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Institutions as Processors

To approach the social dynamic, I propose to refer to institutions viewed as relatively stable formal social structures that are intended to play a role in society. This definition of institutions is sufficiently vague to be discussed, but the purpose here is not to give a precise account of this concept. We just want to examine the social structures in charge of coordinating human activities such as family, school, university, police, justice, etc. Each of those institutions has a function, for instance, the family is concerned with reproduction, the school with education, the police with repression, justice with the punishment of law infringement, etc. To achieve these functions, institutions can be viewed as processors that have tasks at their disposal. For instance, schools provide teaching, justice considers breaches to the law and puts people in jail or makes them pay fines, the police arrest criminals, etc.

In ancient times, when people were grouped in tribes, cities or small kingdoms, decisions were centralized in a unique place, the agora, the senate or the monarch's palace. Using a computer metaphor, we can then assimilate institutions to single processors, eventually to multi-task processors, when the same institution, for instance the agora, has different functions.

However, with the geographical extension of political entities, the increasing number of people and the multiplication of tasks, institutions cannot work undivided in one place. They need to split and work in parallel. Therefore, it is possible to analyze institutions as parallel processors.

Parallel Computing

Before going into the detail of the analysis of institutions as parallel processors, let us remind ourselves that people classically distinguish data flow and instruction flow, both of which can be single or multiple. This gives birth to four possibilities that are, SISD (single instruction, single data), SIMD (single instruction, multiple data), MISD (multiple instructions, single data) and MIMD (multiple instructions, multiple data). Further, along with grid computation, has recently appeared the possibility to distribute computation on myriads of distant processors that are available through the Internet.

As previously said, classical institutions can be assimilated to SISD, since they work as a central processor, but, as soon as the task becomes complex, assemblies tend to divide in specialized commissions and working groups. In the latter case, the institution can be viewed as MISD, because different algorithms, based on different background knowledge, work in parallel on the same set of data.

It may happen that some institutions have to apply the same procedures on different data, which corresponds to the SIMD architecture. This is obviously the case with schools having to teach the same things to different pupils organized into different classes. It's also the case with justice, which has to judge all violations of law with the same rules.

Lastly, some modern institutions can accept simultaneously multiple instructions and multiple data (MIMD). However, whatever processor architecture corresponds to institutions, it is usually well ordered in a way that prevents conflicts.

 
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