Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Reciprocity rule

Definition

Reciprocity rule can be defined as: ”You should try to repay, in kind, what other person has provided to you.”

Reciprocity works because of the feeling of indebtedness

When you get a favor, present, invitation or some other action, you start feeling you are in debt for the person who did this for you. It is a natural reaction. You can´t help it. It won´t happen all the time. It is only more probable reaction. If you break this rule of giving back to your helper, it can backfire, when you have the biggest need for another one. In modern society, it is not always necessary. When the survivability depended on the other people, it was obligatory to return the favor. Because most of your brain functions are from that period of time, this reaction is hardwired into your brain. The feeling of indebtedness is less likely to be born, when the repayment is asked by the person who is producing the favor. The obligation to receive a favor is the main motivator in this rule. It reduces your ability to choose whether you want to be indebted or not. Or to choose to whom you want to be obligated to repay.

This act of giving a favor, present, or other thing doesn´t need to be wanted. You don´t really have to want anything to feel indebtedness. The pure act of someone doing something for you can be enough. The similarity of the favor given in return is the key. If you are not able to give anything similar in return, reciprocity rule doesn´t work properly. The obligation to return the favor diminishes. Sometimes it totally disappears. You can produce the need to repay a bigger favor by producing a small favor first. Free sample is a way to use this rule. A small and free sample is given to potential customers in the hope of getting a bigger response from them. A free piece of bread is used to sell the whole loaf of bread. This piece of bread is a gift and it can create a reciprocity effect. Commercial products have smaller effects than real favors. Some concession professionals like salesmen can also ask a big favor from you that they are sure you are going to decline. Then, they will ask a smaller favor. By requesting something big first, they create a possibility for themselves to reciprocate first. In reality, they are aiming for the smaller favor all the time.

Reciprocity rule is stronger, when external and internal pressure are combined

A group of people do not like to see person´s who are not willing to reciprocate. They are disliked by the group. Sometimes they are even discarded from the group. This doesn´t happen if group knows that person is unable to repay the favor for some reason like a special circumstance or capability. All the favors within the group should be repaid. If it is not possible to act completely in a similar way, another way that is close the initial favor should be applied. Attacking the person who does the favor is a worst thing you can do in a group. Combining this external pressure to produce a repayment with an internal pressure makes reciprocity effect more powerful. This rule creates concessions in two ways. First, it creates an internal pressure to respond in kind. Second, it is the obligation reciprocate a concession by applying external pressure from the group to comply with the request to reciprocate.

Preventing reciprocation rule for not happening

First I would like to say that this rule is good for the world. It is also good for you, most of the time. Sometimes it works against you and these occasions should be avoided. You cannot avoid all of them, but you can diminish their effects. The best way to avoid the bad effects of reciprocity rule is to prevent the activation of it. Best way to do it is avoid all the possibilities of this happening. Sometimes you know in advance that you are going to get an unwanted favor. For example, some selling situations work the same way all the time. These situations can have the same sequence of events. For example, notifying the requester in advance that you have no time for anything else than doing the thing you are interested in.

In theory, rejecting the initial response may be enough. However, in practice, it is harder to avoid this effect this way. You also have to probably add something to your response to prevent the chance for other questions. For example, ”I am not interested in giving 100$ dollars for charity or any money at all.” There are many situations in which you know in advance that they use favors for getting what they want. At least here in Finland, they offer you some coffee and something with them in order to make it easier to comply their requests while they are selling something. In my own life, I have mostly been in a situations where some investing brokerages or marketers have done this. You can make a decision in advance that you will be there only for the coffee. This makes it harder for the requester to make you comply to their request.

As with all the other biases, reciprocity effect works better when it is combined with others. One of them is a contrast misreaction tendency, which is a topic in the next week.

Until then,

-TT

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Simplifying through elimination

Most people want more friends, more money, more items, and more everything. Most often, this is the hardest way to improve. Eliminating the unnecessary things from your life is probably easier for you. It benefits you as much as focusing on the most important things. Addition is much easier than elimination. Most often, your outcomes suffer through addition. It is more probable that eliminating things will improve your outcomes.

