Information in Social Systems
Christian Fuchs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wolfgang Hofkirchner (email@example.com),
Vienna University of Technology, Institute of Design and Technology Assessment
Merging Semiotics and a theory of evolutionary systems (the latter being a synthesis of 2nd Order Cybernetics and concepts of evolution), a Unified Theory of Information (UTI) seems feasible. Such a theory can identify on the one hand common aspects in the types of systems considered (dissipative, autopoietic and social ones). On the other hand it can deal with aspects of information that are special to each of these system-types. In social systems individual values, norms, conclusions, rules, ideas, experiences and believes can be seen as individual information. In the process of constitution and differentiation of individual information the signs data, knowledge and individual wisdom can be identified. On the basis of signals data is gathered (perceiving). This data is the starting point for gaining knowledge (interpreting) which is necessary for acquiring wisdom (evaluation). The semiotic triad of syntactic, semantic and pragmatic aspects of signs can be mapped to these three levels of individual information. Norms, values, rules and laws that are constituted in the course of social relationships are seen as social information. Social co-operation is considered as a social relationship in which social interactions of the involved individuals enable all of them to benefit from the situation. New qualities of an observed social system can emerge by social co-operation. Such qualities are constituted in a collective process by all concerned individuals and are emergent qualities of social systems. Social competition can bee seen as a social relationship in which the social interactions as well as the relationships of power and domination enable some individuals or social sub-systems to take advantage of others. New qualities of an observed social system can emerge by social competition. But these qualities are not constituted collectively by all concerned individuals, they are constituted by subsystems of the relevant system that have more power than other subsystems, dominate others or can make use of advantages that derive from higher positions in existing social hierarchies. Social information can have a co-operative or a competitive character. If social information is established by interrelated references of all individuals who are concerned by its application and if each involved individual has the same possibilities and means of influencing the outcoming information structures in his/her own sense and purpose, the resulting macroscopic structure is a form of co-operative social information. This type of information is collectively established by co-operation of the involved and concerned actors as an emergent quality of a social system in a process of self-organisation. We call this form of social information inclusive social information. Here self-organisation denotes that the individuals concerned by the emerging structures determine and design the occurrence, form, course and result of this process all by themselves. If social information is not constituted in processes of co-operation by all concerned individuals, but by a hierarchic subsystem of the relevant social system that has more power than others, dominates others or can make use of advantages that derive from higher positions in existing social hierarchies, the resulting structures are types of qualities that result from social competition - we speak of exclusive social information. Exclusive social information is a new, emergent quality of a social system. It is constituted by social competition and reflects relationships of domination and the asymmetric distribution of power in the relevant social system. A basis for a wise society - which could tackle the global problems - would be the collective formation of social information by social co-operation and the ability and possibility of individuals to choose and differentiate their individual information in a wise and self-determined manner.
social information, self-organisation, social systems, emergence, evolutionary systems
1. An Evolutionary Understanding of Information and the Feasibility of a Unified Theory of Information
An evolutionary understanding of systems theory shows that the
complexity of systems has increased during the course of evolution. We consider
dissipative, autopoietic, and social systems as the most important emerging
levels of organisation that have been observed thus far in evolution. Social
systems are more complex than autopoietic ones, autopoietic ones more complex
than dissipative ones. Already the complexity of the latter can’t be described
by using a mechanistic form of causality that tries to reduce each effect
to a single cause. In fact, in the theory of self-organising systems we have
to deal with multidimensional forms of causality: a single effect can have
many causes and a single cause many effects.
Because of the existence of different levels of complexity in different types of systems, there can be no simple general definition of information that is applicable to all forms of systems. The Trilemma of Capurro (see Capurro, Fleissner, Hofkirchner 1997; Fleissner, Hofkirchner 1995, Hofkirchner 1998b, p. 72f) shows the following.
1. Information can’t mean the same in all sciences because, if this were the case, there would be no qualitative differences between the separate scientific disciplines, e.g. chemical structures would have to be described with the same concepts as human beings.
2. There can’t be a similar meaning to information in the different sciences solely because this would imply the existence of a single outstanding discipline as a standard of comparison. If the social sciences were the standard, information-processes would have to be described in analogy to human communication in social relationships. We would have to say that the microscopic parts of a dissipative system, which shows the emergence of macroscopic structures communicate, in order to establish collective structures. But this would constitute an anthropomorphistic fallacy: concepts from social science can never be directly applied to the natural sciences without first generalising and then specialising them. The reverse is also true; this can lead to a naturalistic fallacy. History has shown that such fallacies are very dangerous.
