Difference between revisions of "Holotopia: Collective mind"

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<div class="page-header" ><h2>Stories</h2></div>
 
<div class="page-header" ><h2>Stories</h2></div>
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<div class="col-md-3"><h2>Democracy needs structural change</h2></div>
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<div class="col-md-3"><h2>Democracy must evolve</h2></div>
 
<div class="col-md-7"><h3>Cybernetics of democracy</h3>  
 
<div class="col-md-7"><h3>Cybernetics of democracy</h3>  
 
<p>We are preparing a book series, to help launch <em>holotopia</em> and <em>knowledge federation</em>. The second book in the series has the working title "Knowledge Federation", and subtitle "Cybernetics of Democracy".</p>
 
<p>We are preparing a book series, to help launch <em>holotopia</em> and <em>knowledge federation</em>. The second book in the series has the working title "Knowledge Federation", and subtitle "Cybernetics of Democracy".</p>
 
<p>What <em>is</em> "democracy"?</p>  
 
<p>What <em>is</em> "democracy"?</p>  
<p>We tend to answer that question in the same way as we answer "What is science?" or "What is journalism?" We simply <em>reify</em> a certain practice as we've inherited it from the past. "Democracy" distinguishes itself in that we've inherited its mechanisms from a <em>very</em> distant point in history, when <em>everything</em> was different.</p>  
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<p>We tend to answer that question in the same way as we answer "What is science?""journalism" and our various other professions or institutions. We simply <em>reify</em> the practice we've inherited from the past. "Democracy" distinguishes itself in that we've inherited its structure and its operation from a <em>very</em> distant point in history, when just <em>everything</em> was thoroughly different.</p>  
<p>The word "democracy" is derived from Greek words "demos", which means "people", and "kratos", which means power. So why not consider "democracy" to be a social system where the people have power; where the people are in control? We would then be able to ask "What instruments does a democracy need to have, if the people should be in control?  </p>   
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<p>The word "democracy" is derived from Greek "demos", which means "people", and "kratos", which means power. So "democracy" is supposed to be a social system where the people have power; where the people are in control. But <em>are</em> people in control?  </p>   
<p>Cybernetics gave us a scientific basis for answering this question. "Cybernetics" is derived from Greek "kybernetike", which means governance. So cybernetics is a scientific study of governance, or of governability. This study is transdisciplinary. Cybernetics shares its larger purpose with general systems science, and with the systems sciences more generally—which is to study systems of all kinds, both natural and human-made; to develop a terminology that allows for expressing how the structure of a system drives or influences its behavior. And to use this knowledge to understand, create and govern systems of all kinds—and social systems in particular.</p>
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<p>We added the word "cybernetics" to the subtitle, to suggest the answer. "Cybernetics" is derived from Greek "kybernetike", which means governance. So cybernetics is a scientific study of governance, or of governability. This study is transdisciplinary. Cybernetics shares its larger purpose with general systems science, and with the systems sciences more generally—which is to study systems of all kinds, both natural and human-made, in order to understand how a system's <em>structure</em> influences or "drives" its behavior. And to to then use this understanding create and handle systems of all kinds—and social systems in particular. So all we'll need from cybernetics, to answer our question, is the obvious insight that <em>motivated</em> its development.</p>
<p>All we'll need from cybernetics, to begin our quest, is the obvious insight that <em>motivated</em> its development: In a bus without a steering wheel and without proper headlights, which is speeding through uncharted terrain in the darkness of the night—<em>nobody</em> is in control. You might have seen someone sitting in the driver's seat (Donald Trump; the people who elected him), and believed that he was driving. But the moment you've examined the <em>structure</em> of the bus, you've understood that you were wrong, because driving simply isn't <em>physically</em> possible. </p>  
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<p>Which is that in a bus without a steering wheel and without proper headlights, which is speeding through uncharted terrain in the darkness of the night—<em>nobody</em> is in control!</p>
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<p>You might be seeing someone sitting in the driver's seat (Donald Trump; the people who elected him); and <em>believing</em>  that he's driving. But the moment you've examined the <em>structure</em> of the bus you've understood that you were wrong—because driving it isn't <em>physically</em> possible. </p>
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<p>Does our "democracy" have that sort of structure?</p>  
  