Elimination is hard, because world gets complicated all the time. You have too many tasks, people, and clutter in your life. The amount of all the things in your mind, at home, and at work is enormous. Most of them are useless. Even most things in your laptop and in your smartphone are useless. You waste your most important commodity, time, to these useless things. And even most people in your life have negative influence on you. You waste your time with them. All the useless things just make your life more complex. If you want to have a simpler and more enjoyable life, you should reduce the amount of things in it. You may have to hurt somebody´s feelings. You have to pay the price to get better outcomes in your life. But it is worth the effort.

Eliminating unnecessary tasks

You waste time by doing the unnecessary tasks. You cannot eliminate all of them. You should then consider delegating them to others, automate them, or minimize their bad effects on you. You have a limited amount of time during the day. And you have even more limited amount of best hours during a day. You should use these hours for the most important tasks in your life. To make sure this happens, you should eliminate all the unnecessary tasks or transfer them to worse hours during your day. Unnecessary tasks have some common characteristics:

  • Tasks you don´t like
  • Tasks you are bad at
  • Tasks that are always interrupted
  • Tasks that are not necessary for your life or your career
  • Tasks that have done the same way for decades
  • Tasks in which your colleagues are useless or unreliable
  • Tasks in which the schedule has erupted and the end is not in sight

You can probably define more characteristics for the unnecessary tasks. Everybody doesn´t have the same list of characteristics. Instead of believing in my list, I encourage you to consider your own one and taking necessary steps to diminish their effect on you.

Getting rid of unnecessary items

You have thousands of different items at your home. These items have some costs you probably haven´t thought about. They cost you time, space, effort, mental bandwith, etc. You may even have a garage or some warehouse space for your unnecessary items. You will probably think they are worth more than they actually are. You can probably get some money for them or some favors by giving them to someone else, but that makes your life more complex. All these items have some common characteristics:
  • You haven´t used it for a while
  • They take too much space
  • Their maintenance costs are high
  • They were gifts you hate
  • They are too difficult to use

It is not easy to let these items go from your life. You may hurt somebody´s feelings, etc. Keep things simple when you get rid of these items. Start with one item that is easy to get rid of.

Eliminating people from your life

Your brains are not designed for having too many people in your life. Some anhropologists have come to conclusion that people can have between 150 and 250 relationships in their lives. The amount of close relationships is much smaller. You should eliminate as many bad relationships as possible to make room for the good ones. There are some common characteristics of bad relationships:

  • They drain your energy
  • Only one person gets all the benefits from it
  • Meeting them is no fun for you most often
  • You don´t trust the other person
  • The drama is always present in this relationship

Relationships are probably harder to eliminate than unnecessary items or even tasks. You can even have some close relatives that have a bad and uncorrectable relationship with you. You can have friends you have known since childhood. You cannot change others. Therefore, the best way is probably to have some distance from them. Social skills are not my thing. I am bad at them. Therefore, you shouldn´t really believe me. Think yourself and have your own conclusions.

It is harder for you to eliminate things in your life. Whether they are tasks, items, or people, your ego reduces your willingness to get rid of things. You believe that your tasks, items, and people in your life are more valuable they really are. It happens to everyone. My texts are more valuable to me than for the rest of the world, even though it is hard to believe. Simplifying life is beneficial for everyone, maybe except kids. Simplify your life and enjoy better outcomes!

-TT

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Anglo-American long term cycle, part 4 Crisis era

If and when Howe and Strauss were right, things could escalate to the full-blown Crisis. Current cycle is in a Crisis era. You can see many commonalities between the era we live now and the era in the end of 1930s. It is possible that all the things happening now are just random noise and I, Howe and Strauss are wrong. Investor Ray Dalio also sees things as we do. World is about to go into the climax of a Crisis era.

