Monday, 6 February 2012

Situation 1

This is the first of a series of three posts about viewing things slightly differently. It certainly isn’t original or a new philosophy or anything grandiose, it’s just something I do when trying to untangle complex issues. I thought of calling the series Maverick, because I think we need more genuine mavericks to shake us up, but in the end I left it as it is.

Anyway, here is a simple and perhaps a slightly different way of looking at things. Many people must do this already but maybe call it something else. Make of it what you will.

Situations are basic to what we are as observers. The universe is real enough, but we know it as a super-complex, dynamic froth of linked situations. Our basic interaction with reality is a reaction to a stimulus.

stimulus + response = situation.

Everything from an atom to a galaxy may be seen not just as an object with properties, but also as a situation with properties, always involving the observer in some capacity and to some degree.

Yet situations are only our commonsense way of looking at things, the way we protect ourselves from the elaborate language of academics, which may suit their situation, but not ours. Situations are what matter to us, especially their similarities and differences.

There is a reality out there, but we must observe as a complex of situations. Reality may be divorced from situations, but is often more clearly understood through them.

A government minister is a situation.
His or her ministerial post is another, separate but linked situation.
An atom is a situation – a particular atom is a particular situation.
A galaxy is a situation – a particular galaxy is a particular situation.

There are no isolated situations - situations are always linked to some other situation or embedded within bigger situations. So situations are complex – often far too complex for future situations to be predicted with any accuracy.

A basic property of all situations is their stability. Unstable situations change into other situations, the rate of change being a measure of their stability. Stability may vary between similar situations if they are linked in different ways - the situation of the situation. One situation may prey on another, absorb it, link to it, or destroy it.

Situations link together by overlapping. I call it overlapping as a way to bring out the way linked situations involve themselves with each other, changing their mutual logic. Another kind of overlap is embedding, where a minor situation is entirely contained within a bigger situation. An atom in a molecule for example.

So linking is rather like joined soap bubbles and real life is a super-complex froth of bubbles of varying size and stability.

As quick example of seeing things through situations will do for one post.

Consider the UK Prime Minister. This is a stable, long-term situation with David Cameron MP temporarily linked to it. I find it misleading to view David Cameron as the UK Prime Minister. I prefer to view him as a situation in his own right, temporarily linked to an older and more stable political and cultural situation we call Prime Minister.

As a situation, Prime Minister (PM) has numerous pre-existing linked and embedded situations which do not depend to any great extent on the temporary and comparatively unstable linked situation David Cameron (DC). For example, PM is strongly linked to the large and complex situation we call EU.

DC himself is linked to many situations such as the Conservative Party (CP) and personal relationships which have various degrees of influence on him. The resulting complex of situations depends largely on the logic and relative stabilities of EU, PM, CP and DC as well as many other linked situations.

Because situations PM and EU have evolved into very complex interlinked networks, we cannot expect the temporary situation DC to have a significant effect on them. DC is a temporary situation within PM and EU with little permanent causal relevance to either.


rogerh said...

Stable situations and soap bubbles are examples of minimal tensions - so the innards can be relaxed. DC, PM and EU can all feel very relaxed, DC has nothing to worry about for at least 8 years, PM is a 'noble gas' and EU seems an unstable situation made stable by vast inputs of energy (at about 100Euros/calorie) with no signs of change.

Not sure where this gets us.

A K Haart said...

rogerh - I like the idea of PM being a noble gas. Don't know about the stability of EU. There seems to be a scary amount of political will behind it - more than I would have guessed.

James Higham said...

Where does the cascade effect come into this?

A K Haart said...

JH - stable situations may become unstable when they combine. But things don't go back to the beginning, they change into a new and previously unpredictable situation.