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Complexity Theory as a possible mechanism for the progression through the stages of social evolution as described by Spiral Dynamics®

Victor MacGill

17 Danube Street, Vauxhall, Dunedin, New Zealand

Email: victor@vmacgill.net

Web Page: http://www.vmacgill.net

Abstract:

Spiral Dynamics ® is a model, which has been developed over the last thirty years to describe the underlying dynamics and stages through which human societies have evolved over the last 100,000 years or more. Spiral Dynamics® proposes a series of eight nodal levels of social development, which extends to twenty-four when entering and exiting phases are included. More levels will emerge as we continue to evolve.

Complexity Theory also gives many insights into social evolution. It may explain the underlying mechanisms by which the Spiral Dynamics levels self organise into higher emergent levels. An integration of the two systems would give a greater insight into our past as well as our possible futures. This paper aims to open discussion on two relatively new areas of science and how an integration of their ideas might increase our understanding of societal development.

  1. Introduction

Spiral Dynamics® (Beck & Cowan 1996) describes the underlying pattern of social evolution through trans-cultural stages of development. While Spiral Dynamics ® often uses the language of complexity, it has not integrated its principles as much as it could. This could add significantly to Spiral Dynamics® and our understanding of social processes.

  1. Spiral Dynamics ®

2.1 Overview of Spiral Dynamics ®

Over the years, various researchers have proposed differing models of the stages of physical and social evolution. Ken Wilber (Integral Psychology, Wilber 2000) has integrated many such models to produce a seamless progression of the emergent stages of life.

Wilber

Spiral Dynamics

Grof

General

Great

Chain

Piaget

Maslow

Loevinger

Ego States

Habermas

Gebser

Archaic

Instinctive

(Beige)

Somatic

Matter

Body

Sensory Motor

Physio-logical

Pre social autistic



Archaic/

Magical


Aesthetic

Body

Body/

Mind


Beginning of Safety


Archaic

Archaic

Magical

Magical-Animistic

(Purple)

Psycho

dynamic

Body/

Mind

Pre-conceptual

Pre- operational

Safety

Symbiotic

Magical-animistic

Magic

Magic/

Mythic


Freudian CODEX Systems

Body/

Mind

Mind

Intuitive (Concept-ual)\Pre-operational

Safety

Impulsive



Mythic/

Mythic (literal)

Power Gods

(Red)


Mind

Concrete Operation-al (1)

Safety

Self-protective

Mytholog-ical

Mythic

Mythic/

Rational

Absolutist Religious (Blue)


Mind

Concrete Operation-al (2)

transition (late conop/early formop -substage 1

Belonging-ness

Conformist

Mythic-rational

Mental

Rational Formal-ism

Individual-istic Achiever

(Orange)


Mind

Formal

Operation-al -

substage

2 & 3

Self Esteem

Conscient-ious conformist

Conscient-ious

Rational reflective


Plural-istic Relativ-ism

Relativistic

(Green)

Existential

Mind/

Soul

Transition late formop/

early polyvalent

Polyvalent logic -

system of systems

Self actualis-ation

Individual-istic


Integral Asperspectival

holistic integral-ism

Systematic Integrative

(Yellow)

Global Holistic

(Turquoise)

Death-Rebirth

Cf BPM

Mind/

Soul



Autonom-ous integrated

World Citizen


Psychic

(Coral)

Astral Psychic

extra human

Soul


self

transcend-ence




Subtle


Identif-ications archetypal deity

luminosity

Soul






Causal


Universal mind

Soul/

Spirit






Non-Dual


Supra-cosmic void

Ultimate

Spirit






Table 1. Table of Correspondences showing how the stages correlate between Wilber, Spiral Dynamics ® and some other researchers. Abridged from Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber, pp 197-217, which correlates many more researchers.

Spiral Dynamics ® only on the stages of human evolution up to the highest levels ordinarily exhibited today. The two models show a remarkable consistency. Spiral Dynamics® researcher, Don Beck, and Ken Wilber are now extensively collaborating.

