Thanks again Isaac. I’m likewise enjoying this interaction. Speaking of systems thinking I was fortunate enough to have as one of my professors on my MS in Systems Engineering Professor Peter Checkland. His work follows directly on from the pioneering work of Stafford Beer, the guy who coined the term cybernetics. Checkland’s big contribution (in my opinion) was to popularize the notion of emergent properties, which I’ve subsequently used to help determine the correct level of abstraction by means of which to examine a given phenomenon.

By way of example (which I doubt you need, but just in case anyone else reads this thread) let’s consider a fish. If we’re interested in the internal workings of its cells, then cellular biology is appropriate. Indeed, the more we peer at enzymatic reactions etc. the more we delve into biochemistry. If we wanted to delve further into the behavior of molecules at some point we’d reach physics. But to return to cellular biology, it can tell us nothing about the behavior of fish en mass in shoals. For that, we need a very different level of abstraction. Enzymatic cellular activity isn’t comprehensible in terms of shoals, but shoal behavior isn’t comprehensible in terms of cellular chemistry. The trick is always to understand the necessary level of abstraction that’s dictated by the emergent property we’re trying to understand.

Hence my statement that at an individual level it’s quite difficult to predict human behavior precisely over a reasonable timespan, but actually quite easy to make the prediction at group level. The emergent property of the group is what enables the predictive accuracy at that level of abstraction.

As for being less pessimistic, alas I fear we really are in for a much worse sequel to the 1930s. As I have two children in their 20s I fear greatly for their futures and for the future of all those who today are under the age of 30.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.