3. Information can’t have a different meaning in every scientific discipline because this would make the interdisciplinary character of science impossible. Communication between different disciplines wouldn’t be possible. Therefore we argue in favour of a dialectical and evolutionary understanding of information. Such a concept of information would have aspects that apply to all types of systems and in all scientific disciplines. But at the same time information would have a meaning peculiar to any of these types of systems and any of the sciences. This would be a unified concept of information which reflects the dialectic relationship of difference and similarity and could be the essence of a Unified Theory of Information (UTI).
2. Self-organisation and Emergence
By merging semiotics and a theory of evolutionary systems (the latter being a synthesis of 2nd Order Cybernetics and concepts of evolution as well as touching the relationship of information and emergence), a UTI seems feasible. A UTI could make use of the interdisciplinary character of the theory of self-organisation.
Since the sixties the notion of self-organisation has been applied in various disciplines. In physics and chemistry Prigogine (emergence of macroscopic structures in dissipative systems that have moved far away from thermal equilibrium, see Nicolis, Prigogine 1989) and Haken (Synergetics: order out of chaos, principle of slaving, see Haken 1978, 1983) have to be mentioned. Eigen (see Eigen, Schuster 1979) described the emergence of living matter in a hyper-cycle of autocatalytic reactions. Maturana and Varela (Maturana, Varela 1984) have put forward their idea of living systems as autopoietic ones, which can reproduce and maintain themselves, and they have laid the groundwork for Radical Constructivism in epistemology by describing the brain as structurally coupled to its environment. Luhmann (see Luhmann 1984) tried to apply autopoiesis to society by suggesting that social systems are self-reproducing ones . Today the theory of self-organisation has diffused into nearly every scientific discipline.
Table 1 shows the relationship of the old to the new, as well that of the whole to its parts by means of various methodologies (see Hofkirchner 1998a). Reductionism fails to perceive evolution because it tries in vain to deduce the new from the old. The latter is seen as a sufficient condition from which the new simply results as a logical consequence. It likewise proposes to deduce the whole from its parts. Simple antireductionist monistic views postulate that the antecedents are deducible from an a posteriori and the micro-states from the macro-state. The new is projected onto the old and the whole onto its parts. In table 1 we refer to this view as holism. Dualistic positions postulate an unbridgeable divide between the existence of the old and the new. The new and the whole are seen as independent from the old and the parts. All these methodologies can’t deal with the emergence of qualities pertaining to the whole from the interplay of its parts. Emergentism, on the other hand, regards the old as well as the parts as a condition that is necessary, though not sufficient, for the emergence of both the new and the whole. Emergent properties and qualities like the new and the whole are not deducible from underlying levels or preceding events. Emergentism also puts forward the idea that the new and the whole exert a dominating influence on the properties or entities from which they arose in the form of downward causation. The macroscopic level determines the microscopic one, although never completely; a certain degree of autonomy is always maintained.
Table 1: Types of methodologies and the logical relations between old and new, parts and the whole, respectively, reflecting evolution and systems (see Hofkirchner 1998a)
The notion of emergence is put forward by the theory of self-organisation
because the latter deals with the emergence of macroscopic structures from
interacting microscopic entities. An example for the emergence of order from
noise in self-organising systems is provided by the Bénard convection-cells.
In a special liquid a macroscopic pattern emerges suddenly from reciprocal
actions of liquid-particles when a threshold in temperature-difference has
been crossed. A small fluctuation (a single particle leaves its layer) is
intensified, the particles leave their stationary positions and start moving;
the system is driven far beyond its thermal equilibrium. The particles order
themselves, different concentric patterns emerge. One of these enslaves the
others, it orders the system, and its form determines the macroscopic pattern.
Such processes of emergence characterise self-organisation in dissipative
systems as the spontaneous appearance of order on a macroscopic level.
The roots of Emergentism go back to the psychologists Conway Lloyd Morgan and Samuell Alexander in the 1920ies. Their Philosophy of Emergence concentrated on consciousness as a phenomenon that suddenly emerged during the course of evolution and that can't be reduced to the organic structure of living organisms. For Morgan and Alexander Emergentism seemed somehow mystical, they introduced spiritual forces (known as "Nisus") as the driving forces of emergence (see Morgan 1923, Alexander 1920). They lack an understanding of the dialectical relationship between quality and quantity, and the whole and its parts. Occam's Razor shows that we don't need over-specifications of terms and theses. Emergence does not need to be explained in terms that go beyond the original concept. There is no requirement to introduce metaphysics into Emergentism because the emergence of new qualities of the whole can be explained by the interactions of the parts.
