November 15, 1996
In a world where complexity is rising exponentially, your team, the team you're a member of, the team you lead, or the team your personal savings are invested in, is going to be put to the test. Like the members of the Apollo 13 team, the probability is that you and your team will face a deeply transformative challenge which thrusts itself upon you out of the void. The question is, can your team dance the transcendent "dance" which wrests order from chaos? The time to answer that question is now, before your "power supplies" are threatened.
This discussion draws on all other notes on this web page in an attempt to give you guiding imagery so that you can discriminate in advance, as to whether your team is a team of mechanistic replicants who will be hopelessly lost and confused when called upon to dance the "BladeRunner Ballet", or whether it harbors, still, a consciousness, sufficiently deep and powerful, to transcend such challenges.
This note is particularly directed to younger people who are just awakening to the obscene inadequacy of organizational and thinking tools bequeathed to them by their educators and business "leaders". Peruse this note carefully, as your advance preparations may determine whether your team's close encounter with chaos will see you all lost-in-space, or enjoying a "safe home".
Science and Models:
Despite all the sophistry which surrounds scientific models, you must keep one thing in mind; the models in your head must check out, to the highest possible degree of consistency, with the way your sensibilities inform you that things work in the outside world. Don't be misled by the pedants who tell you that this "rule" or way of thinking is better than that way. In the end, it is the consistency of your intellectual model with your sensory perception of the world, which matters, not some tortuous arguments about the superiority of this method over that. To paraphrase Poincare, our interconnected world is intrinsically complex, we must leverage all useful models.
That being said, there are two models vying for the title of "best". However, you don't have to choose, you can profitably use both. But beware of those who would advise you to use only one or the other, particularly if such individuals lead the team you are on, or the team/s where your life savings are invested.
It is critically important to be aware of, and familiar with these two very different models for perceiving and responding to the world; i.e. the "conscious" model and the "mechanistic" model, and how they relate. This is the primary purpose of this note.
The fact is that we in the West have, over the past 2500 years, indoctrinated ourselves to believe that the mechanistic model is superior and sufficient for all needs. In the twentieth century, Quantum Physics and the nonlinear sciences have refuted this claim, pointing out the need for dual models, but this knowledge is only just beginning to impact our perceptive and behavioral models, even amongst the scientific community.
For some, it is too late to change, for others, change will require a significant emotional experience (such as the Apollo 13 team experience). Your mission, should you be willing to undertake it, is to pre-determine the nature of your team so that you can effect the required change in either your team or your location. Are your teammates incorrigible mechanistic replicants? ... or is the "right stuff" lying dormant in them, waiting for the right opportunity to emerge? When the "BladeRunner" music commences, will they get up to dance ... or will they not?
Conscious versus Mechanistic Rationality Models
Consciousness emerges out of a "bootstrapping" process as opposed to a mechanistic "construction" process. "Bootstrapping" entails nonlinear recursive interactions between different systems (i.e. people, organizations, natural systems). In psychological terms, we are talking about the formation of the "self" through recursive interactions between behavior and experience. By perceiving and responding to external behaviors, we build our experience and our sense of "self". As described elsewhere on this web page, "self" (S) can be characterized by a suite of behaviors (B) which are spawned by a repository of experience (E); or, S = B +i*E. There is a complex relationship here because of the "latent" role of experience in determining our "tangible" behaviors. This is a "dipolar" oscillatory model which implies both "phase" and "harmonics". Consciousness is what equips us to "dance", i.e. to go beyond the mechanistic "replicant shuffle".
Mechanistic rationality is a useful subset of conscious rationality. It is useful if it is not put forth as a "sufficient" model for all of our perceptive and behavioral needs. While it has been around for ever, it was most memorably defined and formalized by Rene Descartes in his "Discours ...". What receives little mention, however, is that Descartes tore up his non-Aristotelian or "conscious" rationality model, "Le Monde", in 1633 when he heard what the church was doing to Galileo. In his introduction to "Discours ..." (which appears elsewhere on this web page) he justifies the mechanistic model on the basis that it provides a strict basis for "ruling" which suppresses "evil-doing". Thus, the pervasive use of the mechanistic approach, in Descartes mind, is influenced as much by political and religious, as by scientific considerations.
The mechanistic or mechanical-causal model operates in the "foreground" of our consciousness, thus it is both subordinate and complementary to overall consciousness. It is the model which many have assumed is the only necessary model. It advises us; to accept nothing as true until proven, to fragment problems into pieces, to solve problems bottom-up dealing with the smallest parts first, and to study the problem so extensively and so intensively as to leave nothing unconsidered. In other words, to be anal-retentive about everything.
