From Individual to Social Cognition: Interdisciplinary studies of synergy

Introductory Presentation (Klaus Jaffe) Video

Video Presentations: Synergy in Physics, Biology, Economics and Bioeconomics

Synergetics: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Self-Organization in Complex Systems PDF, Video

Hermann Haken

Physicist and professor emeritus in theoretical physics at the University of Stuttgart. He is known as the founder of synergetics. After his studies in mathematics and physics in Halle and Erlangen, receiving his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Erlangen and being guest lecturer at universities in the UK and U.S., he was appointed as a full professor in theoretical physics at the University of Stuttgart. His research has been in non linear optics (his specialties are laser physics, particle physics, statistical physics and group theory). Haken developed his institute in a relatively short time to be an international center for laser theory, starting in 1960 when Theodore Maiman built the first experimental laser. The interpretation of the laser principles as self-organization of non equilibrium systems paved the way at the end of the 1960s to the development of synergetics, of which Haken is recognized as the founder. Haken is the author of some 23 textbooks and monographs that cover an impressive number of topics from laser physics, atomic physics, quantum field theory, to synergetics. For the more general reader, one of his successful popular books is "The Science of Structure: Synergetics".


Synergetics is an interdiciplinary field of research that deals with complex systems composed of many individual parts. The systems and their parts may belong to quite different disciplines, ranging from physics over medicine till epistemology. Some examples are: physics: fluids, gases, plasmas composed of atoms, molecules, ions; chemistry: reactions of molecules, forming patterns; biology: morphogenesis (cells), evolution (species, animals); brain sciences: brains composed of neurons; economy: companies (workers); epistemology: scientific disciplines/theories. Synergetics focusses its attention on those situations where new qualities appear on macroscopic scales, e.g. new spatio-temporal patterns in fluids, new types of cooperation in companies, new percepts in brain a.s.o. The emergence of new qualities can be treated theoretically by means of concepts such as instability, order parameters, slaving principle, circular causality, which will be explained in detail. Their mathematical/algorithmic basis will be outlined stressing the interplay between nonlinearity and randomness. All the systems considered are in interaction with their surround which imposes special conditions (modeled by control parameters) on the systems.

A Synergy Approach to Complex Systems: PDF, Video

Peter Corning

Received his undergraduate BA from Brown University and completed a Doctor of Philosophy in interdisciplinary social science-life science at New York University. Later he was awarded a two-year National Institute of Mental Health Post-doctoral Fellowship for additional study and research at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado. After his post-doctoral studies, he taught in the interdisciplinary Human Biology Program at Stanford University for seven years, along with research appointments in the Behavior Genetics Laboratory of the Stanford Medical School and in the Department of Engineering Economic Systems. Since 1991, Corning has served as the director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems and as a founding partner of a private consulting firm in Palo Alto, California. Peter Corning's research interests are in the fields bioeconomics, and the research "in greater depth on specific sources and economic consequences of functional synergy in nature and its role in biological and socio-cultural evolution. Corning is known especially for his work on "the causal role of synergy in evolution. Other work includes a new approach to the relationship between thermodynamics and biology called "thermoeconomics", a new, cybernetic approach to information theory called "control information", and research on basic needs under the "Survival Indicators" Program".


The much-quoted observation by the great twentieth century biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” applies to living systems of all kinds. Complex living systems are also products of the evolutionary process – the “struggle for existence” as Darwin famously put it. Accordingly, the general answer to the “why” question – why have complex systems evolved in the natural world – is that they produced functional synergies, otherwise unattainable combined (cooperative) effects that were advantageous for survival and reproduction in a given environment. It was the “bioceonomic” benefits produced by various synergistic effects that have driven the process. This theory of complexity in evolution – known as the Synergism Hypothesis – was first proposed in a 1983 book with this title and was independently proposed again by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry in 1995. Only now is this theory gaining recognition among evolutionary biologists. As discussed in this paper, and elsewhere in more detail, a selection process analogous to natural selection, which the late John Maynard Smith called Synergistic Selection, has led to a progressive increase in complexity over time, a process that has been marked by a number of “major transitions” in the level of organization and the “unit” of selection. This dynamic also applies to the evolution of humankind. Cumulative synergistic behavioral innovations of various kinds, including especially social cooperation, have been responsible for the multi-stage evolution of humans over several million years from a small-brained, diminutive biped (australopithecines) to large scale, complex modern societies. In a very real sense, the human species invented itself, and functional synergy played a key role. In the next major transition, humankind must evolve a new level of global synergies, along with global self-governance and cybernetic control.

