Date:    Sun, 22 Jun 1997 18:44:10 -0700
To:      marxism-international@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
From:    Ben Seattle 
Subject: M-I: (POF) Reply to Yoshie/Carrol -- Complexity/ Consciousness

First I would like to thank Yoshie Furuhashi and Carrol Cox for their
efforts and patience in trying, with me, to tackle such topics as these in
such a forum as this.

Unfortunately, I am working under considerable time constraints.

I would, first of all, like to dispell any notion that my online political
work is my first priority at this time.  It is not.  My first priority is
to avoid getting fired from my job.  This is because it rains a lot in the
region where I live and my computer will not work very well if it gets
soggy--so it therefore becomes necessary that I keep a roof over my head.
I was recently given "the talk" at work about coming in late and/or missing
time--and find it necessary to cut back slightly on my political work via
e-mail and the web. 

What I suggest is that I give a short reply now (which may be
unsatisfactory in several respects) and that Yoshie and Carrol then respond
to indicate what particular areas they would most like me to further
address.  That way we may be able to advance this discussion a little bit
at a time.  This has another advantage over a long explanation: when I do
try to explain things at greater length--I invariably spend
disproportionate space on the portions of my arguments that are already
obvious and tend to skimp on those areas where my reasoning or logic is

First, I would like to thank Yoshie for taking the time to read the newly
shortened version of "The Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy (S.O.M.E.)
Hypothesis".  Very few people have read it and so Yoshie is one of the first.

Ben replies to Yoshie


I think you ought to give this question more thought. After your reply to
my inquiry on chaos/complexity theory, I read your work on your website
closely. It appears that your theory of how communism (which you
characterize as cooperative anarchy) works depends crucially on the
"consiciousness of the masses," ... This key term in your theory, it seems
to me, is undertheorized.


Unfortunately it is difficult for me to respond to this kind of comment.
Actually I have given these matters a great deal of thought.  One
difficulty may be in expressing the essential concepts in a concise and
comprehensible way.

I think that it would be helpful if we try to keep in mind the distinction
between the ideas that I am working to advance--and my skills or abilities
in arguing them or making them clear.

I suspect that it will take a period of time and the effort of many people
to help clarify the content in the SOME hypothesis.  I can express these
views as best I can by myself.  But to bring them to a larger audience and
demonstrate how humanity can organize its economic, cultural and political
life without reliance on either the market or central planning--is a fairly
large task.  I will not be able to do it alone.  I am experimenting with
methods to make it easier for readers to understand my arguments.  For
example, I have put up a web page for some of the most common terms that I
use.  The working definition of "consciousness" that I use can be found at:

There I define consciousness as follows:

	"The most undefinable of all phenomena to be found in nature,
	consciousness represents the only means by which the future
	can affect the present. We can define it, for our purposes, as the
	recognition and grasp of principles with the power to transform.
	Or, in other words, consciousness is the process of collecting,
	concentrating and refining information for the purpose
	of transforming it into a guide to action."

Of course it is unclear whether such a definition as this is helpful.  What
might be better is if Yoshie cites a *particular example* that I use in the
SOME hypothesis (or comes up with an example of her own)--and challenges me
to illustrate how the consciousness of the masses could be brought to bear
on some issue of economic, cultural or political life which is dealt with
in a very fucked-up way under the capitalist system.  Otherwise this
discussion would be left at a level of abstraction where none of us might
be able to understand what the other is talking about.

There is also the original (ie: very lengthy) version of the SOME
hypothesis available at my site--but it is somewhat doubtful that this
would help because at least 80% of the most valuable parts of it have
already been concentrated in the short version that Yoshie has read.  The
lengthy version does include a more detailed description of how access to
the finite resources of the mass media is likely to develop in a world of
intense competition between ideas and unlimited access to the net.  In this
sector, perhaps more than many others, the role of the masses and their
consciousness would likely manifest itself in particularly striking form
(see "Censorship of the Mass Media" in Appendix A of "cRed-80").


>To say that "matter spontaneously tends to develop in the
>direction of consciousness" is not mysticism but materialism.

That statement might be charazterized as "materialist," but does it belong
to the materialism of a *marxist* kind? Not every materialism is marxist,
you know.


Consistent materialism, as practiced by the workers and oppressed,
inevitably leads to Marxism--because only Marxism conforms to their
material interest in living in a society without exploitation and with a
very high productivity of labor.


After reading your work at your website, I was struck by the frequency with
which you use analogies between society and nature as well as those between
human beings and computers. But you never seem to get around to *arguing*,
instead of just asserting, *why* such analogies are valid when considering
questions at hand. 


All analogies have limitations of one kind or another.  The value of
analogies is not to "prove" a concept but to help explain it.  Any idea or
concept has to *stand on its own merit* but well-chosen analogies can help
to guide our thinking along lines that will lead us to discover the
concrete arguments that we seek.

If the SOME hypothesis is correct, then there will eventually be discussion
about it and explanation which does not involve such heavy use of analogies.


You seem to assume that your analogies will be accepted
by your readers without your explaining why we should.
I, for one, find such analogies to be of limited significance.


Actually I do not assume that readers will accept this hypothesis blindly.
Rather, I am interested in throwing this hypothesis into public discussion
where it will eventually sink or swim based on how well it corresponds to

The term "hypothesis" itself, suggests an idea that should neither be
accepted nor rejected quickly--but which it is better to examine carefully,
over a period of time, in the light of facts and arguments drawn from the

I do not know to what degree (if any) that any of my views may be original.
 Quite possibly, there is little that is new in the SOME hypothesis.  But
personally, I am confident that the SOME hypothesis (or some set of ideas
which are more or less equivalent) will eventually find widespread
acceptance within the progressive community because it has the validity of
objective truth.  I do not know if this will take five years or twenty-five

My confidence comes from the way in which I formulated this hypothesis: I
got rid of what was wrong or absurd and took a look at what was left.