The anatomy of a Crisis era

Crisis era lasts normally something between 15 and 25 years. Once has it been very short. This happened during the Civil War in the US. Era starts with a catalyst or catalysts. It can be a burst of an economic bubble, like in the 1929, a Civil War, a declaratio of independence, or some surprise in general election. These catalysts change the mental state of the majority in a country. It can happen suddenly or slowly. Normally change starts from one to five year after the catalyst. Society starts determining itself differently along the period of time. People are more interested in developing institutions than themselves. They start repelling individuals who are more interested about themselves than the community they live in. Some people may start destroying the assets of the rich people. In this era, the differences in the incomes between the rich and poor are the largest. Culture and technology are used for strengthening the behavior for the common good.

Protecting society from the new threats takes over. Problems are exaggerated. When these problems are trying to be solved, the problems get bigger. These solutions are simple and demanding. Instead of solving the reasons for the problems, people focus on the symptoms. Leaders use institutions to solve problems in the society. Leaders are bad during the Crisis. People still believe them and their solutions. The role of a family grows in society. Social interaction grows too. Cooperation is based on survival, not fairness. Some people and generations need to sacrifice their benefits for the common good. This can lead to a division of labor among the gender and age. Children are overprotected compared to adults and women are overprotected compared to men. The promises made about the well-fare of people before the Crisis won´t be kept. It becomes impossible.

During the climax of the Crisis, the role of the people is the strongest. The rage in the individuals has transformed into rage of the community. Protectionism and xenophobia are strongest. The probability of wars is highest. If they are fought, there could be a bitter end with extensive destruction. The probabilities for Civil Wars and revolutions are highest during the climax. Politicians have bigger moral rationales for destroying the enemy than normally. They have no room for compromises in their minds. Common people want an utter destruction of the enemy. Climax of the Crisis is society´s counterpart for nature´s earthquakes and floods. The destruction creates the change in society. It can be good or bad. You cannot know it beforehand. Climax normally happens from one to five years before the end of a Crisis era.

Commonalities between today and 1930s

The catalyst of the former Crisis era concluded in 1929, when the stock market crashed. You can also see that financial crash 2007-2009 concluded this Crisis. Finally central banks had to print money because they had no other way of solving the financial crisis. In the 1930s, there was a Great Depression. This financial crisis was a Great Recession. People didn´t suffer financially as badly as in the 1930s. The recover was faster this time. This recovery haven´t really solved the financial problems of the great majority of people. The former recovery didn´t either. When this happens, the great majority feels that capitalism and democracy do not function well enough for them. Populism increased like it did in the former crisis. Catastrophe is bound to happen, when these problems are not solved. During the 1930s, the dominant world power Great Britain confronted the rising power Germany. Today, there is about to be a big conflict between the dominant world power US and China. A hybrid was is on. It is hard to forecast whether it becomes a full blown conflict that is fought until destruction.

Archetypes during a Crisis era

In a Crisis era, Prophets can be seen more as spiritual elder leaders than active seniors. They highlight their physical weaknesses. They are more interested in religious beliefs and are willing to praise the lord for younger generations. Women are more interested in religion than men. Political leaders are often Prophets during the Crisis. These gray champions demand moral values from the younger people. They also need to understand that their economic wellbeing is diminished during Crisis. Their financial benefits are reduced for the sake of younger generations. Boomers have lived without great financial problems until now. They have to get used to have less money for consumption. Some of them will work after retirement, especially during a climax of the Crisis.

Nomads are in midlife during a Crisis. This archetype has the biggest financial suffering. They have the biggest role in solving problems in society. They have to think about conflicts between there own benefits and the socially acceptable solutions. Their number one goal is survival of the society. They have also the greatest responsibility in getting people to work on common good, instead of their own benefits. Nomads are flexible employees. They are willing to change jobs and their behavior if they are necessary for their survival. A typical success story is an entrepreneur who is known for his technological ingenuity, being flexible, and his cunning plans. Typical failure is a person who takes big risks and do not accept their losses on time.

