Sunday, February 8, 2009

Flow Language in a little more depth

Building on the previous blog post, I would like to go into a little more depth about some aspects of the flow language. This is, of course, all subject to debate and interpretation, so in this matter I only write my own opinions. I apologize ahead of time if this gets a little esoteric sounding.

In much the same way that, in natural language, a sentence has the basic structure of [Subject | Predicate], a flow statement also has a core structure. There are four main classifications of elements that make up the flow language: Holon (a.k.a. noun, subject, account, container), transactions (events), patterns (emergent), and rules. Each of these can be defined in the following way:

  1. A holon has a definable boundary within which it processes input, according to rules, for use when transacting with other holons.
  2. A pattern emerges from an aggregation of transactions between holons governed by rules (and possibly further defined as a larger holon).
  3. A transaction is an interaction between holons governed by rules.
  4. Rules govern both the interior processes of holons and the interactions between holons.

Notice that the primary distinction between a holon and a pattern is that the holon has a definable boundary. A pattern simply emerges. A holon is defined as something distinct from something else. A flow statement must define a starting level holon (i.e. an account), and define rules of transaction with other such holons. Patterns may emerge as a result.

A set of rules has two main parts. The first defines what level holon to start with (account, individual, group, etc) and how input to the holon is processed internally (i.e. account balances summed or averaged). The second part defines how that holon interacts with other holons both at same level and at higher levels.

Patterns emerge from aggregations of transactions between holons unfolding according to rules. In biological systems, DNA defines the processes for massive numbers of local interactions that, when aggregated, produce a global living pattern (unfolding according to the rules of chemistry). Because, the living being is an emergent property of local interactions, the whole PLAN for the living being is not needed, but rather simply a defined process of interaction. See cellular automata for more on this subject. In a similar way, rules governing the interaction of holons at the linguistic level can create emergent global patterns of flow.

In the flow language, there is a somewhat fluid relationship between holon and pattern. One can easily translate the emergent patterns into new holons to be further interacted with. I.E. a pattern of poor grades at a school is recorded and used to determine the school’s funding (much to their dismay). Aspects of the emergent "grades pattern" are defined as a new holon, and used to determine future aspects of transactions (funding). It is this rich interplay between holon, pattern and rules that constitute currency. Deciding which patterns to put a boundary around (and turn into holons), could very well be a collaborative process within a community, itself unfolding according to rules.

Holons AS Accounts:

I propose that for the purpose of creating a data structure that can in some way express the flow language, the holon be thought of as an ACCOUNT. I understand that this word has several meanings depending on context, but I think its multiple meanings are appropriate to describe its functions. An account for money is usually thought of as an account in a bank. However, an account can also mean a history of something that happened, as in “The witness gave her account of what happened.” A third, and more modern, meaning is an account on a particular server, as in a Yahoo! account, or a Facebook account. This third meaning seems to have more to do with tracking the activities of an particular identity rather than tracking a particular type of activity that identity engages in. For instance your Ebay account records several different metrics (transactions completed, percent positve feedback, etc). For the purpose of this discussion I am calling each of those
metrics as recorded within a UNIQUE account. The ID (identity) is the collection of accounts that pertain to a given person. So in these terms you have an Ebay ID rather than an Ebay account. These might seem like nitpicky details, but the reason for drawing these distinctions will soon become clear.

Returning to the original meaning of the word “account” as a history of something that happened, I would propose that at heart all human flow systems have something to do with recording transactions, and enabling people to project their own actions into the future based on the history of those transactions. Let’s consider money. Money records (in theory) your history of doing things for other people. If you have money, you have done more for others than you have received from others. If you are in debt, the reverse is true. If you are elected senator, the votes are tallied in your column (or account). These votes reflect the preferences of all the eligible voters. Even a meta-currency (or currency derived from other currencies), such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, makes visible a history of transactions and gives people something to resonate off of when projecting their behavior into the future. So in all these cases, the account is simply
a way of aggregating a history pertinent to a particular domain of interest.

More soon.

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