Synergistic Economic Networks and Systems PDF, Video

Laura Melinda Stan

PhD graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, West University of Timişoara, Romania. She wrote in 2012 (as Epure (Stan) Laura Melinda) the first doctoral thesis from Romania focused on Synergetic Economics (titled "Economic arguments for creating synergistic networks in Romania"). She works at present as Business Information Manager in a Romanian construction company but, in parallel, she is focused on the Synergetics research, especially on the "sounding" of cross-business and cross-systems fields. Her main works are: "Sinergia sistemelor deschise. Argumentul sinergiei în noua teorie a producătorului bazată pe avantajul competitiv" (Conferinţa "Teorie, realități si perspective economice în Uniunea Europeană", FEAA, UVT, 7-8 Mai, 2010);"Evolved Technics on Measuring Corporate Performance" (The International Conference on Economics and Administration, Bucureşti, 2009, pp. 738-750); The Necessity to Exploit the Synergistic Network's Potential (Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany, 2011); "The Exploitation of the Open Economic System's Synergistic Relational Potential" (JKMEIT Scientific Papers, Volume II, Issue 2, France, April 2012, pp. 1-37).


Synergetic Economics represents an upper stage of approaching comprehensive collaborative economic networks and systems. Taking into account the high number of unsystematic approaches of the synergy phenomenon – which is characteristic for the complex systems -, the present work represents a rundown of pragmatic and scientific approaches of the entities which try out, build and exploit synergy effects in economics and other areas. In this regard, the present paper sustains the scientific research in highlighting synergy as an empirical phenomenon which can be treated (in the sense of identifying, researching and comparing) from the quality and quantity point of view at the level of complex networks and systems.

Synergy Drives the Evolutionary Dynamics in Biology and Economics PDF, Video

Klaus Jaffe

Graduated in Chemist from the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, studied Biochemistry at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas and obtained a PhD from the University of Southampton, UK, in 1980. He studies the evolution of animal and human societies using methods borrowed from chemistry, biology, physics, sociology, anthropology and computer sciences. He has published over 200 scientific articles and several books. At present he coordinates Doctoral Programs of Interdisciplinary Science at various universities.


Theoretical considerations explored through simulations and empirical evidence, suggest that the synergy that arises from the interactions of individuals is the single most important feature in explaining adaptation when studying the evolution of living organisms and the dynamics of economic systems. The simulations show that synergy is more likely to be achieved when interacting individuals are similar or are attracted by homophily or through assortation. Synergy and assortation form the basis upon which Inclusive Fitness Theory was proposed half a century ago by W.D. Hamilton to explain the emergence and maintenance of cooperation that allows the existence of society. Here I propose an Extend Inclusive Fitness Theory that includes in the fitness calculation all direct and indirect benefits an individual obtains by its own actions, and through interactions with kin and with genetically unrelated individuals. This theory focuses on the sustainable cost/benefit threshold ratio of cooperation, allowing a much deeper understanding of the evolution of cooperation among kin and non-kin, intra- and inter-specific cooperation, co-evolution, the emergence of symbioses, of social synergies, and the emergence of division of labor. The working of synergy allows understanding the adaptive advantages of cooperation not only in biology but also in economics, promoting interdisciplinary cross fertilization of ideas. This theory provides an integrated framework for the study of both, biological evolution of social behavior and economic market dynamics.

Other Presentations: Synergy in Business, Blue Economics, Urban Traffic and Global Problems

Organizing for Sustainability: An Architecture for Synergy PDF

Markus Schwaninger

Professor of management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland (emeritus since 2013). Born in Salzburg, Austria; double citizenship - Austrian and Swiss. His research and teaching are focused on the management of complex dynamic systems, with a methodological emphasis on System Dynamics and Organizational Cybernetics. Research projects are related to organizational intelligence, model-based management, the design, transformation and learning of organizations, and systemic issues of sustainability. Consulting and training mandates span all sectors, - industry, services, public and NGO, around the world.Markus is the author of ca. 230 publications, in six languages, e.g., Intelligent Organizations (Springer, 2nd ed.), Organizational Transformation and Learning (Wiley; with Espejo and Schuhmann), and Managementsysteme (Campus). He has lectured widely, on four continents, and is involved in international, transdisciplinary research projects. His partnerships include projects with leading universities, e.g., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Sustainability Laboratory New York, London School of Economics, Fundação Getúlio Vargas São Paulo, Universidad de los Andes Bogotá, Universidad de Valladolid, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ). Markus is also a director of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics, and a managing editor of the System Dynamics Review.


The quest for the ecological sustainability of planet earth could be much more successful than is currently the case. The purpose of my presentation is to corroborate this claim and to propose a structure by which a sustainable future can be achieved. The issue of sustainability has been addressed in different contexts — local, regional and worldwide. I maintain that these efforts can only be effective, if actors at multiple structural levels strive simultaneously and cooperate for materializing the vision of a sustainable world. The distribution of tasks along these organizational strata is a nontrivial issue. To master it, a recursive structure based on the Viable System Model is presented. This is an organizational architecture for synergy, by which the efforts for sustainability can be organized in a much more powerful way than by conventional approaches. The proposed structural framework enables agents at each level - from individual to global - to generate repertory of behavior (in cybernetic terms - “variety”), in balance with the complexity they face. This presentation should also help decision-makers understand that pertinent frameworks are needed to enable actors at each level of organization, in their quest for a sustainable world.


