Dear Diary: I believe the path to any new normal begins inside each of us. We are each on our own personal journeys. This has always been true. Each day we create ourselves anew. We bring forward our best self and leave the residue behind, like shedding our skins. Each day each person reconnects with the others with whom we share this time and space. Together we generate new value that looks a lot like the old value. There can be no other way forward. Over millions of years our evolution has done exactly the same. Endlessly our genes diverge and converge and emerge while our planet allows. What is change in millennia? What will you take to your grave, to the other side? What will you leave behind? That is your path. That others may follow.
Chant, rhythm and song are an ancient and perhaps universal path to meditation and maybe even enlightenment. Different cultures have their own approach. Here is a sampling to fill your mind with a profound emptiness.
Meditation is a way for the seer to see the seer within.
As the total volume of published and shared knowledge continues to accelerate, each of us gets a diminishing portion of the total knowledge.
What does this mean?
It means that there is an increasing probability that people you are communicating with will not share the same knowledge and assumptions.
What does this mean?
It means that when we communicate we will all have to make a greater effort in sorting out what beliefs we share in common and what we do not share in common. Otherwise we won’t understand each other.
What does this mean?
It means that we will have increasing frustration and decide more often not to continue the communication. Its not worth the effort. It also means that we will continue to experience more anxiety and even anger when we face people who do not share certain beliefs.
What does this mean?
It means that there will be growing tensions and conflicts because people can’t understand one another. We will create factions of believers and non-believers, us good ones and those crazy bad ones over there. We will create our separate tribal worldviews and go to battle against the evil-doers.
Remember the biblical tale of Babel?
How about diseconomies of scale and diminishing return on investment? This is well established doctrine in economics.
The universe follows laws of Nature. Turns out there are scaling laws that dictate that there are limits on how complex any system can be before it collapses.
What does this mean?
It means we had better start simplifying the ways in which we think about our world, in giant orders of magnitude, with giant paradigm shifts in our worldviews. We have cluttered our global civilization with too much of everything.
We can start by putting down our weapons and understand that people are not your enemies. They simply have different life experiences, education and different exposure to the pieces of the big puzzle.
The only way we will survive is by collaborating to find and create a common understanding of our world based on the variety of human knowledge. Our different and evolving worldviews are a great strength if we choose to see them as assets and not grounds for tribal divisions.
Listen and learn from others. Harmonize. Synthesize. We will all be stronger as a result!
What would happen if we took all the legacy bodies of knowledge accumulated over the past 400 years and reordered them using the ideas of modern physics and information science? Maybe we could eliminate a lot of awkward, convoluted or outdated theories and practices. Perhaps we could set the stage for a new Renaissance, or what The Economist called “a Cambrian Moment” – the world-wide explosion in entrepreneurial activities.
Most sciences, including economics, have not adopted many lessons learned at more fundamental levels of scientific explorations. Our legacy economics paradigm has unnecessary constraints and gaps. We have been getting by because Nature is flexible and we have been able to find sufficient solutions to wayfinding.
In any economic system, adding just one more person, idea or product results in exponential growth in the number of possible interdependencies within the system. So far, these “network effects”have been beneficial. But with accelerating civil complexity, including exponential growth of information, ideas, publications and technologies, our wiggle room is shrinking.
Meanwhile, each individual’s capacity to process information becomes a bottleneck; each of us gets a diminishing portion of all knowledge we collectively produce. Scaling laws dictate that a diseconomy of scale will ultimately restrict growth of economic complexity.
Civilization is an experimental network system that is trying to preserve humanity against the demands of Nature, including the forces of entropy. In order to increase our management capacity, we have built clever theoretical models of how markets work, how economies grow, and how to scale and optimize production.
We also built collaborative intelligence into our bureaucracies. We are even adopting artificial intelligence to manage the volumes of data and assist us in decision-making. However, it is a mathematical probability that our collective civil complexity will outpace our individual, organizational and digital capacity to manage complexity. There is a tipping point with a general diseconomy of scale and diminishing returns on investment.
A new paradigm for managing economic development
Physicist César Hidalgo, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, takes a radically different approach in how we can manage development of our economies. In his book, Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, he argues that if we want to improve the prospects for local, regional and national economic development, we should seriously consider not only the metaphorical ecosystems but the actual physics of information.
Rather than using conventional social science theory, Hidalgo uses physics and information science to explain how everything from atoms to economies evolve and grow. This provides us with a much broader base of concepts and principles with which we can play and perhaps arrive at a super-model for development.
