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The theory behind Babbling Brook

This section of the website explains the theory that has been used to develop Babbling Brook. Whilst it has been written for a lay audience it still makes for heavy reading. It is a bottom up approach covering varied topics from physics and maths through to anthropology, history and economics. If that tickles your fancy then read on, otherwise you probably want to head over to the blog which explores Babbling Brook more directly in its relevance to your life.

Babbling Brook is a new social networking protocol that has been designed to develop into a fully fledged system of socio-political order. This section of the website introduces the theory that has been used to develop Babbling Brook. This page will be expanded with links to blog posts as they are written which will go into more detail and also provide links to source materials for further reading.

The theory is split into three parts. It starts with an explanation of emergent complexity due to entropy, also known as Non equilibrium thermodynamics. This is a little known, but well established field of science. Non equilibrium thermodynamics can be used to explain why literally every entity in the universe exists, from atoms to cells, hurricanes to solar systems and tribal bands to global society.

In the second part, the theory of non equilibrium thermodynamics is applied to human society. This explains how society has historically organised using the the three organising principles of physical interaction, communication and value exchange. It then explores how these organising principles have developed due to a feedback loop of invention and innovation.

Finally the theory is applied to the present day and projected into the future through the use of new value exchange mechanisms such as Babbling Brook.

Read some more introductory notes.

Coming soon...

Emergent complexity due to entropy

Entropy explains that any system, if it is left alone without any input, will slowly break down and become more chaotic. Abandoned houses decay back into the earth, dinner left out for a few weeks rots, hurricanes disperse, and stars burn out and dissipate into a universal heat death.

Counter intuitively, entropy is also the cause of the construction of new systems. Any system - be it a house, your dinner or a hurricane - exists inside a greater universe. The system emerges out of that universe because its creation causes the universe as a whole to become more disordered than it would have done if that system had not come to exist. For example, if a particular area of the ocean becomes hotter than the surrounding area, then entropy will try to spread that heat around more evenly. A hurricane might then develop due to it being more efficient at distributing the heat than normal weather. Thus a hurricane is an emergent system that develops to take advantage of the difference in entropy between two areas of the ocean.

Sometimes emergent systems collapse once there is no longer enough difference in entropy to support them. A hurricane collapses when it runs out of hot ocean. Other forms of emergent complexity solidify and at a later date become components in larger systems. Houses enable people to be safer and more productive. Atoms emerge out of subatomic physics. Molecules and solar systems emerge from atoms. Cellular life emerges from molecules and solar systems. Cellular life leads to multicellular life and animals. Out of animals develops human society and technology. A continually deepening nest of emergent systems, where each one refines the ability of entropy to increase at a faster rate.

Each new system that emerges increases the entropy of the universe as a whole at a faster rate than would have happened if the system had not come into existence. This happens because these systems take in energy that has low entropy and export it back into their environment with high entropy. For example, planet Earth takes in energy with low entropy from the sun, in the form of light, and exports it back into space as infra red energy with higher entropy. Or your dinner, which took the complex order of a society to produce, is eaten and also mostly reduced to disordered infra red energy as your body uses it to live.

There are four concepts that need to be considered when examining an emergent system:

  • The simpler systems that come together to construct a more complex system.
  • The organising principle that causes the new system to develop. This is a method of interaction that enables simpler systems to work together in a way that makes them more successful at exporting entropy to the environment. The new system is the combined action of these simpler systems. Molecules are organised by physical forces that unite individual atoms. Cellular life is organised via the survival of those best adapted to their environment.
  • A feedback loop that enables the complexity of the original systems to develop in small steps until a new system emerges. Feedback loops happen when the end result of a process is fed back into the start. Each time the process runs – each iteration – produces slightly different results.
  • The background environment of other emergent systems that are utilised by the main system in question. All emergent systems exist in an environment of other systems that have already emerged and these older systems provide the framework for the new ones. They enable the organising principles and feedback processes to exist. Groups of animals use atoms bouncing off each other to create sound waves which facilitate communication. Evolution relies on a feedback process that utilises molecules to encode the structure of each organism in its DNA.