The pioneer of Spiral Dynamics ® was Clare W. Graves (Beck & Cowan 1996), Professor Emeritus, Psychology, at Union College in upstate New York. He lectured on approaches to human psychology, but was always stumped by the question, "Which approach is right?" This led to the formation of his ‘Levels of Psychological Existence Theory’. Don Beck and Chris Cowan continued to develop his theory after Graves’ death, renaming it Spiral Dynamics ®.

Graves realised that the neuro-psycho-social apparatus that we carry (i.e our body) interacts with our outer world and the life conditions existing at the time. To facilitate this we form a set of internally consistent values and beliefs appropriate to our circumstances. As life conditions change, our values and beliefs must also change to remain appropriate.

This creates a series of nested, emergent levels unfolding as we grow in consciousness and understanding. We progress through a hierarchy of developmental stages, generally only moving up when we have sufficient competency at our existing stage.

We are usually not able to activate a level without being competent at previous levels. We can have brief ‘peak experiences’ of higher levels, but we inevitably slip back to our base level (Integral Psychology, Wilber 2000). Graves stressed, however, that the progression through the levels was an inter-dependent process rather than a linear one (Beck & Cowan 1996).

In everyday life, we must use all levels we have access to. Just because we have developed high mental capacities, does not mean we no longer need to eat, drink or have emotions.

To counter people seeing the progression as linear or using it to claim superiority, Chris Cowan denoted the levels by colours rather than ‘level 1’, ‘level 2’ etc. The colours do not have any symbolic significance. Matching the appropriate level of operation to the life conditions is more crucial than the degree of progression up the hierarchy.

2.2  vMemes

A meme (Dawkins 1998, Blackmore 1999) is an idea or concept that replicates itself, spreading from mind to mind in a similar way to a gene replicating physical structures. Through natural selection some genes survive and prosper, while others lose fitness and even become extinct. Some memes likewise grow and take hold, while others diminish and decay.

Each society has a shared set of values forming a coherent structure and world view in order to ensure social stability. The value systems attract memes which are in harmony with themselves. These attractors are called values memes or vMemes.

When Graves looked at the attractors, the adult human behaviour he observed formed around eight nodal states, enlarging to twenty-four when one includes entrance and exiting phases. As life conditions change through population increase, improved technology, or perhaps new energy sources, the existing vMeme will become inadequate to maintain cohesiveness within the society. A new, more complex and embracing vMeme will emerge to form a more functional framework around which people can restructure their lives. There is no specific end state towards which the vMemes are evolving.

The progression through the vMemes can equally describe the development of an individual, family group, corporation, nation or all of humanity. Graves’ research shows they all follow the same emergent pathway.

As we grow to a new v Meme, we do not leave the old vMeme behind, but rather transcend and include (Integral Psychology, Wilber 2000) it, integrating it back within the new vMeme. Higher level vMemes contain all earlier vMemes. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and indeed Complexity Theory transcended and included rather than negated Newton’s Laws of Motion. As more vMemes become available to us, more paths of action are open and the greater the phase space of possible responses. Sometimes instead of transcend and include, we pathologically transcend and repress.

2.3 The Eight vMemes

The first vMeme, coloured Beige, describes instinctive, automatic physiological existence. This represents life at the level of basic survival. It is the totally dependent new born baby, our earliest human ancestors or a drowning person struggling for breath. Humans can nevertheless operate at this level.

The second vMeme, coloured Purple, is magical, mystical and animistic. It is found in a tribal or family group. Magic and ancestor worship maintain social cohesion. Genealogy and identity badges define who is a tribal member and who is not. There are many dangers lurking in the darkness for Purple. It is the small child afraid of monsters.

