Parallels Part 1
These are events that confirm the usefulness of the mind model as outlined in "On the origin of Mind". There is no direct connection between them and the work, and mostly the players would have been completely unfamiliar with Otoom. They could be scenarios played out according to the inherent principles of cognitive behaviour, or they could be statements made by someone through information gained in some context. This section is not intended to serve as a comprehensive explanation of the model.
At last count there were over 360 entries. Not included in this figure are the various confirmations related to the Special Parallels section.
Although most entries are not directly dated, their time of writing can be gleaned from the dates of the respective references used.
Note: entries are placed in descending order of date.
The events are
grouped as follows -
- Ageing of society
- Behaviour of motorists
- Cluster building
- Conceptual intersections
- Dysfunctional demographics
- European Union
- Fertility rates
- Gene technology
- Global politics
- Indigenous culture
- Iraq war - and now Afghanistan
- Morality laws
- Role of governments in society
- Science in general
Ageing of society:
On a SBS-TV Insight program (screened 19 Apr 05) the federal treasurer Peter Costello talked about the issues surrounding the ageing of Australia's population, with emphasis on welfare policies. He compared the issues facing Australia and indeed the Western world to the dramatic changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. It has been similarly identified in Otoom, where it is placed within the context of a particular significance in relation to the various dynamics affecting society. In Otoom it should be seen as a major contributing factor within the overall resource space defined by the effectiveness-chart.
Australia, astronomers at the Anglo-Australian telescope (leader Dr Russel Cannon) have found that the pattern of existing galaxies conforms to the Big Bang explosion and its sound waves across the expanding universe, also the expansion is accelerating due to some other force. Could this be in line with Otoom regarding the constant and accelerating formation of complexes as the system goes through its cycles? In this case the 'other force' would be the affinity among existing domains, ie autocatalysis writ - really - large, already confirmed in terms of neuronal functional complexes, abstractions, molecular complexes in life etc. (Source: Courier Mail, 13 Jan 05, "Soundwaves prove origin of galaxies")
Once again we are moving ever closer to the scenario forecast in "2050: Age of the Silverback", written in 2007. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest report (the Report), dealing with the effects on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human societies. By now the world is facing a global surface temperature of 1.1oC above the 1850-1900 values, and over land the average increase is 1.59oC. As a consequence sea levels have risen, ocean warming contributes to the heating of the entire climate system, heat waves are more frequent, and other weather extremes such as heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones are making themselves felt. While the phenomena are global, the effects differ depending on the vulnerability of the respective region. As the Report notes, "Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater, cryospheric and coastal and open ocean ecosystems (high confidence). The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments (high confidence)" (emphasis as per the Report). Whatever the available means in industrialised nations may be, mitigating measures are limited by lack of finance and insufficient adaptation in general. The effects are amplified in regions where the infrastructure is that much poorer, the Report points out. For example, according to the World Meteorological Organization, "In the regions severely hit by drought, the current trends are worse than those observed during the drought of 2010-2011. The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG), co-chaired by IGAD and FAO, estimates that close to 23 million people are currently highly food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia" (see also "Aiding the catastrophe: Africa", an analysis of the situation there, written in 2008 and even more pertinent today). While the "2050: ..." post cannot (and does not) predict a specific event at a particular time, when it comes to the functionalities in nonlinear systems, forecasts in terms of existing patterns are possible. Increasing pressures on a number of fronts not only destabilise the infrastructure on which societies rely, they also force governments to act more decisively, whether such actions target the actual problem or are a response to societal restlessness in general. What decisive action can lead to could already be seen in France where protesters took to the streets because the government decided to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. In Israel tens of thousands came out to protest when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on a judicial overhaul.
The shape of things to come? (l.) "Burnt rubbish could be seen on Paris streets after Thursday's protests" (AP: Thomas Padilla) - ABC News report; (r.) "An aerial view shows Israelis protesting, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist coalition government presses on with its judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 25, 2023". REUTERS/ Oren Alon/ File Photo
As dramatic as those scenes are, their triggers are relatively minor compared to the demands placed upon nations in the near future when not only the effects of climate change, but also the ageing of the population, homelessness, refugees overload, ideological extremism, and belligerent states will have an even greater impact. Especially in wealthy nations, the current boutique policies drawing their oxygen from activists can still be entertained because so far the money is there. As the developments taking place right now show, it is only a matter of time before such indulgences will have to be abandoned. (Sources: "Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)", Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Interlaken, Switzerland, https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6syr/pdf/IPCC_AR6_SYR_LongerReport.pdf, March 2023; "King Charles III postpones France trip as violent protests erupt to decry pension reforms", ABC News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-24/violent-protests-erupt-in-france-against-pension-bill-million/102143374, 25 March 2023; "Party pressure mounts on Netanyahu to pause judicial overhaul", GMA News Online, https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/world/865120/party-pressure-mounts-on-netanyahu-to-pause-judicial-overhaul/story/, 27 March 2023; "Another poor rainy season forecast for drought hit Horn of Africa", World Meteorological Organization, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/another-poor-rainy-season-forecast-drought-hit-horn-of-africa, 22 February 2023)
In the Otoom model (which forms the basis for the AI program OtoomCM and its derivatives) emphasis is placed on the functionalities of specific neuronal (and/or nodal) clusters and their respective affinities with each other and surrounding clusters. Feedback loops between input, the resultant internal representative states, and the output directed to its external surrounds, and so on, causes the emergence of functionally related clusters; a form of progression lock that from then on predetermines the locality of related dynamics. In the paper "An intrinsic association between olfactory identification and spatial memory in humans" the authors tested the hypothesis that olfactory capability is linked to navigation, because evolution places the task of finding one's way next to the ability of using chemical cues in the service of the former. In the brain that nexus is based on distinct memory systems. The spatial memory strategy involves the hippocampus and the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). On the other hand, the stimulus-response strategy is a habit-based form of navigation and involves making stimulus-response associations within the caudate nucleus. According to the authors, "Evidence has been found to link between olfactory identification and spatial memory", that is to say, "better olfactory identification is associated with better spatial memory". Equally, "the greater the ability to identify odors, the fewer errors were made while learning the location of the objects". They found that a greater mOFC is associated with both fewer errors during spatial learning and better olfactory identification. The authors conclude, "Thus, the behavioral relationship between olfactory identification and spatial memory is reflected in their shared neural substrates, which may have come about due to the parallel evolution of the olfactory and hippocampal systems". Gender was used as a covariate since men generally have larger brains than women, and men tend to outperform women when it comes to wayfinding ability whereas women tend to outperform men in terms of olfactory identification. Note the similarities with the Otoom model: two locales identified as the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus respectively feature state-based dynamics which not only process olfactory information but also data being represented by spatial memory storage. Since both activities serve a similar overall purpose (and thus occur together in daily life) their respective processes share the same functional space. A larger number of neurons facilitate an improved performance (in the AI programs referred to above more nodes means a higher degree of granularity exhibited by the representative states). (Source: L Dahmani, R M Patel, Y Yang, M M Chakravarty, L K Fellows & V D Bohbot, 16 Oct 2018, "An intrinsic association between olfactory identification and spatial memory in humans", Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 4162 (2018))
An example of rising complexity in human activity systems (and therefore complex dynamic systems in general), as well as the parallel development of affinity relationships between functional elements, is the recent revelation that the Australian Defence Department is buying data from social media to complement its own knowledge base. It also serves as a further confirmation of the overall trend line towards the scenario forecast in "2050: Age of the Silverback". Since 2014 Defence has spent $1.29 million on "human data" from companies such as Gnip, Geofeedia and DataSift. Those data are mined from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, and contain user age, location, interests and the devices used. Provided sufficient resources exist, the functional elements in non-linear systems make use of subsystems leading to a rise in complexity. The interdependence in such subsystems facilitates the clustering of these elements in terms of the underlying common denominators in the form of shared interests, overlapping purposes and capabilities. In this case IT-related developments led to more powerful data processing combined with an ever more capable internet, and globalisation and population movements together with the global rise of ideology enhanced the significance of destructive behaviour. Governments respond by enhancing their security systems, making use of already existing frameworks containing the type of information they need. The social media themselves made it possible for third parties to use their data and sell it to subsequent interests down the line. The members of society are attracted to the opportunities social media offer and by doing so feed them their data, which in turn prompts further developments across IT and the internet. The growing volume of information makes it more lucrative still for third parties, and the respective types of information find their way to the organisers and their relevant knowledge bases. In line with the nature of complex systems the participating elements are mutually interdependent, enhance each other's capabilities, and provide the platform for yet more functionalities and so repeating the process all over again. Thus the phenomena of non-linearity, affinity relationships, and autocatalytic closure can be observed. Making use of them made the predictions in "2050:.." possible. (Sources: A Hennessy, "Sold out - in our defence", Courier Mail, 26 Sep 18; "PM backs Defence's social spying tactics", Courier Mail, 27 Sep 18; L Gabora, M Steel, "Autocatalytic networks in cognition and the origin of culture", Science Direct, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Volume 431, 27 October 2017, Pages 87-95, Elsevier Ltd, 2017 - Note: The paper cited here is a new edition. In the "Origin of Mind", 2003, the following version is referenced: L Gabora, 1998, "Autocatalytic Closure in a Cognitive System: a Tentative Scenario for the Origin of Culture", Psycoloquy 9(67))
The view that Homo sapiens evolved from a single region and/or population in Africa has been challenged. In the paper cited below the authors argue that fossil records indicate the emergence of divergent populations across the continent, whether in terms of bone structures, the tools used, and possible inferences regarding cultural compositions. Various sections within the article hint at the reasons why the traditional view no longer holds. For example, genetic models need to incorporate a more complex view of ancient migration and divergence; hybridisation between H. sapiens and more divergent hominins living in different regions should be recognised; evolution may at times have progressed independently in different regions; similarity between populations can increase with distance under some circumstances, for example when similar habitats are separated by considerable distances, with areas of different habitat types being located between them. For someone familiar with complex dynamic systems who appreciates the phenomenon of non-linearity generally in nature, the above sentiments are to be expected. While the Otoom model first and foremost focuses on the system of mind, the underlying dynamics are applicable to biological systems overall, and indeed beyond. A significant feature of such systems is the impossibility of ascribing a definitive cause to an equal effect, something that their linear counterparts not only warrant but demand (see CauseF, an interactive computer program that enables the user to observe the consequences of non-linear behaviour within several scenarios). Transposing such observations into the topic at hand, the probability that H. sapiens appeared at only one location despite the existence of many similar environmental conditions across an entire continent would be rather low. Moreover, the dynamics of biological systems (as well as others) are characterised by tandem occurrences of consequences stemming from similar although distanced environmental dynamics, simply because life on this planet is not only multi-variant in terms of its functional elements, but also answers to synonymy as well as homology (ie, structural difference but functional similarity vs structural similarity but functional difference). It is the nature of complex dynamic systems, and human beings with all their ancestry are no exception. The authors' recommendations for future research are interesting: "understanding shifting patterns of population structure through the differential appearance, expansion, contraction, and disappearance of regionally distinct artefact forms, and exploiting the growing interface between archaeology, ecology, morphology, and genetics to explore the extent to which material culture patterning is coupled or decoupled from these associated (but potentially independent) axes", "incorporating more complex population structure" because it "can be considerably more parameter-rich" (yet also "more difficult to test computationally"), or the recognition that "similarity can increase with distance under some circumstances, for example when similar habitats are separated by considerable distances, with areas of different habitat types being located between them". They also admit that "we have no firm grasp on the concordance that might exist between morphological and cultural structuring" - understandable since culture is firmly situated within the non-linear component of any human activity systems, thus closed to merely content-related interpretations. More than once is the significance of the type of model highlighted that is used in interpreting the information at hand. To put this another way, one's perception and habitual behaviour ultimately determines the quality of understanding what is under focus. That is the reason why this segment has been included under "Behaviour" rather than "Science in general". (Source: E M L Scerri, M G Thomas, A Manica, P Gunz, J T Stock, C Stringer, M Grove, H S Groucutt, A Timmermann, G P Rightmire, F d'Errico, C A Tryon, N A Drake, A S Brooks, R W Dennell, R Durbin, B M Henn, J Lee-Thorp, P deMenocal, M D Petraglia, J C Thompson, A Scally, L Chikhi, 11 July 2018, "Did Our Species Evolve in Subdivided Populations across Africa, and Why Does It Matter?", Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Elsevier Ltd., https://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(18)30117-4)
Recent attacks by African gangs in Melbourne prompted Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton to declare the city does indeed have a problem with African street gangs. Yet days before Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said he did "not accept for a minute that we do have gangs". An Airbnb property in Werribee was trashed, there was vandalism in Tarneit and St Kilda Beach suffered a night of violence. Similar incidents were already reported in 2016, and a mother had chained her son to the bed out of fear he might join such a gang. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed his concern about "growing gang violence", Victoria's opposition used the occasion to criticise the government, for Sudanese youth mentor Nelly Yoa the government was not harsh enough while Ahmed Hassan, director of the Youth Activating Youth program, does not see it as an African problem but simply a case of disadvantaged youth. The episodes themselves as well as the responses are an example of disparate demographics acting out within an environment that is at once disturbed but also beset by guilt about a phenomenon which is perceived to be its responsibility and its alone, with various interests throwing in their perspectives to boot. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is considering new laws that enable the visas of serious criminals to be cancelled, whereas for Labor spokesman Shayne Neumann there is minimal or no evidence that Sudanese youths are involved. Some background information might help. Firstly, in the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures based on the 2016 Census the African population (from anywhere on that continent) does not even feature, and in Monash University's Melbourne Ethnicity Dot Map (based on 2011 Census data) the Middle East/India/Africa combined component is given as 3.2%. If a miniscule percentage of a population causes the police resources of an entire state to be stretched, then precisely because of the negligible figures on one hand and the rate of incidents on the other the latter do become statistically significant. Furthermore, the overall status of a society is subject to several broad factors: its general intelligence (producing what can be termed the social horizon responsible for the degree of empathy), its cohesion (the ability to act as a whole for the greater good), the degree of emotionalism (if too high it overrides rational thought leaving the person none the wiser as to why they acted as they did), and its capacity for organising itself in the face of adversity (what happens next after a natural or man-made disaster). As has been outlined in "Aiding the catastrophe: Africa" that continent is lacking on all fronts. Similar demographic characteristics are in place wherever African populations have congregated to a considerable extent in places such as the United States or the Caribbean. In Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago for example Indians and Chinese are a constant target and their shops and residences are fortified with wire mesh, iron bars and around the clock guards. Not all Africans are of that kind, some are in fact outstanding leaders, but they are insufficient to tip the balance. The same goes for those ethnic groups in African countries themselves. It also should be noted that a year, a decade and a century are the same for anyone on this planet, and there is a reason why, in the here and now, a city like Zurich or Singapore is markedly different from, say, Banjul in Gambia, Monrovia in Liberia, or Khartoum in Sudan. The situation also represents the naivite displayed by so many Westerners who visit a region in Africa on a 'fact-finding mission', become overwhelmed by the sheer dissolution of it all and are convinced something must be done. They do not bother staying long enough to learn about the confluence of factors leading to such display (here's a tip on how to get the measure of a population within days: have a look at their small shops, witness how they treat their children, and observe their toilets). It would also be reasonable to ask why a demographic, having existed in a certain state for centuries, suddenly should become an obligation for the West (some flow-on effects against which we would have to guard ourselves notwithstanding). Or whether looking after refugees entails barricading oneself Caribbean-style. Considering the above-mentioned factors, all of which form the innate identity of a societal system, the inherent result cannot be changed through temporary Western-based initiatives. Which leads to the next point. A report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) warns that almost 40% of Australian jobs could be replaced by technology in 2025. That figure may well be highly conservative. As the list of research projects outsourced to volunteers using their personal computers shows, today's science not only progresses in terms of 'officially' designated activities by some institute or university, but is enhanced by thousands if not millions of individuals lending their machines to this or that purpose. In other words, progressive nations are on a trajectory that leaves lesser accomplished societies ever more behind. Just as in developed countries the gap between the haves and have-nots is steadily increasing (a considerable challenge in itself), on the larger scale of society the same phenomenon is taking place as well. Why an immigrant nation such as Australia purposefully selects members of dysfunctional societies (while at the same time tying itself in knots because the word 'immigrant' itself does not allow a differentiation between the constructive and destructive version - just take a look what the so-called Asian tigers have been able to accomplish) when its resources should be directed towards securing for itself a place in the future, is a question the decision makers should be made to answer. No nation would curb its own progress in favour of another which is falling behind because it decided to rather spend its energy on catching up with the destruction caused by some of its citizens - demographics that had not been part of its composition to begin with. For the general rule set governing populations see "The 10 axioms of Society". (Sources: B Ryan, G Stayner, "African gangs in Melbourne are a problem, police admit, as Victorian Government defends strategy", ABC News, 3 January 2018; A Galloway, "Festival Of The Boot", Courier Mail, 14 March 2016; "Parents chain son to bed to keep community safe", Courier Mail, 21 September 2016; "Dutton to show worst criminals the door", Courier Mail, 4 January 2018; "2016 Census QuickStats, People - cultural & language diversity", Australian Bureau of Statistics, 23 October 2017; X Hong, W Li, M Saberi, "Melbourne Ethnicity Dot Map", City Science, Monash University; L Florance, L Partland, "Almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs could be replaced by technology by 2025, report finds", ABC News, 16 June 2015; "List of distributed computing projects", Wikipedia)
The recent events in Catalonia in Spain and Lombardo and Veneto in Italy are further examples of branch-offs in complex dynamic systems such as society. The phenomenon of clustering, which creates its own subsystem, is followed by a divergence from that system once the established mutuality no longer supports the disparities. For that to occur there has to be a latency within some of its members for the differences to evolve. On the scale of a nation Catalonia, Lombardy and Veneto fulfil those conditions. Latency can be composed of a number of characteristics, such as the members' enhanced tendency to adhere to their own specifics, their industriousness, their perceived standing within the wider society - all of which are relative to what they compare themselves with. In Catalonia the drive is for independence from Spain, in the case of Italy's regions the ambition is one of greater autonomy only (at least so far). From a general system's perspective the phenomenon is the cause for the development of separate species once their current evolutionary branch cannot hold its emerging functionalities together; hence the dynamic is entirely natural. The new characteristics coming into play need the functional space to exercise their potential, and the current space with its more general scope does not provide the opportunity. On a smaller scale the scenario can be observed many times: children who move into a more specialised education subsystem because they are advancing further than their pre-existing peer group, businesses forming new versions because the previous framework has become too narrow, or individuals seeking new social connections to advance their skills. Interestingly, the European Union has expressed reservations about Catalonia's initiative, particularly when a body such as the EU would be well placed to incorporate smaller and/or newly formed demographics within its overall mantle. In principle this is no different from its framework relative to all its member states right now. In this context the formation of new subsystems has already been described in the article "2050: Age of the Silverback", written in 2007. Such developments will achieve even greater prominence in years to come when further technological progress coupled with the initiatives by many governments to enhance the educational level within their societies will lead to a more acute differentiation between those who have the ability to benefit and the rest who does not. (Sources: J Toyer, P Day, 24 Oct 17, "Catalonia says it will defy orders from Spanish government when it imposes direct rule", The Independent; S Fillion, 23 Oct 17, "Veneto and Lombardy say 'yes' to greater autonomy", La Stampa)
Adults lie, and so do children. The latter's level of cognitive development matters however. Chelsea Hays and Leslie Carver from the University of California
investigated to what extent children were able and willing to tell a lie. The role of environmental influences as such was known (such as parental
influence, their experiences with adults, etc). Less clear was the degree of influence a lying adult has on children's honesty. As the authors note, since lie-telling
is a social behaviour, observation, modelling and imitation all play a role in the resultant behaviour. Hence the likelihood of a child lying if lied to by an adult
was tested for across the ages from under 5 to 7. The results show that older children are more likely to lie when lied to by an adult: "Although 3-year-olds can
sometimes pass standard falsebelief tests, the ability to understand that people can hide their knowledge and emotions is more sophisticated, and can emerge as late as
5 years of age". Younger children also have greater difficulty understanding the emotions behind a lie, for example whether the experimenter simply made a mistake or
was intentionally untruthful. The authors conclude that more mature children are more likely to assess a situation in terms of the behaviour of the adult and whether
telling a lie was ultimately useful. They also point to aspects which the experiment did not evaluate: is there a difference between an adult stranger or parent, does
being told of the lie matter in contrast to finding out about the lie themselves, whether the child recognises a 'bad' lie and whether their subsequent behaviour is
affected generally or remains specific to the person who lied to them. Still, being lied to by an adult generally does raise the likelihood of lying
themselves, although from age 5 onwards a more complex evaluation sets in. The findings support the Otoom model in terms of the mind's abstractive ability in
assessing a situation. Abstractions are a function of interacting representative clusters which share some common content such that associated neighbourhoods become
relevant. For clusters to exist in the first place the input has to have been rich enough, and for associations to work the connections have to be created via further
input which assists in building such bridges. Since all this takes time, in children under the age of 5 the scope of clusters is still limited and the ability to
form associations is further stymied by the absence of useful bridges. From Antidote:
If you can play a game of cards, that's Information.
If you can cheat at the game, that is Knowledge.
But when you understand not to cheat, you have gained Wisdom.
(Source: Hays, C, Carver, L J, "Follow the liar: The effects of adult lies on children's honesty", Developmental Science (2014), pp 1-7, DOI: 10.1111/desc.12171, John Wiley & Sons Ltd; Wurzinger, M, Antidote, 2015)
Does the use of satnav dumb you down? Researchers at University College London tested participants for their ability to navigate streets in a simulation of Soho, either relying on their own navigational skills or following satnav instructions. Without satnav the increased number of options presenting themselves at junctions had to be processed, but using satnav that need did not exist. Brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the layout of the streets was mapped to a topological framework for analysis. The purpose of the research was to find the locations of brain activity and its respective intensity. While the role of the prefrontal cortex in planning and decision making was known, it was found that areas in the hippocampus are engaged in evaluating the choice of possible future paths against what has already been learned so far. The latter also includes cues related to the appearance of a street, such as the presence of shops and the number of people indicating how busy the street is. Rather than starting an evaluation process each time a new street is entered, the data suggest there is a continuous interplay between pre-existing knowledge and deciding on potential paths. Although the systems approach of the Otoom model does not specify particular brain regions, it does involve the emergence of interdependent thought structures based on mutual affinity relationships, where the mutuality is defined by the degree of content overlap between relevant regions. That is to say, any two structures are affinitive if there is some content that belongs to both; 'content' is defined in terms of the neurons' representative states as a function of input, from neighbouring clusters and ultimately from the senses. Therefore navigating by oneself triggers associative regions which are necessary to create possible options as well as the decision which of those to choose. Merely following instructions evokes a much simpler cognitive activity because a more comprehensive processing is not required. All this can be easily tested without a complex experimental setup: work your way from A to B in a city area so far unknown and by the second time the path would be familiar. Then do the same in another unknown area using a taxi. Chances are that even after four or five of these exercises it would still be difficult to find the way by yourself. The entire phenomenon is equally significant when it comes to learning about a process in general. Simply following someone's instructions is not as productive as going through the motions yourself, especially if mistakes are made since to rectify them involves an even greater cognitive effort. Hence "I just followed the instructions" can be problematic. When it comes to driving a car, using a map may be more cumbersome but it does train one's abstractive ability by constantly contextualising the information in the map across the visual perception as one drives along. In this case convenience certainly comes at a cost. (Source: Javadi, A.-H. et al. Hippocampal and prefrontal processing of network topology to simulate the future. Nat. Commun. 8, 14652 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14652 (2017).
