Diagram: Enslaved States

Enslaved Statesdefinition.php

'Enslavement' captures the idea that certain emergent states will constrain the agents that initially formed that state once they have emerged.

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An enslaved state can be considered as an attractor (see Attractor States within a Fitness Landscape. The term 'enslavement' was introduced by Hermann Haken, and suggests how particular emergent phenomena reinforce themselves once they have developed. There are similarities between the notion of enslavement and the concept in economic geography of 'lock-in'.

Some enslaved states may represent highly fit situations, whereas others might be residues of states that were fit at one time, but may now be sub-optimal. In this case, the system may suffer from 'lock-in', where it can no longer adapt to shifting fitness parameters because it has become too entrenched in self-reinforcing regimes.  

Enslavement captures how emergent phenomena, even though they are generated from the Bottom-up, take on agency once formed, and thereafter can constrain the actions of the agents that form the system. This also ties into the idea of  Maturana and Varela's notions of {{autopoesis}}.

An example of enslavement is the idea that 'the rich get richer'. Similarly, cities that at some point in history gain more population than an equally viable neighboring city, will tend to attract more people, more services, etc. in a recursive loop. Thus, while one state might emerge as more viable than another due to processes that are initially somewhat random, this can be gradually amplified over time due to positive Feedback processes, until such point when actors within the system effectively only have one option of how to act. Accordingly, Hollywood has enslaved the movie industry, and Silicon Valley has enslaved the tech industry. At this point in time, it would take a major system Perturbation to disrupt these patterns. 


Cite this page:

Wohl, S. (2019, 19 September). Enslaved States. Retrieved from https://kapalicarsi.wittmeyer.io/definition/enslaved-states

Enslaved States was updated September 19th, 2019.

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Hermann Haken - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hermann Haken popularized the concept of 'enslavement' in his book Synergetics.

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    Complex Systems can unfold in multiple trajectories. However, there may be trajectories that become more stable of 'fit'. Such states are considered 'attractor states' to which a system tends to gravitate.

    Attractor States or 'basins of attraction' and can be visualized as part of a fitness landscape.

    Complex Adaptive Systems do not obey predictable, linear trajectories. They are Sensitive to Initial Conditions and small changes in these conditions can lead the system to unfold in entirely unexpected ways. That said, some of these 'potential unfoldings' are more likely to occur than others. We can think of these as 'attractor states' to which a system - out of all possible states - will tend to gravitate.  However, these attractor states may also shift over time, and are subject to system disruptions or  what is referred to as a Perturbation. Attractor states can also emerge gradually over time, as the system evolves, but once present can reinforce itself by constraining the actions of the agents forming the system. Thus we can think of Silicon Valley as being an emergent attractor for tech firms, that has, over time, reinforced its position. When a system finds itself 'trapped' in a basin of attraction (such that it cannot explore other potential configurations that may be more fit, it is considered to be in an Enslaved States .

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  • There would be some thought experiments here.