Montréal, December 8, 1999
Blowing out the cork which keeps our cultural renaissance from foaming forth is well within our reach. The nature of the bottleneck which is holding back cultural evolution and allowing dysfunction to continue to rule the roost is far more localized than I ever imagined when I started out on my explorations into 'community as complex system'.
The critical bottleneck is in Physics, the custodian of our concepts of space and time and what we all need to do as we go into the third millenium is to 'hug a physicist' and give him or her the courage to pull a major skeleton out of the disciplinary closet.
When the skeleton is pulled out, this is the story it will tell.
Physics has chosen to ignore or back-shelf the finding of Johannes Kepler which said that the system of sun and planets together produced their own resonant 'containing field' which governed not only what the planets did, but also shaped what they 'could not do'. Physics has compounded this neglect by similarly ignoring the geometrically equivalent message in Einstein's theory of relativity for the past eighty-five years.
Classical Physics and today's mainstream Physics, Nobel prize awards included, continues to constrain itself to the study of 'what is' (the properties of things) and 'what is done' (the behaviors of things), ... and neglect 'what can be' and 'what is not done', ... the phenomenal 'topography of opportunity', if you like.
What does it matter if all science concerns itself with is 'what is done'?
Regulating our lives and organizations solely on the basis of 'what is done' leads to dissonance. If a man cannot dance, it does little good to take him aside and work with him on his 'moves' on his own, improving 'what he does' in its own right out of the context of his co-dynamical responses. Newton pointed out in his author's preface to 'Principia', as Kepler had done before him in 'Harmonies of the World', that while our science which looks at the properties and behaviors of things can explain how things work 'after the fact', ... such science cannot explain the continuously evolving triage between what could happen and what actually does happen.
Such science cannot explain why the planetary orbits came together in the mutual harmony they are in, as Newton plainly conceded. Today, our science, which continues to come at things 'bottom up' from the properties and behaviors of things, cannot explain the 'what is not done' aspects of natural phenomena, such as the gaps in Saturn's rings. As the physicist critics of this reality-avoiding 'skeleton in the closet', like Eric Jantsch have said, ... classical Physics, which is still mainstream today, is all 'ad hoc', ... it can only explain 'what is done'. Sure it can predict things. It will predict that if you hit the nine ball at such and such an angle, the cue ball and the nine ball will go off at such and such angles, .... but it won't predict that by the very act of shooting at the nine ball, you are going to be snookered behind the eight ball in the process. Physics, as the community of physics, can't tell us about geometric transformation and 'what is not done' because it has made no serious attempt to understand processes by which some things 'happen' and other things 'don't happen'. This is in spite of the fact that science knows, at least since the time of Kepler, that 'what is done' reciprocally influences 'what can be done' and 'what is not done', the opening up and closing down of opportunity.
What does this mean to us, in a practical sense?
Consider the spherical surface of the earth. It has a limited surface area which must be shared, right?, ... which used to bring forth, at least locally, the notion of a 'commons'. If we decide to form a sovereign nation and put protective borders or walls around the nation to keep the many strange breeds of 'aliens' out, ... this may seem reasonable. But as the nation expands and the walls move outwards, ... think of this in terms of a colored, circular area expanding on the surface of the earth-sphere. What happens when it gets really big?, ... as when it gets to ninety percent the total area of the surface of the 'commons' of the whole earth?
What happens is that the area outside the walls is also a circle, the same circle, which is then enclosed by the walls of the growing nation. The wild lands of the strange and diverse alien forms then shrink into an enclosed courtyard within the 'living room' of the encroaching nation. While the growing nation now looks out over their own walls into a curious little 'zoo', ... the aliens look out over their wall into a vast, enveloping colony of homogeneity. Their immersing environment has been reduced to a monolithic, encroaching colonial presence. We don't have to use the metaphor of a walled nation to demonstrate this reciprocal interference model, ...we could use a genetically modified food crop, or a banking or other economic system which was globalizing. The point is that 'what is done', the birth and growth of an activity, has a reciprocal impact on the topography of 'what can be done' and 'what is not done'. This model is not a 'warp' on reality, .... our Euclidian space and time convention is the 'warp', ... curved space-time fits with the way our reality works according to the physics which physicists keep hidden in the closet.
This model, with its reciprocal relationship between 'inner' and 'outer', ... between 'system' and 'environment' is the model given by the theory of relativity, ... the model that explains our today's dilemma in so many ways, ... environment, politics, global economy, Y2K problems, .... but it is a model which Physics has ignored since 1618 when Kepler's 'Harmonies of the World' first touched on it, ... and which was validated and extended by Einstein in his early twentieth century 'Theory of Relativity'.
