Self-Organizing Criticality and Decision-Making Units

Self-Organizing Criticality

According to Sternberg (2002), self-organized criticality (SOC) is the capacity of complex systems to develop toward a second-order transition phase. Interactions between system components result in scale-invariant events that benefit the system’s performance. Earthquakes and squeaky chalk function similarly; therefore, this phenomenon may be explained. Because the chalk adheres somewhat to the board’s surface, a piece of chalk squeaks on it. Over a brief moment, the pressure from the hand holding the chalk builds up, and the chalk slips, releasing the tension; the energy then begins to increase once more (Sternberg, 2002). The process of self-organizing criticality involves five-step models that include build-up followed by critical phase to reorganization, focal activity, and lastly dormancy stage.

In the build-up phase, drivers that happen to reorganize the system into a new pattern of activity occur. The drivers that do get involved are motives, primary drives, and accumulations of evidence and reasons in the case of humans, and to some extent, it applies physical forces. The critical phase entails the period when the complicated system is on the verge of toppling into a new system pattern. Following that is the reorganization phase that involves the restructuring of the complicated procedure into a unique pattern of preferred activity. An example of this system is the release of quakes after the build-up of the forces underneath the earth’s surface. In addition, when dishes begin to topple after pilling is an example of the reorganization of a system. This is usually due to a trigger event, which pushes the system over what is known as the tipping point. The event can be internal, including the last saucer placed on the pile of plates including a yell triggering an avalanche. If the system were not in the critical phase, the identical external and internal events would have no noticeable effect. Following reorganization is the focal activity phase, where activities such as tumbling down a pile of dishes occur. Interrupting and substantially redirecting action that is taking place in this phase is always tricky, for instance, trying to stop the toppling of dishes. The dormancy stage then results after the occurrence of all four phases. In this phase, all remain calm after the pattern of the activities comes to an end.

The occurrence of avalanches on the mountain ranges of British Columbia, Canada, is an instance of self-organizing criticality (SOC) that I have witnessed. This natural phenomenon results stepwise by following the five-step model of self-organizing criticality. The steps involved in the occurrence of the avalanche include build-up followed by critical phase, reorganization, focal activity, and lastly, dormancy stage. In my experience, the avalanche was triggered by vibration or movement. During phase one, there was the build-up of the pressure caused by the vibration of the various snow particles. The snow’s vibration actions led to a system’s pattern into a critical phase where the snow is on the verge of breaking. As a way for the reorganization of the snow pattern activity, the snow begins to break. At this stage, the actions taking place were triggered by Snowmobiles used by various individuals who were also present at the site. After the breakdown and shifting on the snow pattern activities, the entire system resorts to dormancy. The involved snow settles and becomes emotionless as the pattern system is now balanced.

Emergent Follies

According to Sternberg (2002), an individual can identify various folly in terms of shortfalls in emergent activity switching. The shortfalls include Vacillation, impulsiveness, indulgence, neglect, backsliding, walking the edge, overdoing, and procrastination. Impulsiveness entails typical examples like making hasty purchases, misplaced spontaneous remarks that reveal confidential information, and inappropriate loss of temper. Impulsiveness is a result of a quick and powerful accumulation of drivers with little or no management. In addition to quick building, impulsiveness can occur when an individual is already in a critical stage or phase, such as when a bad day has driven someone to the brink of rage. All that is necessary now is a trigger event to complete the accumulation. While impulsiveness involves acting too hastily, an individual can exhibit neglect by not responding at all towards something critical or acting too late, for instance, studying for exams.

Procrastination is also another shortfall that entails not getting to something due to the build-up of drivers or build-up of fears. Vacillation involves dithering over a decision; one cannot settle on one decision for long without thinking otherwise. Backsliding is a shortfall that occurs when an individual adopts a new strategy that leads to success, and after the success, the individual reverts back to the old strategy. Indulgence is characterized by a frequent and excessively powerful build-up that begins the focused activity more frequently than is acceptable; drivers are difficult to fulfill fully; thus, the activity lasts longer than is appropriate. Overdoing is similar to indulging; however, the behavior is perceived as challenging rather than joyful. The drivers are more difficult to please than they should be. The individual feels compelled to accomplish more. Walking the edge, in this pattern of conduct, an individual attempt to avoid a harmful activity yet regularly straddles the line, occasionally tipping into trouble.

