Difference between revisions of "Holotopia"
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Revision as of 11:23, 14 August 2020
- 1 Holotopia
- 1.1 Imagine...
- 1.2 Our proposal
- 1.3 An application
- 1.4 A vision
- 1.5 A method
- 1.6 Five insights
- 1.8 Power structure
- 1.9 Collective mind
- 1.10 Socialized reality
- 1.11 Narrow frame
- 1.12 Convenience paradox
- 1.13 A great cultural revival
- 1.14 The sixth insight
- 1.15 A strategy
- 1.16 We will not solve "the huge problems now confronting us"
- 1.17 We will begin "a great cultural revival"
- 1.18 Tactical assets
- 1.19 A pilot project
You are about to board a bus for a long night ride, when you notice the flickering streaks of light emanating from two wax candles, placed where the headlights of the bus are expected to be. Candles? As headlights?
Of course, the idea of candles as headlights is absurd. So why propose it?
Because on a much larger scale this absurdity has become reality.
The Modernity ideogram renders the essence of our contemporary situation by depicting our society as an accelerating bus without a steering wheel, and the way we look at the world, try to comprehend and handle it as guided by a pair of candle headlights.
In a nutshell
The core of our knowledge federation proposal is to change the relationship we have with information.
What is our relationship with information presently like?
Here is how Neil Postman described it:
"The tie between information and action has been severed. Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold, or used as a form of entertainment, or worn like a garment to enhance one's status. It comes indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don't know what to do with it."
The objective of our proposal is to restore agency to information, and power to knowledge.
What would it take to reconnect information with action?
What would information and our handling of information be like, if we treated information as we treat other human-made things—if we adapted it to the purposes that need to be served?
What would our world be like, if academic researchers retracted the premise that when an idea is published in a book or an article it is already "known"; if they attended to the other half of this picture, the use and usefulness of information, with thoroughness and rigor that distinguish academic technical work? What do the people out there actually need to know?
What would the academic field that develops this approach to information be like? How would information be different? How would it be used? By what methods, what social processes, and by whom would it be created? What new information formats would emerge, and supplement or replace the traditional books and articles? How would information technology be adapted and applied? What would public informing be like? And academic communication, and education?
The substance of our proposal is a complete prototype of knowledge federation, by which those and other related questions are answered.
Knowledge federation is a paradigm. Not in a specific field of science, where new paradigms are relatively common, but in "creation, integration and application of knowledge" at large.
Our call to action is to institutionalize and develop knowledge federation as an academic field, and as real-life praxis.
The situation we are in
The Club of Rome's assessment of the situation we are in, provided us with a benchmark challenge for putting the proposed ideas to a test. Four decades ago—based on a decade of this global think tank's research into the future prospects of mankind, in a book titled "One Hundred Pages for the Future"—Aurelio Peccei issued the following call to action:
"It is absolutely essential to find a way to change course."
Peccei also specified what needed to be done to "change course":
"The future will either be an inspired product of a great cultural revival, or there will be no future."
This conclusion, that we are in a state of crisis that has cultural roots and must be handled accordingly, Peccei shared with a number of twentieth century's thinkers. Arne Næss, Norway's esteemed philosopher, reached it on different grounds, and called it "deep ecology".
In "Human Quality", Peccei explained his call to action:
"Let me recapitulate what seems to me the crucial question at this point of the human venture. Man has acquired such decisive power that his future depends essentially on how he will use it. However, the business of human life has become so complicated that he is culturally unprepared even to understand his new position clearly. As a consequence, his current predicament is not only worsening but, with the accelerated tempo of events, may become decidedly catastrophic in a not too distant future. The downward trend of human fortunes can be countered and reversed only by the advent of a new humanism essentially based on and aiming at man’s cultural development, that is, a substantial improvement in human quality throughout the world."
The Club of Rome insisted that lasting solutions would not be found by focusing on specific problems, but by transforming the condition from which they all stem, which they called "problematique".
Can the proposed 'headlights' help us "find a way to change course"?
Why did Peccei's call to action remain unanswered? Why wasn't The Club of Rome's purpose—to illuminate the course our civilization has taken—served by our society's regular institutions, as part of their function? Isn't this already showing that we are 'driving with candle headlights'?
If we used knowledge federation to 'illuminate the way'—what difference would that make?
The Holotopia project is conceived as a knowledge federation-based response to Aurelio Peccei's call to action.
Suppose we lived in a world where knowledge is federated; what difference would that make? What we are about to present is an answer. Or perhaps only the first half of an answer. We don't consider an idea to be fully federated, before it is reflected in the social and cultural order of things. The goal of the Holotopia project is to complete the federation in that way.
To draft a vision, an image of a cultural and social order of things where knowledge is federated, we do not repeat or verify what The Club of Rome did, to reach their conclusion. We simply take The Club of Rome as a federation project, and we federate further. That brings us into a wonderful realm of questions, and cultural possibilities, which are relevant and interesting on their own accord. Such as:
How can "a great cultural revival" realistically emerge? What do we need to do to help that happen?
How can we "change course"? How can we transform a society whose built-in goal is an ever-growing material welfare, into a society dedicated to cultivating "human quality"?
We coined the keyword holotopia to point to the cultural and social order of things that will result.
To begin the Holotopia project, we are developing an initial prototype. It includes a vision, and a collection of strategic and tactical assets—that will make the vision clear, and our pursuit of it actionable.
The holotopia is not a utopia
Since Thomas More coined this term and described the first utopia, a number of visions of an ideal but non-existing social and cultural order of things have been proposed. But in view of adverse and contrasting realities, the word "utopia" acquired the negative meaning of an unrealizable fancy.
As the optimism regarding our future faded, apocalyptic or "dystopian" visions became common. The "protopias" emerged as a compromise, where the focus is on smaller but practically realizable improvements.
The holotopia is different in spirit from them all. It is a more attractive vision of the future than what the common utopias offered—whose authors either lacked the information to see what was possible, or lived in the times when the resources we have did not yet exist. And yet the holotopia is readily realizable—because we already have the information and other resources that are needed for its fulfillment.
The holotopia vision is made concrete in terms of five insights, as explained below.
What do we need to do to change course toward the holotopia?
From a collection of insights from which the holotopia emerges as a future worth aiming for, we have distilled a simple principle or rule of thumb—making things whole.
This principle is suggested by the holotopia's very name. And also by the Modernity ideogram. Instead of reifying our institutions and professions, and merely acting in them competitively to improve "our own" situation or condition, we consider ourselves and what we do as functional elements in a larger system of systems; and we self-organize, and act, as it may best suit the wholeness of it all.
Imagine if academic and other knowledge-workers collaborated to serve and develop planetary wholeness – what magnitude of benefits would result!
We see things whole
"The arguments posed in the preceding pages", Peccei summarized in One Hundred Pages for the Future, "point out several things, of which one of the most important is that our generations seem to have lost the sense of the whole."
To make things whole—we must be able to see them whole!
To highlight that the knowledge federation methodology described in the mentioned prototype affords that very capability, to see things whole, in the context of the holotopia we refer to it by the pseudonym holoscope.
The characteristics of the holoscope—the design choices or design patterns, how they follow from published insights and why they are necessary for 'illuminating the way'—will become obvious in the course of this presentation. One of them, however, must be made clear from the start.
We look at all sides
If our goal would be to put a new "piece of information" into an existing "reality picture", then whatever challenges that reality picture would be considered "controversial". But when our goal is to see whether something is whole or 'cracked', then this attitude must be changed.
To see things whole, we must look at all sides.
Some of the views we are about to share may make you leap from your chair. You will, however, be able to calmly enjoy this presentation, if you bear in mind that while what is being presented is academically rigorous, but with a different idea of rigor (in the holoscope we take no recourse to "reality"; coexistence of multiple ways of looking at any theme or issues, which are called scopes, is axiomatic) we do not need to make that claim. And we are not making it! Consider what you are looking at as a cardboard map of a city, and a construction site—deliberately and necessarily unfinished, still only sketches. By sharing it we are not making a case for building that specific city—but for developing 'architecture', as an academic field and a real-life praxis. Our call to action is to use 'architecture' (not ad-hoc construction of soaring skyscrapers) to rebuild and revive whatever is presently falling apart.
