THE BLOG

Co-creating Our 'Unprestatable' World

01/07/2013 01:02 pm ET | Updated Mar 09, 2013

Is living a computable complex optimization problem?

This is precisely the framework of economic theory, the theory that drives so much of our policy. In its various forms of infinite rationality, the founding masterful theorem of Arrow Debru, Competitive General Equilibrium, the only overarching theory of economics, to weaker forms of bounded rationality. This framework tends to believe that life and living it is a prestatable problem that can be solved.

In this framework, top down control is not only reasonable, but to be favored. This is a view of the world as if it were General Motors of 1950 building a prestated set of cars and trucks. Business, policy, law and life are largely controllable, with exceptional exogenous "shocks".

How wrong.

Consider this recent economic history. In the 1930s, Alan Turing invented the Turing Machine. This led, in the midst of World War II, to the development of the first computer, the Eniac, created to calculate naval shell trajectories. But this soon lead to the invention, post war, of the main frame computer.

Then the wide sale of the main frame computer created a market opportunity, or market niche, that enabled, but did not cause, the invention of the personal computer.

Then the wide sale of the personal computer enabled the market niche opportunity for the invention of word processing, whose wide sale created the wide spread use of file sharing, which in turn created a need for, hence enabled, the invention of the World Wide Web.

But the invention of the Web enabled selling goods on the web and Ebay and Amazon burst into our lives. The burgeoning content on the Web enabled the market opportunity, or niche, for Web browsers, and Google and Yahoo made their appearance. Now we have Facebook and its enablement of the Arab Spring. No one foresaw this.

In the above familiar history there is an unprestatable emergence of ever new opportunities, here new "adjacent possible" economic niches. These unprestatable new niches are the stuff of entrepreneurial innovation that drives economic growth of what might well be called a sprawling economic web that diversifies, creating ever new business opportunities in much of the First World.

This entire process cannot be computed ahead of time. Why not? Because neither economic growth nor the growth of laws and the actions they enable, can be prestated. In short, not only do we not know what WILL happen, we often do not even know what CAN happen.

If not, then reason, the highest human virtue of our Enlightenment, is an insufficient guide for living our lives.

More, when we create new legal laws, these enable partially unprestatable "adjacent possible" strategy spaces. For example an Amazonian country decided to legally monitor Amazon forest health by satellite photographs of the forrest canopy. Given that law, the locals found an unexpected way around the law: They cut down trees shorter than the canopy and sold the timber.

Thus when we create new goods and production capacities, they can be used for unprestatable purposes. When we create new legislation, it enables a partially unprestatable "adjacent possible" strategy space." In turn, the actions thereby enabled may call forth new laws which enable yet again partially unprestatable strategy spaces.

But this combination of laws and enabled strategy spaces, used or misused with respect to the intended legal consequences, can form complex self reinforcing loops of laws, regulations and actions. These self reinforcing loops are the basis of the vast power structure that girdles Congress, the banks too big to fail and other too large corporations that lobby Congress to achieve and enhance their power and wealth, and our Congress members who readily accept the monies in order to buy media coverage in order to be reelected.

We see it all with devastating clarity. Our democracy is usurped.

These issues mean a number of things:

First, since the evolution of the biosphere, the economy, the body of laws, regulations and enabled actions, are not prestatable, no laws of motion in Newton's sense can be written for this evolution. Thus, no laws "entail" the becoming of the universe beyond the watershed of life. (See "No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere," [1201.2069] No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of ...arxiv.org › q-bio )

The physicists' dream of a Final Theory that entails all that arises in the universe is false.

If we see reality in a different way, we will eventually come to be in the world in a different way.

Second, in all these spheres of human life, we co-create ever new adjacent possibilities, new opportunities, and typically cannot prestate them. Life is not a calculable optimization problem.

Third, if we cannot know what we co-create and its unprestatable consequences, we cannot know the consequences of what we do. Therefore, we cannot know ab initio our best path, even were we to agree on goals. We do not even know what new opportunities our very co-creations will themselves unleash.

Fourth, then life demands a continuous capacity to adapt to the consequences we did not know would emerge.

Fifth, this brings us to the central genius of democracy. Democracy is not the rule of the majority, but a pattern of enabling governance that allows compromises to arise among evolving and conflicting minority view and interests. Gridlock in Congress forestalls compromise.

Sixth, the failure of our democracy is evident in the self-serving, self reinforcing, power structures that now stare us in the face, for these power structures do not enable a widely based, well-balanced and broadly adaptive capacity to co-create and make use of the unexpected opportunities our very activities generate. Rather, our elite too powerful power structures, dramatically narrow our collective pathways of becoming and co-creating.

Thus, in addition to inequality, our First World in modernity has become too restrictive. Our co-creativity needs to be unleashed.