Bulletin 3

Bull. 3. May 25, 1997. Question: Is there a true physical science foundation for the modern human species and its social organization?

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In Bull.2, we opined at the end that we might start with the biological form of this antinomy. But invariably, it suggests that the reader will be more at home with the social form. So we start that here. We use as a text, having started such study in 1972, a summary report that we prepared in 1980. We offer it because of its clarity and unity as an introduction to such study.

Abstract. This study deals with the application of a general systems theory to regional and urban organization. In a first task, that theory was applied to defining urban vitality and its measures. In a second task, the works of other researchers in the field of systems analysis were reviewed for the utility of their concepts to an urban construct (chemical kinetics; homeokinetic physics; urban geography; state variables; dynamic economics). In a third task, constraints on urban systems were discussed. In a fourth task, urban organization and functions were summarized within a conceptual general systems model. In this final report, the major theses are reviewed.

Preface. A general systems theoretic has been presented as the basis for modelling the dynamics of urban civilization. It has been compared with other systems views of systematic phenomena, e.g., society, living organisms. Its main ingredients are the physical elements of: atomisms (the system is made up of a collective of atomistic-like entities engaged in interaction); conservations (atomistic movement and change can only be followed causally and systematically in terms of conserved quantities); morphology and spectroscopy (interatomistic forces create binding relationships – the morphology of the system; there is a motional competition between binding rigidity and patterns of movement – the temporal processes making up spectroscopy). This very sparse number of elements is sufficient to characterize the order of all social collectives – natural, living, higher organismic, including modern humans in urban civilizations.

Summary: A theory of urban organizations. The work that was to be performed in this study was the following:

Utilizing concepts of general systems theory, the objective of the proposed research is to construct a theory of regional and urban organization capable of describing dynamically the fundamental aspects of regional and urban growth, vitality, and the role played by transportation. The overall aim is to conceptualize a model which has the potential for exploring long range alternatives.

As a measure of the development of theory, four tasks were assigned. Those tasks were explored in four separate reports. In this final report, the requirements for such a dynamic theory, capable of exploring long range alternatives are outlined.

1. The theoretical study of astrophysics or physiological systems requires an extensive dense descriptive-experimental data base on which to theorize. Even though regional and urban organizations are known to exist for the past six millenia, such a data base, even in descriptive form, does not exist. The possibility of checking even the simplest of theoretical predictions, in any kind of general fashion, is thus very limited.

2. On the basis of the social-historical studies we have conducted along with our social systems studies for both a number of agencies (1973 to present) and our association with an international society that studies civilizations (1971 to present), a group which contains and attracts individuals who have been interested in or concerned with studying civilizations (urban associations), we have volunteered a number of times to construct such a basis. It is our belief that such a data base should be stored in a usable computer accessible form, within one or more public agencies.

3. In order to grasp the utility of such a data base for exploring long range alternatives (i.e., for making policy), it is necessary to understand how our general systems theoretic joins up with the findings and philosophy of the social sciences. We will offer brief summaries of these different points of view.

4. A physically based science traces causality within a collective (e.g., a society of atoms, living cells, people) only in terms of basic conservations. Civilizations operate with only five ‘conservations’ (conservations are those quantities which are conserved within transactions among society members). These are:

(a) Materials, in their atomistic form, are not lost, only transformed. An accounts balance of materials is required both for the living members of a society (e.g., 60 gr protein per adult per day), as well as in the flux of all artifacts used as materials of production.

(b) Energy is not lost, only transformed. Similarly an account balance of energy is required both for the living members of a society (e.g., 2000 kcal per adult per day), as well as that produced or consumed in the artifacts used for production, building, transportation, etc.

(c) Actions (energy x time products) of all the subunits that enter into the ongoing collective have to be conserved. This conservation is a strange bridge between classical physics of simple systems and a physics for complex systems. Simple systems (e.g., simple molecules) exhibit their characteristics of motion and change by movement (momentum, which represents their conservation). Complex systems transform their external movement (or momentum) into internal actions (e.g., a living system eats. That energy transformation is used to power internal engines which permit the living system to function inside). For living systems, in which each member of the collective stays in persistent motion, the action is at least as great as the minimum dissipated energy (i.e., 2000 kcal is available each day to dissipate among human actions). The fact is that the modern civilized social collective puts more action into motion by artifacts, i.e., by technological augmentation it puts external machinery into motion. However, except for slave societies (e.g., the Nazis use of concentration camp labor, in which the residual stores of people-energy were simply used up and the people discarded), all rulers know that they must operate their societies so that people-action is expressible and supported. If a state policy is to permit increase of unemployment, e.g., to reduce inflation by some ‘conventional’ (19th Century) economic wisdom, rulers nevertheless know that they will have to support the people-action of the unemployed from public stores.