The third vMeme, coloured Red, is of power gods and egocentric behaviour. Red is heroic and courageous, freeing us from the constraints of Purple superstition. Here we find the heroes, Odysseus, Osiris, Gilgamesh or Maui. The world is full of gods, whose stories are told in myth. The Red is the brutal great empires of the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. As violent as they were, they were the cradle of civilisation. Red is impulsive and will not allow anything to get in its way. Revenge is swift and violent. Red cannot yet see another person’s point of view. This is the gangster or the child aged about seven.

The fourth vMeme, coloured Blue, is absolutist. There will be one God, one set of beliefs or a higher authority that everyone must obey. Rewards and punishments are inherent in the system. Impulsive red behaviour is kept in check through the fear of god or state and through guilt. Sacrifice for the higher purpose is expected. It is highly moralistic. The Catholic Church of the Middle Ages and Hitler’s Nazi Germany were two examples of the Blue vMeme, albeit pathological examples.

The fifth vMeme, coloured Orange, is individualistic, materialistic and competitive. Instead of only one way to do things, many are accepted as valid, but ‘my way’ is still best. Orange is becoming aware of others’ needs but their own are more important. Guilt is no longer sufficient to maintain social cohesion. Orange is the entrepreneur, evident in the mercantile development of the Renaissance. It is in the Enlightenment and the corporate world.

The Sixth vMeme, coloured Green, is relativistic. The Orange materialist way of life no longer answers life’s questions. Personal spiritual beliefs emerge. Feelings are more important than reason. New Age beliefs are generally green. The environment is very important. Green can become rigid and ‘Holier than thou’, especially when attacked. Consensus decisions can be slow and group processes can be manipulative.

The seventh vMeme, coloured Yellow, is systematic integrative. This marks the first of the second tier vMemes. The view point becomes global. Yellow does not have to be right. It can appreciate other people’s views and circumstances without personal biases intruding. Yellow can disagree with people, but still accept them as they are. In Green, a person is still susceptible to group pressure, but in Yellow they will stand up for their own values. Yellow can operate through whichever of the previous vMemes is appropriate at the time.

The eighth vMeme, coloured Turquoise, is global holistic, which weaves Yellow’s flexibility back into the global community. Turquoise networks and collaborates with similar minds. The mind/body/spirit connection turns on and experiences oneness with all life. The Turquoise mind can grasp the complexities of human behaviour and work effectively with them as never before. What previously seemed contradictory is understood within a wider context. The need to control people and situations is gone. Turquoise can be a leader or blend into the background depending on what gets the job done.

A ninth vMeme has been allocated the colour Coral, but little is written on this.


  1. Complexity Theory

Complexity Theory also offers penetrating perspectives on the process of social evolution, which I believe, link in with the principles of Spiral Dynamics® .

I propose a process whereby societies at a given vMeme exhibit aperiodic limit cycles, rotating through fluctuating levels of social cohesion caused by the interaction of internal and external factors. During the cycle, the society falls into chaos, resulting either in the establishing the next limit cycle, or given certain conditions, as observed in complex systems, a quantum leap occurs lifting the society to a new emergent level of functioning, i.e. a new vMeme.

3.1 Complex Adaptive Systems

When we examine the characteristics of Complex Adaptive System (CAS) (Waldrop 1992) we see many links to Spiral Dynamics®. Many agents interact in parallel in highly complex ways without central control. Many levels operate simultaneously with each providing the building blocks for the next level. A CAS is constantly changing and rearranging itself. A CAS anticipates the future, by noticing patterns from past occurrences and learning from experiences. Many new approaches can be tested simultaneously and equilibrium is never reached although there can be long stretches of apparent stability. It cannot reach an optimal state because conditions always change.

A CAS has internal processes with many feedback loops, external influences in the environment and vertical hierarchies with interacting levels (Lucas 2000). Complex Adaptive Systems self-organise in order to optimise their function. This allows them to continually evolve into increasingly complex structures just as we have seen in our progression through the vMemes.

