Two Historical Information Barriers

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Vasiliy Pikhorovic

"In Vitaly Moev’s book-interview “The Reins of Power”, Viktor Glushkov proposed the idea that humanity in its history has passed through two “information barriers”, as he called them using the language of cybernetics. Two thresholds, two management crises. The first arose in the context of the decomposition of the clan economy and was resolved with the emergence, on the one hand, of monetary-commercial relations and, on the other, of a hierarchical management system, in which the superior manager directs the subordinates, and these the executors.

Starting in the 1930s, according to Glushkov, it becomes clear that the second “information barrier” is coming, when neither hierarchy in management nor commodity-money relations help anymore. The cause of such a crisis is the inability, even with the participation of many actors, to cover all the problems of economic management. Viktor Glushkov said that according to his calculations from the 1930s, solving the management problems of the Soviet economy required some 1014 mathematical operations per year. At the time of the interview, in the mid-1970s, already about 1016 operations. If we assume that one person without the help of machinery can perform on average 1 million operations a year, then it turns out that about 10 billion people are needed to maintain a well-run economy. Next, we will present the words of Victor Glushkov himself:

From now on, only ‘machineless’ management efforts are not enough. Humanity managed to overcome the first information barrier or threshold because it invented monetary-commercial relations and the pyramidal management structure. The invention that will allow us to cross the second threshold is computer technology.

A historical turn in the famous spiral of development takes place. When an automated state management system appears, we will easily grasp the entire economy at a single glance. In the new historical stage, with new technology, in the next turn of the dialectical spiral, we are as if “floating” over that point of the dialectical spiral below which, separated from us by millennia, was the period when the subsistence economy of man was easy to see with the naked eye."


2. Chat GPT explains:

"The concept of the "second information barrier" as proposed by Viktor Glushkov is an interesting idea rooted in cybernetics and systems thinking. Glushkov suggests that in the history of human society, there have been two critical points, or "information barriers," that mark significant shifts in the way societies organize and manage themselves. Let's break down this concept further:

The First Information Barrier: According to Glushkov, the first information barrier arose during the transition from a clan-based economy to a more complex societal structure. In this context, clans operated on relatively simple principles of kinship and cooperation. However, as societies grew and became more complex, the clan-based system started to break down. To overcome this barrier, two major developments occurred:

* Monetary-Commercial Relations: One solution was the emergence of monetary and commercial relations. The introduction of currency and the ability to exchange goods and services through a market-based system allowed for more efficient resource allocation and economic coordination.

* Hierarchical Management System: Simultaneously, hierarchical management systems evolved. These systems involved the establishment of a clear chain of command, with superior managers directing subordinates, who, in turn, directed the executors. This hierarchical structure helped manage increasingly complex organizations and societies.

The Second Information Barrier: Glushkov argues that by the 1930s, it became evident that the first information barrier had been successfully overcome, but a second information barrier was emerging. This second barrier suggests that the hierarchical management systems and commodity-money relations that worked well in overcoming the first barrier were no longer sufficient to address the challenges of the modern world.

* Obsolescence of Hierarchy: The hierarchical management systems, which had been effective for managing relatively stable and predictable organizations, were ill-suited for dealing with the rapidly changing and interconnected nature of modern society. The challenges of managing complex, dynamic systems surpassed the capabilities of traditional hierarchical structures.

* Challenges of the Information Age: Glushkov's idea of the second information barrier is often interpreted in the context of the Information Age, where the increasing flow of information, globalization, and the advent of new technologies posed new challenges for governance, management, and decision-making.

To address the second information barrier, society would need to develop new ways of organizing and managing itself, likely drawing on principles from cybernetics and systems theory. This concept underscores the need for more adaptive and decentralized approaches to governance, management, and decision-making in the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty.

In summary, Viktor Glushkov's concept of the second information barrier highlights the idea that as societies evolve and become more complex, they encounter critical junctures where traditional organizational and management structures may no longer suffice. This concept invites exploration into how societies should adapt to the challenges of the Information Age and beyond, potentially drawing on cybernetic principles to build more effective and resilient systems of governance and management."