What would it mean to bring it out of the closet?
It would mean that it would no longer make any sense, scientifically, to consider activity 'growth' out of the context of the reciprocal effects of that growth. It would mean that Physics would have to stand up and say, ... 'you know all those things that aren't done?, ... the child that is not fed, the black man who is not given the job, ... the environmental care that is not given, ... the minority voice which is not listened to, ... well this theory that we have kept closeted, handles that kind of stuff while the theory we have continued to use leads to management principles based solely on the properties and behaviors of things, .... on 'what is done', ... and doesn't handle the most urgent issues of the day. That's because the behavior of things is not fully determined by the 'things' in their own right, ... every 'thing' has an environmental 'reciprocal disposition' in the theory of relativity which 'co-determines' its behavior, and one cannot ignore that reciprocal disposition if one is to understand the behaviour of complex systems, ... the general case in nature.
'What are you saying, Physics?, .... that the theory you've been keeping in the closet says that all of current management on the basis of 'what is done' out of the context of reciprocal disposition, is based on flawed reasoning?, and you haven't told us about it, even as we go deeper and deeper into the mire of dysfunction and environmental toxification?'
Physics will likely, and quite correctly, in a technical sense, respond; "The theory that we have been using is perfectly correct, ... it is simply 'incomplete'."
And if we ask "In what way is it 'incomplete'", ... Physics, if pressed, will say; "It's incomplete in the same way that it would be incomplete to play a game of pool paying attention only to the shots one makes and ignoring what was happening to the configuration of balls. Our mainstream physics theory focuses solely on the properties and behaviors of the balls which are in collision but ignores what is happening to the surrounding configuration of balls which envelopes the causal dynamics. And, of course, by ignoring the surrounding balls, the likelihood is that 'what is done' will infuse the configuration with dissonance and close down the very opportunities we need to keep open for our ongoing play."
'What you are saying, Physics, is that your mainstream theory, which all of our organizational management theories are based on, ... says that by managing on the basis of 'what is done' and ignoring reciprocal disposition effects, we will surely infuse the overall game with dissonance, ... is this correct?"
At this point, Physics will have no choice but to respond 'yes, this is correct'.
'What, then, does the new theory tell us?"
"The new theory, ... relativity, ... says that because every thing has an associated reciprocal disposition effect, we must manage the same way that the skilled pool player manages, .... that is, to manage firstly on the basis of 'reciprocal disposition' or the relational patterns, representing future opportunity for doing what we need to, which envelope 'what is being done'. This amounts to concentrating on keeping 'open' the configuration of opportunities surrounding every thing, so that we can continue to sustain our ability to 'do things' without 'snookering' one realm as a result of expanding an activity in another. This is the essence of what happens within a natural ecology. It's only common sense, really. Old time village economies naturally developed with this sense of 'commons' where one activity wasn't allowed to oppress another, or if it did, the villagers would get together and correct the situation."
"So, Physics, ... you say that the mainstream theory you continue to use is 'incomplete' because it only looks at 'what is done', ... while modern physics theory tells us that 'what is done' has a reciprocal effect on the 'topography of opportunity', .. on 'what can be done' and 'what cannot be done', ... and that the management theory which is everywhere in use in the world today, ... which focuses solely and one-sidedly on 'what is done', ... is infusing the world with dissonance just as modern physics says it should? And we continue to infuse the education of our children with the incomplete classical physics and ignore the modern physics?, ... so that the ways of managing things we are imprinting on them are going to continue to infuse dysfunction in this same manner?"
"No, that's not quite correct. Since we've amplified the reciprocal effects with technology and communications, ... and since the world population has grown so large, ... the dysfunctional leveraging power of managing solely on 'what is done' has increased exponentially."
..So there you have it, ... that's the 'skeleton in the closet of Physics', believe it or not.
And if you're saying, right now, ... 'how could anybody do that?', ... it's well to remember that physicists are no different than anyone else in that they are responding to what is rewarded in our society, and the rewards for them, whether in Nobel prizes or jobs or patents or technology applications, are all oriented to new discoveries in the properties and behaviors of things, ... 'what is done', ... out of the context of their reciprocal effects. The domain of 'what is done' is the domain of making money while the domain of cultivating opportunity is the domain of caring and investment for a sustainable future made by family, tribe, local community. But it is 'us', all of us, that has participated in splitting off the cultivation of opportunity from the 'doing' , ... and it is us through our consumerism that is financing the incentives for physicists to continue on in this same manner, ... in the incomplete way of looking at things which modern and more complete theory we've had access to for many years, ... tells us is the very source of dissonance.
