A Complexity Science read of a Biblical Story
Even when my contacts with the book called “The Bible” have been, at best, sporadic; and having barely listened to the people who more frequently and profoundly visit its stories and passages… it is clear than more than a compilation of rules, or story-telling, it is mostly, a treaty about Heuristics.
Many will probably quickly argue that there are indeed 10 clearly bullet-pointed Commandments… but these seem to be there just to make sure that the base of Maslow’s pyramid remains clear, so we don’t devolve back into violent techno-hominids in a fast descent to inevitable self-extermination. In this writings, we are giving for granted that it is understood that:
Any possible path for the Pursuit of Happiness… starts only after our biological and basic psychological needs are all met.
It will be also fundamental to understand the construct that I am trying to assemble here, to be familiar with the concept of LUTs (Look Up Tables), and how they are such a useful tool to understand reality, extract meaning, and architect solutions to problems in an ample variety of contexts.
So, the intention fueling this piece is also trying to prove that one of the most important interpretations of the story behind Babel’s Tower might be one which argues against Centralization, Institutionalization, Urbanization and Megalomania; and in favor of the intrinsically more Resilient, and Energetically-efficient Distributed-Schemes-of-Living.
…very clearly, and quite literally, a case against Verticality.
But before going over the actual story of the Tower of Babel, it will be useful to cross-contrast the dynamics and differences between Rules and Heuristics-based sense-making-systems.
Heuristics vs Rules
Heuristics tend to be, not only more useful and comprehensive than simple Rules (which are prone to fail due to them being too-context-dependant and because of their incapacity to observe the subjective nature of their local interpretation in each specific case); but also have the characteristic of empowering the individual agent’s intelligence and their respectives Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loops. This is precisely why in the domain of Complex Systems (where the relations between components, nodes and/or agents are dynamic and ever-changing), it is fundamental to integrate the Sensing, Problem Diagnosing, Solution Exploring, and Implementation Processes at the very base level of each specific organization or collective. Hence the importance of minimizing latency and maximizing problem solving iteration potential in evolving domains or in the exploration of areas of proximal development, or in any scenario in which any sensing / measuring act implies a consequent alteration of such given system state.
In Complex environments, the quicker the feedback loop… the better.
If the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, states that for a given act of observation it is in general not possible to predict the value of a quantity with arbitrary certainty, even if all initial conditions are specified… An increased frequency in the monitoring of the individual components and processes of a complex or opaque system, even with the implied indetermination, should always result in a more consistent and precise evaluation of the overall system state, with the consequent amplification of tuning, optimization possibilities, and self-correction capacities.
In an Engineering context, I have many times exemplified this approach of “Complexification of a Complicated Processes” using the fractal R&D strategy employed by SpaceX in the manufacturing of their Starship Vehicle.
Going against what would apparently seem as “Logical and Optimal in a Henry Ford production paradigm” the company decided to create independent manufacturing teams that would compete each other not only in the physical building of the prototypes, and eventual NASA-approved vehicles; but also in the innovation, design and implementation process. This approach effectively scales Research and Development capacities as the advancement in knowledge is shared between all the instances of the organization, risk is immediately retired as information is horizontally shared; and the cost of lessons learned from failures is also diminished as, by design, the organization never implements a unique solution unless it has been proven to be effective at every instance and then becomes an internal standard, displacing the expensive cost of having to run System-Wide corrections when bugs or fails are found.
Now that we saw how fractalization tends to be a more resilient way of distributing risk, conducting energy, and processing information… it will be easier to ask the reader to keep running this Algorithm and then use it as decoder for the biblical file we are about to load:
The Tower of Babel.
It might be the case that the content of this file needs to be refreshed in the memory of the reader, so here is a quoted extract with a brief account of this interesting biblical story.
“ The Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11:1–9 is an origin myth meant to explain why the world’s peoples speak different languages
According to the story, a united human race in the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, comes to the land of Shinar. There they agree to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, observing their city and tower, confounds their speech so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.
Even when the traditional interpretation of this passage is one which explains the appearance of languages, there are other layers of meaning that can easily be appreciated, let’s take a look:
The Myth talks about how a successful, technologically enabled group of humans decide to build a construct of such verticality and power that it will reach the same heights as the heavens in which “God” resides.
It is very easy to understand “God” as the pure manifestation of Complexity if you locate its existence in:
“The natural order in which things are meant to happen without the intervention of the Free Will of Man”.
In this sense, the sacrilegious act was to attempt to emulate “The complex divinity of the greatness of God” by building a grandeously complicated human construct… an Institution that was attempting to prove man as its own creator.
The plan miserably failed when an internal communication disruption was then introduced through Language, exposing the intrinsic weakness of any propositionally-driven and unquestionable project… or centralized and unified problem-solving ideology or strategy.
Another meaning layer of this story is that in which technology fails as a replacement of spirituality, as Man was relying on a physical artifact as a source of social cohesion and as a societal and economic driver. While is true that there is a great cohesion potential in the pursuit of difficult and ambitious technological enterprises (I have already argued in favor of this in my allegories to the Manhattan and Apollo Programs in previous pieces); it is also true that, real human relationality fervently resist any attempt of practical instrumentalization as Gregg Henriques has unequivocally emphasized in the Influence Matrix module of his Unified Theory of Knowledge.
If anything, the intention of this piece is to make a case for the intrinsically more humane character of more horizontal and fractal topologies for organizational and institutional design.
Then the relevance of Look Up Tables in this context emerges out of the reflection of the fact that Multilateral Projects with unified goals can be a Table of Reference in which effectively make cohere intention and will at a civilization-wise scale.
The challenge maybe then lays in not pretending to make the Construct as great, as the purpose behind Making the Construct in first place.