Single Point Attractor

This caught my eye on a Google cross hit. Spooky given Jorn’s HTML vs XML joke earlier about a cinema fire, that I hadn’t noticed this Snowden & Kurtz reference to a theatre fire in their example of organisational triggers that create meaningful instances from chaotic situations. [Snowden and Kurtz IBM paper – cached copy]

A transition from the chaotic to the complex is a matter of creating multiple attractors, or swarming points, around which un-order can instantiate itself, whereas a transition from the chaotic to the known requires a single strong attractor. For example, if one were trying to evacuate a panicked crowd in a theater on fire, it would make more sense to shout out “the blinking orange lights are above the exit doors,” which is a complex swarming-point trigger that relies on local knowledge only, than to shout out “come towards the back of the theatre,” an ordered trigger that relies on global knowledge which may be unavailable.

Of course in this context the idea of an attractor is very close to Pirsig’s “seed crystal”. The right point of organisation (seed-crystal) dropped into a chaotic meta-stable situation (super-saturated solution) can create order in the whole. Quality from chaos.

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