Why critical mass?

In this first blog post I will explain what I mean by ‘Reaching critical mass’ and what I am actually trying to achieve with my blog.

I believe that significant change in any system will only really take place once a critical mass of participants in said system is reached who not only want to change the system but are actually changing it through their own actions and interactions. What does this mean?

Systems

First of all, a system can be many things as long as a set of elements work together in order to form a mechanism or an interconnected network, or a mixture of the two. Participants will then be able to interact within this system through communication and other actions. Therefore a system can take many shapes and many sizes. A system can also contain of other smaller systems that work together to form a bigger system.

Second, elements are the parts that make up the system; these elements are what make the system tick. They can take many forms and shapes within the system, further they don’t all have to be the same or equal, which means that they will come with different levels of power as well. So if we take a look at a social system, in form of a small village, we can see that there are several different elements within this system. We might have several laws and rules on how people are supposed to interact with each other, thereby maybe building another element in form of a hierarchy. There might also be an institution like a small council that makes village wide decisions and organises life for its inhabitants.

These inhabitants are the participants in this social system. Participants are able to interact within the system be abiding to its rules and institutions to a certain extent. The participants are working with the given elements of the system to interact within it. Meaning the inhabitants interact with each other according to the rules set out in their village on how to interact with each other. There might be participants that are powerful than others due to the elements of the system. There might be a chief who is above everybody else in the village. This might be set out by the laws of the village alas by the elements of the system.

Changing systems

Now let’s take a look at how this system can change. In order to change a system its elements must change, and thereby changing the way how the participants interact with each other within the system which will mean that the system has changed. If we take the social system of a village as an example again we can change the rules, laws and institutions. With these changes the way its inhabitants interact with each other will change, which means that the social system of the village has changed.

What is important to notice here is that participants make the changes to the elements which will change the system. Here we should make clear that not every participant might be equally powerful or important. For the chief in the village it is far easier to change elements of the system than it might be for the shoemaker of the village. The shoemaker will only achieve change in the system if enough people think similar to his ideas and push for a change in the institutions and rules in order to change the system’s elements.

So now let’s take a step back and think about a huge and complex system that contains an immense number of elements which allows an equally immense number of participants to interact with each other. Thinking in such big systems here that it would be right to consider smaller systems as participants of this immensely bigger system, the smaller systems could be called sub-systems. The village could be a part of a group of villages that might form a nation.

Changing this system could mean reshaping or exchanging one of the least significant elements of it. If we change one of the rules in our little village that is already unimportant within the village, would we be able to actually see or feel this change in the nation, the system of villages? I very much doubt it. We might have changed the system of the small village but we failed to change it significantly, as our change was so unimportant that to our eyes the system is continuing business as usual, therefore it might not have been a crucial change.

So how do we change the system significantly? Here is where I believe the critical mass plays a vital role. A critical mass of participants needs to push for change within the system in order to see a significant change in the system. The participants themselves have to therefore change themselves in the way they want to interact with the system. Where the point of critical mass is reached change will become unstoppable in the way that a tipping point is reached after which the system will change in the form of a domino effect.

Pushing change

So how can the critical mass be reached and at what point is it reached? The point of reaching critical mass will vary from system to system, and will also depend on the significance of the change. Further as participants will be different in the sense that some might be more powerful than others (thinking back to the chief of the village), the point when critical mass is reached in point of quantity of participants will vary. If the chief creates a new law it will most likely achieve significant change within the system through the power which he holds that allows him to create a new law. The shoemaker on the other hand might need to get a certain number of the villagers behind his cause in order to push for significant change.

Let’s imagine the shoemaker already changed the way he is interacting with the system to a certain extent in order to push for change. Now that he is a changed participant, he will have the ability to influence other participants to change the system as well and can therefore increase the amount of participants pushing for change in the system bringing it closer to the critical mass to achieve a significant overall change. What that means is that if we take for example the global society as one social system in which all human beings are participants, each person has the ability to change as well as influence other people (other participants) within it. Now if we think back again, smaller systems can also be participants in bigger systems, thereby being sub-systems. Thinking really big here, the entire globe in its complexity is one eco system in which for example the entire human society represents one sub-system which in turn is also made up of smaller sub-systems and so on until we end up at a single human being. We are in the end all part of one huge system that is this planet, which by the way is just a tiny participant in the universe.

Why we need change

So what am I trying to get across with all this? We are facing several global issues at the moment that are becoming more pressing than ever. One of them being climate change, it is a disaster that is effecting the eco system that is planet earth and has implications on all its sub-systems like the social system of global society. This social system in turn interacts with other systems. This form of interaction is unforeseeable due to the nature of the complexity of the relationship of all systems. All systems are influencing each other in one way or another either directly or indirectly. Thereby every human being as tiny as they might seem in this huge and complex system has the ability to influence these systems and other human beings. Further, human beings I would say are the only participants that can consciously influence each other and these systems.

So in order for the systems to change in such a way that we effectively fight the big issues of today like climate change and inequality, we need to change the participants in these systems that can make conscious decisions, we as human beings have to change our behaviour and enough of us have to change their behaviour in order to reach the critical mass that is the tipping point to bring about the needed significant and crucial change to start a domino effect to tackle these burning issues.

Long story short this is why I wanted to write this blog, to put my thoughts out there, to share and discuss them, so that it might help to reach the critical mass and influence me in the same way.