Holotopia is not our project; it is the project of our generation. It is what we owe to our next generation; and to our home planet. We have only given it a name, to expedite its development. We are now creating a space for it, where so that we may develop it together, and make a difference.
Everything we are presenting is only prototypes. Our invitation is, to begin with, to a dialog about the holotopia vision those prototypes compose together. And a dialog—that change of attitude that already brings us a significant distance into the emerging paradigm—is genuine sharing, communication and co-creation. It involves a genuine striving to overcome our socialized habits of thought, and see things in new ways.
To show up in that co-creative dialog space wearing boxing gloves, to defend old worldviews and power relationships, would be as ill-advised as claiming, in an academic setting, that a certain claim must be true, because it was revealed to the author in a vision.
We modified science
To liberate our thinking from the inherited concepts and methods, and allow for deliberate choice of scopes, we used the scientific method as venture point—and modified it by taking recourse to insights reached in 20th century science and philosophy.
Science gave us new ways to look at the world: The telescope and the microscope enabled us to see the things that are too distant or too small to be seen by the naked eye, and our vision expanded beyond bounds. But science had the tendency to keep us focused on things that were either too distant or too small to be relevant—compared to all those large things or issues nearby, which now demand our attention. The holoscope is conceived as a way to look at the world that helps us see any chosen thing or theme as a whole—from all sides; and in proportion.
Before we begin
What theme, what evidence, what "new discovery" might have the force commensurate with the momentum with which our civilization is rushing onward—and have a realistic chance to make it "change course"?
We offer these five insights as a prototype answer.
They result when we apply the holoscope to illuminate five pivotal themes:
- Innovation (how we use our ability to create, and induce change)
- Communication (how information technology is being used)
- Epistemology (fundamental premises on which our handling of information is based)
- Method (how truth and meaning are created)
- Values (how we "pursue happiness")
For each of these five themes, we show that our conventional way of looking made us ignore a principle or a rule of thumb, which readily emerges when we 'connect the dots'—when we combine published insights. We see that by ignoring those principles, we have created deep structural problems ('crack in the cup')—which are causing problems, and "global issues" in particular.
A 'scientific' approach to problems is this way made possible, where instead of focusing on symptoms, we understand and treat their deeper, structural causes—which can be remedied.
In the spirit of the holoscope, we only summarize each of the five insights—and provide evidence and details separately.
"Man has acquired such decisive power that his future depends essentially on how he will use it", observed Peccei. We look at the way in which man uses his power to innovate (create, and induce change).
We look at the way our civilization follows in its evolution; or metaphorically, at 'the itinerary' of our 'bus'.
We readily observe that we use competition or "survival of the fittest" to orient innovation, not information and "making things whole". The popular belief that "the free competition" or "the free market" will serve us better, also makes our "democracies" elect the "leaders" who represent that view. But is that view warranted?
Genuine revolutions include new ways to see freedom and power; holotopia is no exception.
We offer this keyword, power structure, as a means to that end. Think of the power structure as a new way to conceive of the intuitive notion "power holder", who might take away our freedom, or be our "enemy".
While the nature of power structures will become clear as we go along, imagine them, to begin with, as institutions; or more accurately, as the systems in which we live and work (we'll here call them simply systems).
Notice that systems have an immense power—over us, because we have to adapt to them to be able to live and work; and over our environment, because by organizing us and using us in a specific ways, they determine what the effects of our work will be.
The power structures determine whether the effects of our efforts will be problems, or solutions.
How suitable are the systems in which we live and work for their all-important role?
Evidence, circumstantial and theoretical, shows that they waste a lion's share of our resources. And that they cause problems, or make us incapable of solving them.
The reason is the intrinsic nature of evolution, as Richard Dawkins explained it in "The Selfish Gene".
"Survival of the fittest" favors the systems that are by nature predatory, not the ones that are useful.
This excerpt from Joel Bakan's documentary "The Corporation" (which Bakan as law professor created to federate an insight he considered essential) explains how the corporation, the most powerful institution on the planet, evolved to be a perfect "externalizing machine" ("Externalizing" means maximizing profits by letting someone else bear the costs, such as the people and the environment), just as the shark evolved to be a perfect "killing machine". This scene from Sidney Pollack's 1969 film "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" will illustrate how our systems affect our own condition.
Why do we put up with such systems? Why don't we treat them as we treat other human-made things—by adapting them to the purposes that need to be served?
The reasons are interesting, and in holotopia they'll be a recurring theme.
One of them we have already seen: We do not see things whole. When we look in conventional ways, the systems remain invisible for similar reasons as a mountain on which we might be walking.
A reason why we ignore the possibility of adapting the systems in which we live and work to the functions they have in our society, is that they perform for us a different function—of providing structure to power battles and turf strifes. Within a system, they provide us "objective" and "fair" criteria to compete; and in the world outside, they give us as system system "competitive edge".
Why don't media corporations combine their resources to give us the awareness we need? Because they must compete with one another for our attention—and use only "cost-effective" means.
The most interesting reason, however, is that the power structures have the power to socialize us in ways that suit their interests. Through socialization, they can adapt to their interests both our culture and our "human quality".
A result is that bad intentions are no longer needed for cruelty and evil to result. The power structures can co-opt our sense of duty and commitment, and even our heroism and honor.
Zygmunt Bauman's key insight, that the concentration camp was only a special case, however extreme, of (what we are calling) the power structure, needs to be carefully digested and internalized: While our ethical sensibilities are focused on the power structures of yesterday, we are committing the greatest massive crime in human history (in all innocence, by only "doing our job" within the systems we belong to).
Our civilization is not "on the collision course with nature" because someone violated the rules—but because we follow them.
The fact that we will not "solve our problems" unless we learned to collaborate and adapt our systems to their contemporary roles and our contemporary challenges has not remained unnoticed. Alredy in 1948, in his seminal Cybernetics, Norbert Wiener explained why competition cannot replace 'headlights and steering'. Cybernetics was envisioned as a transdisciplinary academic effort to help us understand systems, so that we may adapt their structure to the functions they need to perform.
The very first step the founders of The Club of Rome did after its inception in 1968 was to convene a team of experts, in Bellagio, Italy, to develop a suitable methodology. They gave "making things whole" on the scale of socio-technical systems the name "systemic innovation"—and we adopted that as one of our keywords.
The Knowledge Federation was created as a system to enable federation into systems. To bootstrap systemic innovation. The method is to create a prototype, and a transdiscipline around it to update it continuously. This enables the information created in disciplines to be woven into systems, to have real or systemic impact.
The prototypes are created by weaving together design patterns. Each of them is a issue-solution pair. Hence each roughly corresponds to a discovery (of an issue), and an innovation (a solution). A design pattern can then be adapted to other design challenges and domains. The prototype shows how to weave the relevant design patterns into a coherent whole.
While each of our prototypes is an example, the Collaborology educational prototype is offered as a canonical example. It has about a dozen design patterns, solutions to questions how to make education serve transformation of society—instead of educating people for society as is.
Each prototype is also an experiment, showing what works in practice. Our very first prototype of this kind, the Barcelona Ecosystem for Good Journalism 2011, revealed that the prominent experts in a system (journalism) cannot change the system they are part of. The key is to empower the "young" ones. We created The Game-Changing Game. And The Club of Zagreb.
If our next evolutionary task is to make institutions or systems whole—where shall we begin?
Handling of information, or metaphorically our society's 'headlights', suggests itself as the answer for several reasons. One of them is that if we'll use information as guiding light and not competition, our information will need to be different.