Just released and the 2016 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum segues easily into the average international news broadcast. Based on responses from almost 750 leaders from business, government, academia and non-governmental and international organisations, this latest edition enumerates the currently identified risks as the respondents saw them. The list is a virtual content-based version of the type-related future scenario outlined in "2050: Age of the Silverback" nine years ago in 2007. What follows is a brief point-by-point summary of the Report. Challenges are faced by developed and under-developed nations alike (p 13). Overall there is a profound social instability (p iv). Lack of effective integration polices for immigrants in most countries (p 15). Frail or weakening systems make it ever harder for governmental control systems to remain effective (p 24). Officially shared values let alliances and arrangements emerge which are defined by shared interests (p 26). The UN was designed for a "very different world" (p 27). Most of the "seven driving forces of international security" are undermined by current developments, some of the former being social cohesion and trust, technological innovation, efficient governance (p 29). The differences between the successful and unsuccessful are accentuated (p 38), yet "an inclusive society with empowered societal actors who are aligned behind a joint vision for the country is a strong signal that a state is stable and confident, with greater transparency, lower corruption and a stronger rule of law - all important factors for doing business" (p 40). The perception that there is a diminishing separation between private and public sectors as well as globally connected social movements that span the traditional geographic and political boundaries (p 41). Regarding climate change (but applies equally to other problematic scenarios) a former Executive Director of the World Food Programme is quoted, "Without food, people have only three options. They riot, they emigrate, or they die" (p 50). Spreading of disease and drug-resistant strains put extra pressure on resources, whatever their standard (p 61). In some areas such as Latin America and the Caribbean the concern about failing local governance is particularly high (p 72). Problems cannot be solved by the police alone but need the understanding and participation of the wider community (p 76). The necessary sense of common ownership and therefore responsibility is mitigated by several major factors (p 78). Individuals or non-state groups with political or religious goals are successful in inflicting large-scale human and material damage (p 86). A trend towards increasing national sentiment and polarisation of societies (p 87). Readers of "2050:..." can see the reflection of the above in that article. The present-day highly interconnected global human activity system allows the clustering as well as the dissolution of hitherto isolated and/or connected groups where the traditional influence of political and economic boundaries have lost their effectiveness. The increased flow of information also transposes concepts across the regions regardless of how related they may be in terms of their source. The sheer complexity of the result leaves many behind, be they individuals, organisations or governments, further contributing to the trend by their growing inability to handle the ramifications within their sphere. This new world is not dystopian per se; there are the winners who manage due to their innate capacity to adhere to well-found principles of behaviour, and there are the losers whose existence always had been rather precarious but are now without the protective fences of local boundaries. Observing human activity systems in terms of their functionalities permits the identification of risks much earlier than waiting for the content to make itself felt in a more acute manner. (Source: World Economic Forum, "The Global Risks Report 2016 11th Edition", Geneva, January 2016)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's latest call to ban all Muslims from entering the US should not come as a surprise to students of non-linear systems, nor should the negative response coming from around the world. Society, like all human activity systems, represents a non-linear system. One of its characteristics is the ability to dynamically respond to influences from the outside, producing either a modification of the system's state or sometimes forcing it to enter a new state entirely. The same goes for the system's subsystems. Western society is largely based on the European Enlightenment model, where the notions of separation between church and state, secular governance, of a rational education derived from science and technology, and tolerance towards different ideas has generally been upheld. Christianity with its Middle Eastern origins has been substantially mitigated, in contrast to the Middle Ages when it held sway without effective opposition. Islamic demographics did not experience a similar revolution, and today's presence of Muslims in the West was always bound to create clashes. It also is within the nature of non-linear, that is complex dynamic systems, that any outside influence creates affinity relationships within its new host, to the point where concepts hitherto - quite literally - unthinkable can now be entertained because the modified ambience derived from that influence makes them so. Parents know this instinctively when they worry about their children getting involved with bad company, adults can change their character after having been exposed to acute experiences. On the larger scale the emergence of more resolute parties in the face of terrorist attacks confirms the phenomenon there, and politicians are not immune either. Trump's call for banning Muslims would most likely not have been made ten, even five years ago. At the same time, addressing the multitude because of some danger from a few is not without precedent in any case. The UK decided on a mass killing of cows when relatively few became infected with the mad cow disease, a similar response set in during the avian influenza epidemic, and even humans experienced mass bans during the recent Ebola crisis in Africa. The common denominator is the same: there is a population with some of its members being affected by a dangerous agent, it is impractical if not impossible to differentiate between those that are affected and those that are not (yet), and measures need to be taken to safeguard the wider system. The mostly negative response to Trump's statement is equally unsurprising given the current general view that all cultures are the same and tolerance per se is to be supported - even tolerance towards intolerance. Since either is essentially irrational they have not led to a solution regarding the threat of terrorism, the threat has actually increased. Hence US president Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes called Trump's suggestion "totally contrary to our values as Americans", and declaring that "all cultures are not equal" as Australia's former prime minister Tony Abbott has done invites instant criticism - although the difference between the nations of this world is self-evident (which is less disputed when it comes to demanding multi-million-dollar payments from an advanced West). In addition there is the still lingering perception that religion and ideology are not the same in principle. Western countries such as Australia ban individuals who sprout an unacceptable ideology but when it comes to religion such bans suddenly become unacceptable. The ideological nature of Islam can be gleaned from perusing its Koran, something not many Westerners have taken the opportunity to do. Non-linear systems follow their own rules, and since neither Western-based nor other extremists are going to disappear soon the process of hardening attitudes will continue for some time to come. Samuel Huntington's clash of civilisations is already defining the 21st century. (Source: J Diamond, "Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S.", CNN, 8 December 2015; T Abbott, "Only Muslims can end this violence", The Courier Mail, 9 December 2015; S P Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order", Touchstone Books, London, 1997)
It is known that parental behaviour influences that of their children, including attitudes that parents have acquired themselves at some stage. Research by Ted Ruffman, Kerry S. O'Brien, Mele Taumoepeau, Janet D. Latner, John A. Hunter has shown that negative attitudes towards obesity had transmitted themselves to children as young as 2.67 years of age. Maternal attitudes were examined because mothers are the primary caregivers, and attitudes in the children were rated according to how long infants and toddlers looked at pictures of male and female persons with average as well as larger body shape. The authors note that infants (up to 11 months of age) showed no bias, whereas toddlers (age around 29 months) did. Under Otoom these results should come as no surprise. The mind is first and foremost a pattern-processing system, which is to say sensory experience creates its representative counterpart amongst the affected neurons, modifying their states. The meaning of the experience comes from the associations the participating neurons have with the rest, and is therefore dependent on subsequent input during one's life. Hence in children there may be no meaning attached to the stored patterns, but the patterns exist nevertheless. As the study demonstrates, within two years of life a child has not only acquired such experiential patterns but is also able to respond; the neuronal states have become re-representative. Since, as the authors note, children at that age have "relatively impoverished language ability ... social understanding ... and experience in the world" the pattern recognition per se is significant. Interestingly, in the article negative attitudes against obesity are perceived to be a prejudice and "it is unknown ... how they might arise". Adopting the perspective under Otoom however it can be seen that pattern-based perception extends beyond body shapes and sizes, it also includes patterns that represent the surrounding aspects in daily life. For example, a fit individual demonstrates a particular degree of agility whereas an obese person does less so. Even without a more, let's say clinical, understanding of what is being observed the essential message is being conveyed. Therefore a more comprehensive spectrum of messages lays the groundwork to the emerging attitudes children acquire. In certain Pacific cultures (mentioned in the paper) larger body sizes are more accepted, but even here the demands of daily life would put a limit on what is acceptable. Rather than labelling a negative attitude towards obesity as prejudice, it would be more useful to see it as a natural bias towards the innate desire by children to be as healthy and strong as those they are able to observe. It also leads to a certain redefinition of 'child'. For example, from when on can a child be considered similar to surrounding adults, and to what extent can any individual be considered to be fully informed about the meaning behind a particular scenario, given that the relevant learning curve is not the same in every case. The consequences for our perspectives on culture, society, politics etc are significant. (Source: Ruffman, T., et al. "Toddlers' bias to look at average versus obese figures relates to maternal anti-fat prejudice", Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2015, http://profiles.arts.monash.edu.au/kerry-obrien/files/2012/03/Ruffman-OBrien-et-al.-2015-Toddlers-bias-average-vs-obese-figures.pdf)
Every now and then there appears an article which describes a phenomenon that has been around for some time but had been mostly relegated to the 'elephant in the room' shelf. One of those is The problem of "me" studies by Joseph Heath, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. "Me" studies are undertaken by people who find their own predicament sufficiently fascinating to construct an entire research effort around it because of the assumption that what is of personal interest must by necessity be also in everybody else's mind. There can be a fine line between personal and public interest, to be sure. If one's parent has been afflicted by cancer and if that results in a particular effort by the scientist son or daughter then no-one would argue against their focus. But Heath makes the point that the continual pattern of 'my interest' produces a perspective which relates to them and to them only. A more objective research on the other hand would be one where other angles can be applied as well. Using oppression as an example, Heath asks, "who is best positioned - those who suffer from it, or those who do not?" The phenomenon has been outlined under the Otoom model, where the applied focus by one member of some group is compared to the focus by an outsider to that group, and all in terms of what this means regarding the re-described context by either (see Something to learn about Education → "Human activity systems" as an example). Considering the effects of perceived contexts as they contribute to the notions pervading an entire society leads to the identification of productive and/or destructive abstractions by its members. More on this on the FAQs page → "What exactly is meant by functionality?" and onwards.
A study by Amanda Seidl, Ruth Tincoff, Christopher Baker and Alejandrina Cristia has found that babies who are touched while they listen to words in a stream of speech are able to identify those words, whereas if no touching occurred the words were not singled out. It confirms the Otoom mind model in terms of the role degrees of affinity relationships among participating neuronal clusters play during input. Incoming data produce representative states among neurons, and related data (which in the babies' case refers to sound accompanied by a touch) produce representative clusters related to that sound/touch combination. Therefore, what otherwise would have been neuronal states representing the entire stream of sound have now become more differentiated regions. Once the words have embedded themselves as single entities their associative links ensure their representative singularity within a network of affinities. On a larger scale the associative properties of input in general matter throughout one's life; for example, hearing a particular piece of music during a memorable experience. (Source: 22 Apr 14, A P Neubert, "Study: Touch influences how infants learn language", Purdue University)
Sometimes the Otoom model presents findings which have been common knowledge for a very long time, simply because they have been found to be true. Of course, it pays to proceed in a research-based manner rather then merely repeat perceptions, however correct they may turn out to be in the end. The recently released report on student performance influenced by their parents' occupation falls into that category. To summarise: on average students whose parents work as professionals achieved the best results in mathematics while parents in "elementary occupations" and working as "plant and machine operators" (to quote the categories used in the report) had under-performing students. There were differences between various economies that pointed to the general educational standards across a population in one country compared to another, although these did not change the overall results. Under the Otoom model the cognitive affinity relationships existent within a professional household with its higher and more comprehensive intellectual environment would create the incentives as well as the opportunities for their child to absorb and process information likewise. More compact environments do not possess such richness and this reflects in their members' cognitive performance. Mathematics is a good example because it requires logical thinking and a certain degree of curiosity to engage in the first place. The report's authors conclude, "While there is a strong relationship between parents' occupations and student performance, the fact that students in some education systems, regardless of what their parents do for a living, outperform children of professionals in other countries shows that it is possible to provide children of factory workers the same high-quality education opportunities that children of lawyers and doctors enjoy". What is not mentioned are genetic factors as well as cultural influences, both of which would undermine the undoubted potential more resources and therefore more opportunities could provide. The affinity relationships demonstrated in the figures operate at the level of culture as well, and in the case of genetic factors do so at the physical level. In all cases they represent certain types of functionalities which exist regardless of content. (Source: PISA in focus 36, "Do parents' occupations have an impact on student performance?", PISA in Focus - 2014/02 (February), OECD 2014)
Imagine this: a group of soldiers has painstakingly prepared itself for a mission. Finally the day arrives and they move into enemy territory, manage to identify the correct location, and set the trap. Sure enough, the other side approaches and it will be a matter of minutes before the mission is accomplished. Then - at the last moment the leader of the group gives the order to pull out. What should have been a success has turned into a waste of time and possibly an added danger for the soldiers since they have to make their way back. Most would wonder just what was going on. Such an example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory could be observed recently in Queensland state politics. Leading up to that situation has been the passing of new laws designed to crack down on outlaw motor cycle gangs by making it possible to investigate their activities, their connections, even prohibiting their gathering in public places as a group. The laws have drawn criticism from civil rights advocates, judges who were deemed to be too soft on gang members, and the parliamentary opposition. Premier Campbell Newman stoked the row by suggesting some lawyers are lending their position to help gangs enforce debt collections. Queensland's Chief Magistrate, Tim Carmody QC, stepped into the ring with an article in which he called for judges to stay out of politics and remain the appliers of law and no more. Among all the words spoken and written there emerged a subtext which goes way beyond the immediacy of the current scenario, and none of the participants followed it up. If judges simply apply the law, should they be blind to just any kind of law such as, let's say, the burning of witches or the incarceration of homosexuals, both of which were once very much part of the legal arsenal? In such a case it should be possible to use sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence software to replace judges altogether. On the other hand, if a judge is considered to be more than a mere parser of statutes, should they have therefore the right, if not duty, to criticise laws that are derived from mythology and superstition? Tim Carmody as well as the state government which is in line with his position presented their arguments but went no further; none pursued the path leading to the question of the judges' ultimate utility. Similarly, nobody on the other side of the debate approached the realm of ultimate ethics either. Yet on a deeper level both aspects are significant, although requiring a certain amount of honesty and pragmatism. The latter become a matter of consistency, in other words the ability to think through a situation all the while keeping one's rationality on course. Most humans don't do this, and so it is possible for a profound Catholic to be a mathematician, or for a psychopath to avoid detection. If judges see themselves as more than the readers and interpreters of texts they would need to take the next step and outline the irrationality contained in laws which are the remnants of age-old myths, to the betterment of society as a whole. As it is, neither consequence in the debate has been addressed with no-one left a winner. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory not only exists, it is a clear indicator of subconscious notions their bearer seeks to keep hidden. (Sources: Courier Mail, 28 Oct 13, T Fitzgerald QC, "Not Again, Surely..."; 29 Oct, S Vogler, "Ahern Backs Laws"; 31 Oct, K Levy, "You Be The Judge"; 1 Nov, S Wardill, "Chasing Bikies For Rednecks"; 2 Nov, R Viellaris, "Bench Revolt"; 6 Nov, M Cooke QC, "Bikie Laws Need Fair Trial"; 29 Nov, T Carmody QC, "Scrutiny and appeals are how courts work"; 21 Jan 14, J Robertson, "Workers back bikies"; 30 Jan, T Carmody QC, "The judiciary's job is to apply the law not to meddle in it"; 8 Feb, J Robertson, "Lawyers Cash And Bikies")
Behaviour of motorists:
Report on the difference between the genders when it comes to road behaviour, acknowledgment of more spatially oriented behaviour in males, under Otoom this is linked to the more outside-directed mentality of males. (Source: Courier Mail, 13 Jan 03, "Sex drives motorists' accidents behind the wheel")
The formation of clusters is a major feature of complex, dynamic systems and they occur at any scale, from the conceptualisations in an individual to grouping in society at large. Cluster building needs a sufficient number of representative elements (such as neurons, or members of a society) as well as the affinities between them. A report by Professor Alexis Jay found that more than 1,400 children were sexually abused over a 16-year period by gangs in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, UK. Physical violence and threats were used to keep the girls in line. Despite complaints and allegations none of the cases was followed up by authorities because they were deemed inconsequential, the complainants were seen as undesirables and officers were afraid of being labeled racist because the allegations referred to members of the Asian community. In terms of larger-scale cognitive dynamics several aspects were instrumental for the situation to develop: in Western countries like the UK the question of sex and age has always been controversial and had been made more so under the auspices of feminism where the Child is given prominence over other issues more relevant to society and morals in general; sexual issues are either treated with kid gloves or in an absolutist, black-and-white manner; current modes of upbringing in the West have become less authoritative and hence invite outside influences taking hold; other societies and cultures have different standards when it comes to sex, consent and females; Western standards overall have taken a backseat to those from other cultures regardless of their respective innate value or otherwise making observers fearful of being labeled racist and engaging in stereo-typing; and countries such as the UK have opened their doors to sizeable immigrant communities which by now have formed demographics in their own right. Considering the role affinity relationships play when it comes to forming clusters within a society, each of the afore-mentioned items is a candidate for creating the necessary associations among relevant groups to make them more specific, therefore more isolated from the rest, and as a consequence act as a barrier to the checks and balances which ordinarily would prevent extremes from occurring. An appropriate homogeneity within a society which makes those checks and balances possible applies regardless of culture. Hence extremes are mitigated no matter where they occur, notwithstanding differing standards where one form of behaviour may seem to be inappropriate as such but needs to be considered within the general context of that community. For example, there may not be an officially declared age of consent, but there are strict customs related to marriage and family relations. Should various elements of customs become mixed with elements from others and influenced by sources from just about anywhere in an age of globalisation, the mutual interdependencies of previously effective measures are unseated in favour of disparate facets - a phenomenon particularly significant in societies with large immigrant populations. (Sources: The Telegraph, 26 Aug 14, M. Evans, "Rotherham sex abuse scandal: 1,400 children exploited by Asian gangs while authorities turned a blind eye", M. Evans, G. Rayner, "Rotherham child sexual exploitation: Victims raped, beaten and doused in petrol if they threatened to tell")
At the time of writing (6 Mar 14, 11:30 AEST) the Ukraine is being stretched between two demographic continental shelves: Russia and the Slavic East on one side and Europe and its Western mindset on the other. The history of the country already hints at the fault lines reasserting themselves at intervals. After the collapse of the Russian Empire the Ukrainian nationalists' attempt at independence faced the Bolsheviks as well as German occupation. The Republic of the Western Ukraine was subsumed under a union with the Ukrainian Soviet government in 1919, and under Stalin the population faced a repression resulting in the death of millions. During World War II with the Soviets and Nazi Germany as opponents a nationalist revival sought once again to establish itself, but to no avail. In 1954 the Soviets added Crimea to a re-unified Ukraine under their control. Anti-Russian feelings heightened after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, just 130km north of Kiev. During the ensuing years the predominantly non-Russian state managed a step-by-step move towards a form of autonomy, although the Crimea with its majority of Russians created ongoing disputes. A not entirely dissimilar scenario featuring states with disparate populations has been mentioned on this page under European Union > "On the 8 November 2012 the...". In the case of the Ukraine a collection of demographics with varying mutual affinities had been compelled to co-exist under regimes whose own centres shared neither the historical nor the cultural background with the former. Given the disparities between a Flanders and Belgium for example, or a Catalonia and Spain, and comparing them with the demographics involved in the Ukraine in relation to the Russian Federation and/or the European Union of today explains the reason why the latter carries the greater danger. The expansion of the EU towards the East resulted in the inclusion of people who hardly ever participated in the cultural and political evolution of Europe, a process without which the EU would not have been possible to begin with. The cultural and gravitational centre of the East made it relatively more affinitive with Russia and its timeline. The present-day aggregate represented by the EU is bound to grate against the interest of the East, whether they relate to Russia's ambitions or to those of the rest, and that includes Ukraine. How the present situation will develop is hard to predict - a single shot by a provoked soldier could be the start of a war. Nevertheless, the underpinning forces demonstrate in their manifestation the problematic nature of different demographic blocs enforced from the outside, where the momentary perceived advantages in larger size prove to be an illusion in the long term. The United States' perspective of Western hegemony for its own sake is as just as counterproductive as the Russian hope to use the protection of its people in the Crimea as a pretext to secure once again the entire country. Sometimes allowing smaller entities with their interactions next to larger blocs is a better solution for all, rather than throwing sanctions left-right-and-centre. (Sources: SBS World Guide, 15th Edition, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran Victoria, Australia, 2007, p. 752; The Courier Mail, 4 Mar 14, "Soldiers face off in Crimea", 5 Mar, "First Shots Fired"; euronews, 5 Mar, "Ukraine as it happened: UN envoy chased in Crimea, Russia-US talks in Paris")
Over the past week two events happened which demonstrated the phenomenon of cluster building to a significant degree, both in their own way. US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Saudi counterpart in Paris to reassure the latter of the US' continuing support. Certain misgivings seem to have appeared on the Saudi Arabian side about the direction the US is taking when it comes to its position on Syria, its criticism of the Bahrain crackdown and becoming more conciliatory towards Iran. In Europe the EU expressed its dismay at the revelations about US intelligence spying on European citizens, including some of its top leaders. After all, Europe is supposed to be an ally. Mark Levine, professor of Middle Eastern history at University California Irvine and visiting professor at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden, writes "Saudi Arabia has always been and remains one of the least free countries in the world; the epitome of how disastrous the mixing of absolute monarchy and uncompromising religious conservatism can be. Beyond its internal politics, from West Africa to Southeast Asia and most places between it's hard to think of an anti-American or Western jihadi movement that hasn't been supported by senior Saudis at one time or another"; "the litany of abuses is well-known: From preventing women from driving, to beheading migrant workers on a regular basis, and being the single most important funder of extremist Islam for the last 40 years". For him it is "perhaps no longer surprising" but "still quite disheartening to hear the Obama Administration, three years into the 'Arab Spring', openly admit not only to having the same goals as one of the world's most ruthless and oppressive dictatorships, but to having 'an obligation to work closely with them - as I am doing'". The religious conservatism practised by the Saudis combined with the Middle Eastern tendency towards dictatorial regimes suited to their populations' innate volatility prepares the ground for seeking and finding affinities with like-minded demographics where Islam and authoritarianism work together. Such linkages are more important than relatively temporary associations with countries which try to recoup some of their expenditure on oil through hefty arms sales. Energy from oil has its impact, but so has the money from its sale, and so has a top-notch weapons arsenal. The available associations put each one of them in their own particular league. Furthermore, a United States governed by a presidential cohort whose roots are less and less on the European side than in local as well as in African cultural and historical backgrounds will not come up with the same affinity towards traditional alliances. Whether to spy on Germany or Iran is not about blood but about the season. Of course, further down the track the multi-cultural US may well create its own situatedness among the world's demographics, having left its own origins well behind. (Sources: Al Jazeera - Opinion, 23 Oct 13, M Levine, "US-Saudi relationship status: it's complicated"; Courier Mail, 26 Oct, "EU leaders critical of US spying on allies")
Queensland politics shines once again. Former Lord Mayor of Brisbane Campbell Newman left his post to vie for the premiership of Queensland. Since Labor is currently in power and a state election is not far off, Mr Newman was attacked for not disclosing his family's pecuniary interests. He seems to be in the clear, but a consequence of that kind of mudslinging was the revelation in the press that Mr Newman's Liberal-National Party had engaged a former Labor man to provide them with a dossier on Labor politicians, from their personal backgrounds to sexual preferences and their performance in private life. In an article about the general deterioration of political discourse Dr Paul Williams from Griffith University compares the media's attitude towards politicians then and now. He makes the point that while the wider public is getting sick of gutter politics, there seems to be a downward spiral of standards; ideas and visions are shoved aside in favour of titillation, spin and colourful sound bites. And the mud sticks anyway. Under Otoom's perspective the phenomenon represents a high-to-low information transfer, where some political issue, with all its detail and complexities, gets compacted into attention-grabbing chunks coated with salacious tidbits to assure their dissemination. In turn those pieces of information, or what is left of it, get churned through the same degenerating system over and over again until there is nothing left of the original issue. It's a dumbing-down process in a spiral fashion. For any serious member of the public, and possibly even an exceptional politician in that category, it becomes virtually impossible to discern the actual substance at any given time. The worst part is that under those circumstances the degenerated state itself becomes overlooked because there are no comparative standards left. (Source: Courier Mail, 15 Oct 11, "When politics becomes a game and keeping power is the only goal, no party can remain unsullied")
A few days ago the International Water Management Institute released a report summarising necessary water policies around the world in order to sustain a growing world population. While the data sources were global, in the main the report focused on developing countries (see the report, p. 3), assuming total population numbers will have reached 9 billion by the year 2050 (p. 7). The following comments refer to the conceptualisation of the issues, and in this context it is interesting what the report does not say. Firstly, there is no doubt that in many parts of the world water management structures could be improved with higher productivity the result and therefore more people being fed. The techniques are known and the plans as such are in place. In principle the questions are, who grows what, and where and when, and for whom. There lies the problem. Hints about the underlying difficulties in bringing those plans to a successful conclusion can be found throughout the report, but they are not more than hints. The projections of population increases are linked with a commensurate degree of poverty (p. 7), which is another way of saying that the greatest challenges are faced by the very demographics which can do the least about it. To be more precise, it is the cultural practices which represent the hindrance, to the point where changes are not so much achieved through an educated analysis but via payments to the farmers, "incentive schemes" as they are called (p. 38/39). We also read that 93% of wetland regions support a form of agriculture and that 71% of those face threats because of unsustainable activities, which means it is those very cultural frameworks which have to be changed in a radical manner (p. 30/31). Referring to aqua-agriculture and the increasingly unsustainable methods employed in poor countries, the report says at one point, "[t]his decline particularly affects poor rural men, women and children, who depend on fish as an important source of food and nutrition" (p. 50/51), without mentioning that under traditional power structures it is that class of people who are of least concern to the elites - the very reason why such regions are in a state of poverty in the first place. Although the role of local authorities is recognised in theory (p. 56/57), given traditional cultural frameworks they are actually part of the problem. The solution, derived from a perspective which the report admits is highly theoretical (p. 8/9), is couched in rather abstract terms, for example, "[t]hese management plans should also integrate the multiple perceptions and needs of affected communities, and a gendered perspective in order to address issues of equity arising from differential access to, ownership of, and decision-making power over natural resources" (p. 26/27). How this would translate into the dynamics of a rural village where family connections, class systems, religion, and the self-serving interests of the elites have settled into a centuries-old fabric, is not addressed. Some idea of the envisioned scenario can be gleaned from the reference to a whole plethora of administrative bodies which will be brought in (p. 12/13), all requiring a significant degree of regional and global coordination (and money!) considerably above the capacities at ground level; just consider the diagram in Figure 4 with its neat assortment of inter-related functions (p. 36/37). The initiatives rely on an organisational and cultural flexibility the absence of which is the reason these issues have gained such prominence. Add increasing pressures at the local level due to the emerging politics played out within strengthening confines (consider East Africa for example), and the prospects for a benign outcome are rather remote. The entire exercise represents a classic example of high-to-low conceptual intersections, where well-intentioned but far too complex initiatives are interwoven with relatively simplistic dynamics that derive their inertia from what is essentially a clinging to one's identity. As mentioned, the report predicts a world population of 9 billion by 2050. According to "World Population Prospects" by the UN that figure will have been reached by February 2043, seven years earlier. Whatever the actual number, even assuming a slight decrease in the rate of growth as the UN document asserts, and furthermore optimistically assuming the suggested water use policies are in fact successful, that still does not address the question of what will happen in the years after. Although their figure of 10 billion by the year 2083 seems somewhat distant, behavioural dynamics become unpredictable much sooner due to the accompanying pressures, as current experience demonstrates already. Whatever "incentive schemes" can be envisioned (ie, organised societies directing funds towards disorganised ones) to gild neat flowcharts, they are neither here nor there on a planet brimming with competing demographics. (Sources: International Water Management Institute, 23 Aug 11, "Synthesis Report: An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water and Food Security"; World Population Prospects, the 2010 Revision, Frequently Asked Questions, 3 Apr 11, "When has the world population reached or is expected to reach each successive billion?")