Emile Durkheim was one of several well-known sociologists that considered the problem of emergence . He speaks of social facts which are special forms of acting, thinking, and feeling that exist apart from individual consciousness (see Durkheim 1984, p. 106). Social facts are collective phenomena that can't be produced by a single individual. They can only be explained as emerging from social interactions of actors. Examples for social facts are collective aims, views, values, feelings, standards, customs, traditions, and duties. They are emergent qualities of social systems.
Emergent Evolution deals with emergent qualities of systems that occur at an evolutionary transition from one organisational level to another. One important question in bringing together a Theory of Evolutionary Systems and Emergentism is: "Which emergent qualities distinguish higher organisational levels from lower ones? "
For a Unified Theory of Information (UTI), merging the notions of emergence and information, evolutionary systems and self-organisation, means that we identify three evolutionary levels of organisation, which are seen as different types of self-organising systems: dissipative, autopoietic, and social systems. The qualities of a higher level emerge from the underlying level. For a UTI, a dialectical conception of information seems feasible as it identifies those aspects of information that apply to dissipative, autopoietic, as well as social systems and at the same time also to those aspects that are peculiar to each of these types of systems.
So the core of a UTI has to be formed by a concept of information which is flexible enough to perform two functions. It must relate to the various manifestations of information, thus enabling all scientific disciplines to use a common concept. At the same time, it must be precise enough to fit the unique requirements of each individual branch of science. The general and the specific thus should be combined - the general as constituting the governing laws of each form of information, the specific as constituting those characteristics which make different types of information distinct from each other.
3. Signs in dissipative and autopoietic systems
A sign can be seen as the product of an information process. An information process occurs whenever a system organises itself, that is, whenever a novel system or qualitative novelty emerges in the structure, state, or behaviour of a given system. In such a case information is produced. It is embodied in the system and may then be called a sign.
In Hofkirchner 1999b it was argued that pattern formation in dissipative systems (e.g. the Bénard cells) is the most rudimentary form of producing signs. In autopoietic or living systems, structures are not just simple patterns but something that has meaning for the system in question. This something shall be called a symbol. Thus sign production at this stage of evolution turns from pattern formation to the formation of symbols. Sensations can be seen as self-reorganzations that are evoked by external perturbations, they are, however, not determined by them and therefore not reducible to them. Sensational restructuring joins on the structures which are provided by prior sensations. This is a recursive process in which symbols are produced and which again has a syntactic implication. Living systems act in response to what sensations mean, i.e. they assign a meaning to the sensations, and they interpret them in terms of survival relevance.
It can be said that self-reproducing systems deliberately respond to stimuli they take up. By means of sensing and reacting they are able to improve their adaptation to the environment. We will further concentrate on information processes in social systems.
4. Individual information
In social systems individual values, norms, conclusions, rules, opinions, ideas, and beliefs can be regarded as individual information. Individual information doesn't have a static character, it changes dynamically, i.e. individual opinions and values change permanently because of new experiences. This doesn't mean that individual information is necessarily always unstable and that for instance the reflection of ideologies in individual information doesn't exist. Rather, new experiences enhance and consolidate already existing opinions, but they can also radically change them. Hence it can be said that individual information as a lower level of information in social systems has an unstable character. When we come to higher levels (which we encounter in the social information that is produced by social relationships) the complexity as well as the stability of the information increases. The generation and differentiation of individual information can be described as follows (see figure 1 as well as Hofkirchner 1999a).
Fig. 1.: The processes of generation and differentiation of individual information (see Hofkirchner 1999a)
Cognition is always connected to the outside world; a subject relates itself to events and states of its environment. The informational happening can be described as layered; levels of higher and lower quality can be distinguished. A transformation of information from lower to higher levels takes place. The generation of individual information starts with the reception of signals from the environment. The update of the signals starts with a particular state of experience of the cognitive system. Receiving applies to the uptake of signals which come from the perceivable environment. Conceiving is devoted to the registration and bringing together of the signals to a "view" of some aspects of the environment. Perception unites conception and reception: it's an unceasing movement, an oscillation between reception and conception. An act of perception involves the reception of signals and the conception of impressions, i.e. a new whole that is called data. Perception is a process that reflects and potentially changes the current cognitive structure. The emerging structure is the starting point for the next perception. The whole can acquire a new emerging quality which the previous impressions did not have. So, on the first level signals are turned into impressions/data by perception, an act that involves reception and conception.
