Bull. 7. July, 30, 1997. Continuing the question (part 2): Is there a physical science foundation for the modern human species and its social organization?
In Bull.3, we began our argument, using a summary report that we prepared in 1980. We offered it because of its clarity and unity as an introduction to such a physically based study. In a first part, we identified the atomistic variables that we use in a system – its matter and energy flows, its action flows as a substitute for momentum in complex systems, its population flows for living systems; and then the various storage potentials (e.g., the chemical genetic) which drive the movements in that field. We used the simplest example of a colony of ciliated bacteria as such a collective field system to illustrate its societal cooperative behaviors. We continue now towards the human system.
7. Steady state persistent motion, primitive society. The physics of the steady state of a simple system, such as a gas collective, need not be described here. It is contained in standard textbooks (see, for example, (1)). In (2), its physicists and anthropologist authors also used that ciliated bacteria example to introduce a very general social physics. It is very relevant, in its use as a general systems theoretic, that its application be understood for all sorts of conditions. Thus it is not inappropriate to the purposes of this study to illustrate how the principles are applied. The first depiction here is to a prototypic model for the persistent survival of an almost isolated (near ideal gas-like configuration) human settlement that is organized for long term survivorship. We do not fix the technology and value system absolutely. It may be Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, or Iron; it may be agricultural or pastoral. The steady state regulation process is being examined from the point of view of a leader elite. One must note that such roles were being played out in this New World continent 1-2-3-4 centuries ago. It is not very ancient history.
For humans, the preferred climates are temperate, although there is marginal capability up to arctic limitations (with sufficient advanced tool technology) and in tropical climes. Loosely speaking, the region of insertion specifies the climatic-temperature potential.
More localized, the specific potential which is of major concern is water supply. More constantly available, streams and lakes are preferred sources. Thus river valleys serve as major orienting local regions for a social system. Intermittent supplies (oases), and wells are less preferable sources. Dry regions (e.g., those with less than 20 inches of rainfall per year) all pose special difficult problems for living.
Whether hunter-gatherer, or agriculturist-pastoralist, when a human group moves into a region, the daily roaming range that likely develops will likely fall in the 100-1000 square mile scale and will involve a group of perhaps 25-200 people. A hunter-gatherer society will pay attention to the daily and seasonal habits of its animal and floral prey. The animals (e.g., predators and grazers) will similarly pay attention to the habits of their ecological prey. And the lowest levels of the ecological web will attend to the variations in their climate. Thus, given a region and its ecological members, the character of the hunter-gatherer society is fairly fixed, ecologically, in its style of living. A roaming range of up to 25 miles diameter is fixed by the size of the human animal and its carnivore characteristics. That size also fixes the daily energy consumption (i.e., its nominal 2,000 kcal/day) and what is available for daily action (as activities). The specialized abstractionist (e.g., speech, abstract cognition) characteristics of the human brain results in the extreme diversity with which a division of labor can be achieved (see, for example, (3,4)). It is such activities that the elite leader, with a given technological potential and a given epigenetic value system, organizes for a given characteristic of the land into which he or she and the group is inserted. Such patterns of organization are exemplified in the references.
What happens with such a group in time? Basically, the same physical process that happens among simple gas molecules. Interactions take place as fluctuations with average scales. The things that change are related to the technological potential and the epigenetic value system.
The things that happen, in common with other living species, is an occupation of all available ecological niches. Thus, with the insertion of a group into a relatively rich region (rich in chemical potentials, which are exploitable at relatively low energy and action cost for the given technological potential), there is a speeding up in the doubling time, as measured in generations, and its broadcast into neighboring regions. Loosely speaking, the size of the group and its roaming range essentially remains constant. A basic illustration of that process was the expansion of agriculturists into temperate Europe after the last ice age, beginning about 8000 ybp (5) and loosely ‘completed’ by 5000 ybp (years before present).
[At the initial time of writing, one of the Odyssey programs of the Nova series, on public television, was a program of hunter-gathering life among the Cree Indians in the Hudson Bay area. It is recommended watching (or reading since a program script is available) to any reader of this report. The program illustrates perfectly the life style and basic attention to fundamental conservations, even with modern value-in-trade, of a small society. Being arctic, it is an autonomous marginal society. As such, it illustrates attention to fundamental conservations in a minimally complicated way. It turns out that we also have a comparably compelling example drawn from a 1997 experience. Either case study could substitute for the other]
Any detailed physical study of demographic growth suggests that different causality is involved in the total global growth of the entire species, and the growth associated with any local cultural entity. The point to that remark is that apparently no major changes in total global growth rate of the modern human species took place at the end of the last ice age 12,000 ybp. (Loosely speaking the only two significant changes in global rate occurred when humanity, Homo sapiens sapiens, began as a modern subspecies 40,000 years ago; and then, in modern times in about 1750, began the modern socalled demographic transition). Yet, on the other hand, agricultural precipitation and local densification toward agricultural villages begins soon after, i.e., l0,000 – 8,000 ybp.
