Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2012, San Jose, CA, USA, 56th Annual Proceedings of ISSS

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A Performative-Extended Mind and a Law of Optimal Emergence

Peter Robertson


This paper introduces a performative-extended model of the mind; adds time as a new element to previous accounts; proposes a law of optimum emergence then uses the present financial crisis as an example to show that this new model of the brain has profound practical implications, since psychologically reified concepts (like values) can be understood better using this new model of the mind.

This model based on “deep simplicity creating surface complexity” underpins a model of a “performative extended emergent mind” that is not “under the skull”.

Psychology’s set of so-called “intangibles”, like human values can be redefined as “emergent properties”. Values are attractors created by messy patterns of behavior over time without logical cause-effect relationships, stabilized by memory.

The performative-extended mind where movement (time), diversity and tangibles (feedback loops) create emergence can be linked to a law of optimal emergence in order to explain fundamental psycho-social processes, like values. The mind becomes an eco-system within a larger eco-system.

Growth can be seen as an S-curve shaped shift from feed-forward-steering to feedback-control. In this process, conditions for stable emergence shift from conditions that are “non-favorable” (no-tangibles) to “favorable” (a dynamic balance between tangibles and no-tangibles) to “non-favorable” (too many tangibles). Growth creates, then destroys emergent properties in a time-dependent process. Stable emergent characteristics can only exist for a while in the middle part of an S-curve.

A real life example might be that leaders who focus on financial growth and administrative rules often create corrupt organizations. This might be a falsifiable general systems law with implications for organizational and leadership practice. This is an example of how the “performative-extended mind/ law of optimal emergence” combination can lead to relevant implications for the future of sustainable society, governance and business.

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