The message of Poincare, in contrast, is that one needs a proficiency in utilizing both models. The common and disturbing fallout of the adoption of Cartesian thinking, as noted by psychologists such as R. D. Laing, is that we habitually deny our own consciousness and try to live in the world exclusively via the mechanistic model.
So, the question to ask here is, do my teammates embrace and exercise their own consciousness, or do they believe in the sufficiency of mechanistic thought?
The Limits of Rationality
Until Kurt Goedel came up with his famous "Goedel's Theorem" in 1931, it was widely believed, even by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, that the mechanical-causal model pretty much as laid down by Aristotle in 450 BC, provided all the rationality needed to navigate in our natural world. Goedel's Theorem was a shocker in that it showed mechanistic logic to be "incomplete". The implication was that we were highly exposed to the building-in of inconsistencies and false inference when we used this limited mechanistic rationality to explain complex phenomena. In other words, all of nature cannot be explained in terms of a string of real binary bits, or computer code. An important corollary is that we need something more than "replicants" on our teams.
Quantum physicists such as David Bohm have pointed out that rationality goes well beyond causality. It deals with the higher degrees of order in nature which science and so-called "rational" models have long ignored. What are some of the higher degrees of order which conscious rationality handles but mechanistic rationality does not? If you have a suspected "replicant" on your team, show them a right-handed male gas fitting and ask them to fetch you a female fitting which "is", to the one you're holding, as a left hand glove "is" to one's right hand. What you are then describing is the common fitting which attaches to a propane tank on a barbecue. The "transform" implicit in the description is a turning-around in four dimensional space;l something which is easily handled by our consciousness, but which poses problems to our mechanistic rationality (imagine the length of the bit string required to describe this transform).
The point is, that mechanistic causal rationality represents no more than a small subset of our conscious rationality. In an environment where the signal to noise level is very low, that is, where there is a lot of complexity and disorder relative to the amount of order (e.g. the Apollo 13 scenario after the oxygen tank blew out), the ability to discriminate signal in the presence of noise becomes critical (i.e. the ability to extract order from chaos). Mechanistic rationality is no match for full consciousness in complex environments, since consciousness detects degrees of order which are invisible to mechanistic perspective.
The question to ask here is whether all team members trust their own and each others ability to use conscious rationality beyond the limits of causality. Are detailed causal explanations for everything insisted upon (i.e. is the Cartesian doctrine to "accept nothing as true which is not proven" legislated?), or is deep eye contact sufficient for making decisions. Since there are no "causal" or tangible measures when one "locks on" to high dimensional order, honesty and trust within the team become an imperative.
Pleasure and Resilience in Conscious versus Mechanistic Models
The "bootstrapping" or "conscious" model for developing a view of the world has very different "failsafe" and pleasure-giving attributes, relative to the mechanistic model.
It's useful to consider the analogy between consciousness and holography in illustrating this point. Optical holography involves the projection of dual beams of coherent light (phase lagged with respect to one another) at some spatial configuration of objects, and the recording of the interference patterns back-scattered from the objects. Through subsequent illumination of the interference patterns using the same coherent energy frequency, an image of the original spatial configuration emerges.
In the case of conscious cognition, we are dealing not with a static configuration but with space-time dynamics. The "coherency" which illuminates scenarios exposed by our sensibilities is the familiar "consistency" we are always looking for in science, while the interference patterns are the behavioral interactions which are our first line of observations of reality. The larger and deeper "reality" which we would like to image is what lies behind the behavioral "interferograms" which our sensibilities deliver to our consciousness. If we can discover the consistencies (i.e. coherency) common to our observational "interferograms", we can illuminate the "reality" behind the observations. In the terms of psychology, can illuminate the "experience" (latent potentials) from which behavior emerges.
The better we get at determining the consistencies, the better we get at imaging reality, and the greater the variety of observations we accumulate, the higher will be the resolution of our image of reality. Thus consciousness is analogous to holography, while "science" (in its Popperian or Poincare'ian sense) is analogous to a coherent laser beam which can illuminate reality.
The inherent difference in this approach to building reality imagery from "sensibility reports", relative to the mechanistic approach, is illustrated by the following scenario;
If I am a lazy person, the "bootstrapping" or "consciousness" approach has some appealing features. For example, assume that I set out to visit all the pubs in London, having a pint or two in each one whilst joining in the merriment and opening my senses wide to external goings-on. However, during these sessions, I do not trouble myself to do analysis or to make any discrete judgements on what's right or wrong or what effects are caused by what actions etc. Suppressing, in this manner, my mechanistic modeling approach in no way inhibits experiential imagery from involuntarily forming and resolving itself in my mind. Self-determining patterns of coherency freely emerge from the chaos and disorder of the diverse accumulated interferograms reported on by my sensibilities, whether I like it or not.
