1. Notes on “Complexity and Information Overload in Society: why increasing efficiency leads to decreasing control” by Francis Heylighen
The basic premiss of Heylighen’s paper concerns identifying the impact of ephemeralization on global systems.
Ephemeralization, the ongoing increase in efficiency or productivity of all processesinvolving matter, energy and information, is the most basic manifestation oftechnological and organizational advance (17).
Both of Heylighen’s papers are predisposed to an optimistic view of the future. It would appear that the author is a strong proponent of globalization, without, however, rigorously defending its criticisms.
People find it ever moredifficult to cope with all the new information they receive, constant changes in theorganizations and technologies they use, and increasingly complex and unpredictableside-effects of their actions. This leads to growing stress and anxiety, fuels variousgloom and doom scenarios about the future of our planet, and may help explain theincreasingly radical movements against globalization [my italics] (1).
Perhaps in theory, the reduction of international tariffs in the interests of encouraging trade makes sense; however, the legalities of these agreements are often ratified at the expense of the natural world, local sustainable economies, and indigenous cultures, none of which Heylighen has acknowledged.
…Both the area of land and amount of human effort needed to produce agiven amount of food has been reduced to a mere fraction of what it was. As a result, theprice of food in real terms has declined with 75% over the last half century (WorldResources Institute, 1998). In the same period, the fuel consumption of cars hasdecreased just as spectacularly, while their speed, power and comfort have increased (3).
Ironically, Heylighen cites both advances in agriculture (leading to a decrease in food prices) and fuel consumption in the same breath. We know now that fuel consumption has increased in North America with an increase in the purchase of SUVs, and that the implementation of government policies that support increased production of biofuel has led to a decrease in the growth of grain products for food worldwide, especially rice. This had led to an increase in the price of those food staples, which in some countries, such as Haiti, has led to riots among the populace, which was suffering from high rates of poverty even prior to the spike in the price of grain. Read the rest of this entry »