 
<h3>Democracy needs brakes</h3>  
 
<h3>Democracy needs brakes</h3>  
 
<p>We intend to begin the Cybernetics of Democracy book by telling the story of Jørgen Randers, who in 1969, having just graduated from college, traveled from Oslo to Boston to do a doctorate in physics at MIT. And who upon hearing a lecture by Jay Forrester, decided that his study would be in systems sciences, or in "system dynamics" more precisely. </p>
 
<p>We intend to begin the Cybernetics of Democracy book by telling the story of Jørgen Randers, who in 1969, having just graduated from college, traveled from Oslo to Boston to do a doctorate in physics at MIT. And who upon hearing a lecture by Jay Forrester, decided that his study would be in systems sciences, or in "system dynamics" more precisely. </p>
<p>In 1972, Randers became one of the authors of The Club of Rome's first and most widely read book report "The Limits to Growth". What followed was an exhausting series of completely nonsensical debates. He and his three co-authors, whose average age was 25, were called "doomsday prophets", and severely attacked from all sides. The real issue was all but completely ignored. And their point, about this real issue, was hardly debatable: It was that our 'bus' (the human system growing at an accelerating speed on a finite planet) must have 'brakes', to avoid crashing. </p>  
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<p>In 1972, Randers became one of the authors of The Club of Rome's first and most widely read book report "The Limits to Growth". What followed was an exhausting series of completely nonsensical debates. He and his three co-authors, whose average age was 25, were called "doomsday prophets", and severely attacked. What they were <em>really</em> saying was, however, completely obviously (it didn't even require computer simulation)—and completely ignored. Their point was, namely, that a 'bus' (a human system growing at an accelerating speed on a finite planet) must have 'brakes' to avoid crashing. </p>  
<p>[https://youtu.be/0141gupAryM?t=225 Hear Randers summarize his forty years of experience] at the 40th anniversary of The Limits to Growth at the Smithsonian), by declaring:
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<p>[https://youtu.be/0141gupAryM?t=225 Hear Randers summarize his forty years of experience] (at the 40th anniversary of The Limits to Growth at the Smithsonian), by declaring:
 
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"The horrible fact is that democracy, and capitalism, will not solve those problems. We do need a fundamental paradigm shift in the area of <em>governance</em>."
 
"The horrible fact is that democracy, and capitalism, will not solve those problems. We do need a fundamental paradigm shift in the area of <em>governance</em>."
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<h3>Social systems behave counterintuitively</h3>  
 
<h3>Social systems behave counterintuitively</h3>  
<p>Jay Forrester was a computer machinery pioneer. In 1956, with several patents and an MIT professor chair, he got the idea that this intelligent new machine could be used for a whole new purpose—to model social systems, and experiment with ways in which their structure influences their behavior.</p>  
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<p>Jay Forrester was a creative computing pioneer, who contributed to the computer revolution. In 1956, with several patents and an MIT professor chair, he got the idea that this new machine could be used for a whole new purpose—to model social systems, and understand their behavior.</p>  
<p>A colleague who had earlier been the mayor of Boston moved to an office near by, and told him that he often noticed how applying the obvious policy to solve a problem made the problem <em>worse</em>. So Forrester made models, and found that this "counterintuitive behavior of social systems" (the title of Forrester's 1971 paper) is a rule rather than exception. Social systems are "complex" or "non-linear dynamic systems", which all share that property.</p>  
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<p>A colleague who had earlier been the mayor of Boston moved to an office near by, and told him how he often noticed that applying the obvious policy to solve a recurring problem made the problem <em>worse</em>. Forrester made models, and found that this "counterintuitive behavior of social systems" (the title his 1971 research article) was a rule rather than exception. Social systems share that property with all "complex" or "non-linear dynamic systems".</p>  
<p>Forrester lobbied to present his insight to the American congress.</p>  
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<p>Forrester lobbied to present this insight to the American congress.</p>  
  