Heroes represent cooperation during a Crisis. They guide technological development for more communal purposes. Facebook is one good example. Mark Zuckerberg belongs to Hero generation. Heroes work in bigger groups of people than other generations during Crisis. Older generations see them as a generation who works towards its own good, but it is not true. During a climax this is a big thing. Without this cooperation, there would have been a catastrophic solution for each Crisis era. Heroes solve problems through cooperation much better than older generations´ expectations. The behavior and clothing of young adults will become more harmonized. Individuality suffers. They are ready for sacrifices because of the common good. They will use violence if necessary and they are willing to fight for the bitter end. As an employees, Heroes strengthen the role of labor unions during a Crisis. They will also take care of decreasing the differences in income between the poor and the rich.

Artists have only small roles during a Crisis. They are either in the late elderhood or childhood. They are dependent on others. Artists are overprotected as children. They also suffer from losses of parents more than any other archetype. They help adults by doing small chores like cleaning or vacuuming. In the late elderhood, Artists can only follow how the Crisis advances from the side and hope for wellbeing for their last years of life.

I could also speculate about the future, but I will not do that, because I cannot forecast anything.

This is all for the long term Anglo-American cycle.

-TT

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Angloamerican long-term cycle, part 3, generational archetypes

As it is with Turnings, there are four generational archetypes. Each archetype has their own common characteristics. These characteristics are found from the majority of each generation. Each generation lasts about a one phase of life. All these archetypes arrive always in the same order. Each archetype has its own way of reacting to events in different phases of life. These phases of life start from childhood, moves through young adulthood to midlife, and ends in elderhood. One can also add late elderhood for the fifth phase, but it is irrelevant in this context. There are not enough people in late elderhood to have a significant effect on events in the world. Each archetype in each phase of life has a different effect on other archetypes. These effects are guided by the long-term cycle with four Turnings.

Childhood is a time for growing, learning, and approving the need for protection from older generations. The social role of children hasn´t really changed in the last decades, even though technology and medicine have improved significantly. When the childhood ends, young adulthood begins. In this phase of life, it is time to transform ideas and dreams into projects and plans. It is also time for building a career and starting a family. Midlife is a time for conserving lifestyle, and transferring dreams and ideas into reality. Guiding younger generations is one of the most important tasks at this phase of life. Most people also start realizing their aging and start seeing signs of their transformation towards elderhood. Most people die in this fourth phase of life. This is the time when you can stop caring about your duty towards the society and finish your career.

There is a contradiction to consider, when you think about how the generations are formed. History makes the generations and generations make history. It is not easy to define the generations when new children are born so much every second. So the question is how do you define the generations? First, you need to define the length of each generation. A generation is a group of people who have been born in the same time in history. This time has the approximate length of one phase of life which is around twenty years. One generation has seen the same events at the same time. Second, majority of the generation have similar beliefs about families, gender roles, institutions, politics, religion and future. And majority of them react the same way for the same events. Any individual can still have his own ways of believing and reacting. Third, they have a sense of belonging to a certain generation. For example, Millennials feel they belong to their own group of people. Each generation has also its own biography.

Different archetypes

Prophets are born and raised during a High. They come of age as a narcissistic young adults during an Awakening. When they are in midlife, they cultivate their moral principles during an Unraveling and they become wise gray champions during a Crisis. During this fourth Turning, leaders are usually Prophets. They guide younger generation to a great victory or catastrophe. Other archetypes see them as narcissistic, arrogant, and ruthless. They are principally endowed towards vision, values, and religion. Prophets have the greatest Effect on Heroes, and vice versa. The reason for this is that when Prophets are in midlife, Heroes are in childhood, and vice versa. Some of the Prophets that had big effects on people in history were, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. The best known Prophet today is probably Donald Trump.

Nomads are born and have a liberal upbringing during an Awakening. During an Unraveling, they become marginalized from the society when they are in young adulthood. Their actions are pragmatic during a Crisis in midlife and they accept their destiny as ignored elders during a High. During this Turning, their efforts and actions during a Crisis are forgotten. Some of them are even humiliated with a lack of respect from younger generations, even though they were the most important generation for the victory during the last Turning. Other archetypes see them as practical, cultureless, and amoral. They are principally endowed towards freedom, survival, and honor. Nomads have the biggest effect on Artists, and vice versa. Some of the Nomads that had big effects on people in history were George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower. The best known Nomad today is probably Barach Obama.

