Saturday, April 11, 2009


i know i said i'd talk about emergence and agent-based modeling next, but last night it occurred to me that there is something much more important to discuss - what i see as the heart of my thesis: the concept of agency. from wikipedia: Human agency

Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world. It is normally contrasted to natural forces, which are causes involving only unthinking deterministic processes. In this respect, agency is subtly distinct from the concept of free will, the philosophical doctrine that our choices are not the product of causal chains, but are significantly free or undetermined. Human agency entails the uncontroversial, weaker claim that humans do in fact make decisions and enact them on the world. How humans come to make decisions, by free choice or other processes, is another issue.


In philosophy

In certain philosophical traditions (particularly those established by Hegel and Marx), human agency is a collective, historical dynamic, rather than a function arising out of individual behavior. Hegel's Geist and Marx's universal class are idealist and materialist expressions of this idea of humans treated as social beings, organized to act in concert.

what i think: a sense of agency is fundamental to an individual's ability to participate in the world around them. i see a lack of a perception of personal agency on the part of a significant portion of galt's population... i feel like i am wading in to dangerous territory i will try to tread carefully... around the block of buildings that i am studying, there are often confrontations between the haves and the have-nots. there is a not-so-subtle belief on the part of the haves that the have-nots have no place in the city, that they drag it down and that life here would be better if the have-nots were somehow eliminated from the downtown. reading the wisdom of crowds gave me scientific evidence that everyone has a piece of "the puzzle" and that collectively a diverse group of people can come up with a more accurate answer to a particular question than the most expert person among them. perhaps i reach too far when i make the next assumption (i know for a fact that there are people within this school who think so!): that this phenomenon of collective intelligence extends beyond the ability of a group to correctly guess the number of jellybeans in a jellybean jar to - solve isn't the right word - to negotiate much more complex issues. i suppose that i am arguing fundamentally for the intrinsic value of all human beings to the human race as a whole. not so much because it is morally correct, but because it is scientifically proven. and because i believe that if we can tap into this collective intelligence, if we can act to enhance its mysterious inner-workings we can...i don't want to say "make the world a better place" because i don't think i actually believe would likely change the human race in a pretty fundamental could be an evolutionary leap for human would offer insight into humanity as a whole...mostly, though, it would increase the agency of the non-expert individual (and maybe bring the "experts" down a notch or two).

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