‘Solving’ Complex Problems: The Networked Society vs the Hierarchical One

Caveat: This is a long article, even by this blog’s standards. Find a comfy chair, or bookmark it and come back later. I think it’s important, and I need your contribution to make its core argument more compelling.
Natural Community
Illustration: My imagining of how a self-organized and self-managed natural intentional community might evolve its roles and core capacities. The Only Life We Know is my in-progress novel.

Several readers like what I’ve been saying about significant change having to come from the bottom-up, but are skeptical that intentional communities, natural enterprises, and peer-to-peer information, education and action groups can scale sufficiently to have an impact on all the damage that big, top-down-organized governments and corporations are doing, and to solve the world’s most intractable problems. I want to explore that concern in this article.

Top-down organizations are (generally) hierarchically organized. That means the power to make decisions on actions rests with one, or a very few people in the organization. It also means that those people have the authority to force those lower down in the hierarchy to carry out those decisions. The reality is that while those people will pay lip service to the instructions they receive, they will often not do what they’re told, either because (a) they don’t understand what they’re being told to do, or (b) they don’t agree with what they’ve been told (it doesn’t make sense, or it’s too much work) and they’re sufficiently buffered by the bureaucracy of the organization that they can get away with not doing it.

The consequence is that these (usually) large, hierarchical organizations are utterly dysfunctional. The people at the top have the illusion (because no one dares tell them differently) that their instructions are understood and being effectively followed. The people at the bottom are (usually) just struggling to do their (usually) unique jobs the best way they can, despite ill-conceived, ill-informed, poorly-communicated and often foolish instructions from above. The customers/citizens that the organization is intended to serve are completely divorced from the top-down communication and decision-making process. If they don’t like the decisions they can buy from/vote for the other ‘choice’ in the political or economic oligopoly. That is the customer’s/citizen’s only input into the system.

The reality is that the expensive and elaborate mission statements, strategic plans, statements of core values and principles, vision documents, and other ‘change’ programs usually have no effect on the organization at all. The achievements of the organization are simply the aggregate of the collective efforts of the employees, and success depends on an infinite number of factors, few of which the employees (let alone the people at the top) have any control over. What gets rewarded gets done, however, and what is rewarded in hierarchical organizations is finding ways to sell more products at higher prices to more customers while simultaneously hollowing out the organization to reduce costs (and hence, ironically, reduce capacity). This is euphemistically called ‘productivity’, and as I’ve reported before there are six main ways to do it:

  • Charge customers more for the same stuff
  • Get government subsidies
  • Charge customers the same price for inferior stuff
  • Reduce wages
  • Reduce material costs
  • Reduce regulatory costs

Almost all activity of hierarchical organizations is currently devoted to these six tasks. Oligopolies enable this by eliminating competition. Massive deceptive advertising and PR campaigns are used to con the customer. Intensive lobbying buys politicians, who in turn provide subsidies, deregulation, corporate indemnification from litigation, and protectionist intellectual property laws. Outsourcing, offshoring, union-busting and benefit-stripping reduce labour costs. Egregious and environmentally ruinous ‘free’ trade agreements and one-sided contracts with struggling nations extract cheap materials. Collectively this is called ‘globalization’, and it is promoted as something that is good for all of us.

The hierarchical organization is only doing what is rewarded. There is ferocious internal competition to take credit for the organization’s collective success and shift the blame for its collective failure. This adds to the dysfunction, preventing people from sharing ideas and information, and rewarding deceptive credit-taking, scapegoating and exploitation of other people and the environment (reducing costs by ‘externalizing’ them, i.e. making them someone else’s cost and problem, usually future generations’). This destructive dysfunction is papered over with absurd talk about the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Employees learn (by reward or punishment lessons) that the real objective is to use the team to produce what you can take disproportionate credit for.

This behaviour is not unique to the private sector. Governments and government organizations are pursuing the same six ‘productivity’ goals bulleted above, via user fees, obfuscation of benefits, ‘centralization’ schemes, takeover of other government entities, reducing services, deceptive advertising and PR, and privatization. Politicians play up the myth that public organizations are less ‘efficient’ than private organizations of the same size (Ralston Saul and others have thoroughly debunked this myth, but it is immensely popular among a wide swath of simple-minded conservatives and libertarians who are easy to convince that, except for waging war, government-run organizations are inherently evil and incompetent). This, despite overwhelming evidence that the defence and ‘security’ functions of government are much less competently and ‘efficiently’ run than ‘privatizable’ functions like public health care and public education.