Thus, before considering the consequences of the settled urban life which is an elaboration of mobile huntergatherer or nomadic life (physically a liquidplastic state of matter rather than a gasliquid state of matter) – we summarize societal life as a chemical bonding among members of a species, which by virtue of their preprogrammed epigenetically adapted action modes, make use of their ambient potential to survive. In brief, they ‘ingest’ their local potentials so as to continue to turn over, in motion, their conservations. They ‘eat’ to ‘move’, so that they can continue to eat to move. It is that circular causality an interplay between the species and its available potentials which is responsible for the autonomous survival of complex systems. It includes reproductive capability, for living systems, and later when necessary a creation of value-in-trade for modern urban systems. That picture presents the steady state character of the system. However, there are three sources that may change the steady state: (a) there may arise vicissitudes in the external environment (change in climate, flood, hurricane, volcanic action, erosion); (b) there may arise interaction from external social agents (invaders, refugees); and (c) there may arise parametric changes in local social stability (level of technology, population density). We will discuss the nature of dynamic change in society subsequently.
8. Before discussing dynamics, there is one surprising aspect of hominid existence that has recently emerged from prehistoric study. The ‘swarming’ (outbreeding of new social units by movements typical of the species) of the hominid species over its habitat in search of new ecological niches has expressed itself as mosaics of sympatric forms, in which groups of different traditions (e.g., tool traditions) have been involved in common occupancy of segments of their niches. While this represented an interesting form of enhancement of social binding, e.g., it certainly enhanced diffusion of materials, energy, technologically modified action modes, people its profound influence on the character of modern society cannot be underestimated. This entwinement of cultural characteristics acting through the epigenetic potential has been quite influential in casting the forms of later civilizations. The point is well made in the case of ancient Egypt, i.e., the history of desert oases dwellers and river dwellers, who ultimately were responsible for the unification of the two kingdoms, the red and black lands associated with the civilization of the Nile (6).
The ambivalence built into the human brain, beginning from hominid ancestors in which all things can be ‘tools’ (abstractions used to further ends), not only material things but even living things (e.g., domestication of animals) or other people (by force as slaves; by corvée, by legal contract) is what has created the specific forms that organized social life, including civilizations, has taken (7). Internal language acts as catalyst.
9. Dynamic transient state, primitive or modern society. The physical logic of disturbances seems clear. In a simple society, e.g., hunter-gatherer, hominid, if a natural disturbance takes place, the society may either die out or it may move on. The camps or families that are bonded to the group may disperse individually or as a group. It is a fact that is seldom stressed in modern urban history (i.e., for the past 6000-8000 ybp) that the opposite side of the process coin has always been going on. When any particular region has some form of disaster, there was a movement of fragments of their society into other regions. (Trace every ethnic immigration into the New World over the past 500 years, or, attempt to trace every ‘ethnic’ immigration into Europe for the past 8000 years. We understand the ‘synchronic’ view that most readers may take about such ideas, holding fast to the notion that all past change is ended and the ‘now’ is firmly cemented. But our ancestors in fact our parents came to this continent only three generations ago, and since then there have been at least six waves of newer immigration, associated with various catastrophies, mainly wars). The general principle that seems to be at work is that with every fluctuating character to the available earth potentials, there is a social movement toward dispersing the life process. Loosely speaking this means that change, in particular change in the conservational variables, will be representable by first order relaxational kinetics for each conservation.
Since the social system (atomistic organisms, and their bonding forces) is produced from dynamic causality at another hierarchical level, e.g., the forces that create the biological organism and its organ (such as the brain) characteristics,1 that process is represented by steady state parameters.
But the only effect of such disturbances is to move the mean operating ‘steady’ state from one level to another. This has been represented commonly, by the simplest selection of mathematical ideas in the form of a logistics relationship, e.g.,
d x / dt = k x (1 – x / x0) that is, in addition to a rate constant (e.g., for change in population or concentration) k there is a second parameter x0, commonly viewed as a ‘carrying capacity’ which defines some sort of limiting concentration x which the field can carry. It was the partial success of such a relationship in demography (as fostered by Verhulst, Pearl and Reed, and G. Yule) that has led to its adoption in demography, in ecology as a salient theory.
We do not regard it as such. We will not deny that there is chemistry at which second order kinetic processes will produce the limiting nonlinear x2 terms, but we will deny that this is the common kind of nonlinear process coupled into social dynamics2 . And we deny that the operative equation set is a single kind of equation, e.g., for population or concentration. The logistic equation may be suitable for tutorial purposes, or it may even be suitable in a limited sense for mathematical bridging, but it is not isomorphic with the real system. When used for bridging, one will find that the constants used are ‘exogenous’, and require ad hoc adjustments. We first showed this by taking Yule’s 1925 logistic description of population of the United States, France, and England, and showing how it had drifted off after World War II. (Also see Baker, Sanders (8)).