Without ‘being told’ the units leap into complex ordered structures as we see in Bernard Cells or the Belousov - Zhabotinsky reaction (Prigogine & Stengers 1984). The internet is an example of a structure with no central control, which nevertheless exhibits high levels of self organisation. The properties of complex adaptive systems are consistent with the properties of v Memes within Spiral Dynamics.

3.2 Theory of Dissipative Structures

Although Ilya Prigogine and Isobella Stengers’ Theory of Dissipative Structures was essentially developed by researching chemical systems, the social evolutionary process is also a dissipative system and the same principles apply. Dissipative Systems must be non-linear and far from equilibrium. They require a constant flow of energy moving through them. While the overall universe remains in a state of entropy, focusing energy through a dissipative system allows the formation a localised negative entropy (negentropy). This supplies the necessary energy to activate the process of life. The greater the complexity (or higher the v Meme), the greater the negentropy required to maintain the system.

We humans are dissipative systems fuelled by a continual flow of food and drink, emotions, thoughts and intuitions. The Theory of Dissipative Structures describes how non-linear systems move to a far from equilibrium point where the fluctuations finally reach a point of bifurcation. Even an extremely small perturbation just at the point of bifurcation is sufficient to precipitate the bifurcation.

One possible outcome is the system lapsing into chaos, gradually finding its way to a new attractor on the existing phase space. The other outcome is that the small perturbation is caught in a positive feedback loop, ever increasing the effect until the whole system is irreversibly altered. The entire system then switches to a new emergent attractor with a greater complexity and fitness than before. Rather than just finding a new equilibrium point on the existing phase space, the phase space of possible states is itself extended. The system moves to a new attractor on the phase space that did not previously exist. It is impossible to tell what the new attractor will be like before the bifurcation has occurred.

This process is much like the emergence of a new vMeme. Social conditions build up until they reach the point where bifurcation is possible. Very small, often seemingly insignificant events can cause a cascade (Bak 1996) of events totally altering the very structure of the society, settling into a new form that was not predictable before the bifurcational event.

A society that has just emerged to a new level of development is nevertheless still in crisis. The citizens are coping with situations they have never known before. Some will try to return to a past that no longer exists. The society will remain in disarray until new structures, adequate to cope with the new situation, are set up. In spite of the chaos, social cohesion is high because everybody has had to pull together to pass through the crisis.

Once settled into a stable attractor, it is a time of great excitement because of all the new possibilities. This is a time of optimism, economic growth, discovery, and innovation. The old times of chaos and unpredictability seem to be gone, a new vision is set and the future looks bright. As life looks up, people become more individualistic, social cohesion decreases and crime increases. New technologies are more likely to develop in this optimistic environment, which can paradoxically change life conditions to the point of instability.

Other attractors emerge in a period of phase doubling. In human societies, the move away from a deterministic stability is so often a cause for concern, particularly by those who are ‘in control’. They will attempt to return the system to the previous stability through law making, economic policy or sheer brutality. This may be effective in the short term, but in the end it only forms even more attractors for the system to lurch between. Eventually the system reaches the far from equilibrium point, where bifurcation is imminent.

This is the crunch point for the vMeme. It can turn to chaos, setting off another cycle as with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo 1914, which precipitated World War One. Alternatively, the perturbation can herald a new age as with Martin Luther (Simon 1976) nailing his ninety-five theses on the Frederick Castle Church door in 1517.

3.3 Martin Luther

Nailing his theses to the church door was a seemingly insignificant act, which unwittingly became a crucial event in the emergence of the Orange vMeme out of the existing Blue vMeme.

The Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages typified the Blue vMeme and relied on Purple and Red resources to maintain power. ‘Divine’ authority clearly laid out the acceptable beliefs and guilt and the fear of burning in hell maintained adherence to them. The Pope had widespread power not only in the church, but also in education and politics. For hundreds of years, the church was in control and life was very deterministic.

Over time, however, the church was impacted by events, which shook its foundations. The Black Plague killed one third of the inhabitants of Europe. People asked why the Pope and the church could not intervene and persuade God end the disease. They asked why priests were also struck by the plague.