On the Multiscale Synergy of the Blue Economy in Terms of Knowledge Flow PDF

Idriss Jamil Aberkane

Researcher in complex issues related to society and economics interested in how macroeconomic and microeconomic non-linearity can emerge from the the synergy between waste management and knowledge management


Introduced by Gunter Pauli, the Blue Economy, namely bio-inspired industrial ecology or selfprofitable circular economy, is a remarkable example of the way the knowledge flow can fundamentally alter micro, meso and macroeconomics, and be converted into cash flow. Its reception is also a case of limited rationality in management and economics, and of resistance to change in general. Here I simplify the Blue Economy to the following equation: waste + knowledge = asset. I then explore the implications of this simple equation in terms of accounting (microeconomics) and in terms of GDP (macroeconomics). I finally discuss its possible impact on politico-economic decision-making and its clear continuity with the knowledge economy


Synergy Between Motorists and Motorcyclists in Urban Mobilization Video PDF

Juan Carlos Correa

Psychologist graduated at UCAB-Caracas and obtained his PhD this year working on computer simulations of city traffic in order to understand psychological relevant features on drivers related to traffic rules. He is now Professor at Universidad Konrad Lorenz in Bogota, Colombia.


By employing overly simple rules for mimicking driving behavior in urban traffic, it can be seen a synergistic effect between motorists and motorcyclists in an agent-based environment. When motorcyclists ride in between the available space of stopped or slow-moving vehicles, motorists are forced to reduce their lane-changing maneuvers without affecting their speed, but the resulting mixed traffic prove to be increased. Further suggestions on the possible ways to study and apply these synergistic effects in the real world are presented.


Learning to Manage Complex Systems: A Sailors Perspective on Agent Based Gaming

Wander Jager

Associate professor and managing director of Groningen Center for Social. His areas of research include Complexity Studies. Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary Psychology, Social Management, Business , Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence. Among his topics of interest we can cite social simulation and behavioural dynamics, sustainable consumer behaviour and market dynamics, diffusion of sustainable innovations. Dr Jager is also involved in the following educational activities: Honours Bachelor Sustainable Markets and Honours Bachelor Social Complexity.


Realizing that many problems on our planet display complex and sometimes unpredictable behavior, science increasingly focuses on studying how these problems evolve, and promising strategies to mitigate them. Earth’s climate is the key condition for life on our planet, and many models and simulations help to understand climatic and biospherical conditions on “spaceship Earth”. A key conclusion of these models is that we - humanity - should stop emitting “greenhouse gases”. Emissions change our climate and biosphere, and the increasing turbulences in our weather system confront us with more floods, draughts and landslides. And people obviously respond to these disasters. A reduced food security causes stronger dynamics in migration. Floods and draughts give people a reason to migrate, regionally but also globally. These processes contribute to current problems such as failing states (dictatorial or unmanaged systems) and global cultural tensions concerning migration (polarization). Changing the course of a ship is a common action to move towards a destination and to avoid collisions. Especially in heavy weather this requires the crew to have a deep understanding of the dynamics of a ship and how to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. But critical is the way a crew communicates, and organizes itself in taking action” In changing the course of our “spaceship Earth”, many human behaviors have to change. Often these behaviors have been socially or culturally “locked in”, for example in systematized consumption habits (e.g. our fossil fuel infrastructure) and cultural perspectives on energy. A key challenge is how to change our energy use, and generate our energy sustainable – using natural sources such as solar, wind, tidal and geothermal. And how should we cope with the current impacts of climate change on society, avoiding biodiversity loss and social conflict? These managerial questions address the “hot” debates in society: the pricing of fossil fuel, dependency on oil imports, nuclear proliferation, traffic congestion and emissions, interventions in failed states, immigration policy, the placement of wind turbines, the rise of energy cooperations, to name just a few. In developing a better “manual for human society” we should learn about our own behavioural dynamics as well. This requires simulation modes capturing relevant underlying human drives, communication and decision-making. Formalising the often descriptive behavioural theories in mathematical language has become a main challenge in improving the communication between the social and the natural sciences. Constructing theoretically realistic artificial populations that can be parameterized using field data is a critical task in developing policy games that address current society’s challenges. Playing such games in teams of people will help us understanding, recognizing and adapting to the sometimes fast developments in society. The better our games, the more we learn about how to effectively change Earth’s course. There is only one Earth, and we cannot permit experimenting with it…so it is better to game.