Separability of Time-scales

Previous slide Next slide Back to first slide  


= the Adiabatic Principle in material systems basically relates the rates of different processes to their interactive effects on one another or ability to convey information to one another

= it says, in effect, that if an event or process occurs too fast relative to the speed at which some other system can respond to inputs, that the system responds not to the individual event but only to some time-average of such events on its own characteristic time-scale; it is buffered from fast-changing events

= conversely, events or processes that occur very slowly on its scale register as if they were merely part of a constant background environment and not really events at all; it will tend to have long ago adapted to them

= a famous and dramatic example is found in the most recent film version of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, in which by moving quickly enough through time, the traveler passes through a nuclear explosion unscathed

= DECOUPLING of space and time in networks, as noted by Latour: that in ecosocial networks, and many other cases, the topology is codim-1 and not co-dim 3 (codim 2 also exists), so that distant points may be more connected than nearby ones (in the usual construction of Euclidean space); note that this is a strong critique of the usual model in systems theory, where proximity always promotes interaction and distance suppresses it; this does not in general apply to social systems modeled as networks

= What is the effect of this on adiabatic separability? it turns out that it does not affect separability but helps us understand it better: in our normal view, entities at greater distances take longer to communicate with us and interact with us less often, but despite the revisions in this view which Latour's critique makes necessary, it turns our that it is still only the relative times and frequencies that matter to the adiabatic argument (see also below).

= Latour also more recently notes ["Do scientific objects have a history?" 1996] that actants and networks are emergent, sui causa, along their historical trajectories, and that their pasts influence how they can be unpredictably ensnared in new networks of activities through time; this agrees with the ecosocial model according to which complex self-organizing systems give rise to trajectory-entities which are defined across-time and not at time-instants; such a trajectory can in fact now have multiple relevant time-scales depending on how it participates in various further networks: HETEROCHRONY.

= Finally, where separability applies even to a relative degree, as it does in any complex dynamical system for which we find emergent levels of organization developing or evolving, it appears that we can take into account the fundamental role of semiosis through the ALTERNATION principle (see the WESS TextWeb):

"Emergent intermediate levels are recognized when topological variety of the level below (faster) is reorganized by the focal processes as typological (threshold) information for the level above (slower), or typological variety ... is re-organized (time-averaging) as topological information for ..."

= These transductions alternate to produce the sense (illusion?) of levels both in our analysis and in the behavior of the systems as we see them.