On the next level, the data (impressions) is interpreted, i.e. meaning is given to the data. So knowledge is formed. The process of interpretation involves the interplay of projection and introjection. It starts with a certain state of interpretation/knowledge; this is the basis for the emergence of new knowledge. Projection means that first the system is projected onto reality, i.e. the current state of knowledge is applied to the data. Introjection means that the data can be interpreted in such a way that the structure of knowledge changes - new knowledge emerges. The system has introjected reality into its structure. New areas of reality, new experiences have been brought into the system. Just as on the first level with reception and conception, there are two opposing processes: projection and introjection. They are the motor of the endless movement of cognition.
Here the question arises, whether knowledge is formed relatively autonomously from the environment so that data as perceived signals from the outside can only perturbate but never determine changes in the cognitive knowledge-structure or whether knowledge as a representation corresponds to the environment of the cognitive system. It can be said that the environment never determines cognition completely, but knowledge is also not formed completely autonomously nor without regard to the environment. Arguing dialectically we can say that reflection and constructivism both require and contradict each other. The formation of knowledge as the interpretation of data involves projection as a moment of construction and introjection as one of reflection. Knowledge as the result of interpreted data can be seen as the level which involves experiences and facts. At the third level, knowledge is evaluated and sense is made of it. Individual information such as values, norms, rules, opinions, ideas, and beliefs are created by the fact that the subject puts its knowledge into the context of its goals. This action is seen as an evaluation which involves description and prescription. The process starts with the current state of individual information in a particular situation where an individual must act in order to solve a problem. Description means that on the basis of the current individual information structure the individual is looking for solutions. The situation and the solutions refer to the knowledge on the lower level which represents facts. In the prescriptive phase a decision is made on the implementation of a solution. A solution considered good, nice, and fair is selected. At this high level the process of cognition cumulates to individual wisdom; it is individual information that allows an individual to create situations that he/she experiences as good, pleasant, nice, and fair. The existence of individual wisdom doesn't necessarily mean that the decisions taken by individuals are socially wise ones.
When we solve problems by evaluating knowledge and when we act on the basis of experience in order to select a good solution to a problem, facts (knowledge) and the current individual information can lead to new individual information. This is neither a necessity nor an impossibility. It is possible to act and to try to find solutions without enhancing and changing our individual values and norms. In fact, this is the case with most of our actions. Under these circumstances individual information remains unchanged. In other situations it might be different; new individual values, norms, rules, opinions, or beliefs emerge on the basis of new experience; signals from the environment may be perceived in a different way, data may be interpreted in a different way, and knowledge may be evaluated in a different way.
The signals on the lowest level can refer to trivial objects in our daily life such as a flower, but the object of reference can also be social information, which is produced by social relationships. This establishes a relationship between individual and social information. When a sign is considered the product of an information process, data, knowledge, and wisdom can be seen as the three types of interrelated signs that appear in the process of formation and differentiation of individual information.
5. Semiotic Aspects of Individual Information
A sign is the result of an information process. An information
process occurs whenever a system organises itself, i.e. novelty emerges in
the structure, state, or behaviour of the system. When the new system, structure,
state, or behaviour relates to an old one, a relation among signs (old ones
and new ones) is established. The new sign is not reducible to the old ones,
but it is nevertheless dependent on them because they provide the range of
possibilities from which one possibility is chosen. We can refer to this as
the syntactic relation of signs.
When a relationship between a system and the environment of the system is established, the signs of the system also relate to the outside world. In such a case the sign represents something outside the system, so that the sign gains significance. This is the semantic relation of a sign.
If a relation between a sign and the system's aims is established, we can speak of the pragmatic relation of the sign. The sign relations are encapsulated: the sign-sign-relation is the innermost one (syntactic aspect), it is embedded in the sign-sign-object-relation (semantic aspect), which is part of the sign-sign-object-subject-relation (pragmatic aspect).
