Pathocratic mindsets?

Pathocratic mindsets

[ 8/July/22 Mike McDermott wrote:
Oh dear.
Again, kindly recall what I am attempting to scrutinize here is what I term our pathocratic mindsets (to dominate, deceive, degrade, and destroy) and the environments, particularly multipolar trap ones, where those mindsets can be necessary in one’s fitness landscapes to survive
In his book, “The Evolving Self”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1993, Harper Collins), devoted chapter 4 to Predators and Parasites which, with Blake, Mumford, McGilchrist and others, has contributed to this approach of mine. Except as examples, I am NOT particularly concerned with the passing parades of names and faces expressing these desires, to what may be considered pathologically unbalanced extents (evidentially for thousands of years) To those extents, while they may be extrinsically powerful and intrinsically highly evolved as well, persons predominantly functioning at this level are then of intrinsically low value, around the same, say, as a preying mantis.
Mostly, we don’t have to focus there, and can develop activities of greater intrinsic value: co-evolved wise and compassionate activities, loving-kindness and the like. But it doesn’t take much – for example traumas, head injuries, toxic environments – and we may too succumb. And anyway, in extreme multipolar trap environments, if you are not at the right pathocrats’ table, you will be on the menu, even if you don’t succumb personally.
There are plenty pointing the finger at others. I am pointing the finger to a mindset we may all possess, now or in potential, and wresting with how to deal with it. I consider it is a potentially far more beneficial strategy than blaming, self-righteous stoning and the like.]

Ted Howard


It can be really hard, when we all have these deeply (recursively) evolved tendencies to simplify the irreducibly complex; and to make simple binary distinctions, and to return to them under stress. In a sense, there is a very high probability that all people will start as young children with such binary distinctions, and that means that they will very probably be at the core of any and every complex structure we may develop in later life.

So we all have a tendency to classify as simple, that which is complicated, complex or chaotic (to use a slightly less simple classification system – ).

It seems clear to me that the very idea of multipolar traps is a kind of meta-multipolar trap, and that once one accepts it there is a possibility of creating something beyond it, something both cooperative and uncertain, yet vastly more likely to survive long term than anything else.

And one necessary step on that path is “seeing” that while there is necessarily a competitive aspect to evolution, there is actually a much deeper, and far more fundamental, necessity for cooperation in any system that is to have a long term probability of survival. Any purely competitive system is a guaranteed path to extinction, it is not a matter of if, just an uncertainty around the when. But seeing that requires looking deeply, recursively, into the strategies and systems of the emergence of life, all levels, over deep time.

And a part of my “seeing” that was literally imagining in my visual systems the multidimensional probability landscapes associated with the survival of strategic variants across all the contexts that individuals and populations encounter across the deep time of evolutionary history (at least in a kind of MCMC analog that my imagination produced). First time I approximated that was the first time I read the latter chapters of Selfish Gene (1978).

So yes, there are large classes of strategies that can be semi stable in particular classes of contexts (niches), and niches change; and the meta class of survivable strategies across that meta space are, necessarily, based on cooperation. And at multiple levels that has to be deeply encoded in our neural networks, in ideas like fairness, that we see in all mammalian brains.

There is a lot of material to work with.

Trying to squash every “mosquito” (parasitic strategy) is not a viable meta-strategy.

Developing a meta-“gene/meme-drive” technology through the conceptual underpinning of meme-space is potentially workable.

Put up your own version of “mosquito net” and get to work 😉

[followed by
HVN – holarchic vortex networks


All google references to your reference acronym () refer to your book – and I don’t have a copy. Can you send me something that would let me build a useful model of the conceptual structure you refer to.

I have not read the McGilchrist’s book either, only a synopsis, and I do try and stay reasonably current across a broad swath of neurobiology and AI – so could be something in it, but it seems to me that Jaak Panksepp was correct ont he general theme of the basis of consciousness (though way short on details), and it seems that Jeff Hawkins approach to models voting is accurate and a key aspect of the very complex suite of systems that make us, us. Seth Grant’s work on the computational role of protein complexes in the post synaptic function of neurons is another key part of the very complex picture.

I did read Wilbur’s works quite a while back, and had a few email exchanges with Ken, and the whole integral approach is a useful approximation at some levels – but the reality seems to be deeply more complex, and in many aspects fundamentally different.

