such that this current change is "special", or whether the changes are par for the course.

The most common Cyberian diversion is, of course, the information revolution. Many modern sociologists and anthropologists have recently turned their attention to the global village, discussing the ramifications of networking technologies on everything f rom nation-states [Reich, Rossenau, McLuhan 22 1967, 1989], religion [Petersen 233-35, Pearson, Stock 237-45] and warfare [DeLanda, IBOMB] to families [McLuhan 14, Toffler, 208-225, 1970, 1980, Petersen 131-32], schools [McLuhan 18] work [Toffler 194-207, 1970, 1980, Petersen 248-268, McLuhan 20, Rheingold 242-3] and identity [Stone, Haraway, Taylor 1994, Penley - Ross, Heim]. Cyberian influences have even been applied to music [Rucker, 82, 94, Negativeland], art [Taschen], and literature [Cyberpunk - Gi bson, Sterling, Dick, Hive - Herbert, General - Rucker, Heim]. In fact, it is virtually impossible to walk by any magazine stand without being bombarded with cyber-this or cyber-that.

That guy, one of the founding fathers of the Cyberian genre, Marshall McLuhan wrote this back then:

"The medium, or process, of our time--electronic technology--is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and reevaluate practically every thought, every action, and e very institution formerly taken for granted."

-[McLuhan 8, 1967]

commerce philosophy love
art healthcare politics creation
education industry

All these things, say the Cyberians, will significantly change in the Information Age.

matter doesn't matter.
ideas matter
everything is changing.
faster than
ever before
but your imagination is a better storyteller . . . .

Yet, however prosaic or trendy, the Cyberians have many important points, about the formulation of our perceived reality and our "individual" relationships to the world, to make. Take for example, the reformulation of the home. The family circle, expla in the Cyberians, has widened, stretching traditional family institutions beyond the breaking point. "The worldpool of information", writes McLuhan, "fathered by electronic media, far surpasses any possible influence mom or dad can now bring to bear. Ch aracter no longer is shaped by two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world's a sage." [McLuhan 16, 1967] Our children will attend virtual school with Chinese, Namibians and Peruvians while we work in Downtown Shinjuku sitting in our living room in L awrence, Kansas.

Toffler hypothesizes a multitude of familial institutions customized to the diverse needs and situations of people in a highly mobile, networked society in which the electronic cottage combines work, school, home, and play and provides a launchpad onto t he Web through which McLuhan's virtual extended kin system enters the home. [Toffler 208-25, 1980 ]

Thus, argue the Cyberians, not only are people able to experience (even if only to a limited degree at this early stage) the vast expanse of Gaia as never before (click); not only can we now, on a regular basis, hold communion with eight friends in eight countries at one time; not only can we socialize our children in a playground free of race, sex, athletic, or appearance-based ostracism, but digitality re-expresses our long-repressed nomadic heritage as technology frees us from the workplace (the true dehumanizer) allowing us to actually go visit all eight of our new friends. Digitality is to be anywhere and anyone, not somewhere and someone. Virtuality breathes hyper-sensuality, freeing the senses from the restraints of form, and individual identiti es previously tied to physicality and locality dissolve into cybernetic virtual agents. Individuals, they argue, become integrally tied to the "network," their interaction and the feedback they experience intensifying immensely and increasing in speed. Negroponte writes, "The digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin." [Negroponte 6]

No wonder many sociologists and others have identified our age (1950-2000) as one of pronounced anxiety. It is a common criticism of our age that we seem out of control. [Bey, Kirby, Deleuze and Guattari]. Cyber-theorist John Perry Barlow writes:

"On the most rudimentary level, there is simply terror of feeling like an immigrant in a place where your children are natives--where you're always going to be behind the 8-ball because they can develop the technology faster than you can learn it. It's w hat I call the learning curve of Sisyphus. And the only people who are going to be comfortable with that are people who don't mind confusion and ambiguity. I look at confusing circumstances as opportunity--but not everybody feels that way. That's not t he standard neurotic response. We've got a culture that's based on the ability of people to control everything. Once you start to embrace confusion as a way of life, concomitant with that is the assumption that you really don't control anything. At bes t it's a matter of surfing the whitewater." [Rushkoff 1]

Ideological givens based on individualism and self, which have held together our cultural and individual identities, are disintegrating and new ones are solidifying. "In the mediatrix," writes Taylor and Saarinen, "you throw yourself to others. You crea te through others. The media philosopher realizes painfully that she must sacrifice her beloved cogito, her cherished institutionalism, her age old desire for total control to a communal process in the making ... the autonomous cogito is torn to pieces. Attacked, disregarded, loved, and envied the subject finally has to live at the mercy of others." [Taylor 57, 1994]

Thus the Cyberian becomes lost in the network, be it the Jungian collective unconsciousness [Jung], Sheldrakian morphogenetic field [Sheldrake 1989, 1990, Rushkoff 59-61], or just "The Web". Yet, to be lost in the network is not to be lost in a throng of humanity. The Net is ultimately inhuman. As Haraway writes, "By the late twentieth-century ... we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism ... cyborgs." [Haraway 150]. However, unlike the cyborg of science fantasy, typically hulking emotionless monsters, the true cyborg as identified by the Cyberians has emerged as integrated bio-technology. The Cyberian cyborg is an emergent mixture of man and machine; not an asymmetric unison, but a blending in which the traits o f both parents emerge in mysterious new ways. Unlike classic media representations of the cyborg, we in the post-biological era resemble Shelly's original creature rather than any Terminator or Borg. We, the cyborgs, are born, made, and are neither.

Such emergence is made possible only because our technology has become evermore able to penetrate our bodies while our bodies have become evermore able to penetrate our technology. Saarinen and Taylor write, "Implants, transplants, artificial organs, art ificial insemination, genetic engineering and synthetic drugs make it harder and harder to be sure where the so-called human ends and the non-human begins. On the other hand, artificial wombs, artificial intelligence, and computer literacy 'externalize' bodily and mental functions." [Taylor Cyborgs 1, 1994] In Neuromancer, Gibson proposes a true sentient net through which the identity of the born may be "downloaded" into the made and the digitality of Cyberspace bleeds into mate-reality beyond recognitio n. [Gibson]

But the emergence of the cyborg, argue the Cyberians, is not an unprecedented change in the experience of the evolutionary lineage of the Homo sapiens species. Given the rate of change of the average period between evolutionary shifts in our line, the d ominance of Homo sapiens should last 500,000 Years. Ironically enough, Homo sapiens began showing up about 500,000 years ago. [15] So it would seem we're about due.

In Out of Control, Kelly recognizes that the cyborg is the natural child of Homo sapiens, writing, "The greatest social consequence of neo-biological civilization will be the grudging acceptance by humans that humans are the random ancestors of machines, and that as machines we can be engineered ourselves." [Kelly 55] Similarly, Saarinen and Taylor add, " [As] man becomes an appendage of machines, evolution shifts from the organism to the mechanical ... proceeding by quantum leaps instead of incremental steps." [Taylor Cyborgs 9, 1994] Thus, not only do the Cyberians argue for the supersedence of Homo sapiens in favor of cyborgs, but, they note the supersedence of Darwinian evolution in favor of Lamarckian evolution. Whereas the evolution of "bodies" u nder the biological paradigm was dependent on sexual reproduction, the evolution of bodies in the cyborg era, like the evolution of culture, is variable and modifiable over one generation (perhaps many times over). Not only can the cyborg learn, but the cyborg can be re-manufactured, even self-remanufactured to the genetic level. Thus, behavior and form are both variable in the mediatrix whereas in the previous cultural-memetic paradigm, only variable behavior accelerated change, and in the biological, only intergenerational variable genetics affects change. [16]

But the emergence of the cyborg in an evolutionary context is misleading for the very reason that evolution is still predisposed to think of individuals and selection upon those individuals. The cyborg, is neither individual nor subject to selection on a n individual basis. The cyborg is the network, the mediatrix, the hybrid creature made up of humanity like the human body is made up of cells. The cyborg is the multinational corporation, the listserv, the city techno-polity utterly distanced and depend antly meshed at one time. The cyborg is anti-self as it is non-human and virtual. Saarinen and Taylor write, "Computers become brain, engines the legs, video cameras the eyes, telephones the ears, and wires the nerves, veins and arteries of the world or ganism. The lifeblood of this corporate body is electricity. When the blood flows, the globe becomes a cyborg." [Taylor Cyborg 5, 1994] In Metaman, Stock writes, "Modern technology is now drawing humanity into a cohesive entity in which activities are h ighly interdependent." [Stock 20] Thus, argue the Cyberians, Gaia comes to life as a sentient collective only when its biological and mechanical children merge.