The headlines say it all: Violence in Manchester, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton; 16,000 police being deployed in London to maintain order; First fatality as man shot in Croydon, south London, dies. A society absorbs disparate groups while relying on mythical ideas about good-will, coherence, and a set of values that have lost their ability to define the here and now long ago. The result in pictures looks like this. Expressed through long-held convictions coming from all directions we are told about race, migration, budget cuts, police brutality - take your pick. They may not be pure phantasy, but they represent perspectives through a particular lens nevertheless. Yet they have one thing in common: the inability of one group of people to understand the conceptual framework created and lived through by another. The scale matters when it comes to the social radius available to this or that group, but in principle the dynamics exist in all cases, from an individual upwards to an entire society and even beyond. A Western nation such as the UK presents different opportunities and challenges when compared with the Middle East or Africa. The mindset of a Pakistani relates to contingencies that are trivial in a place like London or they may not even appear at all. For the single traveller a foreign environment poses an adventure that at the very least is understood in its exceptional novelty; but for an entire domain depending on its comprehension of the other, especially when the 'other' is its host, the social interface becomes dangerous, and that goes for both sides. Add a modish unwillingness to accept that not everybody on this planet is the same, and in the face of unexpected emotions spilling over in full force some will shake their heads in bewilderment, some get angry, and others can only weep. Complex systems require a level of intelligence surpassing the nature of the system to be fully understood. As those riots show, playing around with human fundamentals is just naive. It remains to be seen whether the feisty bureaucrat, putting on her battle lipstick to go forth berating the wayward parent who lets their kid go to school unattended or twittering around the school bully who yet again punches the teacher, will apply some resoluteness when confronting the thug who torches a building.
The effect of alcohol on problem solving and creativity has long been part of general experience, if not folklore. Mathias Benedek, Lisa Panzierer, Emanuel Jauk and Aljoscha Neubauer from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Graz, Austria, investigated the influence of mild alcohol intoxication on creative cognition. They differentiate between divergent thinking (ie, the creative idea generation) and creative problem solving (ie, an analytical restructuring of the problem representation). The creative aspect involves the overcoming of a blocking concept and a redirection of thought towards a more fruitful interpretation of the problem. The results of the tests indicated a mitigation of executive control but raised creative problem solving, but did not affect divergent thinking ability either positively or negatively. As the authors write, "While most cognitive activities usually benefit from high cognitive control, some may actually suffer from too much focus", and, "..creative problem solving tasks are often solved by spontaneous insight and accompanied by 'Aha'-experiences". They also note that a significant part of problem solving centres on executive control, the methodical evaluation of detail, and is negatively affected by even mild alcohol consumption. On the other hand, a creative breaking-out of what is known as a mental fixation can well overcome the negative effects of reduced attention to detail (which can be the very reason for the fixation in the first place). In the Otoom mind model the process of problem solving is described as the cognitive traversal of abstraction regions, ie, representative neuronal clusters with content that is common to all of them at a level commensurate with their perceived distance. For example, a door and a window can both be seen as entry points, while more indirectly the window is associative with the transparency of a pair of reading glasses that also offer a view of something. What is and is not deemed associative becomes in the end a matter for individual perception, that is the control the conscious mind exercises over our thinking process. Alcohol attenuates that control. As with all non-linear systems, the factors pertinent at any given time are a fluid mix of inter-related dependencies, hence their individual precise definition is impossible. For example, in regular drinkers the feedback process with their surrounds can establish a cognitive norm, where even the executive control does not suffer too much, although the overall effect on the entire body-mind system would still be negative. (Source: Benedek, M, Panzierer, L, Jauk, E, Neubauer, A C, "Creativity on tap? Effects of alcohol intoxication on creative cognition", ScienceDirect, DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.020, Elsevier B.V., 2017)
To-date (February 2015) there have been a number of developments around the world which continued one or the other pattern leading to the scenario forecast in the article "2050: Age of the Silverback" in December 2007 (search for "2050: Age of the Silverback" on the Search page, Site) Here is another one. The Australian Federal Government has just passed a law which amended the definition of what is an illegal drug for the purpose of law enforcement. Under the Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Bill 2014 a "psychoactive substance means any substance that, when a person consumes it, has the capacity to induce a psychoactive effect" (Part 9.2-Psychoactive substances, Division 320-Psychoactive substances, 320.1 Definitions). Up to now illegal drugs were defined by their chemical content only. Moving away from a definition of content to one where the effect, that is to say, the functionality defines the item under focus has been one of the emerging aspects leading to the "2050: .." scenario. A formal profiling of behaviour at any level of scale requires formal definitions of what the behaviour entails, and in complex, dynamic systems such as a society the content becomes less useful compared to the functionality and therefore the resultant effect of what a person, or group, or a certain substance may do. The proliferation of substitutes to circumvent the official definitions of an illegal drug because of ever improving technology has led to problems in court where the prosecution had to prove a given substance was indeed illegal. Generally speaking, increasing complexity driven by technology, greater population numbers, globalisation and the heightened potential for profit requires a lesser reliance on pre-defined content in favour of the concept of functionality. Since that alternative also enables a wider scope and therefore a greater need for resources to address the now available results from those definitions, the question of ultimate sustainability arises as well. In "2050: .." what can be deemed sustainable comes from the aggregate analysis of society as a whole; an approach that relies more on such data than traditional considerations based on morals and ethics. The emerging pressures leave no choice. For example, a nation is convinced to spend money on catching drug smugglers rather than on a mission to Mars. However, as soon as there is another nation where remaining technologically competitive is deemed more important than the lives of a few dysfunctionals the morally superior nation will pay the price. (See also FAQs > What exactly is meant by functionality?)
Research at the University of Helsinki in Finland (published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research - not yet available at the time of writing) showed that children of above-average intelligence were more likely to get drunk later in life. However, "Overwhelmingly, this drinking was not out of control and did not qualify them for a diagnosis of having an alcohol disorder", the study asserts. The findings are described as "part of an emerging but counterintuitive body of work" since they point to the inherent characteristic of intelligent people to be more curious, be more ready to engage with the wider world and thus being more likely to take risks. The conventional thinking is prompted by the moralistic assumption that drugs are simply 'bad' and therefore 'good' people (hence including those who have a relatively higher IQ) would not do such a thing. Under the Otoom mind model however intelligence is the consequence of a sufficient processing space which includes the number of neurons and their degree of connectivity, leading to a higher probability of affinity relationships with other representative clusters. Enhanced cluster building is a consequence of greater complexity, something our everyday language labels 'curiosity'. The resultant greater awareness of oneself and of one's surrounds also leads to a better handling of situations while at the same time being more cynical towards simplistic warnings based on more conventional scenarios. Observing cognitive dynamics in terms of functionalities rather than content allows connections being made with curiosity and risk-taking per se, whether in a social context or related to scientific research or discovering new lands - with the benefits of those latter hardly being in dispute. (Source: Time Health & Family, 13 Sep 13, M Szalavitz, "Smarter Kids Are Smart Enough to Avoid Alcohol and Drugs, Right?")
Another step towards the scenario depicted in the 2007 post "2050: Age of the Silverback" has occurred; this time the focus is on Sri Lanka. Decades of mismanagement driven by nepotism, ideological preferences and disorganisation on the ground, have resulted in a state of emergency being declared. Sri Lanka's president has fled to the Maldives, protesters have stormed the presidential residence, and the country has been declared bankrupt. The functional state of demographics (usually, but not always, aligned with national borders) can be observed by travellers who do not confine themselves to hotels and tourist arrangements. As far as the global public however is concerned, the first signs of a serious problem are the reports in the media once this or that eruption has attracted the journalists. Larger-scale dysfunctional demographics can be propped up by ongoing flows of outside finance, they can be barely sustained by singular incomes such as tourism for example, but because of that single source there are no fall-back positions. In Sri Lanka's case Covid-19 restrictions caused the tourist dollar to dry up and therefore it was only a matter of time before the entire economic system collapsed. In "2050: Age of the Silverback" the consequences of an ever increasing disparity between competitive nations and the rest has been outlined. If the patterns identified in 2007 remain in place, conclusions can be drawn when it comes to the situation 40 years later. Official data focusing on balance sheets, gross domestic products and the like only tell part of the story. Wandering through a local market and observing the products on display (their type, the manner of presentation, their quality), tell of the other. So does sitting in a local bus that is meant to take people to a nearby village and watching the procession of beggars in their abysmal state as they shuffle through the aisle. Perhaps World Bank representatives never sit in such buses, and so the inflow of international finance resulting in another shiny building or in another piece of pseudo-industrial infrastructure serving vested interests only mask the problems under the surface. Money alone does not change demographics, the patterns stay the same, and the disparities grow ever larger. It represents the world we are in today. (Source: The Wall Street Journal, 13 July 2022, Philip Wen, "Sri Lanka Imposes State of Emergency After President Flees Country")
Chris Honnery from the Courier Mail cites the latest findings published by Times Higher Education in its list of the top 100 most reputable universities in the world in 2016. Some Australian universities have slipped in their rankings. More remarkable from a wider perspective is what the list's editor Phil Baty had to say about the shift in global terms: "Our evidence, from six massive global surveys, including the views of more than 80,000 scholars, proves that the balance of power in higher education and research is slowly shifting from the West to the East." Relatively isolated results may come and go, but if they are part of a larger stream bound by functional overlaps they present a message about the system in general. Over the last few decades the West has undergone considerable changes, some of which touch on fundamental dynamics underpinning a society's status. The interdependency of human activity systems ensures that any one of its parts influences the others, the only question being the extent to which this occurs. Should other elements have become equally compromised the negativity forms a broad band of degeneration. There is hardly a Western country where the government is not forced to manage its budget deficit, as a table of deficits and surpluses around the world shows. While some of them have been successful, the fiscal restraints tend to reflect the demands of special interest groups rather than a rational assessment of what does and what does not make a society strong. Often education is compromised in favour of more fashionable issues. Articles on this site such as The not so hidden costs of feminism, What kills a culture, Something to learn about Education: its situatedness within complex dynamic systems, or Rich vs poor = weak vs strong highlight a variety of factors, all of which contribute to the overall deterioration. For example, in Australia a federal election campaign has just begun and both major parties emphasise their support for education. Then again, on the very day the election date was officially announced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull showed up on the news bulletins next to a slide in a children's playground. A little boy was seen climbing around the structure with a safety helmet firmly strapped to his head. Perhaps in years to come that boy may do well in school or university, but how resilient will he be once he has been thoroughly groomed into requiring a comprehensive and stifling environment which tells him how vulnerable he is at any given moment? As the previously mentioned articles show, not only have we produced generations of softies but the financial costs of those support services place a growing burden upon every member of society while at the same time undermining the potential of those very members. Yet even this is not deemed sufficient enough, we are exhorted to unlearn even further as this message on a Uniting Church billboard shows. And Queensland's Police Minister rejected two petitions calling for the legalisation of nudist beaches, declaring the current laws are "designed to provide for the protection and safety of Queenslanders". In complex dynamic systems it is not a specific morality or perception which determines success or otherwise, but how the aggregate results from their activities compare in a competitive world. So yes, pandering to narcissism, imagined vulnerability, and letting outsiders fill the void will have its consequences. (Sources: Courier Mail, 5 May 16, C Honnery, "UQ falls out of top uni rankings"; Global Finance, 31 Oct 15, V Pasquali, "Percentage of Public Deficit/Surplus in GDP Around the World"; Courier Mail, 5 May 16, "No place for nudes as ban on beach bums stays")
With Abu Anas al Libi, alleged operative of al-Qaeda and recently captured in Libya, now before a New York court the US hopes to gather more intelligence about terrorist activities. Initial romantic ideas about Libya's bright future after the fall of Gaddafi are in the process of dissolving as ever more signs of competing terrorist networks there emerge. If a society is sufficiently volatile so that only a dictatorship manages to impose some form of stability, removing such a regime will not produce a convivial atmosphere of tolerance and cooperation. Rather, any group of individuals vying for an opportunity to control its space according to some ideology will now have the erstwhile shackles removed. Cluster-building takes place and sooner or later concentrations are formed, in this case militias. Their internal organisation is as loose and temporary as the conditions allow, and this also applies to any linkages with pre-existing networks elsewhere. What precisely they will do at any given moment depends on the circumstances, as volatile and unpredictable as their members. Nevertheless, in terms of the observable functionalities societies and demographics can be identified as to their overall potential. (Source: CNN, 16 Oct 13, N Robertson, "Al Libi trial, Libya and al Qaeda: What you won't hear in court")
The propensity of complex, dynamic systems to form internal clusters with their own affinity relationships, which in turn are capable of linking with similarly representative clusters in other locations of the overall processing space, can equally be observed on the larger scale of human society. The pertinent factors are the overall volume and the diversity of the clusters. In the case of the Middle East with its large number of people, its variety of religious interpretations coupled with emotional intensity and strong tribal and family relationships, the conditions are ripe for a particularly acute manifestation of this phenomenon. The rather naive view of the West, relegating the authoritarian regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to the category 'bad' while putting his antagonists into a box labelled 'good' with no deeper analysis of the dynamics of either, has led to the idea of supporting al-Assad's opponents in the belief 'good' will be done. A new study by defence consultancy IHS Jane's (reported on the 15 Sep 13) puts that myth to rest. As the article notes, "there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda". Charles Lister, author of the analysis, is quoted as saying, "The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict. The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out". In other words, if the West is going to assist al-Assad's opponents it will provide the radicals with much-needed resources to continue their quest for an Islamic hegemony. Reminds you of the Taliban in Afghanistan, doesn't it?
Here we go again. Chemical weapons have been used in Syria, the regime claims its enemies are responsible, the West cites proof that the
chemicals had their origin in the sophisticated weapons laboratories of the Syrian state, and Western leaders itch to enter the fray being overcome
by all the emotion. Populist memories can be short but Iraq and its preamble are still remembered and so the rush to "do something" is somewhat tempered
this time. Germany is cautious, Britain's parliament said 'no', France changed its mind after all, and so far it is the United States only which
calls for a strike, provided, as President Obama announced, the Congress is willing. Then there are the protests on the street; some for, some against
President al-Assad. The entire scenario represents a number of factors which have become all too familiar in matters Middle East. A volatile, intensely
religious and emotional demographic kept in check by a commensurate authoritarian regime but undermined by opponents of the same functional type, a West
tied into a progression lock which for centuries forced it to be obsessed with the source of its main religion, and the sheer spectacle that eventuates
once an outsider decides to get involved with the confused dynamics of a region where neither side is an angel. The ambiguous street protests are a
consequence of Western multiculturalism, under which most newcomers have come from the very demographics constantly at loggerheads with each other, something
which was not as significant in previous years. It is multiculturalism's other face, away from the flag-waving barbeques that have the aim of cramming as
many diverse fashions into one public space as is possible. Given the fractured state of Middle Eastern demographics in general and Syria in particular, it
is a rather moot point who manufactured the weapons. There is a considerable psychological churn between a leader, the members of his regime, and the
multitude of functionaries right down to the operatives in factories and storage facilities, any one of whom could have triggered the attacks. Western
leaders who seem to prefer their neat and tidy vision of simplistic categorisations mixed with a dose of political correctness don't seem to understand
that not every group of people function under the same set of parameters. One result is a misguided altruism which in the end makes matters worse. For
example, right now Germany is willing to accept 5000 Syrian refugees and "contributed 193.33 million euros for humanitarian aid and relief projects in
Syria and its neighboring countries". Syria's National Coalition has also opened an office in Berlin to "help German non-governmental organizations
better coordinate their support for the Syrian opposition". An opposition that comprises the enemies of Sunnis, all mixed up with the age-old
Sunni-Shia tensions across the neighbouring countries.
