THE REDUCTION OF VARIETY
|Considering these ideas, it is easy to see that the most important problem facing people In their
interface with the world is excess variety, and it is easy also to see that when it is considered
from the traditional point of view, it takes on an almost ominous quality. Luhmann began by
considering the human social system as a world system encompassing the totality of human
interaction. In this way he avoided considering society as a system because it has no boundaries.
All social problems, as he saw them, are internal. They are the problems of the Individual
confronted by immense variety.
We can pinpoint here the major source of confusion in Luhmann's approach to describing how man, as a social animal attempts to solve the problem of excess variety. In essence, he conflated two seemingly contradictory mechanisms so that as he popped from one to the other the reader would inevitably lose his place. These two mechanisms are the functionalist and the cybernetic approach. The functionalist sees the relationship between world end system as one of overload the cybernetics approach sees it as a problem of reducing complexity through system building.
Up to now I have been stressing the role of complex organization in meeting both of these needs in general terms, but when we apply these came ideas to the interface between man and society we run into a major stumbling block. In each level below that of the social system the new emerging level has not only semi-autonomy, it has a physical identity of Its own. For example, once the macro-molecules that emerge into an organ within a living organism have attained their position within that organ, they have lost practically all of their freedom to constitute themselves in any other form. From then on, except for a limited freedom they might express In accomplishing the specific tasks assigned to them by their position In the organ, they are fixed once and for all into one form. The organ and its needs limit both the variety that the molecule Is capable of and the variety it is to contend with in its environment. Compte and the early sociologists tried to see society as an organic assembly, but it was a short-lived attempt. People, as the basic elements of a social system, cannot be shielded from their environment by the system because the system has no physical counterparts. Those levels above the psychological become tools of man and not masters. Walter Buckley labeled them complex adaptive systems with the capacity for morphogenesis, i.e. modifying their structure to meet the needs of their environment. Luhmann recognized this as a response to the knowledge man has of the variety confronting him
This results In a process of emergence derived from the deliberate actions of men facing an environment which they know includes more possibilities than they can use, a confrontation which leads, therefore, to the necessity of active selection. In order to explain how this applies to law as a social system we need to examine Luhmann's theory of the emergence of social structures In general. In particular, so that we might understand the effect our complex approach has on his Ideas, we must understand the basic raw material out of which social systems are built. These are series of events, or Interactions that take place over time. And communications media, or interaction states which link Individuals continuously.
Considering the conditions of selection from a constantly changing environment, immediate experience, the moment-by-moment contact the Individual has with the world outside his mind, does not have sufficient permanence for the Individual to apply his reflexive powers. Fortunately, the mind develops a model of the world outside through the data these senses of immediate experience provide". This becomes the world that the individual interacts with in a psychological as well as a social sense. The difference between interaction with this model and with experience is that experience passes through time; it is fleeting, transient. Memories of sensual experience are of no value unless they are placed In a temporal context with other sensual Inputs. Thus the model of the world we build In our minds is a four dimensional model of a three dimensional world moving In time. Using such a model we can stand outside of time and review past events and future expectancies and thus develop mechanisms for choosing among possible behavioral patterns.