But it is not simply instantaneous, distance-irrelative, diverse and non-corporeal -cyborgian connectivity which affects the Cyberian anti-self. It is quantity as well. The information flood drowns us in its digital downpour. Negroponte writes, "Recent research results indicate that we are close to being able to deliver 1,000 billion bits per second. This means that a fiber the size of a human hair can deliver every issue ever made of the Wall Street Journal in less than one second." [Negroponte 23]

And not only are we able to get more information in the same amount of time, but information society is producing more as well. Petersen notes that, "if you're an adult, during your lifetime science learned more about how nature works than it learned in the 5,000 years before you were born. Fifty years ago, astronomers could only identify two galaxies. Now we know there are more than 2 billion. Eighty percent of the scientists who have ever lived are alive today; and they (and every other segment of life) are producing extraordinary amounts of new information. Some estimates say that the total amount of information in the world is now doubling every eighteen months." [Petersen 4] This explosion of information, and the connectivity/bandwidth of the W eb is changing who we are. As Petersen continues, "you are a far different person today than you would have been had you lived, say, 200 years ago. If, this coming Sunday, you were to read the entire New York Times, you would absorb more information in that one reading than the average person absorbed in a lifetime in Thomas Jefferson's day". [Petersen 4] More information, delivered more rapidly changes us [Glenn 114, Heim Preface]. As Heim writes, the move to digitality has caused an ontological shif t causing a "change in the world under our feet, in the whole context in which our knowledge and awareness are rooted." [Heim xiii]

Thus, the Cyberians predict a highly complex, bio-technical, cybernetic Web which is deeply human as it is at the same time post-biological and mechanical. This Web, they argue, will connect us as never before in such intensely interconnected and hyperac tive feedback loops that the complexity will be overwhelming to our very identities and every institution previously constructed around those identities. This complexity of diversity and interaction was seen in the previous thresholds cited (organic to b iological and biological to cultural) and thus it is to that complexity which we will now turn.

Complexity Theory: (Defining the Force)

The study of complexity attempts to bring rigor to the social sciences by applying such natural and/or physical sciences as quantum physics, fluid dynamics and chaos theory to social systems. "Scientists," writes Douglas Kiel, "are growing ever more awar e that the behavior of nonlinear systems parallels and explains the behavior of a variety of social and human systems." [Kiel 5] Pagels writes, "There's a striking phenomenon of convergence in science and scholarship that has been taking place [due to] th e realization that the problems they are struggling with are shared." [Pagels 36]

However, in current discussions of complexity theory, complex adaptive systems are described inductively as exhibiting a variety of generic characteristics rather than defined deductively. Such a process reflects the basic givens of complexity, which arg ue that truly complex systems can only be described by the systems themselves. [Pagels] Trying to break down complex systems into sets of formulae is wrong-headed. Rather, one should distill their identities by looking at the commonalties of their patte rns and behavior as a whole. Complexity theorists argue that the mistake of the Newtonians, for example, was to assume that we would learn something about the nature of a Lego car by repeatedly smashing it against a wall and shattering it into ever small er pieces. However, after our Newtonian hyperactive tantrums, all we have are individual characteristics of Legos, of Lego chemicals, of Lego atoms, of subatomic Lego particles. We learn nothing of the "nature" of the original Lego car; what it's for an d what makes it different from a Lego house made from the same Legos. [Stewart and Cohen]

Thus, continues the argument, since reductionist definitions of complexity are presently unavailable (and might never be), it is most effective to understand complex systems to the degree to which they exhibit certain generic characteristics.

The new science of complexity seeks to understand complex systems, such as living cells, the brain, or even human society, in which "a great many independent agents are interacting with each other in a great many ways." [Waldrop 11] The "very richness of these interactions" gives rise to "spontaneous self-organization" in which "groups of agents seeking mutual accommodation and self-consistency somehow manage to transcend themselves, acquiring collective properties such as life, thought, and purpose that they might never have possessed individually." [Waldrop 11] Such complex systems "are adaptive, in that they don't just passively respond to events" but instead "actively try to turn whatever happens to their advantage." [Waldrop 11] According to Robert Rycroft, this adaptive behavior is characterized by learning, a continuous process in which new knowledge or skills are acquired and used to modify behavior and structure to reflect new insights and capabilities, and emergence, a process in which new conc epts, behaviors or structures that form and interact in new ways are generated. Finally, these complex, self-organizing, adaptive systems are characterized by "a kind of dynamism that makes them qualitatively different from static objects" and possess "t he structure, the coherence, the self-organizing cohesiveness" that arises when these systems "bring order and chaos into a special kind of balance." [Waldrop 11-12] In summation then, complex systems 1) self organize and facilitate emergent order and 2) are large and intensively interconnected [Flood 178]. Particularly, when complex system reach a particular level of complexity, which can be theoretically measured in terms of speed of feedback, number of interconnections and systemic diversity, at which point emergence to a higher order structure becomes possible.

While Waldrop's examination of complexity and the individuals involved in its study focuses on its implications for science, complexity might have much broader implications as well. Waldrop reports physicist George Cowan's view that complexity might "be a way of knowing the world that [makes] little distinction between biological sciences and physical sciences--or between either of those sciences and history or philosophy." [Waldrop 67] This holistic view of understanding suggests a role for complexity in human activity or at least a means for examining current approaches.

Waldrop asks economist Brian Arthur to consider the implications of complexity for public policy. Arthur is reluctant to do so but finally suggests that a complex approach to public policy requires acceptance of the view that "'the world is a matter of patterns that change, that partly repeat, but never quite repeat, that are always new and different'" and further that "'we are part of this thing that is never changing and always changing.'" [Waldrop 330]

Thus, in terms of policy making, Arthur claims a complex approach must recognize that there is "'no division between doers and done-to because we are all part of this interlocking network. If we . . . try to take action in our favor without knowing h ow the overall system will adapt . . . we set in motion a train of events that will likely come back and form a different pattern'" to which we must adjust. [Waldrop 333] In this context, Arthur says, one can no longer consider "'optimization, because it becomes meaningless.'" [Waldrop 333] Instead one must consider "'accommodation and coadaptation--what would be good for the . . . whole.'" [Waldrop 333]

With a complex approach to policy making, efforts to "optimize" one's advantage at the expense of other "agents" within the "system"--competition--appear misguided. As Arthur suggests, it would be more appropriate to "'go for viability, something that's workable, rather than what's 'optimal' . . . because optimization isn't well defined anymore.'" [Waldrop 333] Instead, the goal of public policy should be to "'maximize robustness, or survivability, in the face of an ill-defined future.'" [Waldrop 334] In order to do this, policy makers must put "'a premium on becoming aware of nonlinear relationships and causal pathways'" and "'observe the world very, very carefully, and [not] expect circumstances to last.'" [Waldrop 334]

If one accepts the challenge of complexity, human affairs can no longer be seen as being "outside" the "system" of global activity. Instead, as we approach these affairs from the viewpoint of complexity, we must, as Arthur suggests, "'begin to understan d that we're part of an ever-changing, interlocking, nonlinear, kaleidoscopic world.'" [Waldrop 333]

How then, might we begin to develop a complex approach to human activity? Arthur suggests that the use of metaphors might be useful. He says that good policy-making "'has to do with finding the appropriate metaphor'" and that "'bad policy-making almost always involves finding inappropriate metaphors.'" [Waldrop 334] One metaphor which has been extremely beneficial in understanding complex social systems is the metaphor of waves as proposed by such theorists as Toynbee, Sorokin, Halal and Toffler. In th e next section, we will discuss this metaphor in greater detail.

Wave Theory (The Process)

So why all this change now? Indeed, is the present actually changing or is this just the same old story told by every generation? Yes and no. In fact, there have been many periods like this, bifurcation points, during which order falls into chaos from wh ich a new order emerges. Drawing from the works of Sorokin and Toynbee, Capra writes, "From our broad perspective of cultural evolution, the current paradigm shift is part of a larger process, a strikingly regular fluctuation of value systems that can be traced throughout Western Civilization and most other cultures." [Capra 31, 1982]

A traipse through the history of life on this planet is quite revealing for the qualitative lessons it holds. Figure 2.1 for example, outlines several transformations in the development of life on earth. About a billion years ago in an exclusively singl e-cell world, the first multiple-cell life evolved. Then, some 500 million years ago, the first vertebrates appeared, followed by the rise of placental mammals, some 350 million years later. [Petersen 5]

Figure 2.1: The evolution of life on Earth

As Figure 2.2 shows, the progression continued, only in millions instead of billions of years. At some point around 70 million years ago, primates begin showing up in the fossil record. 50 million years after that, Hominoids veered off on their own evol utionary tangent, only to face their own crossroads some 5 million years ago with the development of Hominids, and 2 million years ago with the genus Homo. Merely 500,000 years ago, of course, we record the first appearance of Homo sapiens. [Petersen 5]

Figure 2.2: The evolution of Homo Sapiens

Yet evolution is not solely a biological phenomenon. From Hegel's dialectic to Marx's historical structuralism to the harmonious cultural transformations described in the I-Ching, we see evidence of an awareness of this process applied to culture inters persed throughout the literature. [Capra 34, 1982, Halal 30] For example, as Petersen writes, "Some forty thousand years ago, humans began planting crops and settling into agricultural societies. Five thousand years ago, the first humans moved into town s and cities, and only 500 years have passed since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution." [Petersen 6] Figure 2.3 shows the relationship of our present era, the Information Age (which started only about 25 years ago) to these earlier eras.

