I am reading Conversations with Miloševic – about the breakdown of Yugoslavia – and the complex struggles that followed. There are a series of maps, showing, in detail, the evolving conflict – in which millions suffered and died. No one expected this much violence to happen so quickly.
But this was not unusual – complex (often violent) events are in fact, the most common kind – in every domain imaginable.
When I went to Engineering School, in the Fifties, I took a class in Linear Analysis – that dealt with two variables at a time. No more could be handled, because the math became too complicated.
The digital computer, which was then just getting a start – could handle any number of variables, interconnected in any number of ways. It could model any situation in the world – but you ended up with two worlds, the real world you were modeling, and a virtual one, on a computer. This raised a question – how well did the model represent the world?
This is a huge problem that goes back to the introduction of human language – the invention that made us human. How well can language represent the world? Very well, and very poorly – at the same time. Words have to be accompanied by person-to-person body language, for satisfying communication to happen.
The same is true of the computer, that uses artificial languages. But its difficulty is worse than that – it can only work with numbers (digits). Everything has to be converted to a number, or a series of numbers (digitized) – then processed by the computer – and then converted back to whatever you started with.
For example, I tap on a key on my keyboard to generate a letter – this is changed into a number and my computer uses that, and all the other characters I enter, to construct its internal representation of a document – then it quickly changes this internal document back to a document on its monitor – that I can see. Two documents exist simultaneously – one inside the computer, and one outside it. When I am finished with it – it converts this into a file that I can send to other computers. This whole complicated process happens so quickly, it seems to happen instantly.
What I am describing is a new world entirely.
This is one of the reasons why so much conflict exists in today’s world. Most of the people in it were creatures of the Industrial World, and had adapted themselves to it. That world (of only fifty years ago) no longer exists – and they cannot adapt to the new one – that is centered around the Computer – that has no need for their skills. They are out of a job – and no worse thing could happen to them.
They are now followers of Trump – who promises to bring their world back to them.