[followed by]

Just found your PhD thesis – will give that a read.

[followed by]

Hi Mike,

I am autistic, but in my own particular way. Autism is a very blunt classification, a bit like saying I live in New Zealand – it constrains some attributes but leaves others relatively unconstrained.

I am posting this tiny segment of my journey towards building an understanding of your thesis, in the hope that it will help to generate shared understanding.

I started at the start of your thesis, then jumped to page 71 looking for a clue as to what HIDEGRE BIES ADALAS was – and getting your very interesting life history, similar yet different from my own.

The references to McGilchrist took me on a search. Some weeks ago I watched The Divided Brain by Iain McGilchrist (

This time I watched Iain McGilchrist – The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning and was following along accepting most of what he said until about 21 minutes in where he talks about the difference in insight and understanding between the hemispheres and then he says “all the things that are important to a human and can’t really be put into an algorithm”.

At that point, in that sentence, his bias, his failure of comprehension, his basic acceptance of some form of cartesian dualism, is evident.

For me, algorithm, in the broadest sense, is the relationship of things.

In respect of human brains, some of those relationships are extremely complex, multi level, containing vast numbers of divergent approximations (models) having to reach some sort of consensus (at multiple levels).

Those are “algorithms” in the most abstract of senses, and they are algorithms that contain fundamental uncertainties, and aspects that embody “random search” (as the most efficient search algorithm possible).

So I kind of give him credit for some aspects of what he has done, in seeing that there is most commonly a division of labour between the hemispheres; and just as some people become generalists while most others become specialists, so too that seems to be possible with brains and their hemispheres.

The experiences I gave myself in my early 20s, when I was practicing for deep diving, and spending hours each evening practicing slow breathing (one breath every 4 minutes), and breath holding (for up to 7.5 minutes), gave me consistent experience of very low levels of consciousness. When the lungs last had fresh air in them 7 minutes ago, the CO2 build up is high and the O2 capacity is very low; there is not much energy to sustain computation, and the function of brain and experience of being changes. I spent a couple of hours in those sorts of states most nights for a couple of years. The contrast, of hyperventilating and having vastly more oxygen and energy than normal, then the transition to the edge of awareness, over 7 minutes, repeatedly; as one recursively explored the experience looking for ways to stretch out the envelop of useful, survivable, reliable consciousness – was “interesting”.

At about 28:30 McGilchrist caricatures the left right split and reductionist, wholistic; which I kind of agree with as a caricature; but he seems to hold on the caricature as something real; rather than accepting that both are required in an eternally yin/yang approach that with appropriate balance can eternally grow and explore and “explain” and “appreciate”. There must be both relationship and uncertainty, and the degrees of each can be very context sensitive. So in that sense, I agree with some of McGilchrist’s key theses, to some significant degree.

He seems to take a wholistic (simplistic) dominant view, that doesn’t give sufficient balance to the details and systems necessarily present at every layer of structure. He seems to be dismissive of depths of structure he really needs to pay far more attention to (in the sense of Garret Lissi’s use of the E8 Lie group in his approach to a ToE or Wolfram’s use of the Ruliad – and to me both of those approaches appear to be contextually useful approximations to something fundamentally more complex and uncertain, in the sense of whole new classes of logic and computation implicit in those logics). And I acknowledge that to get the sort of complexity that we are, and that we experience, something very closely approximating classical causality must exist at some levels and contexts (all classes of logic I have explored deliver that result).

I agree that there is necessarily always a balance; and it is that very balance that is denied by McGilchrist’s statement “all the things that are important to a human and can’t really be put into an algorithm” – of course they can, they must, but the complexity of that algorithm, and the levels of fundamental uncertainty that must be embodied in any such algorithm, deliver a uniqueness of being that is necessarily embodied in every instance.

And this ties back to your PhD thesis, to the uniqueness of human understanding, and in this sense I again agree with McGilchrist that being a maverick is essential, being willing to challenge the accepted, and to use “evidence” in the full knowledge of all the biases necessarily present in our “evidence producing systems”. Deeply, recursively, complex and uncertain. The details are important. We are all, necessarily, unique, and different in ways few have any real conception of, because of the simplistic categories employed in their “models” of reality and being (because it is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that all any of us can experience as reality is the subconsciously generated model of it that our brains deliver).