From: Generational Dynamics, "The growing Sunni - Shia conflict"
We in the West have evidently nothing better to do than devote our own energy and resources to keep stoking the fires, and as a consequence the battles are becoming ever more destructive with the latest weapons and money in ready supply. In terms of cognitive dynamics at that scale the only long-lasting solution would be to disarm the Middle East by isolating it politically and militarily, stopping the supply of money (legalising illegal drugs would be a good start), and generally staying away from dissolute nations. Given the afore-mentioned progression lock based on the West's attachment to Middle Eastern religions and their moralisms (the major reason behind the definition of illegal drugs), the prospects are rather dim. After all, what would be more benign: a relatively stable and productive West selling oil to volatile and warring factions, or letting those warring factions sell the oil to us? (Sources: Deutsche Welle, 28 Aug 13, "Germany proceeds with caution in Syria policy"; the Guardian, 1 Sep, "William Hague: UK will offer only diplomatic support on Syria"; euronews, 2 Sep, "France to hold debate but no vote on military action in Syria"; The Washington Post, 2 Sep, "Obama seeks Congress' OK for military action in Syria; McCain, Graham give conditional support"; USAToday, 1 Sep, "Syria strike talk sparks rallies, protests"; Generational Dynamics, Dec 08, "The growing Sunni - Shia conflict")
In their report on the Australian curriculum as it is applied to primary and secondary schools across the country (to varying degrees - the lack of cohesion has been identified as one major source of ongoing problems in the education sector) its authors, Dr Kevin Donnelly and Professor Kenneth Wiltshire, refer to the manner in which pupils are being taught on several occasions. 'Outcomes Based Education' (OBE) is one model that in many cases has replaced a content-based version. OBE is based on the constructivist approach in which the "students are urged to be actively involved in their own process of learning", (Report, p 15). Representatives from the OECD have stated that "Countries vary in the mix and balance between knowledge and competencies in their curriculum, but to be a top performer, countries have to be excellent in both (they are weighted equally in PISA now). You cannot teach competencies without content; capabilities must be grounded in content. Critical thinking, in particular, is best embedded in learning areas. Knowledge, competencies and problem solving is the usual formula" (p 33). The same issue is referred to on another occasion in terms of literacy: "Professors Max Coltheart and Margot Prior define whole language as a situation where 'children are seen as active, self-governed learners who construct knowledge of reading by themselves with minimal instruction in decoding'. A phonics and phonemic awareness model, on the other hand, involves an explicit, systematic way of teaching children to read where children are taught the relationship between letters, groups of letters and sounds. Some 11 individual submissions and two from organisations argue for a focus on phonics instead of the existing whole language approach that is prevalent across many schools of education" (p 166). There are two main aspects of cognitive dynamic systems (and hence the Otoom model) which point to the fallacy of allowing pupils to be their own guides, the pattern-seeking property of functional elements within such a system and the phenomenon termed 'progression lock' in the model. The former refers to the absence of innate rule sets so that the eventual format of the representative content among the neurons (the functional elements) relies on the patterns with which incoming content has been delivered. Any recall of the representative content relies on those patterns and is returned in a similar manner. Since humans are not born with the formality of words, grammar, semantics and indeed semiotics, whatever is learned has been derived from the delivery, haphazard or otherwise. Once the common formality is in place the individual can make use of their learned content so that their expressions are understood and meaningful (including to themselves). Progression lock refers to the phenomenon of establishing constraints on the ongoing contextualisation of content once a particular format has been established. Any further variance is bound by the previously established limits (much like town planning, where the current layout is added to rather than unseated by further constructions). Therefore a more or less random, or biased, or subjective format of information storage forms the basis for anything that is being learned from then onwards, together with all the pre-existing disparities, disjuncts, and incompatibilities. As the report notes, countries with high-achieving educational standards are also those which observe the importance of content when it comes to laying down the foundations of knowledge, be that in literacy or numeracy. Once that is in place, creativity can be used in a productive manner. (Source: K. Donnelly, K. Wiltshire, "Review of the Australian Curriculum Final Report", Australian Government, Department of Education, 15 August 2014)
Sometimes the Otoom model reveals a scenario that is practically self-evident, although the model provides the underpinning dynamics. It also happens that despite the evidence from reality there are 'experts' who rather cling to their own views. One such case is the way our brains learn information, particularly significant in children. 'Creativity' and nurturing a child's own opinion are fine but do not help a mind which has very little to go by in the way of essential information necessary for being 'creative' in the first place. Therefore studying (and yes, even rote-learning) as well as practice are necessary to develop the knowledge pool from which more elaborate ideas can emerge eventually. If over the years results pile up that invariably show the superiority of hard work it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the evidence. An article about learning outcomes in Australian schools compares the strict attitudes by Asian parents compared to the more lenient views by their Australian counterparts. Asian pupils consistently out-perform the others, and, not surprisingly, are exhorted by their parents to study and achieve good grades, while such intense interest is found less outside this demographic. Only fleetingly acknowledged is the intelligence factor, as well as a similar attitude being held in most of Europe. Lower intelligence and hard work is still better than no work, but a higher intelligence plus hard work makes for excellence. It is also worth noting that a general focus on the primitive (demonstrated for example by the veneration of indigenous people) coupled with an adulation of the Child which brooks no criticism and celebrates even the most banal has produced generations of citizens who increasingly lack the capacity to appreciate achievement. Naturally that has consequences when it comes to Australia's global competitiveness, since no such degeneration occurs in many other nations. (Source: Courier Mail qweekend, S. Powell, N. Fortuna, 1 Feb 14, "Grade Expectations")
A YouGov online survey in the UK found that nearly one in six children have difficulty learning to talk. One significant factor is noise from the TV because babies find it hard to distinguish words from adults, says Jean Gross, a UK government advisor on speech. Such problems are to be expected according to the Otoom model, since there the mind is first and foremost recognised as a processor of patterns which includes input from the outside. Language, if communicated verbally (which would mostly be the case in very young children), would therefore constitute only one component of the entire sound spectrum received by the young mind. There is no differentiation between noise from a TV and words spoken by the adult, it is the entire package that is laying down the affinity relationships among the brain's neurons. As usual, the representative quality of these states reflects the input. (Source: Courier Mail, 5 Jan 10, "TV hurts kids' ability to talk")
So it has come to pass. On the 23 June 2016 the people of Britain decided to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%. The next day Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will let someone else guide the nation through the extraction process. European leaders expressed their dismay, for others the result is a confirmation of their hopes. A process that began over 60 years ago through the gradual assimilation of commons shared by its players has turned into an object of discontent - brought about by that very same process. As the world changed so did the mindsets within the EU but often without taking care of the fundamental framework out of which they were born. Since then the complexity of the global economy has been heightened by the emerging Asian powers; the laissez-faire attitude towards religion suited an advanced society but was ill-prepared for the medieval rawness coming out of the Middle East; immigration after the Second World War was made up of different constituents than the refugee waves of the 21st century. And all the while the decision-making elites followed their neat scripts and dismissed any opposing views from the ground as the opinions of the uninformed. The potential for dissonance in human activity systems has been mentioned many times on this website. When it comes to the EU a submission to the European Commission in 2006, titled "The Social Europe: a formal view" described that in detail. "Whatever political or ideological considerations are applied to such wishful thinking, the nature of dynamic systems go through their paces regardless, and should the disparity reach critical mass a system thus enlarged incorporates within its very elements the eventual downfall" (p. 7); and, referring to its neglect in favour of optimistic expectations, "The ongoing efforts by the EU may well create a Golden Age for Europe. Let us hope it won't be the portal to its demise" (p. 9) - to quote from that article. The results from the referendum also highlight the demographic realignment within populations. Scotland, with its own independence movement, voted in favour of remaining, dissonant Northern Ireland did the same, Wales, currently more embedded in the UK but with its own singular ambitions on the rise, favoured the disengagement as did England itself. Disillusionment with the EU in countries such as France, The Netherlands and Denmark found the outcome of the referendum encouraging, and other EU members such as Austria also flirt with the whole idea given the substantial scale of dissent as demonstrated by their recent presidential elections when a left-wing candidate only narrowly defeated the right-wing contender. There also will be more indirect ramifications down the line. In Australia for example the republican movement may derive a boost once a United Kingdom and a Great Britain have become an anachronism (Mother England's breasts are withering, it's time to get your own food). The increasing lack of cohesion within previously more homogenous societies fuelled by global communication, divergent evolutionary paths within a nation's borders, and the influx of foreigners gives rise to demographic clustering, where official frameworks are abandoned in favour of social affinities. It is a feature of the modern world and it is ongoing, as mentioned in "2050: Age of the Silverback" nine years ago. Such results reflect the mutual disengagement by society's layers, when the culturally sanitised mindset of the upper echelon looses track of the conditions on the ground, and its lower counterpart no longer understands the lofty sentiments of the former. (Sources: BBC News, 24 June 16, "EU Referendum Results"; BBC News, 25 June 16, "Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU"; BBC News, 25 June 2016, "Brexit: World reaction as UK votes to leave EU"; the guardian, 24 May 2016, K Connolly, P Oltermann, J Henley, "Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right")
More on Cyprus (the previous post is directly below). An article by Holly Ellyatt (CNBC, 19 Mar 13, "How Russia Could Take Revenge Over Cyprus Deal" features an interview with Steve Keen, Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Western Sydney, New South Wales. Rather than raiding bank deposits in Cyprus to finance the EU bailout he suggests a double-ledger approach, whereby the Central Bank with its virtually infinite money supply creates the necessary funds on one side of the ledger, with the current obligations on the other. To do otherwise would not only undermine the trust in the banking system (in this case by the government taking money out of deposits) but makes the problem worse through exacerbating the debt at the target. Double ledgers are essentially a two-tiered system that allows the 'normal' economy to function alongside. Graphically the system could be visualised as shown on the left. The central bank communicates with its national outposts (in yellow), and a subsystem in default (red) has its own especially created subsidiary within the centre. The problem remains limited to the affected parts. The idea is similar to what has been suggested in the blog "Of flowers and people: the EU and Greece" posted on 14 Nov 12, the only difference being the taxes imposed on Greeks in one case and Cypriot bank deposits designed to be the source of extra revenue in the other. In terms of the underlying functionalities however both systems are the same. The answer to the problem therefore is the same in both instances, as described by Professor Keen and/or in the blog. The interest-earning potential of the second tier (as outlined in the blog) thus created applies to both cases. To impose additional burdens on people (the system's members) does not make sense when the system itself is already under stress. See "The Social Europe: a formal view" in which the possibility of incompatible member states has already been mentioned.
Under the Otoom model one major criterion that defines a system refers to the degree of compatibility among its subsystems. The EU is no exception. Its 27 member states do not display the mutual synchronicity a healthy economy would require. The latest case is Cyprus. While not directly comparable to a country such as Greece for example, its combination of relatively low productivity combined with its banks bloated by foreign deposits sets it aside from more balanced EU members. Being part of the euro zone (a one-glove-fits-all monetary system) the inherent discrepancy resulted in the measures currently making news around the world. Complex dynamic systems also feature a high degree of interconnectedness, demonstrated by the relationships (ie, the functional links) with its gas reserves, separate interests related to the source of those foreign deposits, Middle Eastern political and military connotations, and the country's own internal fault line between Greeks and Turks. Russia, a major depositor, seeks it own energy independence and the control it brings and is drawn into the equation through the financial web woven by the EU and Cypriot banks with their own lopsided affiliations. A fundamental mindset which insists on viewing everybody as equal has resulted in an ongoing dilemma that in the end hurts 'the little guy' anyway, the very target such idealism seeks to protect. Once the government starts reaching into your bank account a fundamental prerequisite for any economy has been unseated and the common trust, so essential for any human activity system, dissolves.
On the 8 November 2012 the Financial Times brought us an update on several movements in Europe campaigning for autonomy, if not outright independence (see a graphical summary). From Scotland to Flanders to the Basque Country and to Catalonia to South Tyrol, these have all amplified their demands for a more tangible identity, denied to them under an encompassing state. The scenario is nothing new. Still, it is yet another confirmation of what happens when a larger system imposes a regime upon its incompatible parts. Take South Tyrol: it has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, its finances are in order, and its population is used to support Italy with its 2 billion euro debt; they are also German. Cultural differences reach further than annual budgets, but it is during times of dysfunction that anyone who is doing much better starts seriously looking at their options. Throw some people together in a group and the dissonance starts as soon as the dirty dishes are piling up. An integrated framework such as the EU is somewhat more complicated than a disorganised kitchen, yet in principle a collection of functioning subsystems is successful if their mutual links are based on affinities and nothing else besides. That is to say, connections exist between shared characteristics and not any others. As history shows, the creation of what is today Italy, Spain, and so on, did not follow those principles. Much of what constitutes specific aspects was simply overridden. An intelligent reorganisation of Europe in terms of natural affinities would make the continent stronger, not weaker.
Australia, survey regarding fertility rates, shows that overall women in rural areas have higher fertility than those living in urban areas, and younger have lower rates than older women, this ties in with Otoom's view that fertility is - also - linked to the perception people have of their role in society which in this case includes feminism and the differing role of women apart from bearing children (ie, younger and urban women would be more likely to conform to feminist perspectives than those outside the influence), similarly with divisions by state (eg, Qld is more conservative than NSW). (Source: Courier Mail, 8 Nov 02, "Queensland mothers younger than others")
In a preview of the near future based on the Otoom model ("2050: Age of the Silverback") the growing ability of science to identify preconditions in humans for the purpose of detailed response policies is seen as one factor determining our living conditions in the coming decades. Geneticists at Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) have just determined the DNA sequence of a woman. Except for "incidental privacy-sensitive findings" the results will be made public eventually. As the article notes, "this does not include further in-depth bioinformatics analysis", for which a further six months are needed. Apart from studies in other fields the fundamental differences between male and female are more and more explored, and in the process other similar determinants are bound to come to the fore. Add the ever-increasing pressure on resources and therefore the sheer need for efficiency it won't be long before such findings find their way into official policies with a view to organise society. (Source: ScienceDaily LLC, 27 May 08, "First Female DNA Sequenced" )
In their article "Epigenetics: A Challenge for Genetics, Evolution, and Development?" Gertrudis van de Vijver and Linda van Speybroeck, both from Ghent University, Belgium, argue that with the increasing presence of complex, dynamic systems as productive concepts in science a shift in interpretation of the term epigenetics is taking place. The gene-centric approach, which does not consider the backward compatibility of situational factors in the life of an organism towards its genome, makes room for a perspective that allows for the interdependency of epigenetic and genetic systems since they too constitute complex, dynamic systems. That particular characteristic has been identified in Otoom within the context of thought structures as well as cluster dynamics in the computer simulation; in fact it is a major contributor to the emergent functional domains there. (Source: G van de Vijver, L van Speybroeck, "Epigenetics: A Challenge for Genetics, Evolution, and Development?", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 981 (1), 1-6)
Cuba's president Miguel Diaz-Canel met Russia's counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow as a demonstration of their regimes' support for each other. Both nations are the subject of sanctions imposed by the West and in particular by the US, and Cuba has refrained from condemning Russia at the United Nations for its invasion of Ukraine. President Diaz-Canel referred to the West as the "Yankee empire". That perception goes deeper than contemporary politics. Under the Otoom model human behaviour can be identified in terms of certain functionalities and/or thought structures, and it is those functionalities that influence behaviour on an individual level as well as on a larger-scale when it comes to groups, communities, entire countries. Some of them are more fundamental than others, and they define the individual when it comes to that individual's interaction with the world. One is a tendency towards authoritarianism. A person so inclined will fashion their behaviour towards others in a more assertive, command-driven manner than otherwise would be the case (there are many aspects of course, but this is one of them). Given that aspect's innate nature, such a person will interpret the world in terms of their view. Just as there are command-driven vs (relatively) liberal approaches on the level of an individual, the same can be observed on the larger scale of societies. On this planet there are command-driven societies and there are more liberal ones. In the case of the latter, what manifests for an outside observer is not each and every individual's actions, but the sum-total of behaviours being representative of a society with its members acting out their characteristics. Note the difference: a command-driven society will come across as a reflection of its authority, whereas the more liberal version will present as the cumulative set of cultural traits. There is no directed intent; that society just happens to be that way. Yet this is not how authoritarians see it. For them any entity is what their perception makes it to be. Hence for someone like Putin or Diaz-Canel the West stands for a singular personality which happens to be their enemy because Western demographics do not function under the same precepts as their own societies. Understanding the nature of nonlinear systems will of course counter that view, just as for a meteorologist a storm is not the product of a destructive mind acting against some area but is the accumulation of a multitude of factors based on the laws of physics and chemistry and they just happened to come together at a certain location at a certain time. One can observe the same principle during the emergence of religions. At a time when humans understood virtually nothing about the workings of their environment (they knew that something happens, but not why - just as even a beetle knows what to eat and what not, but nothing else) the source of some natural phenomenon was interpreted as the result of an authoritarian entity. The authoritarians in their midst, the ones achieving an influential position within their tribe, their community, saw the phenomenon in terms of their minds' authoritarian aspect. As a consequence, religious leaders (authoritarians to a fault) insisted on such an interpretation in order to cement their power. And so a negative outcome is not due to someone's inadequacy, it is "God's punishment"; conversely, a positive outcome is not due to a person's expertise, they thank their god. Humans had to live with the effects ever since. (Source: Courier Mail, 24 Nov 22, "Comrades Unite Against 'Enemy'")
In human activity systems with their complex dynamics what actually happens is not necessarily, or completely, a reflection of the stated intent; the large-scale counterpart to the system of mind in individuals. As Russia conducts its military exercises ("the nation's largest ever war games") with China contributing about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft, the general impression covers the reassertion of Russia as a power to be reckoned with and China's ongoing rise in world affairs. An impression the two nations themselves are eager to underline as presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping used the occasion to express their "strategic partnerships". The increasingly dysfunctional nature of the US (hitherto the dominant global power) is creating a vacuum other contenders strive to fill as they test their respective capacity. And Europe, while no longer exercising the political and military hegemony it possessed until the two World Wars although still a significant economic player, has recently suffered from its inability to stem the tide of refugees, causing serious ruptures within the European Union. The ultimate effects of the latter are still unfolding. Yet so far at least, despite that influx the EU with its over 500 million inhabitants enjoys a greater cohesion than the US, the emergence of disparate political sentiments across its member states notwithstanding. Let's assume therefore that during the next decades there are three major blocs defining the cultural, political and economic landscape on this planet. And, under this perspective, let's group Russia with Europe (not entirely fanciful considering the EU's more accommodating stance towards Russia compared to the US, their more interwoven economies, and certain historical precedents of cooperation). In terms of the innate ability to represent a viable entity, there is every chance the determinant players of the unfolding global situation will be, from west to east, Europe, India, and China. A state of affairs already alluded to in another comment in this section, written in 2013. Current events further underline that prospect. Especially if Europe manages to overcome its current difficulties the dynamics of mutual interactions among non-linear systems will make for a balancing effect that gravitates towards such a triumvirate. The affinities between comparable degrees of experience spanning millennia, sheer volume, and the general abilities of the respective populations, see to it. An expressly stated contemporary intent along those lines is not necessarily the ultimate driving force, just as a stated intent by individuals does not overwrite their inherent personal characteristics. (Source: ABC News, 12 Sep 18, "Vostok 2018: Russia launches its largest ever war games, with thousands of Chinese troops taking part")
With the new Trump administration in the US already in full swing, the first signs are emerging of what this could mean for the rest of the world. One example is a deal made between Australia and the previous US president Obama to facilitate the transfer of just over 1250 refugees to the US, currently housed in Manus Island and Nauru detention centres. For Australia the benefit would have been less political pressure coming from the contentious issues around offshore detention facilities because of the reduced numbers afterwards. For the US those refugees segued with the declared disjunct between "Islamists" and Muslims in general and hence would have been acceptable. Enter Donald Trump. Now the semantics behind terrorism and Islam are taken down. Expressions such as, "Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims", derided as sheer wordplay at best, are given more serious considerations (as they should be once demographics are considered as sets consisting of highly interdependent members). Therefore that former refugee deal is currently up in the air, although some compromise would probably be worked out. In any case, in terms of the alliance between Australia and the US, so far assumed to be rock-solid, such a rift causes not a few anxious moments. Although disagreements between the two nations have occurred in the past, this time the global background is different. The US has become more critical of its international relations, there are the emerging powers in Asia but particularly China, a declining Europe, and Australia in the middle with its reliance on global trade, especially with China. Politicians and commentators are beginning to wonder about Australia's traditional reliance on a big power (at first the UK, then the US) and prompting the nation to largely follow the other's agenda in terms of military and political initiatives. Laurie Oakes, veteran political journalist and commentator, calls for a rethink and mentions the looming pitfalls as China's assertion in the South China Sea is playing itself out and the US is becoming more confrontationist overall. An analysis of societal dynamics brought the situation into view years ago; it was outlined in a submission to Australia's 2015 Defence White Paper. Written in August 2014, it suggested a certain neutrality in order to navigate between shifting alliances and economic necessities, all of which define the global landscape of the 21st century. Since everything in life has a cost, being more neutral entails the kind of effort which so far had not been contemplated. On the other hand, there are times when expensive self-reliance is preferable to cheaper dependency. Or, to put it more succinctly, when being a master in your hut is better than being a servant in a castle. (Sources: Courier Mail, R Viellaris, 4 Feb 17, "Trumble Stumble"; L Oakes, 4 Feb 17, "Ally drop-kicked by blunt Trump's stunt")
With the vote to leave the European Union dealt with, the mechanics of extraction are beginning to make themselves felt. The UK government needs to find a consensus among its nations and this means agreement from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The uncharted waters of disentanglement from the EU have exposed the differences even further and the Institute for Government warned that imposing unwanted decisions could lead to the breakup of the UK. Referring to their - elected - leaders the Institute's report said, "There is little common ground between these leaders on the future of the UK or almost anything else". Half-way around the world the sentiments supporting Texas independence from the United States are stirred even more with the presidential elections highlighting the contrasts between sizeable demographics in that country. A Clinton or Trump may not be responsible for a 'Texit', but the phenomenon of societal fracturing which they helped to bring to the world's attention contains strands that align with elements contributing to the disenchantment underlying the respective independence movements. It is a form of clustering, although the current bonds are now regarded as shackles and affinities are created elsewhere. The incidence of historical elites, having previously formed nation-based societies and now moving towards a state of decay, thereby dissolving the glue that binds the various demographics within their societies together, has been identified as one contributor to a significantly different world we are in the process of entering. Another confirmation that the scenario depicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback" is on track to be realised. (Sources: Courier Mail, 25 Oct 16, "A dis-United Kingdom"; The Guardian, T Dart, 19 June 16, "'Why not Texit?': Texas nationalists look to the Brexit vote for inspiration")
It is no exaggeration to say that the Middle East is one of the major drivers of national and international politics. While this held true for Europeans even in the past, due to globalisation, the internet and the increase in the world's population, today it applies to just about every nation. From Otoom's point of view the situation represents a classic example of progression lock: the unceasing continuation of a developmental stream based on initial precepts, where only a dramatic change in circumstances can unseat the trajectory. The manifest focus by non-Middle Eastern governments neglects the wider picture - yet it exists. Ever since Christianity (a Middle Eastern offshoot) was allowed to invade the European mind all those centuries ago, European leaders, be that emperors or kings or barons, saw it as their duty to place their imagined interests eastwards, and at great cost to themselves. From the Crusades to religion-based internal strife to blindly following a moralism that brooked no resistance, the European mind embraced the shackles of a culture that caused a thousand years of intellectual stupor. The antagonism created by the Christianity-Judaism-Islam triangle led to some of the most cruel actions humans are capable of; there is nothing as white-hot as the hate within a family. And today the constant interference in a region which is so alien to a rational and ordered mind draws on Western resources on a global scale. That volatile region, which is to say the volatile demographics inhabiting that region, confound the best strategists. Not because of an inherent lack of intelligence by the latter but because in any truly chaotic event space questions based on logic and reason are simply irrelevant. Due to the cultural entanglement non-Middle Eastern nations are able to find some pretext which allows them to play their specific politics using some historical hook. Russia is the latest example. Its political affinity with Syria's Bashar al-Assad is a further chapter in the saga waiting to happen. Just as the West in Iraq and Afghanistan tried to shape events there in tune with its own more structured imagination, so is Russia pursuing a political strategy using players which possess no formal concept even if they wanted to. The perceptual bridge so unfalteringly created between the Middle East and Europe is made use of by the millions of refugees now streaming westward. The psychological flight-or-fight response by the Europeans does nothing to solve the turmoil. Russia's assertion that only Assad is a key to calming Syria may well be based on the recognition that only a strong ruler can assert some sort of peace in a sea of volatility, but given the existence of so many indeterminables even that view is bound to recoil on its holders. Meanwhile oil-and-gas-rich Muslims do their level best to play their own games (with their wealth gained from Western know-how), and moneys from sympathisers keep rolling into the region. In Australia alone about 170 people have been identified providing funds or other support for terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. What this means in terms of the social pyramid - those 170 individuals being its apex - is discussed in Something to learn about Education: its situatedness within complex dynamic systems → Human activity systems. Muslims groups such as the Islamic Research and Educational Academy, by spreading the belligerent message of the Koran to willing recipients, help to solidify the pyramid's foundation. The resultant lack of success of the West's countermeasures ups the ante towards an ever-heightened extremism. The emergence of ISIS has locked the participants in an even tighter embrace. To halt a progression lock needs an event of commensurate proportions. What this means on the global scale of Middle Eastern disruption is anyone's guess. (Sources: E Gibbon, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Everyman's Library, New York, 1993; E Wright (ed), "History of the World", Viscount Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1985; Courier Mail, A Caldwell, 3 Oct 15, "Vlad The Implorer"; Courier Mail, J Dowling, 3 Oct 15, "Banks join fight on ISIS"; GlobalResearch, D Minin, 19 Sep 15, "The Geopolitics of Gas and the Syrian Crisis: Syrian 'Opposition' Armed to Thwart Construction of Iran-Iraq-Syria Gas Pipeline"; The Australian, 4 Oct 15, R Baxendale, "Extremist Muslim group to hold workshops at Deakin University")