These action modes or states are easily determined by careful observation. For example, the action states are as follows:

for ciliated bacteria – ingest, excrete, grow, divide, swim in a straight line, tumble;
for mammals – ingestive behavior, eliminative behavior, sexual behavior, care-giving behavior, care-soliciting behavior, conflict behavior, immitative behavior, shelter-seeking behavior, investigatory behavior;
for humans – sleep mode, work mode, interpersonally attend mode, eat mode, talk mode, attend mode, motor practice mode, anxiety mode, sex mode, euphoria mode, drink mode, void mode, anger mode, laugh mode, aggress mode, fear, fight, flight mode, envy mode, greed mode.

Social bureaucrats may be surprised to think of social regulation in terms of modes. Yet any organization manager – farmer, husbandryperson, jail keeper, corporate head, military leader, teacher – knows that command-control governance of the organized system must take account, in both formal structure and function, the characteristic modes of the individual and in collective ensemble. They provide a conservation whose fundamental nature cannot be changed. All collectives of complex atomisms, e.g., organisms, undergo their motion by modes.

(d) Population, for complex systems that live and die, is another conservation. Generation begets generation. This often does not strike scientists as the same kind of conservation as the ‘simpler’ physical variables of mass, energy, momentum. Nevertheless life-death systems have that same kind of invariance, for the life of the species. Thus, for example if chemical reactions are required to keep to keep a complex of chemical constituents in existence, that process is associated with conservations, e.g., of individual mass species; or, if nucleosynthesis (birth and death of nuclear elements) is required to keep a star going, that process is exhibited by a conservation. Similarly, if living systems carry an onboard chemical code, which both assures reliable reproduction and a mode (sex) for reproduction, and reproduction of the species has been assured for countless generations from a remote past to the present, that process is representative of a conservation. If physics is regarded as governing cosmological processes, it just as well has to govern galactic, and stellar, and planetary processes, as it does the complex chemistry, including life chemistry, on a planet. The dynamics of a species (e.g., humans), or a breeding pool (within current cultural standards, almost all Americans now are within a common breeding pool) will vary with how this conservation reacts to external conditions, but it is only on very rare historical occasions that the conservation of the species is threatened.

(e) Value-in-trade is a final conservation which humans in modern society have added to their social intercourse. Other living species, even humans in pre-Neolithic existence, did not limit their social behavior by this conservation. In the social behavior of other animals, their formal processes and forms – packs, herds, and the like – are constrained by the four conservations named. Humanity, as hunter-gatherers for most of its existence (e.g., 40,000 ybp to 10,000 ybp – years before present), and even more recently as agriculturist (e.g., 10,000 ybp to 6,000 ybp), also conducted a social life basically only bound by the same four conservations. It was not until humans settled in place, rather densely concentrated in urban settlements, and began extensive trade with neighboring settlements, that a new conservation made its appearance, via value-in-trade, invented as a social constraint out of human mind. In each transaction outside of the family, value-in-trade is conserved (during the transaction. Your new car may depreciate in value $1,000 an instant after the transaction, but that has nothing to do with the validity of the existence of a conservation).

5. According to physical theory, a collective remains in persistent motion by virtue of the availability of supply potentials (Three of the central notions of physical theory are the atomistic doctrine, the notion of sustained motion of these atomisms, and the notion that the conserved quantities of physical theory can be stored as potentials. If we add to this, Newton’s notion of material hierarchy: “Now the smallest of particles of matter may cohere by the strongest of attractions, and compose bigger particles of weaker virtue; and many of these may cohere and compose bigger particles whose virtue is still weaker and so on for diverse successions …”, we can generalize that construct as the physical foundation for a general systems theoretic). Thus, for example, a collective of molecules in a gas, liquid, or solid phase can be kept in persistent motion by the supply potential of temperature. Persistent motion among different molecular constituents can be sustained by the supply system of temperature, and a supply flux (acting as a potential) of chemical ingredients.