The problem which is faced by both the people involved and the physical thing (literally they both have to perform the same process) is to figure out how to deal with and adapt to the changing conditions. In this adaptation there are two kinds of true constants one, the kind that is fixed by well governed regular processes, e.g., the day, the season, the generation time; two, there are time constants that are provoked by conditions of shock or revolution. We simply do not have sufficient physical understanding to know how to deal with the very high impulse kinds of disturbances. We have faced it in our own lives in our relationship with our children when in certain transitional times of turmoil, we have seen it in society (from the days of lynchings to race riots to wars), we have read about revolution in history. The physics we know states that such shocks may in fact lose some determinacy, and as far as we can tell that may be the case. So we are not talking about such disturbances3. However we do believe that a carefully run system can minimize the effects of such catastrophic disturbances and is better prepared to take up after such disturbances have passed.
10. Dynamic steady state, primitive society. A primitive society does not have to deal significantly with value-in-trade. (This sentence requires some elaboration. It is instructive to watch the Odyssey television program on the Hudson Bay Cree Indians. They are a primitive society. Yet the elemental tasks they perform, as hunter-gatherers, are now performed in catalogue clothing, with catalogue steel tools, using gasoline powered chain saws. These are procured in a trading net in which these trade goods are received in exchange for beaver pelts. Primitive? Yes, but they are in the last throes of such life. The Indians, collectively, are considering forming a cooperative to handle their own trading, and they are negotiating with the Canadian government for a modus by which they can maintain their hunter-gatherer style of life. But it is clear that they will soon be caught up more fully in a value-in-trade network that tends to govern their everyday life rather than only their seasonal life). It is often said that what distinguished a primitive from a modern society is the production of surplus that can produce value-in-trade. But it appears that both produce (and waste) as much ‘surplus’ as they need4. The essential problem is the time scale and to what use the surplus is put.
Thus every society has its time scales, which develop as a rhythm of processes. The first external one is typically the day-night cycle. The nominal physiological time constant of the body is about 3-1/2 hours. This appears, for example, in a relaxation time for hunger. People are thus driven into a searching cycle and eating cycle at least once a day. More broadly, the brain apparatus functions as a command-control system to govern the discharge of most of the action modes each day. From the most primitive societies to the most complex, a full cycle of near routine daily performances that nearly balance all of the conservations takes place. Should there be a moderately severe disturbance in a modern society, e.g., an unexpected heavy rainfall, or snowfall, the costs in value-in-trade are enormous.
Every society knows that it has to develop a policy for daily actions. That ubiquity is so great that it needs to be stressed that this scale takes up the largest chunk of command-control governance. (Every organization leader quickly learns that his or her major task is to learn what to do from day to day).
The second most important time scale is the rhythm of the seasons. Depending upon the particular habitat and its geography and climate, there are only a limited number of ways that the conservations can be served, for a given state of the technological potential. That range provides a distribution function for cultural diversity. That diversity will appear mainly in the epigenetic value potential, as the rules of tradition by which the daily and seasonal life process is maintained. A member of a modern society may not feel at home with such bare simple rhythmic processes, but usually if one finds his/herself caught up in such a primitive isolated society, one has to slow down and accept or adapt to those ways.
The third most important time scale is the rhythm of the generation. The sex mode, the general nurturing mode of mammals, encoded in the chemical potential of the genetic code, assures reproduction, issue, and nurture generation by generation. A very sharp definition is not needed. Loosely speaking it is a time scale between 21 and 30 years. We generally take 23 as a nominal number.
Note in that time the perceptions of the group change. The young grow into adulthood and learn the ways. The adults age. Generally, in a generation, the leadership is advanced to the next generation. The group may also have grown to a size where splitting is necessary.
However there is at least one additional consequence of that advance in age and transfer in leadership. At this time scale there is the change of diffusion of new ideas from outside (Diffusion is a ‘random’ process which is not delivered coherently. Thus it may take place from any direction). The group is not so isolated as to have no contact with outside groups. The family unit is mobile, and it spreads relatives. At generation time scales, there is increased chance for the influx of new ideas into the epigenetic value potential, new ways of doing things. Thus the social process has the essential capability of spatial diffusion, e.g., a typical number is one roaming range per generation, or 25 miles/25 years (1 mile per year)5
The major transfer actions in human society, e.g., pottery, copper, population movement, agriculture, iron, have diffused at this rate.
Two more time scales are worth mentioning. The human life span is about 90 years. At this scale there can be no further person to person transmission. It must all go through oral memory, through the epigenetic heritage. And beyond, there is a scale a longest scale at which coherent policy seems to hold of about 500 years. With 1000 year separation, cultures become independent (9).
