Sunday June 6, 2021

As I continue to read Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk, I learn of digital hyperobjects like “boids.” Apply three or four simple rules to these objects, he reports, and complex patterns emerge in their behavior, their movement together in groups. Yunkaporta claims that these patterns “cannot be programmed, but must emerge within the system organically — a process that is called ‘random’ in western worldviews but is in fact following the patterns of creation” (135). Patterns of right relation can arise in any complex, self-organizing system, he suggests. Kevin Kelly wrote of such patterns in his book Out of Control. For Yunkaporta, however, such patterns are excuses not for free markets but for heterarchies: complex, self-organizing learning communities where members “operate autonomously under three or four basic rules” (136). Heterarchies are systems “composed of equal parts interacting together” (137). There’s a moment in the book when Yunkaporta says, “If the world ever experiments with an actual free market rather than an oligopoly, this would be the perfect system to facilitate sustainable interactions” (144). In no way, though, should this be read as a defense of what capitalists themselves mean by “the free market.” I admit wanting to tug a bit on this part of Yunkaporta’s yarn. The Marxist in me wants him to turn up the base.

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