Norbert Wiener contributed another reason: In social systems, communication is what turns a collection of independent individuals into a system. In his 1948 book Wiener talked about the communication in ants and bees to make that point. Furthermore, "the tie between information and action" is the key property of a system, which cybernetics invites us to focus on. The full title of Wiener's book was "Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine". To be able to correct their behavior and maintain inner and outer balance, and to "change course" when the circumstances demand that (Wiener used the technical term "homeostasis", which we may here interpret as "sustainability")—the system must have suitable communication and control.
The tie between information and action has been severed, Wiener too observed.
Our society's communication-and-control is broken, and it has to be restored.
To make that point, Wiener cited an earlier work, Vannevar Bush's 1945 article "As We May Think", where Bush urged the scientists to make the task of revising their own communication their next highest priority—the World War Two having just been won.
These calls to action remained, however, without effect. And it is not difficult to see why.
"As long as a paradox is treated as a problem, it can never be dissolved," observed David Bohm.
Wiener too entrusted his results to the communication whose tie with action had been severed!
We have assembled an interesting collection of academic results that shared a similar fate, as illustration of the phenomenon we are calling Wiener's paradox.
It may be disheartening, especially to an academic researcher, to see so many best ideas of our best minds unable to benefit our society. But this sentiment quickly changes to holotopian optimism, when we look at the vast creative frontier this is pointing to; which Vannevar Bush pointed to in 1945.
Optimism turns into enthusiasm, when the information technology, which we all now use to communicate with the world, is taken into consideration.
Core elements of the contemporary information technology were created to enable a paradigm change on that creative frontier.
Vannevar Bush already pointed to this new paradigm, indeed already in the title, "As We May Think", of his 1945 article. His point was that "thinking" really means making associations or "connecting the dots". And that our knowledge work must be organized in such a way that we may benefit from each other's "thinking"—and in effect think together, as a single mind does. He described a prototype system called "memex", which was based on microfilm as technology.
Douglas Engelbart, however, took this development in a whole new direction—by observing (in 1951!) that when we, humans, are connected to a personal digital device through an interactive interface, and when those devices are connected together into a network—then the overall result is that we are connected together in a similar way as the cells in a human organism are connected by the nervous system. While all earlier innovations in this area—from clay tablets to the printing press—required that a physical medium that bears a message be physically transported, this new technology allows us to "create, integrate and apply knowledge" concurrently, as cells in a human nervous system do.
We can now think and create—together!
This three minute video clip, which we called "Doug Engelbart's Last Wish", offers an opportunity for a pause. Imagine the effects of improving the system by which information is produced and put to use; even "the effects of getting 5% better", Engelbart commented with a smile. Then he put his fingers on his forehead: "I've always imagined that the potential was... large..." The potential not only large; it is staggering. The improvement that can and needs to be achieved is not only large, it is qualitative— from a system that doesn't really fulfill its function, to one that does.
By collaborating in this new way, Engelbart envisioned, we would become able to comprehend our problems and respond to them incomparably faster than we do. Engelbart foresaw that the collective intelligence that would result would enable us to tackle the "complexity times urgency of our problems", which he saw as growing at an accelerated rate or "exponentially".
But to Engelbart's dismay, this new "collective nervous system" ended up being use to only make the old processes and systems more efficient. The ones that evolved through the centuries of use of the printing press, which only broadcast data.
The difference that makes a difference, which knowledge federation is positioned to contribute, is to organize us in knowledge work in such a way, that the result is the production of meaning.
The purpose of knowledge federation is to <p>
The above observation by Anthony Giddens points to the impact that its absence, the impact of using the technology to merely broadcast information, had on culture and "human quality".
Dazzled by an overload of data, in a reality whose complexity is well beyond our comprehension—we have no other recourse but "ontological security". We find meaning in learning a profession, and performing in it a competitively.
But ontological security is what binds us to power structure.
What is to be done, if we should be able to use the new technology to change our collective mind?
Engelbart left us a clear answer in the opening slides of his "A Call to Action" presentation, which were prepared for a 2007 panel that Google organized to share his vision to the world, but were not shown(!).
In the first slide, Engelbart emphasized that "new thinking" or a "new paradigm" is needed. In the second, he pointed out what this "new thinking" was.
We ride a common economic-political vehicle traveling at an ever-accelerating pace through increasingly complex terrain.
Our headlights are much too dim and blurry. We have totally inadequate steering and braking controls.
There can be no doubt that systemic innovation was the direction Engelbart was pointing to. He indeed published an ingenious methodology for systemic innovation already in 1962, six years before Jantsch and others created theirs in Bellagio, Italy; and he used this methodology throughout his career.
Engelbart also made it clear what needs to be our next step—by which the spell of the Wiener's paradox is to be broken. He called it "bootstrapping"—and we adopted bootstrapping as one of our keywords. The point here is that only writing about what needs to be done (the tie between information and action being broken) will not lead to a desired effect; the way out of the paradox, or bootstrapping, means that we act—and either create a new system with our own minds and bodies, or actively help others do that.
What we are calling knowledge federation is the 'collective thinking' that the new informati9on technology enables, and our society requires.
The Knowledge Federation transdiscipline was created by an act of bootstrapping, to enable bootstrapping. Originally, we were a community of knowledge media researchers and developers, developing the collective mind solutions that the new technology enables. Already at our first meeting, in 2008, we realized that the technology that we and our colleagues were developing has the potential to change our collective mind; but that to realize that potential, we need to self-organize differently.
Ever since then have been bootstrapping, by developing prototypes with and for various communities and situations.
Among them, we highlight
- Barcelona Innovation Ecosystem for Good Journalism, IEJ2011
- Tesla and the Nature of Creativity, TNC2015
- The LIghthouse 2016
The first, IEJ2011m, shows how researchers, journalists, citizens and creative media workers can collaborate to give the people exactly the kind of information they need—to be able to orient themselves in contemporary world, and handle its challenges correctly.
The second, TNC2015, shows how to federate a result of a single scientist—which is written in an inaccessible language, and has high potential relevance to other fields and to the society at large.
The third, The Lighthouse 2016, empowers a community of researchers (the concrete prototype was made for and with the International Society for the Systems Sciences) to federate a single core insight that the society needs from their field. (Here the concrete insight was that "the free competition" cannot replace "communication and control" and provide "homeostasis"—as Wiener already argued in Cybernetics, in 1948.)
Together, those three prototypes constitute a prototype solution to the Wiener's paradox.
"Act like as if you loved your children above all else",Greta Thunberg, representing her generation, told the political leaders at Davos. Of course the political leaders love their children—don't we all? But what Greta was asking for was to 'hit the brakes'; and when our 'bus' is inspected, it becomes clear that its 'brakes' too are dysfunctional.
So who will lead us through the next and vitally important step on our evolutionary agenda—where we shall learn how to update the systems in which we live and work?
Both Jantsch and Engelbart believed that "the university" would have to be the answer; and they made their appeals accordingly. But they were ignored—and so were Vannevar Bush and Norbert Wiener before them, and the others who followed.
It is tempting to conclude that the academia too followed the general trend, and evolved as a power structure. But to see solutions, we need to look at deeper causes.
As we pointed out in the opening paragraph of this website, the academic tradition did not develop as a way to pursue practical knowledge, but (let's call it that) "right" knowledge. Our tradition developed from classical philosophy, where the "philosophical" questions such as "How do we know that something is true?" and even "What does it mean to say that something is true?" led to rigorous or "academic" standards for pursuing knowledge. The university's core social role, as we, academic people tend to perceive it, is to uphold those standards. By studying at a university, one becomes capable of pursuing knowledge in an academic way in any domain of interest.
And as we also pointed out, by bringing up the image of Galilei in house arrest, this seemingly esoteric or "philosophical" pursuit was what largely enabled the last "great cultural revival", and led to all those various good things that we now enjoy. The Inquisition, censorship and prison were unable to keep in check an idea whose time had come—and the new way to pursue knowledge soon migrated from astrophysics, where it originated, and transformed all walks of life.
We began our presentation of knowledge federation by asking "Could a similar advent be in store for us today?"