In response to so many Australians following the call of radical propaganda by ISIS and others, the Australian Federal Government is considering a range of options. Those deemed to have been influenced face internet bans, mandatory de-radicalisation and curfews. This is in addition to the idea, voiced a few days ago, of revoking their citizenship even they do not have another country to go to. While the need to address the threat of terrorism within the country is largely acknowledged, there are many who question the severity of the measures, arguing they are fundamentally against the nation's character, against Westminster values. By and large the criticism is correct, although in times of war even governments under the Westminster system were known to evoke strict laws and it is debatable whether they had been better or worse than what is being suggested here. For example, during the First and Second World War the Canadian government stripped the members of some nationalities and certain citizens of their civil rights, and "Orders in Council made under the Act were equivalent to an Act of Parliament" (see War Measures Act). WWII saw radical changes to Australia's governance under the National Security Act of 1939 which was designed to override the Constitution (see The Home Front - World War 2). Even if one considers the current situation to be similar to wars in the past, there is one fundamental difference. Previously even migrant countries such as Canada did not contain within their own borders a substantially different mindset that is connected to centuries of its own history and culture. Today Islam does represent such a contingent, whether in Australia, Canada, or especially in the UK which essentially has existed long before Australia was even known. Measures which largely worked in relation to more or less one's own people, because both, the measures as well as the people, are resonant to their own, do no longer work if meant to address issues that spring from different directions entirely. In terms of complex dynamic systems it is a matter of affinity relationships being absent and the relevant functionalities of one side having become irrelevant to the other (society is a complex dynamic system). Practically speaking, in the here and now this means that a Western society like Australia will inevitably move towards an ambience more resembling Middle Eastern mannerisms, including laws, moral and cultural perceptions, and priorities. The decision to become globally multi-cultural has been a fundamental junction in the life of this nation, and we travel down that new road as we speak. Furthermore, there is no definitive marker to signal its end, as was the case in earlier wars. (Source: Courier Mail, N Doorley, A Smethurst, S Vogler, 8 June 2015, "The War On Propaganda")
Every societal system has its history, its situatedness, and as a result has acquired its specific characteristics. 'Culture' is the colloquial term. Since all three factors contribute to the society's identity, and this functional core being the most stable of all features, the identity is the last to be changed, the first to be defended, and the overall arbiter against which any input from the outside is being measured and responded to. Should two such systems interact with each other any response from either side is made in order to sustain, preserve, and accentuate its respective core. The greater the difference between the two, the greater the role identity plays. In the case of Afghanistan and the West (two widely disparate systems) the former will turn any initiative by the latter to its own advantage and not to the other's. As the Allied's presence is gradually removed and military and other hardware is shipped back home the Afghani government insists on a container export tax for any container leaving the country by road. From the West's point of view such action seems a virtual insult after all the loss of lives, the expenditure to the tune of billions, and so on. For Afghanistan is simply means another opportunity to get something more out of their situation. It is a scenario experienced by tourists haggling about inflated prices in a souk, and on a much larger scale it can be observed in all the wheeling and dealing accompanying the political plans tried on Middle Eastern demographics. What Western political leaders won't understand is the sheer difference between the people of this world and the responses eventuating from their respective identities. (Source: Courier Mail, 10 Aug 13, "Pay as you go: Afghans hurl ultimate insult")
Complex, dynamic systems require to be analysed in terms of their scale, and the same goes for their timelines. The life of a human is measured in decades, a society moves across centuries, and cultures can extend over millennia. While an action can happen within hours, its environment, its breeding ground as it were, relates to the scale of the latter. The other day Australia released a defence White Paper in which the growing influence of China was recognised and where a "comprehensive and constructive engagement with China" formed part of that assessment. It wasn't always so; in 2009 Australia saw China as a threat and looked to the United States to maintain what it described as a balance in the Asia-Pacific region. Leaving aside the debate about the possibilities for a nation such as Australia with its small role in world affairs, the newly gained perspective signals a growing maturity. China has reached its current proportions from a relatively low base, but only if seen through a historical keyhole. In reality the nation represents a dominant culture that has existed for millennia. In terms of societal dynamics there are only three cultures fulfilling the equation of a system which possesses the volume, the age, and the intelligence to exist at that large scale: China, India, and Europe. Their volume provides the pool from which human resources are drawn, their age bestows the wisdom gained over time, and their intelligence allows them to use both in the best possible way (see the blog, "East and West", written in 2009). Ups and downs are part of life, what matters at that scale is the overall result. Despite any contemporary jockeying for position here and there, over time the above qualities set the tone. For example, right now the US is already in decline after enjoying a brief hegemony of a few decades, and with it go the values espoused by that society. At present Europe also has its problems, but if the culture manages to overcome the deleterious effects of feminism it should be able to gain strength once again. After all, fifty years of embracing virtual matriarchy by a small percentage of the world's humanity is a mere blip compared to the rise and fall of empires under opposite auspices, although during this short span it managed to seriously undermine the vitality of its populations (for some examples see "The not so hidden costs of feminism"). In any case, a cultural triumvirate on our planet provides a much better balance than the previous duopoly during the Cold War, especially if its members have depth. As world events show, we have already entered the initial phase. (Sources: "Defence White Paper 2013", Australian Government, Department of Defence, Commonwealth of Australia, 2013; IHT Rendezvous, D K Tatlow, "Australia Strives to Balance China and the United States", The New York Times, 5 May 2013)
A few days ago the report "Living apart together" mentioned the current trend to purposefully downgrade Western and/or European culture by a range of contemporary intellectuals, thereby creating an identity vacuum making it that much easier for Islamic extremism to take hold in the minds of young people. It specifically referred to the UK, but the situation is similar in other Western countries. Australia is no exception, and another example of such artificially induced shame and guilt can be observed in the aftermath of a report on indigenous issues in Queensland. The Partnerships Queensland Baseline Report 2006 says about indigenous communities: young people 18 to 24 were 19.4 times more likely top face court; infant mortality was between 1.7 and 2.5 times more likely than non-indigenous babies; indigenous young children from 0 to 4 comprised 40.2 per cent of all hospital admissions in that age group; [indigenous] community children were between 23 and 44 times more likely to need hospital treatment for assault; more than 45 per cent of indigenous students who finished Year 12 English received a low or very low mark, while 58 per cent studying Maths A or B received a low or very low grade; indigenous babies and children were at least 1.7 times more likely to die below the age of 14 than others; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 10 to 14 were between 26 and 34.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection; black adults were 7.8 times more likely to be in detention and twice as likely to die. Apart from the analysis under Otoom regarding the necessary functional elements to reach higher complexity as a demographic, the reaction by indigenous community leaders was predictable. In the face of such broad-based failings against the entire rest of the state, it was the rest who was seen as the guilty party. Without the presumption of automatic duty towards consistently underachieving demographics, coupled with the instilled aura of repugnance towards one's own culture, Queensland would not come to see itself as being quite ready for yet another round of prodigious spending to assuage its guilt. (Source: Courier Mail, 7 Feb 07, "No end to the misery")
A report by an Alice Springs crown prosecutor, Nanette Rogers, lists high levels of violence and sexual abuse against women and children in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It also identifies Aboriginal culture and customary laws as an obstacle to procuring witnesses in court and victims taking action. The report prompted federal Indigenous Minister Mal Brough to slam the inaction by state governments which allows the situation to continue. The furore erupting as a consequence of such claims and counter-claims within governments and outside highlights the confronting nature of indigenous people in non-indigenous societies. Under Otoom the situation can be described as a low-abstracting demographic being surrounded by a society that is more complex and therefore more demanding. Conceptual intersections from high to low emerge whenever an issue is addressed by wider society and then gets translated into the semantic context of the indigenous culture. Intersections from low to high occur when a scenario within an indigenous community gets redescribed in terms of the multi-faceted agendas residing in its surrounds. Since the wider society is the more advanced, the ultimately affective decisions are those being made in the context and understanding of the higher abstracting society. Lower abstractions also mean a more compact interpretation of life as it is lived day by day, producing outcomes that can range from the simplistic to the brutal. Such demographics also tend to rally around their own identity to the exclusion of anyone else, thereby preventing the kind of openness we in the Western context have come to expect. In Australia there is also the discrepancy induced by the respective religions, with Christianity holding to an essentially antagonistic perspective of the human eros. Middle Eastern moralism is usually not shared by Aboriginal culture, and what is termed 'sexual abuse' under Australian auspices may or may not contain elements of violence but is treated as if it did in any case and the hysteria inevitably rises (for example, responding to the above report Mal Brough claimed that "paedophile rings" were operating in some Aboriginal communities and roundly condemned state governments and other bodies for standing by and doing nothing; yet in the very last paragraph of one of the articles cited here we read, "The most common type of abuse for indigenous children was neglect - with the sexual abuse rate of non-indigenous children higher than for Aboriginal children"; and in any case, the physical violence perpetrated in Aboriginal communities is nothing new, but it took the sexual aspect to arouse such sudden interest). Add to all this the currently prevailing political correctness which imbues indigenous people with a romantic halo while at the same time denouncing Western culture as inherently bad and any report on indigenous issues is bound to be controversial. Although the report focuses on the situation in the Northern Territory, the perspective under Otoom is applicable to the rest of Australia and indeed to any society in the world where indigenous people have to interface with more complex surroundings and vice versa. (Source: Courier Mail, 18 May 06, "Indigenous abuse row fires debate"; 19 May 06, "Abuse cases soar on Cape")
The merging of artificial intelligence software with video and/or graphics hardware is well under way. One major application is surveillance. Deep learning through the analytical use of affinitive information collected via video, sound and text enables surveillance networks to collect real-time data on citizens around the world. In China that development rides on the nation's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, and its three largest video surveillance brands Hikvision, Dahua and Uniview already accounted for an estimated 28.8% of global video surveillance revenues in 2015. OBOR is financed to the tune of $40 billion, and industry subsidiaries are being established around the world. Cyber security and the safe city concept are the main drivers, with personal convenience a close second. In the 2007 article "2050: Age of the Silverback" the emerging need as well as capacity for data collection is pointed out as being one of the significant features of the modern world. While the spectre of Big Brother arises easily under that scenario, the utility aspect is nevertheless a factor (also mentioned in the article). As surveillance networks are part of the wider system of society, indeed what could be a mega-society under OBOR for example, the ultimate cost/effect ratio plays a part. In the shorter term a governance based on comprehensive data collection and used for authoritarian means is entirely possible. Beyond that the equally increasing costs of dealing with specific dysfunctions (however they may be defined as such) on behalf of citizens when engaging with hitherto questionable opportunities that may present themselves will also have to be addressed. If under the safe city concept data are used in order to prevent crime, it makes sense to combine records and profiling and adjust the response accordingly. For example, if citizen A is identified as being unsuitable to view violent movies, that may not apply to citizen B. Rather than banning violent movies outright, authorities would be able to respond in a more targeted - and therefore effective - manner. The constraints imposed by large-scale implementations of infrastructure would point in this direction. The problems with financing an increasing prison population and associated legal costs exist already. (Source: HIS Markit, J Cropley, J Woodhouse, M Wang, D Williams, O Philippou, J Cropley, T Lynch, August 2017, "Top Video Surveillance Trends for 2017")
Any human activity system of even minimal complexity needs an infrastructure to process its resources. Failure to maintain the latter leads to a deterioration of the former. Generally speaking, the symptoms of a failing system show up as an inappropriate density of activities within their specific functional space, a lop-sided equation describing the existence and usage of resources, and an inadequate mindset compared to the actual needs of the system. Over the last few days the Courier Mail ran a series of articles on Queensland Health. Hospitals are overcrowded, doctors are forced to work extended hours leading to serious cases of fatigue, and a management style exists that not only discourages critical thinking but seems at a loss to comprehend the severity of the situation (for example, doctors who complain face having their career prospects cut short, suggestions to alleviate overcrowding are dismissed, the official answer to falling asleep during surgery is drinking up to six (!) cups of coffee). As with any large-scale system, once a problem has grown to significant proportions the contributing factors can be found in a variety of functional patterns. From corrupted political processes to organisational dysfunction to a population that has largely unlearned how to look after itself, they form the strands creating the overall fabric. In the blog 2050: Age of the Silverback a scenario in the near future is depicted based on current developments. As can be seen in this particular example the process of degeneration has already begun. (Source: Courier Mail, 7 Sep 09, "Dead Tired", 8 Sep, "Let Them Drink Coffee", 9 Sep, "Coffee 'can't fix sick health system'", 10 Sep, "Doctors' cry for help")
Australia, article by Mark Christensen, director of economic consultancy, in tempore Advisory. He points to the difficulties surrounding the sale of Telstra and sees it as caused by an inherent mismatch between the needs for service across an area and profit considerations in terms of consumer density, something that is a particular problem in a country such as Australia with its large regions of low population density. The issue is not treated from the perspective of functional domains as in Otoom, but raises points addressed in the context of the suggested Bill of Rights with its emphasis on adequate infrastructure as a precursor to obligatory arrangements of a human rights nature. (Source: Courier Mail, 4 Aug 05, "Build it and we'll pay")
Iraq war - and now Afghanistan:
Last month the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released its latest quarterly report (the Report) on the situation in that country. For readers of this website there is, quite literally, nothing new (apart from the current section see also related articles, "Notes on Where is Iraq heading? Lessons from Basra", "Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report", "Notes on the SIGAR Afghanistan Report and WikiLeaks", "The Report of the Iraq Inquiry"). According to the Report the total amount of money spent between 2002 and 2017 comes to US$4.7 billion, and yet the question is asked, once again, "why is Afghanistan not stabilized?" (Report, p. 5). The fundamental issues persist, as highlighted from the very beginning in 2003. An intensely fractious demographic, high emotions, religious fervour, tribal affiliations, and a centuries-long history of war and authoritarianism, they all have formed a cultural identity that cannot be transformed under a Western framework. Yet the latter has been the guiding principle of engagement under the assumption that a dynamic familiar to US, British, or German officials (the three most prominent players there, p. 82) would somehow, as if by magic, turn a Middle Eastern society into a clone of another world. When 1 billion led to nowhere it became 2 billion, when 2 billion failed another billion was added, and so on. So much so, even a quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland appears in the Report. In "...an exchange between the Cheshire Cat and Alice where the Cat assures Alice 'she will go "somewhere" provided "you only walk long enough"' (p. 126). It starts with the sheer definition of what is trying to be achieved in the first place. "Properly defining stabilization is particularly difficult, because it is often used by policymakers in cables, strategic documents, and speeches as a vague euphemism to mean 'fixing' a country or area mired in conflict" (p. 7). "British and U.S. troops spent years operating in Helmand Province", yet "despite the positive effects of force saturation, all of Helmand eventually deteriorated and the province is now among the most clearly Taliban-controlled provinces in the country" (p. 11). US counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2017 swallowed US$8.62 billion (p. 17), but "opium-poppy cultivation set another new record" (p.45). Just how much it has increased can be seen on the chart on p. 189. Drug use among women and children is among the highest documented worldwide (p. 200). Lack of definition together with the local reinterpretation to suit tribal needs resulted in such things as shower floors with mould (p. 26); "not all facilities had access to reliable electricity and most had minor structural issues, including cracked walls and leaking roofs" (p. 28); buildings with "sub-optimal" staircases (p. 29); "a bridge so poorly constructed it poses a risk to people on or near it" (p. 30). Metrics - those definitions again - used to indicate the level of government control are precarious at best (p. 70) or are getting worse (p. 72). Government compliance, locally as well as internationally, is lagging while at the same time leading to requests for even more money from the outside (p. 109). If any improvement had been achieved at all chances are the Taliban could make use of them too (p. 131). On a not dissimilar note, criminal investigations are hampered by the sheer volume of incidents as well as the timelines set in order to bring a case to trial, both of which are used by the criminals themselves to undermine the process (p. 140). On a global scale of regulatory quality and efficiency, Afghanistan ranks 183rd out of 190 economies, the Report notes (p. 169). If that had been the result for any business receiving almost $5 billion over a decade... or to rephrase the question: is there any business given funds at that rate for even a single year? So bizarre is the situation, even stories once suited to the entertainment of children have become an adequate metaphor. (Source: SIGAR - Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, 30 July 2018)
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq with its idealistic promises the situation there has brought many erstwhile enthusiasts back to reality (this is March 2013). The local demographics did not abide by US and allied expectations and the region is as unstable as ever. As Douglas Herbert writes, "The epitome of this misreading of the Iraq war was an assertion by Paul Wolfowitz, a neo-con who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, that Iraq 'could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.'" The complex mechanisms required for an undertaking such as reconstruction are not supported by tribalism, religious obsession, and emotional hyperbole. To quote Herbert again, "By 2006, when the blood insurgency in Iraq had reached civil war proportions, Wolfowitz, challenged about that statement, retorted: 'What surprised all of us is the war has gone on a lot longer than we thought in a different manner.'" Not everyone was surprised. Iraq has been presented as an example of mutually incompatible human activity systems on a large scale as early as 2003 in "On the origin of Mind", confirmed over the years by reports that matched the original analysis point by point ("Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report", "Notes on Where is Iraq heading? Lessons from Basra"). And by the way, that analysis was not based on simplistic anti-war sentiments but was derived from non-ideological, realistic observations.
With the official withdrawal date of 2014 rapidly approaching, the International Crisis Group released a report on the chances Afghanistan will have a functional government afterwards. While there are many well-meant recommendations, the real chance is nil. Under the Otoom model several key factors can be identified in terms of the local demographic's inherent characteristics: tribalism, religious obsession, high emotional intensity, and identity-related sentiments about such things as honour and protection of the self. Every point made in the report confirms that assessment. The very first sentence of the report is telling: "Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014." Under those conditions the attempts by the US and its allies to install some form of governance in line with Western-held ideas about representation and cooperation are bound to fail. For example, quotas for women and minorities are meaningless to a demographic for which the aim of factional survival and the maintenance of a very specific form of identity is paramount. Even the few recommendations that are acted upon are only done so under the banner of self-serving tribalism. Under Otoom one of the aspects of a demographic qualifying it for the establishment of a more comprehensive system of statehood is the social horizon entertained by its members; in other words, the capacity of individuals to think beyond their immediate preferences. In Afghanistan the social horizon is minimal, hence the country's inability over the centuries to evolve into a functioning nation. Any measure towards peace and stability has first and foremost to pass the approval of factional interests which makes any implementation along those lines impossible unless the factions can be overruled by a strongman. The intent by the outsiders to install a proper government is a typical example of high-to-low cognitive transference in which sophisticated ideas get compacted into simplistic perspectives at the other end to suit the local conditions. The absence of a commensurate understanding of what it means to establish a wider system of governance makes the suggestions by the outsiders meaningless. In fact, after their withdrawal it will only get worse. As the report notes, "At worst, it could trigger extensive unrest, fragmentation of the security services and perhaps even a much wider civil war." (Source: International Crisis Group, "Afghanistan the long hard road to the 2014 transition", Brussels, 8 Oct 12)
DW Journal featured an interview with an Afghani working as a translator with the German contingent there. He expressed the fear that after the Germans leave retaliation will set in; to be safe he and his entire family would have to leave. The issue of locals who have assisted the Allied forces being left behind and then facing the retribution of the Taliban has been mentioned almost two years ago, see the entry "391,832 reports on the war.." further below made on 25 Oct 10 within the context of the readjustment process once the US and its allies have left. (Source: DW Journal, SBS TV, 2 Oct 12, 16:00 AEST)
Under the Otoom model human activity systems are seen as systems in general, situated within their respective environments and therefore subject to the demands and opportunities in place at that time. Subjective interpretations do not come into it. In this context the predictions about the near future focused on the trend in well-off societies to implement actions and policies despite the fact that they incur costs in a wider sense. These costs are, and currently can be, born due to the general wealth and therefore go largely unquestioned. An increase in pressure on resources however creates the additional problem of having to deal with existing activity sub systems that are costly but also have situated themselves within society at large. Removing them or even decreasing their efficacy produces a disturbance in itself. One example is the ramped-up security on airports due to the recent terrorist attempts to blow up an airliner. Full body scans are needed which produce an image of the physical human body, including of course that of children (the reason why, after tens of thousands of years of evolution, humans are still cagey about accepting their physical shape is a subject outside the present scope). Over the last few decades the influence of feminism has created the added concern about the status of children, born out of the innate disposition of the female to put children first, and now transposed into society at large. The related issue of sexuality, straddling as it does Christian antagonism towards the human eros in general as well as the feminist antagonism towards its male aspect, has lead to an emotional layer which obscures more rational considerations on the subject. Nevertheless, systems are subject to the natural laws of sustainability and survival, moral perceptions included. We now have arrived at a situation where fears about showing the physical appearance of children are deemed more significant than preventing the destruction of an aircraft full of people, at least in certain, not uninfluential quarters. Moralists are convinced they are protecting the children, but all they have done is aid the enemy and once again weakened the West. The predictions mentioned earlier are already coming true. Actual dangers are heightened because of a reluctance to let go of the luxury of living in an artificially construed comfort zone, even if some of the underlying elements of the latter border on the psychotic. There are two possible outcomes: either society understands the problem and dispenses with the subjectivity of pressure groups, or the dangers are allowed to exert their influence and run society into the ground as it squanders its resources. (Source: Courier Mail, 6 Jan 10, "Body scanners expose fears")
The results from Australia's same-sex marriage survey, initiated by the federal government and conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, are in. To the question, "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?", 61.6% answered "Yes" and 38.4% voted against; the overall participation rate was 79.5%. While the "Yes" vote had been hardly in doubt, for some the fact that over a third of the respondents chose "No" was of concern. From the debates and arguments during the lead up it became clear the overriding factor in many people's minds was the adherence to their religion. For Middle Eastern religions (ie, Judaism, Christianity, Islam) human sexuality and its manifestations are of particular concern (this very section features many examples), to the point where even a Western nation like Australia reserves its most severe punishments for those declared to be 'deviant'. In Africa and the Middle East 'severe punishment' stands for torture and killing. Interestingly, when advocates for the proposed law argued their stance, the issue was framed in terms of liberty and acceptance of a particular custom; opponents on the other hand saw it as a direct attack on their mythology. For the latter there was much more at stake than two people getting a cohabitation certificate. For example, a One Nation candidate (a party favoured by particularly earnest conservatives and Christians) feared the Safe Schools program which dealt with homosexuality among other things would have primary school children strapping on dildos, and a "Yes" vote would make any opposition illegal. From a cognitive perspective the kind of spectres conjured by fear is always significant since it characterises their owner in no uncertain terms. In principle it is no different from the hysteria generated by the belief in succubi and incubi during the European Middle Ages and says more about the afflicted than the actual situation. As far as the vote as such was concerned, the call by believers for safeguarding 'religious freedom' in the case of "Yes" presents a familiar Orwellian double-speak, where 'freedom' means the right to curtail someone else's liberty. By that logic tolerance towards intolerance is still tolerance. In any case, how far should the freedom to practice one's superstition go? Comparing the survey results mapped to electoral divisions with the ethnic composition of those areas, in New South Wales and Victoria there is not a single division that voted "No" and at the same time did not have a generally non-European ethnic mix below the average (see table). In Queensland the "No" vote came from already conservative demographics; no extra support needed. After the results were in church leaders expressed their disappointment while not veering from their ideological stance; Islamic Council of Queensland spokesman Ali Kadri said a large portion of the Islamic community did not support gay marriage. Australia with its largely secular laws can prevent the more extreme manifestations from occurring, but without such defence mechanisms just about anything goes. On our very doorstep Papua New Guinea has to deal with sorcery-related killings. Back in 2013 the question was raised, "Given that other nations have achieved much more in that regard (think of gay marriage, voluntary euthanasia, illegal drugs) and considering that politicians here have shown particular disdain towards those matters, could it be that our decision makers are personally too weak to speak out against all that sinful waywardness and instead act by proxy through populating our society with traditional conservatism once again?" ("Report: Inquiry into Multiculturalism in Australia - the cognitive view" > 7. Social inclusion). In an age when clear-thinking citizens are needed to chart a nation's path into the future, Australia sees no problem with stacking its population with medievalists. (Sources: "Overall summary", Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 5 Nov 2017; Courier Mail, 15 Nov 17, D Atkins, "Right flank own goals boost ALP"; Courier Mail, 16 Nov 17,V Marsh, "Religious leaders unrelenting as they fail to recognise civil change"; The National, 16 Nov 17, C Yowat, "Sorcery-related killing 'punishable by death'"; The National, 16 Nov 17, "New cases: One woman killed, one tortured in public")
A framework consisting of incongruent thought structures (clusters of representative neurons which emerged from dissonant input) is likely to form subsystems that in themselves are dissonant - in terms of internal organisation the stage has been set already. Religion is a prime example where arguments are raised that just do not make sense, although the religionist can take them very seriously. A few days ago (today is the 10 July 12) a regional court in Cologne, Germany, ruled against a doctor who performed circumcision on a Muslim boy, stating that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents". Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper from the US-based Wiesenthal Center wrote to chancellor Angela Merkel demanding the ruling be overturned immediately. One argument used was that the practice of circumcision has existed for 3500 years. Away from the obsessive/subjective that would in fact seem an endorsement of the court since a custom about mutilation going that far back in time surely would have outlived its usefulness by now. We are in the 21st century, aren't we? The rabbis also conjure Hitler with a quote from him, "conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish like circumcision". This type of reasoning, linking a questionable concept to something assuredly negative and thereby removing any questions about the concept because it is now the innocent victim, is a practice worthy of snake oil merchants. Just because Hitler attacked conscience and connected it to circumcision does not mean anyone who is against circumcision is now a Nazi. On the SBS-TV news Mordechai Tzvi, for whom circumcising boys is his profession, explains that the court's decision won't stop him and that the operation is performed with a very sharp knife, eight days after birth. The rationale of condoning mutilation early in life because a human's neuronal system is too underdeveloped to understand anything that is going on (let alone being able to philosophise about the ceremony in other-worldly terms) says something about religious thought processes. As to the sharpness of the knife used, that could be used by any dictatorial regime as a warning to use sharper instruments next time. Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal considers the ruling a serious assault on the Jewish faith because circumcision goes to the very depth of "what we are". Yes. That is exactly the problem with religion - core identities are simply unassailable. Take away the core and there is nothing left, just like taking the seed out of a tree removes the existence of the tree. Or consider the Middle East. There won't be peace until there are Israelis and Palestinians instead of Jews and Muslims.