Relating the semiotic dimensions to the processes of the generation and differentiation of individual information, it can be said that at the first level new data (=impressions) emerges on the basis of data known through the perception of signals from outside the system. So a relationship between the old data and the new one is established. Hence this is the syntactic aspect of the generation and differentiation of individual information.
At the second level the perceptions are interpreted; the state of the system changes and another sign - new knowledge - emerges. This sign refers to the object of cognition - the environment of the interpreting individual. Because of the establishment of a sign-sign-object-relation, we find the semantic aspect at this level.
At the third level, where decisions are made on the basis of already existing individual wisdom and knowledge, new individual information can emerge. A relationship between the actions, decisions, and problems of the subject of cognition is established. Here we have a sign-sign-object-subject-relation, so we can speak of the pragmatic aspect of the generation and differentiation of individual information at the third level.
6. Social information
The word "social" denotes that this kind of information is produced in the course of social relationships between several individuals. According to Max Weber a social relationship is established when there is mutual referencing between two individual actors. Social acting is guided by significant actions of various actors. Social actions are a necessary condition for a social relationship, but not a sufficient one because social acting doesn't require a relationship between the actors: an actor can refer to the actions of another without the latter referring to those of the former.
We regard social norms, laws, values, and rules (the latter do not need to be codified, they can also be established in the form of traditions or habits), which are produced during the course of social relationships of several individuals, as social information (see Fuchs 2001). These individuals must share a common view of the construction of reality that provides the basis for their social actions and interactions. They are elements of a social system. Social information emerges as a macroscopic structure from the interaction of these individuals within the social system. The interactions are mediated by acts of communication; individuals act in such a way that they trigger interrelations and actions of other individuals. Individuals co-ordinate their actions in order to produce a social information structure.
Social co-operation can be seen as a social relationship in which the mutual references of the involved individuals (these are social interactions) enable all of them to benefit from the situation. By co-operating individuals can reach goals they would not be able to reach alone. New qualities can emerge in an observed social system through social co-operation. The elements/individuals in this system are conscious of these structures, a circumstance which must be attributed to the social whole connecting the individuals rather than to single elements. Such qualities are produced in a collective process by all concerned individuals and are emergent qualities of social systems.
Social competition can be seen as a social relationship in which the social interactions as well as the relationships of power and domination enable some individuals or social sub-systems to take advantage of others. The first benefit at the expense of the latter, these have to deal with the disadvantages arising from the situation. New qualities of an observed social system can emerge as a result of social competition. But these qualities are not produced collectively by all concerned individuals, they are produced by subsystems of the relevant system that have more power than others, dominate others, or can make use of advantages that derive from higher positions in existing social hierarchies. These qualities reflect relations of domination in social systems.
Social information can have a co-operative or a competitive character. This depends on the way it is generated. If social information is generated under the premise that every individual involved in its application has the same opportunity and means of influencing the resulting information structures in his/her own interest, then the resulting macroscopic structure is a form of co-operative social information. This type of information is a collective product of the co-operating actors concerned; it is an emergent quality of the social system in the process of self-organisation. We call this form of social information inclusive social information. Here self-organisation means that the individuals involved in the emerging structures determine the occurrence, form, course, and result of this process on their own . They establish macroscopic structures by microscopic interrelations.
If social information is not generated in processes of co-operation by all individuals concerned but rather by a subsystem of the relevant social system, when this subsystem has more power than the other subsystems, when it dominates the others, or when it can make use of advantages that derive from its higher position in the existing social hierarchy, then the resulting structures evidence qualities that are the product of social competition - we call this exclusive social information.
Exclusive social information is a new, emergent quality of a social system. It is based on social competition and reflects relationships of domination and the asymmetric distribution of power in the social system concerned. We can't say that exclusive social information is produced in a process of social self-organisation because not all the individuals concerned are able to participate in this process and to influence it on an equal basis using equally distributed resources and means .
A hierarchy is made up of a sequence of elements subject to priorities. Individuals located at higher levels of a hierarchy have more power than individuals on lower levels. Hierarchies in society are characterised by the asymmetric distribution of power. Such an unequal distribution is normally safeguarded by coercive means. This is the specific character of relationships of domination. Social information is interrelated with questions of power and domination.
7. Social Information and Aspects of Power/Domination
The English sociologist Anthony Giddens regards power as the
ability to influence the actions of other persons. Power is displayed in the
resources which can be used by actors in social interactions.