I started by eliminating everything that was in contradiction to Marx's
concise description of a communist society: "From each according to his
abilities, to each according to his needs".  This meant that I threw out
the idea of an economy based on *exchange* (commodity production, money,
capital, wages, etc).

I also threw out the idea of the entire economy and political system being
under the thumb of a *single point of control* (an idea that I had
concluded, over a lengthy period of time, represented a bastard version of
communist society that most likely originated in the 1930's as Stalin put
his ideological stamp on the thinking of a great many progressive people).

I also made my best effort to include the impact of the coming
*communications revolution* which, I concluded, will greatly speed up and
facilitate everything.

Who will control the factories ?

The basic idea that I am trying to get across seems (to me) to be quite
simple.  In a communist society, there will be no "trade" (ie: exchange)
but there will be "trade-offs".  For example: producing a certain product
(in a certain way at a certain location) may raise the standard of living
of a group of people in a certain way--but might also either put stress on
or damage in some way an ecosystem.  Some kind of decision must be made on
whether (and how) to go forward with this production.  Such a decision will
(ultimately) affect everyone--and so will not everyone wish to participate
(in one way or another) in making such a decision ?  But how would this be
done with no market and no central authority ?  The communications
revolution will clearly play a big role here--but that does not answer all

For example, who will *control* a factory ?  The conclusion which I
stumbled across is that *everyone* will control the factory--but that it is
inevitable that some will control it more than others.  This may evoke
George Orwell's "Animal Farm" to the minds of many readers (the new
bourgeois class in "Animal Farm" changes the slogan "All animals are equal"
to "All animals are equal--but some are more equal than others") but it is
nonetheless inevitable.  So *who* has the greatest amount of control over
the factory ?  The answer I stumbled across is that the question of
*control* is (from the point of view of theory) indistinguishable from
*labor* --because making decisions is a form of work.  Hence, control of
the factory will be on the basis of people's *abilities* (ie: see the most
famous of all quotes by Marx above).  Hence the workers at the factory
would have an enormous degree of control over the factory--what it produces
and under what conditions, etc (because they have the power to work *faster
or slower*--or more or less enthusiastically--and this gives them enormous
leverage).  But this would not be the end of the story--because control of
that same factory would be *distributed* (via chains of consumption and
production, as well as the media and the general consciousness of the
masses--who have the power to [a] *consume or boycott* the factory's
products and [b] *supply or embargo* the factory's needs as well as the
power to [c] create public opinion and influence others) extremely widely,
eventually being distributed to the entire population.

It may not be apparent, but I have actually approached this entire question
in a very cautious manner.  My efforts to describe the result may look
"wild" (to some) but it is my view that eventually the SOME hypothesis will
be considered to be *obvious* and relatively little credit will be due to
me for having somehow stumbled into it.  I suspect that part of the reason
that many have trouble with the SOME hypothesis is either a lack of
knowledge of some of the principles involved or various prejudices which
may exist.  Another factor may be my idiosyncrasies (or the limitations of
my abilities) as a writer to illustrate an idea which may appear confusing
or self-contradictory to some.  Some people like my writing style and some
get fed up with it very quickly.

But these barriers can only be temporary.  The main thing, in considering
such a hypothesis, is to neither accept it nor reject it in a knee-jerk
fashion but to weigh, over a period of time, the various facts and
arguments that relate to it.  If my writing style upsets many people (as
seems to be the case) then, eventually, others who are more adept (or less
clumsy) will take the principles of the self-organizing moneyless economy
to a wider audience.


Moreover, such analogies can be quite dangerous, in that they tend
to naturalize or instrumentalize human agency.


I am a little slow in picking up on your meaning.  If you are refering to
theories of "social darwinism" or various theories used by fascist regimes
in the past or capitalist apologists today--then my reply is that the
lessons learned from the study of nature (or computers) would be very
different depending on whether the class which is learning from all this is
the proletariat or the bourgeoisie.


You seem to treat all kinds of complexity similarly. Nature, society,
individual human beings, and computers may be said to be all very
"complex," but are they "complex" in the same way? If you think so, isn't
your theory of "complexity" rather too simple?


No, I do not think that everything is complex in precisely the same way.
It is a fundamental contradiction that everything in the universe is both
"the same" and "not the same" (ie: "this" is "that").  There are
similarities *everywhere* but all phenomena without exception possess their
own individual features and identity.  I find the similarities between
phenomena to be fascinating.  But then the differences between phenomena
are fascinating also.  In fact, we generally define the differences between
phenomena in terms of their similarities and we define the similarities
between phenomena in terms of their differences.  And this is probably
about as much as I can say on this topic without facing accusations of
wading hip-deep in bullshit  ;-)

Ben replies to Carrol Cox

Carrol Cox:

  Yoshie has a point here. My original objection was sort of knee jerk,
and probably overstated. Nevertheless the assertion that change spon-
taneously or even tendentially moves towards complexity (and that com-
plexity equals consciousness) is highly debatable.


Well a couple of points might be helpful to bring up here.

One is simply that we are all human and that we are engaged in tasks that
are not necessarily easy.  This makes it inevitable that, to a degree, we
are all going to experience a certain amount of frustration.  What this
means is that we are engaged in a struggle which not only presents us with
formidable intellectual tasks--but also represents a struggle which has an
emotional dimension.

Now I have no problem with Carrol Cox characterizing my views as "sheer
nonsense" or "mysticism".  This is because it is clear to me that Carrol
Cox is sincere and understands *in practice* how to work to build this
forum.  And because he works to build this forum, Carrol has no problem
recognizing that his original objection was probably a bit overstated.