Ways To Avoid the Shortfalls

Mistuning, entrenchment, and undermanagement are the three ways the follies can be reduced. Entrenchment refers to how a detrimental switching behavior gets more potent over time. Mistuning refers to abnormal building rates and intensities, as well as persistence. The absence of supervisory control of the switching process is referred to as under management. Some measures may be used to decrease folly in each of these three situations.

Political Decision-Making Unit

Geographic borders identify political decision-making units, not specific groupings of individuals who suffer the effects of decisions. For example, rent control laws implemented decades ago to favor existing tenants first appraised some US residents in particular states through the political system based on the laws’ potential legitimacy. Birth, death, and regular migration in and out of cities have resulted in a significant turnover in the electorate, and relatively few of them have directly experienced the consequences of rent control from beginning to end (Sowell, 1996). Although complexity and time shield several political choices from meaningful criticism from the general public, organizations with lower awareness costs, such as the real estate landlords and lobby, provide some compensating knowledge since they are more visibly impacted negatively. Generally, special interests have reduced costs of information about their interests and a motivation to learn how other organizations’ interests are affected in similar ways to gain political allies. Nevertheless, this information is ineffectual or even detrimental to the degree that special interest arguments are immediately rejected.

Subordinate Decision-Making Units

Differences in knowledge underpin subordinate decision-making units’ ability to operate autonomously and in opposition to higher-level policies and instructions. Higher-ranking units’ powers may include all of the lower-ranking units’ powers, but they virtually never include all expertise. Because the higher decision-making units have the power to require the provision of information, the persistence of knowledge benefits by subordinate units assumes that the higher unit will either be unable to acquire the same expertise autonomously or will incur a prohibitive cost in doing so as a check against the precision of the knowledge transmitted by the subordinate unit. In a nutshell, the costs of obtaining information vary amongst them. There are cost disparities between lower and higher decision-making units that differ depending on the type of information in issue.

Governmental Decision-Making Units

Governmental decision-making units should be studied in the same way that other socio-economic units determine possible options to maximize their own well-being, given their circumstances’ specific incentives and limits. This obvious fact must be underlined because comprehensive literature that accepts nongovernmental actions as self-interested but sees any governmental activity as fundamental proof of an objective societal need for such activity. The existence of certain public officials to influence government decision-making, seems less plausible than the opposing viewpoint, which holds that parties formulate policy to win elections rather than win elections to the developed approach. The assumption that government behavior merely responds to societal demands becomes even less credible as a foundation for analysis under nonelected administrations. In the government decision-making unit, like so many other individuals, I too have minimal chances of influencing its decisions unless through political surrogates. Since the government decision significantly affects society, it is possible to form political surrogates to influence the actions of an individual within the society.

Individual Decision-Making Unit

For some purposes, a single person can form a decision-making unit, or the individual can be a part of numerous decision-making units simultaneously, and the number of such institutions can fluctuate over time. Individual decision-making units influence society because it is a misleading metaphor for one to regard society as a decision-making unit. The individuals who make up a society are the same characters who ensure that the air or water in that society is healthy and clean. Because society is not considered as a decision-making unit, it is thus regarded as uncaring, uptight, permissive, and punitive. There is no such thing as a “society” that makes decisions. Few concerns are ever settled by a countrywide referendum, even in the most democratic countries. Unless national laws are to be changed daily, certain decision-making units must make choices that are binding on other decision-making units that were not considered. Of course, future generations are never addressed.

Additionally, economic decision-making within the limits of a profit-loss price system seldom produces in the zone where additional input equals zero output; this is different from my impact on a decision-making unit. Several people can communicate paychecks, memos, official papers, announcements, survey questions, or simply gossip using internal communication networks in large businesses (Sowell, 1996). The frequency rate of such internal communications has an impact on how much consideration every item receives from the typical recipient. Internal mail that arrives seldom is likely to get more attention per unit than a torrent of content that arrives every few hours. Therefore, the volume of mail rises, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, resulting in declining amounts of concentration beyond a certain point. There will be less absolute attention paid and less intelligence successfully received, with a significant inundation than if fewer signals were given. Only because there are essentially no expenses to the various individual decision-makers who chose whether to contribute new material to the internal communications system can the scenario reach the same level of utterly decreasing returns. They may all be aware that the receivers’ tolerance and attentiveness are already stretched, but each sender is also aware that the action will have only a minor impact.


Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (2002). Why smart people can be so stupid. Yale University Press.

Sowell, T. (1996). Knowledge and decisions. Basic Books.

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