Sociocybernetics and Chaos Theory - New Possibilities for Understanding Alcoholism and Related Addictions

By Halmi, Aleksandar; Gruber, Vesna Golik | Alcoholism, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Sociocybernetics and Chaos Theory - New Possibilities for Understanding Alcoholism and Related Addictions


Halmi, Aleksandar, Gruber, Vesna Golik, Alcoholism


INTRODUCTION

Looking at the original goals of alcohology and addiction sciences and evaluating their practice, one can wonder about the gap between those goals and that practice. It is also amazing that the efforts of system scientists to understand and to describe the world in a systematic way have not found resonance in the trials and errors of early social scientists in defining the logic of their enterprise. One of the reasons is perhaps to be located in the way alcoholism and related addictions were themselves influenced by social forces. Moreover, the concepts of causes and effect could not be explored in a systematic and adequate way.1 The idea that there was a mutual interaction between causes and effects, which can be formulated in the logical follow-up system theory, that is, cybernetics, and the associated idea of feedback cycles, was not accepted as valid for the logic of the social sciences. When such elementary logic is not accepted one no longer needs to wonder about the shortcomings of alcohology and addiction sciences in understanding and controlling the dynamics of ARA problems. This conclusion gives us grounds for examining the emergence of general systems theory and cybernetics and the attempts to apply concepts and ideas to the study of chaos and nonlinear dynamics in the field of alcohology and addiction science.

The chaos theory paradigm

How does the emergence of sociocybernetics, chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics which underpin its mathematics, represent a new paradigm in the systematic rather than metaphysic or simply journalistic meaning of the term? Three conditions must be met. First, a new taxonomy must be identified. Second, the resolution of previously unfathomable puzzles must be present. Third, new difficulties (often conceptual) must emerge.

a) The New Taxonomy - Anew taxonomy does two main things: it gives new meanings to old terms and it introduces totally new terms into the formal theoretical language itself. The advent of sociocybernetics and chaos theory into the world of alcoholism and related addictions brought with it the need to introduce new terms and new meanings.

Very briefly, some key terms and distinctions of chaos theory are:

Chaos - Chaos exists when the long-term prediction of system is impossible. Chaos occurs when the uncertainty of a system's initial state grows exponentially fast.

Nonlinear dynamics - Chaos is a term used to describe the apparently complex behavior. The key element in understanding is the notion of nonlinearity. The study of nonlinear behavior is called nonlinear dynamics.

Nonlinear system - A nonlinear system is a system whose time evolution equations are nonlinear, that is, the dynamical variables describing the properties of the system appear in the equations in a nonlinear form.

Chaotic motion - By the broadest definition, every motion more complicated than fixed motion or periodic motion is considered chaotic.

Complexity theory - is a new science of complex system. It studies »life at the edge of chaos« and explores the properties of complex systems at the state.

Bifurcation theory - attempts to provide a systematic classification of sudden changes in the qualitative behavior of dynamical systems.

Dissipative systems - are materially and thermodynamically constituted entities. This means their internal structuration and development are regulated by transfers of energy from their environment. The most important feature is their negentropic potentiality.

b) Some old puzzles resolved - Such is the pace of scientific advance that the puzzles or contradictions derived from »old« paradigm, the identification of a crisis and the emergence a new paradigm have all taken place in the years since 1965. The puzzles were identified as such by Lorenz and Feigenbaum who independently (and with different functions) realized that some iterative functions (now generally classified as Verhulst Functions) exhibit chaotic behavior. …

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