Hierarchies scale well in one respect: They concentrate power and wealth in a few hands, where it can be used to acquire even more of it, using the techniques described above. This is known as ‘leverage’ (financial and political) and, like the overweight kid on the teeter-totter, they have a lot of it. This leverage compensates for the inherent lack of effective communication, lack of information-sharing, inertia, vulnerability (in the face of sudden catastrophe), destructive politics, and unresponsiveness and indifference to the needs and well-being of people, that renders hierarchies so dysfunctional. In the wake of hierarchies’ leverage, innovators, entrepreneurs, and imaginative alternative ways of doing things are crushed. Choose Tweedledum or Tweedledee, or drop out of the system. As citizen, as customer, as employee, that is the only choice you have.

Enough about hierarchies. Let’s look now at networked systems, what Jon Husband calls ‘wirearchies’. The power in networked systems is decentralized, or as Searls & Weinberger put it ‘at the ends’. The obvious advantages of this are responsiveness (power distributed more broadly to people in touch with citizens, customers and employees are more aware of and more capable of responding to these constituencies’ needs) and resilience (when part of a networked system ‘goes down’, it is relatively simple to ‘work around’ it).

The purpose of networked systems is, like the systems in nature, not ‘efficiency’ or ‘productivity’ but effectiveness. Look at the seeds of a tree, or the redundancy in any ecosystem, and you see how well it gets the job done, no matter what eventuality may occur, but in an extremely ‘inefficient’ manner.

So imagine we were to evolve a new social, political and economic system, bottom-up, networked and non-hierarchical. Could it contend with the existing hierarchical system? And could it solve some of the intractable ‘wicked’ problems that the hierarchical system contends with now, and would have us believe it is coping with as well as is possible? In other words, can a Networked Society scale to do what it must to out-perform and replace our Hierarchical Society in dealing with the world’s intractable problems?

I think there is broad dissatisfaction with the existing hierarchical system, but great skepticism about whether there is any alternative. Communal and socialistic societies don’t have a very good track record, even though there may be some argument that the hierarchical societies deliberately crushed them because they represented a threat. The reality is that people, as citizens, customers and employees, do not buy into theories or ideals. They want to see evidence that some alternative system actually works. They believe their peers, not pundits (whether those pundits be at the top of a hierarchy or out on the Edge).

We do what we must. People will be inspired to stop voting for, buying from, and working for Tweedledum or Tweedledee only when they perceive they have no other choice, when the pain begins to considerably exceed the comfort that comes from the status quo. What’s more, they need to have some other choice presented to them, not just the idea of creating one. As I’ve said before, we need to start with local experiments of intentional communities (alternatives to the hierarchical political system), natural enterprises (alternatives to the hierarchical economic system) and peer-to-peer information, education and action groups (alternatives to the hierarchical social system). Just as the first life on our planet needed to brew in the primordial soup for a long time (probably with lots of false starts), we need to monitor and learn from these experiments, and let them evolve naturally. We cannot be concerned with whether we have the luxury of time for this to happen — one cannot invent a new Networked Society overnight, and evolution takes time.

The Internet (so long as it remains free from hierarchical tolls) will allow these experiments to be watched more effectively and by more people, and will allow us to share ideas, experiences and learnings more effectively with other people on the Edge. This could accelerate the evolutionary process of the Networked Society somewhat. The way I see it evolving is more and more people slowly weaning themselves off the Hierarchical Society as real alternatives become available to them regarding:

  1. where to live (in a true community, not a subdivision),
  2. who to live with (most likely a clan of several dozen people, not a nuclear family),
  3. how to make a living (in responsible partnership with people you love, in service rather than in servitude),
  4. who to buy from (natural, sustainable, caring enterprises, not Tweedledum or Tweedledee),
  5. how to live more responsibly (knowledge and choices that give you a genuine ability to walk lighter on the Earth, not just buy a slightly less irresponsible product),
  6. how to live more self-sufficiently (knowledge and choices that free you from dependence on the Hierarchical Society), and
  7. who to support politically (with your votes and your tax dollars)

These are the most important decisions most of us make in our lives, so the emergence of alternatives is likely to attract a lot of public interest. The powers in the Hierarchical Society are aware of this, and are trying to offer us some easy (for them and for us) alternatives (like houses with solar panels and organic products) to keep us from abandoning them. They don’t understand that this is far deeper than a fleeting yen for counter-culture or a new form of consumerism.

There are, of course, many experiments in all these areas going on now. Should we be concerned that none of them have ‘caught on’ yet? I would be more concerned if some of these experiments had caught on. There is not yet a broad sense of urgency — we do what we must, and there is not yet that kind of imperative for the majority of people that they must do something other than what they’re already doing.