A society, primitive or not, does not work as a hard geared clock. Thus these tidal rhythms provide autonomous scales, but they do not provide full autonomy. Thus the social process requires leadership, command-control. That command-control transforms from largely personal, even internal at the higher frequency rhythms to societal at the slower rhythms.
The command-control has to deal with vicissitudinal impulsive disturbances from many time scales. Some are to be expected, others not. There is no surprise that societies both primitive and modern develop a priesthood to keep track of disturbances and to prescribe. The modern science which we practice is descendant from such concerns.
Loosely speaking we have completed the descriptive physics of primitive societies. Know the conservations. Learn how to satisfy them. Know the time scales. Satisfy the conservations of these various time scales. Know how to adapt the conservations to those. Learn how to discern and react quickly to unexpected disturbances. Have a policy for dealing with their effects. Know how to pass on leadership and heritage. (Homilies? This is the descriptive physics that we have found explains how to conduct a group, run a small company, and the like).
11. Dynamic steady state, modern society. The transition to modern society involves fixed urban settlement, and the addition of a new conservation, value-in-trade. In addition, one of the potentials, the epigenetic value potential becomes encoded in fixed (written) form. Note the following time scales of transition. They may seem very remote and long to us, as compared to daily rhythms, but they must be recognized as unit process scalings that are pertinent to the form of human social organization. The earliest civilized trading chains known among fixed settlements, in Anatolia and Armenia, date back to about 5000 to 7000 B.C. The identification of such civilizations with ethnic character and with the emergence of specific belief systems, specific peoples, yet still with shadowy personas, date back to the Tigris-Euphrates civilization (south of the Armenian centered group) of about 4500-4000 B.C. The emergence of written records and personas, albeit ruler elites, begins about 3500-3000 B.C. in the TigrisEuphrates city-states, and in the unification of the two Egyptian kingdoms. Within another millennia a few more civilizational centers also start up.
In characterizing the epigenetic heritage, as it relates to the human brain, it is important to recognize its major themes. These internalized themes are reflected in the character of urban civilizations. Centrally, the underlying character of brain is a secretory control of state (Before nerves existed for speeded up long distance chemo-electric control, they existed for secretional control). That became efficient with layering, whereby an extensive memory and abstract processing of signal could take place at many levels (10)6 .
But a point is reached, with that layered complexity and the abstractions that it can produce, at which the system is capable of self-reference, consciousness, and an abstract description of the world outside (At present stages of development in artificial intelligence, the same questions are undergoing continued review. We predict that within the next few generations of such study, successful affirmative hardware demonstrations will be produced of these capabilities. We believe that they are ‘only’ associated with adequate layering, programming, and storage in computable logic systems. See for example (11) ). At that point in evolutionary development we have human capability for culture. At that point, the epigenetic value system takes on the human shape.
` Prior to the present time, we have not succeeded in defining the ‘dimensions’ of the epigenetic value system, although as a matter of common interest we had begun to discuss the issue with the well-known political scientist/sociologist Harold Lasswell (prior to his death). Via the study represented by our previous report section (a fourth part) and various requests for commentary for a DOTTSC Cambridge meeting on setting an agenda for modeling urban systems, we finally were able to arrive at the following tentative characterization of the value potential:
The manifold dimensionality of the epigenetic potential consists of a world image:
of interpersonal relationship
of ritual and institution
of other living organisms
of technology, more broadly of culture 7
of spiritual causality (fathers, leaders, gods)
of art forms (abstract representations designed to attract attention in sensory modes)
ultimately, we arrived at a tenth one: in small measure internal rational self-consistency
This potential, via its many dimensions, guides the ordering of the action modes as an organized social complex.8
All of our study of modern urbanized civilization, (see for example (12) e.g., precursors in Jericho, Catal Huyuk onward from startups in Sumeria, Egypt, etc., through all 20 odd super civilizations up to the present time), has indicated the social pressure that two external potentials, the climatological potential and the geographic potential, have exerted on the local social process. Clearly, among the epigenetic factors, the existing state of culture, e.g., the technological mode of production, have certainly been a major factor in outlining the formal institutional processes in society, e.g., as a change from Neolithic (e.g., beginning 11,000 ybp), to the post Neolithic developments of a Chalcolithic Age (ca. 7000 ybp), Bronze Age (ca. 5000 ybp), an Iron Age (ca. 3000 ybp), an age of mechanics and mechanism (ca. 2000 ybp), an age of chemically powered machines (ca. 1750), an age of interchangeable mass production (ca 1920), possibly an age of nuclear power ((ca. 1950). It is still too premature to tell whether this latter age will take. At present, any potential future is tied up with the socioeconomic success of fusion).
One can view modern society from the point of view of its self-organization. Loosely speaking, urban centers of population condense for ‘ecological’ reasons (that is, a band, which has been preconditioned by contact with other urban settlements this characterization does not deal with the question of the very first few such condensations itself moves into settlement. This startup process, very loosely, can be noted in Europe, the Americas, Australia, the western, southern, and eastern peripheries of Asia), although it would be desirable for a great deal of documentation of the transition to agricultural villages, and to urban centers.