Figure 2.3: The evolution of human society

In both the cultural and biological histories we see a consistent slope (averaging around -1/3) suggesting a regular rate of change between paradigms. Importantly, this rate of change reduces dramatically the time allotted for any stage relative to its p osition on the curve. Evolution, thus, accelerates evolution. [Halal 36]

However, though the bar graphs in Figures 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 are good ways to graphically represent this acceleration, they provide only a limited tool with which to begin to understand other aspects of social evolution. A better way to visualize and und erstand these relationships, as suggested recently by the Toffler and Halal, is to think of evolution in terms of waves. [Toffler, 1980 Halal, 29] Figure 2.4 below, for example, diagrams for society, the rough percentage of human productivity devoted to specific social modes of production in relationship to other modes of production over time.

Figure 2.4: The cycles of Western productivity

Understanding social evolution in terms of waves helps us gain two important insights. Viewing social transformation through the eyes of this metaphor allows us not only to identify the evolutionary acceleration, but allows us to identify both the life c ycle of any particular social era and the commonalties of all "transitional" eras.

These transitions, be they biological evolutionary stages or modes of production in human culture can be better understood by comparing them to "life cycles" or waves that we are more familiar with, such as a human lifetime which follows the pattern of bi rth, childhood, maturity, aging, death. When understanding them as such it becomes evident that systems (societies or life forms) grow and mature through various well-defined stages in their life cycle, just as humans do. [Halal, 29] From this perspecti ve, for example, once can see how a new cultural form rises to become the dominant basis for the social order and it then recedes as the next wave of culture repeats the same process again and automates or incorporates the characteristics of the old..

In Figure 2.5, we see that waves, as graphic representations of life cycles, be they biological, technological, or social, have three distinct phases.

Figure 2.5: Generic representation of waves or life cycles

The first stage of any wave, from A2 to D, is marked by the struggle of the new paradigm against the old. In this stage, the percentage of human productivity devoted to the demands of each paradigm are shifting dramatically, the new at the expense of the old. This might be exemplified by using the metaphor of childhood. The emerging paradigm (child) expends a great deal of energy becoming independent. It is still dependent on the parent paradigm but it is achieving its own quickly. Sorokin understand s these changes as great transformations, such as hunter-gatherer to agriculture or agriculture to industry.

The second stage, from D to B2, is one of institution building. By this time, the demands of the previous waves are being automated by the institutions of the new paradigm, and the institutions of the new paradigm are themselves beginning to settle into place as people acclimatize to the new environment.

The third stage, of course, is marked by institutional decay. During this phase, from B2 to C2, we see the failure of a paradigm to keep up with the demands of a changing environment. The complexity facilitated by its rise eventually becomes its downfal l as the new environment undermine the old institutions and prime society for the next wave. These processes materialize when we realize that each succeeding era represents a time with a much higher average level of complexity. Multiple-cell organisms, for example, are more complicated than single-cell ones, vertebrates are far more complex than their ancestors, and so on.

In terms of cultural waves, the incorporation of complexity can be understood in terms of the technological base. The anthropological divisions of hunter/gatherer, agriculture, industry, information have been facilitated by information technology invent ions. The oldest discovered example of writing, scratches on an antler horn, has been dated soon after Homo sapiens moved from hunting and gathering to farming. Five thousand years ago, when humans were moving into towns, the first writing system, cunei form tablets, was invented to keep records of economic transactions. Figure 2.6 shows the correlation between the advent of information technologies and the beginning of each epoch of human society. The microprocessor, of course, facilitated the Informa tion Age . [Petersen 7]

Figure 2.6

Information Processing Technologies relative to historical paradigms

Thus, as Petersen writes, "each evolutionary transformation can be understood in terms of more efficient means of gathering, interpreting, storing, and disseminating information, which allows for the further proliferation of diversity." [Petersen 7, Halal 30]

The result is that the present period represents a critical transition during which civilization is virtually being rocketed from an endlessly long, fairly quiescent coast into a fully developed state in a short time frame. That is why the past few decad es seem so especially hectic and rife with change. Our present understanding of this process is possible only because the explosive growth of information technology is thrusting us rapidly into higher phases and so the nature of evolution is becoming app arent as an orderly process of organic planetary growth.

When analyzing our own era, in terms of Figure 2.5, it seems clear that we are at a point of critical change in which our industrial institutions are rapidly becoming hamstrung, and our reality is poised somewhere just after the intersection between the I ndustrial and Information waves, perhaps just over a third of the way into the Information wave. [Halal 32]

McLuhan writes, "Today, it is the instant speed of electronic information that, for the first time permits easy recognition of the patterns and the formal contours of change and development. The entire world, past and present, now reveals itself to us li ke a growing plant in an enormously accelerated movie." [McLuhan 66, 1967] For instance, the rate of change from one evolutionary state to the next is clearly accelerating. Indeed, the change is exponential. Hence, though it took society 5,000 years to move from farms to industry, it took only 500 years to move from industry to the information era.

Returning to the arguments presented by the Cyberians, wave theory seems to predict the emergence of Cyberia. With the lens of wave theory it makes sense that age old institutional givens from nationalism to intellectual property to the family structure to environmental ideology are clearly being stressed to their limits and that the whole conception of self and surrounding must be reformulated. Similarly, the experiences of the Complexologists also serves to support the Cyberian Wave Theoretician unif ication in that as far as our systems are displaying complex behaviors similar to those nearing bifurcation, emergence is a realistic option. Whether or not the Cyberians predict accurately the future of humanity, one thing is for sure, thirty years from now it will not be the U.S. pasted onto a backdrop of nano-tech, genetic engineering, and Artificial Intelligence. We will be fundamentally changed, or left behind. Everything except Industrial Age institutions are changing significantly and rapidly. [Toffler 1980] Our very conceptions of the world must change or the world will leave us behind like so many fossil relics. In fact, as we will discuss in the next section, emergence provides the necessary creative drive with which to build such a new wor ld.

Section Three: An Alternative Folklore for the Extropian

"Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it."

-Genesis 1:28

Why complexification? Why waves? Why are the Cyberians calling for a mass exodus into Information society, and why should Information society be considered to be any different than any other form of human civilization before it? Speaking of "Cyberspace" for example, Cliff Stoll writes in Newsweek , "After two decades on-line, I'm perplexed. It's not that I haven't had a gas of a good time on the Internet. But today I'm most uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries, and multimedia classrooms ... and [that] the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney." [Stoll 41]

These types of critiques consistently plague the Cyberians as well as equivalent ones do the Complexologists. Unfortunately, they are generally left unaddressed for easier discussions of how emergence, once it has already occurred, will look. They are important questions however, because they focus our attention on the most essential, fundamental question we must answer, namely, what are the processes and forces which drive all of this change and how can we tell when those forces and processes will bea r down on us, whether we may be passed over, or whether they are simply illusions in the first place? In the end, it is our belief that emergence is occurring or has already occurred, and that the experience of the Cyberians and Complexologists support th at. However, without an opposite to compare it to, emergence is simply hearsay.

It is time to take a step back and begin distilling the pattern from the collective insights of the Cyberians, Complexologists and Wave Theoreticians. Specifically we will apply the theoretical models of wave theory on broader and broader scales, not ju st to summarize modes of production, or the lives of humans, or even all of the history of life on earth, but to the process of complexification in all circumstances in general (in which all these "systems" be they bodies, species, products, or cultures, are considered separate facets of the same gem). When we do so, an interesting pattern emerges, one that begins even to clarify the experiences of the Cyberians within a grander historical context. We'll call the emerging pattern "the Complexity Thresho ld" and we'll spend this section drawing the lines around the pattern to highlight it upon our canvass.

We will begin by returning to the Gaia described in the introduction, a lifeless planet, much like it's sister-world, Venus, beginning to cool and congeal. As we described earlier, both Venus and Gaia witnessed the complexification and interaction of mo lecules in the primordial soup. Atoms became elements and elements became molecules, complexifying in design and intensifying their interaction with each other at every stage. But why? Why didn't elements simply roam about independently forever? What pr ompted them on both worlds, in fact all worlds, to complexify into larger molecular collectivities?

One useful metaphor with which to answer this question suggests that both planets "discovered" a process for generating more complex shapes. In the case of the formation of molecules, a process we will call "reaction," simple elements reacted with one a nother, bonding and separating in the intricate dance of chemistry, into molecular "shapes" (different complex combinations of elements) which were far more complex than their elemental components. And because they were more complex, so too was the envir onment they created, because the number of possible shapes which could react with one another increased dramatically. Further, the summation of molecular shapes was immensely greater than the summation of elemental shapes. Thus not only was complexity i ncreasing relative to the number of unique agents but by the number of unique interactions as well.

Prior to the "discovery" of chemical reaction, Gaia's degree of complexity was limited to the complexity afforded by atomic interaction. It was limited to the complexity of elemental shapes. But once Gaia discovered reaction, "in-formed" elements, mole cules, spread far and wide, creating as many molecular shapes as possible. [17] As such, Gaia "phase shifted" her reality by exceeding the limited diversity afforded by simply atomic interaction.

But what motivated Gaia to "discover" a process for generating shapes - why were the number of shapes afforded by elements not good enough? To answer this question, we must first define more exactly what we mean by a process. A process is commonly defin ed as "a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result; a series of actions or operations conducing to an end." In this paper, however, we will define process as the way that an object or entity "responds" to a force to wards some end, thus assuming that no action occurs without a driving force which is not assumed in the dictionary definition. That is, we assume that nothing happens at random. The complexity of causes might be so intense as to "mimic" randomness, but all processes, by our definition, have causes. That is, to have a process, be it being drawn to earth at thirty two feet per second squared, mass production, or in the case of young Gaia, a chemical reaction, one must have a force.