 
<h3>Social systems must be "anticipatory"</h3>
 
<h3>Social systems must be "anticipatory"</h3>
<p>As a mathematical biologist, focusing specifically on the issue of democracy while on sabbatical in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, in 1972, showed that to be viable, social systems must share a property shared by all living systems—namely that they must use predictions to govern their present behavior (instead of only <em>reacting</em> to stimuli from their environment). He later summarized his findings in the book titled "Anticipatory Systems", with subtitle "Philosophical, Mathematica and Methodological Foundations".</p>
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<p>As a mathematical biologist, focusing specifically on the issue of democracy while on sabbatical in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, in 1972, Robert Rosen showed that to be viable, social systems must share a property shared by all living systems—namely that they must be "anticipatory" (make predictions of the future to govern their present behavior). He later summarized his findings in the book titled "Anticipatory Systems", with subtitle "Philosophical, Mathematica and Methodological Foundations".</p>
  
<h3>Democracy must evolve</h3>  
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<h3>The mother of all our problems is a paradox</h3>  
<p>A half-century after the mentioned insights were made, our "democracy" is notoriously still only <em>reacting</em> to contingencies. Our "policy makers" are experts in keeping the 'bus' on its <em>present</em> course. In keeping the economy growing—for another four-year term.</p>
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<p>A half-century after the mentioned insights have been made, our "democracy" is still only <em>reacting</em> to contingencies. Our "policy makers" are experts in doing no more than keeping the 'bus' on its <em>present</em> course (keeping the economy growing—for another four-year term).</p>
<p>The Club of Rome's 1972 simulation study did exactly what Forrester and Rosen found a democracy <em>must</em> be able to do—namely to make predictions; to see where it's headed. But neither our voters nor our politicians have even a faintest clue that those "doomsday prophets" might have been right in a <em>fundamental</em> way—that they were trying to add to "democracy" a capability it <em>must</em> have—the capability to 'steer'!</p>  
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<p>You might have noticed that The Club of Rome's 1972 simulation study did exactly what Forrester and Rosen found a democracy <em>must</em> be able to do—make models and predictions, to see what sort of condition its present course is leading to. But neither the voters nor the politicians have, even today, a faintest clue that those "doomsday prophets" were just trying to add to our "democracy" a capability that any system of control that deserves that name <em>must</em> have—the capability to 'steer'!</p>  
<p>So the problem of democracy, and by extension our other problems as well, are instances of a single <em>fundamental</em> problem—that we are no longer <em>using</em> information—even when, or <em>especially</em> when, this information is telling us what updates we need to make to our social "machinery", to become able to 'steer', or in other words to take care of our problems. </p>  
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<p>And so the root problem of our democracy, and by extension of our various other problems as well, is not at all a problem but a paradox: <em>We are not using information</em> to understand our world and modify our behavior!</p>  
<p>To give this all-important issue visibility and citizenship rights, we have given it a name: the <em>Wiener's paradox</em>. </p>  
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<p>And we are not doing that <em>even</em> when this information is telling us what our systems must be like, if we should <em>become</em> capable of using information to see where we are headed, and what's going on!</p><p>To point to this most intriguing and no less alarming issue, to give it visibility and citizenship rights, we have given it a name: the <em>Wiener's paradox</em>. </p>
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<p>David Bohm left us this clue, how we may (<em>not</em>!) be able to handle it:</p> 
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<blockquote>As long as a paradox is treated as a problem, it can never be dissolved.</blockquote>  
 