What complicates the matter is that we are working in an arena in which
others are present who do not understand, in practice, how to build the
forum.  For example, less than two hours after Carrol's original criticism
of my passage on matter and consciousness--we have a posting from Andrew
Wayne Austin--who gets fired up about this and sees it as his ticket to
enhance his prestige on this forum.

The first point is that there is a world of difference between having my
views characterized as "mysticism" by Carrol Cox--and having my views
characterized in the same way by Andrew Wayne Austin.  The difference is
that Carrol is concerned above all with helping to build this forum as a
place for useful work while Austin has another set of priorities.  (If the
utter bankruptcy of Austin's intellectual arguments are difficult to follow
or dissect--Austin's real priorities are proven by his post of 1:51 am on
June 18--which can clearly be seen to have no other possible motive than to
provoke me into a non-productive flame war.)

But we have to live (and create useful work) in a world of Andrew Wayne
Austins and Robert Maleckis.  And this means that we need to learn how to
conduct our work with *sufficient precision and skill* that those, like
Austin and Malecki (who invariably come across as aggressively
clueless--because they have not yet developed a strong sense of
revolutionary integrity and humility) will find very little room for their
annoying and disruptive antics.

As we sort out our political contradictions, and undertake serious work to
assist our class to organize itself--people such as Austin and Malecki may
eventually learn how to combine their efforts more productively with
others.  And we wish to encourage this.  But even then--there will be no
shortage of other aggressively clueless people who will find themselves
attracted to such an open forum as this.  And we must learn methods of work
that are fairly resistant to disruption by the clueless.

The first line of defense

Our *first line of defense* against agressively clueless disrupters (and
against confusion in general) is that we must recognise *in practice* that
the words we use are inevitably very clumsy instruments.

For example I can mean one thing when I say (as I did):

	"Matter spontaneously tends to develop
	 in the direction of consciousness"

and someone else can interpret my remarks to mean something quite different
than what I intended.  And such occurances are not uncommon at all--but on
the contrary happen all the time.  For example, an acquaintance of mine
(who did not know my politics) once had read Marx's "Communist Manifesto"
and he assured me that Marx believed that under communism--women would be
forced to have to have sex with any man who wanted to have sex with them.
And this acquaintance of mine was a very intelligent man who had
responsibilities that included keeping planes from crashing (don't think
about that one too much the next time you fly).

Similarly, aspects of the theory of evolution are sometimes misinterpreted.
 I once saw a tract by the Jehovah's Witnesses which showed a car wrapped
around a telephone pole.  The caption read: "Evolutionists say that living
things improve as the result of accidents.  But accidents damage things and
make them worse."

Now my statement on the spontaneous development of matter can be
interpreted in different ways.  If you take a wet glob of clay, sterilize
it and place it in a sterile environment--and then wait and watch for
something to happen overnight--you will likely find yourself disappointed.
On the other hand, if you take a wet glob of clay 12 thousand kilometers in
diameter, place it in a favorable environment about 8 light-minutes from a
reliable source of light and heat, and wait about 4 billion years--you
would have much better odds of observing something interesting.

If anyone were to interpret my remarks to mean the former instead of the
later--then, yes, my views would appear to be utter nonsense.  And it is
inevitable that in discussing matters such as this--that problems of
interpretation emerge.  And this is why it is very useful for us to train
our minds to be cautious in coming to conclusions about what someone means
when using a particular phrase--because we are constrained to use
words--and words are, indeed, very clumsy instruments.

And this is also why we should use these clumsy instruments with as much
precision as we are capable--and also take care, in repeating the arguments
of others, that we are careful to observe distinctions.

For example, I have never said that "complexity equals consciousness".
When Carrol sums up my view in this way--he is using a form of "shorthand".
 Carrol knows what I really mean and I know that Carrol knows what I really
mean, etc.  But the problem is that we have (and will continue to have) an
abundance of aggressively clueless people who will be very much inclined to
seize upon any errors that anyone makes and distort and magnify these
errors to the best extent of their ability.  So what I ask of all of my
responsible critics (and I intend on eventually having a large number of
responsible critics) is that they should show solidarity with me (against
the aggressively clueless--who are drawn to attack anything that has life
and vitality) by making an effort to summarize my actual views in as
accurate a manner as practical.

The self-organizing properties of matter are manifested in nearly all
physical phenomena worthy of study.  We ourselves are products of the
self-organizing properties of matter.  It escapes me how any consistent
materialist could attempt to deny this since the *only* alternative
explanation would be either a series of *extremely unlikely* occurances or
divine intervention from some outside source.

It is certainly true that such phenomena are only *poorly understood*.  But
this does not make such phenomena any less real.

To people unfamiliar with the basic concept, the idea that forms of matter
tend to organize themselves probably sounds rather strange.  Our everyday
life tends to lead us to think of things differently.  If a bunch of bricks
are to form a building, some outside agency must stack them up.  Such
bricks certainly will not stack themselves.

Darwin's theory of evolution (probably the best and most interesting
example of the self-organizing properties of matter) most likely also
struck many as strange when it was first proposed.  The mechanism of
heredity was not known until later (ie: the experiments with peas by the
monk named Mendel) and the *immense length* of the geological record had
only recently been discovered and was probably not all that widely
appreciated.  "Common sense" would hold that ducks do not give birth to
lions any more than lions give birth to ducks--so how could all the plants
and animals in god's creation create themselves from one another ?

Artificial life and the
mathematics of self-organization

The *explanation* for the self-organizing property of matter most likely
will eventually be understood in terms of the operation of mathematics too
complex to be understood in our lifetimes.  The tendency of closed systems
of matter to tend toward *disorganization* (ie: increase their entropy) is
well understood and extremely easy to demonstrate mathematically.  The
opposite principle, of pockets of matter within closed systems decreasing
their entropy--is not understood and, to my knowledge, still has no
generally agreed upon name.  All the same--the phenomenon exists within and
around us in every direction that we might care to look.