By the time I walk into pub number 1,001, I "know" something about "experience and behavior", about "love and love-making", "caring and tenderness", "good humor and jocularity" and "anger and violence". In other words, I have an "image" of "reality"' i.e. of the latent potentials which spawn these interfering behaviors, which is independent of any mechanistic assembling of discrete Cartesian "truth" bits. And as I experience new situations in pub 1,001, I do not need a set of mechano-analytic rules to "know" when or why the couple is going to embrace, when or why the troubled person's companion is going to reach out and take their hand in consolation, when or why the stout jovial fellow is going to clap his mate on the back and laughingly hug him, or when or why the dark smoldering figure in the corner is going to erupt like Mount Etna and splatter someone's blood over the pub furnishings.
There are two points to be made here. The imaging of reality acquired through "bootstrapping" just comes naturally ... you just lie back, open your mind, and let it happen. You don't need to strain your brain in distilling out rules and putting them into a clockworks hierarchy, you can just relax and observe, and the imagery will self-resolve. The second point is that it doesn't matter how much impurity and noise you let in, or how many "read errors" your sensibilities generate, because the imagery that's illuminated is necessarily restricted to that which is self-consistent, insofar as you keep your cultural or egotistical biases out of play.
This resilience of the conscious model in the face of system noise is in stark contrast to mechanistic model building which builds from snapshots of tangible thing-based causal behaviors, breaking them down into a binary bit stream and discarding all information relevant to experiential origins. In building your mechanistic model, if you make an error as you encapsulate binary truth number 4711, subsection 69a, and that grid cell is in a critical structural position in the logic hierarchy, look out! You may have just had an encounter with Goedel's theorem and your model may be riddled with false inference!
The question you must ask here is; is your team "modeling more and enjoying it less?". Because if so, they may be pushing the mechanistic model beyond its Goedellian limits. And if they persist in doing so, you may want to get out your right hand threaded gas fitting and start asking a lot of deep eye contact questions.
Mechanistic "Unipolarity" and Conscious "Dipolarity"
Nature is all about paradoxes, about a complementary- antagonism as occurs in magnetic and electric dipoles. It is about a partnership between the real and the virtual, the tangible and the emergent. It is about the ex-nihilo dance between non-periodic (never-beginning, never-ending) phase space trajectories and their imaginary, auto-defining attractors. Machinery, on the other hand, is confined to the real and the tangible; i.e. it is confined to "unipolarity".
One might rightly ask how the "unipolar" mechanistic model could have ever been thought to be sufficiently "complete" to describe an intrinsically "dipolar" natural reality. The answer might lie in the religious tradition of supplying a "deus ex machina" to "cover" for any and all significant incompleteness in the mechanistic, "unipolar" model.
As one surveys the team/s one is affiliated with, it is natural to look for two things; the capability for producing tangible results, and the capability for generating ideas. The former attribute boils down to an ability to mechanistically assemble and fabricate tangible products or services, while the latter attribute is the ability of a team to creatively interfere (knowledge-share) so as to engender new ideas and be able to transform them into fabricative processes. As described elsewhere on this web page, the value (V) of the team is given not only by its fabricative (F) capability but also by its creative (C) capability. Thus, teams have a "dipolar" value of the form; V = F + i*C.
The question which needs to be asked here is whether the team members and team leaders are putting a sufficient value on the latent-emergent "i*C" pole, and whether it is being appropriately nurtured and rewarded. While the fabricative capability can be tangibly measured, the creative aspect represents latent value resident within the higher dimensions of order which Bohm speaks to. In psychological terms, behavior is born out of experience and thus there are indicators in the domain of behavior as to the presence (or absence) of creativity in the team's experiential makeup.
"Replicants" do not possess creativity, they are pre-programmed, and operate out of ROM. A rewards and re-investment program which is solely results oriented will nurture replicants in the same measure that it nurtures conscious team members. It is through behavior, rather than tangible results that one may differentially nurture the conscious team-members and starve out the replicants, and this is what is beginning to happen in a minority of businesses (i.e. Motorola and Southwest Airlines are mentioned on this web page as two examples of companies switching to a behavior based rewards system). The questions which must be asked at feedback and nurture time are; is this team or team member a good role model? Has she/he not only delivered results but left a legacy which will go on producing after he/she is gone?