A force is commonly defined as "a strength of energy exerted or brought to bear, causing a motion or change." That is, a force is that which causes a system to undergo some sort of transformation; whereas a force is a motivation, a transformation is a pr ocess. Thus, an object's response to a force is to comply with the demands of the force by undergoing a corresponding process. The apple, if clipped from the branch, for example, will indeed fall to Gaia at thirty two feet per second squared (unless th ere are other, conflicting forces acting upon it as well like a hand catching it). In this paper, we'll refer to this "compliance" to a force as a "wanting", because compliance is too weak a word to express the degree of influence a force has over an obj ect to undergo a process. Objects "want" to comply with the demands of forces by undergoing processes.

Yet, it is crucial to note that "wanting" does not imply anthropocentric agency here, as is the typical connotation. Wanting to do something, is not to "decide to" or to "hope to". Wanting to do something is an urge, an internally, structurally designe d compulsion, and as such, beyond decision. That is, a human may choose not to do something, but she may not choose not to want to do it, if she does. When we say that elements "want" to combine into molecular shapes, what we are saying is that there ex ists a force which, like gravity makes the clipped apple "want" to undergo the process of falling, makes free-roaming elements "want" to bind.

So what is the force in the process of reaction and what is the point of binding? That is, what is the force which causes elements to want to explore molecular shapes? For lack of a better word, since there is no well defined lexicon in this genre of stu dy, we'll appropriate the term "entropy," because it includes many characteristics which we'd like to use and because the connotative baggage it carries is not antithetical to our purpose. Entropy stemming from Carnot's Second Law of Thermodynamics, is c lassically defined as, " the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an alternate state of inert uniformity." [Kelly 404] Thus, in Out of Control, Kelly writes, "[Entropy] begins as a wild hot party and fizzes out into silent coldness. Th is dive is Carnot's depressing Second Law, a goulish rule if there ever was one; all order will eventually succumb to chaos." [Kelly 404]

In this paper, however, we will use the term entropy in a slightly skewed manner to describe the force which causes a system to complexify. From section two, you will recall that a complexifying system is one that involves intense and rapid feedback betw een its sub-components, or "building blocks." Thus, unsatisfied with any one "shape" or arrangement of systemic components, the force of entropy causes a system to explore as many shapes as possible by both rearranging and networking those building blocks , be they elements, genes or any other system sub-components. Entropy is thus the exploratory urge of nature. Kelly writes, "Life works as an extremist, a fanatic without moderation. It infiltrates everywhere. It saturates the atmosphere, covers the E arth's surface, wheedles its way into bedrock cracks. It will not be refused." [Kelly 102] In other words, with the genetic building block entropy attempts to create as many life "forms" as possible. Through such processes as selection through sexual reproduction and environmental pressure, entropy is horizontally creative, creating diversity honed through positive and negative feedback.

How many molecules can be built with our elemental pool? How many faces can be designed with the tools of genetics? How many mechanical artifacts can be invented to solve problems? These are the questions entropy forces systems to ask? What specific ques tion is asked however, will depend on the level of complexity of the system. Biological systems ask genetic questions, chemical systems ask reactive questions and cultural systems ask memetic questions.

In this paper, this process of exploring shapes caused by the force of entropy in general, will be called the process of technology. Technologies are the institutionalized, systematic methods, relative to each system, by which new shapes are created and added to an existing mixture. The resulting shapes, or "technological artifacts," are the actual manifestations of the process of technology. Thus, not only can we talk of automobiles, guns or hammers as technological artifacts, and manufacturing, engin eering and research and development as technological processes, we can also talk of language, bodies, or molecular structures as technological artifacts and culture, natural selection, or reaction as technological processes. Each of these structures repr esent artifacts and processes of abstractly similar paradigms: Chemical, Biological, and Cultural; different in degree rather than in kind.

Unfortunately, entropy is also the force which inevitably drives all systems to ruin, for entropy by itself creates either chaos from order or stagnation from dynamism. That is, the logical end result of entropy would seem to be either stagnation, in whi ch the number of shapes becomes exhausted and innovation turns to renovation, or chaos in which the number of shapes works to overwhelm the capabilities of any system to manage its components.

The first possibility, stagnation from dynamism can be seen in the examples of Venus and Esau. Both of those systems failed to invent new means for generating shapes, and, in effect, simply rehashed old practices, rummaging through the old. In a selecti ve race, such systems become extinct as in the case of Esau, or, in an unselective environment, they simply become passed over and remain relatively (to neighboring complexifying systems) "lifeless," as in the case of Venus. This type of entropy correspo nds more closely to the traditional usage of the term. It is the type of entropy which cools ever fire and dissolves all form into blandness.

On the other hand, a system might, as a result of entropy, descend into chaos. Rather than rehashing old shapes, a system of this type begins to network its building blocks in more rapid and intense feedback loops, reaching a critical complexity threshol d at which point the institutionalized system can no longer control its building blocks. The result for any system going down this road is ultimately self destruction, for every paradigm is limited in the degree of internal complexity it can manage or ge nerate. Loye and Eisler compare this type of entropy to social crises from famine to war [Loye and Eisler 54]. From the physical sciences, Pagels and others have outlined again and again Lorenz's work with strange attractors. [Pagels 76]

In terms of the system which em-body-s elements and molecules, for example, in motivating elements to complexify their interactions, entropy causes a breakdown in system order. That is, entropy causes elements to increase their interaction with other ele ments in intensity and rapidity so much that the system becomes overloaded (as any complex system near bifurcation). "Networked" elements break the systemic order because the hyperactivity of a system of supersystemic complexity is not self-sustaining. Elemental paradigmatic structures cannot manage molecular agents. Molecular demands are phase shifted, and elemental-relative methodologies are as out of place as two-dimensionally-relative laws are in a three dimensional world. As the cultural paradigm no longer satisfies the demands of Cyberia, neither could the elemental paradigm handle molecules.

As we noted in the literature review, the Cyberians and Complexologists argue that our current situation is one of being "out of control" citing examples suggesting that we have reached such a complexity threshold. Our institutions, they argue, can no lo nger maintain or manage the cultural building blocks that they previously managed. For example, our world seems almost beyond our scope. Just as the demands of Gaia are too extreme for the institution of the nation state, the demands of the nation state s are beyond the predictive abilities of the policy makers and the policy makers themselves beyond their limited conceptions of their own identities. [Kirby] No wonder Cyberians like Barlow suggest existential coping mechanisms like "surfing the whitewat er." All the cultural institutions now holding our system, our personal identities together are no longer viable. As memetics superseded genetics so is cybernetics replacing memetics as the dominant level of systemic complexity.

But these examples are neither stagnation nor chaos. In fact, chaos and stagnation are not at all what always happens. Both the Cyberians and Complexologists seem convinced that explosion into chaos or implosion in to blandness will not be the end resul t of entropy applied to humanity. Rather, they argue, life wanders the thin "edge of chaos" on which it teeters carefully between stagnant law and chaotic delirium. Like Gaia and Jacob, they argue, the human race will "emerge" into a new cybernetic bein g, greater than the sum of its mechanical or biological parts. Complexologists talk of systems and emergence as Cyberians talk of Cyberspace, cyborgs, network intelligence, and vivisystems. Somehow, they argue, when certain systems reach the complexity threshold at which point they must either stagnate or explode, they undergo a process of emergence instead, and a new systemic paradigm appears to encapsulate the old, such that the whole degree of complexity sustainable by the system jumps in an order of magnitude. Rather than stagnating or chaosifying in response to the complexity threshold, these systems find creative ways to scale up their level of complexity management. Molecules become DNA, DNA become organisms and organisms form cultures, each le vel subsuming the total complexity limit of the old as a minor subset of its own complexity level [Halal 33].

In Cyberian folklore, this spontaneous generation of structure, this emergence of order from chaos is called Extropy. Giulian Sterrantino writes, "The concept of Extropy is at one level quite simple: the opposite of entropy. In other words, the opposi te of the idea of 'unavailable energy in a thermodynamic system.' (Macquarie Dictionary.) At a more developed level, the concept of Extropy is one of defiance against the limitations and boundaries that contain, and define, the human collective." [http:/ /] Similarly, in an attempt to define Extropy, the Extropian FAQ 0.092 explains that Extropy is a "measure of intelligence, information, energy, vitality, experience, diversity, opportunity, and growth." [Extropian FAQ, unpubli shed]

Thus, just as Extropy afford Gaia and Venus the ability to transcend the chaos of elemental entropic degradation for the emergent molecular form in which the complexity of the previous paradigm was encapsulated and the system as a whole phase shifted to b egin complexifying again so also do the Cyberian Extropians argue for the emergence of humanity out of the chaos of the present.

Emergence, driven by entropy, then, is the third possible outcome of a system reaching its complexity threshold. Figure 3.1 sums up the preceding discussion by presenting the forces of entropy and extropy in terms of a few sample (and in the view of the authors, crucial) complexity thresholds.

