Explanandum 6: Understanding Complex Systems

By Herb Wiggins, M.D.; Clinical Neurosciences; Discoverer/Creator of the Comparison Process/COMP Theory/Model; 14 Mar. 2014

Complex systems are by their very nature, well, complex!! This means that from the large number of interactions which create complex systems, a very great many outputs may arise. As such, it’s necessary to detail the relevant parts of that to create more understanding of the whole. Surely, for those not familiar with complex systems it’s hard to understand. But once we understand that the word cluster of “comprehension, understanding, figuring it out, “seeing” it, connecting the dots, making the connections” and so forth, are but forms of a larger word cluster (an expanded form of the older, parent term, “synonym”) including visualizing events, and insights into events, the very multiplicity of complex systems is better seen, characterized and thus understood.

Please understand, what some may term digressions are in fact further evidences and explications of what is being stated. They are in fact quite relevant in a direct way as are other related writing forms, which DO provide “evidence based” substantiations to what is being written. It’s evidentiary thinking and explication.

For instance, the dopamine neurochemical system has 9-10 receptor sites, and probably more subtypes. This is a way in which linear systems point by point, receptor site by site, can create a complex system. Where we find multiple receptor sites, we are also looking at a complex system, you see? One compound, dopamine (DA), the parent catecholamine, from which epinephrine(Adrenalin) and norepinephrine are created, has many, many diverse, but related functions. So, yes, It’s not easy to comprehend. But this expansive style of writing is necessary to combine many of the other important aspects of the same complex system. So while it’s harder to read, in one sense, it’s the only practical way to bring together many of the diverse ways in which complex systems work. & to more fully characterize the whole system.

In another instance, Insulin is a polypeptide, and the usual common, linear, simple belief is that it reduces blood sugar. That’s part of it. Insulin is a complex polypeptide, it drops blood sugar by attaching to a cell’s receptor site and making it take in glucose molecules. So in time it does drop blood sugar. But that’s NOT all it does, by any means. It also drops K+ (potassium) levels as anyone who’s given insulin knows, because we must replete the K+ as the glucose levels drop.

Insulin ALSO builds muscle. Bodybuilders would like to do this, but insulin will create hypoglycemia in normal person so it can’t be used. They use ILGF (insulin like growth factor) which is not such a potent glucose reducer in blood, but Also makes muscles grow, too. It competes at similar insulin receptor sites and the muscle building athletes do use this as well.

Insulin has complex activities, and it will also effectively block keto-acidosis esp. in those who have too low insulin levels. So it has a LOT of effects. In type 2 diabetes, AODM-2, the extra insulin creates hypglycemia and the serious symptoms from that as well when blood glucose drops, too. But it’s not well known that there is a cure for diabetes, tho while draconian and with serious side effects from the surgery, it does work and well. If the distal 2/3 of the stomach is cut out by a gastric sleeve, or partial or full gastrectomies, the AODM-2 goes away within several weeks, almost entirely.

No more treatment with insulin or other meds are needed, in most cases. Why does this happen? No one knows. But as the AODM-2 is insulin resistance, meaning more insulin than usual is required to reduce glucose, there must be something blocking insulin effects, which is being produced by the stomach.

There are multiple ways of raising blood sugar, in order to regulate it. Release of corticosteroids from the adrenals, and epinephrine, which gives many of the side effects of low blood sugar. The creation of glucose from proteins by the liver, or release of sugar from glycogen in the muscles and body. A considerable hunger can also be produced, which when starches and sugars are taken, the blood sugar rises.

Similarly, there are ways of controlling too high or too low insulin levels. and one of these is probably the problem from the stomach’s many, many scores of polypeptides it creates. One or so of them is probably tying up an insulin receptor site and this is what’s creating the insulin resistance and diabetes. Used normally to decrease and control insulin from getting too much activity, it goes wrong in AODM-2. Just why there is so many persons with the diabetes/diabetic gene, which can be lethal (30% of the population or so and much higher at 85% in the Pima Indians where there is starvation due to desert climate and thus more famine) is obvious. This has been further discussed in the “How to Get a Nobel Prize ” series in “How to Cure Diabetes”

We can’t fully describe complex systems using linear methods, you see. Those can somewhat approximate, but can’t completely describe them. Much as Moses couldn’t reach the “Promised Land”, linear methods can’t either get there. But as my forthcoming article, “The Promised Land of the Undiscovered Country”, will show the ways of getting over that abyss separating linear methods dominant now, compared to the coming complex system methods, to show us the enormous “Undiscovered (by linear systems) Country” of complex systems. We are a machine culture, where pushing a button does one thing only, or using a key to unlock a door. Complex systems are very different from machines and are not linear, doing many tasks, as with the DA and Insulin systems, with single inputs resulting in many, many outcomes. They are far, far more efficient because those do a lot more with a lot less, and are how most systems work and arise.