So we have these recursive sets of models and confidence, of simplistic certainty built over complex uncertainty.

The level of relationship and influence and uncertainty evidently present when one spends sufficient time in the details of the datasets, are just mind numbingly large. That we make any sense at all of it is little short of miraculous. That we tend to over simplify it is a necessity.

We need both the sense of wonder and awe, and the confidence to act in ways that deliver reasonable probabilities of survival. We are all the products of long lines of systems that managed to do that. We are now exploring and searching “spaces” that no biological system before us could reasonably explore, yet most do so from such simplistic models that survival is definitely at risk.

One thing is clearly fundamental to me.

We acknowledge the fundamental role of cooperation in the emergence and survival of complexity, or we perish.

The currently overly simplistic dogmatic, myopic, cultural reliance on the simple notion of competition, is actually creating existential level risk.

We must have cooperation between diversity at all levels (recurs as deeply as possible). It is foundational – necessarily, and needs to be acknowledged as such.

Constraints on non-cooperative (cheating) agents are required.

With the depths of diversity present, it is a non-trivial problem space. Any overly simplistic answer leads to destruction.

One has to accept, at all levels, that it must be an eternally iterative process – probing the system, seeing how it responds, amplifying things going in survivable directions, dampening down things headed dangerous ways, repeat (as often and as deeply as one is able).

We must accept, that we as agents, are embedded within, and are part of the system. We work on ourselves first and foremost, then on everything else (in the full knowledge of our imperfect knowledge – the inevitability of error – the constant requirement to reassess).

And it seems probable that all our models are wrong, yet some are less wrong than others, and all can be useful in context. Every carpenter alive today uses “flat earth” when building a house. At that scale it is entirely appropriate. Every model is context sensitive.

[Hit the facebook post limit]

The context of the survival of sapience is something else. It demands much more of us; something deeply beyond simplicity, deeply beyond any level of rule following – fundamental responsibility.

I still haven’t got to “HIDEGRE BIES ADALAS”, and I will get back to it in a few hours.


[followed by]

Hi Mike,

I often have difficulty with metaphor.

Metaphor is often great for description of the experience of something, but is often far from useful as a way of elucidating the mechanisms behind the experience.

And sometimes, metaphor is all we have, and the more constraints we can put around it, the greater the probability of localising to the systemic construct desired.

There are lots of things about me that are far from “normal”. I seem to be tetrachromatic (have 4 sets of color cells rather than 3). I discovered this in 1978, when doing the colour blindness test for my skippers ticket, and I confounded the person giving the test because I could clearly see all the sets of numbers, rather than seeing one as being far stronger than the others. Once I realised that, it did explain the fact that I would often argue with my siblings about whether a colour was more green like or more blue like. I clearly saw things differently.

My hearing is similarly different. I lose it at about 13 kHz, but pick it up again at around 26 kHz, and actually have 4 bands of acute hearing in what is “ultrasonic” for most people. So some animals that use those ultrasonic ranges I can hear clearly, at long distances, above quite loud ambient noise levels.

So it depends very much what metaphor is being used for, as to whether or not I am likely to get it. If I am looking for mechanism, and someone thinks I am looking to appreciate their experience, then that can cause major confusion. (And I am often, usually, looking for mechanism.)

[followed by]

Hi Mike,

Not quite sure what you mean by “mind the gaps” 😉

Am I aware that my understanding and that of others is frequently at variance? Yep – that for sure.

Am I ever sure what anyone else thinks? No – often I cannot localise to anything with any significant probability – I just “see” too many possible meanings.

That s why I often ask for further “constraints” – to help me localise.

I can be a bit “pedantic” particularly when terms have very defined meanings – like algorithm – which means a process. As someone who has been studying biochemistry and computers for 50 years, it is an idea that is far deeper than simple set of fixed steps – but can incorporate aspects that are uncertain, and even entirely random. Outputs of algorithms do not need to be invariant, in fact there as many classes of algorithms for which the outputs vary – eternally.

[followed by]

Mike McDermott
Hi Mike,

Not surprisingly, I “see” things slightly differently 😉

In a sense I agree with most of it.

A map is never the territory. Our experience of being is an experience within the map that our subconscious brain creates, and our language is, as you say, a set of pointers to things “experienced” at some level.