As an example we could look at atoms as an emergent system: Given the necessary conditions, atoms can combine into complex molecules. Atoms are the simpler systems. Molecules are the new emergent systems. The organising principle is the physical forces. The feedback loop is atoms bouncing around and combining into molecules of increasing complexity when the conditions of the background environment enable it.

As atoms bounce around in the correct environment, they eventually develop enough to form complex organic chemicals, including the precursors to DNA. A new type of system emerges: Cellular life, a system that does not complexify through random bouncing around, but instead can influence its interaction with the environment.

Life produces new order through the organising principle of survival of the fittest. This not the survival of the organism with the largest pecs, but the organism that can best survive in the environment it is in. The feedback loop is evolution. Each generation is slightly different and only the fittest survive. Over time this allows life to complexify from single celled organisms to human beings.

Society produces new order through the organising principle of culture and uses innovation and design as a feedback loop. A process that will be examined in depth later on.

Simpler systems are also used as forms of condensed highly ordered energy to power the new systems. Human society is a great example of a system that consumes highly ordered simpler systems and excretes them as disordered energy. Fossil fuels, wind, solar and nuclear all take forms of condensed organised energy, and use them to mostly create disorganised heat energy (sometimes with intermediary processes such as driving a car – which creates friction with the road and the air, resulting in heat).

Read more about emergent systems and entropy.
What is entropy
Coming soon:
A deeper look at non equilibrium thermodynamics.
The different kinds of emergent systems.
The commonalities and differences of organising principles.
Creative feedback loops.
More on the environment of emergent systems.
Global warming from the perspective of entropy and non equilibrium thermodynamics.
When people say evolved, they often mean it emerged due to entropy.

Society and its three organising principles

Society is a system that has emerged due to entropy. It is composed of multiple simpler systems - humans - interacting with each other to create a new emergent system of order, whose complexity ranges from small bands of people to the interconnected global society of today.

There are three main organising principles at play in the emergence of society.

  • Physical interaction
  • Communication
  • Exchange of resources

These organising principles are elaborated on below.

There are two main feedback processes that have enabled society to develop.

  • Evolution : The same feedback process that produced humans also has some effect on society, especially the simpler societies that emerged early on. This feedback process has a strong relationship with the physical interaction organising principle as that is the prime driver in the animal world as animals compete for dominance.
  • Innovation : Whilst a few other animals display some ability to innovate, humans have it in spades. It has allowed us to invent everything from flint knapping to computers and enabled us to think of new ways in which we can interact with each other.

The environment of society is the planet Earth and its solar system, with its complex web of simpler emergent systems, from atoms to zebras and much more. The organising principles and the feedback processes depend on this environment in order for society to develop.

Read more about the emergence of society
Coming soon:
Human animals
A brief history of anthropology looking for common origins ; all different ; syntheses in theory and babbling brook.
From evolution to technology
The emergence of society.
Feedback in and language
Organising principle number 1 - Physical interaction

The earliest organising principle to emerge for society is physical interaction. This is an organising principle that long pre-dates human society and is something we have in common with all life. Humans are able to physically influence each other in two main ways: by being violent, and also through bonding and mating. Technologies from spears to nuclear weapons, and from clothing to contraception have changed how society organises via this principle, but its fundamental process remains unchanged since before humans evolved. If people are able to exert themselves physically, and this enables society to stabilise and become a better exporter of entropy, then exerting physical force becomes embedded in society.

The role of violence – or the threat of it – in society has changed over time, from a one on one affair to the clash of nations. New tools of physical interaction, from the longbow to the threat of mutually assured destruction due to Nuclear Weapons, change the balance of power in society, and thus change the structure of the societies that use them. Physical interaction still plays an enormous role in our own time, not only in the obvious forms of war and prison, but also in more subtle ways, such as the manner in which different cultures organise themselves into queues. (Being British, I think that a study into how different queuing strategies effect entropy in society would make a fascinating research question.)