Some of the work to understand the principle of self-organization is quite
interesting and I list some references in the appendices to this letter.
John von Neumann (a brilliant mathematician in spite of being a very nasty
cold-warrior) developed the concept of cellular automata around 1950.  John
Conway, in the mid-60's developed a simplified example of a cellular
automata (known to most computer nerds as "the game of life") in which
simple rules governing the existence of cells on a large checkerboard-like
arrangement would result in forms which move about and reproduce themselves.

[A minor digression introduces itself here:]

A man by the name of Edward Fredkin (well-known in cellular automata
circles) has proposed that the universe itself consists of something like a
cellular automata.  Such an idea is strongly related to the idea that there
is an ultimate "bottom layer" to physics (ie: atoms may be composed of
electrons and protons which may in turn may be composed of quarks--but at
some point you reach "the bottom" where nature more or less holds up a sign
that says: "the buck stops here").  For example, Stephen Hawkings (the
"Brief History of Time" guy) has suggested that nothing may be smaller than
what he called the Planck length--which is expressed mathematically as a
decimal point followed by too many zeros.  Now I am not too certain about
any of this myself since it would seem to contradict my understanding of
dialectical materialism (which, admittedly is rather weak) that everything
in the universe contains internal contradictions and is therefore subject
to division.  For example Lenin, in 1908, seems to have predicted that the
electron would be split: "The electron is as *inexhaustible* as the atom,
nature is infinite ..." (see "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", Chapter
5, section 2 "Matter Has Disappeared").  Since we will never see a debate
between Lenin and Hawking on this matter--I will leave it to anyone on this
list who may understand either physics or dialectical materialism better
than I do--to clarify this.

[end of digression]

Around 1989 or 1990, a man by the name of Tom Ray developed "Tierra", a set
of mathematical algorithms that could be implemented on a computer in which
randomly arranged information would organize itself into entities that
would consume one another, mutate, evolve, form ecosystems and in general
possess many of the characteristics that we associate with biological life.
 There is an entire field of study devoted to such matters, known,
appropriately enough, as "artificial life" that is closely related to the
field of complexity and is associated with the work of the Santa Fe Institute.

Now I will not claim to be highly knowledgeable about these fields of study
but I have been following them for a long time and I am quite comfortable,
at this point, with the basic concepts.  Around 1972 I first heard an
acquaintance of mine who (unlike myself) was quite sharp in mathematics
tell someone else that a large enough cellular automaton, with a
sufficiently robust set of rules and sufficient time--would eventually
evolve to consciousness.  I remember being somewhat struck at the time by
this person's utter boldness and confidence in asserting such a thing.
"Even if it were true", I said to myself at the time, "how could he know ?"
 But that was a long time ago.  I have given a lot of thought to such
matters since then and about 10 or 15 years later concluded that my
acquaintance had been correct.

And some of these kinds of ideas, which are very powerful and which I am
very comfortable with, more or less found their way into the SOME
hypothesis, although it was not necessarily my aim to try to incorporate
"the principles of complexity theory" into my work.  But if many people are
not comfortable with these principles--I doubt that this would be too much
of an obstacle to understanding my views.  My views seem (to me anyhow) to
be quite simple.

Nor will it be necessary for humanity to fully understand the nature of
complexity or self-organization before a fully communist economy and
political system could be built.  All we really need to do is to organize
things *better* than under capitalism--which, fortunately, is a much
simpler undertaking.

Nor is it necessary for communists, today, to understand the mathematics of
self-organization.  All we really need to grasp is that our primary role is
to *assist our class to organize itself*.  This means that we need to learn
how to perceive, understand and link up with already existing motion and
help to coordinate and direct the immense reservoir of revolutionary
energy, which already exists, towards the goal of ending bourgeois class
rule.  No mathematics is required for this--just an understanding that
people strive, at whatever level they are capable, to achieve their
material interests and that the highest material interest of workers is
their common interest as a class.  Everything else will flow from this.

And in the conclusion of chapter 6 of "How to Build the Party of the
Future" I give an example of this--drawn from life--where I talked about
how our organization learned how to link up with the objective (if
low-level) struggle of the shipyard workers.

Steven Jay Gould

Carrol Cox:

In another of your posts, replying I think to Andrew, you characterized one
of his arguments as a simplified version of Gould's. It was Gould in
particular that I had in mind when I objected that consciousness was
contingent, and while your reply to me was partly satisfactory, I now
believe that you ought to reply to Gould's arguments rather than to
simplified versions of those arguments.


Who is Stephen Jay Gould ?

For readers unfamiliar with Stephen Jay Gould, he is a professor at Harvard
who has written a number of well received books, mostly dealing with the
evolutionary record.  Gould's primary accomplish is probably his role in
championing the theory of "punctuated equilibrium" which he worked to
develop with a friend when they were both graduate students.  The theory of
punctuated equilibrium holds that evolution does not proceed via steady,
continuous and gradual change but would be better described as periods of
equilibrium or slow change interspersed with periods of rapid or
"catastrophic" change.  As such the basic concept should be quite familiar
to students of marxism, who work toward similar periods of change, called
revolutions, in the poltical sphere.

Gould's other main accomplishment is a contribution to a popular
understanding of evolution in his book "Wonderful Life", which described
how fossil evidence from the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies proves
that nearly every major form of life on earth (including the chordate
ancestors of primates) had representatives 550 million years ago in the
period that is now being called the Cambrian explosion.  The significance
of this is that this period took place not that long after the first
multi-celled forms of life came into existence--which means that all the
incredible diversity of life of earth created its basic prototypical forms
in only a relatively short period of time.  The only evidence for this is
the Burgess Shale and Gould's book was the channel thru which knowledge of
this incredible discovery reached the general public.