The new paradigm is more efficient and effective in enabling us to imagine our world, complete with technological and economic development. Hidalgo describes the economy as “the system by which people accumulate knowledge and knowhow to create packets of physical order, or products, that augment our capacity to accumulate more knowledge and knowhow and, in turn, accumulate more information.”
Hildago explains that unlike other species, humans have developed an enormous ability to encode large bodies of information outside our bodies – including information embodied in artifacts or objects that we imagine. “Cities, firms and teams are the embodiment of the pockets where our species accumulates the capacity to build [packets of] information,” he says.
Packets of information, such as those generated by an economic region, grow because these network systems use feedback loops to self-replicate and mutate. Generally, there is a reduced risk and higher return on investment by selectively following in the footsteps of success. Platforms, such as incorporation, patents, stock markets and standardized parts, all support this.
According to Hidalgo, the best measure of regional economic diversification is not GDP but the number of distinct products and processes (services) produced in a region. Further, the best region for producing a new drone would be a region that is currently producing helicopters rather than boots.
Hidalgo’s work has a sobering message for policy makers, as Eric Beinhocker, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, points out in his review of Hidalgo’s book. This message is: “Growth comes primarily from moving to adjacent opportunities in the product space.”
Information science can benefit regional economies
To stimulate innovation on the shoulders of existing products and processes and thereby increase regional economic diversification and growth, there should be a shared visual database of products and services produced.
Many good models and tools have been created in the information science sub-disciplines of systems science, cybernetics, and management science. Several of these models and tools, such as optimization, have been adopted by business managers.
At Wayfinders Business Co-operative, we are building a web-based platform that will incorporate these foundational concepts and principles to support not only businesses but their regional business ecosystems. Canadians can adopt these models and tools and apply them more broadly in policy, research and investment, as in:
Government Policy: Reconstruct regional development models and policy frameworks using the concepts and tools of foundational information theory;
Research: Collect the appropriate economic data and analyze it in the context of the more meaningful information systems models. This may involve use of machine learning algorithms and gaming simulations;
Investment: Investors, as key stakeholders in regional development, can use information science to better shape investment decision tables and dialogue.
Better utilizing information science would help Canada to take the lead in new management strategies. This will not produce a utopia. The Laws of Nature still prevail. But at least this will buy us some time to reconfigure the way we manage our world for sustainability. On the other hand, continuing with the old strategies – including outmoded economic theories – of the 19th and 20th centuries will ensure Canada’s place as a laggard as opposed to a leader.
Sure, its an over-used expression. But it is true. We are better together. Here are four ways in which we are better together.
· More is Better: You have a problem. Maybe you need to find work and make some money. Ask a group of people for a solution, maybe a job referral. You will get a number of answers or referrals. There is a good probability that you will get an answer that is better than your own, something you hadn’t thought of (remember to return the favour).
· Crowdsource Wisdom: You have a question. Maybe you need to estimate how long it takes to complete a standard project xyz. You ask a large number of qualified people to give their best estimates. Perhaps no one has exactly the right answer. But there is a good probability that the average of all those answers is very close!
· Brainstorming Synergy: You need a creative new solution because the old ones aren’t working. Maybe you need a new slogan for your business. You describe the situation and ask for input from a number of friends. They separately submit their own ideas to a pool or forum. Everyone reviews the shared ideas. Then in a second round of brainstorming they start thinking of new ideas that they hadn’t thought of earlier. You now have a lot of great ideas! You can then run a third round with the group to critically review and select the best new original idea! This is synergy, where the whole (group) is greater than or different from the sum of the parts (individuals).
· Apply Talent to Task: You need to complete a project but you don’t have all the required skills for the various project components. Recruit trusted people who have the talents that you don’t have and delegate the appropriate tasks to them. Recognize and reward them accordingly. Rinse and repeat!
Humans have always been social animals who depend on co-operation. As our world gets more complex we need to turn more often to these simple methods of collective intelligence to expand our world of possibilities and get things done!
Keep in mind the following:
Make it FUN!: Creativity can be fun for its own sake, but making it fun will attract more people and probably generate more good ideas.
Reciprocate: It can be difficult to evaluate each person’s contribution, so keep track and be ready to help others in a similar fashion when they ask. This should be a win-win experience.
Give Credit: Show appreciation for the contributions of others, even small contributions. This builds a culture of collaboration that serves everyone.
