Victus Spiritus


Endless Waves as an Archetype for Perpetual Systems

15 Jul 2011

Do you hear the irresistible call to spark self sustaining systems? On serene mornings like this I can discern little else. The enticing summons affects equally those who wish to initiate or nurture a novel pattern into an enduring legacy.

The title eludes to the inspiration behind the post, the inexhaustible rolling waves of the ocean. I was drawn back to ocean for the second time in as many days in hopes of having a solitary morning stroll. I was rewarded with a couple hours of listening to nothing but the crashing waves of the ocean, and aware that the same sounds existed a billion or more years ago. The waves are a precious reminder of our planet's timelessness.

Today's riff revolves about the art of instigating community kernels and inspiring other perpetual forms1 that may exist for only a fraction as long as the oceans. The masters of this art are the inventors of ancient customs and economies, the founding fathers of nations, and the pioneers of today's massively connected networks2.

Self perpetuating systems are not so much made as they are born. A turbulence in an dynamic environment establishes sufficient conditions for a novel form to take shape. Either by design or by chance the new system is capable of growing without requiring continual resources from its origin. The system leverages existing dormant potential within the environment to sustain itself and spread far beyond its humble beginnings.

Is life so different, is human propagation? We begin as a single fertilized egg and after a dozen (or two) years we can fend for ourselves. Whether we propagate DNA, pass knowledge and ideas to students, or create communities the patterns for self sustaining systems is strongly correlated with life. It should come as little surprise that I turn to life for guidance on how best to identify and prepare for the presence of perpetual systems.

  • It's easier to begin within an environment that is rich in energy

    Self sustaining systems don't grow in a vacuum, they are nourished and grow from latent resources that were dormant prior to the system's existence.

  • Select an area where communication comes easily

    Life relies on water to transport rich nutrients and cells within organisms. When working to inspire perpetual communities success will come far more quickly in areas where communication is fluid, and feedback is encouraged. Ideas spread through open communication channels, the easier and more prevalent these paths are to access the better.

  • There should be an inherent gravity that continually moves and pulls the system

    The social gravity within budding communities is the cause of both the friction and the fuel which drives it forward. Without gravity the essential elements of new forms tend to expand and separate.

  • Be ready to be surprised

    Like life, perpetual systems can grow in directions that their originators never imagined. While we may plan and hope for one direction from a new system, it is much more likely that the character of the artifice will evolve over time taking a shape that was impossible to predict beforehand.


  1. Perpetual forms coming to life as communities, memes, stories, apps, frameworks, etc.
  2. Think more along the lines of the telecommunications backbone, the Internet, email, and the World Wide Web. Large proprietary platforms (AOL, MySpace, Facebook) will survive only as long as their controlling agency sees fit.