Gould was recently voted the most popular professor at Harvard and is, I
believe, something of a leftist in a vague sort of way.  I assume this
anyhow from reading a review of a book by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt
titled: "Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with
Science".  The reviewer, Michael Ruse, wrote an article asking: "Do Attacks
from the Academic Left Pose the Threat of Cultural War ?" and stating that
"Gross and Levitt cannot be unaware that some of the strongest critics of
science have come from the ranks of science itself. ... How can they be
unaware that Gould is a major advocate of the
science-as-cultural-constructionist movement ?" (The Sciences, Nov-Dec
1994, Vol 34, Nbr 6, page 39).

Stephen Jay Gould's views on
the predictablility of evolution

I have never actually read much by Gould, other than browsing thru
"Wonderful Life" while standing up in a bookstore and an article in the
October 1994 issue of Scientific American (which I wanted to find for this
post--but realized is securely hidden within the enormous chaos of the
papers I accumulate--and which I am patiently waiting to "self-organize"
themselves ;-).  But I am familiar enough with Gould's views to consider
them somewhat misleading in the sense that has emerged in the criticism
made by Carrol Cox.

Gould's objections to the concept of "predictable evolutionary progress"
may possibly be better understood as a reaction against grossly simplified
views of evolution which have been used for (sometimes reactionary)
political purposes.  My friend Joćo has greatly helped out by locating a
relevant passage from "Wonderful Life" and from a criticism of it by Alex
Callinicos in "International Socialism".

The passage concerns a thought experiment which Gould calls "replaying
life's tape".  In this passage, after describing how you would "press the
rewind button" to go back a few billion years or so, and start over--Gould
asks the question: "What could we then say about the predictability of
self-conscious intelligence? or of mammals? or of vertebrates? or of life
on land? or simply of multicellular persistence for 600 million difficult

But Gould is asking this question in the wrong way and this leads to
confusion about two entirely different things.

1) What is correct is that the *particular path* which life takes is
extremely unpredictable.  For example if the asteroid which hit the earth
65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs--had been off course by
about 3,000 kilometers--it would have missed earth entirely and the course
of evolution would have been extremely different.  Intelligent life might
still have evolved--but without the ascendency of mammals--the pace of
development might have been slower--and it might have been that the
explosion of brain size and related abilities happened among velociraptors
instead of among mammalian primates.  Similarly, there are many factors
(besides the asteroid) that would make a huge difference in which group of
plants or animals would win the competition for a particular niche--or even
for which niches became available to be filled.  And these are factors
which are not predictable by their nature (this gets into chaos theory and
the "flapping wings of a butterfly" principle--which I will not get into

2) What is predictable (or, at any rate, closer to being predictable) is
the *final outcome* in a certain rough sense.  Intelligence tends to be a
trait favorable to survival among animals that move around and make
decisions concerning their activity.  It is logical to assume that in an
environment that would be favorable to intelligent decision-making--that
this ability would develop given enough time.

A simpler experiment might illustrate this better.  Throw a spinning
basketball over the fence into an empty basketball court.  The ball is
going to bounce around on a path that will not be possible to predict.  The
final resting location of the ball will, for this reason, not be possible
to predict either (assumming that the court is level).  But ask yourself
the following question: what will be the final distance between the ball
and the court ?  It will be zero.  That much will be very predictable.

Of course the question of how many times consciousness would emerge if
Gould's thought experiment was run 1,000 times--is not as simple as the
basketball experiment--and is unanswerable.  I would guess the answer would
be "lots".  But it is not a requirement that consciousness emerge 1,000
times out of 1,000 (or even 100 times out of 1,000) in Gould's thought
experiment to grasp that the tendency of matter to develop, to
self-organize, to *evolve*, exists.

As we deal with groups of people, with the development of economic and
political systems, we must, at some level, take into account the tendency
of such phenomena to organize themselves.  Capitalism organized itself.
Karl Marx described this process in great detail.  Starting with trade
between isolated tribes, and moving, over thousands of years to the
production of commodities and the creation of the universal money-commodity
and the development of capital and a class, the bourgeoisie, which serves
the development of capital--the system of capitalism developed without any
divine outside force directing everything and laying down a plan.  Rather,
central banks, and all the rest, came into existence as they were required
to meet the needs of capital.

The existence of capitalism, as a product of spontaneous development, is
one of its great strengths.  This is one reason that it was able to emerge
and overwhelm Lenin's revolution in the 1920's (althou to describe matters
in this way would be to oversimplify them somewhat).  As the proletariat
awakens, overthrows bourgeois rule and embarks on building an economic and
political system that does not necessitate exchange and the market--it will
also seek to exploit the tendency toward self-organization.

And for Marxists, the concept of self-organization should not be difficult
to grasp--because at its heart it is nothing other than *dialectical
materialism* -- the theory that everything *develops on the basis of its
internal contradictions*.

Inevitablity of progress ?

Carrol Cox:

You need to cleanse your position of even the whiff of 19th century
doctrines of the inevitability of Progress. Marx's one-sentence answer to
the question of What is? was not "Ever Upward" but only one word: Struggle.
No guarantees that the end is not simple collapse.


Carrol and I have very different views on this.  It is nonsensical
theoretical views on the nature of communism that lead so many to be so
pessimistic as to whether we can be certain we will ever see it here on the
planet earth.

I would like to break this question down into two different questions: the
general and the particular.  The "general" question concerns whether it is
inevitable that capitalism will be succeeded by communism.  And the
"particular" question concerns my own estimate that this will happen
roughly mid-way thru the next century (plus or minus two or three decades).