Look upon your team as you would if you strolled over to assess the players' performance in a game of billiards in progress. You would look at two parameters in each player/team; one would be results in terms of balls sunk. This would provide a measure of fabricative capability. The other parameter would deal with latent-emergent potentials and would be revealed through questions of role model and legacy. Were they sacrificing their personal scoring opportunities to improve the ball configuration for optimum team results and what legacy were they able to leave in terms of the quality of the ball configuration at the end of their turns of play? In other words, was their contribution dipolar (F + i*C) or simply mechanistic or unipolar (F)?
Conscious Communications versus Mechanistic Communications
Throughout time, we have utilized two distinctly different methods of communication; a mechanistic mode in which we build a message up through the transmission of a series of discrete real information elements (i.e. "bits"), and a "bootstrapping" or "consciousness" mode in which information is conveyed through the medium time-space straddling interference patterns. More than 2500 years ago in the Mediterranean region, linguistic communication was based on the interference between pictographs which symbolized archetypal narrative, as in Egyptian hieroglyphics. At that time, language was the protectorate of the spiritual stewards of the community. As economics and trade rose in importance, standard communications for business transactions became the driver and a more mechanistic phonetic, subject-verb-object language was developed (e.g. the Phoenician, and then Greek languages). At the same time, the control over language shifted from the spiritual, to the business stewards in the community.
In the modern era, there have been attempts to re-introduce interference based concepts into the theory of communication (e.g. Denis Gabor, 1945) without much success. While the df*dt cells of Gabor were "Quantum Physics compliant", the cultural appeal of mechanistic linear theory (e.g. the theory of Shannon and Wiener) proved to be too deeply ingrained to be dislodged by the nonlinear theory of Gabor.
While poets continue to use the medium of symbolic interference for messaging, this type of communications is banned in most mechanistic environments, such as business establishments. As is discussed elsewhere on this web page, there appears to be confusion over what is science and what is art when it comes to "dipolar" interference-based communications. Dipolar communications open the door to a "timeless" view of knowledge and information which is disturbing to many in business, since it involves intangible, non-causal phenomena.
The domain of the non-causal is large and includes such things as superstition, magic and outright bullshit. More importantly, it includes those higher degrees of order discussed by Bohm which extend our rationality well beyond causality. Unfortunately, this extended rationality is too often tainted by its proximity to bullshit to be trusted.
The point here is that we can't afford to deny the extended rationality which comes with consciousness because of the risk of its contamination by superstition or bullshit. A better approach is to get the bullshitters off the team. In hierarchical command and control systems, bullshitters tend to play one person off against the other to the point that no-one knows who is bullshitting whom the most. In a fully self-determining team, the cream rises naturally to the top and the bullshitters can be quickly flushed out.
The questions to ask here are; are interference-based communications fostered within the team? These include story-telling (i.e. narrative as opposed to "bullet" memos), symbolic visualization, role-playing, scenario planning and so on. Or, does the team constrain itself to bullet communications, procedural manuals and the management of information on a "need to know" basis?
Let the Music Begin
If you and your team/s are close to the peak of the fitness topography in reality modelling, you won't have too much to worry about if major business or technology events rattle the landscape and start boulders rumbling down the slopes. However, the farther down the slope you are, the more unaware you're likely to be and the more debris is going to come tumbling down on you. For this reason, its better to question the team's view of reality NOW and reposition either team, or self, accordingly.
In view of the above discussion, it's clear that you don't need a mechanical checklist to carry out this mission. All you need do is reconcile the image of your team with the image of your desired team and assess the shortfall. As you do this, think of what's beyond the real and tangible on your team, in the virtual domain of experience and creativity. How does your team stack up as a role model for other teams? What legacy is your team leaving for others?
And try to imagine your team's response to life-threatening challenge as it bursts forth out of the blue; as "BladeRunner" music begins to flow with weird unheard mixtures of natural harmony and mechanistic discord woven together in a reductionist nightmare, --- Can you now see coherent, graceful dance movements emerging from your team? Can you see the limits of your team's consciousness laser out, far beyond causality, tracking infinitesimal threads of order within the enveloping chaos?
 Bohm, David, "The Implicate Order", 1980
 Kuhn, Thomas, S., "The Essential Tension, 1977
 Rucker, Rudy, "Mindtools: The Five Levels of Mathematical Reality", 1987
 Gabor, Denis, "Theory of Communications", JIEE, 1945