The human condition to understanding the world, and thus the way we organize it and our societies living in it, has been linear. Mr. Spock couldn’t understand humans, because we’re not logical. That’s because logical is linear; equations, processes, functions, algebra, and programming, all molded into simple, understandable context for the human mind to process and comprehend. It was this oversimplification that gave us sanctuary from the fear that there really was no true order to the universe. Humankind has this tendency to classify everything into neat little boxes, but the world is far more dynamic and non-linear, and yet even knowing this, we do our best to try to organize everything into neat little rows, schedules and graphs. Instituting this linearism to our universe creates a sense of empowerment, but there are no straight lines and it’s not neat and orderly. It’s muddled and chaotic, but somehow it all still works.
Struggling with this reality of justifying linear systems to define the non-linear world around them, scientists of the 19th century began thinking, “out-of-the-box” and struggled with the task of creating a new science and mathematics to measure, or attempt to at least understand the random complexities of actual life. The algebraic equations were far too linear and obtuse; geometry presented perfect points and angles for an imperfect world, and so -- Chaos Theory was born.
In the movie Jurassic Park, when waiting for a Tyrannosaurus Rex to appear on their park tour, the character of Doctor Ian Malcolm attempts to explain Chaos Theory to Doctor Ellie Satler. He explains that the fact that the T-Rex doesn’t follow any set patterns or “park schedules” as being the essence of Chaos. Going further to explain chaos as the study of “unpredictability in a complex system.” He also explains his own version of the Butterfly Effect, first introduced by E.M. Lorenz in 1979 in the title of a speech: "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" In any event, to get a grasp of Chaos, there’s actually an example of the Butterfly Effect from ancient folklore:
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of a horse, the rider was lost;
For want of a rider, the battle was lost;
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost!
The small variables in the progression from the initial condition resulted in an epic outcome. In a sense, the lack of a nail caused the kingdom to be lost, or again from the Jurassic Park movie:
God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs
God creates man, Man destroys God
Man creates dinosaurs
Dinosaurs eats man, Woman inherits the Earth
Chaos Theory is not a new type of mathematics, nor is it a revolutionary new science that provides a definitive framework of arbitrary events, and no; it’s not fortune telling. You can’t use it to win the lottery or make a killing on Wall Street. Chaos Theory is a simplified “analysis of aperiodic behavior within a system.” “Aperiodic” implies behavior that never exactly repeats itself (like lightning striking the same place twice), so it tends to be difficult, if not completely impossible to formulate solid conclusions and strategic paths to follow these systems.
We’ve also come to recognize that this wildness to the universe is a needed component of development and creation. This anarchy around us provides us with tremendous value, if we could successfully harness the chaos. Fire is the rapid chemical reaction of two combustible substances to generate flame, and chaos supreme. It’s destructively wild and unpredictable, yet if harnessed, it could keep the cave warm during the cold winter nights, and light our way through darkness. Humankind has always been driven to harness the chaos around us, so we can do things better, faster and cheaper. The sails of a sailboat or ship harness the wind. Boiling water increases in density 1,600 times, which creates the ability to stir pistons in a steam engine. The combustion engine, little controlled explosions, the windmill and electricity, which is another exemplary chaotic paradigm. Now, electricity is almost as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Do I need to include the splitting of the atom as an example, too? My point is that humankind both survives and thrives on the innate ability to harness the chaos in the universe around us.
You’re now wondering what this all has to do with digital video surveillance, but it has everything to do with everything. Throughout history, the skeptics of Chaos Theory usually asked one simple question, “why was Chaos Theory not discovered sooner in our history, if in fact, our history has been random acts of chaos.” The answer is the computer. No human being can endure the millions of repetitive computations involved in studying chaos.
Now, if you hyperlink that computer to millions of other computers, people and applications, then you create a new found chaos that generates energy, which once harnessed can create tremendous value, and intelligence.
The Internet itself isn’t “viral,” as many believe; it’s the dynamic aperiodic system --- the synchronicity of those people, places and technology, unlike anything else in our history, that emits an energy that makes it viral. The successful harnessing of this chaotic energy creates successes such as Facebook, Google, eBay, etc. If you separate each component of these examples, you’ll find that they lack the same level of empowerment individually, but together you have chaos energy.
In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell proposes that word of mouth epidemics that make sensations happen when a company can cross the chasm from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority, or when they “tip.” This is when that pilot light bursts into a useful fire. This is accomplished, according to Gladwell, by a synchronicity of the Mavens; those people who keep companies and people honest. The Salesperson; someone who’s mastered the art of persuasion, not solely by using a sales pitch, but the overall elusive nuances that truly make people “buy” from one person over another. And the Connectors; people that just know a lot of other people, and in that wealth of contacts are other Connectors, Mavens and Salespersons to exponentially generate an epidemic (e.g. the iPhone versus Windows Mobile).
It’s like potassium nitrate, which when left isolated is simple saltpeter, but when combined with plain charcoal, then ground into fine particles; you’ve an explosive combination -- gun powder. The same holds true for the IP Network; a delicate mixture of people, places and technology, all synchronized in the perfect recipe to make chaos energy; it's secret. The trick is to recognize it, harness it and keep up with it. People should not have to work around technology - technology can now work around people.