Here is why we felt confident in drafting an affirmative answer to this rhetorical question.
Early in the course of our modernization, we made a fundamental error whose consequences cannot be overrated. This error was subsequently uncovered and reported, but it has not yet been corrected.
Without thinking, from the traditional culture we've adopted a myth incomparably more disruptive of modernization that the creation myth—that "truth" means "correspondence with reality". And that the role of information is to provide us an "objectively true reality picture", so that we may distinguish truth from falsehood by simply checking whether an idea fits in.
The 20th century science and philosophy disproved and abandoned this naive view.
It has turned out that there is simply no way to open the 'mechanism of nature' and verify that our models correspond to the real thing!
How, then, did our "reality picture" come about?
Reality, reported scientists and philosophers, is not something we discover; it is something we construct.
Part of this construction is a function of our cognitive system, which turns "the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience" into something that makes sense, and helps us function. The other part is performed by our society. Long before we are able to reflect on these matters "philosophically", we are given certain concepts through which to look at the world and organize it and make sense of it. Through innumerable 'carrots and sticks', throughout our lives, we are induced to "see the reality" in a certain specific way—as our culture defines it. As everyone knows, every "normal human being" sees the reality as it truly is. Wasn't that the reason why our ancestors often considered the members of a neighboring tribes, who saw the reality differently, as not completely normal; and why they treated them as not completely human?
Of various consequences that have resulted from this historical error, we shall here mention two. The first will explain what really happened with our culture, and our "human quality"; why the way we handle them urgently needs to change. The second will explain what holds us back—why we've been so incapable of treating our systems as we treat other human-made things, by adapting them to the purposes that need to be served.
To see our first point, we invite you to follow us in a one-minute thought experiment. To join us on an imaginary visit to a cathedral. No, this is not about religion; we shall use the cathedral as one of our ideograms, to put things in proportion and make a point.
What strikes us instantly, as we enter, is awe-inspiring architecture. Then we hear the music play: Is it Bach's cantatas? Or Allegri's Miserere? We see sculptures, and frescos by masters of old on the walls. And then, of course, there's the ritual...
We also notice a little book on each bench. When we open it, we see that its first paragraphs explain how the world was created.
Let this difference in size—between the beginning of Genesis and all the rest we find in a cathedral—point to the fact that, owing to our error, our pursuit of knowledge has been focused on a relatively minor part, on explaining how the things we perceive originated, and how they work. And that what we've ignored is our culture as a complex ecosystem, which evolved through thousands of years, whose function is to socialize people in a certain specific way. To create certain "human quality". Notice that we are not making a value judgment, only pointing to a function.
The way we presently treat this ecosystem reminds of the way in which we treated the natural ones, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We have nothing equivalent to CO2 measurements and quotas, to even try to make this a scientific and political issue.
So how are our culture, and our "human quality" evolving? To see the answer, it is enough to just look around. To an excessive degree, the symbolic environment we are immersed in is a product of advertising. And explicit advertising is only a tip of an iceberg, comprising various ways in which we are socialized to be egotistical consumers; to believe in "free competition"—not in "making things whole".
By believing that the role of information is to give us an "objective" and factual view of "reality", we have ignored and abandoned to decay core parts of our cultural heritage. And we have abandoned the creation of culture, and of "human quality", to power structure.
To see our second point, that reality construction is a key instrument of the power structure, and hence of power, it may be sufficient to point to "Social Construction of Reality", where Berger and Luckmann explained how throughout history, the "universal theories" about the nature of reality have been used to legitimize a given social order. But this theme is central to holotopia, and here too we can only get a glimpse of a solution by looking at deeper dynamics and causes.
To be able to do that we devised a thread—in which three short stories or vignettes are strung together to compose a larger insight.
The first vignette describes a real-life event, where two Icelandic horses living outdoors—aging Odin the Horse, and New Horse who is just being introduced to the herd where Odin is the stallion and the leader—are engaged in turf strife. It will be suffice to just imagine these two horses running side by side, with their long hairs waving in the wind, Odin pushing New Horse toward the river, and away from his pack of mares.
The second story is about sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and his "theory of practice"—where Bourdieu provided a conceptual framework to help us understand how socialization works; and in particular its relationship with what he called "symbolic power". Our reason for combining these two stories together is to suggest that we humans exhibit a similar turf behavior as Odin—but that this tends to remain largely unrecognized. Part of the reason is that, as Bourdieu explained, the ways in which this atavistic disposition of ours manifests itself are incomparably more diverse and subtle than the ones of horses—indeed as more diverse so as our culture is more complex than theirs.
Bourdieu devised two keywords for the symbolic cultural 'turf'" "field" and "game", and used them interchangeably. He called it a "field", to suggest (1) a field of activity or profession, and the system where it is practiced; and (2) something akin to a magnetic field, in which we people are immersed as small magnets, and which subtly, without us noticing, orients our seemingly random or "free" movement. He referred to it as "game", to suggests that there are certain semi-permanent roles in it, with allowable 'moves', by which our 'turf strife' is structured in a specific way.
To explain the dynamics of the game or the field, Bourdieu adapted two additional keywords, each of which has a long academic history: "habitus" and "doxa". A habitus is composed of embodied behavioral predispositions, and may be thought of as distinct 'roles' or 'avatars' in the 'game'. A king has a certain distinct habitus; and so do his pages. The habitus is routinely maintained through direct, body-to-body action (everyone bows to the king, and you do too), without conscious intention or awareness. Doxa is the belief, or embodied experience, that the given social order is the reality. "Orthodoxy" acknowledges that multiple "realities" coexist, of which only a single one is "right"; doxa ignores even the possibility of alternatives.
Hence we may understand socialized reality as something that 'gamifies' our social behavior, by giving everyone an 'avatar' or a role, and a set of capabilities. Doxa is the 'cement' that makes such socialized reality relatively permanent.
A vignette involving Antonio Damasio as cognitive neuroscientist completes this thread, by helping us see that the "embodied predispositions" that are maintained in this way have a decisive role, contrary to what the 19th century science and indeed the core of our philosophical tradition made us believe. Damasio showed that our socialized embodied predispositions act as a cognitive filter—determining not only our priorities, but also the options we may be able to rationally consider. Our embodied, socialized predispositions are a reason, for instance, why we don't consider showing up in public naked (which in another culture might be normal).
This conclusion suggests itself: Changing the systems in which we live and work—however rational, and necessary, that may be—is for similar reasons inconceivable.
We are incapable of changing our systems, because we have been socialized to accept them as reality.
We may now condense this diagnosis to a single keyword: reification. We are incapable of replacing 'candle headlights' because we have reified them as 'headlights'! "Science" has no systemic purpose. Science is what the scientists are doing. Just as "journalism" is the profession we've inherited from the tradition.
But reification reaches still deeper—to include the very language we use to organize our world. It includes the very concepts by which we frame our "issues". Ulrich Beck continued the above observation:
"Max Weber's 'iron cage' – in which he thought humanity was condemned to live for the foreseeable future – is for me the prison of categories and basic assumptions of classical social, cultural and political sciences."
We may now see not only our inherited physical institutions or systems as 'candles'—but also our inherited or socialized concepts, which determine the very way in which we look at the world.
Reification underlies both problems. It is what keeps us in 'iron cage'.
Notice the depth and the beauty of our challenge.
When we write "worldviews", our word processor underlines the word in red. Even grammatically, there can be only one worldview—the one that corresponds with the world! Whatever we say, even when that is "we are constructing reality", by default we are making a statement about reality, we are saying how the things "really are" out there. But in this latter case, of course, the result is a paradox.
We are in a paradox; how can we ever come out?
The answer we proposed is in two steps.
The first – pointed to by the metaphor of the mirror, and the Mirror ideogram – is to self-reflect. We are proposing the kind of self-reflection that Socrates championed, which was the academic tradition's very source, and point of inception. We believed that something was the case, and it turned out that it was not. Meanwhile, we built on that assumption our institutional organization, our ethos and our self-image. We built on it even a formal logic, which excludes the middle.
