Against all reasonable odds, Donald Trump rose from a discounted Republican candidate to take the President’s oath of office. “How did this happen?” How is because Trump is the product of self-focused personal ambition and pushed himself forward at exactly the right time. The real puzzlement is why did it happen against all expectations and so quickly, too?
Maybe Trump’s election is no big deal. After all, the sky has not yet fallen – conditions have not actually changed all that much. Nice idea – but… You cannot immediately identify what happened to our stability, nor even that a stability change occurred. You can see the event clearly, but only after the passage of time. The issue – we live in a chaotic world where present reality emerges when the tangle of uncountable things that could happen condenses into those that actually do.
Fig 1 Swearing in 2017 Jan 20
The 20th century lifestyle ended in 2016 Nov 08, not 2000 Jan 01. But the new 21st Century paradigm may well have begun 2017 Jan 20. (Fig 1).
Trump happened because we were ripe for chaotic social change.
We are experiencing a societal chaos-shift
First, a techno-break to discuss what we mean by chaotic orbits, and shifts in our social life patterns. Next section – the Donald Trump phenomena. You may skip to there, if you wish.
Think of our social structure as a basically stable system with gentle shifts among its interconnected parts. For example, our states of inequality and economic opportunity were essentially stable in American (US) society from WW-II until a bit after 1981.
One key feature of chaotic stability is the ‘pendulum swing’ effect. You can see it in the voting records. Voters first want (slightly) conservative leaders, then (slightly) liberal leaders; then again, then again. You could think of this as the occasional but almost regular oscillation about an average center. With more than one kind of political influence thread, you get a quasi-stable orbit (rather than an oscillation) about a conceptual center for our political stability.
Visualize Chaotic Orbits Suppose there were only 3 activity threads that influence the state of society. Each of these would be independent of the others except for cause-and-effect interactions between the results from each thread.
We visualize this as the concept graph in Fig 2. Each of the three influence threads is an axis direction (vector).
Fig 2 NOW moves in a chaotic orbit about (+), the fixed point attractor.
The blue swirling line is the path of the net effect due the ‘pendulum’ swings in each thread. This path through the concept graph is like a jet airplane’s contrail. Our current location (NOW) is the round yellow endpoint.
Notice the fixed point ( + ) as the apparent center of the motion.
Choose 3 conceptually independent influence threads that show pendulum swinging:
- Influence 1 – Anxiety (over living conditions)
- Influence 2 – Ethnicity (for inclusion in social acceptance; includes biases in race, religion – even wealth)
- Influence 3 – Inequality (economic gain or loss of earnings potential compared to other segments of society – other kinds of inequality exist, too)
These are LastTechAge names for markers recently identified by Yascha Mounk and Roberto Foa as The Signs of Deconsolidation of democracy in world politics. Foa and Mounk’s ideas have been discussed by, for example, Amanda Taub (New York Times), and Jonathan Rauch (Atlantic Monthly).
Although Anxiety, Ethnicity and Inequality seem to be useful to trace Donald Trump’s rise, there are certainly many thousands of such threads that influence the direction of social change. For simple visualization, the choice of any three does not matter.
In a world of 7 billion people, there may be thousands of millions of mutually interacting, independently swinging threads affecting social stability.
If there is a forcing function at work on some of the the influences (dimensions), the “fixed point” ( + ) will move. Small pushing forces usually cause small drifts in a system’s fixed point, and Fig 1 does display a slight drift in its center as the NOW point moves in its orbit.
A Chaos-Shift can happen if the push is strong enough If the pushing influences are too large, the direction of the motion of NOW (through concept space) may abruptly shift the “fixed-point” attractor ( + ) to an unpredictable location. Fig 3 shows a such a chaos-shift with our diagram. An observer must wait at least one full orbit to estimate the position the new ‘fixed’ attractor point.
Fig 3 A strong push of the influences causes shift to new indeterminate attractor
An unpredictable jump in the orbit’s fixed point is much more likely than a minor shift in its position if the active NOW value has drifted too far from its attractor, or if the forcing function is too large or too abrupt. But chaotic systems are not predictable (not causal) so a chaos-shift might just happen.
Chaotic orbit effects happen for almost every system you can image, not just politics. For any system, plot each influence as in Fig 1; the system average will show some type of chaotic orbit. See James Gleick’s 1987 bestselling popular discussion Chaos; or Melanie Mitchell’s 2009 Complexity, A Guided Tour – one of the best popularized discussions of chaos and complexity theory.
Donald Trump’s election is a chaos-shift – and is still in process
Fig 4 President Trump 2017
Today, we still have people saying the Trump presidency (Fig 4) is not a disaster in progress. We do not see any parts of the sky falling, so government will end up as it always does. After all “the best predictors of the future are the past trends.”
Well, not in our chaotic world where myriad probabilities converge to form reality. But the current state must orbit its quasi-fixed point at least once before its details can be identified. Continue reading