Publication date (electronic): 31 March 2015
Interpreting "big history" as complex adaptive system dynamics with nested logistic transitions in energy flow and organization
David LePoire’s primary research interest is in understanding the coupled transitions of energy, environment, and social organization. He works at Argonne National Laboratory as an environmental analyst developing tools, analysis, and training for environmental characterization and risk assessment. He is also concerned with the reduction of environmental risks from potential national security issues. Over the past 20 years he has been involved with projects for many federal agencies. He has a B.S. in physics and Ph.D & M.S. in computer science.
Big History might be considered the study of an evolving, large, complex adaptive system with three very different phases progressing geometrically from the early universe to the present day. A geometrical progression rate would suggest transitions to life evolution beginning at about 5 billion years ago; to brain evolution around 5 million years ago; and further transition to technological civilization development about 5,000 years ago. Characteristic properties of complex adaptive systems include: (1) a resource which drives the level of complexity, such as energy flow; (2) new options at critical nonlinear decision points along development paths tied to levels of energy flow; and (3) continuous logistic learning as the options are explored; (4) scaling of other dimensions besides energy, such as length and time scales of important processes. This paper presents indications that these processes are occurring through historical trends in energy, environment, economics, and organization. The understanding of these phenomena could contribute to our ability to develop and anticipate potential future scenarios with more integrated, systemic, and effective approaches and expectations.
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