@jannesalovaara I’ve jumped to the 8.2.2011 2nd Session + readings section of your page. (It’s unfortunate that I can’t link to it directly, and you would have to provide an anchor tag in HTML for me to get there).
Your comments run deep into the philosophy. Ideals are a human construct that would seem to not exist with other species on the planet Earth, and there’s even some definitional issues as to whether other animals think. The example of buildings that are designed to withstand earthquakes versus those designed to fall down (and not injure inhabitants) brings up questions of aesthetics: can a built environment that is designed not to least be even considered an ideal? This could be parallel to sand castles that get washed away by the tides, or calligraphy written in water onto floor tiles that evaporate in an hour. Would an architect that purposefully (i.e. seeking ideals) designs appropriately to the environment be shunned by peer architects who see buildings as monuments to their greatness?
In your description of Tainter citing Polybius on the cyclical view of history, your criticism of missing birth after death leads me to a deeper question on which system you are representing. At the level of individuals and families, the people who lived in the Roman empire have descendants today, at least those who live in the region now called Italy. There is a tie — Tainter certainly knows about Holling’s work in panarchy, and just hasn’t made it explicit — that the death-birth phase recognizes that the Roman empire collapsed, and something else followed afterwards. From the perspective of panarchy, the question could be whether transformation (in the Byzantine sense) is the only solution, of whether the Romans could have precluded the collapse by taking action to improve the sustainability of their socio-political complexity, potentially by realizing the limits of their expansion.
On your criticism of “marginal return over investment in complexity”, I’m unsure whether you’ve had the background education in economics on which Tainter’s argument rests. In the example of the Roman empire, the marginal investment is every additional mile/kilometer from Rome that would have to be expended to maintain the socio-political complex. As an example, the cost of a mile of road in Scotland is probably the same of the cost of a mile of road in Pisa, but the benefits for the Roman empire — centered in Rome — aren’t the same. The cost of maintaining loyal Roman centurions in Pisa would probably be less than maintain them in Scotland (if we are to believe Mel Gibson-like movies about the unruly northerners). The problem is that the decision-making isn’t made at the level of each mile, it tends to be made in non-continuous chunks (e.g. at the level of a region).
In your adding to Haeckel’s three elements a fourth of “the objective relation to the signal listener”, I think that this would be covered by the second element of a “framework” and the third element of the “association”. The idea of sense-and-respond leads to the question of whether we can or cannot sense, which has perspectives both of objectivism and subjectivism between them. As the world moves from one where we don’t have enough data into a “smarter planet” perspective where we are awash with too much data, we may run into issues of attention management and cognitive overload. I come from a pre-Internet generation where electronic machines did not make decisions better/faster than human beings — the Watson victory at Jeopardy is a new phenomenon, so the opportunity for changing designs in systems that include both human beings and technologies has been disclosed as a potentially new reality.