Heroes are born and protected during an Unraveling. They have a role as cooperative young adults for solving a Crisis. They are then guided by some Prophets and middle-aged Nomads for getting the best possible result from the Crisis. During a High, they are arrogant middle-aged people and during an Awakening, they are strong and effective elders. Other archetypes see them as selfless, capable and mechanistic. They are principally endowed towards community, technology, and prosperity. Heroes have the biggest effect on Prophets, and vice versa. Some of the Heroes that had big effects on people in history were Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Most known Hero today is probably Mark Zuckerberg.

Artists are born as overprotected children during a Crisis and they are senstive yound adults during a High. They function as undecided middle-aged leaders during an Awakening and are emphatic elders during an Unraveling. Others archetypes see them as open-minded, emotional and undecided. They are principally endowed towards competence, due process, and pluralism. Artists have the biggest effect on Nomads, and vice versa. Some of the Artists that had big effects on people in history were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Colin Powell. The best known Artist today is probably Warren Buffett.

Next week, I will publish a text about an ongoing Crisis. Until then,

-TT

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Anglo-American long-term cycle, part 2 Turnings

As I previously told you, each complete cycle has had four different seasons. The first cycle started in 1435 from the third turning, an Unraveling. Since then, the Anglo-American world has completed six full cycles. Today, the Anglo American world is in the fourth cycle, a Crisis. This is the turning in which the biggest changes happen. A society fights for its survival. It is almost impossible to forecast which will be the end result. The length of a Turning is normally 15-30 years. Only once, the length of the season has been something else. This happened in the Civil War in the US. That season lasted only five years. These Turnings have changed in the same order through all the history:

  • The first Turning is called a High.
  • The second Turning is called an Awakening
  • The third Turning is called an Unraveling
  • The fourth Turning is called a Crisis

Each Turning has its own characteristic social mood. After the Turning has changed, people think about themselves, institutions and society differently. These Turnings can change gradually or suddenly. The reason for each change is that different generational archetypes move to the next stages of their lives. Each of these archetypes are equally important. They will be introduced in the next week. Each Turning is also important in its own way. Each Turning moves the society towards another rebirth, which comes after the Crisis has been resolved.

The first Turning, a High

A High can the best Turning for a society. It begins after the society has resolved the most important basic issues of the prior Crisis. Last High started soon after the World War II ended. This Turning is mostly a great time for people who accept the majoritarian culture and society´s major role in their lives. The destruction of society is finally left behind, even though people don´t really know it. People are happy for what they have achieved during the Crisis. Wars are unlikely. Institutions are reinforced and individualism is low. People are unified and moving the society into the same direction. Families are strong, divorce rates are low and the birth rate is high. Inner life of people is weak and spiritual life minuscule. Vision of the future is brightening.

The second Turning, an Awakening

An Awakening begins after some events have triggered a cultural revolution. For example, last Awakening started after the Kennedy assassination in 1963. After the Awakening has arrived, people start worrying about their inner life, instead of worrying about the society or its institutions. People become cynical, public order starts deteriorating and there are wide protests for a better society. Crime and substance abuse rise. Awakenings are remembered for their images of extreme social behaviors like mass demonstrations, even riots. Children become underprotected and they have liberal upbringing. Creativity peaks and it is directed towards spiritual values. In the end, people have a consensus opinion that they have better inner life than the collective social order. In the end of this era, vision of the future becomes euphoric.

The third Turning, an Unraveling

An Unraveling begins after the society and its people perceive that the new cultural mindset is in place. This era has a psychology of abundance and maximum individualism. People do not trust the government or institutions, but they do trust themselves. People also express themselves through commercialism. They show themselves through brands and prosperity. Economic booms and busts are probable. Spiritualism is declining. Individual moral is low. In the beginning, people are happy, and they trust their future will be great. Eventually, they experience the change in their mood. They become nervous about the future. They start thinking about more corrupt society and see it splitting into smaller pieces. The vision of future darkens in an Unraveling.