What will precipitate this sense of urgency? Not likely a political or economic or environmental event — terrorist fear-mongering aside, these events just don’t get at us where we live. Unless you live(d) in New Orleans, it’s doubtful that global warming has yet changed your life-style or even made you wake up every day thinking you must, soon. Remember, this movement is bottom-up. What will precipitate this sense of urgency will be small successes communicated peer-to-peer. Peer-to-peer alternative music sharing shook an industry to its roots (and that industry reacted in the prototypical, hostile, hierarchical organization way). Imagine if we start sharing alternative ways to live, that require purchase of much less, and then nothing at all, from multinational corporations. That allow us to live comfortably, joyfully, with 90% less income and 90% less consumption of standardized, packaged, imported commercial products — and 90% less consumption of energy. That make starting your own business easier and more pleasurable than working for The Man. That eliminate your dependence on outside suppliers of good and services, and your dependence on ‘experts’. That are more fun.

As I’ve mentioned before, these alternatives and changes could essentially starve the Hierarchical Society to death. That society depends utterly on our ‘consumerism’, on our tax dollars, on our Learned Helplessness, and on our psychological addiction and financial indebtedness to it. Show people that there is an alternative to that addiction and helplessness, one that is healthier and happier, and you need not do any selling. It will happen, growing slowly (too agonizingly slowly to suit most of us!), until people opt out of the Hierarchical Society and opt into the Networked Society, not out of political or ideological conviction, but simply because it’s easy and because that’s what their friends are all doing.

So imagine that happens, and the starved Hierarchical Society crumbles. No more globalization and big multinational corporations. No more standardized, centralized systems for anything: health, education, utilities. All replaced with local, community-based, self-managed alternatives. How will this transitioning new world of self-sufficient communities deal with global warming, with terrorist threats, with foreign despots, with world poverty and hunger, with pandemic diseases, with natural disasters, with the End of Oil, with social security, with immigration, with national transportation? The (federal) government won’t be able to help — it won’t have enough revenue to do these things. Of course, we could argue that they’ve been useless at addressing these problems anyway, making the situation worse, if anything, with every intervention. But surely someone has to at least put on a brave face and try, lest these problems get away from us entirely and our countries be overrun with unwanted foreigners and fundamentalist crazies? Who’s going to negotiate for, and between, and coordinate and represent these little communities in situations of larger-scale conflict and catastrophe?

We will still have a world in which most of humanity lives a marginal, dependent life in lands desolated by short-term, ill-considered economic and political activity. It is only we privileged few, a subset of the inhabitants of affluent nations, with substantial access to knowledge, resources, and collective organizational processes, who can hope to build and show off the experiments and models of a Networked Society. So how can we hope to not only scale these models to accommodate most humans in our own countries, but show them and introduce them to people who have none of the ingredients on which these models are built? How will a fledgling Networked Society ‘play’ in Darfur, in Tajikistan, in the South Bronx?

Well, perhaps better than we might think. The people in ignored and devastated areas of the world (and within our own countries) have learned that community is everything, that if they don’t look after themselves no one will. All we need to do is help them remove the obstacles (poverty, pollution, corruption, warlords etc.) to making intentional communities, natural enterprises, and peer-to-peer information, education and action groups work for them, in their own way. How do we do that, in a bottom-up, peer-to-peer, non-hierarchical way?

As I suggested the other day, if we can find ways to ‘solve’ poverty, pollution, corruption and crime in our own disenfranchised neighbourhoods, where these problems have defied all top-down approaches to alleviate, we should be able to apply the same ‘solutions’ to solve problems on a global scale: global poverty, global warming, despotism, terrorism etc. After all, neighbourhoods are complex systems.

In a previous article I suggested a four-step methodology for doing this, built on Open Space and a group of other methods that seem best-suited to addressing complex system problems. The four steps were:

  1. Invite: Invite all the people with an interest in solving the problem, without limit or restriction, to come together.
  2. Provide Tools: Give them methodologies, tools, frameworks, ideas, possible strategies and information that equip them better to address the problem.
  3. Provide Training in How to Use the Tools: Teach them (or rather, help them relearn — we once knew how to do this instinctively!) the practices and capacities (some of these capacities are listed on the right side of the illustration above) they need to apply in order to use the methodologies, tools, strategies and information effectively.
  4. Trust in the Outcome: Trust in the group’s personal will and collective ability to solve the problem better than experts and outsiders who lack the context of what can and cannot work, and trust in the group’s acceptance of the responsibility to do what, as a result of what they have learned and discovered together, they must.

Pretty idealistic, huh?