Read more about physical interaction
Coming soon:
Making love and war
Technology overtakes Evolution
The romanticism of tribal times
There is a lot we can learn from tribal cultures
They were violent but we can still learn from them. gift economy, lot of social time. The development of weapons
A secondary organising principle - politics
Organising principle number 2 - Communication

Communication as an organising principle also pre-dates human society, but it is only with the development of language that communication really starts to complexify. At first this happened due to a unique characteristic that evolved in humans - our ability to communicate with a language whose grammar is complex enough for the language to continually develop. This enables humans to be able to quickly invent new words to communicate about new situations. Later on, language received another boost due to the start of a new feedback loop - innovation and technological development. When a new invention is made, new language is also needed to communicate about it. This new language can then often be used in novel ways that lead to yet further insights and inventions. For example, the invention of the wheel for pottery was soon followed by the invention of chariots.

There have been several very important advances in communications technology that have had enormous implications for the structure of society: counting, writing, the movable type printing press and now the Internet. Each of these inventions not only fundamentally changed how people could communicate, but they changed who they could communicate with. Each of these inventions has created large changes in the topology of how people in society relate to each other and who has power over who. Each major change has also allowed society to significantly complexify, enabling it to further maximise the export of entropy to the environment.

The invention of writing made it possible to organise society at a much larger scale than had been possible before, firstly through the ability to inventory resources and then through the invention of written rules - enabling the few to exert their influence over the many more effectively.

The movable type printing press made it cheap enough for the merchant class to broadcast their opinions, changing the monopoly that the organisers of society had, from the royal few to a much larger moneyed elite and ultimately everyone else through representative democracy.

The Internet takes this process to a whole new level, making it possible for all of us to broadcast and receive information from everyone else. It has already changed society, but in terms of social change it is still a very young technology. It took hundreds of years for the full effects of the printing press to be felt, and even at todays pace it is likely to take a few generations for the full impact of the Internet on the structure of society to become apparent.

Read more about language and communication
Coming soon:
The emergence of language
Counting On Pinkers counting being built in and Everett saying not. Point out it is an argument about the edge of where our biological language abilities started developing culturally. The exact boundary is not important for our purposes, just an acknowledgment hat there was a transition. (little difference in the grand picture between some and many and one, two and many)
Is Language an emergent system in its own right. Yes: it emerges, complexifies and diversifies. No, It does not directly interact with energy and so can not export entropy - it can only do so through its dependency on humans
The invention of writing
The invention of the movable type printing press and pamphleting
Memes and why they fell out of favour Research... also, in separation from technology they are just the froth on the waves, they create cultural differences, but the real cultural structure emerges from technology and in particular communications tech. However they do play a vital role in the development of new technology... the design process.
The importance of design over chance
China and the printing press
Why not the telephone
The glorious opium of television - one step forwards, one step back.
Rich and instant connection with the world, less publishing power. Cats and trolls - The Internet
The dark side of computer technology

Organising principle number 3 - Exchange of resources

Exchanging resources also pre-dates human societies, but never before has it been done on anything like the scale in which humans do it. The method by which humans have exchanged resources has changed dramatically through time and has also been radically changed through new inventions.

Storing and sharing food and other items helps a group of people to survive in lean times. Exchange of resources is evident in the simplest of tribal bands. They are occasionally bartered, but it is much more common for food, tools and especially prestigious items to be given away to cement bonds both within a band and with other bands in the larger tribal group.

This organising principle shares some common technologies with the communication principle, but they serve a different purpose in society. Writing is vital for centralised economies, such as ancient Egypt and other early civilisations. It enabled a communications revolution, but writing also made it possible for resources to be stockpiled in warehouses and then handed out, enabling an entirely new social structure.

Money was invented a lot later than most people imagine, with the first coins only invented in approximately 600BC, thousands of years after the dawn of civilisation. Empires rose and fell without any permanent medium for exchanging value. With the invention of money came true markets and then the ability to earn a wage - Roman soldiers being one of the first really large social classes to receive money for their labour.

As the free-market strengthened, it brought more people to the table of power and encouraged the social structure to move from a republic controlled by those with money towards free-market representative democracy - where the wealthy are still the most powerful, but the poor do have some say in how they are governed.