At the level of complexity of living systems, such as animals, the following potentials are required: a temperature potential; chemical potentials of various forms (a chemical potential is a technical concept that measures the storage ‘concentration’ of various chemical ingredients.The animal living system lives in an ecological web and draws required chemical potentals from that web. Thus, by what it eats or otherwise utilizes, it obtains materials, and energy supplies. It may also enter into symbiotic relationships with other living species to select or modify action modes. Humans as agriculturists, for example, spend a lot of time in what appears to be symbolic connection with agricultural rituals. Earlier, as hunter-gatherers, related rituals were connected to the animal prey); genetic chemical potential (one chemical potential, encoded as DNA, is carefully carried aboard and transmitted from generation to generation. The chemical potential assures the reliable reproduction of both the form – morphology – and function – action spectrum – of the species).

When we come to modern humans (40,000 to 10,000 ybp, as hunter-gatherers and agriculturists, pre-civilization), they added two more potentials out of mind. Note that the genetic potential was carried aboard, so that all potentials do not have to be ‘external’ to the system. But the genetic potential was clearly physical. Now we turn to two that appear to be ‘mental’ (Note that the genetic potential has only turned out to be assuredly ‘physical’ for the past two generations, although it was conjectured during the last century. The two we shall now refer to may be similarly hypothesized as being real and physical, and in time provably so, but it would be denied by many as representative of ‘morphologies’ that could ever be physically untangled). One of these new potentials is the tool making or technological rate potential. The human mind (and earlier hominid ancestors for the past two and one half million years – we identify mind as the patterned responses of the brain, an organ that has shown explosive evolutionary-developmental growth during the few million years of the past Pleistocene Age) can add increasing functional capability by tools. All living systems have a world image of self and outer world. A tool is neither self nor outer world but a material-energetic system which can be manipulated between self and outer world to augment motor, sensory, or even cognitive capability of the living system. The major effect of tools seems to be the augmentation of the power or motor capabilities of the human. Loosely speaking the rate of adding technological potential seems to be grossly constant for each of the hominid species or subspecies. Averaged over mutiple generations, it appears that the capability of each generation to add comparable increments to technological potential is the same (for that species). The other new potential, certainly associated with human mind, is the epigenetic potential. This potential, associated with value systems and language and human culture, is the ability to transmit a learned and modifiable heritage from generation to generation. Judged from extensive symbolic artifacts, this only begins with modern humans about 40,000 ybp.

6. Given the potentials, the existence of a space-time field which furnish some boundary confinements, physical theory of a general systems nature begins to grossly characterize the persistent collective motion that will take place. Thus, for example, if known given molecules are introduced into a container held at a given temperature, the sustained motion of this collective can be described. Or, if a known bacterial type is introduced into a container which is supplied by a flux stream containing known chemical nutrients and ingredients (as required chemical potentials), at a given temperature, the characteristics of an equilibrium collective can be prescribed. Our claim is that in comparable fashion, the general characteristics of a human collective can be prescribed. That is, the latter problem is one that has been faced many times by tribal (or often military) leaders, who move into a territory of apparent ecological (chemical) and climatic (e.g., temperature) potential , with a group of adequate size, and possessing a particular historical level of epigenetic potentials. However, the general systems physics for the latter case of human societies, particularly when the human groups precipitate and become symbiotically tied to Earth via agriculture, and solid state-like, begin convective trade to satisfy their conservations, becomes extremely complex. This is not surprising. Liquid physics is more complex than gas physics. Solid state physics has more complexity. When chemical process change is added, further complexity has to be faced. When the complex of chemical reactions that are required to maintain the living system is encompassed, the physics of organisms is quite confusing. And when the complex of physical-chemical processes that go on in the human brain is reached, the societal physics becomes extremely complex. The usual notion, in the 19th Century, has been to slough off such theory from the physical sciences and separate them as independent social sciences. That was the path taken by de Saint-Simon, Comte, Spencer, Marx, and others. However, the social sciences have not been able to provide a universal set of principles. Thus, we return to the physical sciences for fundamental principles, and propose to augment them with the composite findings of the social sciences.

This is part one for this Bull. It’s enough to begin to think about. Ciao!