Scale Free Abstraction

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We want a Sensemaking Framework that helps maximise scope, detail, and cognitive efficiency of Sensemaking.

One way to achieve this if the framework is not an Explicit Model, i.e. a system of concepts with an internal structure, but consists of loosely connected scale-free Abstractions:This approach is similar to Daniel Dennett’s “tools for thinking” (Dennett 2013), which are also re-usable cognitive tools, but scale-free abstractions are less metaphorical and more systematic. They are related to Boisot & McKelvey’s “scale-free theories of nature” (Boisot & McKelvey 2010, 427), which are more concrete – some of our scale-free abstractions figure as components in these theories. Taken together, the abstractions are practically co-extensive with Manuel DeLanda’s topological, intensive, and population thinking (DeLanda 2002).

Scale-free abstractions are a specific type of shorthand abstractions:Flynn (2007), 146

abstractions taken from our best current thinking about evolution, cognition, and the world as a hierarchy of systems that enable us to build more complex explicit models by compressing the ones they stand in for.This is a particular use of the fact that Concepts are compressed models.

They can be used to describe systems on all levels of Causal Emergence, which helps us Move up and down in the hierarchy of systems. All used concepts can be given precise (often mathematical) definitions, which helps us Prioritise abstraction over metaphor. And using the abstractions collectively can help Switch from individual model building to collective pattern recognition.

A set of independent abstractions also supports the Cultural Evolution of sensemaking capabilities better than a more rigid system: The latter affords only little variation in and thus little evolution of concepts, which means reduced adaptability and resilience of sensemaking processes. A population of independent abstractions allows more variation, which enables sensemaking processes to adapt and generate new abstractions, not only concretisations of old ones.

An initial set of scale-free abstractions are the following:

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