Diversity and Inclusion: This is not a political movement, its always been part of the facts of life — including a diverse range of backgrounds in your group will usually produce better surprises and outcomes
Trust and Respect: Trust, respect and fair play will always be valid requirements for any collaboration. It will usually be reciprocated.
While in training for cognitive coaching years ago, I learned that people under stress resort to their areas of greatest strengths. This means that whatever are your dominant talents, dispositions, or personality traits, these will become more pronounced in your thinking.
From an evolutionary psychology POV, this is probably an inherited survival strategy for the community. We bond over a common outside threat and specialize in what we do best to play our roles.
At the same time, under times of stress we become more inclined to follow a strong and smart leader (of your choice), focus and prepare to follow the mission strategy. The natural leader has a personal strength of being able to 1) assess a situation (opportunities and threats), 2) stay cool, 3) understand the human resources (strengths and weaknesses), 4) strategize and 5) appropriately delegate task to talent. A temporary steeper social hierarchy of control emerges for unified action.
Mother Nature made you a creative problem-solver within your domain, so ‘necessity is the Mother of invention!’ So, follow your inner Nature. Follow your chosen leader. Let your talents and passions flow. May the force of Nature be within you!
All of this flows so naturally that you are almost completely unaware. But you feel the stress hormones in your blood – adrenaline and cortisol. You are ready to do battle or engage the most dangerous game. You are pumped, but now the directions are unclear. We’re just told to ‘stay put‘.
In our ancestral tribal past we knew the leaders, our allies and the enemies. Our plans were practiced and perfected. But now, ‘someone stepped on the ant hill’. We don’t know our positions. We desperately seek sound leaders, their plans and our allies. Today, communicating on the web is like talking to the souls of the disembodied dead. The enemy is invisible but we see them everywhere. We disagree on leaders. Potential allies are either ghastly outspoken radicals or they’re dead quiet.
We need to pause, raise our mindfulness, divert our focus and energies from battle readiness to something constructive, like building our future together. Getting into shape. Putting our homes in order. Making new friends. Starting or reinventing your business. Building a better community. Joining an energy conservation initiative. The options are limitless. Start small or build on your accomplishments and test reality.
Your body has received a call to action!
Divert the stress to a constructive activity that calls for your special talents and passions! Now is the time to deploy your super-powers for the good of humanity and our planet!
I find myself moving away from moral judgement and toward psychological analysis and treatment of the many people who are not dealing effectively with our current reality. To help those who are suffering from delusions, anger or depression we need a different approach than moral condemnation. This just does not work.
Even if psychology is wrong, at least it is trying to understand people and their behaviour in a methodical manner (science) and over the long run gets closer to some practical truth.
Moral condemnation, on the other hand, is an instinctive reaction that makes no attempt to understand and appreciate another person’s state of mind. Also, it just doesn’t work. It may make you feel good about your self for a moment.
Shaming someone who does not wear a mask in a public place could start a fight. Or maybe it gets them to wear a mask next time they see you. It does not change the underlying attitudes, values or beliefs that lead to the original behaviour. Actually, it is likely to completely backfire and stir defiance and revenge against your kind (whatever that is).
We need to be patient and take time to understand and appreciate different perspectives and life experiences. That’s hard because just about every normal human believes they are smarter, more attractive, more hard-working and more moral than average. You want to believe you are right. You have many friends who feel the same way.
But you also believe in goodness, justice, love, tolerance, etc.. We need to be mindful and exercise these in challenging times
I am starting to believe that politics derives from morality, and morality derives from some innate sense of right and wrong, but which can vary somewhat from one person to another, and is invariably shaped by culture and life experience.
Personal diversity is part of Nature’s plan, except for maybe narcissists, which appear to be mistakes, or at least deviants from Nature’s purpose. Our diversity is a way to cover all the bases because we each cannot meet all the necessary requirements for success.
Also, sometimes people under pressure act badly regardless of their moral beliefs and values.
Giving appreciation and forgiveness have both been shown to promote mental health, well-being and happiness.
Consider and appreciate the biggest miracle gift of all.
You and I exist.
No one can explain that.
We cannot even comprehend the alternative — that nothing at all exists.
By default, nothing should exist, not even space and time. No energy or matter, no information or knowledge.
Yet here we are!
Even grasping the notion of God as creator does not help explain, since how could any God possibly exist?
As for our mental health, much of the stress and background anxiety we experience today is a result of the growing civil complexity. We have too many things happening too fast. Its making us all emotionally sick.