The more primitive social forms all reflected an internal organization based on family units. With the appearance of urban centers with convective trade among other centers, and particularly above a size threshold (e.g., 500. Loosely speaking, this is the maximum number of faces that can be personally recognized), the settlement as a ‘solvent’ contains other (other than family) social molecularities. These molecularities are largely households with internal vocational divisions. This stems from the very fact that an urban center engaged in trade exhibits a much more extensive division of labor than earlier more mobile bands (hunter-gatherers, pastoralists).
The chemical physics of the process must be looked at as solution chemistry where the needs to satisfy the fundamental conservations, given local constraints, in fact leads to a variety of bonding groups, ‘molecularities’, but all in or nearly in solution in the social solvent 9 .
The biological physics of the process, arising from the character of the human brain, is that the brain can form a great number of new ideas about productive associations, and quite different from most other species (except where symbioses are formed) can permit stranger some relatively free access to the urban settlement. If this were not possible (i.e., permitted by the human brain), there would be no connectively interacting urban settlements (instead, they could only split off and develop new bands or settlements. Such ‘swarming’ is one common means by which many species extend their range in their habitat by seeking out new niches). However, one notes that such ‘free’ access is marginal. Strangers still arouse many hackles. Much of the agonistic history of civilizations and their history and evolution involved such friend-stranger interaction.
This solution chemistry stimulates the converse question: Are the emergent social molecularities fixed? The answer is no. First the social system is much less constrained than the biological (the biological makes use of a hard wired chemical potential, the genetic code, to produce its morphology and resultant actions processes). Second, even the biological system uses a biochemistry of catalysis (e.g., enzyme chemistry) in a rather rich evolutionary form, so that it too is in process of continued evolutionary change.
Civilizationists, who draw their information and interpretations from history and sociology as major disciplines, are torn between concepts at two polar extremes one, that the history of mankind is largely made up of the accidents of local associations; and two, that civilizations unfold with a standard typology.
Since we do not dispute their expertise in assembling the facts of history (although that too is an evolutionary historical process), our problem is to interpret their findings in physical reductionist terms. For that position, it would seem that there are two unassailable conclusions.
The first is that the detailed character of the existing social process is related to the existing state of technology, which we have suggested is determined by the technological rate potential 10. It seems clear, throughout history into the prehistory of humans, that if the social ensemble were not exceptionally isolated (i.e., open to immigration and emigration), then such technological change proceeded at a particular pace, one that fit the human brain’s capability.
The second, as a form of the ergodic hypothesis, is that the kinds of actions that arise in human society seem independent of the age. That is, the range of actions, or the dimensions of the action state, bind together to create the sheaf known as human culture. Loosely speaking, that sheaf has been identified by anthropologists. We have tried to underpin the notions by a reductionism to characteristics of the human brain (13, 10, 7).
Thus, we submit, the general social game that humans play is independent of time and place, but its detailed forms and characteristics change, yet are most often bound, not by strict transformations, but as Markov chains.
First we illustrated this for pre-Neolithic Man. Any number of leaders can take a group of people into an unoccupied territory and demonstrate a distribution function of successes (and failures). The history and prehistory of humans, even in the events of only a few hundred years ago by which this American continent was settled, have demonstrated the full ergodic character of that theme 11 . So the issue turns to the difference in operation between that small interacting system state and the current (6000-8000 years old) urban interacting state 12. The major elements we find are local concentrations of population urban centers, a more uniform distribution of population more or less fixed rural population, and centralized authority over some range of centers located someplace. The major effect of value-in-trade has been to define ownership or control of all of the conservations, even people, although these change with time and place.
Now any intelligent human being, of any age, can be transplanted into any other time or place and in short time (e.g., hours, days, or months) be given or can acquire an operational set of rules for that new and strange society (‘Proof’: We see this happening with immigrants all the time.) Commonly the impediment of a strange language and its meaning is a first key hurdle that has to be overcome. These statements do not mean that every individual will want to acquire a ‘mastering’ or ‘command-control’ view of the society, only that a number can. It can be done.
That set of rules of action, what can and cannot be done, that are means of manipulating the conservations and potentials we have named, ‘prove’ that the social system is a physical system. But its thermodynamic nature is represented by the fact that the results are not hard geared mechanistic. Instead, a distribution function range of results are obtained.
But its Markov chain character also makes itself evident. It was already obvious by Aristotle’s day, that city-states went through characteristic political transformations among democracy, oligarchy, and dictatorship. It was also clear to the Chinese philosopher/advisor Mencius that large scale state civilizational epochs were of the order of 500 years.