The current entry does not refer to an event that serves as a direct confirmation of the Otoom model, but is an example of what would not happen if a Bill of Rights such as suggested under Otoom were in place. In short, a Catholic priest conducts his church's rituals in a manner that caused him to be reported to the Vatican. That state's representative in Queensland feels compelled to warn the priest to change his ways otherwise his credentials would be revoked and he would be forced to vacate the church in which the ceremonies are held. If necessary use of the police would be made. An over-arching document such as a Bill of Rights should, if mature enough, prevent religion and other ideology from utilising the resources of the state. In modern-day society with its multi-faceted members this would be essential to maintain a sustainable peace. In this particular case a church may well decide who should and who should not belong to its ranks; but at the same time it is an internal matter and the police has more important things to do than worry about a tiff between what is in the end one phantast against another. If it does come to some confrontation involving public resources it will be interesting to see what type of demographics decide to take part in the melee. Their own predisposition towards make-belief could then be ascertained. (Source: Courier Mail, 13 Feb 09, "Bishop fears he'll go next")
Four books are reviewed, three of them written by Muslim women detailing their experiences with Islam and its culture towards females, and one by an East-Indian woman describing what it is like to grow up inside her demographic in the UK (note, this is not about the books themselves so much as about their reviews). The first three are, "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "Love in a Torn Land" by Jean Sasson, and "In the Name of Honour" by Mukhtar Mai. The fourth is "Shame" by Jasvinder Sanghera. Their respective topics are, having undergone female genital mutilation and fleeing from Somalia, being eventually educated in the West and becoming a campaigner against Muslim oppression of women; being of semi-Kurdish descent growing up in Iraq and having to deal with the country's problems as well as Arab prejudice; born in Pakistan and raped on the order of the local village council, she decided to fight back and take the perpetrators to court, gaining international attention in the process; growing up in an Asian ghetto in Derby, UK, and having her marriage arranged by her traditionalist parents, she escapes the oppression but is disowned by her family and has to endure the ramifications. A number of points are remarkable: (1) each woman succeeded eventually and so was able to present her account, a fate out of reach for millions of others in similar circumstances; (2) it was the interaction with Western values, even if only as onlooker in the rape case from Pakistan, which made the success happen; (3) in every case religion played a fundamental part in the circumstances and in a manner largely unfamiliar to Western suburbanites; (4) the attitude of the women towards their religion reflects their personal understanding and general level of education, from open and courageous hostility to overall submission despite the effects they had to endure; (5) their experiences and the million-fold repetition across those demographics stands in direct contrast to the perception cultivated in the West by political correctness and misguided activists. Under the Otoom model the functionalities of such behaviour forms have been analysed and their repercussions identified, all in line with the experiences of these authors. The current phenomenon of a host society, ie the West, allowing the creation and maintenance of disparate demographics in its midst that are not only antithetical to the achieved insights of the former but act in a hostile manner towards it, represents the typical scenario of a once dominant culture but now entering decay. During the dominance phase the society in question serves as attractor to outsiders, its increased sophistication prevents it from understanding the brutishness of some of the newcomers, and once decay sets in it becomes incapable of defending itself against the undermining of its former strengths. (Source: Courier Mail, 24 Mar 07, "Facing up to a hostile world")
Role of governments in society:
The Queensland Productivity Commission released its report on imprisonment and recidivism, here referred to as the Report. It identifies the overall cost of the state's criminal justice system at around $3.5 billion for the year 2017-18 (Report p. xii). This includes 11,000 sworn police officers, 200,000 criminal lodgements each year and 9,000 prisoners managed in custody, plus several other stakeholders. Feedback from those stakeholders contains the general message of not achieving the desired outcomes due to lack of facilities dealing with specific cases, the complexity of the source of anti-social behaviour and the lack of follow-through initiatives continuing after the time spent in jail (R, p. xiv). Statistics show the imprisonment rates are increasing while the crime rate is falling (R, p. xv). Hence the Report makes the point that the rise in imprisonment rates is not due to an increase in crime, but due to changes in the system (R, p. xx). To break down the Report's entire content across its 512 pages goes beyond the current scope; the focus here is on the realisation that the ongoing and increasing costs to the taxpayer demand a rethink of how the system is configured. As such it is in line with the predictions made in "2050: Age of the Silverback", where the sheer resources needed to process the heightened capacity in order to identify and evaluate the data on population characteristics demand a reconfiguration of the system and its subsystems that deal with the data. It is a phenomenon that accompanies the availability of technology on one hand and the psychological as well as cultural drivers which underpin the use the technology is put to. As illicit drugs feature prominently in the submissions to the Report, a significant section is dedicated to place the general attitude towards them in the historical and social context (R, p. 207). Since the 19th century the official measures taken against drugs have gradually hardened, from an initial laissez faire position to today's widened scope regarding type and juridical responses (R, p. 210). To put the above-mentioned number of criminal lodgements into context, the Report notes that about 90,000 drug offences are prosecuted while an estimated 2680 million drug offences are committed each year (R, p. 216). That discrepancy points to the very low expectancy of getting caught as perceived by the user. Given the already high costs of law enforcement, if the number of prosecutions would even remotely approach that of offences, the costs to the government (that is, the taxpayer) would be simply unbearable. Furthermore, as a former Police Commissioner has pointed out from his years of experience in the field, drug production and consumption have actually increased despite the evermore stringent law enforcement measures (R, p. 218). The Report goes into various aspects and/or consequences of law reform, including more resources available for health providers, undermining the power of crime cartels, and the taxability of substances which so far are outside the scope of any effective framework. Not surprisingly then, it recommends several steps including legalisation in some cases, decriminalisation in others, and turning the focus away from the criminal approach towards a health-based and regulatory one (R, p. 247). Although the Report addresses certain options regarding the rehabilitation process (such as the restorative approach, R, p. 260), when it comes to the psychological profile of offenders it lists a number of factors, such as age, psychiatric history, level of education, etc (R, p. 297) and delineates the possible respective initiatives from there. In terms of the scenario depicted in "2050:...", dealing with human activity systems being of the complex dynamic kind, all these initiatives still incur a certain cost. Whether they ultimately result in greater efficiency overall depends on the specific results of their implementation. Should the pressure on government budgets increase nevertheless, not only would something akin to the above become more attractive per se, the scope for such actions however would become narrower in tandem. It may not reach the minimal level of attention practised up until the 19th century (as referred to in the Report's historical overview) where part of the population had been simply left to its own devices with the rest pursuing their affairs less burdened, but there would be demographics that will not respond to whatever assistance has been reserved for them (the rest contributes to society through their greater resilience). How society would fare then remains to be seen. Hence the allusion to the 'silverback' in the "2050:..." article. The Queensland Government's response? It will appoint an Implementation Committee (QGR, p. 4), commencing its work in early 2020 (QGR, p. 12), the creation of a new statutory body, the Justice Reform Office (QGR, p. 5), tasked with operationalising "whole-of-system key performance indicators and measures", to "operationalise a criminal justice system demand and financial forecasting model to support preimplementation testing of criminal justice policy initiatives", and to "firmly embed a whole-of-system monitoring and decision-making architecture". Nevertheless, that impressive bureaucratic phalanx does not include planned legislative amendments or plans to remove offences (QGR, p. 6), the very basis of the Report's recommendations. It does however incorporate a "review of judicial discretion and enhancements to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC)" (QGR, p. 8). Whether the average offender, having been duly 'operationalised', will rise to the government's expectation is anyone's guess. On the other hand, given the effects of bureaucracy in general, applying such a range of initiatives (however well they may be understood at the street level) to that demographic's criteria will only heighten the costs further, thereby accentuating the problematic nature of the current situation. See also the Submission to the 2015 National Ice Taskforce. (Sources: Queensland Productivity Commission, August 2019, "Inquiry into Imprisonment and Recidivism - Final Report", Brisbane; Queensland Government, January 2020, "Queensland Government response")
Mention has been made of the ever growing role of data gathering by governments and other entities, moving closer to the kind of future predicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback" (see directly below for some examples). In Australia two new additions make the information value of the data more comprehensive still. The "Fintel Alliance", a covert intelligence unit connecting the country's spy and law agencies, the Immigration Department, the Australian Taxation Office, banks and financial services such as PayPal and Western Union, enables the generation of profiles reaching into such areas as health, religious and philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and practices as well as biometric information. Data are already shared with other foreign governments. Secondly, in order to predict the possibility of certain individuals becoming lone-wolf terrorists a New South Wales police unit makes use of mental health records with the intent of intervening early. The NSW police also participates in Fintel. Such initiatives, prompted by a general increase in the complexity of human activity systems (and therefore by a growing potential of their dynamics) as well as the importation of mindsets which have not been part of a society's evolution and hence the development of checks and balances during its past (eg, Muslims in the West), have now added another dimension to the use of data banks: historical data, current parameters, as well as probabilities pointing to the future. Note these are no longer considerations performed by someone's mind (those were always performed), but are now part of the databases themselves. (Sources: Courier Mail, 27 Apr 17, N Bita, "Big Brother is definitely watching with new government database"; 27 Apr 17, "Police target serial pests in terror strategy")
In the article "2050: Age of the Silverback" a future is described where ever more sophisticated data gathering is used to enhance the process of government (this from the perspective of government, not necessarily shared by its targets). At the moment the Australian Attorney-General's Department is reviewing the current access limitations to data held by telephone and internet service providers, so far restricted to the purpose of fighting serious crime and terrorism (they are metadata - voice, text and email communications, time, data and device locations and internet sessions). The idea is to include civil litigation in the area of family law for cases of violence or child abduction. President of the Law Council of Australia Fiona McLeod says data retention laws are intrusive and "tech experts and privacy advocates" fear the proposal will lead to a "flood of litigation of (sic) people 'fishing' for private details and make it easier for aggrieved former partners to become stalkers". Any rational argument about cost savings in the Family Court as a consequence of more available data would require a comprehensive analysis of not just the cases themselves but what their outcomes mean in terms of all the parties involved in the months if not years to come. A simple argument would restrict itself to court appearances only, more convenient for governments. In any case, the proposal does show how the availability of direct data and subsequent information through their cross-matching opens up possibilities which evidently have not escaped governments. Last year the Queensland government began a trial in Cherbourg, an indigenous community, in which sporting grants are tied to anti-domestic violence initiatives undertaken by clubs. Input is provided by "police, hospital staff, domestic violence services and correction staff". Initiatives such as the latter are candidates for functional overlaps with the former, because both are based on the same technology and both operate under the auspices of government expenditure needing tangible results in the end. In terms of cognitive dynamics it is a case of activity clusters becoming affinitive with each other and both becoming more significant in the process. (Sources: Courier Mail, 4 Aug 16, J Tin, "Sport bid to tackle violence in home"; 7 Jan 17, R Chester, "You're data dumped")
Efficiency can be defined through the ratio of resources spent on modifying a process to the gains delivered by the result. As such it is non-judgmental as far as that relationship is concerned, and it relies on measurable quantities. When a government is faced with growing demands for expenditure (ie, spending money which is collected from the tax payers), its attention is directed towards entities which so far are not a source of its income, especially so if through their activities potential revenue is compromised. A scenario described in "2050: Age of the Silverback" in which future entities are streamlined in the service of efficiency ratios in whatever context that may be applied. In Australia charities of all kinds are one type of entity that enjoys tax concessions. Those that engage in environmental activism and therefore stall an industrial development (a source of revenue) while at the same time not paying tax themselves, would come under the government's scrutiny sooner or later. Under planned legislation such charities would have their tax status revoked if donations are spent in a manner defined as counterproductive. Last year a parliamentary inquiry focused on 600-odd eco-charities, and in 2014 the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission contacted over 3,800 charities to confirm whether they still operated according to the charter. From the initial set covering a wide range of activities such as veterans' and church groups, alcoholics anonymous groups and animal rights organisations, the field has narrowed to environmental activities and now to their relationships with specific enterprises like Barrier Reef tourism and coal mining projects. Accentuating a policy from the general to the more defined is a sign of pressure, a dynamic that sees itself as more secure in its stated assertions rather than using relatively vague definitions. An increasing sophistication of data gathering coupled with unambiguous expressions of need reinforce each other. Zeroing in on a particular political activism is one example of what is still to come. (Sources: Courier Mail, 15 Nov 16, R Viellaris, "Taxing Times for Charities"; ABC News, 10 Apr 15, C Duffy, "Government MP steps up campaign against eco-charity tax concessions"; The Guardian, P Farrell, 5 Jul 14, "More than 3,800 Australian charities warned they could lose tax status")
As concerns deepen about the security implications related to the collapse of borders in Europe, the number of types of refugees moving into Western nations, and the terrorist attacks within their borders, the Australian Government formed a new counter-terrorism intelligence group within its Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The entity will use mass travel data from the public in order to identify suspicious patterns. This is in addition to activities already performed by the other national security agencies. While the details would hardly be available to the general population, it can be assumed the process involves the combing, cross-matching and filtering of huge volumes of data, given the current state of technology in software capabilities in general. This means a recursive approach which also allows the programs to learn as the intermittent results are coming in. The information becomes 'deeper'. It is another step towards the scenario depicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback" as far as population profiling is concerned. To quote from that article, "Privacy has been substituted by meta-data encompassing lateral as well as longitudinal storage of personal information". In the case of border protection the development has largely been prompted by the security issues surrounding the existence of Islam, made manifest across a range of contexts. However, generally speaking the growing complexity of advanced societies requires a commensurate complexity in terms of measures designed to protect those societies, and any system grating against the framework of the former is a candidate for becoming a target. Whether the system represents an ideology such as Islam or a secular variety in the form of a political movement, the potential threat against host systems can exist in any case. As such it is nothing new, but global population numbers together with the evolving technological means for groups of members to form effective clusters as well as the growing density of human habitation has scaled up the issue. Information means data and computers allow an ever more effective way of processing them. The outcomes are inevitable regardless of the specific purpose at the time, hence the predictions made in "2050:..." are bound to come true. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 August 2016, S Benson, "Spy unit to watch the front lines")
Donald Trump has been selected as the Republican nominee for this year's US presidential elections and Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' counterpart. One employs the rhetoric of a schoolboy, the other needed to be investigated by the FBI. Both attract a considerable following, although for different reasons. From the perspective of human activity systems the current dynamics surrounding these elections are a sign of societal shift. Every society has leaders of some kind. The sheer interdependence of such systems makes the question of whether society needs them irrelevant; they exist and therefore are part of it. Any group of individuals will feature leaders as soon as its functional scope has reached critical mass. That is to say, as soon as the number of its members has reached a point where an immediate interaction among them is no longer feasible, someone will be seen as a leader who acts on behalf of the rest simply because a direct exchange of information no longer takes place. The size of the critical mass is determined by the types of activities as well as the capabilities of the members in relation to the types. That leadership (one could call it an 'elite') relies on the outcome of the group's feedback mechanism to survive. If the elite does not deliver, or if the understanding by the rest falls short of grasping what the elite does, realistic contenders for the leadership emerge. They do so regardless of the governmental framework in place. Over the last few decades the West has experienced a change in relatively fundamental attitudes which influence our lives. A belief that everybody is the same, the rise of ideology, feminism, they all have either enhanced perceptions about certain events or have forced them into the background. For example, the disrespect for science among particular demographics brought back the debate about immunisation, whereas in the 1950s most school children would have known of someone in class who suffered from polio and didn't need to be convinced. Or, the threat by Islam is no longer seen in the historical context but is perceived in terms of Western-style problems of unemployment and unfulfilled materialistic desires while one's own freedoms are taken for granted. At the same time the established elite tends to dismiss critical questions from 'below' as naive nonsense and not much else. Leadership potential is not about a proven track record (that comes later, if at all) but is seen in terms of the difference between the present and what is hoped for instead; hence candidates are not perceived by what they are but by what they are not in comparison. In Australia the situation is similar. In this year's elections a total of 57 parties vied for votes. Most represent single issues, an indication of the fractured nature of society's mindset. The automatic process of leadership dynamics ensures someone will unseat the status quo. Who that can be is a reflection of the general state of society. (Sources: ABC News, 20 July 2016, "Trump formally endorsed as Republican candidate for US presidency"; ABC News, 27 July 2016, "Hillary Clinton gains Democratic presidential nomination"; Australian Electoral Commission, 16 May 2016, "Current Register of Political Parties")
The UK government announced new plans requiring service providers to store internet activity by anyone in Britain, including one's browser history. Home Secretary Theresa May described it as a "significant departure" from previous plans. Significantly, a panel of judges will be given the power to block spying operations, rather than seeking special approval to spy in the first place. The initiative will "provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight". While some opposition has been raised, Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham supported the draft bill. The integration and hence mutual interdependencies among demographics in a globalised world, and consequent threats to national security prompt measures to be taken that previously would have been dismissed at the very least as fanciful in a democratic society (and of course, technology provides the means). With this in mind the predictions made in "2050: Age of the Silverback" have once again been confirmed through another incremental step towards them ("Privacy has been substituted by meta-data encompassing lateral as well as longitudinal storage of personal information ... etc"). In a society beset with moralisms stemming from its Christian heritage the concern about privacy is not so much about information per se (as social media amply demonstrate), but rather the uncomfortable sense of having a potential transgression witnessed by others. All the more reason for advocating a set of laws which purposefully differentiates between actions that can be justified on rational grounds and those that cannot. The former are disregarded by the law, the latter are acted upon (see Basic Charter). Given the trends witnessed so far, such a reorientation of our values is essential to prevent the descent into the proverbial police state. (Source: BBC News, 4 November 2015, "Details of UK website visits 'to be stored for year'")
In 2050: Age of the Silverback, written in December 2007, a new orientation of societies was forecast. Rather than adhering to traditional borders, the type of demographic determines the nation to a significant extent, although political borders are unlikely to be abolished completely. Currently, with terrorism becoming an ever-growing problem, the need to define a citizen in terms of his or her allegiance to the state is coming into focus. At the moment Australia's federal government debates the changing of the law in order to allow it to revoke the citizenship from local terrorists. While those of dual nationality pose no problem for politicians, calls for stripping non-dual Australians of their citizenship as well have their opponents. The UK has already established some precedent, although its laws only apply if the individual does not become stateless. While the article "2050.." does not deal with terrorism, the move towards political type-casting is a function of re-orienting demographics in line with their essential utility in relation to an evermore complex society. Just as trans-national entities and crime syndicates group in terms of their type, so is there the incentive to group demographics within borders by type. Complexity requires organisation, and organisation needs the relevant categorisation of its constituent parts. This in turn leads to the differentiation of societies overall as depicted in "2050..". Eventually the term 'stateless' may well lose its contemporary significance, instead forcing the person to leave the broader sphere of industrialised systems. (Source: Courier Mail, 30 May 15, E. Whinnett, "Cabinet told: get tough on treason")
First and foremost the entries on these pages are about events that have confirmed the validity of the Otoom model. Likewise, since the model describes the dynamics of human activity systems, any suggestions made on this website based on such dynamics are derived from circumstances which cause a problem in one form or another if the players are left to their own devices. This too represents a validation. One example is the current attempt by the Australian federal government to strengthen its anti-terror laws. One proposed feature relates to data retention by internet service providers to make surveillance easier for security agencies. While there is general consensus about the danger terrorism poses, there is nevertheless a concern that these laws will undermine the privacy ordinary citizens have come to expect. The retention refers to meta data, such as IP addresses, website URLs, email addresses, but not the actual content inside the packets transmitted between the internet user and the relevant server (keeping in mind that packets pass through sometimes dozens of routers on the way to their ultimate destination). In many, if not most cases, the nature of a website will point to the likely content of transmissions anyway, whether such content is explicitly observed by someone or not. Leaving that aside, the concern is certainly justified. It may be time to revisit the notion of 'privacy', a concept that has evolved over generations when the general infrastructure allowed for individuals to conduct their affairs largely unencumbered by others. It was not always so. From tribal societies to the Middle Ages what individuals did had been far more accessible to the rest than today. Furthermore, over the years laws have been enacted that seek to constrain the wishes of citizens should they be deemed to be undesirable. To some extent the rules are not based on rational analysis but are a product of a perception influenced by religion and/or ideology. The ultimate effect on society in terms of the society's status and sustainability is a topic too large for this section, but there is no denying that any law carries a cost. In an age where governments face increasing budgetary constraints to meet the challenges of ageing, crime and ideological obsession, while still required to meet the demands in terms of infrastructure, health, education, welfare and general administration, the point is approaching at which the entire equation dips into the red. Hence the need for an over-arching definition of what constitutes positive and/or negative behaviour in order to guide contemporary decision making processes becomes ever more acute. The Basic Charter is a suggestion to provide a general template for a nation's fundamental principles and rules - a guiding framework defining the ultimate goal of citizens and what kind of rules are constructive and which ones are not. Such a Charter will not prevent debate about this or that proposal, in fact it will promote it. Yet in doing so potential pitfalls will become apparent and so hopefully will be prevented before some legislation has locked us into costly mitigation. Sooner or later that type of protective mechanism will become a must. On that note it would also be helpful to consider what constitutes a viable society in the first place, see The 10 axioms of Society. (Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October 2014, M. Knott, "Malcolm Turnbull introduces legislation for metadata retention scheme")
The Commission of Audit report was the concept, Australia's 2014 budget is the plan. How much of all this will turn into action depends on who the gods favour on the political battlefield that is being staked out as we speak. As so many events before, the new budget represents another marker towards the scenario depicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback", it being one version of a government having taken stock of its nation's state of affairs and then concluded that life is finite and everything has a cost after all. "2050: .." presents the scenario of the world in the near future when the indulgences demanded by various pressure groups had become unsustainable not merely in the minds of political opponents but in the real. There is still some way to go, which is why newspapers can respond with headlines such as "Hit where it hurts" or "Dr Joe's debt cure" (referring to Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey), accompanied by a flood of opinions for and against the proposed measures rather than providing the background data and leaving it at that. A comparable scenario would be people opining about the electrical force over a century ago; today we simply state the voltage. The scaling-down of government expenditure, the scaling-down of government per se in fact, will be argued over for years to come (especially since the budget contains longer-term policies), but as such they paint an ominous picture. At a glance: foreign aid will be reduced, 16,500 public service positions to go over the next three years and over 900 government entities abolished or merged, a fuel excise, no more free visits to the doctor, the age pension to be accessible only at 70 by the year 2035 and eligibility criteria tightened, higher tax for high income earners, family payments reduced or abolished altogether, universities to set their own fees and debt repayments by students tightened, unemployment benefits harder to get. Systems tend to settle into a certain state, and its member functions evolve their own characteristics in line with the overall interdependencies. As far as the various cause-and-effect relationships are concerned, the effect of any top-down modification is a function of a particular target's position on this functional chain of command. The closer to the source the more fundamental the change, but also the more dramatic it will be with its commensurate consequences. The further away from the source the less effective it will be overall, but it will also tend to invite less opposition. Although it may be tempting to analyse the budget in terms of such distances, in the end the exercise will be largely meaningless because complex, dynamic systems are highly interdependent and therefore open to influences from seemingly insignificant directions. For example, reducing foreign aid may be considered less significant compared to, say, a hike in medical fees, but the results in some other country might destabilise existing power structures there, causing refugees to interfere with some trade posts which in turn affects Australian companies. Yet foreign aid does represent an expenditure which needs to be addressed in the context of budgetary pressures. Perhaps a poorer demographic somewhere leads to a decrease in terrorism due to lack of resources, or perhaps the opposite is the case because feverish emotions are being financed from afar in any case. It will be interesting to see what emerges from that new budget, and how the ongoing pressure - intentional or otherwise - will shape the resultant political and societal landscape. Watch this space. Or, better still, watch your surrounds. (Source: Courier Mail, 14 May 14, "The Extreme Hockey Diet")
