Swenson, R. (1989a). Engineering Initial Conditions in a Self-Producing Environment. In A Delicate Balance: Technics, Culture and Consequences , M. Rogers and N. Warren (eds.), 68-73, IEEE Catalog No. 89CH291-4. Los Angeles: Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
Abstract - Implicit in any discussion of ethical or what questions concerning the use of technology, viz., what can or should be done with technology relative to its consequences, is the necessary assumption that the course of the future is subject to rational intervention. This requires either that (i) nature is not deterministic in the Newtonian/Laplacian sense and that humans have some non-privileged access to seeding the future as part of the natural evolution of cosmic processes, or that (ii) humans sit supernaturally outside of nature (whether Newtonian/Laplacian or not) as instruments of some supernatural will. Recent advances in complex systems theory now provide a theoretical basis for (i) (1-5). The old view of the second law of thermodynamics that transformations from incoherent to coherent states are "infinitely improbable" has been shown to be false. The second law can now be understood as the underlying creative principle in the universe. Opportunistic, self-accelerating structuring through the spontaneous emergence of increasingly specified levels of coherent reflexive states is now known to be the product of physical law. Nonlinear relations between components, seeded by indeterminate, non-average, microscopic "events", puncture the space-time limits to entropy production by extending the diffusive of the nonequilibrium flow fields from which they emerge. Although this process provides the non-privileged acccess to seeding future states required for rational intervention, non-privileged should be heavily underscored. Although cultural systems may use rational human constructions as components in their own production they are not rationally constructed systems. Thus the extent to which seeding can be "rational", or the extent to which future states (the pathways that are seeded) might be "good" for humans (which humans? with what values?) is unclear at best. What is known now is that (i) opportunistic structuring is predicted by physical law; (ii) this structuring is successively seeded at instabilities - particular evolutionary "moments", by indeterminate microcopic events (fluctuations); (iii) there is some finite number (perhaps large, perhaps not) of different microscopic events that at each moment meet the physical requirements for spontaneous amplification to macroscopic proportions; (iv) the (possibly extremely small) differences in these events may lead to drastically different macroscopic outcomes (futures); (v) the process is irreversible; and (vi) we are rapidly passing through (approaching) a moment (a succession of moments) on planet Earth right now. Clearly insofar as questions of responsibility, accountability and alternative future states are concerned, the implication of these findings run deep. Recent theoretical results are outlined, and some of the implications briefly discussed. A rapid expansion of transdisciplinary research is called for.

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