Figure 3.1

The Historical Paradigms

As we pointed out in the introduction, the chemical paradigm afforded Gaia only a limited ability to complexify and create. The paradigm was limited to the combinations created by chemical reaction and the number of shapes possible in the chemical system was limited to the possible molecules, its bonded building blocks. Once it reached this limit, Gaia faced the stagnation of entropy, all its life-force distributed blandly over a chaotic sea of molecular shapes. But, unlike Venus, Gaia "discovered" lif e, and from the molecular stew came forth the building blocks of life, DNA, and the DNA which made up genes. Like elements, the genes had a process with which they increased their complexity and interaction. This process, which we'll call "evolution," " in-formed" genes into traits which could be selected upon and measured by the paradigm of biology. No longer limited to the number of shapes created by reaction, Gaia began to inter-react. Reactants reacted with each other complexifying not like a game with an added player, but with a doubling of players. And again, just as chemistry began its mad entropic dance of shape manifestation, so did biology. Yet, Gaia was not done there. Gaia had a further flash of emergent creativity, for though intense an d beautiful in its ability to create a multitude of fantastic shapes, biology was limited in time, in terms of gestation and maturity. Unfortunately for Lamarck, the giraffe could not stretch it's neck long enough to affect its unborn fetus. Biology, th ough amazingly diverse, was limited, and if Gaia was to continue to grow, it needed to surpass the shapes available to it through biology and reproduction.

Thus the emergence of data. Like the gene and the element before it, data was a building block necessary for an even more complex system of "in-formation". And like the paradigms before it, the process of information had its Shape, the idea, or as Dawk ins refers to it, the meme [Dawkins 189]. Memes, like traits and molecules sought to deliver unto Gaia a multitude of new shapes with which to explore the cracks of possibility. Unlike earlier paradigms, "culture" created the ability to warp behavior be tween generations, even between lifetimes.

The point of this long winded story is this. The processes which instigated the emergence from materials to life and from life to sentience were one and the same. The difference between a culture and a molecule or a human and a tree are differences in k ind relative to each other, but differences in degree in terms of extropy and entropy.

Finally, if we apply the rules of entropy and extropy to Cyberia, the final "coming stage", as proposed by the Cyberians might emerge with the cyborg as a building block. The cyborg then, just a sub-component, would network through a process of inspirati on. [Sheldrake, Jung, McKenna] to the hive. [Kelly] Halal, Glenn, and McKenna have all termed this as the "spiritual age" because it suggests a superhuman communication and purpose emerging from individual cyborgs; The Web. Thus, as we noted earlier, em ergence from humanity creates a true sentient Gaia.

Section Four: Failed Threshold Transitions

In Section Two, we examined the evidence suggesting that we find ourselves on the threshold of a fundamental increase in complexity, on the verge of a new paradigm. The Complexologists warn that politics, economics and culture are becoming intolerably co mplex relative to traditional structures of control and organization. Meanwhile, the Cyberians identify the network as the facilitator, the medium of the threshold, and wave theoreticians have provided a framework to put our current situation in historic al perspective, some even beginning to show mathematically that a change is due. Both wave theory and complexity science suggest new possibilities for identity and society, for the progression of organic and cultural interactions, and for the merging of the technological and organic paradigms into a more holistic world view.

In Section Three, we examined various historical paradigms to understand the nature of these paradigms and the process through which new paradigms emergence, calling attention to the rules of entropy and extropy and suggesting a framework within which to judge our current situation in terms of both successful and failed transitions.

Because our analysis is historical, it is by its very nature concerned with successful transitions across the threshold of complexity. These transitions from chemical reactions to life and from organic evolution to sentience were obviously successful fro m the standpoint of Earth and of humanity but let us recall, now, the issue raised in Section I. From a broader perspective, one that includes Venus as well as Earth, and the Neanderthals as well as humanity, not all such transitions across the complexit y threshold can be described as successful. Life did not emerge on Venus nor was the emergence Neanderthal sentience and society successful. Taking this broader perspective, we realize that all transitions across the complexity threshold are not success ful. Some fail, in fact, probably most do. Most of these views take a positive view of the future. While the changes that occur with the coming threshold of complexity may be unsettling or disruptive, the actual transition across the threshold--the eme rgence of a new paradigm--is largely taken for granted. Both the most ardent advocates of the Information Revolution and the most reluctant neo-Luddites seem to share a conviction that the transition across the threshold is upon us--for good or ill.

As we noted previously, some futurists have gone as far as to suggest that the transition across the coming complexity threshold is inevitable. There has been little, if any, consideration of a failed transition. Fascinated with the discovery of the pri nciples of emergence, most futurists have understandably focused on the successful transitions as their model for the future. It hardly makes for interesting study if one turns one's attention to how the new phenomena one has discovered might not work, o f where they break down or fails. Such oversight can be appreciated but it ultimately threatens efforts to develop a comprehensive understanding of the nature of transitions across the complexity threshold. Focus upon a successful transition--in the abs ence of a firm understanding of the nature of success in such transitions--reflects an over confidence that does not serve the rigorous study of the complexity threshold. [Gaddis 45]

In this section we utilize our understanding of the historical paradigm transitions to explore what might go wrong in the transition of the approaching complexity threshold. What does a failed transition look like and what might the emerging paradigm loo k like if it were to fail?

Utopian Visions of the Emerging Paradigm

How then might we examine the transition across the complexity threshold in a manner that does dot suffer from this oversight? The historical transitions provide an excellent opportunity to seek to understand complexity thresholds that have been crossed successfully, as well as those in which the transition was unsuccessful.

In Section Three, we examined three historical transitions across the complexity threshold: the stellar transition from simple hydrogen to more complex elements of matter; the chemical transition from simple molecular reactions to complex organisms; and the evolutionary transition from simple instinct to complex sentience and society. When viewed broadly, each of these successful transitions has its failed counterpart. These failed historical transitions suggest that views of the emerging complexity thr eshold that do not take into account the possibility of a failed transition are incomplete.

During the first historical paradigm, molecular hydrogen, the simplest element of matter, was transformed through the process of stellar formation and stellar fusion into the more complex elements of matter--from helium to uranium. Nevertheless, large qu antities of hydrogen remain in the vastness of interstellar space that has never condensed into stars and thus never been transformed through the process of stellar fusion and decay into more complex elements of matter. In fact, for most of the hydrogen in the universe the transition across the threshold to more complex elements of matter been unsuccessful. Instead, it remains in a state of stagnation.

On Earth, the transition from simple molecular reactions to complex organic process gave rise to life. On Venus, the transition from chemistry to biology never occurred. Chemical reactions between molecules continue to take place on Venus--in fact, curr ent understanding suggests that Venus enjoys a chemical dynamism that rivals that of Earth--but the complexity threshold to organic processes--the emergence of life--has failed. There is no life on Venus.

Finally, there is the case of the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals arose from the same process of evolution that gave rise to humanity. With the emergence of sentience and society--possibly through benefit of their superior language capabilities--humans r epresent another successful transition across the threshold of complexity. But for the Neanderthals, the transition from instinct to sentience failed. The Neanderthals became extinct.

In Section Three, we presented a table that describes the historical and emerging paradigms and their corresponding complexity thresholds. Below we expand that table to include both the successful and failed instances of each complexity threshold.

The Historical and Emerging Successful and Failed Paradigms

Now that we have examined both the successful and failed instances of the historical paradigms, we are able to suggest both successful and failed possibilities for the emerging paradigm as well. We have identified the successful paradigm as Gaia/Cyberia. This is the paradigm examined in Section Two. We call the failed paradigm Dystopia. Dystopia is actually a collection of possible failed outcomes and it is to these possibilities that we turn our attention next.

The Coming Threshold: Emergent Dystopias

We propose four variations for the failed transition across the complexity threshold. Each of these emergent dystopias represents a situation in which the increasing complexity does not lead to an emergent ordering of greater complexity but rather contin ues in a state of "dynamic stagnation" characterized by greater simplicity, less diversity or other features aimed at resisting further complexity. It is important to remember that the descriptions presented here are not meant to be comprehensive but rat her are meant to suggest patterns of behavior from which the failed transition might be recognized. They are present in no particular order.

The False Dichotomy

The first variation of the emergent dystopia is perhaps the most familiar. This view accepts at its core a fundamental separation and antagonism between humanity and technology. Furthermore, this view sees a fundamental separation emerging between those who have access to and control of technology and the economic benefits that arise from that access and control (known as "technological haves"), and those who do not enjoy such access and control (the "technological have-nots"). This is the world of the "overclass" and of Robert Reich's "symbolic analysts" in which humans are increasingly more divided between those with the sophisticated skills required for success in the post-industrial Information Age and those without these skills. It is the view th at sees the world as being increasingly characterized by the struggle between the economically prosperous, post-industrial nations of the North and the industrializing nations of the South. It is a view that sees increasing homogenization of global econo mic preferences that defines human activities increasingly in terms of economics and the practice of technology.

This first variation of the emergent dystopia is steeped in a dichotomy that fails to recognize the onset of greater complexity that the approaching complexity threshold portends. The "overclass" of technologically and economically advanced "symbolic ana lysts" can not survive without a healthy market of "underclass" consumers for their products and services. The North-Struggle fails to recognize the increasing turbulence in world affairs and the emerging problematic nature of state sovereignty for both industrialized and industrializing nations. [Rosenau] The focus upon technology and economics ignores other aspects of the human experience such as aesthetics, community, and spirituality. [Havel, Bellah et al, Berry] Fundamentally, this view fails to r ecognize the onset of greater complexity and instead limits itself to simplicity and limitations on diversity of interaction.