Language always starts in the physical, with nouns and verbs. We can point to things, and teach/learn labels in this way. We can demonstrate actions, as verbs. Greater subtlety comes later.

But the thing most don’t get, the thing that is obvious when one delves deeply into how brain and neural systems more generally work, is that what makes it to brain, in terms of information, is already highly transformed, and what those transformed signals do is align our internally generated predictive models of what we expect to experience. So we tend to hear the words we expect to hear, and we tend to experience what we expect to experience, rather than what is actually there.

So, yes, experience of being is that of being in our personal models of whatever reality is, occasionally interrupted by variance between expected and experienced. All is metaphor in this sense.

One of the difficulties is, that we all have slight differences in our sensory and discriminator and distinction and correlation systems – so we can all agree that the thing we are pointing to is a table, yet we can each have a different experience of it. Taking just our differences in colour perception as an example, we may see quite different patterns in the details of the table; yet unless we get down to detail, we may never be aware of those differences.

Right now, I am sitting in my favourite chair, laptop on my lap, enclosed fire burning 1.5m to my right, if I look over the laptop, there is a dining chair, then the sliding door to the deck, the deck, some of our trees beyond, the bay, the township, then the Seaward Kaikoura mountains, but currently the highest peak of Manukau is hidden in rain clouds. But the instant I focus on the chair, there is present in my awareness the likely construction methodology of the carpenter that constructed it. As I glance at the door, I have memories of the aluminium smelter at Ti Wai Point, and working with glass and aluminium construction. As I glance at the deck, memories of building houses with my father. Glancing at the trees I “see” their usefulness as source of wood to keep us warm during winter, and I also see their growth patterns, the biochemistry of the various systems that give them the form they have. Beyond the bay, the water/air interface, the waves, the marine ecosystems, the plankton, fish, dolphins, whales, boats, fishing,… As my focus rests on the town beyond I have cascading images of people I know, businesses present, the vast range of technologies present there, their interconnectedness. Beyond town is the farming area, most of who I know – awareness of the trade-offs, the impact of our farming practices on the ecosystems that existed previously, the social tensions present, the issues of water supply, flood risk, groundwater contamination by nitrates, phosphates etc. The social pressures on the farmers, with the recent earthquake, the impacts of covid on international markets etc. Beyond that the mountains rise. I see the biology of those forest ecosystems, the trees, the insects, the geckos and lizards, the birds – the invasive deer, pigs, cats, rats, stoats, ferrets, mice, etc. I “see” the fault zones, the tectonic forces building from deep below us, as vast plates descend into the molten depths of the planet pulling apart the central ocean seafloor spreading zones, giving birth to these mountains, all their biological niches, all the ground that makes life such as us possible. All that I have written here, and so much more, is present in the couple of seconds it takes for my attention to pass over these things. I can capture only some tiny fraction of it in words in any useful time.

So yes – there is metaphor, and there is so much more than simply metaphor.

There is systems, pattern, experience, models.

When one plays with mathematics, then there are classes of things that describe topologies, shapes, dimensions. There are ways of relating things.

When one gets deeply into modeling systems, it is the phase transition matrices that are usually the most interesting things. How is it that a system changes from one state to another? How is change possible? How is change avoidable? How do some systems persist while others degrade?

Deeply, recursively, what are the systems that allow for the emergence of structure? How can those arrange themselves into us, into this experience of being that I have?

So yes – there is a sense of metaphor, of transformation of reference. When I point to a table, and call it “table” what I experience as table is not the table I am pointing to, but the subconsciously generated model of it that is my experiential reality of table. There is a double indirection even in this most simple of language uses, even if I am initially completely ignorant of it. And that can change.

When one is dealing with disembodied pattern, with mathematical formulations, expressions that describe something – like a topology or a vibrational system of harmonics through some set of dimensions; these “things” can be expressed abstractly as sets of symbols, which can be transmitted with hi fidelity, but one can never be quite certain if the other mind expands those symbols into the imagery, or if they deal purely with the symbols.

My existence is to experience both the imagery, and the metacognitive relationships, at frequencies up to 200 per second, and an aspect of me can capture some tiny fraction of that into words.

So yes – metaphor, but which of the thousands (millions) of “things” are being pointed to.

In a sense, Plato was onto something, but he left out a layer (several actually), but he couldn’t possibly have known that – the tools, the patterns, the knowledge, simply did not exist in his time.

