Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ten theses on systems and agency

1. The brain has different cognitive subsystems addressing systems thinking and agency.

2. Systems thinking - systemics - is mathematical, impersonal and logical.

3. Agency thinking personalises, attributing motivation and intention.

4. Systemics uses the conversational tools of reason, evidence, theories, deduction and consequences.

5. Agency uses the conversational tools of systemics, but applies them in the context of intentional agents and often subordinates them to emotionally-driven arguments (which can be logically-incorrect but surprisingly effective).

6. Systemics is suitable for dealing with the natural world (maths, physics, chemistry) and inanimate aspects of the human world (architecture, finance, the military, the law).

7. Agency addresses the natural world through ideology (religion) .. and the human world through persuasion and condemnation (politics).

8. Masculine thinking tends to the systemic, with Asperger's being a boundary case. This leads to increasing degrees of social incompetence -  society is agency.

9. Males who incline more to agency-thinking (actors, writers, politicians) often exasperate the more systemic by their illogic in the services of emotionally-affiliative positions. (Matt Ridley of The Times is an occasional offender).

10. All of this is separated from empathy, which is an affective, not cognitive function. Plenty of high-systemic individuals are enormously pained by discord, cruelty or pain. Sociopaths are something entirely different.
I was thinking about this while reflecting on some of Neal Stephenson's jokes in Anathem, jokes on the more intellectual of his characters (avouts) who show a woeful lack of insight into the human condition despite their impressive grasp of mathematics; these are also jokes at the expense of his likely readership.

I put my own hands up here.