The Renaissance, with its focus on humanity and the natural world, rekindled interest in classical mythology and formed the beginnings of the merchant class.

The invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440 was perhaps the greatest threat. The power of the church rested on its ability to convince people that its edicts and announcements had divine sanction. They did this by strictly controlling information. People only heard their priest’s interpretation of the bible. The printing press greatly increased access to information. They could read the Bible for themselves and find information which contradicted the church’s views. Discontent led to the formation of new attractors. The Church felt threatened and no longer in control.

Change tends to occur at the edges of systems. Gordiano Bruno expressed many very similar views to those of Martin Luther, but he had the misfortune to be at the centre in Rome. He was burned at the stake. Erasmus in Rotterdam also had similar ideas, but they were aimed at the intelligentsia. Martin Luther lived on the edge in Germany with more political independence and popular support. The mix was just right.

When the Pope undertook restoration work on St Peters in Rome he financed it by offering indulgences, whereby donations to the church guaranteed the forgiveness of sins. Luther reacted by nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door. A threshold had been reached and the cascade began. The Pope did not have the power to turn back the tide of popular support for Luther and his ideas. New attractors formed in a new enlarged phase space. People saw that there could be a church without the Pope. New denominations arose that changed the social and political landscape in Europe forever. The Puritans took their ideas to America, influencing the initial conditions and underlying ethos of the United States of America.

Luther would have been horrified to know that in opening Pandora’s box, people questioned not only the need for a Pope, but also the need for God. This cascade changed the environment for scientists like Copernicus and Kepler, sparking the Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment. The transition from the Blue vMeme to the Orange vMeme was underway.

3.4 Alpha - Gamma Cycle and Correlate Cycles

Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan 1996) proposes a four-stage cycle that mirrors the Dissipative Structure process above.

The Alpha Fit is the first phase where the system is stable. The worldview fits and meets people’s needs. The style of operation is sufficient to cope with the life conditions. It is a time of optimism and good fortune.

The Beta Condition is still a phase of good fortune, but instability, doubt and uncertainty become increasingly apparent. There is often a reaction by the ‘powers that be’ to attempt to return the system to the alpha state, but ultimately this proves to be impossible.

The instability of the Beta phase leads either to the reform option, where the necessary changes are made to avoid further loss of control or to the Gamma trap. This is the crisis. Outcomes are more likely to be zero-sum at this point. In my opinion, Gamma transformation would be a better word, encompassing both the reform option and the Gamma trap.

In the Delta Surge, the crisis is over and the system heaves a sigh of relief but it is still unstable and can regress. A new vision for the future emerges, setting new initial conditions, which determine much of the nature of the next cycle and often the subsequent crisis. The actions of the Allies immediately after World War I planted the seeds of World War II. The Delta surge then moves into a new Alpha.

Usually the cycles continue from old alpha through to new alpha, with small advances each time, but sometimes conditions are right for a quantum leap. Instead of rotating through yet another cycle an extended phase state and new vMeme can be entered.

The cycle can be seen as a limit cycle with fluctuating degrees of social cohesion. Social cohesion is high just after the crisis because everyone has pulled together to cope with it. Social cohesion remains high while there is prosperity and optimism, but wanes as the focus becomes more individualistic with multiple attractors. Social cohesion eventually hits a low point precipitating the crisis, which in turn heralds the return of social cohesion.

There are several social cycle models, which reflect these patterns. They often propose a particular wavelength. Complexity Theory tells us that strictly periodic cycles will virtually never be found. Accordingly, the various models propose widely variant and contradictory wavelengths. Significant mental gymnastics are required to make the data fit the proposed wavelengths.

Disregarding wavelengths, however, we find considerable agreement on the stages and their order.

Table 2 shows the various models and how they inter-relate. They do not match perfectly, but well enough to support the basic process. The four stages are not necessarily of equal length, perhaps explaining some of the mismatches.