We cannot understand complex systems very well with current math, linear thinking, logics, and methods. But the comparison process can explore these better by recognizing many of their characteristics and going from there. The visual plate tectonic model is a complex system created from these recognitions, relationships and characteristics, using concepts of plates interacting with each other, such as subduction, volcanoes arising from that geological process, and earthquake faults. Or sea floor upwelling & spreading creating the spreading zones, highly active in the north and south Atlantic. This is also seen on land in a rift zone north and south of the Afar triangle, an area stretching as far north as the Dead Sea, and then well south thru the Red Sea into the Afar. It then creates a spreading zone of the East African rift, which is 1000’s of miles long. Also sea floor Hot spots are a major aspect of this plate characteristic. All plates are moving with respect to other plates in a complex, unpredictable in the long term way. This cannot be apprehended by anything but comparison processing and visual systems. We’ve seen the cartooning which shows Pangaea breaking up, over the 100’s of millions of years, leading at present to our world of continents, mountain ranges, etc. But this cannot be extended very far, because it’s an N-body problem of multiple plates interacting which creates the complex system of the earth’s surface. Thus plate tectonics is a complex system.

To explain the comparison process and complex systems requires a divergent style of writing, & must be expansive enough to bring in a much wider understanding of how complex systems work, within each case of a complex system. Yes, it’s tough to comprehend and see what’s going on. But that’s the way they are. And a comprehensive writing style such as I use, is necessary to more fully express the myriads of ways these systems work. There is no “Royal Road” to understanding geometry. We have to do the work to learn it. In the same way, we have to do the plodding work to understand complex systems, too. I’ve been working 40 years on this, and just now am beginning to get the results and insights needed to understand complex systems a lot better.

Tightening up the style means “simplifying to a more linear style”. That can’t be done when describing complex systems to any major degree. Otherwise we end up creating a least mean squares line, which ignores the multiple points which do in fact exist, & tries to ignore the patterns of complex events which are going on. James Gleich writes about this in “Chaos” and fractals are but a part of what’s going on.

Let’s use a clear, medical application of complex systems thinking. In medications, or drugs, Each of these has a major effect we are looking for, for example, blood pressure control. There are what are commonly termed, “side effects”, because we want to ignore these events, which are more properly understood as “complex system effects”. Thus we, by this simple process of re-thinking about “side effects”, now understand those are much more likely to be in fact, the signs, effects and functions of complex systems. We stop ignoring events, and gain more insights into what’s going on. Just exactly like the dopamine has not ONE linear effect, but in fact creates both Motion in our motor systems, PLUS the multiplicities of Emotions as well!! It does a LOT with a little, with not ONE receptor site but 9-10 plus sites..

Using this method of complex systems thinking, coming from many angles instead of the linear, simplistic, “take the pill”, we can create a usable method to make Viagra last for 3 days from a 50 mg. tablet. This should only be used under a medical professional’s prescription. We use methods which examine how the drug is broken down by the liver, and then block that. We use a method to potentiate its effects & absorption in 3 different ways. We combine it with chocolate powder drink PLUS a cola. And the tablet is chewed up to make the absorption much faster (surface area effects maximized), and more completely, too. And so within 20′ of taking the 50 mg. tab, there is the desired effect. Which is boosted to a higher level and has not only a far, far greater success rate than the “take the pill” linear method, but which makes it act faster, and last far, far longer, almost as long as Cialis, in fact. This is the new pharmacology coming. But this has in a small way been done with some combination, dual meds before, but NEVER in the above more comprehensive, complex system ways. THAT is where we are going in the sciences, and the larger world beyond. Unlimited capabilities of doing a LOT more with a lot less, you see. This drug, sildenafil, should be used under a doctor’s prescription.

In addition new drugs are now being made which pharmacologically have not one “desired” effect, but in fact, are multiplicit, deliberately, so we can better treat complex illnesses with less & better. We are taking the “side effects” understanding them and not ignoring them any more, and turning them into improved, multiple, better working treatment effects.