The Illusion of Control

The second variation of the emergent dystopia seeks to control the emergence of group consciousness through resort to technological and social means. This view is characteristic of many popular views of dystopias. [Huxley, Orwell] This view refuses to a ccept the notion that efforts at control are exceedingly useless in the face of ever greater complexity. It is the view of those who seek to control social activities and technological capabilities through censorship and manipulation. This view is also apparent in recent efforts in certain emerging Asian nations to reject Western notions of human rights and instead insist upon more centralized notions of social control.

This second emergent dystopia attempts to reject the onset of greater complexity by resort to the illusion of control. Quite obviously, this view fails to recognize the lessons that have recently emerged from the collapse of centrally-planned economies a nd social systems. It fails to understand the problematic nature of control or optimization in the face of increasing complexity. [Waldrop (quoting Arthur) 333-334] Furthermore, it similarly fails to recognize the challenges to governance placed upon na tional authorities by the break down of state sovereignty. [Rosenau 398-403] This variation of the emergent paradigm takes an antagonistic stance toward the complexity threshold by seeking to resist the onset of further complexity.

Denial: Humanist Ecotopia

This variation on the emergent dystopia is a sometimes idyllic view that seeks to abandon the technological in favor of the ecological. This view is most apparent in the "back to nature" movement and reaches its most extreme expression in the form of eco logical terrorism. [Abbey] Other expression of this view are represented in the Deep Ecology movement. [Lee 1995, Taylor 1995, Zakin] Yet another aspect of this view finds expression in post-modernist feminism and "Goddess spirituality. Each of these a spects share are distrust of technology and a preference for the natural over the artificial. This distrust and rejection of the technological is another effort to resist the onset of further complexity and represents a desire to return to an imagined pr e-technological age of simplicity. The embrace of simplicity over complexity is shared by this variation of the emergent dystopia with the following variation even though the two represent diametrically opposed approaches to that end.

Denial: Mechanistic Supersedence

The final variation on the emergent dystopia is the opposite of the preceding view. Rather than abandoning the artificial, this view embraces technology and instead abandons humanity and all that is natural. This view has often been portrayed in popular science-fiction imagery. [Cameron 1984, 1991, Witwer] Because is often seen as being so repelling, this view has been more frequently criticized than advocated. It critics find evidence of it in remotely-operated and automated weapons systems or in aut omated securities trading technologies. [DeLanda] Other criticisms have arisen with the advent of biological technologies and genetic engineering. [Schrage F3] Just as with the previous dystopia, this variation of the emergent dystopia rests upon a reje ction of the onset of complexity--in this instance the complexity associated with more complex organic and social interactions--in favor of the false simplicity and predictability (in actuality it is merely a greater familiarity) of mechanization and tech nology.

Failing to Cross the Complexity Threshold

A rigorous examination of the historical transitions across the complexity threshold makes it clear that we would be mistaken were we to take it for granted that the transition across the emerging threshold will be successful. For every successful histor ical transition there are a host of failed transitions. In fact, it would seem that successful transitions would seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

We have identified four possible variations for the emergent dystopia or failed transition across the complexity threshold. Each of these variations represents a rejection of greater complexity in favor of simplicity--either through a failure to recogniz e or through active efforts to resist the onset of further complexity.

Now that we have made the case for the possibility of a failed transition across the complexity threshold and suggested several possibilities for the emergent dystopia, the following question presents itself: what are the indications, if any, of an emergi ng dystopia in light of the historical paradigms? We seek to address this question in the next section.

Section Five: Indications of Emergent Dystopias

In the last section we presented the case for "failed" thresholds--instances in which increasing complexity was halted or stalled and the transition across the complexity threshold to a new state did not occur. We also suggested four possible "failed" th resholds or emergent dystopias for the coming complexity threshold: the false dichotomy between culture and technology, the illusion of control over emergent phenomena, a humanist/ecological denial of the emergent paradigm, and a similar denial of the eme rgent paradigm based in mechanistic supersedence of humanity. In this section, we seek to identify evidence of each of these emergent dystopias in contemporary society using the principles developed through our understanding of the historical complexity thresholds identified in Section Three.

The False Dichotomy

The false dichotomy holds that culture and technology are fundamentally separate and at odds with one another. In this emergent dystopia, culture and technology are locked in a zero-sum struggle in which accomplishments in one area necessarily diminish t he other. This false dichotomy traces its origins back to the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution--English weavers who opposed dislocations caused by the introduction of mechanized looms--and is apparent in contemporary "neo-Luddites" who express reser vations about the Information Revolution and post-industrial society. [Bauerlein] Furthermore, the false dichotomy holds that the conflict between culture and technology will manifest itself in an ever-increasing division of humanity into those who enjoy the economic and social benefits of technology--"technological haves"--and those who will not enjoy such benefits--"technological have-nots." [Reich]

The false dichotomy has been a long-standing theme in science-fiction from the Eloi and Morlocks of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine to the Cyberpunks of William Gibson's Neuromancer. [Wells, Gibson] The dichotomy between "technological haves" and "technolog ical have-nots" has emerged in contemporary society in the guise of "knowledge workers" and the "Overclass"--those professionals in post-industrial societies who have the sophisticated skills required to manipulate technology and who at the same time enjo y the benefits such technology brings. [Drucker 25, Reich, Adler]

Evidence of the false dichotomy also appears in international relations theory. Development theorists have long raised the issue of technological equity between industrialized nations, primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, and industrializing nations, pr imarily in the Southern Hemisphere. [Mowlana] This North/South division between "technological haves" and "technological have-nots" ignores the emergent turbulence in world affairs that sees a multiplicity of actors on the global stage in which actors ot her than states have gained increasing influence over technology and its transfer to industrializing states. [Rosenau 132-137]

Finally, the false dichotomy is evident in the globalization of economic activity and the homogenization of global economic preferences. To the extent that technological activity is tied exclusively to the market mechanism divisions between "technologica l haves" and "technological have-nots" will track with traditional conceptions of economic "haves" and "have-nots." [Nelson, Archibugi and Michie, Cantwell]

Thus, we see evidence of the false dichotomy in areas as diverse as sociology, economics, production and international development theory. Similarly, it represents a long-standing tradition in literature about the "future." The false dichotomy, then, may very well represent a possible "failed" transition across the complexity threshold.

The Illusion of Control

Another possible emergent dystopia holds to the illusion of control over phenomena such as the emergence of group consciousness. This is the view of "social engineers" who seek to control and manipulate society toward specific ends. It is a view that se es technology merely as an implement to be put to these ends. The most important technologies to be used in such efforts are media technologies which are used to manipulate and form social attitudes, opinions, and mores. The explosion of telecommunicati ons and information processing technologies in recent years is seen to hold much promise for the illusion of control.

The illusion of control also has a long history in much of the literature of science-fiction and even political commentary from George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World to the "Borg" of television's Star Trek: The Next Generation. [Witwer ] Similarly, the illusion of control is evident in efforts by governments to control the use and dissemination of telecommunications technologies. Other examples of the illusion of control are evident in efforts to provide technological "solutions" to is sues ranging from the impact of encryption upon law enforcement monitoring of communications and to media censorship through devices like the "violence-" or "V-chip" and the "Clipper Chip" proposed for televisions and information networks respectively to allow the control of offensive broadcast images. []

The illusion of control is also apparent in the sociopolitical climate of some of the newly industrialized states of East Asia. Both in their approaches to "social engineering" and in their conceptions of "local" or "Asian" human rights that differ from those held to be "universal" in the West, these societies exhibit tendencies toward the illusion of control. [Lee 1992]

A final area in which the illusion of control presents itself is in the realm of genetic engineering. Recent advances in genetic technologies have presented the first opportunities to "correct" for fundamental biological "flaws" not only in plant and ani mal life, but in humans as well. Clearly, the impulse that drives efforts at genetic engineering arises out of a belief that genetic engineers can "improve" or "optimize" the complex biological systems that have evolved over millions of years. While the most popular critique of this particular form of the illusion of control appears in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, other, more serious critiques have been presented as well. [Kimbrell]

As with the false dichotomy dystopia, we find evidence of the emergent illusion of control dystopia across a wide range of human affairs from genetic engineering to contemporary political philosophy in East Asia to efforts to control and regulate telecomm unications technologies. It would seem the illusion of control may very well serve to thwart the transition across the complexity threshold.

Denial: Humanist Ecotopia

The humanist ecotopia seeks to deny the greater complexity brought about by the increasing pervasiveness and sophistication of technology. This is an emergent dystopia that rejects the technological in favor of humanist or ecological themes. It is a vie w that sees technology as inimical to humanity and destructive in the environment. This view traces its philosophical origins to such critics as Martin Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, and Rachel Carson. [Ferre' 63-74, Carson, Heim 54-60] In rejecting techno logy, the humanist ecotopia dystopia seeks to deny the increasing complexity of the approaching complexity threshold.