Australian treasurer Joe Hockey backs a move by the British Government to further increase the pension age to 70. New Zealand plans to increase the age to 66 by 2036, while Canada decided on 67 by the year 2023. The problems caused by an ageing population together with increasing pressures on budgets exist worldwide. Especially in relatively wealthy nations these are exacerbated by the expectation of comforts various pressure groups have managed to establish for themselves. Higher demands lead to higher costs while at the same time productivity has not kept pace. Age pensions and welfare in general represent the largest expenditure governments have to juggle with the rest. Since productivity also relies on the availability of resources and resources are becoming scarcer, the overall equation begins to fray at the edges. Hence governments are forced to deal with the problem despite its unpalatable flavour for voters. Some examples of the demands made are featured in the article "The not so hidden costs of feminism", written in November 2012, and a projection towards the future based on those developing patterns can be found in "2050: Age of the Silverback", written in December 2007 and being confirmed ever since. The effects are even more acute for nations that depend on foreign aid which is beginning to dry up; see "Aiding the catastrophe: Africa", written in June 2008. All have been derived from the Otoom perspective of viewing human activities as systems, where affinity relationships and interdependencies sustained by the flow of information between relevant clusters are the ultimate determinants of a system and its subsystems. The initiative by so many governments in relation to the pension age are yet another marker towards the not-so-distant future. (Sources: Courier Mail, 22 Feb 14, "Workers to clock on until 70"; 26 Nov 12, "The not so hidden costs of feminism"; 30 Dec 07, "2050: Age of the Silverback"; 25 Jun 08, "Aiding the catastrophe: Africa")
Science in general:
It's nice to see some gradual recognition that all (ie, non-linear intelligent systems) is not what it seems (some hugely complex algorithm). To begin with, 'complicated' can be a differential equation; 'complex' are 1000 additions. Dazzled by nature's sheer variety, the traditional view has been that it all has been put together (and probably designed!) by some equally enormous framework. Some even believed only a god could have accomplished that task. Yet here we are in 2017 and the First Symposium on Social Interactions in Complex Intelligent Systems (SICIS) (my italics) and held in Bath during April invites contributions within the context of complex behaviours emerging from simple behaviours of single agents. The event is part of the 2017 Annual Convention of the AISB. Nevertheless, the models used, it is declared, could be expected from fields such as "statistical physics, information theory, and non-linear dynamics" while the research methods could be "graph theory, bifurcation diagrams, network analysis, agent-based modeling, theoretical physics, non-linear modeling, and computational models including cellular automata, and multi-agent systems", to quote from "Aims and Scope" on the SICIS page. While there is no doubt that all these disciplines and methodologies have their rightful place (just consider the vast improvements in driver-less car applications and/or drone swarms), in the end they represent a top-down approach; a design which by its very nature needs the complicated code to take care of any eventuality the particular machine might encounter. In the AISB's Quarterly its editor Joel Parthemore suggests that "even if their [ie, human beings] behaviour could in principle be reducible to an algorithm, the algorithm would be so mind-bogglingly complex as to be for all practical purposes pointless" (his italics). However, nature (not being pointless) doesn't work that way. The details are described at length in The origin of Mind, but for now two general considerations must suffice. Firstly, if a human brain is representative of large complexity CL and any one of its components (down to neurons) is complexity CL-n where n is the level of the subsystem the component is part of, then their respective functional scopes must abide by the same ratios, FL vs FL-n (for what is meant by functionality see here). But both, C... and F... are sets with their own subsets, that is to say, any CL-n must operate within the overall functionality of CL. Hence any CL-n must be a collection of the smallest-scope subsets, otherwise their respective functionalities do not follow the same ratios. If they do not, CL is not representative of its subsets and cannot be described as CL; in this case C cannot be applied to the brain as per definition and any simulation would need an algorithm beyond the scope of a CL-n. Hence current applications do indeed require ever more complex algorithms (the top-down approach), while a nature-based model would simply be a composite of minimal subsets. The second consideration is an example. See the rather substantial code for drawing a helix in OpenGl, and compare it with the much smaller snippet for creating the trajectories of planets in 3D space in a simulation as part of the CauseF program. The former is a top-down algorithm explicitly defining each and every point of the helix. The latter has declared the dimension of the space with its force vectors and defines the location of each planet in terms of the emerging situation as the planets are influenced by the surrounding force field. While not an algorithm for non-linear intelligence, the planets are driven by the functionalities of the event space, a bottom-up approach. So, a simulation of non-linear intelligence as found in nature cannot involve a mind-boggling complexity, rather it would have to be collection of minimal states, defined by a simple algorithm, but the entire set would indeed be huge. In the human cerebral cortex the number of neurons alone is approx. 20,000,000,000, never mind the number of connections (up to 250,000), the 5000 odd neurotransmitters, and the several hundred thousands of proteins manufactured by each neuron. Each of these sets answers to their minimal subsets, yet their combinatorial variance does boggle the mind. (Source: J Parthemore, Editorial, AISB Quarterly, Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB), UK, November 2016)
The system of mind is based on the rules of non-linear behaviour. Non-linearity extends to biological systems in general (and beyond) and is responsible for the manifest unfolding of evolution; see The mechanics of chaos: a primer for the human mind for more detail. A significant consequence of the feedback mechanism inherent in such systems is adaptation to changing circumstances within a given system and outside its functional scope (the traditional, if somewhat simplistic, Darwinian notion of 'survival of the fittest'), as well as the emergence of phenomena which are not impeded by other factors (a less familiar concept), although these phenomena in themselves may not directly lead to a greater fitness overall (for example, in the male European stag beetle, Lucanus cervus, the mandibles enlarged due to the absence of significant limitations until a certain size was reached; their use in fighting for a female came later while their lumbering flight is still good enough to search for females). Now research by Mitteroeckera, Huttegger, Fischer and Pavlicev has shown that the increasing incidence of Caesarian sections in industrialised countries has led to relatively high rates of fetopelvic disproportion, that is larger newborns compared to the mother's pelvis size. Smaller newborns represent no problems at birth, whereas too large a size is responsible for the mother's and infant's mortality. As the authors write, if D stands for an idealised variable that "represents the difference between the size of the neonate and the size of the maternal pelvic canal", then "the success of labor is not only influenced by D but also by numerous other factors, including flexibility of the pelvic ligaments, orientation of the neonate, and efficiency of uterine contractions. However, as long as these factors are statistically independent of the discrepancy between neonatal and maternal dimensions, the selection gradient and evolutionary trajectory of D can be modeled independently of other factors", and "neonatal size and maternal pelvic dimensions influence fitness (i.e., reproductive success) of the newborn and the mother in multiple ways". They also note, "It has been shown that a wide pelvic cavity increases the probability of disorders". In the absence of Caesarian sections the survival rate of mother and child drops dramatically once the foetus has become too large (the graph resembles a cliff-edge), thereby limiting the spread of fetopelvic disproportion. However, with women opting for C-sections that barrier has been removed, and hence the "10 to 20% increase in the rate of fetopelvic disproportion since the regular use of Caesarean sections". Expressed in terms of non-linear systems, there are a number of factors whose functionalities contribute to greater fitness, accompanied by another set of functionalities which from some point onwards abruptly stop the advantage. The probabilities of both sets, situated within the probability ranges pertaining to the overall set of functionalities impacting on the wider system of population, make for survival. Introducing an additional factor (ie, C-sections) unseats the relationship in favour of survival, but enlarges the percentage of subsystems (ie, certain mothers) which require that additional factor to survive. Should that factor be removed, the wider system is compromised. Note that the rules of non-linear systems do not address the personal and/or emotional motives of humans; the latter introduce a further complexity in human affairs. Ultimately however, they too are subject to such rules. (Source: P Mitteroeckera, S M Huttegger, B Fischer, M Pavlicev, "Cliff-edge model of obstetric selection in humans", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Washington, DC, October 2016)
In his article Self-directed speech affects visual search performance Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swingley describe the results of experiments that show a significant improvement in the time taken to find objects when saying the names of those objects. The authors write, "language is more than simply a tool for communication, but rather that it alters ongoing cognitive (and even perceptual) processing in nontrivial ways" (p. 1). Under the Otoom model the phenomenon can be expected. The cognitive dynamics involved during a task (in this case searching for some item) comprise interdependent representative neuronal clusters that define the outcome in terms of their respective affinity relationships between the perceived version (that what is internally imagined) and the actual version (the sensory input coming from the outside). The stronger the affinity relationships are the greater the success (eg, less search time, higher accuracy). Since the affinity relationships define themselves according to the quality of the clusters involved, the more comprehensive their content (ie, the wider their scopes) the better the overall performance. Conversely, affinities of lower quality will diminish the performance. As the authors note, "Conversely, speaking might be detrimental when searching for objects having weaker associations with the label - for example, objects less typical of their categories or objects whose visual properties are less predictable from the label" (p. 3), and, "speaking can be detrimental when the visual representation activated by the verbal label deviates from that of the target item" (p. 8). Note the inherent detail: should the linguistic interpretation diverge from its visual counterpart the potential for affinity creation between the two becomes compromised. No affinity, no relevance as perceived by the mind, and hence no productive result. In other words, if while talking to themselves the person employs language that is more ambiguous (or less coherent for that matter), either the searched-for object will less likely be found or, if the object is less strictly defined to begin with (such as formulating some policy) the result will less likely reflect the reality of the situation. Therefore language and how competently we use it, matters. It also matters how complex one's language itself can be. In the authors' words, referring to their experiments, "language not only is a communicative tool, but modulates ongoing cognitive and perceptual processes in the language user, thus affecting performance on nonlinguistic tasks". Back in 1941 Alfred Korzybski warned in his book Science and Sanity, "We do not realise what tremendous power the structure of habitual language has. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of semantic reactions and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses upon us subconsciously, is 'automatically projected' upon the world around us". (Source: Gary Lupyan & Daniel Swingley (2011): Self-directed speech affects visual search performance, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, DOI:10.1080/17470218.2011.647039; A. Korzybski, "Science and Sanity", International Non-aristotelian Publishing Co., Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1941, (p. 90))
Further to the issue of memory recall (see the entry directly below), researchers at MIT (Susumu Tonegawa, Tomas Ryan, Dheeraj Roy, Michelle Pignatelli) have identified engram cells in the brain which are instrumental in restoring lost memory. The previously held theory that retrograde amnesia is caused by damage to specific cells or that access to those cells is blocked, has been countered by the discovery of "neurons that are activated during the process of acquiring a memory, causing enduring physical or chemical changes". These neurons, when reactivated by a trigger (some sight or smell for example), the memory is recalled. Called "memory engram cells" their function is similar to the dynamics of affinity clusters under the Otoom model, whereby memory is triggered by relational states in representative neighbouring groups of neurons which in turn 'open' the cells representative of the original memory for recall. So far it was assumed that changes in the synaptic strengths and in spine properties were responsible for memory recall. To quote Alcino Silva, director of the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, "This groundbreaking paper suggests that these changes may not be as critical for memory as once thought, since under certain conditions, it seems to be possible to disrupt these changes and still preserve memory". And, "it appears that these changes may be needed for memory retrieval, a mysterious process that has so far evaded neuroscientists". It should be pointed out that the Otoom model describes the mind, not the dynamics in the underpinning physical brain. Yet the framework of the former would by necessity reflect the processes in the latter, and, as ongoing research demonstrates, the similarities keep adding up. (Source: MIT News, H. Knight, 28 May 15, "Researchers find "lost" memories")
It has been assumed that long-term-memory (LTM) is stored in the synapses of the brain. However, under the Otoom model memory is not a however discrete mirror of data stored at particular locations. Rather, it represents the re-evoked potential of a cluster of neuronal states that have been modified as a function of incoming data. Hence the data are represented through the neuronal states. The history of neuronal states follows the dynamics of chaos in terms of probability envelopes that provide a boundary encompassing possible modifications as the states are being updated through incoming data. Since the data actively interact with the neurons' states the process is one of a mutual reorganisation among the participating neurons. The synapses merely facilitate the connections and data transfer, in themselves they do not constitute the information per se. Therefore the resultant re-representation of memory content is subject to degrees of variance from the original data, including phenomena termed false memory syndrome, in which further information changes the previously held neuronal states (for example, a story featuring a red bus is overlaid with another about a green bus, and the memory of the former from now on contains a green bus without the holder of that memory being any wiser). Research at UCLA has found that memory retention in Aplysia (a marine snail) is indeed not centred on synapses, but is restored as soon as the synaptic transmissions are restored. Some quotes from the paper: "Here we investigated whether blocking the reconsolidation of the memory for LTF, or inhibiting PKM Apl III, altered this long-term change in presynaptic structure. We found that the synaptic growth induced by LTF training was reversed by these two memory-disrupting manipulations; however, although the overall number of presynaptic varicosities reverted to the original, pretraining level, the resultant morphological pattern of sensorimotor synapses differed significantly from the original one. These results imply that the persistence of memory does not require the stability of particular synaptic connections"; "These results point to the nucleus of neurons as the potential locus of the engram in Aplysia"; "The data also suggest that synaptic change is an expression mechanism, rather than a storage mechanism, for LTM in Aplysia". And interestingly, particularly in the light of neuronal states being the basis for memory retention (my italics), "The second possible explanation incorporates the notion of an as-yet-unidentified priming mechanism; here, reconsolidation blockade and inhibition of PKM, can erase the stored sensitization memory through the reversal of pre- and postsynaptic structures induced by the long-term training, but the antimnemonic treatments do not eliminate the primer. The primer does not constitute LTM, but is required for its reconstitution via new synaptic growth. The priming signal might interact with fresh facilitatory input to the withdrawal circuit, due to the additional (3x) tail shocks, to upregulate the number of synaptic contacts; the appropriate number of contacts could be determined by the homeostatic process, and involve signals from existing and new synapses". (Source: S. Chen, D. Cai, K. Pearce, P. Y-W Sun, A. C. Roberts, D. L. Glanzman, "Reinstatement of long-term memory following erasure of its behavioral and synaptic expression in Aplysia", elifesciences, 17 November 2014, http://elifesciences.org/content/3/e03896)
A major problem the Otoom model experiences concerns the readiness or otherwise by the wider community to accept its findings, and that includes scientists. Most researchers in the field of artificial intelligence and cognition assume the mind works according to some formal framework in which premise and conclusion sit neatly side by side. An algorithm is developed that seeks to emulate the perception and the result is seen as a way to explain the system of mind, at least to some extent. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. There is a framework but it involves the principle functionalities of chaos at such a fundamental level, in other words at such a high degree of functional granularity, that just about any idea can be entertained by humans, regardless how presumptuous or plain weird it may be. In his article "Frontal Cortex" Jonah Lehrer mentions the work by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, Shane Frederick and others who showed through a number of especially configured questions given to subjects that the brain does not necessarily process information in a logical way. A new study by Richard West and Keith Stanovich confirmed the essential idea that human beings come up with answers that are influenced by factors other than the neat processes so beloved by AI theorists. The findings by Kahneman et al of course precede the Otoom model, but the point to be made here is that despite decades of evidence the blindness still persists. Lehrer recounts the remark by one "eminent American philosopher" responding to Kahneman's ideas, "I am not interested in the psychology of stupidity." Here is the crux of the problem: scientists do not like to mingle with the tedious, the mundane, the dross. Yet such reticence leads to a disregard for phenomena that are not the prerogative of the unwashed masses, but are actually an essential feature of cognitive dynamics per se. One could go as far as to say that their aversion is exactly that kind of irrationality which is so distasteful to them.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, in collaboration with the Charité University Hospital and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, managed to predict the brain signals in the participants of an experiment just before conscious decisions were made. The team was led by Professor Dr John-Dylan Haynes. It confirms that decisions people are consciously aware of have already been made by the brain. It is in line with the Otoom mind model since the differentiation between conscious and subconscious thought structures (functional entities emergent from the neurons' dynamics) does not merely cover the physicality of the responsible regions, but also the degree of awareness by the individual. Conscious thought structures are sensated, their subconscious counterparts are not; yet the latter are far more complex than the former. The dynamics and ramifications are outlined in "On the origin of Mind". (Source: Max Planck Society Press Release, 14 Apr 08, "Unconscious decisions in the brain")
In the article "2050: Age of the Silverback" (Dec 2007) our near future is organised around the efficiency quotients defining society's instrumentalities and defined by a pragmatic analysis of relevant government policies. By that stage no industrialised society can afford to neglect the potential of its members, be they individuals or companies (non-industrialised societies can afford to do so even less but do not have the means at their disposal to respond accordingly). Australian federal treasurer Joe Hockey's plan to modify existing tax laws to cut the top tax rate and reduce tax for businesses as part of a wider overhaul is a step in this direction. It is based on the reasoning that business spends more time avoiding tax than being productive and thereby contribute to the economy. Although the idea as such is not new, seen against the background of rising costs to governments overall makes it more substantial than previous suggestions along those lines. Comparing government expenditure as an input to the economy with the returns from the rest of the system as a net result will become a major exercise. (Source: Courier Mail, 16 Jul 2015, "Hockey wants tax cut for successful")
The ever increasing pressures on governments to reconcile the expectations of people and the demands of interest groups with their budgets is bound to swing the focus towards the taxation system at regular intervals. Now, with a federal election at the door, with deficits making voters nervous, and with politicians desperate to attach to the good and keep their distance from the bad, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has found its way into the media. Despite the placating rhetoric from the main parties (no-one wants to hear about more taxes, especially before an election) the concept won't go away, and for good reason. When it comes to revenue raising, the tax base is all-important; how much tax is paid by individuals and businesses matters when it comes to the perception of fairness; and last but certainly not least, the costs are going up all the time - think of welfare, the ageing population, the infrastructure overall. In terms of a systems approach (viewing society as a system and its various subsystems) the underlying question of how to organise the feedback loop from the individual member to the collective purse and back again, ultimately determines a system's efficacy. Tax is another name for that loop. Since subsystems distinguish themselves by the resources used, by their respective output, and to what degree they impact on their host (that is wider society) and also benefit from it, moneys taken from them should ideally be linked to the parameters responsible for the above mentioned performances. A GST does that, provided it takes the place of all the other taxes created over the decades. At the moment this is not the case, and so the GST is understandably viewed with fear rather than relief. According to Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president David Goodwin the business community believed broad-based consumption taxes were the most efficient way for the economy, pointing out that there are nearly 130 taxes to contend with. Jessica Irvine, the Courier Mail's national economics editor, writes about the "GST phobia" and gives ten good reasons why it should be raised. Interestingly, she does not present the GST in terms of the proportional efficacy parameters attached to the payers. When it comes to systems at any scale (and tax and/or the GST is a system in its own right) it matters how they are implemented and of course understood in the first place. The need for streamlining the taxation system has been on the cards all along; back in 1990 a consumption tax was suggested in the "Manifesto on the Third Millennium" (p. 53, ISBN 0731699661, see the Museum page). It is more relevant than ever. (Sources: Courier Mail, 20 May 2013, Robyn Ironside, "Taxing Time"; 22 May, Jessica Irvine, "Facts on the tax no one can avoid")
One of the characteristics of non-linear, ie complex dynamic systems, is the phenomenon of affinity relationships leading to cluster building. As an analytical tool its power is often underestimated. The inherent feedback mechanism in such systems causes their functional elements to align with each other and as a consequence create regions which have acquired a commensurate quality. They have become performers in their own right within the system. Common examples are individuals being influenced by others among their social circles; or a fad taking hold across a population. The emergence of social pyramids is based on these dynamics (see Criminologists use the term.. for an example mentioned on this page; there are others). Right now we are witnessing one such alignment, and it is a profound one. In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Manchester, London and Melbourne governments were once again reminded of the finite resources any security agency has to confront. While the direct response in terms of getting police to the scene and successfully dealing with the perpetrators there is admirable, the capacity of intelligence gathering to foresee the precise future disposition of an individual's mind is found wanting. Given the nature of non-linear systems (and the human mind is one of them) a prediction using exact parameters is impossible. Some of the attackers were known to police, others were not. The police themselves (designed for the odd anti-social exception in a civilised society) become over-stretched, prompting British Prime Minister Theresa May to deploy up to 5000 armed soldiers to patrol the streets; this was after the Manchester bombing. After London she called for tougher laws still and should they interfere with current civil liberties then it's the liberties that should give way. In Australia after Melbourne parole laws are set to tighten and intelligence services sharing information with parole boards nationwide are being discussed. Furthermore, passports and drivers licences will be linked to a new biometric system. And in New South Wales new legislation will protect police officers when using lethal force against terrorists as well as having access to rapid-fire weapons (this latest initiative was essentially one result of the inquiry into the deadly 2014 Lindt Café siege in Sydney but now given more political clout). All this against the background of Muslims returning from the Middle East, adding to the jihadis already here. In the UK there are over 3000 altogether, locally Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings warned a significant number of jihadis were not born in Australia, something that "ASIO takes .. absolutely seriously". Under normal circumstances criminal behaviour is an exceptional event addressed within the overall framework of a cohesive and therefore supportive society. Failures are exceptions within the exception. However, should the cohesion be undermined by a disparate and antagonistic demographic the current system fails fundamentally. Stronger measures are needed and so Jim Molan, a retired army officer with 40 years' worth of leadership experience in Iraq, is able to suggest internment as a viable response to the current situation. Consider the relevant parameters in the societal equation: the probability of minds being reset positively, the probability of new minds adding to the existing pool of candidates for the former, plus the parallel probability of minds being affected by already existing as well as developing affinity relationships between mindsets (non-linear dynamics are defined in terms of probabilities, not discrete values). Societies that pride themselves on civil liberties, on the rule of law, on the sharing of common values and on the right to privacy, are becoming increasingly compromised on all those points. The imposed affinity with a different culture has seen to it. A useful analogy is provided by the study of infectious disease outbreaks amongst a given population, such as Rocha's and Masuda's paper ("Individual-based approach to epidemic processes on arbitrary dynamic contact networks"). Since in both cases we are dealing with natural phenomena inherent in non-linear systems the comparison is warranted. Note the concept of super-spreading: "Super-spreading is observed in a range of infectious diseases such as sexually transmitted infections, SARS, and smallpox and is not simply determined by the number of contacts that an individual owns but significantly by its position in the contact networks. Identifying super-spreaders is a fundamental step towards efficient infection interventions because targeting super-spreaders potentially saves resources" (my italics). In addition the reference to a disease's efficacy vs herd immunity, the degree of activity by some individuals compared to others, and the need to trace the transmission trees, they all represent contextual similarities to the transmission of aggressive concepts within a society that, firstly, does not share such a concept, and secondly, is faced with the need to acquire a sufficient degree of immunity. Or take the information provided by Australia's Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in relation to foot-and-mouth disease, a "highly contagious animal disease that would have severe consequences were it to be introduced into Australia". When it comes to medical conditions the emphasis is on treatment if possible, but the elementary focus is on preventing the hostile agent from appearing in the first place and/or eliminating its presence. Since both humans and animals share fundamental biological rule sets, with human health being arguably more important than its animal counterpart, the need for a reality-based approach to terrorism is particularly urgent. The discovery of radicals and their sources (ie, find infected organisms and their disease vectors), recognising their social pyramids (ie, trace the transmission trees), the identification of the radicals' positioning with the community (ie, the position of super-spreaders within the contact network), and finally, the removal of radicals and their clusters from the population (ie, eliminate the infected to save the herd, concentrating on the likely carriers and/or species and not others), these constitute successful measures, their efficacy proven many times over because they are in line with the rules of non-linear systems. The United Kingdom has already experienced a profound shift from the traditional values that go to the very core of British culture, and the shift is ongoing. And all because decision makers neglected to heed the principles of social dynamics from the very beginning. (Sources: Courier Mail, E Whinnett, "PM calls out army as threat 'critical'"; E Whinnett, M McCormack, C Armstrong, 8 June 17, "'Angels' Taken by Evil"; M Killoran, 8 June 17, "Bid to lock in tougher parole laws"; 9 June 17, "Intelligence sharing on agenda for state meet"; R Viellaris, 9 June 17, "Biometric tool flags passport to safety"; 9 June 17, "NSW cops get shoot to kill power and new guns"; 25 May 17, "Jihadis flooding back into the UK"; 1 June 17, "Jihadists arrived on special visa"; J Molan, 6 June 17, "Internment May Be The Way"; nature.com, Scientific Reports, L E C Rocha, N Masuda, 26 August 16, "Individual-based approach to epidemic processes on arbitrary dynamic contact networks"; Australian Government, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, 18 January 17, "Foot-and-mouth disease")