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<div class="col-md-3"><h2><em>Wiener's paradox</em></h2></div>
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<div class="col-md-7"><h3>We are back to 'square one'</h3>
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<p>What we have seen so far is what we pointed out to begin with—that "knowledge work has a flat tire". Before we tell you how this issue needs to be handled—a solution that was in principle proposed already in 1945 (yes, this too has been ignored), and <em>developed</em> with audacious novelty and in profound detail well beyond that early vision by 1968 (we are calling this solution <em>collective mind</em>)—we will remain a moment longer with the paradox. We want to tell you <em>why</em> exactly we are calling it <em>Wiener's paradox</em>. And by doing that, share a story whose points should not be missed.</p>
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<p>We've already explained the <em>Wiener's paradox</em> by sharing the Wiener-Jantsch-Reagan <em>thread</em> ([http://kf.wikiwiki.ifi.uio.no/CONVERSATIONS#WienersParadox on this website], and then again [https://holoscope.info/2019/02/07/knowledge-federation-dot-org/#Jantsch in a blog post], we'll here only mention a couple of important points we've omitted there, and highlight the conclusions.</p> 
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<h3>We don't really need knowledge</h3>
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<p>The bottom line, which we'll see once again elaborated by Norbert Wiener in his 1948 seminal Cybernetics, is that the all-important link between information and action, between 'headlights' and 'steering', or between "feedback and control" as a cybernetician might say it, has been severed. It no longer exists.</p>
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<p>How could such a thing happen in an advanced civilization like ours?</p>
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<p>The reason is a popular myth (recall Galilei in house arrest). The idea, all too familiar, is that we don't really need information to steer the right course, because each of us can just "freely choose" what we might want or need—and the magical "invisible hand" of the "free market" will turn our choices into the greatest common good; and create the best possible world for all.</p>
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<p>You will easily recognize in this myth, and in the social conditions it fosters, an ideal breeding ground for <em>power structures</em>. And you may rightly wonder whether this myth is all that's written in that book in the Power Structure <em>ideogram</em>. </p>
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<h3>Enter cybernetics</h3>
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<p>"Nonsense!" Wiener warned us in 1948, in the last chapter of Cybernetics. And to make his point, he uses another cybernetic technical keyword, "homeostasis", which we may suitably translate into our contemporary public speech as "sustainability". The market will <em>not</em> lead us to a sustainable course! The severed link between information and action must be rebuilt!</p>
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<p>Cybernetics was envisioned as an academic transdisciplinary field, which would provide the suitable knowledge for this rebuilding.</p>
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<p>Erich Jantsch, once again, plays the role of a visionary thinker who not only <em>saw</em> what needed to be done to break the spell of the paradox—but also, and most importantly, <em>did it</em>. <p>
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<p>Ronald Reagan steps in to save the day for the <em>power structure</em>—by winning the 1980 elections on <em>its</em> agenda. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0141gupAryM&feature=youtu.be&t=95 Hear Reagan erase the effects of The Limits to Growth study]—with the kind of charming nonsense that characterizes the contemporary political discourse.</p>
  
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<div class="col-md-3"><h2><em>Wiener's paradox</em></h2></div>
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As long as a paradox is treated as a problem, it can never be dissolved,
 
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observed David Bohm.</p>
 
  
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<p>We use this <em>keyword</em>, the <em>Wiener's paradox</em>, to point to a sensationally alarming reality—that <em>entire academic fields</em> may fail to deliver to our society even the single core insights that the society needs to receive from them; the ones that would make a difference.</p>  
 
<p>We use this <em>keyword</em>, the <em>Wiener's paradox</em>, to point to a sensationally alarming reality—that <em>entire academic fields</em> may fail to deliver to our society even the single core insights that the society needs to receive from them; the ones that would make a difference.</p>  
 
<p>And that all the publishing <em>may further obscure</em> that insight.</p>  
 
<p>And that all the publishing <em>may further obscure</em> that insight.</p>  

Latest revision as of 05:24, 8 September 2020

H O L O T O P I A:    F I V E    I N S I G H T S



The printing press revolutionized communication, and enabled the Enlightenment. But the Internet and the interactive digital media constitute a similar revolution. Hasn't the change we are proposing, from the 'candle' to the 'lightbulb', already been completed?

We look at the socio-technical system by which information is produced and handled in our society, which the new information technology helped us create; and we zoom in on its structure. We readily see that its principle of operation has remained broadcasting—which suited the printing press, but when applied to the new technology exacerbates problems, instead of enabling solutions.

We see, in other words, that we are using our wonderful new technology to do no better than create 'electrical candles'.