My views on the particular question are a result of my estimate of the
speed at which the infrastructure of the revolution in digital
communications will be laid--and the effect that this will have on the
cultural and political spheres of society and their effect on the class
struggle.  My feeling is that it would not be useful to discuss the
particular question right here and right now--and that instead it would be
better to focus on the general question.  Once we develop a rough consensus
on that--we would be more ready to move on to the next step.

My argument on the general question--makes use of the concept of labor
productivity and the principle of "information wants to be free".  Simply
put, the development of labor productivity hinges on the free flow of
information.  Maximum productivity demands that the worker have *a clear
picture of every factor* which might relate to what he does--what he
produces, how he produces it and why he produces it.

This creates a problem however, for capitalist relations of production.  A
very important factor in the organization of production under capitalist
relations--is the need to intensify the rate of exploitation of the
workers, which we can conceive (roughly) as the ratio between the worth of
what workers create and what they get paid.

If the workers know this and see this principle in operation, however, this
tends to lower their morale and undermine their enthusiasm for working
hard.  This factor becomes increasingly important as the nature of
production becomes more complex and the work performed becomes less subject
to supervision (or easy measurement) and more subject to the motivation of
the worker.  Hence the capitalists have a built-in need to keep the
workforce ignorant of the increase in exploitation.  But to keep the
workforce ignorant about such a major factor as this--requires keeping them
ignorant of a whole host of other factors.

Simply put--the class struggle in society will inevitably tend to restrict
the free flow of information required for high productivity and this factor
can only increase as the nature of work becomes more complex--until it will
finally overwhelm all else.  In the final analysis, it is the potential of
the communist organization of the economy--to create a vastly higher
productivity of labor--which will spell doom for the capitalist mode of

Does this mean that communism is inevitable ?  Well not necessarily.  There
could be a nuclear war or some disease that wipes out humanity.  Or some
large asteroid could be hurtling towards us even as we sleep peacefully in
our beds (those of us who have beds).  But other than this--yes, it is
inevitable.  And this idea is not original with me--but belongs to Karl
Marx, who was the first to show that the class struggle between the
proletariat and the bourgeoisie could only end in the final victory of the
proletariat and the elimination of classes.

Future Discussion

I would like readers to know that I am under considerable time pressure.
Chapter 7 of "How to Build the Party of the Future" goes out tomorrow night
and chapter 8 (which discusses the differences between the centralism that
Lenin proposed in 1903 and the centralism that Lenin proposed, under
extremely different conditions, in 1921) is not yet written.  I have a week
to put it together if I am to maintain my publication schedule and I must
focus on this task.  Once chapter 8 is complete (or chapters 8 and 9 if it
turns out to be two chapters) I will be finished with "Axis I" (the
theoretical axis) of the "POF" series and I may take a break for a month or
so in order to go into a more discussion-oriented mode.  I still have not
replied to several interesting posts by Louis Proyect concerning the
organizational nature of the kinds of communist organizations that are
likely to emerge in the future.  Nor have I laid out why the development of
a struggle against reformism will be decisive for moving M-I to a level
where it would be truely worthy of being called a Marxist forum.

It has been interesting to deal at this length with questions about
self-organization and complexity but I need to move on a bit and I hope
that we can, together, advance our understanding of all of these topics a
little bit at a time.

Ben Seattle ----//-// 22 June 1997

Appendix A: Further information

1. The Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy (S.O.M.E.) Hypothesis is
   available (in recently shortened form--only 20,000 words) at:

   The original, longer, polemical version (also known as
   "Anti-Joseph" and weighing in at 95,000 words) is still
   available at the same location.

2. Books by Stuart A. Kaufmann

   "The Origins of Order--self-organization
    and selection in evolution"

   "At Home in the Universe"
    explores themes related to "Origins",
    but with more recent data and analysis,
    and geared to a more general audience.

   (Kaufmann is one of the pioneers of this field
   and is widely respected.)

3. Another really good book:

   "The Life Era--Cosmic Selection and Conscious Evolution"
    by Eric Chaisson

   Here is an excerpt from the book jacket:

   "Eric Chaisson--who daily probes the very furthest, and oldest,
   reaches of the Universe with a radiotelescope--is equally at home
   speaking in terms of millionths of a second or billions of years.
   And what he sees in the development of the Universe is constant
   change, which has fallen into two major era and the beginning
   of a third.

   "The first was the Energy Era, a brief era in cosmic terms, which
   started with the Big Bang.  Immediately, some of this energy, as
   if cooled and expanded, transformed itself into matter, and the
   second era, the Matter Era, began.  With further cooling and
   expansion of the Universe, matter gave birth to life, and within
   life to intelligence or consciousness, or the ability to think
   about thinking and to control one's environment.  This is the
   beginning of the Life Era.  But only the beginning.  As Chaisson
   sees it, just as matter separated itself out from energy and life
   developed from matter, so consciousness, which is arising out of
   life by the same process of cosmic selection, may at some point
   separate itself out from life and become an autonomous entity...

   "... This may be the broadest look at the biggest picture, but
   it is also put in the simplist and most readable way ..."

   Chaisson also includes a short and interesting, if very
   technical, appendix "A Mathematical Guide to the Three Eras
   of Cosmic Evolution" in which he discusses "Free Energy
   Flux Densitites" (in units of ergs per second per gram).

   (Chaisson was in the news a few years ago exposing some of
   NASA's deceptions regarding the Hubble telescope.
   Chaisson's job is to select targets for the Hubble to examine.)