So my digressions as some call them, are in fact showing the multiplicity of the complex systems which do a lot with a little. Some feel this approach is confusing. In fact, these methods enlighten, explicate, & further characterize the complex system functions more in their full glory and capabilities. “A” does Not yield only B, as in linear systems, but in complex systems also may yield C, D, F, G’, alpha, eta, and gamma/beta double prime, etc., do you see? It’s not just A or not A, which is the false dichotomy & a limit of logic, but a multiplicity of possible outcomes. & thus the receptor sites models which have this complex system form. We take the shades of gray between Not black and white, only, and thus gain in description & thus better control.

There is no “Royal Road” to understanding complex systems and the mind/brain and how it understands & functions. We MUST do the work, just as we must do to learn Archimedes’ geometry. The work means we re-organize our brains to deeper understandings made possible by the new thinking and new approaches & methods in complex systems, well beyond what’s done in linear, mathematical, logical thinking.

This is what’s going on. We cannot grow much more using linear methods to most fully comprehend our complex system living systems and the much larger universe either by IGNORING the “side effects”. The methods of machines cannot be used to understand living systems, which are NOT At ALL machines!! They are complex systems. The same is true for our emotions and personalities and the cells. The same is true for social systems, economics, markets and ecologies, even planetary systems. We must comprehend with words and visualize with events that our linear methods no longer work very well. & in order to more fully understand what’s going on, and in fact, realize that linearity leaves out a very great deal of events in the universe. Most of it, very likely. So we embrace the complexity for a vastly greater understanding of what’s going on.

A sea change is taking place in the sciences. We are shifting from linear methods of logic, simple maths, and such, to a new paradigm, a la Alex. Kuhn’s marvelous & landmark “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, from which we are still mining more and more information than even he expected. Complex system departments are opening up everywhere within universities and corporations. This is not an accident, but is a massive, very useful change in our epistemologies of “how we know what we know”. The linear methods have reached a point of diminishing returns. Overspecialization is blocking progress and creating a Tower of Babel. We must regain growth by simplifying the complexity using these new methods, so we can once again begin to grow. What we lose by a more complicated writing style and considerations, we gain enormously in understanding of how to do a LOT more with a lot less, which is quite another way of stating the Least Energy Principle. Or the least free energy rule, or the minimalist principles, or the rest of the thermodynamic, mathematical ways of stating much the same process, which has multiple characteristics.

General systems theory, process thinking and structuralism have been developing since about 1910, or so. So this is not really very new, but has been hard to develop given the complexity of the issues. Using linear methods to define what’s going on takes a LOT of time. We take a series of points a linear method created, and now can SEE more of the entire curve with complex system thinking in 3-D. This is a fair analogy of what we are doing, now. In other words, using the circles of Ptolemy gave a fair model but good enough, to which they added the many, many epicycles, which made it very, very complicated. Converting complicated circles to an ellipse got rid of the complexity, & created a far, far better & simpler model and which was easier to use, as Newton equations of planetary bodies where N=2, show. It’s also least energy, and thus favored in this universe!!

Please understand, am NOT writing this way to be opaque or difficult, but to more completely characterize the vastness of the capabilities of complex system approaches. As Stanislas Ulam stated while working with Fermi on complex systems & experimental maths in the 1950’s, “Calling the universe non-linear, is like calling biology the study of all non-elephants.” That simple koan, metaphor, analogy, description, etc. is what’s going on now. The universe is 99.99+% complex systems, NOT linear much at all, which only gets a piece of the elephant like the 4 blindfolded wise men, or misses the forest for the trees. & our universe is unlikely to be understood using linear methods.

This is what’s happening and thus my style of writing. Each statement adds to and explicates more of what’s going on. Sure it’s complicated, but that’s the way the world is and we must adapt or come to an end of growth.

We have reached the Promised Land, and many of us have been there and it IS a land “flowing with milk and honey”. My extension of Einstein’s epistemology as an aspect of the comparison process, and the application of the Least Energy Principle to more completely show what drives not only evolution, but models most all growth, is part of this. It even explains the memes of Richard Dawkins, why things go viral on the internet, what creates humor, fads, and fashions, political and religious movements, and the Jihad, and all very simply, too. The Dopamine boost!! Simple yet complex, A LEP method which describes a very great deal with a little. Fruitful and unlimited in application. It is essentially the wellsprings of creativity which have been found. Consider the consequences of that upon human societies.

All we ask is that those interested join us in this great new adventure of discovery.

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