This is an attempt to point towards my “experience of being”.

I suspect that what others experience is something very unlike what I experience, but it is difficult to get sufficient engagement to build any reliable probabilities around that.

[followed by]

Rather than seeing it as a small pathological minority taking over (the usual definition of pathocracy), I tend to view it is sets of incentives and systems that set up perverse outcomes, largely due to over simplification of the irreducibly complex.

Most people desperately crave simplicity, and most have vastly overly simplistic models of most of reality.

We all tend to have reasonably complex models of the bits we are really familiar with, but simple models of everything else. So the usual pattern is for experts in one area to come in with a reasonable grasp of the complexity of their narrow area of specialty, and very simple “straw man” models of most other things; which tends to make them over confident of their particular solutions, and dismissive of everyone else’s concerns.

In our coastal management group, we spent three years developing an agreed set of values. That was pivotal to making progress, because when we did get stuck on specific issues, we could come back to the values, and ask – how are we going to implement these values in this issue, if we can’t do it any of the ways we have already explored?

Often I would take the role of steel manning the views of others (even when they were far from my own) so that others more closely aligned to my views could get a glimpse of the usefulness and validity of those other value sets.

To solve many of these very complex issues we are going to have to take many iterative approaches, and to be accepting of the ever changing diversity that results.

Two questions for you, about terms used in your thesis that are not explained in a way that I can understand them:
holarchic vortex networks (HVN)
Hexagonal Matrix,

Can you give examples of these things. Google didn’t help.

[followed by]

That took me on a deeper journey into Buddhism than I have been on in 42 years.

Still don’t have any hooks on why the V is in HVN. I quite like vortices, and they have come close to killing me on a few occasions (carmen vortex formation behind big rigs going at high speed when one is on a motorcycle at even higher speeds).

If the “knowledge curse” you refer to is that of finding it difficult to consider what existence without such knowledge might be like, then yes – I hit it every day – many times. It is the primary reason I find the actions of most people impenetrably mysterious, most of the time.

I had an experience today, in a meeting of our coastal management group, around discussing the reality of a recreational fishery for abalone on this coast. For me, the mathematics is simple. We have determined by a scientific process that a reasonable total allowable catch for the area in question is about 40 Tonnes. Currently 23 T of that is allocated to commercial, and the balance to traditional and recreational and “other sources of mortality” (basically illegal harvest).

For the season just gone, the recreational allowance was set at 5T, our group recommended setting a low bag limit (3), in an attempt to constrain recreational take. Two other groups recommended status quo (5). In the event, it was set at 5 paua per person per day, and a survey was conducted over most of the coast. That survey determined that the recreational take from the survey area was 42T (probably over 50T on the whole coast). That is well in excess of the “allowance” made (by a factor of 8 and probably 10), an in fact exceeds the total allowable catch. But many people still think 5 is a reasonable number, because it is what they are used to. They will not do the simple maths that proves it is not possible. To me, that math was accessible in a second or so. To most other people, even when I take 5 minutes to walk them through all the explicit calculations, the result, though clear, holds no emotional force, no reality, they are just numbers.

I literally cannot imagine that world view.
I can write the words.
I can model it in an abstract sense.

But I cannot actually imagine what it might be like to be that ignorant of number, and the impact of number in reality. It is so many levels removed from my existence.

I have a clear memory of the day I first calculated the number of second in a year, 1963, we were in our little Austin 7 on a family trip to Taipa for a holiday (a huge drive 12 hours). I decided to try and calculate the number of seconds in a year, in memory alone – for an 8 year old, I considered it a reasonable challenge. I did it. That got me seriously interested in the heuristics of rapid calculation. So understanding numbers, to a first order approximation almost instantly, and to 5 digits within a couple of seconds, has been part of my existence for 60 years. I have lost the ability to imagine life without it.

The term Holon is problematic for me.

I can see some real power in it at some levels. Certainly, there are emergent properties from some classes of systems that are not present in the constituent parts of those system. Certainly, it is possible for influences to pass throughout the levels of systems, in all manner of networks.
Certainly, most things are more complex and uncertain than our simple approximations (understandings) of them.

Certainly, there is a tendency for a degree of recursion in pattern, and there is often an increase in aspects of dimensionality with scale, and sometimes that crosses critical thresholds that enable entirely new classes of pattern.