1st Quarter Name

1st

Quarter

Qualities

2nd

Quarter Name

2nd

Quarter

Qualities

3rd

Quarter

Name

3rd

Quarter

Qualities

4th

Quarter Name

4th

Quarter

Qualities

Fourth Turning (8o yr cycle)

High

Strong institutions

& social cohesion

new vision

Awakening

spiritual upheaval

new values emerge

Unravelling

Downcast

time

order decays individ-ualistic

Crisis

upheaval

social order

undergoes significant change

BornschierKondratiev

55 years cycle

Format-ion

upswing

low conflict

innovation supported

Unfolding

prosperity then recession

increase

then decrease

in conflict

Repletion &

Resolution

Crisis

High conflict

Crisis

Interim recovery

2nd Crisis

high dissent and conflict

Spiral

Dynamics

Delta Surge


Alpha Fit


Beta Condition


Reform Option/

Gamma Trap


Pre Tasman

1000 year Socio-Economic Cycle (SEC)

Wiseman

Boom

Exploration new resources

knowledge

high

commerce

Depression

negative

spiral, corruption

Improve-ment

belt tightening

brings improvement

Warfare

War which if successful gives new resources. Prosperity and exploration follow

Dissipative System

Determ-inistic stability


Growing instability - limit cycles


System rapidly reaching edge of chaos


Catas-trophe


Table 2 Comparing various correlating four stage models with Spiral Dynamics and Wilber.

Volker Bornschier (Bornschier 1996) updated research on the Kondratiev cycles and formed a Conflictive Evolutionary Theory by examining economic, educational and political data from eighteen countries from 1835 to the present day.

The cycles he found (see Table 2) were even consistent through the two world wars, although the U.S. entered a formation phase earlier than European nations after World War II. Bornschier saw conflict arising from the tension of the struggle for efficiency against the claim to equality on the one hand and conflict between the state and world market on the other (an internal tension and an external tension c.f. autocatalytic sets).

In ‘Chaos Theory in the Social Sciences’(Kiel & Euel 1997), the flow of the Kondratiev cycles is explained as a movement from chaotic attractor to limit attractor to point attractor to limit cycle to chaotic-equilibrium to non-equilibrium. Although deterministic periodic cycles seem to be evident, chaos and complexity are in fact the underlying mechanism.

This is supported by mathematical work of Angelo Mingarelli’s (Mingarelli 2000) ‘almost periodicity’. He found that chaotic systems often exhibit close to periodic behaviour, where the period and amplitude of cycles becomes close enough to regular to allow a certain level of predictability.

3.5 Social Evolution as an Edge of Chaos Process

Chaos and catastrophe are a part of the fabric of life. Life at the edge of Chaos often provides the tension needed to precipitate a change to a new emergent level.

3.6 Practical Applications

Spiral Dynamics ® was used in South Africa (Beck & Lindscott 1994) to formulate strategies to recreate their nation after Apartheid. They found the conflict was of vMemes rather than race. People operating from Purple and Red clashed with Blue and Orange. A Yellow vMeme strategy was developed, synthesising the conflicting first tier v Memes within a more embracing view, providing a more harmonious means of resolving issues.

Don Beck is about to undertake a project through the United Nations to map the vMemes around the world as a means of reducing international tensions.

4. Conditions Necessary to Move to a new vMeme 


Spiral Dynamics ® (Beck & Cowan 1996) gives six conditions necessary for a system to progress to a higher vMeme. They are:

  1. The basic potential for change must exist. Chimpanzees are physically unable to speak. No amount of learning will change this.
  2. Solutions must exist for present or previously unresolved problems. If we do not yet have an adequate grasp of the existing vMeme or a critical situation takes all our energy, we cannot move to the next vMeme. We would not expect to see a bold new vision for the education of English children appearing in 1944. All energy was channelled into defeating Hitler.
  3. There must be a level of dissonance. If we are perfectly happy where we are, nothing moves us to change. Something must feel uncomfortable or out of balance.
  4. Insight into the situation is required with some idea of what the better future might be. There must be some prospect of a better life, a sense that there is hope in continuing.
  5. Barriers to change must be identified and overcome.
  6. Consolidation and support. The tender new shoot is vulnerable in a way it will never be as a large tree. When a leap forward is made, it must be reinforced and encouraged, to avoid slipping back to the previous state.
  1. Presently Emergent v Memes

