Development through Alternation

5.1 Cyclic self-organization requirements

Anthony Judge

In an earlier paper (22) the nature of sets of further design constraints was explored (as detailed above). Three such sets are illustrated here.

The previous section has demonstrated the need for at least four distinct approaches to be able to "contain" the complexity with which we are faced. These are the minimum number of complementary languages through which a "rounded" understanding of human and social development may be achieved.

Whilst four distinct approaches are sufficient to contain a general conceptual understanding, Buckminster Fuller argues that specific, concrete instances require a fifth: "all recallably thinkable experiencings, physical and metaphysical, are fivefoldedly characterized...All conceptually thinkable, exclusively metaphysical experiencings are fourfoldedly characterized" (46, II, 1072.21-23). For Fuller the fourfold is the basis for a minimal conceptual system, whereas fivefoldness "constitutes a self-exciting, pulsating propagating system" (46, I, 981.03). He demonstrates this in many structural systems.

The difficulty with the four languages, as Fuller implies, is the additional ordering required to get to grips with particular cases. As such they together only offer an unanchored potential for grasping the particular. The question is how distinct approaches interrelate, or "resonate" together (since linear or "mechanical" interlinkage is unlikely) to underpin and stabilize any new order, whether conceptual, social, or physical. This is clearly of central importance to any practical approach to human and social development.

In Jantsch's investigation of cyclic self-organization of social systems (21), he draws attention to the work of Manfred Eigen in molecular genetics. Eigen explores the question of how new information originates (66). This is a general problem of evolution, which 3antsch relates to development and to learning. The question is how the new information emerges to provide the basis for any new patterns of ordering. Any given language, or "answer domain", effectively functions like a self-replicating ecosystem. Margalef (67) has described the evolution of such ecosystems as a process of information eccumulation. Each such system seeks information from the environment, but only to use it to prevent the assimilation of more new information. Novelty is continuously transformed into confirmation. The question is how any new order can emerge under such circumstances.

Eigen uses the term "hypercycle" to denote any such new order. A hypercycle is a closed circle of distinct transformatory or catalytic processes in which one or more participants act as autocatalysts. For Jantsch: "Hypercycles-play an important role in many natural phenomena of self-organization, spanning a wide spectrum from chemical and biological evolution to ecological and economic systems and systems of population growth." (21, p.15) Eigen, in reporting on his detailed analysis with Peter Schuster of the emergence of such new order (68), states: "The self-replicative components significant for the integration of information reproduce themselves only in a coexistent form when they are connected to one another through cyclic coupling. The mutual stabilization of the components of hypercycles succeeds for more than four partners in the form of nonlinear oscillations..." (67, p. 252)

Such a hypercycle is illustrated by Fig. 1 which can be seen as a linking process between the participating (sub)systems, themselves cyclically ordered. The formation and maintenance of such a cycle which runs irreversibly in one direction and reconstitutes its participants and thereby itself, is possible only far from equilibrium. Its rhythm is controlled by the cycle of the slowest acting participant, thereby liberating transformative energy steadily rather than explosively (67, p. 90).

Hypercycle of live self- replicating RNA-cycles

Scheme of a hypercycle of live self- replicating RNA-cycles (I0to I4) and their translation products (E0 to E4). which mediate the couplings. The proteins E0 to E4 at the same time provide for the replicase and synthetase functions. Reproduced from Eigen (66, p. 254)

From this one could conclude that whilst an adequate new (world) order can be envisaged with the aid of four internally consistent, self-replicating languages, it could not be rendered practicable without a fifth language of some kind.

For Eigen "the hypercyclic order is a theoretically justifiable, essential requirement for the integration of subsystems capable of replication into a unit of greater informational content" (67, p. 255). It alone is capable of integrating and stabilizing such otherwise competing (sub)systems. Simple connections "would not be sufficient for cooperative stabilization of the components" (67, p. 255). From a multitude of such replicative units, the hypercycle can discover those appropriate to one another and, if the combination offers some advantage, amplify them selectively. In this manner a totally novel order comes into being through "sympathetic" interaction which does not change the nature of the participating (sub)systems, although it may optimize their characteristics (67, p. 256).

Eigen, through his hypercyclic ordering principle, addresses directly the question of the nature of the non-Darwinian constraining mechanism in an environment in which each "species" would otherwise expand exponentially. This is a problem with any individual answer domain, whether discipline, ideology or religion. "Coexistence of competitors requires some sort of stabilization, which confirms the exponential growth law, or the formation of niches that uncouple the competition." (67, p. 247) Eigen's "decisive question" is also of interest for the emergence of any new world order: "The decisive question for the evolutionary ability of an information-integrating system is that of the stability of the respective coupled reaction systems, whose components must be coexistent, at the same time behaving in toto selectively with respect to other competitors." (67, p. 251) The latter would then presumably be those hypercyclic features characterizing the old order.

It is only with the cultural organization of societies, according to the composer Dane Rudhyar, that isolated tones are "organized into specific series, enclosed within what is then made to sound as repetitive tones (usually octave-sounds) (69, p.23). Such tone organization is cyclic, operating within definite limits, in a cyclic, repetitive series.

In European music the structure of the entire tonality scale, its unifying principle, rests upon five types of relationship or intervals which are in Rudhyar's words:

"the octave, which defines the wholeness of the whole; the fifth, which is the organic factor of centrifugal expansion inherent in all living wholes; the fourth, which seeks to reintegrate the centrifugal elements within the organic whole; the whole tone, which is the building block of the organism; and the semitone, which refers to the circulation of sonic energy, the fluidity of life as well of psychic feelings..." (69, p. 95)

A self-reproducing hypercycle of second degree, as it may have played a decisive role in precellular evolution. Each information carrier Ii (a nucleic acid molecule) carries the information for its own self-reproduction-indicated by the arrow in a closed circle-as well asforto be production ofan enzyme Ei (a protein molecule). The latter acts as catalyst for the formation of the next information carrier Ii+1. A closed hypercycle of this type is capable of a high degree of error correction in its self- reproduction and therefore of the preservation and transfer of complex information. After M. Eigen and P. Schuster (68) Reproduced from Jantsch (21, p. 181)

Self-reproducing hypercycle of second degree,


A mature ecosystem is organized as a hypercycle of transformatory reactions in which all matter is recycled. The dotted arrows within the cycle indicate that also the metabolic end products, as well as the decay products after death, are recycled by the plants. Viewed as a whole, the cycle catalyzes the transformation of energy-rich photons in the region of visible light (yv) into energy- deficient photons in the infrared or heat radiation region (yir)- P, plants; H, herbivores; C, carnivores. Reproduced from Jantsch (21, p.189)
Ecosystem as a hypercycle of transformatory reactions

These types can be defined and used in different ways: monodic, heterophonic, melodic, polyphonic, and harmono-melodic. "Each type represents a specific approach to the problem of psychomusical integration..." (69, p. 95)