A Muslim radical used a truck to mow down 60 shoppers at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12. In Melbourne around 400 armed police raided several properties and arrested four suspected terrorists who were about to wreak destruction in the inner city. The Berlin attacker was caught and killed in Italy the following Friday. Once again the arguments around Islam, immigration, and security measures flare up. Learning that in Berlin it was a Tunisian who had already served time in an Italian prison, been known to German authorities and had been under their surveillance for six months but was not deported because he lacked valid identity papers, did nothing to defuse the emotions (although people who bury their heads in the law rather than reality may see nothing wrong with deeming pieces of paper more important than a flesh-and-blood person). Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a former deputy secretary in the Department of Defence, argues against the idea of the 'lone wolf', a person who gets radicalised without any links to terrorist organisations (or rather, known terrorist organisations - the Middle East happens to be a fluid environment). While the recent attacks prove otherwise in any case, he writes, the ISIS network of sympathisers in Europe and North Africa is alive and well. From the perspective of human activity systems and/or cognitive dynamics the question lone wolf or not is a moot point. Firstly, no-one in a society is a perfect loner; secondly, people tend to mix with like-minded individuals whether in person or via the internet (as Jennings also tells us). And thirdly, whatever the message propagated out there, unless it finds resonance within the mind of the potential recipient to begin with it will not be processed further. What kind of messages are available to Muslims and therefore will resonate to whatever degree can be seen in excerpts from the Koran where there are over 500 of them spread throughout that book's 440-odd pages. Given those circumstances no security service, even at the highest levels of vigilance and skill, can discover something only a mind reader could know about. It is unrealistic therefore to speak of self-radicalisation, especially in the case of such violent results; they need a particular mind, prepared in a particular way. Whether such a mind decides to specifically mention ISIS is neither here nor there, nor would ISIS deny itself the opportunity to add another chip to its shoulder in any case. Meanwhile in Queensland people are advised to go about their business as usual and enjoy the festivities but naturally a "strengthened security plan" exists already. Perhaps it was the intent to cause havoc in Melbourne at a time when even our most antagonistic call a pause that prompted Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin to claim that plot concerned him "more than any other event". And for Justice Minister Michael Keenan the present delivers the most difficult security situation in the nation's history: "Since the middle of 2014, we've had four terror attacks ... and the events in Melbourne overnight is the 12th disruption our agencies have had in the past 2½ years". It will be interesting to see how much damage needs to be done and how far our resources will have to be stretched before the sheer effort outweighs the imagined costs imposed by self-mutilating post-modernists and somebody breaks their spell. The principles governing non-linear systems (and human society is one of them) hold everywhere in nature, for any species. We know how to deal with a highly infectious killer disease, and it is not the piecemeal approach so far used against terrorism. (Sources: Courier Mail, 23 Dec 16, "Madman on the loose"; J Dowling, 24 Dec 16, "Unholy terror"; 24 Dec 16, "Fugitive shot dead"; P Jennings, 23 Dec 16, "Weakness is not an option in the battle against ISIS terror"; J McKay, P Malone, 24 Dec 16, "Guard up but it's business as usual"; 24 Dec 16, "Police boss alarmed like never before")
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has issued a directive to National Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator Greg Moriarty to widen the focus applied to suspected terrorists to include patterns of mental illness or criminal behaviour. As recent attacks in France, Germany and the US have shown, the potential for violence under the label of Islam exists outside the more conventional circles within Muslim groups. Assistant Commissioner of Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and Major Events Command Tracy Linford said the experience from overseas indicates the many ways acts of terrorism can manifest. If all this suggests that so far the attention by intelligence agencies excluded such types, then the profiling in terms of the potential for violence, religion, and anti-social sentiments in general to combine was not based on cognitive dynamics. Mindsets feature clusters of ideations that actively respond to affinities in other clusters, regardless in what context they may occur. For someone capable (that is, cognitively capable) of violent acts a context such as an ideology which offers violence to pursue its agenda presents an added opportunity to engage in such acts. From their perspective that other context represents further confirmation of the perceived validity of their thoughts. Should that context be a major, established ideology then the confirmation has even more value. At that point it no longer matters how wide the social circles are in which the person moves; the conjunct of violence, spirituality and opposition to others in society has become a self-sustaining mental space. While there are always certain individuals who are situated beyond the norms of civil behaviour, a society remains relatively stable if any of the respective cognitive types are kept in isolation from each other. If their scope widens so that 'anti-social' becomes 'anti-Western', if the ideology is a global religion, and if violence has become a virtual trademark of piety and commitment, then any previously mitigating influence from more positive notions has been rendered useless. Inevitably, the workload for any law enforcement counter measures will have increased substantially. As Viellaris' reportage notes, "the rate of 'flagged' persons of interest is understood to have become almost overwhelming to authorities". When dealing with large-scale cognitive systems an effective response would need to be commensurate with the scale; targeting individual cases no longer works. An analogy would be fire (also a complex dynamic system by the way). There are three essential elements without which fire cannot happen: heat, oxygen, and combustible material. To extinguish a fire one of the three per se must be removed - not a particular example of oxygen, nor a particular source of heat, and so on. Non-linear systems have their own rules, whether they are convenient or not. (Source: Courier Mail, R Viellaris, 22 July 16, "Focus on new jihadist breed"; J McKay, 23 July 16, "Terrorism hits home")
In their article Paris: The War ISIS Wants Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid outline the nature of a terrorist organisation like ISIS based on statistics and interviews with Muslims. Scott Atran is a Director of Research at France's National Center for Scientific Research and Research Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and the University of Michigan; Nafees Hamid is a doctoral student at University College London and a fellow of ARTIS International. From all the details in their text several things stand out. Such groups are not political in the conventional sense; rather they represent a mindset based on mysticism, self-sacrifice and purpose. Not all terrorists have been Muslims from the outset, they have become attracted to its non-materialistic tenets. The purpose of these groups is served by exploring weaknesses in their enemy, and the West has presented them with a number of options. Under the framework of cognitive dynamics the characteristics of Islamic terrorism have been identified for a long time now - this very page is testimony to that. Equally important, the psychological deterioration in the West has not only prevented our current leaders from recognising the symptoms but enhanced their proliferation. Articles such as What kills a culture, The not so hidden costs of feminism, or Something to learn about Education: its situatedness within complex dynamic systems present many examples (in the last the phenomenon of the social pyramid is mentioned, something Atran and Hamid allude to when they write about the groupings behind the actual terrorists). The pervasive idea that everybody is the same opened the doors to the misguided perception under which an entire society is believed to be as independently purposeful as its proponents. The result is not guidance but neglect. The society-wide applied mother instinct cocooning the young from even the simplest of challenges has not produced resilience but a sense of loss. And the genuflection before primitive cultures did not lead to tolerance but lack of confidence in oneself. In complex dynamic systems such as human society functionalities tend to group together if they share some of their traits. Hence disenfranchised young people are not so much a candidate for Islam as a religion but for the sense of purpose and belonging it offers. The wider geo-political ramifications of such groups' activities may be beyond the scope of a youth, but the cognitive processes of their minds recognise an affinity. In the meantime the Western establishments do not understand the dynamics they are facing and often make things worse. For example, inviting potential radicals to join the general ambience of decay does exactly the opposite, as Atran's and Hamid's article has pointed out. Or, the constant message by Muslims that something like ISIS has nothing to do with Islam because they kill more Muslims (ie, citizens of a Muslim country) than Westerners, is naively taken onboard without thinking what this really means: if a Muslim terrorist organisation kills more Muslims in their countries than in others then this is proof that the greater the number of Muslims the higher the incidence of terrorism. Yet calls for curbing Muslim immigration is met with derision. At the same time, for Western governments even keeping track of actual terrorists has become practically impossible, never mind all the supporters behind them. The clustering of similarly negative elements within mindsets has caused problems not just with Islam but has also produced deteriorating political systems. What have been assumed to be unassailable frameworks begin to falter, and suddenly the world has changed. (Source: S Atran, N Hamid, "Paris: The War ISIS Wants", The New York Review of Books, 16 November 2015)
According to a "top-level intelligence briefing" suspected extremists who have been prevented from leaving Australia are more likely to commit acts of terror here because they have become frustrated. They are exhorted through their networks to use "innovative weapons and tactics". Considering the type of demographic the jihadists belong to this should have been expected from the very beginning. One's identity is a multi-layered core within which the fundamentals of culture, upbringing, and the current environment define the person. Outside events can trigger any of the layers in terms of the events' affinity with the core. Hence a centuries-old framework of religious hegemony (manifested in the idea of a global caliphate) is stronger than the laws of a nation, especially if the environment of that nation is experienced as an immigrant. The strength of any of the layers depends on the person's exposure to their source. In the case of Islam the transference of religious sentiments into young minds is generally practised more intensively compared to what happens in a modern-day Christian household for example. This is one reason why the Australian government's attempts to "de-radicalise" young Muslims need to be treated with scepticism. A hundred years of sport and beach in a democracy carries less weight than 1400 years of Islamic rule mirrored in grand mosques (a rather simplistic view, but the targets tend not to be deep thinkers). Furthermore, Australia is obliged under international law to stop its nationals joining terror groups. This is one example of a wider template having become an issue for a nation that has to grapple with present-day contingencies. The problematic nature of Muslim demographics has been outlined as far back as 2011 - see Submission to Inquiry into Multiculturalism in Australia and entries under Terrorism. (Source: N. Doorley, "Ongoing threat of local jihadists", The Courier Mail, 23 July 2015)
When ISIS attacked the town of Ramadi, instead of putting up a defence the Iraqi soldiers took off. After years of training by the US for just such occasions, the result was another victory for the terrorists. Conspiracy theories already emerge, the White House couches its response in ambiguously diplomatic terms, and all the while a realistic assessment of the type of demographic the world is dealing with still has not made its way into the minds of the decision makers. There is a reason why such countries are relatively cohesive only if led by a strong man, something pointed out on these pages more than once. Almost nine years ago Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report appeared on this site, followed a year later by Notes on Where is Iraq heading? Lessons from Basra, both using official reports on the situation in Iraq in order to highlight the aspects responsible for the ongoing calamity. No effective leadership took over from Saddam Hussein, instead a far more aggressive tranche of Muslims had formed which no longer confines its obsession with dominance to a nation but has the entire world in sight; its aim is to establish a global caliphate. The inability of the West to comprehend the Middle East infused it with an idealistic vision of its own version of peace, but in reality the power vacuum produced a force more brutal than the erstwhile dictators. (Source: Courier Mail, 30 May 15, "New War of Conspiracies")
The killing of a dozen people at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, including two police officers, on the morning of 7 January 2015 evoked not only the outrage of civilised people around the world but also demonstrated the effects of disparate mindsets. It does not take an expert in cognitive dynamics to relate to the phenomena but an understanding of what exactly is going on has acquired a particular urgency in modern times. The relevant aspects are: (a) society is a complex, dynamic system with a high degree of interdependency among its elements; (b) demographics within society represent further subsystems; (c) the overall functioning of the society depends on how well its subsystems coexist with each other; (d) the more comprehensive the governing rules of a subsystem the greater the chance of disharmony. As to (a), Western society has achieved a high degree of complexity which means it relies on many of its constituents to function properly. As to (b), greater complexity invites greater diversity because sophisticated individuals tend to be more tolerant. As to (c), disparate demographics become a threat to their host if they undermine its principles, and a greater diversity overall increases the probability of that happening. As to (d), any demographic within a society that follows a relatively comprehensive set of rules raises the prospect of any one of them clashing with its host sooner rather than later, and the stricter the rules the earlier this will occur; Islam is one of those demographics. The constant friction causes resentment on both sides, and the ideological drivers not only inure the perpetrators against outside criticism especially if they feel they have a god on their side, the friction affirms their beliefs. There is also the issue of time. A system can only defend itself against a threat if it has adequate resources. Since the attacker also needs resources, an insufficient or lagging response further diminishes the defender's resources while at the same time allowing the attacker to accumulate theirs. Should that trend continue there comes a point at which the defender has none left. The situation is similar to cancer spreading in a body (a complex, dynamic system in itself). If the initial excisions are inadequate the cancer is allowed to grow while at the same time the body's defence system is weakened. Eventually any further operation is useless because the body has become too weak overall. The response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre prompted mass demonstrations and the social media were flooded with more cartoons and the very images that provoked the attack in the first place, including the "Je suis Charlie" sign. Politicians in many countries condemned the attack. On the other hand, France's ruling politicians are mindful of their nation's roughly 5 million Muslims. In any case, despite arrests here and there such attacks are still possible. And, as the rising costs of counter-terrorism measures already show (see below) the burden on governments is increasing steadily. (Sources: "Charlie Hebdo shooting: 12 people killed, 11 injured, in attack on Paris offices of satirical newspaper", ABC News, 7 January 2015; C. Matlack, "Antiterror Arrests Didn't Prevent the Paris Newspaper Shooting", BloombergBusinessweek, 7 January 2015; Libby Nelson, "12 powerful political cartoons responding to the Charlie Hebdo attack", Vox, 8 January 2015; Amanda Taub, "Charlie Hebdo and its biting satire, explained in 9 of its most iconic covers", Vox, 7 January 2015)
A contracting environment can have effects that do not appear immediately on the daily radar, especially when they involve ideas so far considered untouchable (see "2050: Age of the Silverback"). So how about racial profiling, or to be more precise, demographic profiling? At the moment Australia has budgetary problems, in line with most Western countries. The realisation that one cannot spend what one does not have is beginning to dawn on politicians despite their desire to appear as attractive to the electorate as possible. During the recent Cabinet reshuffle the idea was propagated that welfare (a major source of expenditure) is money that ultimately is provided by the tax payer and which therefore needs to be spent wisely. The ageing of the population and rising health costs overall are just two factors that will make the issue ever more acute as time goes on. In other words, here is the general population supplying so many dollars, and there is welfare which consumes dollars, and the two must - somehow, somewhere - meet. How many jolts to the system does it take to continue thinking along that path, where income per type is being measured against outgoings per type? Over the past few years Australia has spent ever more on national security. The recent killings in Sydney and discoveries by security agencies regarding terror plots across the country are driving the need for such spending. In June 2011 it was reported that the Australian Federal Police received $1.7 billion in extra funding and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service received an extra $365 million. At that time the war in Afghanistan cost $6.1 billion. An article in September that year mentions $10.4 billion spent on additional security at home and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's budget having increased by 471% over the past nine years, from $69 million to just under $400 million. Forward to 2014 and the budget update includes further savings to account for new security measures; "The military deployment in Iraq costs about $500 million a year while the increase in funding for spy agencies and the Australian Federal Police costs $630m over four years", writes David Crowe in The Australian. Then there are the costs associated with measures such as data retention, the administrative costs surrounding police actions and their legal aftermaths, and so on; all money that has to come from somewhere. Now consider this: according to the 2011 Census Australia's Muslim population was at just over 476,000 or 2.2% of the population. After Buddhism Islam is the most represented religion at 5.4%, and the highest proportion of recent arrivals after Hinduism is also Islam at 8.4%. Since not all Muslims are tax payers, and since the major concern of security agencies is derived from Islam, the question suggests itself as to how many tax dollars are coming from that relatively small but fast growing demographic compared to the amount all the nation's tax payers have to come up with to guard us against extremists. With young Muslims going to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS and now returning there is a further load on the budget due to the need to monitor these individuals. Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says the threat could last for "years and years". If any organisation is faced with the prospect of a significant, ongoing and steadily increasing expenditure while at the same time having to address a shrinking income base the alarm bells would start ringing. For the administrators the situation becomes not dissimilar to a herd where an infectious disease has taken hold and individual treatments become unfeasible compared to culling those affected outright. Furthermore, since those measures are instituted under duress from an outside demographic, how does that sit with the United Nations' "principles of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples", reinforced as recently as December 2010? Humans have minds that allow them to couch an issue in terms of ethics and morals. Human activity systems however are part of nature, and they function according to rules over which we have no control in the end. For nature, breaking those rules does not evoke pity, it evokes its laws. (Sources: B. Keane, "What has the war on terror cost taxpayers, and did they get value for money?", Crikey, 26 June 2011; T. Hyland, "Terror fight costs $30 billion", The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 2011; D. Crowe, "Foreign aid faces cut to fight terror, plan national security", The Australian, 2 October 2014; "Cultural Diversity in Australia - Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census", Australian Bureau of Statistics, 21 June 2012; N. Doorley, "Ex-Isis guns in our midst", The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 27 December 2014; "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples", United Nations General Assembly, 14 December 1960; "Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism", United Nations General Assembly, 10 December 2010)
Australia, and indeed the wider world, have just witnessed another step towards the scenario forecast in "2050: Age of the Silverback", posted on 30 December 2007. In that article the need for ever increasing surveillance techniques to provide the necessary information for a secure governance was predicted against the background of dynamics which emerge away from the direct influence of more traditional frameworks. In Australia the federal government plans to strengthen its laws to allow security agencies to identify, arrest, and legally stop suspected Islamic terrorists from carrying out planned attacks on home ground. Currently all three initiatives are insufficient against the interconnected fanaticism of certain Muslim demographics here and abroad. "2050:.." did not predict ISIL specifically because that label represents content. In terms of functionality however (which the Otoom model in general concerns itself with) ISIL belongs to a demographical type that was produced by the dynamics of ideology, global interdependence, and the perception of a threat to one's identity - all on a large scale. The functional characteristics inherent in a law that has become proactive rather than being reactive (criminality is acted upon because it is suspected rather than proven in court after a lengthy legal process), as well as pertaining to the existence of complex data bases of the personal behaviour of millions (only certain individuals are acted upon but the information allowing one to be selective needs to have been collected in the first place) makes for a society predisposed towards a shared transparency where previously held notions about privacy have largely disappeared. This is 2014, 36 years to go until the year 2050. Then the constraints imposed by the sheer cost of such measures will have become sufficiently significant to influence the parameters according to which actions are going to be taken. So far the industrial nations are still rich enough to afford bothering with something like cannabis possession. At the same time, with Mexican drug cartels now infiltrating the east coast of Australia and members known but not removed, the law (modified due to the presence of religious threats) can then also be more effective against the cartels. Combining the existential pressure posed by crime with the demands of sustainability within any system, sooner or later moralistic interpretations of 'good' and 'bad' give way to pragmatism. The degree to which pragmatism is adopted determines the overall success of a society. (Sources: S. Scott, S. Benson, "Jihadists May Get Tracking Devices", The Courier Mail, 22 September 2014; D. Meers, "Abbott off for UN talks", The Courier Mail, 22 September 2014; "Tens of thousands flee as militants move in Syria", The Courier Mail, 22 September 2014; S. Drill, D. Hurley, "Mexican cartel hits east coast", The Courier Mail, 22 September 2014)
Criminologists use the term 'crime pyramid' to describe the ever-widening circles within which a certain crime is perpetrated through the community. For example, a thief (the apex) breaks into a house and steals something. He then goes to a pub where the local lads take care of the distribution of the goods (the next layer below). It reaches into the wider society involving more and more individuals down the pyramid's layers who in a however indirect way enable the thief and everyone below him to profit from the crime. The label 'social pyramid' can be used to describe similar phenomena in a more general sense; such as a handful of footballers (the apex) playing in a stadium, the individuals making up the clubs (the lower level), followed by the spectators, the media with their journalists and editors, and then the wider public which displays sufficient interest to keep the entire exercise going. Under Otoom the phenomenon is an example of clustering according to the affinity relationships existent at any given layer of such a pyramid; players interacting more with each other than the wider public, the media acting within their own circles yet reaching the public through their products, minor clubs forming their own contingents with members and parents increasing the scope, and so on. Overlaps can and do occur, yet tempered by their respective degree of affinity. Naturally, terrorists form their own pyramids; what remains to be discovered is the content, how such pyramids manifest in their respective demographics. A bookshop in a Brisbane suburb has developed ties to a Muslim preacher from Perth, as well as hosting a lecture offering advice on what to do should the national security organisation ASIO knock on the door. Cognitively speaking, extremists connect through their level of activism (whether in their neighbourhood or via the internet), their concept is related to by others who are less active yet interested, spreading through those layers, and all the while social intersections emerge that offer a variety of contact possibilities. Other sentiments which are affinitive with their neighbours form similar clusters. For example, the afore-mentioned bookshop is reported as offering literature "promoting the subjugation of women and domestic violence" (the reporter's words and hence a Western interpretation which may not be shared by those perusing the books) because Islam is one religion that prescribes an entire range of human behaviour, including family life. Its tenets therefore link with the customs of other demographics, not necessarily Islamic, such as using the whip to remind the wife of possible punishment should she step out of line.
A whip for keeping the peace at home. Purchased in a Banjul market in 1982.
Note the intricate detail, meant to demonstrate how much the husband cares for his wife.
Here is a picture of a whip sold in a market in Banjul, capital of Gambia (essentially an Islamic state). Such linkages (ie, affinities) make it possible for any general sentiment to percolate through demographics simply because they happen to be within the functional reach. Therefore, while terrorism needs to be dealt with, in this world of 7+ billion people there exists a myriad of associated ideas any one of which can form the starting point of yet another cluster which can be detrimental to a Western system. (Source: N. Doorley, "Centre Exposed", The Courier Mail, 6 September 2014; J. Tin, "Bookshop titles push domestic violence", The Courier Mail, 6 September 2014)