The fourth Turning, a Crisis

A Crisis begins after some events have triggered an upheaval in public life. This is the most important Turning during a long-term cycle. This Turning defines the direction for the society for the next long-term cycle. It is the era of destroying the old and rebirth. Its conclusion can be a glorious victory or a complete disaster. Most people that remember the last Crisis have no effect on society as a whole. The memories of the old horrors are gone. Most people will find a common enemy and rediscover teamwork and social discipline. People also start complying to the authorities, crime descends, substance abuse and birthrate decline and people accept the sacrifice they need to do to defeat the enemy. They are ready to do whatever is needed. Wars are likely, as is protectionism. There are less immigrants because foreigners are the ones who get most of the blame about the deterioration of social order. Vision of the future is urgent. There is a great need for fast action.

This was the overview of each of the four Turnings. They vary in length, but have the same order. These Turnings never move backwards. After a High never comes a Crisis, or an Unraveling never comes after a Crisis. Without a great chaos, these patterns do not change in the Anglo-American world. This cycle can come to an end or it can accelerate or stop. It is hard to imagine how this could happen, but nuclear war or biological weapons could cause an end to this cycle. Or a regime change like China taking controlling the whole Anglo-American world could be the end of this cycle. It is very unprobable that this would happen, but it is possible.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Anglo-American long term cycle, Saeculum, Part 1, Basics

What we learn from history that we do not learn from history

-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

I will focus on the Anglo-American long-term cycles and generations in this text. For now, Anglo-American world is the most dominant one in this globe. This thing may change in this century. To me, this change is actually more probable than continuous Anglo-American dominance. This first part is about the basics of a saeculum cycle, its four different seasons and different archetypes of generations. ”History does not repeat but it rhymes”, said Mark Twain. This text is mostly based on the book called ”The Fourth Turning”, written by William Strauss and Neil Howe. This book is an excellent and worthwhile reading. It was written in the middle of 1990s and is still relevant. Some of its forecasts have actualized and some of them have not.

As you can divide a year for four different seasons, you can do the same for a long-term saeculum cycle. A long term cycle lasts 80-100 years and in an Anglo-American societies they have lasted from the 1400s. These long-term cycles can be divided into four generational cycles called turnings. They represent different seasons in one long-term cycle. These turnings can last anything from 15-30 years, like different phases of life. Most often they last about 18-22 years. These turnings are a first turning called a High, second turning called an Awakening, third turning called an Unraveling and fourth turning called a Crisis. There are four phases of human life, childhood, young adulthood, midlife and elderhood. One generational archetype dominates one phase of life in one turning. These archetypes are:

  • A Prophet generation, born in a High
  • A Nomad generation, born in an Awakening
  • A Hero generation, born in an Unraveling
  • An Artist generation, born in a Crisis

You have to understand these archetypes and their role in the long term cycle. You have to understand that majority of the people in one generation have special characteristics these archetypes have, not all of them. These characteristics are formed by the events of history and vice versa. You have to also understand that without different archetypes, their wouldn´t be different turnings. A new archetypal generation is born, when most people of the same generation are either dead or living their last years. These archetypes are the main reasons why long term cycle reoccurs again and again.

About the length and reason of the cycle

Most people in Anglo-American countries are not aware of these long-term cycles and their roles in them. A Crisis in the end of the cycle happens, because most people who remember the last Crisis are long gone. A society and the nature have to complete their social and biological changes. Periodic destruction in the end of the cycle is needed to renew the society and the nature. Human life time is the natural rhytm for these cycles. How could it be anything else? The changes in political regimes, natural disasters, and technology vary in length, but natural human life cycle hasn´t much changed in the previous centuries. People died before in diseases and wars before their natural life spans ended.

The most important reason for why people are doomed to see these long-term cycles are that they think linearly. People think mostly about today and they forget to think about longer-term cycles. They have no idea about seasonal changes in societies. Within a long-term cycle, each season has its own characteristics. These characteristics vary within a cycle more than seasons in different long-term cycles. An Unraveling in one cycle looks more like the Unraveling in the previous cycle than an Awakening and Unraveling in the same cycle. The reason for variation is that different archetypes have different roles in different seasons. Different generations are dominating different seasons. Archetypes in young adulthood and in midlife have bigger roles in seasons. These dominant archetypes also move their actions and behaviors for reflecting their own lifetime experiences. Thus, their efforts are directed into different directions than the efforts of the previous dominant archetypes. These changes in efforts move people from one season to another. The most dominant archetypes have the biggest effects on the second younger generation. For example, Nomads that are in midlife right now have the most effects on Artists in the childhood.

