Murmuration of starlings / Credit: Nicky Kenny – Shutterstock
Democracy and self-organization enhance each other. Self-organization thrives on localness, collaboration, healthy feedback dynamics, and intrinsic motivation. So, when addressing complex situations, minimize friction and expense by providing conditions whereby those involved can and do address those situations sensibly themselves within the constraints of the common good.
Some related patterns: 39 Generative Interactions 40 Glocal Subsidiarity 41 Groundedness 55 Multi-Modal Power 72 Regenerativity 74 Rich Feedback Dynamics 90 Well-Utilized Life Energy
Self-Organization Fostered – going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
When I say that democracy and self-organization enhance each other, the idea is that there’s bottom-up organization, that the society is being run by the people in it, not by people who are more or less outside it, especially people who are not being impacted by the decisions they make. In a dictatorship or monarchy, the ruler is usually living in a different world than the people he rules.
So democracy theoretically is about rule by the people, self-organized by the society as a whole. There may be people who have lots of power but in terms of voting there is one person, one vote. The principle behind it is that the people are being ruled by the people. That is a very fundamental self-organizing concept.
There’s been research that shows that self-organization is the way the natural world works. Earlier in human history and in many religions even now, many people have believed that gods are in charge of making things happen. That has largely changed as science has advanced, and now most scientists believe that nature makes itself over and over again. There is nobody really in charge of nature but there is definitely an intelligence in nature. Part of self-organization theory overlaps well with intelligence theory, because the trial and error that we see in natural evolution and in ecosystems, is constantly working towards new optimum solutions for new problems and circumstances and leaving a trail of innovations behind it – and isn’t this just what we see when we look for evidence of intelligence?
Circumstances change and new solutions get found. There is a kind of broad intelligence operating in that. So it isn’t as if everything is ONLY just chance and random. There’s an intrinsic way things unfold.
If you have a very complex situation – and the whole world is getting more and more complex, such as in economics or in society – we start to realize that we can’t control the situation from the outside or from the top. No Great Leader is going to successfully manage what’s going happen from the top down. Many people now view the collapse of the Soviet Empire as evidence that that approach doesn’t work.
If you have a very simple scene – for example if you’re trying to build a little machine – you know you can do that from the outside. You don’t need self-organization for that. If things are mechanical and have simple one or two-way causal dynamics, you can consciously design that and probably get good results. But once you start moving into large, complex and/or living systems, you can’t successfully use that approach any more. You can try but you will likely end up using massive amounts of energy to force things to happen and often end up with a mess anyway. The energy isn’t there in the system to do what you want unless you actively work with it. You have not used the existing energy, so you have to use force and manipulate it and it may actively resist you with friction or counter-intention. It can cost a lot of money and effort to keep all the self-organizing energies at bay.