With this background, the opening proposition may take on more meaning.
"Blowing out the cork which keeps our cultural renaissance from foaming forth is well within our reach. The nature of the bottleneck which is holding back cultural evolution and allowing dysfunction to continue to rule the roost is far more localized than I ever imagined when I started out on my explorations into 'community as complex system'."
The underpinning of our management theory is Physics and physics-informed concepts of space and time. Physics has only whispered to us that in the theory of relativity, ... what we do reciprocally shapes the whole field of opportunity, so it makes no sense to manage things on the sole basis of what we do, ... any more than it would make sense for a pool player to focus solely on making the shots, and allowing the ball configuration to become a tangled mess. Instead, it only makes sense to manage on the basis of the configuration of opportunity and allow 'what is done' to emerge from the management of opportunity, just as the wise pool player does it.
Out in the community, this 'opportunity management' translates into the need to open up opportunity for youth to look out and choose how they'd like to contribute and to have the chance and support to have their natural interests and their contributions come into a co-resonant confluence, rather than letting our youth be cornered in the private zoo of a corporate economy, as in the story imagery of the walled nation. Equally, this 'opportunity management' translates into the need to open up opportunity for local entrepreneurs to look out and choose how they'd like to contribute and to have the chance and support to have their natural interests and their community contributions come into co-resonant confluence, ... rather than local entrepreneurs being cornered in the private zoo of economic globalism.
As for governments which continue to see 'economic growth' as a many-teated feedstock-tank which citizens must queue up for and suck up to, in order to live and breath and grow, and whose hind tit, what's left in it, ... is for the flora and fauna of our environment to queue up for in order to live and breath and grow, ... this obscenely inflated emphasis on 'what is done', out of the context of the chaos it may be wreaking on our living and environmental circumstance represents the pathology in its most highly developed form. It is insanity and the theory to show that it is, is there in the closet of the Physics, though our common sense is well ahead of physics on this one.
If we want a truly high stakes challenge which could uncork a cultural renaissance in the opening years of the third millenium, I suggest that we encourage all influential physicists in the world, as well as the Nobel Foundation and science foundations like it, to come together and publically pull that skeleton out of their disciplinary closet, ... to make a clear and bold statement of what has been known but only whispered about since the time of Kepler though strongly reinforced by relativity and quantum physics, ... that the space-time in which we live is not Euclidian, ... but far more like a commons where everything we do reciprocally influences and transforms the topography of opportunity that we are moving forward into, shutting down opportunity here and opening up opportunity up there, ... and because our actions reciprocal impact our opportunity, we must subordinate management on the basis of 'what is done', to management based on the cultivation of opportunity, ... something which our common sense is screaming at us, but which continues to elude science and Physics.
In closing,... I would like to try to give you a plausible understanding of how it can be that this message comes from a voice such as mine, ... how a view centering on Physics can come from someone who is outside of the discipline of Physics.
The first and most important factor is that investigations such as mine are focused on 'community', its harmonious functioning and its dissonant functioning so the physics I have been 'doing' has been secondary to the primary goal of trying to understand complex social systems behaviors. Most of Physics, meanwhile, is trying to 'understand the behaviors of things', ... but not me. I have been coming from a reciprocal direction, ... trying to understand the behavior of systems within systems within systems, ... people within teams within companies within corporations within industries within a global economy within nature, ... spheres of activity nesting within spheres of activity involving an inward-outward-inward interlaced dynamic.
So I have naturally been focused on inward-outward-inward 'information flows', ... an overall relational focus that leads one quickly, if one has a physics background, as I do, ... to the theory of relativity and the curved space-time continuum which houses our reality far better than flat, euclidian space and detached linear time, the default convention of our culture, is able to do. This has opened the door to me to imagery as in the game of pool or the spherical geometry of the expanding walled nation wherein it becomes obvious that there is a reciprocal relationship between 'what is done' and 'what is not done', as the theory of relativity implies. So I have studied the theory of relativity not as a physicist trying to understand it, ... but in terms of its utility as a tool which can explain the social phenomena that I am investigating.
Beyond this utilitarian view of theory, ... being a transdisciplinary 'loner', ... or 'leper' may be a more appropriate word because one is no longer accepted by any discipline when one moves into the transdisciplinary domain, gives one a very different outlook. Those in the disciplines tend not to accept what you have to say based on your transdisciplinary studies because you have 'come in from the top' and you have bypassed all the revered books and courses in the 'bottom up' approach and you look totally ignorant and disrespectful about all the detailed 'bottom-up' instruction. While you need the concepts, you don't need all the detail and technique because you are 'bootstrapping'.... you are starting with the answer which is the empirical pattern you are seeing, and asking, 'is this pattern of behavior conformant with that which the theory of relativity, or whatever theory, would predict?'. As Richard Feynman says, ... this is the way science works, ... science must not ask who you are, what your qualifications are, or where you got the idea, it must simply look at the extrapolations and implications of your proposition to determine if they are validated by empirical experience.