The mirror reflects the fact that we are not above the world, looking at it objectively. However it might have seemed otherwise, the procedures we use were not objectively existing ways to objectively see the world, which were only discovered by our predecessors. We cannot forever continue being busy doing the work that is defined by those procedures. The evolution of our system must be allowed to continue.
The mirror warns us that we are now 'keeping Galilei in house arrest'—by using only "symbolic power", of course, and without being aware of that.
Our self-reflection in front of the mirror is not from a power position, but in the manner of the dialog. Which means—in a completely different tone of voice, which reflects genuine intention to see what goes on, correct errors, and make improvements.
The Mirror ideogram points to the nature of our contemporary academic situation, in a similar way as the Modernity ideogram points to our general one. The spontaneous evolution of knowledge of knowledge has brought us here, in front of the mirror. Seeing ourselves in the mirror means seeing ourselves in the world. It means the end of reification—and the beginning of accountability. The world we see in the mirror is a world in dire need—for new ways to be creative. The role in which we see ourselves, in that world, by looking at the mirror is all-important.
Imagine what it will mean to liberate the vast academic 'army', all of us who have been selected, trained and publicly sponsored to produce new ideas—from disciplinary constraints, to empower us to see ourselves as the core part of our society's 'headlights', and to self-organize and be creative accordingly!
But how shall we do that, how shall we step into that so much larger and freer yet more responsible role—without sacrificing the core element of our tradition; which is logical and methodological rigor?
The answer, and the second step we are proposing, is unexpected; even seemingly impossible, or magical.
We can go through the mirror—into a completely new academic and social reality.
Symbolically, that means liberating ourselves from the entrapment of reification—and liberating the people, the oppressed. We all must be liberated from reifying the way we see our world, from reifying our systems or institutions, and the very concepts we use to make sense of our world. We must all move to a world where what constitutes our society, and our culture, is given the kind of status that the technology has—of humanly created things; which must continue to evolve, by being adapted to their purposes.
Academically or philosophically, this crucial step, through the mirror, is made possible by what philosopher Villard Van Orman Quine called "truth by convention"—which we adapted as one of our keywords.
Quine opened "Truth by Convention" by observing:
"The less a science has advanced, the more its terminology tends to rest on an uncritical assumption of mutual understanding. With increase of rigor this basis is replaced piecemeal by the introduction of definitions. The interrelationships recruited for these definitions gain the status of analytic principles; what was once regarded as a theory about the world becomes reconstrued as a convention of language. Thus it is that some flow from the theoretical to the conventional is an adjunct of progress in the logical foundations of any science."
But if the switch to truth by convention is the way in which the sciences repair their logical foundations—then why not use it to update the logical foundations of our knowledge work at large?
Truth by convention, as we use this keyword, is the kind of truth that is common in mathematics: "Let x be y. Then..." and the argument follows. Obviously, the claim that x "really is" y is unintended, and meaningless. Only a convention has been made—which is valid within the given context, of an article, or a theory, or a methodology.
In our prototype we used truth by convention to define an epistemology; and a methodology.
The epistemology, called design epistemology, turns the core of our proposal (to change the relationship we have with information, as we described above) into a convention.
In the "Design Epistemology" research article, where we articulated this proposal, we drafted a parallel between the modernization of knowledge work we are proposing, and the emergence of modern art. By defining an epistemology and a methodology as conventions, we academic researchers can do as the artists did, when they liberated themselves from the demand to faithfully depict the reality, by using the techniques of Old Masters—we can be creative in the very way in which we practice our profession. We made it clear that the approach we proposed was a general one, and that our design epistemology was only an example showing what might be possible when the approach is developed.
Notice that logically anything can be turned into a convention. The "proof of the pie" is that it works! truth by convention. We, however, chose to use truth by convention to codify the state-of-the-art epistemological insights; the ones that now serve as anomalies, challenging the epistemological and methodological status quo, and demanding change. In this way, by weaving those insights into a prototype methodology, and configuring a system that will continuously keep them up to date (we are doing that as we speak)—we use knowledge federation to give information the agency to modify the epistemology and the methods; and to enable the latter to evolve.
A vast creative frontier opens up before us on the other side of the mirror, both academic and cultural. We developed the holoscope and the holotopia as prototypes, to show what might be possible if we pursued this new course.
By using truth by convention, language too can be liberated from reification and tradition; and so can our professional and specifically disciplinary-academic pursuits. We conclude here by only mentioning two examples, each of which illustrates both possibilities (both were proposed to corresponding communities of interest, where they proved welcome, and useful).
Our definition of design, as "the alternative to tradition", introduced design and tradition as two alternative ways to wholeness. Here tradition means relying on what we've inherited from the past, and relying on small changes and "the survival of the fittest"; design is the alternative, where we consciously and intentionally "make things whole". The point is that when tradition can no longer be relied on, design must be used. This pair of keywords allows us to understand the Modernity ideogram, and our situation or the "world problematique" in simple terms: We are no longer traditional; and yet we are not yet designing. We are caught up in an unstable way of evolving, where neither of the options work. Our technology is developed by design—and progressed at an accelerated rate; our culture (represented by the headlights) has remained traditional, and fallen behind.
Our definition of implicit information as information that is not making a factual statement, but is implicit in cultural artifacts, mores etc., and of visual literacy (a definition for the International Visual Literacy Association), as "literacy associated with implicit information", opens up a whole realm of possibilities to be developed. While our ethics, legislature and academic production have been focused on factual, explicit information, we have been culturally (and ethically and politically) dominated by the subtle implicit information, which we have not yet learned to decode, or control. The creation of prototypes—the core activity on the other side of the mirror, by which agency is restored to information—opens up a myriad possibilities for combining art and science. As we shall see, in the Holotopia project this will be our core approach.
The question we'll explore here is the one posed by the Modernity ideogram: How do we need to "look at the world, try to comprehend and handle it".
We build part of our case for the holoscope and the holotopia by developing an analogy between the last "great cultural revival", where a fundamental change of the way we look at the world (from traditional/Biblical, to rational/scientific) effortlessly caused nearly everything to change. Notice that to meet that sort of a change, we do not need to convince the political and business leaders, we do not need to occupy Wall Street. It is the prerogative of our, academic occupation to uphold and update and give to our society this most powertful agent of change—the standard of "right" knowledge.
So how should we look at the world, try to comprehend it and handle it?
Of course, countess books and articles have been written that could inform an answer to this most timely question. But no consensus has emerged—or even a consensus about a method by which that could be achieved.
That being the case, we'll begin this diagnostic process by simply sharing what we've been told while we were growing up. Which is roughly as follows.
As members of the homo sapiens species, we have the evolutionary privilege to be able to understand the world, and to make rational choices based on such understanding. Give us a correct model of the natural world, and we'll know exactly how to go about satisfying "our needs", which we of course know because we can experience them directly. But the traditions got it all wrong! Being unable to understand how the nature works, they put a "ghost in the machine", and made us pray to the ghost to give us what we needed. Science corrected this error. It removed the "ghost", and told us how 'the machine' really works.
"Truth", or "scientific" understanding of real-life matters, is what can be explained by using deductive reasoning from this new "reality picture", what follows logically from it, and only that. Isn't this how we, finally, understood that women can't fly on broomsticks—that this would violate some scientifically established natural laws?
Perhaps no rational person would write this sort of "philosophy". But—and this is one of our key points in this diagnosis—this "philosophy" has not been written. It simply emerged—around the middle of the 19th century, when Adam and Moses as cultural heroes were replaced for so many of us by Darwin and Newton. Science originated, and shaped its disciplinary divisions and procedures before that time, while still the tradition and the Church had the prerogative of telling people how to see the world, and what values to uphold. When the latter lost popular trust, the people were left to their own devices—to develop a new, "scientific" understanding of everyday matters; from whatever scraps of the 19th century science appeared to be suitable.
