Anticipation and the Non-linear Dynamics of Meaning-Processing in Social Systems

Loet Leydesdorff published a new paper at http://users.fmg.uva.nl/lleydesdorff/durban06/

Abstract

Social order does not exist as a stable phenomenon, but can be considered as “an order of reproduced expectations.” When anticipations operate upon one another, they can generate a non-linear dynamics which processes meaning. Although specific meanings can be stabilized, for example in social institutions, all meaning arises from a global horizon of possible meanings. Using Luhmann’s (1984) social systems theory and Rosen’s (1985) theory of anticipatory systems, I submit algorithms for modeling the non-linear dynamics of meaning in social systems. First, a self-referential system can use a model of itself for the anticipation. Under the condition of functional differentiation, the social system can be expected to entertain a set of models; each model can also contain a model of the other models. Two anticipatory mechanisms are then possible: a transversal one between the models, and a longitudinal one providing the system with a variety of meanings. A system containing two anticipatory mechanisms can become hyper-incursive. Without making decisions, however, a hyper-incursive system would be overloaded with uncertainty. Under this pressure, informed decisions tend to replace the “natural preferences” of agents and a knowledge-based order can increasingly be shaped.

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