To some degree, those ideas are captured in the idea of holons, but to a degree the idea can also cause critical paths of information flow and influence to be ignored.

One of the ideas that few seem to get, is the fundamental uncertainty implicit in mathematics. People may have heard the term “irrational numbers”, but not really understood what they are, and what they mean for the concept of “rationality”.

Irrational numbers have a real value, but it can never be calculated in any real time. Pi is an interesting example. The ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle. It cannot be known with perfect accuracy, one may continue calculating more digits until the end of eternity, thus any calculation using it necessarily carries some level of uncertainty. It can be approximated to amazing degrees of accuracy. I have a file with Pi to 1 million digits of accuracy on my computer. I have done some interesting analysis of it, and treated as a string of digits, it is a reasonable approximation to a random string – though it is in fact deterministic (which is an interesting recursive path of exploration).

So I am deeply intrigued as to why you chose the term “vortex”? Why that, and not something else?
What was the major influence on that choice?

Because it is not at all obvious to me.

Vortices are a possible form, but I do not understand why you think it has this level of primacy.

[followed by 12/7/22]

Hi Mike,

Yes, it helps; and in the sense I was meaning, it leaves the core question of my last message unaddressed, from my perspective.

Vortexes exist.

One of my many unintended attempts to secure a Darwin award was to approach a vortex. I was out flying in a Cesna 172 one day, and it was one of those weird days with a flat cloud-base at about 2,000ft, with occasional narrow tornados coming down out of the cloud-base. Some were quite long, reaching all the way down to the ground, but some were tiny.

I wondered just how much energy the things actually contained, so I selected the smallest one, a tiny visible funnel, probably only 10ft wide and 15 ft below the cloud base, reduced to minimum power and speed, and flew into the left side of it.

I have no memory of any perception of any intermediate state. One instant I was flying straight and level, the next instant the plane was wings vertical. It took way less than a second, and it took my perceptual system several hundred milliseconds to catch up and deliver an orientation to awareness.

I recovered control, and flew back to the airfield, landed, and inspected the aircraft for damage, all seemed to be “in tact”.

Vortexes do happen, but they tend to be relatively rare, and the require moving “masses” (vectors in opposition). They can only form at boundaries between “masses” (vector spaces) that are largely entrained. In my 500+ hours of piloting aircraft I have had many encounters with vortices, but probably less than an hour in total, and mostly, only critically for a few seconds at a time (sometimes less).

So they are real, and they form at boundary conditions. As such, I do not consider them primary in any sense. The primaries have to be the “bodies” that give rise to the boundaries that allow for the vortex formation. Most of one’s flying experience is of relatively stable air masses, punctuated with occasional exceptions (thermals, downdrafts, updrafts, clear air rotor, etc).

So from that perspective, you have not given me any clue I have yet appreciated as to why, or all the possible topologies, you selected vortex (to me, it makes no sense). I am familiar with the subset of topologies covered by by Reimann tensors and Hilbert spaces; but they are a tiny subset of all possible topologies.

I can certainly agree with your conclusion, reality (whatever it is) must have a process component that is at least as important as any “being” component (eternal becoming in a sense), and complexity must emerge (on the rare occasion that it does) in something that approximates an upwards spiral (where the x and z axes map aspects of complexity and the Y axis is the number of levels of recursion instantiated with added instances of complexity). And a 3D model is necessarily inadequate when there are more than three dimensions of complexity involved (and we are dealing with many more that 3 – well into the thousands, probably closer to 100,000, perhaps beyond).

Yes, our minds need images (imaginals), and our neural networks are so heavily biased to discriminate in 3 dimensions that it is hard to train them to work with much more highly dimensional spaces, and with work in it doable.

We come from such different perspectives.

I come largely from a biology background, but also from physics and mathematics. Physics looks at the details of the what happensness of being. The best understandings we have, the quantum picture of the Standard model, delivers probabilities, and assumes that all things influence all other things, and works out that in most contexts most of those influence essentially cancel each other out, and only a few things really need to be considered to get reliable outcomes.

It gets deeply more complex when one starts to consider non-binary logics (logics with more states than True/False). It appears that there are an infinite class of such things, and each instance allows for different classes of computation, and it seems each may be approximated in any (in a recursion of Turing’s thesis).

