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.
“The instrument of evolution now is culture,” murmured a middle-aged Julian Huxley to a 10-year-old Oliver Sacks during Sacks’s childhood in Hampstead Heath. How does the universe order itself? A poet might say, “Through memories unlocatable in time.” Macro quantum events. Insides becoming outsides. Deterministic chaos. Self-organization. Sudden transformation. Everything can be generated from within. My evening self, for instance, orders my daytime self to look for D.S. Savage’s book The Withered Branch and for Sacks’s essay on “the Odd.” Look as well, it says, for info about Gerald Edelman and his theories about “recategorization.” Floating cell structures, floating synchronic portraits of games of Go. The world fires back, though, with news of a TV miniseries based on the life of Jack Parsons, and two recent biographies by Spencer Kansa: Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron, and Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg. Beaches are parts of the labyrinth strewn with the bones of our predecessors.