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The New Johari Window #7: Complexity and the Postmodern Condition

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William Bergquist

While social philosophers, historians and organizational consultants might not be able to agree upon much, they inevitably acknowledge that relationships over the years have tended to become more complex. One of the obvious reasons for this complexity is the massive increase in the size of the human population on this planet, which, in turn, leads to increasingly dense human populations in all areas of the world. The increasing density of human population is not simply a matter of population growth, it also has to do with a remarkable dynamic that is to be found in most systems—what many theorists now label the strange attractor phenomenon.

Strange Attractors

This dynamic process of attraction concerns the tendency for all elements in a complex system to cluster around some central point. There are forces, entities and events in many systems that attract other forces, entities or events. One of the primary contributors to contemporary complexity theory, Ilya Pergogine, observed in 1984 that larvae in a specific insect population will tend to distribute widely when there is low density (small number of larvae in a specifically defined space), but will tend to cluster as the density increases and to form multi-clusters with very high density.  There is a similar tendency for people to cluster as they increase in number. The noted sociologist and social theorist, Emile Durkheim was one of the first to observe the strange attractor phenomenon as it operates in human societies.  He noted that as the number of people inhabiting a particular area of land tends to increase, there is a tendency for these people not to spread out evenly (which would provide each person with the maximum amount of available space), but rather for these people to cluster together (to form villages and, at a later point, cities).

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