This text was part 1 of the Anglo-American cycles and generations.

There is more to come in the next few weeks. You will be less well prepared for the future, if you don´t understand a long-term cycle.

-TT

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Interconnections in and between systems

Before going to this text, you should probably read this, unless you are familiar with systems and its components.

Most things are interconnected. You cannot look only separate elements and their inputs and outputs and find out how the system works as a whole. You have to see how independent elements interact together. You have to understand what happens when an element A interacts with an element B. You have to understand what happens what happens to the element B when the element A changes its output or what happens to an element C, when the elements A and B change. Sometimes these interconnections are just information flows and sometimes they are feedback loops.

Interconnections can be loosely or tightly connected. Some of the elements can be isolated, but they are rare. It is also hard to find some systems that are isolated from others. Your body is one example of systems within the system. Some of its elements are loosely connected with others and some of them are tightly connected. Tight connections between different elements or systems are more efficient than loose connections. There are opportunity costs between the efficiency and the probability of not having a system failure. The more tightly connected the elements or systems are, the bigger the probability of system failure. When the failure hits the tightly connected element, the whole system will probably fail. In these cases, there is often only one path to a successful outcome. Systems can be loosely or tightly coupled as a whole.

Interconnectivity can be divided into four degrees of connectivity

Interconnectivity can be divided into four different degrees of connectivity:

  1. Underconnected state: primitive cultures and undeveloped countries may be underconnected. This basically means that their environment may change without them knowing it. And they cannot do anything to react to the change.
  2. Interconnected state: When the environment changes gradually, businesses, economic systems and governments are capable of keeping up with the change. For example, evolution works most often in the interconnected state.
  3. Highly connected state: In this state, businesses, economic systems and governments are driving change. Capitalism, in its purest sense, works in a highly connected state. Sometimes it becomes overconnected.
  4. Overconnected state: In this state, institutions, change so quickly that the environment in which they are embedded are unable to cope. Or the other way around: environment changes so quickly, because of the increase in interconnections that the institutions are unable to cope. Overconnected states provide disruption in one way or another. The crash of 2007-2009 was one of the best examples of a system in an overconnected state. The system failure was very close.

System safety and interconnections

Negative feedback loops mostly help make systems safer, but positive loops can cause serious problems. Positive feedback reinforces and amplifies change, accelerating it and causing the environment getting more unstable. In many tightly interonnected environments, initial stimulus works its way through the environment and back through feedback loops to provide more stimulus to the system. This drives the system faster in the same direction and causes rapid change. This rapid change causes more rapid change with increasing speed until the system will brake down. This is why you need to have balancing feedback loops in the system. They protect the system from rapid and unpredictable changes. These changes are the most dangerous ones. There can be long delays before these positive feedback loops start showing signs of trouble. Then it can be too late.

Information flows can also cause some problems in systems. They are always somewhat delayed. When the flow of information is delayed too much, the system can get into trouble. For example, when the balancing feedback loop has too big of a delay, the reinforcing feedback loop changes the system too much that it can cope with the change. Delays are hard to time properly. And they are also hard to notice sometimes.

Changing and removing interconnections can make a system safer too. Making looser interconnections can help systems become less delay dependent. They become less depended on the timing of the delay. Sometimes looser interconnections can help you to process things in parallel. Then you can have multiple actions in the same time. A system with tight interconnections may not be able to achieve this. You can also make a system safer by removing some of its interconnections. The more interconnections and the more tighter they are, the more probable it is that the system will fail. You should think about your interconnections in your systems and start removing all the unnecessary ones.

Sources:

Overconnected, William H. Davidow
Thinking in Systems Donella H Meadows

-TT