This immediately puts a few more constraints on the form of command-control leadership possible for urban civilizations 13 . One, that it has a past memory function, out of its epigenetic potential, by which its enculturation is transmitted. There is a time scale at which political change can be transmitted through the cultural process. Two, the social memory function has to deal with processes at many time scales from the day up to 500 years. The day, the year, the generation, the 500 year civilizational epoch are essentially fixed scales.
If leaders were completely successful in their endeavor, they would make their marks at the generation level. A few do. But it is the physics of interaction, day by day, year by year, with the horizon of the life span (a few generations) that marks the political process, the struggle for command-control. Thus the key ingredients in the social pot are culture, politics, economics within the human dimensions, and, climatology, geography and ecology as the physical dimensions. The conduct of urban civilizations through all of its history exhibits political conflict. One finds it most aptly described by a biologist, Darlington (14), as a conflict in which rulers alternate by inbreeding and outbreeding. That conflict brings the political time scale down into a dynamic scale much less that the generation as far as the apparent visible leadership is concerned tending to crowd more commonly into the 26 year slot. Obviously societies have also established legal terms of office. In those cases there is that legal ‘narrowing’ of the time frame.
But a complex urban civilization cannot be run by an individual. As in all commandcontrol for complex systems (e.g., the brain), the command and control is distributed. As Mosca points out (15), there are two classes, one that rules and one that is ruled. The ruling class is a small fraction of the populace (just as the organism’s commandcontrol nervous system makes up a small population of the organism’s cells). It is supported by the populace. its existence has nothing to do with the particular ideological form of the political government. That ruling class expresses its dominance at the generation time scale. It tends to lend coherence, e.g., a coherence time, at the level of about three generations, more nearly commensurate with the lifetime of the organism 14 .
It is not our intention nor our duty to write a handbook of how to run an urban civilization. In principle this is taught (in schools, or by apprenticeship) as political science or Government. What is not taught, we submit, is that such regulation and commandcontrol ought to be conducted with the independent poles of the conservations and the available potentials in mind. Our basic thesis is that independent of the motivations of the ruling individual or the class, the culture, and the elected ideology, the coherence of the system if it is a large urban civilization comes apart in perhaps 500 years. This is a measure of the kind of bondings that are produced by the minds of human beings when associated in complex urban societies. This theme is not new, although it is to be regarded as a physical reductionist speculation for social science. It is a theme that civilizationists, on the other hand, are perfectly willing to accept from experimental evidence.
We doubt that very many politicians or bureaucrats with a political horizon of months would accept the theme as having any relevance, although many ‘states-persons’, particularly those with a reasonable idea of their cultural heritage, would. Operationally, such a view confronts the politician-bureaucrat elite with the same management problem as the medical doctor is faced with who knows that the life expectancy is perhaps 70 years, the lifespan 90 years, and who has to make a great variety of ‘life-debilitation-death’ decisions for very short time scales.
Such recognition means that the competent ruler has to distinguish two goals – one to keep the system operating for his/her generation, and two, to serve his/her own wants and needs. The urban civilization, as a system, begins at such a two class level. The problem exists not only at the local urban settlement level but also at the politically associated collective of such settlements, and beyond at the interactive level of such polities which interact in an ecumene fundamentally by trade and by war.
Two basic remarks are clear. We are in agreement with Jane Jacobs that the interaction of such a collective of settlements implies the prior existence of a collective of such urban settlements. In other words, we have not presented in that description a theory of startup, a theory of selforganization of population settlements into an urban civilization. Such a model we presented is for the dynamic steady state of an urban civilization.
The second remark is that the essential unit time scale of interaction, particularly by war, in the ecumene is at the generation level. This stresses again, in the medical doctor’s image of advice giving and maintenance, that we must be concerned with processes ranging from the daily regulation to the regulation over the 34 generation human lifetime. With what concern? To see that the system is returned each such operating period back toward an operational near equilibrium.
That is the image ideal according to a thermodynamic systems paradigm. The problem which societies face is to what extent do the people and their elite rulers pay attention to that rule. For it is the ultimate necessary degradative defects in the application of that rule that leads to the longer term dislocations in the civilization. And implicitly then is a difference in how a society has to be run in its youthful, mature, and older dislocated age. For it is the recognition of that fact that leads essentially to the problem formulation of this project “construct a theory of regional and urban organization capable of describing dynamically the fundamental aspects of regional and urban growth, decay, vitality” (and the role played by transportation).