Appendix B: Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control"

   [Kevin Kelly is not a scientist, as are Kaufmann and Chaisson.
   Kelly is a journalist.  He is the editor of "Wired" magazine
   and before that was the editor of the "Whole Earth Catalog"
   I have included here both a widely reprinted excerpt called
   "The Nine Laws of God" and the table of contents of his book.
   Kelly's book, "Out of Control, can be found on the web at:

   My experience is that reading it from the web is in one way
   actually preferable to reading it in book form: the many links
   from the web page above are to the beginning of each section.
   Kelly's strongest writing tends to be at the beginning of
   these sections--so reading in this way will be more likely to
   take you to the best passages than opening pages at random
   looking for the best parts (ie: my normal way of digesting a
   long book).  Another URL for Kelly's book is:
   Ben -- June 20, 1997]

[The following is an excerpt from The Nine Laws of God, a chapter in
By Kevin Kelly -- June 1994]

Out of nothing, nature makes something.

How do you make something from nothing? From the frontiers of
computer science, and the edges of biological research, and the odd
corners of interdisciplinary experimentation, I have compiled The Nine
Laws of God governing the incubation of somethings from nothing:

1. Distribute being
2. Control from the bottom up
3. Increasing returns
4. Grow by chunking
5. Maximize the fringes
6. Honor your errors
7. No optima; multiple goals
8. Seek persistent disequilibrium
9. Change changes itself

These nine laws are the organizing principles that can be found
operating in systems as diverse as biological evolution and SimCity.
Of course I am not suggesting that they are the only laws needed to
make something from nothing; but out of the many observations
accumulating in the science of complexity, these principles are the
broadest, crispest and most representative generalities. I believe
that one can go pretty far as a god while sticking to these nine

1. Distribute being.

The spirit of a beehive, the behavior of
an economy, the thinking a supercomputer, and the life in me is
distributed over a multitude of smaller units (which themselves may be
distributed). When the sum of the parts can add up to more than the
parts, then that extra being (that something from nothing) is
distributed among the parts. Whenever we find something from nothing,
we find it arising from a field of many interacting smaller pieces.
All the mysteries we find most interesting --life, intelligence,
evolution --are found in the soil of large distributed systems.

2. Control from the bottom up.

When everything is connected to
everything in a distributed network, everything happens at once. When
everything happens at once, wide and fast moving problems simply route
around any central authority.  Therefore overall governance must arise
from the most humble interdependent acts done locally in parallel, and
not from a central command. A mob can steer itself, and in the
territory of rapid, massive, and heterogeneous change, only a mob can
steer. To get something from nothing, control must rest at the bottom
within simplicity.

3. Cultivate increasing returns.

Each time you use an idea, a
language or a skill you strengthen it, reinforce it, and make it more
likely to be used again. That's known as positive feedback, or
snowballing. Success breeds success. In the Gospels, this principle of
social dynamics is known as "To those who have, more will be given."
Anything which alters its environment to enhance increasing production
of itself is playing the game of increasing returns. And all large,
sustaining systems play the game. The law operates in economics,
biology, computer science, and human psychology.  Life on Earth alters
Earth to begets more life.  Confidence build confidence. Order
generates more order. Them that has, gets.

4. Grow by chunking.

The only way to make a complex system that
works is to begin with an simple system that works. Attempts to
instantly install highly complex organization --such as intelligence,
or a market economy --without growing it, inevitably lead to failure.
To assemble a prairie takes time --even if you have all the pieces.
Time is needed to let each part test itself against all the others.
Complexity is created, then, by assembling it incrementally from
simple modules which can operate independently.

5. Maximize the fringes

-- In heterogeneity is creation of the
world. A uniform entity must adapt to the world by occasional large
earth-shattering revolutions, one of which is sure to kill it. A
diverse heterogeneous entity, on the other hand, can adapt to the
world in thousand daily mini-revolutions, keeping it in a state of
permanent, but never fatal, churning. Diversity favors remote borders,
the outskirts, hidden corners, moments of chaos, and isolated
clusters. In economic, ecological, evolutionary, and institutional
models, a healthy fringe speeds adaptation, increases resilience, and
is almost always the source of innovations.

6. Honor your errors

-- A trick will only work for a while, until
everyone else is doing it. To advance from the ordinary requires a new
game, or a new territory.  But the process of going outside the
conventional method, game, or territory is indistinguishable from
error. Even the most brilliant act of human genius, in the final
analysis, is an act of trial and error. "To be an Error and to be Cast
out is a part of God's Design," wrote the visionary poet William
Blake. Error, whether random or deliberate, must become an integral
part of any process of creation. Evolution can be thought of as
systematic error management.

7. Pursue no optima; have multiple goals

-- Simple machines can
be efficient, but complex adaptive machinery cannot be. A complicated
structure has many masters and none of them can be served exclusively.
Rather than strive for optimization of any function, a large system
can only survive by "satisficing" (making "good enough") a multitude
of functions. For instance, an adaptive system must tradeoff between
exploiting a known path of success (optimizing a current strategy), or
diverting resources to exploring new paths (thereby wasting energy
trying less efficient methods). So vast are the mingled drives in any
complex entity that it is impossible to unravel the actual causes of
its survival. Survival is a many-pointed goal. Most living organisms
are so many-pointed they are blunt variations that happen to work,
rather than precise renditions of proteins, genes, and organs. In
creating something from nothing, forget elegance; if it works, it's

8. Seek persistent disequilibrium

-- Neither constancy nor
relentless change will support a creation. A good creation, like good
jazz, must balance the stable formula with frequent out-of-kilter
notes. Equilibrium is death. Yet unless a system stabilizes to an
equilibrium point, it is no better than an explosion, and just as soon
dead. A Nothing, then, is both equilibrium and disequilibrium.  A
Something is persistent disequilibrium -- a continuous state of forever
surfing on the edge between never stopping but never falling. Honing
in on that liquid threshold is the still mysterious holy grail of
creation and the quest of all amateur gods.