We regard power as the availability of the means to influence processes and decisions in one's own interest . In both approaches power is understood as something which is present in all social relationships, it can be distributed symmetrically as well as asymmetrically. Power is not something that is necessarily exercised over someone; it can not be abolished but merely redistributed. Max Weber sees power as any chance to impose one's own will in a social relationship even against resistance (see Weber 1972). And he perceives domination as the chance to recruit loyal followers.
"Against resistance" points towards an understanding of power as a relationship of coercion that employs discipline in order to suppress the will of others. Such an approach neglects the possibility of a symmetric distribution of power.
Domination is the availability of the means of coercion with which to influence others, i.e. of processes and decisions in one's own interest and to one's own purpose. It is a display of the asymmetric distribution of power and it can't be distributed symmetrically. Domination is always exercised over someone. Power is always related to the dependence of individuals. It can only be observed in social relationships. A symmetric distribution of power implies that all the actors involved in a social relationship - since they all depend on each other - have the means to influence the processes and decisions in this relationship to the same degree in their own interest and to their own purpose. Relationships that are formed by competition are an expression of the asymmetric distribution of power. They play a major role in our society.
More powerful individuals normally have more knowledge than less powerful ones and they play a dominant role in the process of the generation and differentiation of social information. Monopolies of information are monopolies of asymmetrically distributed power and of domination.
The distribution of power in our society is also maintained by the privileged access to and the control of knowledge and social information by the ruling classes and the exclusion of others from this access and from the chance to participate in the generation of social information.
In our western society, which is politically formed by the model of representative democracy and economically by Capitalism, the asymmetric distribution of power in both areas (as well as in others such as privacy) prevails. This creates various relationships between more influential and less influential classes. In the current form of our society, competition dominates co-operation and exclusive social information is far more important than the inclusive kind.
8. The Relationship of Individual and Social Information
As already mentioned, signals as the starting point in the process
of generation and differentiation of individual information do not solely
refer to objects of our environment, they also refer to social information.
This is the way to establish a relationship between individual and social
If cognition were solely determined by reflection, the exclusive social information we find in our society would almost certainly be perceived by everyone as individual information. But in fact hardly anyone agrees with all laws and political decisions. Everyone has a dynamically changing structure of individual information. But individual information often reflects the dominant conditions, norms, rules, habits, and values of society. This reflection is established in processes of socialisation.
Individuals are confronted with manipulation and disinformation in politics, the media, the economy, ideologies and in personal relations. Because of the existing asymmetric distribution of power, the economically powerful classes control the channels which provide information.
Nonetheless the establishment of alternative channels of information that provide underrepresented information and the access to them are possible when individuals experience alternative forms of socialisation. But these individuals are confronted with the asymmetric distribution of power in society. Alternative channels and alternative socialisation can trigger the generation of individual information that does not reflect the dominating exclusive social information.
So the epistemological aspect of information in social systems can be perceived as the dialectical relationship between reflection and constructivism. Both are aspects of cognition. In the society we live in, the reflection of social conditions in our individual structure of cognition dominates the make-up of the individual self. But such domination can never have a fully determining character.
Thus far we have not accomplished getting rid of the diverse manipulations in our society that trigger the domination of social competition and exclusive social information in order to become self-determining, autonomous, and altruistic individuals that can choose and differentiate their individual and their social information on their own.
A self-organised society would be one in which all individuals that are touched by a problem have the same power to determine the occurrence, form, course, and results of the generation and differentiation of social information.
A symmetric distribution of power in terms of resources and access to information, co-operation, inclusive social information and solidarity instead of competition, exclusive social information and egoism, as well as a form of socialisation that enables individuals to establish a form of compatibility and satisfaction of their own and collective social interests, would be required.
Compatibility of individual and social interests and information means that each individual enjoys a maximum of freedom without curtailing the freedom of others or collective social interests. The free development of the individual is a necessary condition for the free development of everyone just as everyone's freedom is a prerequisite for the freedom of the individual. Individual and collective interests can be compatible without interfering negatively; egoism is not a "natural" pattern of behaviour that is given from birth or encoded in the genes, rather it originates in a process of socialisation in a system dominated by exclusive social information, asymmetric distribution of power and competition. Individual information and social information can both be characterised by freedom because social information emerges as a quality of social co-operation in the process of self-organisation of individual information. Nonetheless individual information would still change dynamically due to new social experiences.
