Martin’s Musings: Emergence

eccentric interests!

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Making Sense of our Current Predicament 

Scott Meredith writes:
I still still still just don’t get it.
Yesterday for example, I was browsing the latest issue of Wired magazine. They had a full-bore cheerleading article about nano- technology. The future looks bright ! (At least if you consider a locked-down technoid diorama of ever expanding corporate and governmental handcuffing and pawcuffing of all sentient beings ‘bright’ …) The point is not whether Wired per se is this or that as a magazine, who cares. The deeper point is that every major publication, and all the more specialized research journals, etc. – just “everyone” is operating on the assumption that things are just fine, homo saps are getting better, learning more, growing more efficient, smarter, smoother and slicker as a species every day.
These people are not stupid ! First they are technically and organizationally brilliant, you can see that from the undeniable power of what they produce, however ultimately destructive and shortsighted it may turn out to be. They even show awareness of various ecological issues, for example, even oil finitude is sometimes acknowledged, water problems, etc. Yet they gloss and glide so easily to a sunny uplands of “solutions” offered “with newer technologies…” or whatever.
What I’m trying to say, either those mainstream guys are basically correct or “we” (Jay Hanson’s analysis buy-in type of people) are correct – for our respective views over the next 20 years of the human outlook.
It is possible to honestly disagree over the same set of facts. And nobody knows the actual future. Yet – still… the mind falters and hesitates…
I just feel such a TOTAL chasm between the viewpoints, I really really “don’t get it”. What’s going on ?
Any assistance with this conundrum appreciated.
 
Tom Robertson responds:
Its quite simple, and we were given a basis for understanding what is happening to us long ago, when Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) struggled to describe the need for the world to deal with the new ideas that were breaking upon human society.
He summarized our continuing circumstances by saying:
“A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.”
The world’s people, particularly those favored with access to abundant resources, found themselves able to create a “perfection of means,” which resulted in an increasing capacity to do things. Thus, “doing things,” from building great societies to waging great wars that tore things apart, became the highly rewarded mantra of much of human society over the past thousand years or so.
Those relatively abundant “doing things” rewards simply, pervasively, and almost perpetually got in the way of reducing our “confusion of aims.” As we as a society became more adept at “doing things” such success got in the way of knowing what we should be doing to advance our interests in secure and satisfying ways over time.
Complementing the above quote, Einstein also said:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
In other words, we have an intellectual system that is mainly focused on and highly rewarded for “doing things.” This is the reason for the ways our universities are organized around disciplines and departments–all seeking increasingly smaller bits of the intellectual pie–with virtually no reward for synthesis, for making sense through the combination of parts toward any systemic whole. In fact, very little resources and often substantial penalties accrue for addressing the (mainly systemic) contextual circumstances which would let us know–of all the things we could do, which will best serve our interests over time–particularly as our world changes for reasons associated with the Money/Energy Transition.
Further, it is a waste of time trying to find fault for the way our “doing things” intellectual processes and associated institutions work. For the most part, they were doing what worked for them.
The problem–which is rapidly expanding and very threatening–is that the Money/Energy Transition means not only a transition in the way money, energy, and other resources are available to society, but also a transition in what will work best to advance our interests during and after the M/ET itself.
The events of 9-11, Enron/California, Argentina, Africa, Africa, Japan, etc., etc., are all glaring symptoms of the end of the “doing it” way of working.
Complementing a “A perfection of means” with a “Perfection of aims,” mainly through a judicious development and application of knowledge frameworks based on the best of the systems sciences, is the only path open to a at least sensible future.
And while there are no guarantees in any of this, we are most likely to find that continuing on with the “doing it” mindset will set actors and their constituencies to know increasing trauma, while those involved in building an adequate contextual understanding tightly linked to guiding what can and should be done, will increasingly find opportunities for a successful future, regardless of what that future may hold.
Finally, an inherent component of working in the “doing it” paradigm is the prevalence of “top down” management styles. We will find that increasingly during, and certainly after the Money/Energy Transition, the more successful systems over time will evolve to another mode of self-management, with the actors probably tending to find that the closer they are able to work within a democratic framework, the more beneficial to both leaders and their constituencies such systems are likely to be.

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June 1, 2002 - Posted by | Random Thoughts

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