So my interest in most of philosophy did not come from any idea that it was right, but rather started from the presumption that it was wrong (necessarily overly simplistic due to lack of adequate tools to even conceptualise the complexity evidently present), and tried to work out how and why it seemed “Right” to the individuals expressing it throughout history.

So your tracing lines of thought through philosophical schools does not in itself help me, though it does allow me to investigate other references to those schools and try and build some useful approximation to systemic schema description. Something that allows me to translate to things that make sense to me.

I will stress again, I am not rational in the classical sense, though I deeply value reason.

A more accurate description of me would be something like “an ecclectic collection of schema that seem to work reliably in practice that have been collected by essentially random search across the space of all possible schema and tested in as many ways as I have been prepared to experiment with”. I have never done “authority” well, and I am always keen to learn from the mistakes of others, and to try new possibilities when the probabilities of the current context seem to call for them.

Current dogma is, evolution is driven by competition.

To me that is clearly overly simplistic nonsense, though competition is clearly a very real thing in most contexts.

When it comes to the evolution and survival of new levels of complexity, it is much more accurate to say that all new levels of complexity are predicated on new level of cooperation, both for their initial emergence and for the ongoing survival.

Thus, to a good first order approximation, human survival is predicated upon our ability to cooperate – first and foremost. And of course it is deeply more complex than that, because cheating strategies are a real thing, and detecting and mitigating them is an essential part of any strategic complex that is to survive (apply recursively, as deeply as you are able).

That is my “ground of being”.


Eternal novelty.

Fundamental uncertainty.


For me, all values (valence structures) seem to be grounded in the survival of something over time and context (and the somethings and contexts can vary massively in complexity and longevity and the constraints they impose).

So many relationships essential to understanding, stellar nucleosynthesis, geology (particularly the geochemistry of the mantle core interface), plate tectonics, evolution, RNA, proteins, cells, bodies, populations. So many levels of differentiation, separation, yet maintenance of some degree of communication. Level after level after level – systems, recursing, expanding in their ability to search the space of the possible for that which is survivable.

Life as search!

And I am human.

I have all the emotions, systems, needs, of other humans, but perhaps in a somewhat atypical mix.

So I am happy with existent applying to multiple levels of pattern and relationship that can encompass both thing and process (where both terms are useful approximations to something vastly more complex and containing fundamentally uncertainty).

And vortex is a problem for me.


[followed by]

Hi Mike,

Turbulent would make a bit more sense to me, but dynamic would be better – the idea of motion and change and energy.

Vortices are at the heart of turbulence, and turbulence happens at the interfaces between “things” with different velocities (liquids or gasses against themselves, each other or solids) beyond a certain critical threshold (below that threshold laminar flow can be sustained).

All of the ideas from history that you mention are kind of interesting from a historical perspective, but are wrong, some seriously so.

Vortices are an effect, not a cause. And I can see how that confusion could occur to the ancients – they had little real idea of the complexities or levels of systems present.

Thanks for the correct spelling of Karman – I could only recall the sound, and guessed (incorrectly) the spelling. I had sound and dymanic visual of the effect – as well as clear memories of the side to side buffeting of being on a motorbike behind a big rig – sometimes quite violent – knowing exactly what was causing it – the alternating vortex train.

For me, it is important to reinforce analogies that have some significant relationship to the reality we can demonstrate today, and to dampen down all others.

Yes – motion, systems, change, balance between order and chaos, possibility – these are real things. And the need for boundaries, flexible permeable boundaries, at every level of structure, is fundamental to the evolution of complex systems. The idea that rigid boundaries fracture, causing failure – the absolute need for flexibility (all levels).

Certainly, fish birds and insects make subtle use of vortices to achieve far greater efficiencies than is possible from laminar flow alone, but again the vortices are not the source of the energy, they are just the obvious manifestation. And being clear on distinctions like that are critical if we are to get a more general awareness of the critical dangers present.

As much clarity as possible, acknowledging that most people are not going to understand quantum uncertainty or non-binary logics; but the classical notion of a balance between order and chaos is one that does carry well across multiple domains.

The ideas of eternal motion, eternal becoming, eternal uncertainty – these map well through domains.