9. Coping with Global Problems in a Wise Society
Global problems are not specific to the 20th century; they have existed over a long time in various guises such as epidemics (pestilences, etc.) or wars. The new quality of the social problems of our time is that the continued existence of mankind is becoming ever more doubtful. The unequal distribution of resources (wealth, food, water, energy, means of production, information, products, etc.), the rapidly widening gap between the rich and the poor, the differences in social standards and standards of development, the ecological crisis and wars (including the possibility of nuclear destruction, which is still a very real danger although the Cold War is over) can be considered to be the essential global problems. The currently dominating neo-liberal form of politics is accompanied by a growing intensification of these problems.
We believe that in order to solve these global problems society must become a wise one. Social wisdom would be the ability of mankind to overcome the inequalities, threats, unequal distributions, crisis, and gaps that pose global problems. Currently the individual wisdom of the majority of human beings does not reflect social wisdom.
A necessary condition for establishing a wise society that is capable of solving the global problems is the overcoming of the domination of exclusive social information in society. A development towards inclusive social information, co-operation and solidarity, as well as altruism instead of exclusive social information, competition, and egoism could be the basis for solving global problems; it could provide the basis for a society that relies rather on co-operation than on competition and the passing of responsibility in social relationships to superiors.
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Nicolis, Grégoire, Prigogine, Ilya, 1989. Exploring Complexity, Freeman, New York
Weber, Max, 1972. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Tübingen
 His propagation of communications instead of actors as the elements of social systems leads to the neglect of social problems and social change.
 Another one is Marx: He did not use the term "emergence" (neither did Durkheim), but Dialectics and emergence are closely related. According to Dialectics, a notion in the form of a thesis, is negated in the form of an antithesis. Thesis and antithesis contradict each other, but they also require each other. The negation of the negation denotes the emergence of a synthesis from the thesis and antithesis. Hegel characterises this with the German word Aufhebung (sublation), which has three different meanings: eliminating/invalidating/dissolving/breaking up something (1), keeping or preserving something (2), and lifting something up (3). Aufhebung also characterises the change from quantity to quality - qualitative leaps exist in Dialectics. Marx used the dialectical methodology of Hegel to analyse capitalism. In doing so, he based his analysis on commodities, exchange- and use-values. He wanted to find out which laws and driving forces steer social actions and relationships, how labour, science, and technology as forces of productivity develop socio-economic contradictions. Emergentism and Dialectics are closely related. Emergence shows dialectical aspects because old system qualities are preserved (2) in the form of new ones and the system is raised to a new level/state (3) by the emergence of new qualities. We can't say that new system qualities eliminate old ones (1), but a whole/a system at a macroscopic level must not necessarily have properties/qualities of microscopic parts. We can therefore say that microscopic qualities are eliminated (1) at a macroscopic level, if microscopic properties can't be found at the macroscopic level that characterises the whole. Emergence means a qualitative leap, a spontaneous overturn of qualities, it depends on control parameters which reach a critical threshold in the self-organising system. On the other hand Dialectics put forward aspects of Emergentism because it deals with the overturn of qualities. A synthesis emerges from a thesis and an antithesis; it features new qualities.
 Considering dissipative
systems, self-organisation can be regarded as the spontaneous emergence of
patterns from the interactions of the system's elements if a certain threshold
of relevant parameters is crossed. We argue in favour of emergent evolution
which can explain new qualities of systems that emerge during the course of
evolution and can't be reduced to lower levels of organisation/systems. Hence
social systems are more complex than dissipative and autopoietic ones, and
self-organisation can't have exactly the same meaning as in less complex systems.
In the course of evolution of systems the complexity of these systems increases
and new qualities of self-organisation emerge. These qualities have some similarities
with the old meanings in less complex systems as well as new aspects. Hence
at lower organisational levels we have a broader meaning of self-organisation.
At higher levels this meaning is getting more and more specific because the
complexity increases. Therefore we argue in favour of an understanding of
social self-organisation that not only considers relationships of elements,
but also looks at the qualities of these relationships. So class relationships
as well as relationships of power and domination have to be considered.
Self-organisation in social systems denotes that new qualities emerge from social interactions of individuals during the course of a social relationship in a social system and that the individuals involved in the emerging structures determine the occurrence, form, course, and result of this process of generation or differentiation on their own. They establish macroscopic structures by microscopic interrelations. With such an understanding of self-organisation exclusive social information can not be seen as being constituted or differentiated by self-organisation.