The western world today has its centre of gravity within the Blue to Orange vMeme transition. There are, however a significant number of people whose centre of gravity has moved beyond Orange. Paul Ray (Ray 2000), who recently published ‘Culture Creatives’ estimates that 24% of North Americans are operating at the Green vMeme. Beck and Cowan (Beck & Cowan 1996) quote United Nations Research figures estimating that 2% of the world population operates at the Yellow vMeme or higher. A Yellow or Turquoise perspective would obviously give a more integral, all embracing understanding of social dynamics and give us a perspective on the types of social structures which may emerge in the future.

Each new vMeme brings a new level of complexity, greater access to information, a wider level of participation in society and a greater potential for co-operative, life enhancing behaviour. We see all of these qualities in complex self-organising systems. We can expect Yellow and Turquoise to embody complex, self-organising processes as a conscious choice.

embody these principles very strongly.

The development of the Linux operating system is an example of a complex, self-organising structure. Many people contributed pieces of source code. There was no central organiser and yet Linux is an efficient operating system, arguably better than Microsoft Windows. We will increasingly see similar social processes.

Paul Hawken (Hawken 1999), author of The Next Economy, was involved in the demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle last year. He described small autonomous, highly mobile groups of demonstrators linked by cell phones. There was no central control, but nevertheless they were often ahead of the cumbersome hierarchical Police defences. Hawken said that the demonstrations were far more effective than the media led us to believe and that it heralds major changes in protest tactics.

Kevin Kelly (Kelly 1994), in his book, Out of Control, proposes nine laws to increase the effectiveness of complex systems. We can expect to see these laws manifesting as the Yellow and Turquoise vMemes are activated.

They are:

  1. Distribute being through the entire population. The sum is more than the parts. This enables the greater sum to emerge.
  2. Control from the bottom up. Provided there is optimal connectivity self-organisation will emerge.
  3. Cultivate increasing returns. When something is found to increase the fitness of the system, it should be exploited.
  4. Grow by chunking. Begin with a simple system that works and add modules that can operate independently, as we see, for example, in our brain.
  5. Maximise the fringes. Change occurs on boundaries with other systems. The more external stimuli we can interact with, the more chance there is of developing a new strategy.
  6. Honour your errors. Errors are an integral part of any complex systems. An error at one level could be exactly what is required by a future emergent system.
  7. Pursue no optima; have multiple goals. This is necessary for systems to be flexible.
  8. Seek persistent disequilibrium. Tom Peters in ‘Liberation Management’, suggests that the role of manager is to maintain disequilibrium. He believes workers should be left to get on with the job. The manager’s role is to break maladaptive habits that may form.
  9. Change changes change. The rules of change themselves need to change as the environment alters. If change is initiated from the bottom up then the rules of change do adapt to increase the fitness of the system.

These are likely to be markers of social structures yet to emerge. We can see some of the factors already beginning to be integrated within some businesses and organisations. These will prove to be the most efficient ways of operating within rapidly changing information based environments.

  1. Conclusions

Both Spiral Dynamics ® and Complexity Theory are relatively new sciences and, as such are still open systems. We can expect to see significant advances in both. Understanding complex self-organising social dynamics will become increasingly important in the future. Integrating the two perspectives can facilitate even deeper understandings of the underlying dynamics of social evolution and provide a ‘road map’ in a confusing, highly complex, rapidly changing world.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my thanks for ongoing critical advice offered by Chris Cowan, Natasha Todorovic and Chris Lucas in the preparation of this paper.

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