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Take a look around you. The routine of your life has probably coalesced into an arrangement of things – a computer or phone, a mug of tea, a table, a home. These are the things which make up your life. What defines any of them is not only what they are, but what they are made of. They are, themselves, a series of connections between created objects and molecules that make up your world.

What connects them all together in this moment is you.

While humans tend to see the world as a collection of things, what makes those things what they are, and indeed makes them at all, is how they are connected. What makes you is how you are connected as well – to these things, to other people, and to ideas which inform how you perceived them.

All anything is in this world, from the corporeal to the conceptual, is a series of connections.

When so many people are interconnected, it takes more than one dimension to describe it all.

The nature of the universe, or indeed the things around us, has vexed humans since we started thinking about what we actually are. A body, a spirit, an idea – what really is the nature of life and all of these things which keep it going and bring us pleasure? We tend to focus on those things, if for no other reason than to stay alive from one day to the next, and find either pleasure or pain from their apparent value.

Yet we know there is much more to it.

Science has come, over millennia, to reduce useful objects to components and technology has learned how to fashion them into something new. At the most basic level, this is what we might call chemistry, or manipulating the most basic pieces. This is, however, primarily not about those pieces but how they are connected. It doesn’t matter whether they share electrons as organic molecules or form crystals, what makes them useful is found in the connection.

The process of making new connections has even been described mathematically as ΔG = ΔH – TΔS, the Gibbs “free energy” which is a sum of the quantity and quality of those connections, related by temperature.

So far so good. The world around is us defined by connections, and if we manipulate those we manipulate our world at a fundamental level. But what about us?

James Burke, father of Connections Theory.

We, as a social animal, are also defined by our connections. They give us our perceptions and beliefs and teach us what is moral and good. They make us who we are. And with this, we are not exactly the same person we were as a child, the connections we have made since have defined us. We are connected not only across our social world but also through learning accumulated in time, the most vexing dimension of our reality. It’s so important to us that we have a specific word for connection through time, which is change.

Indeed, we usually care less about the derivative describing relationships, dy/dx, than we do with dy/dt, the rate of change

Individualism doesn’t mean standing apart. It means knowing where you stand.

And so everything in our world, starting with ourselves and our perceptions of it, is nothing more than connections. Any way which we want to relate to our world comes down to this. Manufacturing is about connecting things to give us new things. Markets are a series of connections that give us the concept of value. Government is about the fundamental connections we have which organize ourselves.

So there must be something beyond economics and politics which is the knowledge and practice of connection. That is what syndesics is. It does not limit the connections to material objects or people, but includes how cultures and ideas are connected to create something new. These connections can run across distance and perspective through time as well, anchored in accumulated wisdom.

Syndesics is ultimately the study of how the world becomes what it really is, which is nothing more than a series of connections of all kinds.

10 thoughts on “Syndesics

    • Yes. That is the term for things that have been connected. Another possibility was syndesiology, or the study of connecting, but that sounds horrible. I think it should go with economics and politics, where -ics describes a body of knowledge and practice.

    • Also, worthy of note, the need to use Greek is important not just because it’s so handy for creating words but also from some of the great connections made by Alexander circa 2,500 years ago.

  1. Within the papery pages of a book, there is a cloud.

    Since you brought chemistry into this, something else to think about: Since all things, when left to themselves, tends to increase in entropy — and history is a testament to mankind’s sometimes fitful, sometimes strong-handed efforts to combat said entropy — perhaps one of the keys to staving off entropy is to increase the number of connections, both real and perceived?

    Larger societies, greater capital, more industry, more trade, more discoveries, more complex systems of support & living, greater tolerance of the “other” — longer lives, fewer deaths, higher quality of life, exponential increases in GDP. The system, with its relationships and connections, depends on the stability of its constituents to remain healthy and whole and benefits everyone in it.

    Anything that attempts to cut off the creation of new connections — socking money under the mattress, hiding funds abroad, governments causing countries’ economies to flounder with fear-mongering and aggressive posturing, a community turning a blind eye (even shunning!) those it deems different or deserving of squalor — these not only kill off a chance to stave off entropy but likely increases it for the system at large.

    • Yes! More complex societies can be much stronger, but they can also be more brittle. Resiliency is something that I think has to be designed in from the start, which is why it’s a key component of People’s Economics (under Dynamic Stability).

      There is indeed a quality to every connection, and the lower the quality the more entropy there is. Connections can indeed decay and entropy can increase. I think my main point here is that this perspective is a first step towards building in that resilience that is so necessary in any society where only a tiny percentage of the people create food.

      There are a lot of papers on systems collapse. Here’s one. But you have an excellent point, one that is going to only be more important all the time. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012586050550035X

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