The humanist ecotopia dystopia is most radically expressed in the ecological resistance or "eco-terrorist" groups of both fact and fiction that advocate active resistance to industrial society, including acts of industrial and technological sabotage. [Le e 1995, Taylor 1995, Zakin] Less radical versions of the humanist ecotopia find expression in "green" political parties and environmental groups that advocate against industrial society and for restrictions or reversal of technological advance. [Capra an d Spretnak, McLaughlin] Green parties are active in many European nations and were central to opposition to the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the 1980s. Finally, the humanist ecotopia is represented by environmental views that transition from sociological or political expressions into spiritual views that draw not only from ecology but also from certain aspects of post-modernism and feminism. [Gottlieb, Deval and Sessions, Sessions] The se views hold a special respect for nature, for the body (as represented by the female), and for the planet as a whole that sees technology as destructive of nature, dismissive of the body (as represented by the male) and hostile toward the planet. [Spre tnak 114-155]

The humanist ecotopia is a dystopia with representative elements in areas as diverse as politics, sociology and theology. In its rejection of the technological in favor of humanist and ecological themes it seeks to deny the greater complexity brought abo ut by the approaching complexity threshold. Thus, humanist ecotopia is yet another instance of a possible "failed" transition, elements of which are already present in contemporary society, albeit to a lesser extent than is the case for the false duality and illusion of control dystopias.

Denial: Mechanistic Supersedence

The final possible emergent dystopia to be considered is to a certain degree the opposite of humanist ecotopia. The mechanistic supersedence dystopia sees the eventual supersedence or even replacement of the natural by the artificial. This is a view tha t sees human society as merely a means to the end of technological supremacy. Still, just as the humanist ecotopia seeks to deny the greater complexity brought about by technological advance, the mechanistic supersedence dystopia similarly denies the gre ater complexity inherent in the interactions of human society and the ecological systems of the planet. If the humanist ecotopia can be described pessimistically as "half full" the mechanistic supersedence dystopia might be described as "half empty."

As with the false duality and illusion of control dystopias, the mechanistic supersedence dystopia has been a popular theme in science-fiction. From the homicidal HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey to the global Sky-Net of James Cameron's Terminator films, the idea of a technological intelligence that seeks to supplant humanity has been viewed with trepidation. [Kubrick, Cameron] Similar concerns have long been characteristic of perceptions of chess-playing computers match ed against human opponents. Recent developments in automated securities trading technology represent another instance of the emerging mechanistic supersedence dystopia as does the introduction of automated controls meant to halt runaway automatic trading so that human authorities are given the opportunity to intervene. Nevertheless, many proponents of artificial intelligence have viewed the idea of the superiority of machine intelligence over human intelligence much more favorably.

Other aspects of the mechanistic supersedence dystopia are apparent in modern weapons design from early considerations of "launch on warning" protocols for ballistic missiles to more recent technological requirements for defensive anti-ballistic missile s ystems. [Nye 118] The advent of chemical and biological weapons and concerns about chemical and biological terrorism are further instances of the possible supremacy of the technological over the natural. In fact, it is in the areas of weaponry, whether it be computer intelligence, command and control systems, or chemical and biological weapons, that evidence of the mechanistic supersedence dystopia is perhaps most apparent.

The final area in which the mechanistic supersedence dystopia is apparent is in genetic engineering technologies. Efforts to create a "superior" form of human being trace their origins to the eugenics experiments of the early decades of the Twentieth Cen tury. More recently, genetics technologies have been used extensively to "re-engineer" both plant and animal species for agricultural and pharmaceutical applications and are now being used to modify human genetic structure in efforts to fight a variety o f diseases and other health conditions. In all of these areas, the idea of an artificial organism that is superior to those occurring naturally underlies the activity, thereby adding to the perception of the ultimate superiority of the "made" over the "b orn."

Evidence of the mechanistic supersedence dystopia is most apparent in the development of advanced computer, weapons and genetic technologies. As with the false duality and illusion of control dystopias, warnings about the mechanistic supersedence dystopi a have long been characteristic of science-fiction literature. Thus, this dystopia represents yet another possibility for a "failed" transition across the complexity threshold arising from efforts to deny the onset of greater complexity inherent in socia l and natural systems even though technology itself is embraced.

Conclusion: Elements of Dystopia

In this section we have examined contemporary society for evidence of four possible instances of emergent dystopia or a "failed" transition across the complexity threshold. The false duality fails to recognize the onset of greater complexity by focusing upon a simple, non-diverse view that breaks society down into technological "haves" and "have nots." The illusion of control dystopia looks to technology as a means of directing social activity in an effort to resist the onset of greater complexity. And both the humanist ecotopia and mechanistic supersedence dystopias attempt to deny greater complexity by solely focusing upon their respective spheres of humanity and ecology or technology. In our analysis we found evidence of each of these four possible dystopias in contemporary society. Thus, it would seem that not only the idea of a "failed" transition across the complexity threshold is a possibility but that the foundations of such a failure for the coming threshold are already apparent.

Section Six: Policy Implications for the Approaching Complexity Threshold

In this paper we have examined the evidence suggesting the approach of a new complexity threshold, have sought to explain the dynamics and principles that underlie such a transition, have suggested the possibility that such a transition might "fail," have proposed several possible outcomes of a failed transition and have identified evidence of these possible outcomes in contemporary society. In this final section we now turn our attention to the implications this understanding presents for the formulatio n and implementation of policy.

The Need for Greater Understanding

The ideas developed in this examination are far from being complete or comprehensive. In this light, the formulation and implementation of policy in the absence of greater understanding would be premature. The nature of complex systems suggests that an approach to policy making that counsels "do something, even if it's wrong" could be catastrophic. [Waldrop 349-352] Therefore, the first task of any policy should be to develop a more comprehensive understanding of both successful and failed transitions across historical complexity thresholds. Such an understanding would identify common indications of the approaching threshold as well as factors that distinguish between successful and failed transitions.

Once such an understanding of the nature of transitions across complexity thresholds is gained it can be used to identify indications of the approaching threshold with greater precision and clarity. Furthermore, understanding gained from the study of his torical transitions can be used to identify any indications of failure in the transition across the approaching threshold. Hopefully, an understanding of the historical transitions will suggest ways in which indications of failure can be overcome or avoi ded.

Finally, any approach to policy making requires a greater understanding of the nature of complex systems. The interdisciplinary nature of complexity science has already drawn from a broad range of natural sciences but has largely been limited to economic s in the social sciences. The interdisciplinary scope of complexity science must be expanded further into the social sciences--into political science, into sociology, into anthropology, into psychology. Policy makers must develop a firm understanding of complexity science so that the principles of complex systems can be incorporated into policy making efforts.

A New Paradigm for Policy making

Not only are a greater understanding of historical complexity threshold transitions and of the nature of complex systems needed among policy makers, but a new approach to policy making, and to science and technology policy making in particular, is also ne eded in order to address the implications of the approaching complexity threshold. Existing policies largely ignore the coming complexity threshold and thus are based upon assumptions and paradigmatic foundations that no longer apply. [Reich, Rosenau] T his makes them largely irrelevant in terms of the approaching complexity threshold. Ultimately, such policies do not serve either to facilitate the transition across the coming threshold or efforts to stall or abort the a transition. Thus, policy makers must develop a new paradigm for their efforts.

Two Courses of Action

The new paradigm for policy making in light of the approaching complexity threshold presents two possible, and opposing, courses of action. One course would seek ways in which to facilitate the transition across the complexity threshold. The other cours e would resist the approaching threshold through policies aimed at thwarting the transition in favor of a failed threshold. The new paradigm must evaluate all policy making in terms of these two approaches.

Facilitating the Transition

The fundamental concept that underlies efforts aimed a facilitating the transition across the complexity threshold is the acceptance of complexity and a willingness to engage the paradoxical and sometimes messy task of acting in the absence of complete un derstanding of the outcome one is trying to achieve. Such acceptance and willingness is required in the formulation of science and technology policy in the two areas of technology that are central to a successful transition across the complexity threshol d. Such policies would seek to foster the adoption of key artifactual and key organic technologies.

Telecommunications technologies provide the interconnecting links that are characteristic of a complex system. Thus, policies aimed at facilitating the transition across the complexity threshold should seek to improve the performance of artifactual telec ommunications technologies through conventional research and development (R&D). Seen in this light, current debates about public versus private R&D or about mission-oriented versus diffusion-oriented R&D are secondary to the goal of promoting these compl exity-enhancing technologies by whatever means possible.

Improved telecommunications technology performance includes not merely technical characteristics such as bandwidth, switching speed, and reliability, but also the "seamlessness" of the human-machine interface for both new and existing technologies. [Norm an 43-114] Thus, policies aimed at improving the performance of telecommunications technologies would focus not only upon technology research and development but upon research into human perception, analysis and interaction.

In addition to policies aimed at the adoption of key artifactual technologies, additional efforts to facilitate the transition across the complexity threshold would focus on policies aimed at the adoption of key organic technologies. The most immediate s uch policies would seek to expand access to existing telecommunications technologies. Just like improvements in the performance of artifactual technologies, improvements in access the technologies enhanced the interconnecting links between individuals th at are necessary for increases in complexity. Policies aimed at increasing access to telecommunications technologies are also largely of a conventional sort.

