The Mystery of Self-Organisation

Everywhere we look, we identify organisations ordered top-down (by fiat), or via “grass roots” movements,… — or, if we have no clue how a specific order came about, we simply say it came about “by itself”.

There was, for example, much discussion about such topics a little over a century ago, when people were interested to know how evolution works. Why do giraffes have long necks? By “natural selection”, it is said — pretty much: via self-organisation. Of course one could also say that the trees grew high, and that is why giraffes have long necks. This begs the question: Why did the trees grow high? And perhaps the best answer might be: Well, not all of them did, but the smaller trees got eaten up by the giraffes. There is no end to this — we simply don’t know.

Ah, but here come some hackers with computers — will they solve such questions with big data? No. They have not even yet jotted down whether the Earth revolves on its axis in a clockwise direction, or a counter-clockwise direction. If some of them are reading this and are getting up to run and record this fact, maybe half of them will write down “clockwise” and the rest will write down “counter-clockwise”. Could this fact (about the earth’s rotation — not whether it is deemed to be clockwise or counter-clockwise) be the cause of all evolutionary processes? Perhaps — after all: presumably the Earth has been rotating this way the entire time during which evolution has happened, and there are no data to contradict this possibility (therefore, some might argue: that is proof! ;) )

Why have both Germanic and Romance languages developed the way they have? Is it evolution? Self-organization? …? Your guess is as good as mine! Or maybe it was the rotation of the Milky Way galaxy? :P

In some languages, animal doctors have a specific name (such as “veterinarian”). Sometimes, there are people who care for specific animals who are not referred to as animal doctors or veterinarians, but by other names — such as “beekeeper”. Yet as far as I know, beekeepers are not to blame if certain species of bees become extinct. Does any of this make any logical sense? No. :|

It seems to be difficult for humans to accept that there are some processes over which they have little or no control — either individually or collectively. The evolution of languages is a good example. Imagine two hypothetical people: Mister X and Mister Y. Mister X and Mister Y might consider themselves to be so great that it doesn’t matter to them whether you call them a veterinarian, an animal doctor, a beekeeper, a banker or a politician. They are both capable of working, but maybe they do not wish to be referred to as “just another worker”. They consider themselves to be “Mister X” and “Mister Y” — so you should refer to them by “their” names.

OK, fine.

But what if someone’s animal is sick? Then that person might search for a solution — would the person say “oh, I know: I will go to Mr. X, because he’s a nice guy and I think he knows a lot”? Perhaps — but what if Mr. X knows nothing about bees, or even about animals in general, … their health, their treatment, etc.? Oh, that would be sad, then the animal might die. :|

No one must refer to an “animal doctor” as a “veterinarian” (or vice versa), and the fact many people do use these (or similar) terms is not by decree or fiat, or as a grass roots movement,… — it simply happens… by self-organisation.

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