It is this ad-hoc scrapbook of 19th century ideas, frozen into a "reality picture", that most modern people, including surprisingly many scientists, still consider as "scientific worldview".
From a collection of reasons why this popular way to create truth and meaning needs to be updated, we here mention only two.
The first reason is that the nature is not a mechanism.
The mechanistic or "classical" worldview of 19th century's science was disproved and disowned by modern science. It has turned out that even the physical phenomena cannot be understood by reasoning as we do when we try to understand a machine.
Werner Heisenberg, one of the progenitors of this research, expected that the largest impact of modern physics would be on popular culture—that it would lead to (what Peccei called) a "great cultural revival", by removing (what he called) "the narrow and rigid frame"—the way of looking at the world that our popular culture adopted from the 19th century's science—which damaged culture and prevented it from evolving. In "Physics and Philosophy" Heisenberg described how the destruction of religious and other traditions on which the continuation of culture and "human quality" depended, and the dominance of "instrumental" thinking and values (which Bauman called "adiaphorisation") followed from the assumptions that the modern physics proved were wrong.
True, Heisenberg might have responded to the argument (that what is popularly thought of as "scientific worldview" helped us see that women can't fly on broomsticks), the narrow frame enabled us to eliminate so many of the superstitions our ancestors were living with; but we also threw out the baby (culture) with the bath water!
Needless to say, also this Heisenberg's insight remained without due action—as just another casualty of the Wiener's paradox.
In 2005, Hans-Peter Dürr, Heisenberg's intellectual "heir", co-authored the Potsdam Manifesto, whose title and message was "We have to learn to think in a new way". The new way of thinking, conspicuously impregnated by "seeing things whole" and seeing ourselves as part of a larger whole, was shown to follow from the worldview of new physics, and the environmental and larger social crisis.
The second reason is that even mechanisms, or more precisely the "classical" systems, when they are "complex"—as social and natural systems undoubtedly are—cannot be understood in causal terms.
We offer this as the second core insight that we the people need to acquire from the systems sciences, and from cybernetics in particular.
It has been said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. There is a scientific reason for that: The "hell" (which you may imagine as the global issues, or as the destination toward which our 'bus' is currently taking us) is largely composed of "side effects" of our best efforts and "solutions"—of relationships that are obscured from us by the system's nonlinearity; of boomerang effects of our best intentions reaching us through the system's many 'feedback loops'. To see just how consistently simple causality is popularly considered as "modern" or even "scientific" thinking, what disastrous consequences this has had, and what wonderful possibilities have remained in its shadow—is to see the holotopia. <p> Hear Mary Catherine Bateson (cultural anthropologist and cybernetician, and the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson who pioneered both fields) say:
"The problem with Cybernetics is that it is not an academic discipline that belongs in a department. It is an attempt to correct an erroneous way of looking at the world, and at knowledge in general. (...) Universities do not have departments of epistemological therapy!"
The remedy we proposed is to spell out the rules, by defining a general-purpose methodology as a convention; and by turning it into a prototype and developing it continuously—to remain consistent with the state of the art of relevant knowledge, technology, and our society's needs.
Our prototype is called Polyscopic Modeling methodology, and nicknamed polyscopy.
By defining a methodology, we can define an approach to knowledge.
Polyscopy, for instance, specifies that for "knowledge" to be real knowledge, information must be federated. This means that we must abolish the habit of throwing out whatever fails to fit our "scientific worldview", or socialized reality or narrow frame. "Knowledge" maintained by ignoring counter-evidence does not merit that name.
This does not mean, of course, that anything goes. Rather, it demands a praxis that may be understood by analogy with constitutional democracy—in the realm of ideas. As even a hateful criminal has the right for a fair trial, so does an idea have the right to be considered. Based on this simple rule of thumb, we would, for instance, be advised to not ignore Buddhism because we don't find it appealing, or because we don't believe in reincarnation. The work of knowledge federation is here similar to the work of a dutiful attorney—it is to carefully sift through the heritage, find pieces that we may need to integrate; and support them with a convincing case.
Knowledge federation turns insights and data into principles and rules of thumb, which help us orient action. Especially valuable are the ones we call gestalts. A gestalt is an interpretation of a situation that suggests suitable action. "Our house is on fire" is a canonical example. This keyword allows us to define the intuitive notion "informed"—as having a gestalt that is appropriate to one's situation. You will easily recognize now that we'll be using this idea all along, by rendering our general situation as the Modernity ideogram, and our academic one as the Mirror ideogram. And that we are making headway toward a third—the holotopia vision. Suitable techniques for communicating and 'proving' or justifying such claims are offered, most of which are developed by generalizing the standard toolkit of science.
A parabolic image will help us see some practical consequences of this approach. Imagine you are talking on the phone with your neighbor, that he's at work and you are at home, and that you see that his house is on fire. Yet you tell him about the sale in the neighborhood fishing gear store. While from a factual point of view nothing is wrong (your neighbor is an avid fisherman, and the sale you are telling him about will deeply interested him), in this new "reality" we are proposing you are being untruthful and dangerously deceptive, because a wrong gestalt is implicit in the "reality picture" you present. You will easily see how this reflects upon our conventional media informing, and the way in which it constructs the "reality" we are living in.
The Polyscopic Modeling methodology is defined as a convention. We could turn anything into a convention—and it would be fine as long as it serves the purpose; as long as it "works". We, however, chose to federate this methodology, and turn it into a prototype.
This gives us a way to make the idea of "right" information this methodology represents a function of relevant insights reached in the sciences; and to allow it to evolve.
To illustrate this approach, and to point at some further nuances that are worth highlighting, we now describe a single instance of a source that has been federated in this way—and to give due credit.
A situation with overtones of a crisis, closely similar to the one we now have in our handling of information at large, arose in the early days of computer programming, when the buddying industry undertook ambitious software projects—which resulted in thousands of lines of "spaghetti code", which nobody was able to understand and correct. The story is interesting, but here we only highlight the a couple of main points and lessons learned.
They are drawn from the "object oriented methodology", developed in the 1960s by Old-Johan Dahl and Krysten Nygaard. The first one is that—to understand a complex system—abstraction must be used. We must be able to create concepts on distinct levels of generality, representing also distinct angles of looking (which, you'll recall, we called aspects). But that is exactly the core point of polyscopy, suggested by the methodology's very name.
The second point we'd like to highlight is is the accountability for the method. Any sufficiently complete programming language including the native "machine language" of the computer will allow the programmers to create any sort of program. The creators of the "programming methodologies", however, took it upon themselves to provide the programmers the kind of programming tools that would not only enable them, but even compel them to write comprehensible, reusable, well-structured code. To see how this reflects upon our theme at hand, our proposal to add systemic self-organization to the academia's repertoire of capabilities, imagine that an unusually gifted young man has entered the academia; to make the story concrete, let's call him Pierre Bourdieu. Young Bourdieu will spend a lifetime using the toolkit the academia has given him. Imagine if what he produces, along with countless other selected creative people, is equivalent to "spaghetti code" in computer programming! Imagine the level of improvement that this is pointing to!
The object oriented methodology provided a template called "object"—which "hides implementation and exports function". What this means is that an object can be "plugged into" more general objects based on the functions it produces—without inspecting the details of its code! (But those details are made available for inspection; and of course also for continuous improvement.)
The solution for structuring information we provided in polyscopy, called information holon, is closely similar. Information, represented in the Information ideogram as an "i", is depicted as a circle on top of a square. The circle represents the point of it all (such as "the cup is whole"); the square represents the details, the side views.
When the circle is a gestalt, it allows this to be integrated or "exported" as a "fact" into higher-level insights; and it allows various and heterogeneous insights on which it is based to remain 'hidden', but available for inspection, in the square. When the circle is a prototype it allows the multiplicity of insights that comprise the square to have a direct systemic impact, or agency.
