The Limits to Growth, feedback loops, computer herding & Timewave Zero

Mitchell Whitelaw
The Limits to Growth (details) – Mitchell Whitelaw

‘Computer herding’ is the term given to computer driven automated trading systems’ similar self-operation that produces a feedback loop of procedures creating a vicious cycle of share selling. From the late 70’s computational models for financial trading have become more prevalent, much of the problematic dealing that has occurred in the last few days has been done without human intervention. Computer herding is a classic example of self generated behaviour and recursion. The stocks go down, the computers automated response is to sell, thereby reducing values, and subsequently causing closed computational models to sell more shares, which reduces their values even more. Limitations of computer models explain this financial feedback loop in depth.

Mitchell Whitelaw uses the Eden Growth/Aggregation algorithm to produce a generative sentiment regarding these interesting times. The blog post regarding this work includes mention of The Limits to Growth, a report from 1972 on the economic implications of exponential growth. For generative works they appear decorative and free of rigidity often associated with algorithms, almost hand crafted. We also see them as ultra organic city plans with curly streets and spiralling pathways. You can check some similar outputs at Mitchell’s Flickr page.

As it becomes harder to escape the images of down sloping share index graphs I’m reminded of Terrence Mckenna’s Timewave Zero software, a graphing system to calibrate not share values, but ‘novelty’ against time. This pseudo-scientific treatise proposes, via graphing events in history, that we are more prone to excessive novelty (major events) at certain times, and there are other periods where not too much goes on at all. This makes sense since novelty creates more novelty.

‘The graph shows at what times, but never at what locations, novelty is increasing or decreasing. According to the timewave graph, great periods of novelty occurred about 4 billion years ago when Earth was formed, 65 million years ago when dinosaurs were extinct and mammals expanded, about 10,000 years ago after the end of the ice age, around late 18th century when social and scientific revolutions progressed, during the sixties, around the time of 9/11, and with coming novelty periods in November 2008, October 2010, with the novelty progressing towards the infinity on 21st December 2012’ – Wikipedia

I’ll leave you to speculate on the plausibility of this idea and research the possible outcomes of novelty progressing to infinity.

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