Subsystem Formation Driven by Double Contingency

Constructivist Foundations 9 (2):199-211 (2014)


Purpose: This article investigates the emergence of subsystems in societies as a solution to the double contingency problem. Context: There are two underlying paradigms: one is radical constructivism in the sense that perturbations are at the centre of the self-organising processes; the other is Luhmann’s double contingency problem, where agents learn anticipations from each other. Approach: Central to our investigation is a computer simulation where we place agents into an arena. These agents can learn to (a) collect food and/or (b) steal food from other agents. In order to analyse subsystem formation, we investigate whether agents use both behaviours or just one of these, which is equivalent to determining the number of self-referential loops. This is detected with a novel measure that we call “prediction utilisation.” Results: During the simulation, symmetry breaking is observed. The system of agents divides itself up into two subsystems: one where agents just collect food and another one where agents just steal food from other agents. The ratio between these two populations is determined by the amount of food available. Key words: Social systems, constructivist paradigm, cybernetics, double contingency, symmetry breaking, emergence

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