The prototype polyscopic book manuscript titled "Information Must Be Designed" book manuscript is structured as an information holon. Here the claim made in the title (which is the same we made in the opening of this presentation by talking about the bus with candle headlights) is justified in four chapters of the book—each of which presents a specific angle of looking at it.
It is customary in computer methodology design to propose a programming language that implements the methodology—and to bootstrap the approach by creating a compiler for that language in the language itself. In this book we did something similar. The book's four chapters present four angles of looking at the general issue of information, identify anomalies and propose remedies—which are the design patterns of the proposed methodology. The book then uses the methodology to justify the claim that motivates it—that makes a case for the proposed paradigm, by using the paradigm.
In this last of the five insights we take up perhaps the most interesting question that remained:
Why is "a great cultural revival" realistically possible?
Why is the holotopia a better alternative? What is to be gained by "changing course"—and instead of reaching out for all the fun and pleasurable things that an advanced material civilization has to offer—engage in something as elusive and distant as "human development"?
In Galilei's time, concern with the "original sin" and "eternal punishment" were soon to be replaced; happiness and beauty would be lived here and now, and elevated and celebrated by the arts. What might the next "great cultural revival" be like?
We (the power structures we compose) have done the same to culture and to ourselves, as we did to natural environment.
With one notable difference.
We do not have 'a science of culture'—which would give us the equivalent of the temperature and the CO2 measurements, so that we may even hope to turn this into an issue!
By looking at the world through the narrow frame, by seeing the world as a machine and focusing on immediate causality, we have made convenience (or "instant gratification") the value that orients our private pursuits; and egotism (or "egocenteredness") the value that orients our social ones.
Our point here will be that this is not only leading us into a trap through the social and natural "feedback loops", as we have already seen—but also directly, by separating us from the kind of happiness and fulfillment that only culture, and "human development" can lead to.
Here too there is an insight, a rule of thumb, that reverses our "pursuit of happiness" quite thoroughly; and leads us to a realm of fulfillment that most of us consider possible.
We've called it "the best kept secret of human culture", and offered it for dialog and elaboration as one of our selected ten themes.
Long story short—there is an incomparably better way to be human, than what we've known and experienced.
This is what attracted our distant ancestors to persons like the Moses, the Buddha, the Christ or Mohammad. Yet always—the power structure managed to divert the way they were pointing to into something quite different, and at not rarely into its very opposite!
So what can we do that is different?
We can introduce knowledge of knowledge; offer, and teach information about information. We can create a communication channel, which is wide enough and clear enough for these things to be seen!
As soon as we begin to do that, to federate suitable insights to illuminate that realm of possibilities, the convenience paradox is clearly seen.
The convenience paradox insight is that convenience is a deceptive and useless value, behind which enormous cultural opportunities have remained hidden. The idea of a "couch potato" provides a common-sense illustration—but, we show, the depth and breadth of possibilities for improving our condition through long-term cultivation is beyond what most of us will dare to consider possible.
Human wholeness does exist; and it feels, and looks, incomparably better than most of us will dare to imagine. It is this that drove people to the Buddha, Christ, Mohammed and other founders of religion. We represent them all here by Lao Tzu, who is often considered the founder of "Taoism". "Tao" literally means "way". The point here is to develop one's way of live, and culture, based on on where the way is leading to—and not (only) based on how attractive a direction may feel at the moment.
The most fascinating insight is reached as soon as we ignore the differences in worldview, what the adherents of different religion "believe in"—and pay attention to the symbolic environment they produce, and the kind of values and way of being they nourish. Compare, for instance, the above Lao Tzu's observations with what Christ told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.
Most interestingly, even a superficial federation (when we no longer focus on what religious traditions "believe in", but on the symbolic environments they create and the values they promote) the transcendence of egotism is a key element of the "way".
Lao Tzu is often pictured as riding a bull, which signifies that he conquered and tamed his ego. We here quote Aldous Huxley, to point out that transcending egotism is so much part of our wholeness, that even physical effort and effortlessness—which we now handle exclusively by developing the technology—is conditioned by it.
Motivation: Bauman's "Cuture as praxis". Definition of culture as "cultivation of wholeness.
Definition of religion as "reconnection with archetypes".
The book "Liberation" subtitled "Religion beyond Belief" is an ice breaker. It federates "the best kept secret", and creates a dialog.
Movement and Qi is a template how to put the language of "movement" (doing something with the body) into the academic repertoire. And how to put the heritage of the world traditions such as yoga and qigong into academic repertoire.
A great cultural revival
The five insights have been chosen to reflect five aspects of the last "great cultural revival", to which we point by bringing up the image of Galilei in hose arrest. Our point is that when those five centrally important aspects of our society's 'drive into the future' are no longer looked at by using the inherited ways of looking at the world ('in the light of a pair of candles') but by a deliberately designed way (represented by the holoscope), or in other words when our minds and eyes are liberated from the habit and the tradition and we allow ourselves to create the way we look at the world—then once again the blind spots and the opportunities for creative action are seen that naturally lead to a deep and comprehensive change.
Hence the five insights together reveal a vast creative frontier, where dramatic improvements can be reached. And which together constitute "a great cultural revival"—each of them being a piece in the large puzzle, a mechanism that unleashes our creative potential on such major scale.
A revolution in innovation
By bringing a radical improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of human work, through innovation, the Industrial Revolution liberated our ancestors from the toil for survival, and empowered them to devote themselves to more humane pursuits such as developing their "human quality", by developing culture. Or so we were told. The real story may, however, be entirely different. Research has shown that the hunger-gatherers used only a small fraction of their time for hunting and gathering. The power structure insight shows that not only today—but throughout history the improvements in effectiveness and efficiency in human work have been largely wasted by the systems in which we live and work
We saw, by illuminating those systems and the way in which they evolve, that this age-old negative trend in our evolution can be countered by innovating differently—through systemic innovation, or by "making things whole". And how this socio-technical innovation can, finally, liberate us from toil and empower us to engage in cultural revival.
A revolution in communication
The printing press enabled the Enlightenment by enabling a revolution in literacy, and in communication. The collective mind insight shows that the new information technology enables a similar revolution—whose effects will not be only a mass production of volumes of information, but most importantly a revolution in the production of meaning. A revolution where information is considered and treated as the lifeblood of human society—and enabled to make all the differences it can and needs to make, in a post-industrial society.
A revolution in vision
The Enlightenment was a combined revolution; our ancestors were first empowered to use their reason to understand the world; and then to see that the royalties were not divinely ordained, but indeed part of a human-made power structure. The whole revolution, however, began as a relatively minor epistemological innovation in astrophysics. By putting the Sun into the center of the Solar system, a scientific explanation of the movement of the planets became possible. We have seen that a continuation of that revolution is now due, by which all reification is seen as obsolete and a product of power structure; and in particular the reification of our worldview, and of our systems. By liberating the academia from the pitfall of reification, we can both empower ourselves to adapt our systems to the purposes they need to serve and liberate the vast global army of academic researchers from the disciplinary constraints on creativity—and empower them to be creative in ways and on the scale that a "great cultural revival" enables and requires.
A revolution in method
Galilei in house arrest was really science in house arrest. It was this new way to understand the natural phenomena that liberated our ancestors from superstition, and empowered them to understand and change their world by developing technology. The narrow frame insight shows that the "project science" can and needs to be extended into all walks of life—to illuminate all those core issues that science left in the dark.
A revolution in culture
The Renaissance was a "great cultural revival"—a liberation and celebration of life, love, and beauty, by changing the values and the lifestyle, and developing the arts. The convenience paradox insight illuminates two dimensions of this most fertile creative domain we've neglected—the time dimension, and the inner one. When this is done, a completely new direction of human pursuits readily emerge as natural—where our goal is the cultivation of inner wholeness, by developing culture.
This new revolution perhaps finds its most vivid expression in re-evolution of religion—by which an age-old conflict between science and religion is seen as a conflict between two power structures, which hindered the evolution of both our understanding of the world and our understanding of our selves. And how a completely new phase in this relationship can now begin.