Now obviously the system (at near equilibrium) limps along ~ young, mature, or old. That limping along suggests to some (criticisms that we have received) that cities don’t die, or don’t die often. (A Philadelphia Inquirer article “A heart of steel fails, and a town faces slow death”, p.Cl, July 14, 1980, about a steel town, Braddock, Pa., implies a different kind of view.) But as we have stressed in our reports, pursuing the key idea of Sorokin’s, it is not a question of ‘death’ as much as it is a reformation of the social molecularities which are bound together. A neighborhood going from productive kinds of business to sleazy extractive businesses, from residential to slum, etc. is hardly viable, hardly full of vitality. So the basic question, in a thermodynamic sense, is where does the dissipative entropic loss 15 take place which leads to urban degradation? The basic answer is contained in the following argument:
There are three general classes of operational modes at every systems level. These are aggress modes, defend modes, and maintain modes. The problem is that active command-control is designed and designs itself largely for the aggress and defend modes. The lower profile maintain modes really in the end take almost all the time and energy. Thus at whatever is the near ‘conscious’ decision-making level, the maintain modes get short shrift. Cycle by cycle (e.g., day by day, year by year, generation by generation) there are these entropic losses. It is their accumulation which after a characteristic number of generations basically pull down the system.
So, loosely speaking, the ruler’s problem (or the ruling class¹ problem) is to direct the expenditures of the social potentials so as to keep the system running but also to maintain its state (and provide a rate of adaptive modification for the changing future).16 . A systems theoretic can help guide them. A model theoretic can keep track of how and where they fail at that maintenance task, and even predict where and why they will fail at that task.
The first task is one which we began at a national level, with urban center resolution to study with the systems group in the DOT Transportation Systems Center. It begins by relating the potentials and fluxes of materials, energy costs, action modes, population, dollars among various regions of the nation, and how they relate to transportation. It deals with the character of dynamic change (dynamic in a physical sense) among these variables. For it is in such processes that the near equilibrium dynamic steady state of a modern urban civilization is to be found.
13. The theory as outlined seems remarkably free of detail, particularly mathematical detail. In our various earlier reports we have tackled specific problems whenever asked. The important aspect of the theory is that it is a generalized relaxation theory, a theory of process change among salient variables for salient time scales to arrive at closure, e.g., how does the system state change from boundary conditions A to boundary conditions B? Such processes have to be done as specific detailed boundary condition problems. Barring being given such requirements in detail, we have only been able to offer general modelling, e.g., how – among and within nations bound into ecumenical civilizations – they may evolve from time to time; particularly within the possible effects of various general policies of command-control.
It has been and still is our recommendation that this work be pursued within the group at TSCCambridge in the form of a general urban model of the U.S.A. What will be produced, given the time for development, is a much broader model of the political economic cultural structure of the U.S.A. then say such models as the econometric models of the Brookings Institute or the Wharton School, which can then be addressed as are these econometric models with all sorts of national planning policy questions or forecasts. It is our contention that the selection of variables used here, exhaustive as they purport to be of the autonomous variables of the system. can provide a more reliable basis for forecasting than can the econometric models. Most scientists, outside of economists, have come to the conclusion that econometric models have very little or very short time forecasting ability at all. Hopefully, we are supplying the missing ingredients.
1 From where do the laws of governing societies come? According to physics, from the kinetics of atomistic components (they themselves represent field processes at another hierarchical level). We wish to inquire how processes, both linear and nonlinear, can give rise to the parameters that mark the field system. By that statement we would mean first the effort, by kinetic study, to determine – either theoretically or experimentally – how biological parameters determine operational parameters of society. To illustrate, basically all of the essential properties of the market basket are physiologically determined, as is the space-time budget of human activities. Every elite manager of a living social collective (bee keeper, sanitation engineer, pastoralist, farmer, etc.) has to learn such “facts of life” as they affect the species he or she is managing. But, in addition, the mean state of the collective system arises from a variety of fluctuation-dissipation processes, nominally a major one corresponding to each atomistic conservation. These processes also have a space and time scale, and may be parameterized by steady state measures. The question we are attempting to raise at this point is what happens if a new associational process is introduced (e.g., the iron plow, three crop rotation, the steam engine) – creating a new singular state of motion – how will a possible transient transformation to a new operational state take place?
2The common kind of nonlinear process in a field system is convection. It is a key theoretical question to determine the kinetic level at which nonlinearity arises in social phenomena.
3 Each time a new elite takes over command-control of a polity, there is at least a small shock. These small shocks are, in part, responsible for the field dissipation. However, this dissipation is part of the normal diffusivities in the social field. The unusual ones are those in which social jumps take place, e.g.,, the startup of civilization, of empires, of universal religions, of nation states. Such thixotropy (memory fixing) doesn¹t rule out physics, but it makes the description subject to renormalizations of the application of the principles of physics. This is characteristic of all stability transitions, particularly those which are hierarchically up-down or in-out. When they appear in natural systems, as transitional phenomena, the field description has to be adjusted for the jumps.
4 There is a great deal of difference in how a hunter-gatherer band deals with surplus and a settled agricultural society, particularly a civilization. The basic point is not the amount of surplus and waste, but how the surplus is organized. In civilizations, in the main, elite rulers begin to store grain for the entire populace over a period of years, taxing the populace in good times and redistributing the grain in bad times. That cooperativity can begin to support the symbolic mode of value-in-trade (e.g., money). Further elaboration of civilization and the many ways that it deals with and organizes surplus can take time and place from such beginnings as the political form of governmente evolve.