Our species has been too successful. Civilization is approaching the maximum, a tipping point, beyond which civil order is not sustainable. It is called a diseconomy of scale and it results in diminishing returns on investment. In other words, it will take too much energy and effort to maintain order. We facing the universal and inevitable Scaling Laws of Nature.
We are beginning to live in fear that someone Evil is trying to control us. Is it the radical right or the radical left? Is it a violent religious sect? Is the super-rich? Is it the impending robot nation and cyber-masters? Someone with too much testosterone in their system wants total control — winner take all!
When the background anxiety reaches a feverish pitch we grasp for the offending target. All our worries consolidate around and fixate on that source of our concern. We go into an instinctive ‘fight or flight‘ mode.
And, yes, many testosterone pumped sociopaths are in fact trying to self-actualize by grabbing the opportunities amidst the chaos. They sense your fear and leverage it. So paranoia is not unjustified. It may be your hero who’s telling you exactly what you want to hear. You’ve been anesthetized by reassuring words and more importantly, the hero’s confident persuasive body language.
Problem is, we are blindfolded by information overload, propaganda and disinformation. We draw a blank, suspended in a dancing landscape. We desperately seek a simple fact, a single target as our enemy. We reduce to right and wrong, good and evil. “Where is the off switch?”
We cancel the Evil ones and their propagandists while blindly following our Saint’s dictums and mantras like faithful worshipers and soldiers.
But reality is not simple. Though times have been simpler in the past, its hard to recover any sense of a common destiny, an implicit bond of trust, or a oneness with something bigger.
Yet, as surely as we face an Evil enemy, we must also face our own fears and understand that those fears are there to protect us. They are trying to do their job. Maybe it is our fear itself that we must manage first before we can continue our search for truth and goodness in the confusion and chaos.
Elements of Our Nature
The miracle gift we have received consists of just two ‘things’ — entities and events, embedded in space and time. We are entities and we live in a continuous stream of events. There are only two events (processes) that living entities like us do in time — they come together and they go apart. Like addition and subtraction operating in every infinitesimal fraction of an instant.
Hence, in our most reptilian brain we approach or avoid. We approachopportunities to continue and we avoid threats so we can continue. We feel love and joy as we approach opportunities and we feel hate and fear as we avoid threats. Its simple. Its biological.
In a sharply polarized political landscape our social instincts are hard at work getting us to align with one side or the other. “You are with us or you are against us”, say both sides. “You must choose!”
Throughout history, war has usually been about neighbouring geographic communities struggling for control over territorial resources. But our current scenario is a dramatic moment of radical civil bifurcation. Its not about geography. But it is a psycho-social phenomenon. Knowing that no one has a monopoly on truth and goodness, you can choose to work the middle ground between right and left.
Left and right are artificial constructs, legacies of a bygone era. There is no scientific basis for this bipolar spectrum. At either extreme we can have either anarchy or totalitarianism. There is no way only one side can be correct. But your needs for defense and social solidarity will align you with one or the other.
You can know in your heart that Nature (or God) created people who are different for a purpose. Its not an accident that we all vary in personality, intelligence, innate preferences and talents. We were designed by Nature to work together and share in the collective outcomes – whether you’re left or right!
These diverse gifts make us stronger as a species. That’s why there are so many of us!
If there is one thing to be grateful for at this Thanksgiving 2020, it is that you still have the faculties to see through your fears and hates. You have the potential to see the goodness in others in spite of both outward and inward differences.
You know that Humanity would not be where it is today, with all of our knowledge, progress and well-being unless people we don’t know or understand were creating a continuous stream of value for the common good.
I include entrepreneurs, inventors, bookkeepers and social workers. I appreciate their work and the work of engineers and equipment operators, teachers and administrators. I am grateful for those retired from their past labours as well as those young who are yet to contribute.
In spite of any political, religious, racial, or ethnic differences, I appreciate your contribution to making our world a better place.
As for the sociopaths (Narcissistic, Histrionic and Anti-social personality disorders) among us ? Without empathy, they should not be holding public office or running public corporations. If they commit crimes, they should not be punished, but locked up. I do believe that Nature makes the occasional mistake. Some may be treated, and others, maybe no so much.
The world can be a better place if we take this to heart and once again, in the spirit of community, see the goodness in others. It would be good for our mental health to take time to break down social, cultural, economic and political barriers and explore our common Humanity in each of us.