Read more about the exchange of resources
Coming soon:
Bands and tribes
The gift economy
Counting and big men
Emergence of writing is in inventories, not communication of ideas
Coins and the marketplace
The abstraction of work done into value
Merchants and the press for representation
The bill of sale and the IOU
Adam Smith - Not the father of the free-market, but its first historian
The genius and idiocy of Marx - communism.
Why the free-market encourages democracy to emerge
What about democracy in ancient Greece
The gold standard and the world at war
The free market on its own collapses into dictatorship
The dream of anarchy
20th Century free market
Boom and Bust - the market cycle
Computer trading
Regulation in a global world
Shadow economy
Freemarket and inequality

Bringing it all together

As in all emergent systems, the three organising principles of society interact with each other and merge into one single purpose – a system that can export increasing amounts of entropy. The way society communicates and exchanges resources influences who can exert physical pressure and reflects the degree of hierarchy in a society. These systems are conventionally described as sociopolitical systems and provide a big picture overview of society through the ages.

Read more about socio political systems through the ages
Coming soon:
Tribal times - from gifts to gods
The dawn of civilization - empire
The middle ages - monarchy.
The birth of the republic
The dawn of representative democracy.
Relative reputation networks.
Babbling Brook as a new form of sociopolitical order

Babbling Brook is designed to use the Internet to organise society in the same way that the free market democracy utilised the printing press to keep the command economy at bay. It can use the internet not just as an adjunct to an existing system, but to create a completely new system of social order that replaces free-market democracy. It can succeed at this not for moral or idealist reasons, but because it enables society to create much richer organisational structures that can export greater amounts of entropy.

This new system also has many benefits for the majority of people. For example it is designed to encourage individuality and competition, yet also reward cooperation and sharing. It inherently enforces respect for the commons – solving and preventing problems like global warming. It encourages technological development even more than the free-market and yet does so with a stronger safety feedback loop.

The differences between the social structure that Babbling Brook is designed to encourage and a free-market democracy are many but they essentially stem from one major change. In a free market it is possible to divorce the morals associated with the labour that earned the money from the morals of how that money is spent. For example, in the Babbling Brook network, using child labour would be unprofitable if a large number of people did not want children to be used in that way. The cost of the goods made by children would be much higher than the cost of goods made via means that are seen as more moral. This example is overly simplified. Babbling Brook is a relativised network, so to some people who are ok with child labour the goods would not cost more, but if they then wanted to purchase or sell something to someone who finds child labour repungent, then there would be a higher cost to them at that later date. This enables sub markets to emerge for activities that large groups of people are fine about, but makes activities that are generally frowned upon financially much less profitable. The more in agreement the global population is about an activities' morality, then the less the transaction cost associated with it.

Babbling Brook still provides many of the advantages of the free market, such as the ability to store and trade work done. However, it does so in a way that derives the value of the work from its impact on other peoples' lives. This increases equality whilst also encouraging work and development.

Read more about Babbling Brook and sociopolitical order
Coming soon:
Storage of value and morals.
Not just another kind of money - Internet money - Bitcoins
Individuality and global society, competition and cooperation
Sharing the commons without destroying it - how to permanently solve global warming
Designing society rather than randomly emerging it
Rewarding innovators and opening up intellectual property
Technology developed faster and safer
Doctorow's Magical Kingdom
Human nature - selfish and giving
The importance of privacy to innovation
article: why we are not fucked. Or how our ability to consciously design is critical to our success, and our ability to design is in heavily reliant on our creativity, which requires freedom. Flexible, bottom up hierarchy
How to grow a new network - everything has value
Babbling Brook in the free market with crowd funding
A new form of politics
The Judiciary
Social Welfare
Education and Learning
Science set free without loosing discipline

Babbling Brook makes a new system of social order possible due to the implementation of a structured yet open feedback loop. To fully understand how this works an understanding of how the different elements of the Babbling Brook protocol fit together is required. Head over to the overview page to read about the protocol and then continue with an introduction on how feedback works in the Babbling Brook protocol.

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