Hierarchies and Networks

We tend to think of systems levels in terms of hierarchies. Each systems level is a rank in the hierarchy, superior to the rank below it, and inferior to the rank above it. This is a very convenient and useful method of analysis but, in fact, it is often a misrepresentation. It is perhaps more accurate to think in terms of networks, and of networks nesting within other networks, all interacting within themselves and among themselves. Some networks are larger than others, but this does not necessarily make them superior. Nevertheless, for simplicity of discussion, I will continue writing in terms of systems levels.

A beautiful example of a network is the Internet. Here is a network of networks if ever there was one. Perhaps we should think of the Internet as some kind of 'super-organism', with a 'life' of its own, and soon to produce entirely new emergents (see 1.9) of enormous importance, which we can now perceive only dimly, if at all. One of the more obvious emergents will be entirely new forms of global awareness and democracy.

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