5The basic notion being offered is that significant ideas are projected at the generation time scale. If the society is laid out with spatial isolation, then the diffusion has that slow rate. However if there is a convective mixing as in modern societies the apparent spatial speed may seem a great deal faster. Nevertheless the diffusivity still remains a slow generation process. We witness this now, not in how fast a new style propagates, but in the slowness of ethnic mixing, or how slow population waves convect but then rediffusive over a large national domain.
6 This paragraph and the next few attempt to suggest the connection between the psychophysiological characteristics of biological humans and modern society. This characterization of the epigenetic potential is an attempt to cross the Rubicon from biology to sociology. Note that the nine (now ten) dimensions of the epigenetic potential to be listed next are not confined to modern societies, with value-in-trade, but apply to humans throughout their entire history. The dimensions may still be incomplete or imperfect, but they certainly are relevant. In the first paragraph, we simply outline what a coordinative command-control in the brain must do. The second paragraph suggests the mechanism. The fifth paragraph defines the dimensional aspects that become societal concerns of the individual.
7Technology (application of knowledge for practical purposes; technical methods of achieving practical purposes; technical – having specialized skills or knowledge – refers to the use of and knowledge of the use of tools. Culture, narrowly, refers to the tool assemblages used by an isolated grop of hominids capable of independent persistence. More broadly, it has come to mean all the Œtools¹ used by such a group – tools, language, and systems of thought. It is implied that they are technical. One step further, it may also denote the customs, beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a group.
8The epigentic potential exists within each individual, and is shared – via the act of communication – with other members of the social collective. What changes is both the individual action modes and the cooperative action modes. That mix forms the organized social complex.
9Note: There will be many who will take offense at the notion of a social chemistry as anything but a poor metaphor. We view chemistry as the making, breaking, and exchanging of bonds. Traditional chemisty has already extended its own domain to include nuclear chemistry, and even elementary particle chemistry. Thus one more extension to include macromolecular brain chemistry is not unusual. The more important issue as to whether people bond seems obvious.The problem is how it is to be described. We have described it as an exchange force, compatible with modern notions of gauge invariant forces (13).
10 The epigentic potential holds a view of the social culture. But with humans there is a continuing change in perception of technical methods. That change, loosely speaking, occurs from generation to generation. We assume that there is a mechanism and force within the hominid brain structure for the past few million years that drives that change. Thus we view it as a rate potential. As that rate potential produces technical change, it accumulates and ultimately influences change in the social modes of production.
11 Starting from our first Army reports (16), we attempted to illustrate the ergodic character of human behavior by the thought experiment of taking a group into any territory on the Earth starting with a given technology and epigentic potential. This seemed perfectly evident to Army personnel with a history of having to perform such missions. The statistically determined nature of the outcome and its dependence on an epigenetic heritage seemed perfectly clear.
12 That the result is comparably determined for a modern society seems also perfectly clear. However, this is no longer a task Œonly¹ for Army personnel. This point has been driven home as various military juntas have taken over modern governments. As the Russians and Chinese (and Americans) have indicated, it pays to include political, and economic advisors, and other technical specialists.
13 We suggest that the metaorganization of complex modern societies, the problem that confronts leaders since the beginning of civilizations, involves issues that have to be classified as cultural (anthropological), technological, sociological, economic, political, epigenetic (including religious as well as moral belief systems). This is no way negates the fundamental conservations suggested by physics. It suggests that the conservations have to be organized within these more complex metacompartments which are not subject to conservational constraints. Does the ruler rule for the day, the political term, the generation, or the life of the civilization (e.g., does the Supreme Court act to conserve the Constitution or overcome the existing crisis)?
14 Does a complex urban civilization self-structure? In a May 1980 paper to civilizationists, we proposed a theory based on Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley data for the startup of urban civilizations. We indicated therein that their self-structuring begins from their prior precipitation in place, basically as agriculturists. That represents their self-structuring. After that, society exhibits gel-like ‘fluid’ transformations, largely representing changes in the internalized epigentic potential. The changes are thus mainly functional, not structural. Past initial startups of these and a few other urban civilizations, there has appeared almost no new structural changes in such societies.
15We will remind the reader that the standard usage, in an irreversible thermdynamic sense, is that as a result of natural processes the system loses entropy, while the rest of the universe gains entropy. The available energy in the system becomes more disorderly.
16 Potentials (storage bins for conservations) are encountered in two kinds of forms. In one form, the storage bin is so large as to be regarded as infinite; once upon a time solar energy, fossil fuel, air, water were so regarded. In another form, one encounters the finite capacitance or rate governed flux capacity as the potential. Rulers are commonly surprised by such transformations. But a wise ruler may sense it before he or she begins to regulate the draw.
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