I don’t see vortices bringing order, I see them as a complex boundary feature – effect – not cause.
The quote you gave of – “‘the cause of coming-into-being of all things is the vortex’” is just wrong. Deeply wrong.
Vortices happen at certain types of boundaries, but what created the boundary?

Holon, sort of. And to me the idea of Holon takes a good idea just a little bit too far. To me it is more like Emergent. Properties emerge, and influence ripples up and down the stack of systems giving rise to that particular emergent property.

The idea of Dynamic – of something causing motion, some imbalance, is to me fundamental. Vortices happen within such systems.

Networks – certainly. Networks of matter, energy, influence, relationship, systems, principles, information, valences.

Rather the HVN, EDN more accurately characterise what is being described. Yes – holons are there, at least in as much as the idea exists at all, but to me, the idea of something being a whole in and of itself is a step too far. Yes I am me, and I could only have become me in a community. I could not have survived without a family to raise me, a society to teach me language, give me all the concepts and ideas distilled over culture, the relationships I have had with thousands of people, that have given my neural network the ability to make the distinctions that it has/does. The me that writes these words is a huge cooperative of trillions of cells, of thousands of predictive models within my neocortex, of all the other levels of systems present, embodied within “me”. All the influences, imbalances, systems, cooperations, competitions. And it is cooperation that is fundamental. We have a name for cells that put competition over cooperation – “Cancer” – and it is often fatal.

Emergent Dynamic Networks – constantly changing, eternal novelty, eternal exploration and adaption – and necessarily based in cooperation.

[followed by

HVN holarchic vortex networks


H stands for “HIDEGRE”, which in turns stands for:
H. A Hexagonal matrix for analysing transactions
I. Recognising the central importance of Identity in addressing wicked valuation problems
D. The central importance of the concept of Development in analysis and in intrinsic and systemic valuation
E. The recognition of Emergence of new wholes requires new methods of analyses and valuation at each level and a more sophisticated understanding of the interrelationships within and between the emergent levels in the hextants
G. The Goldilocks Principle, that development can only happen within limited levels and pace of change
RE. That all evolution is co-evolution, here expressed as Related Evolution.

B stands for BIES, which in turn stands for:
B. The Butterfly Effect and Black Swans: complex situations are unpredictable, so resilience and antifragility must be built into policies and their implementation
I. Intrinsic Value: for example, organisms that enfold many levels of emergence are more intrinsically valuable than organisms with fewer levels of emergence (for example, killing a person is much worse than killing a mosquito for this reason). Cognitive and other capacities are traced for their emergent intrinsic value along the Model of Hierarchic Complexity (Commons 2008).
E. Extrinsic Value refers to the usefulness of some existent in a context. For example, a hammer is of high extrinsic value if you want to drive in a nail. However, if you looking for a conversation, one is better off attempting that with some existent of high intrinsic value: another person.
S. Systemic Value looks at how existents are and compares them with how existents should be. For example, highly developed valuations are more systemically valuable than unarticulated, poorly supported valuations. Systemic value requires systemic thought and planning and the development of the understanding of complicated matters. While intrinsic value can be approach zero, systemic value can be negative when the existents destroy quality / areté / the pattern that connects.

ADALAS stands for:
AD. All Domains and Dimensions
AL. All Levels and Lines
AS. All Scales.]

[followed by 17/7/22 – mike sent a link:,like%20nails%20down%20a%20blackboard%E2%80%9D ]

Thanks for that link Mike, it helped a lot.

My view of the world is so different in a sense.

For me, everything is pattern (so the distinction between metaphor and analogy is not as strong as it is for McGilchrist).

Some patterns are predictable, some not.

Some are related to others in ways in which analogy, metaphor, or pointing, help.

In a sense, I see one aspect of the human brain as being search, both looking for pattern in the store of known patterns, and doing random search across the space of all possible pattern looking for something new (my brain seems quite adept at that).

I have some clues as to how that is implemented in some aspects of brain, and it seems likely that there are many different mechanisms in different parts of the brain, that become more active in some contexts.

I can see some sets of contexts where vortex is an appropriate metaphor, but they are not contexts most would consider desirable.

Dynamic has the sense of change and energy, without the sense of spinning out of control and threatening to destroy that which is contacted (which is definitely the imagery that I have for vortex, and also mariners and pilots and motorcyclists more generally).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
This entry was posted in understanding and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s