The sixth insight
The solution is a paradigm
Already this very brief sketch of the five insights gives us a glimpse of the anatomy and pathophysiology of the "problematique". And lets us anticipate why the "solutionatique" will not be a result of mere preoccupation with what we perceive as issues or "problems". And why its results will be a lot more than mere solutions to problems; why the solution will indeed be "a great cultural revival", or the holotopia.
The power structure insight showed that we cannot "solve our problems" without changing the systems in which we live and work—which organize us in ways that create problems; or make us collectively incapable of understanding them and taking care of them.
The collective mind insight gave us a natural place to begin. We need to first of all update communication—which is what turns us the people into a system. And which—the tie between communication and action having been severed—turns us into systems that make us collectively 'brain dead'—and hence scheduled for extinction.
The socialized reality and the narrow frame insight together pointed to a place where the not is tied, and how to untie it (or technically, to the "systemic leverage point" and to the natural strategy for change). As long as we consider the purpose of information to be giving us "an objective reality picture", or in other words as long as we reify our present knowledge-work institutions and practices and the information they give us, there is no hope for change, and vice versa. The reification results in mass production of "pieces", in the sciences and the media, which not only are unsuitable for seeing what each of us personally has to do—but indeed (having evolved within the power structure) systemically serve for (as Herman and Chomsky put it) "manufacturing consent".
What we are lacking—and the key element of solution—is the ability to create high-level insights, principles, rules of thumb, which can orient our action. Ways to federate the massive data into the kind of "pieces" that have agency and purpose.
As soon as we do that, the convenience paradox insight showed, our very values and our "human quality" is bound to change radically—and lead to exactly the kind of values and behavior patterns on which the restructuring our systems, and resolving the power structure issue, now depends.
Large change can be easy
As we have just seen, the five insights and their solutions are so closely interdependent, that resolving one requires resolving all of them. This first part of a, larger sixth insight follows.
A large and comprehensive change can be easy—even when much smaller and obviously necessary changes may have proven impossible.
Comprehensive change, as the change of the system as a whole, has its own systemic way in which it may most easily be done.
Occupy the university
We have also seen that each of the five insights is really a result of federating published more specific insights. And that our collective capability to do that now requires that "the relationship we have with information" be changed. That this is the natural leverage point to the large and comprehensive change, just as the case was in Galilei's time. Hence the second part of the sixth insight results.
The systemic leverage point is the university
The relationship we have with information is no longer in the hands of the Church, but of the university as institution, as the contemporary representative of the academic tradition.
From the point of view of the holotopia, this is extremely good news. To make decisive headway toward "a great cultural revival", we do not need to convince the political and business leaders. We do not need to occupy Wall street. We, publicly sponsored public servants, have the key to solution in our hands.
Since upholding the standard of "right" knowledge is the core task of our academic occupation, there is really nothing to occupy. We only need to do our job.
To make a completely clear argument, we defined academia as "institutionalized academic tradition". And we represented the academic tradition by Socrates as the progenitor of the original Academia, and Galilei as a progenitor of science and the academic tradition's revival, which led to the larger cultural revival. Both Socrates and Galilei stood up to the power structure of the day, by representing new ways to look at the world, based on knowledge of knowledge. The question, then, is What does the contemporary university institutionalize? Is it supporting that sort of work—or maintaining status quo, through reification of the existing habits and structures?
When reiterating the call to action voiced by Vannevar Bush, Norbert Wiener, Erich Jantsch, Doug Engelbart, and so many others—we do that by submitting a complete paradigm proposal; by showing that their call to action can be responded to based on the time-honored academic standards. And indeed that the time-honored academic standards demand that we do that.
The critical resource is—and has always been—people who love knowledge, or truth, or humanity, beyond the comfort of fitting into the power structure of the day.
We have seen that the social and cultural ecology of the day is vehemently opposing it—so much so that we may be lacking even the critical amount that we need—even all other things being in place—to begin "a new course".
The Holotopia project may be understood as a strategic undertaking to create a space, and a system or social dynamic, in which a sufficiently strong remedial trend can emerge.
We will not solve "the huge problems now confronting us"
Already in 1964, four years before The Club of Rome was established, Margaret Mead wrote:
"(W)e are living in a period of extraordinary danger, as we are faced with the possibility that our whole species will be eliminated from the evolutionary scene. One necessary condition of successfully continuing our existence is the creation of an atmosphere of hope that the huge problems now confronting us can, in fact, be solved—and can be solved in time."
Despite the holotopia's optimistic tone, we do not assume that the problems we are facing can be solved.
Hear Dennis Meadows (the leader of the team that produced The Club of Rome's seminal 1972 report Limits to Growth) diagnose, based on 44 years of experience on this frontier, that our pursuit of "sustainability" falls short of avoiding the "predicament" they were warning us about back then:
"Will the current ideas about "green industry", and "qualitative growth", avoid collapse? No possibility. Absolutely no possibility of that. (...) Globally, we are something like sixty or seventy percent above sustainable levels."
Yes, we've wasted a precious half-century pursuing the neoliberal dream (hear Ronald Reagan set the tone for it, in the role of "the leader of the free world").
So no, we do not claim that our problems can be solved. Neither do we deny them.
There is a sense of sobering up, and of catharsis, of empowerment, of deep understanding that small things don't matter, that only being creative in the manner and on the scale we are proposing can matter—which needs to reach us from the depth of our problems. That must be our very first step.
We take a deep dive into that depth. But we do not dwell there.
"The huge problems now confronting us" must be dealt with, conscientiously and resolutely. We, however, do not do that. We propose to add to those most necessary and timely efforts a strategy—through which the solutions may be made easy; and which may well be necessary for the solutions to even exist.
We will begin "a great cultural revival"
Ironically, our problems can only be solved when we no longer see them as problems—but as symptoms of much deeper, structural or systemic defects, which can and must be corrected to continue our evolution, or "progress", irrespective of problems.
And most interestingly, our evolution, or "progress", can and must take a completely new—cultural—direction and focus. <p>Hear Meadows say, in the same interview:
"Will it be possible, here in Germany, to continue this level of energy consumption, and this degree of material welfare? Absolutely not. Not in the United States, not in other countries either. Could you change your cultural and your social norms, in a way that gave attractive future? Yes, you could."
Margaret Mead encouraged us, with her best known motto:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
And she also pointed to the critical task at hand: "Although tremendous advances in the human sciences have been made in the last hundred years, almost no advance has been made in their use, especially in ways of creating reliable new forms in which cultural evolution can be directed to desired goals."
It is that "creating" that the Holotopia project is about. We set it up as a research lab, for resolutely working on that goal. We create a transformative 'snowball', with the material of our own bodies, and we let it roll.
"(W)e take the position that the unit of cultural evolution is neither the single gifted individual nor the society as a whole", Mead wrote, "but the small group of interacting individuals who, together with the most gifted among them, can take the next step; then we can set about the task of creating the conditions in which the appropriately gifted can actually make a contribution. That is, rather than isolating potential "leaders," we can purposefully produce the conditions we find in history, in which clusters are formed of a small number of extraordinary and ordinary men and women, so related to their period and to one another that they can consciously set about solving the problems they propose for themselves."
As we have seen, and will see, the "single gifted individuals" have already offered us their gifts, already a half-century ago. But their insights failed to incite the kind of self-organization and action that would enable them to make a difference.
Here the holotopia's "rule of thumb", to "make things whole", which is really an ethical stance, plays a central role. While we are creating a small 'snowball' and letting it roll, the cohesive force that holds it together is of a paramount importance. We are not developing this project to further our careers; nor to earn some money, or get a grant. We are doing that because it's beautiful. And because it's what we need to give to our next generation.
We are developing the holotopia as (what Gandhi would have called) our "experiments with truth".
To be continued...
The Holotopia project continues to evolve as a collaborative strategy game—where we make tactical moves toward the holotopia vision. We bring to this 'game' a collection of tactical assets we've developed—to make it flow.
A pilot project