9. Change changes itself

-- Change can be structured. This is
what large complex systems do. They coordinate change. When extremely
large systems are built up out of complicated systems, then each
system begins to influence and ultimately change the organizations of
other systems. That is, if the rules of the game are composed from the
bottom up, then it is likely that interacting forces at the bottom
level will alter the rules of the game as it progresses. Over time,
the rules for change get changed themselves. Evolution --as used in
everyday speech --is about how an entity is changed over time. Deeper
evolution --as it might be formally defined --is about how the rules
for changing entities over time changes over time. To get the most out
of nothing, you need to have self-changing rules.

These nine principles underpin the awesome workings of prairies,
flamingoes, and cedar forests, eyeballs, natural selection in
geological time, and the unfolding of a baby elephant from a tiny seed
of elephant sperm and egg.

These same principles of bio-logic are now being implanted in
computer chips, electronic communication networks, robot modules,
pharmaceutical searches, software design, and corporate management, in
order that these artificial systems may overcome their own complexity.

When the technos is enlivened by bios we get artifacts that can
adapt, learn, and evolve. When our technology adapts, learns, and
evolves then we will have a neo-biological civilization.

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control"


      Neo-biological civilization
      The triumph of the bio-logic
      Learning to surrender our creations


      Bees do it: distributed governance
      The collective intelligence of a mob
      Asymmetrical invisible hands
      Decentralized remembering as an act of perception
      More is more than more, it's different
      Advantages and disadvantages of swarms
      The network is the icon of the 21st century


      Entertaining machines with bodies
      Fast, cheap and out of control
      Getting smart from dumb things
   The virtues of nested hierarchies
      Using the real world to communicate
      No intelligence without bodies
      Mind/body black patch psychosis


      Biology: the future of machines
      Restoring a prairie with fire and oozy seeds
      Random paths to a stable ecosystem
      How to do everything at once
      The Humpty Dumpty challenge


      What color is a chameleon on a mirror?
      The unreasonable point of life
      Poised in the persistent state of almost falling
      Rocks are slow life
      Cooperation without friendship or foresight


      Equilibrium is death
      What came first, stability or diversity?
      Ecosystems: between a superorganism and an identity workshop
      The origins of variation
      Life immortal, ineradicable
      The fourth discontinuity: the circle of becoming


      In ancient Greece the first artificial self
      Maturing of mechanical selfhood
      The toilet: archetype of tautology
      Self-causing agencies


      Bottled life, sealed with clasp
      Mail-order Gaia
      Man breathes into algae, algae breathes into man
      The very big ecotechnic terrarium
      An experiment in sustained chaos
      Another synthetic ecosystem, like California


      Co-pilots of the 100 million dollar glass ark
      Migrating to urban weed
      The deployment of intentional seasons
      A cyclotron for the life sciences
      The ultimate technology


      Pervasive round-the-clock plug in
      Invisible intelligence
      Bad-dog rooms vs. nice-dog rooms
      Programming a commonwealth
      Closed-loop manufacturing
      Technologies of adaptation


      Having your everything amputated
      Instead of crunching, connecting
      Factories of information
      Your job: managing error
      Connecting everything to everything


      Crypto-anarchy: encryption always wins
      The fax effect and the law of increasing returns
      Anything holding an electric charge will hold a fiscal charge
      Peer-to-peer finance with nanobucks
      Fear of underwire economies


      Electronic godhood
      Theories with an interface
      A god descends into his polygonal creation
      The transmission of simulacra
      Memorex warfare
      Seamless distributed armies
      A 10,000 piece hyperreality
      The consensual ascii superorganism
      Letting go to win


      An outing to the universal library
      The space of all possible pictures
      Travels in biomorph land
      Harnessing the mutator
      Sex in the library
      Breeding art masterpieces in three easy steps
      Tunnelling through randomness


      Tom Ray's electric-powered evolution machine
      What you can't engineer, evolution can
      Mindless acts performed in parallel
      Computational arms race
      Taming wild evolution
      Stupid scientists evolving smart molecules
      Death is the best teacher
      The algorithmic genius of ants
      The end of engineering's hegemony


      Cartoon physics in toy worlds
      Birthing a synthespian
      Robots without hard bodies
      The agents of ethnological architecture
      Imposing destiny upon free will
      Mickey Mouse rebooted after clobbering Donald
      Searching for co-control


      To enlarge the space of being
      Primitives of visual possibilities
      How to program happy accidents
      All survive by hacking the rules
      The handy-dandy tool of evolution
      Hang-gliding into the game of life 
      Life verbs
      Homesteading hyperlife territory


      The revolution of daily evolution
      Bypassing the central dogma
      The difference, if any, between learning and evololution
      The evolution of evolution
      The explanation of everything


      The incompleteness of Darwinian theory
      Natural selection is not enough
      Intersecting lines on the tree of life
      The premise of non-random mutations
      Even monsters follow rules
      When the abstract is embodied
    The essential clustering of life
      DNA can't code for everything
      An uncertain density of biological search space
      Mathematics of natural selection


      Order for free
      Net math: a counter-intuitive style of math
      Lap games, jets, and auto-catalytic sets
      A question worth asking
      Self-tuning vivisystems


      A 4 billion year ponzi scheme
      What evolution wants
      Seven trends of hyper-evolution
      Coyote trickster self-evolver


      Brains that catch baseballs
      The flip side of chaos
      Positive myopia
      Making a fortune from the pockets of predictability
      Operation Internal Look, Ahead
      Varieties of prediction
      Change in the service of non-change
      Telling the future is what the systems are for
      The many problems with global models
      We are all steering


      What ever happened to cybernetics?
      The holes in the web of scientific knowledge
      To be astonished by the trivial
   Hypertext: the end of authority
      A new thinking space


      How to make something from nothing
      Hijacking the universe

     --- from list ---