More radical organic technology policies would seek to develop alternative mechanisms for technological change beyond economics. With the end of the Cold War, the market mechanism has become the most central "engine" of technological change. The command economy mechanisms utilized by both the Soviet Union and the United States have fallen into disfavor and efforts to develop alternative mechanisms, other than the market, are virtually nonexistent. Thus, the market mechanism has become an important "sin gle-point-of-failure" for technological change. In order to facilitate the transition across the complexity threshold, policies should seek to develop the redundancy that is characteristic of complex systems for this important organic technology. An imp ortant place to look for such alternative might be found in examining the technological ends which are not addressed by the market mechanism. The market is geared toward satisfying individual preferences and thus consumerism is the primary driver of tech nological change. Alternative mechanisms for technological change would seek to express and address aspects of society other than those individualistic ones expressed and addressed by consumerism and the market.

Another key area of organic technology policy aimed at facilitating the transition across the complexity threshold would focus upon improving and expanding social mechanisms for dealing with societal change. The transition across the complexity threshold will introduce societal change on a scale not experienced in centuries. In addition, the current predominance of the individualist attitudes and mores of liberal society will make the emergence of collective properties especially traumatic for society. Thus, policies aimed at integrating individualism with communitarian attitudes will be essential in facilitating the transition across the complexity threshold.

Finally, in order to facilitate the emergence of new collective properties, policy making must work to develop and disseminate a broad understanding in society of the roles of such issues as privacy, property and censorship play in resisting the transitio n across the complexity threshold. Each of these areas are remnants of liberal individualism and will serve as obstacles to the emergence of new collective properties as societal complexity increases. Thus, any educational efforts to help the society to understand the impact of these issues will facilitate the transition across the complexity threshold.

Resisting the Transition

The other possible course of action for policy makers faced with the coming complexity threshold is resistance through policies aimed at thwarting the transition in favor of a failed threshold. While many of the policy approaches that might serve this en d are roughly the opposite of those mentioned above for facilitating the transition it is important the recognize that much of existing policy framework--based as it is in a lack of recognition of the approaching complexity threshold--inadvertently serves to resist the coming threshold as well.

The most immediate policies that might serve to resist the approaching complexity threshold would seek to hinder the development and spread of telecommunications technologies through taxation and regulation. Whether it be censorship regulations or reduct ions in telecommunications technology research, these sorts of efforts serve to limit the numerous and dynamic links that are characteristic of complex systems. Similarly, organic technologies that limit language skills or travel opportunities also serve to hinder the development of complex interconnections.

Policies the seek to slow the pace of technological change seek to limit complexity and thus work to resist the transition across the complexity threshold. Furthermore, if efforts are not undertaken to develop alternate mechanisms for technological chang e besides the market, the lack of redundancy will also put the the evolution to greater complexity at risk. Any interruption in the market mechanism would bring the pace of technological change to standstill, thereby thwarting the transition across the c omplexity threshold.

Other policies aimed at resisting the onset of greater complexity would seek to strengthen existing individualistic attitudes toward issues such as privacy, property and censorship. To the extent that individualism can be perpetuated in the absence of co untervailing communitarianism, the emergence of collective properties will be inhibited.

Finally, another policy approach that may be used to thwart the transition across the complexity threshold would seek to separate artifactual technology from society by continuing existing efforts to mythologize technology and its practitioners. As long as artifactual technology continues to be seen as being "outside" of the society it use in developing the links necessary to for the transition across the complexity threshold will be hindered.


Section One: Venus, Gaia's barren sister, and Esau, Jacob's dispossessed brother

1. In classical Greco-Roman mythology, Gaia, the goddess of the Earth, was actually the mother of the original Olympian gods. Venus (Aphrodite), who is considered to be an Olympian, was not born of Gaia or of an Olympian god, but rather emerged from the ocean. Thus, our metaphor of "sisterhood" between Gaia and Venus does not precisely reflect classical Greco-Roman mythology. Rather, our usage of Gaia stems mainly from the works of James Lovelock who has done pioneering work viewing the entire Earth a s one sentient system. [Lovelock]

2. It seems there are many thresholds here: molecules-to-cells, cells-to-multiple-cells, sexual reproduction, the oxygen transition (when the destructive effects of oxidization on organic molecules were overcome), and the Cambrian explosion. Carl Sagan suggests the animal life-forms which emerged in the Cambrian explosion may be "hard to evolve, harder even than the origin of life".

3. Learning is the cultural paradigmatic manifestation of emergence where selection is the biological paradigmatic manifestation. They represent the successful inclusion of complexity and in a sense are mini-emergent phenomenon. One might say that when biology "learned" the technological manifestation of culture, society emerged from life.

4. There remains some disagreement among anthropologists whether Neanderthals actually became extinct or were, in fact, direct precursors to Cro Magnons. Regardless, the "one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger" metaphor appli es in either case.

5. Complexity is here understood as a system state exhibiting the following characteristics:

1. Hyper-diversity

2. Hyper-Feedback (Network density)

3. Hyper-speed (Too much feedback between too many agents, too quickly.

Emergence, Also known as "a phase shift," is the process of mass transformation from one manifestational state to another in which the sum gain in stable inclusion of complexity is greater than the sum of the parts. Emergence is commonly used in the fo llowing ways. [Latin, "e-" out of, from + "mergere" to plunge]: the act or instance of: 1) rising from or as if from an enveloping fluid; coming out into view; 2) becoming manifest; 3) rising from an obscure or inferior condition; 4) coming into being th rough evolution. Note: of particular importance in our usage is the idea of emergence as bootstrapping...that is order for free.

Both the terms Complexity and Emergence will be discussed in more detail in Sections Two and Three, so this initial definition must suffice till then.

6. The Complexity Threshold will be defined and expounded upon in sections two and three. However, here we will at least mention by way of clarification that a threshold is a level of system complexity at which the system will 1) dissolve (chaos, hyper- complexity), 2) stagnate (complexity reduction), or 3) Emerge (complexity inclusion). In the Complexity literature, this is sometimes called "The Edge of Chaos." [Waldrop]

7. When we speak of "reality" in this paper, we mean the "perceived" natural laws and physical conditions which are generally taken for granted as absolutes by various groups in various historical/structural conditions (such as gravity, linearity of tim e, geocentricity, spontaneous generation, the Holy Trinity, or magic).

It is our position that the object (the observed reality) is integrally tied to the subject (the observer of reality) such that the object/subject distinction is misleading. Yet, reality is not a completely useless idea, because "reality" seems to be at least shared at any given historical/structural stage, even cross culturally to some degree (though colonialism and media penetration have destroyed much of our ability to test this) and many sometimes span a great deal of time from the perspective of hum anity.

It is useful perhaps, to think of reality not as timeless and objective, but instead as "locked in" paradigms which, though not absolute, or in anyway immutable, are fairly well entrenched into the design and functioning of a system. [See note 18] This t heory of reality draws heavily from Bohr's work in quantum theory as well as Sheldrake's discussions of morphogenetic fields in which collective "reality" is determined not by an objective set of pre-conditions but by the amalgam of individual realities w hich make up any system of study. Lock-in occurs when those individual realities are in turn molded by the collective will and negative feedback prevents the emergence of new realities. Thus, the electron is neither a wave nor a particle, but determined by the collective unconsciousness.

However, reality is shifted as historical/structural conditions create situations in which the collective conception of reality is forced to phase shift. Further, McKenna and others go so far as to say that not only can we cure cancer by changing our ide ology, we could nullify the effects of gravity or time, for such "realities" are only self (collective self) imposed. [McKenna]

8. Most of these terms are discussed later in the text. So, you may just want to read on and let the definitions emerge in due time.

9. Approximately the year 2000 A.D.

10. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount Television.

11. Or even the past for that matter, for the past is reinterpreted through temporally specific lenses as much as the future is predicted through them.

12. GIF: Graphical image format, a common data format for computer images?

13. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

14. Cyberia is a term brought to the public discourse by such authors as Douglas Rushkoff and Mark Taylor as an evolutionary offshoot of the "global village" forwarded by McLuhan and others. Though generally used to discuss the primarily "community/pers onal" aspects of the Information Revolution, we use it here in a broader sense to encompass all aspects of culture from politics to science as they are affected by network technology. Where one might speak of Industrial Society taking into account the ef fects of industrialism on the family, the academy, the nation state, etc, we can speak of Cyberian society as that culture which has been infected by network technologies. Cyberia is also marked by a deep awareness of systems and the study of how to aff ect those systems through collective unconscious manipulation. [Rushkoff]

15. These figures estimated by using the bar graphs on pages 15 and 16 of section three.

16. A Meme is a contagious idea that replicates like a virus, passed on from mind to mind. Memes function the same way genes and viruses do, propagating through communication networks and face-to-face contact between people. Derived from the word "meme tics," a field of study which postulates that the meme is the basic unit of cultural evolution, the term comes initially from the works of Richard Dawkins [Dawkins 189-201]. Examples of memes include melodies, icons, fashion statements and phrases.

17. These shapes were governed by various laws which gradually became locked-in for all succeeding phase shifts (such as hydrogen elements "wanted" to bond with oxygen elements more than they "wanted" to bond with nitrogen elements), just as atomic laws had been previously locked in affecting the ways that molecules later were to develop.

Lock-in here is understood as a process in which one technological manifestation [See note 33] achieves a benchmark position such that further emergence, if any is possible beyond the locked in stage, includes the manifestation itself. Thus the lock in manifestation is carried along from phase to phase effectively creating a constant and locking out other possibilities.