Relativity and field theory expands the whole view of physics, it relegates classical physics to a small feature within a far broader theoretical landscape but this theory has lain fallow for eighty-five years. To me, it is not surprising that someone should find relativity theory to be powerfully relevant in explaining complex phenomena which the classical physics 'cannot reach'.
In a similar vein, .. the works of other transdisciplinarians and rebel physicists and rebel psychologists and rebel biologists etc. are out there and there is a remarkable congruence in their ideas with the geometries presented in this message. Most of these people have been heavily marginalized by their disciplines or by science in general. Working as an 'outsider' is a somewhat lonely and weakly rewarded occupation, but one has no choice if one is to seriously pursue issues such as social issues which are 'too messy' to be accepted within the disciplines, and the tidiness of the disciplinary environment is toxic to such studies. When one is compelled to work within the disciplines, it is common to run into the imposition of a conforming force, ... telling you your word usage or definitions are wrong, ... that you must study this and this and this in greater depth and master it before you move on, and so on, ... but for what end?, ... to force oneself into building upwards into the same limited range of edifices which fail to approach the addressing of what needs to be addressed?
If you read Henri Laborit (1914 - 1995), an impressive rebel and 'loner' in transdisciplinary research, a former surgeon who wrote a number of very popular (in the francophone community) books on biology and scientific frameworks, you can see all of his geometry in this note, ... and the same is true, though in a different paradigmatic setting, for Lev Vygotsky's work as in 'Thought and Language'. Vygotsky (1896 - 1934) was a literary critic who 'detoured' into psychology to briefly research the nature of aesthetics and stayed in psychology. He was never accepted by the psychological establishment and only after his early death from tuberculosis was he hailed as 'the father of Russian psychology'.
What was different about these researchers? Vygotsky said that Piaget interpreted alot of his (Piaget's) own research data backwards and on a foundation of false assumptions, set the stage for imposing structured teaching on our children, ... false assumptions and a teaching approach which persists to this day, ... while Vygotsky spoke of the reciprocal balancing of spontaneous learning and structured learning, ... in the relativistic terms of pool, Vygotsky's recommended geometry corresponds with playing 'shape-over-shots'. Vygotsky referred to the child's 'zone of proximal development', ... wherein his learning was not just 'by rote' but assimilated into his implicit experience. The 'zoped' as he abbreviated it, corresponds to what the sciences of complexity call 'the edge of chaos', a zone of inherent stability and learning. One can pick the theory of relativity easily and cleanly right out of Vygotsky's words.
Henri Laborit asked aloud, in an interview, ... how could we listen to what physicists say when they make no attempt to understand their own tools of inquiry, ... their cognitive processes? Laborit claimed that the physicists were missing the essential 'inward-outward-inward' informational exchanges which were in all living systems. Physics was stuck in the domain of the quantitative rather than the informational, ... E=m*c**2 is all about the quantities of exchanges, .... but what about information exchanges?, ... what about the fact that when I move one billiard ball very slightly in curved space-time, ... which the pool table environment emulates (e.g. it could be the outer surface of a sphere), ... then 'informationally' and simultaneously, ... the whole topography of opportunity changes for all members of the ensemble. Einstein pointed out this informational relationship in his essay 'Geometry and Experience', in discussing the finite and unbounded spherical space-time of relativity, a theoretical gem lying in the archives which is ignored because one doesn't need it when confining one's investigations to the study of the properties and behaviors of things, out of the context of their space-time container.
There's some irony here as Laborit was working biological, ecological and evolutionary issues and needed that space-time theory which physics discovered and cavalierly shelved, since physics' interest has been in particulate issues and still is, as is evident from the 1999 Nobel prize in physics. So the physicists, the keepers of space-time conventions, simply haven't been motivated to shift gears out of their incomplete theory and resuscitate the more complete theories of the early century.
And that brings this short accounting to a close, .... an accounting of how, while our social problems today are all about ecologies gone wrong, physics continues to sit on archived theory which could uncork a badly needed cultural renaissance.
If you find this story plausible, ... and you can find years of investigative work leading up to it on my website, ... start working on every physicist you know, ... to lobby their discipline to the point that it will open up and deal with the skeleton in their closet.
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