A few years ago the people of our neighbourhood got together and rebuilt a barn (actually a large garage for one of the neighbours, but it was originally a barn), which was close to falling down, and pretty sad to look at. No one in the neighbourhood is an expert in construction, but between us we knew a fair bit about different aspects of the job, and we had access to the Internet, and to others in our collective networks. We did an exemplary job, using precisely the four-step methodology noted above. We taught each other, we learned what we needed to learn, the invitation was so compelling and delightful we had a huge turnout (the only thing we ran out of was food, and that was quickly solved by self-organization), and the outcome was extraordinary. We did that!
This methodology is all about facilitating self-organization around a problem that the group is passionate about, and, collectively, pretty well informed about. I’ll tell you on Saturday about how astonishingly well this type of self-organized, self-managed process is working in the South Bronx. I’ll also tell you about an amazing community-based success story in a desertified, salt-drenched corner of Jordan. If this kind of process can work in those places, why not in Darfur and Tajikistan? And if it can transform a neighbourhood of hundreds or even tens of thousands of people, why, by repeating the process over and over, virally, using the enthusiasts and champions from each community where it works to ‘seed’ the process in ten or a hundred others, couldn’t it transform a whole nation, a whole world, one community at a time?

I am, as you probably know, a great believer in The Wisdom of Crowds. It makes enormous intuitive sense to me. This methodology is merely a facilitated application of that wisdom.

You’re concerned about the places it doesn’t work — the places where the concentration of power and the abuse of that power is so extreme that bottom-up processes can’t overcome them. And so, they breed despots or terrorists or economy-wreckers and then we have a global threat to all of our communities and neither the time nor the ability to mobilize community-by-community to address that threat. Or you’re concerned about the surprises, like pandemic disease or tsunamis that wreak havoc before there is any chance to get together to work out an approach to them. Or you’re concerned about the cumulative effect of millions of communities, each by themselves not contributing much to global warming or The End of Oil but collectively threatening the survival of the planet and our civilization. Don’t we need some top-down powerful ‘force’ that can focus on just those problems? After all, even a radical communitarianist like Peter Singer says, advocating a ‘lite’ world government in his book One World:

It is widely believed that a world government would be, at best, an unchecked bureaucratic behemoth that would make the bureaucracy of the EU look lean and efficient. At worst, it would become a global tyranny, unchecked and unchallengeable. These thoughts have to be taken seriously. How to prevent global bodies becoming either dangerous tyrannies or self-aggrandizing bureaucracies, and instead make them effective and responsive to the people whose lives they affect? It is a challenge that should not be beyond the best minds in the fields of political science and public administration.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible. It requires an altruism and a resistance to the temptation of power that is simply not in our nature.

How does nature deal with such catastrophes that overwhelm its inherently self-organizing balancing mechanisms? It lets them happen, and shrugs them off. Or it adapts to them. These catastrophes, in the face of an enormously resilient ecosystem, are (except for the odd extinction event every 50 million years or so) ultimately limited in their impact, and unsustainable long-term. They burn themselves out. Indeed, that is precisely what nature is doing now, in the advanced stages of the Sixth Extinction in the planet’s known history, the first caused by the actions of a single species, us.

We are, I suspect, too arrogant to just allow these things to happen, to wait for them to pass and ‘solve’ themselves. We couldn’t sit back and just allow Iraq to invade Kuwait, even though the reasons for that invasion were vastly more complex than the simple act of megalomania our politicians and press would have us believe was behind it. We can’t sit back and allow the Bush ideology to catapult the world into the Second Great Depression, even though the fuse is already lit and, if we turf him out of power and catch it, it will blow up in our face anyway. We can’t allow the wretched prisoners at Guantanamo to kill themselves, even if that means force feeding them until we concoct some excuse to execute them. We can’t shrug off 9/11 even though the trillions of dollars we’ve spent on ‘security’ and retribution in response to it have done nothing but make us less secure and have increased the popularity of the (surviving) perpetrators. We can’t accept that the solutions to global warming and the End of Oil that aren’t conceived and implemented in each local community according to its unique situation and needs, will never be acceptable enough to be implemented in any widespread way at all.

We do what we must, but to the humanist in all of us, that is never enough. Foolish or futile as it may be, we have to do more. Try something. Do something. Anything. Make someone responsible. Appoint a committee. Draw up a plan. Get revenge, even though it changes nothing. Hang someone. Stop it from happening again.

I’m not entirely satisfied with this ‘if you can’t do anything objectively useful, shrug off your grief and your outrage and get on with your life‘ answer. Not so much because it doesn’t make some intuitive sense to me that sometimes bad things happen, and last a while, and that attempting to either prevent or avenge them simply compounds (complexifies?) the problem. My dissatisfaction with this answer is more because I can’t sell this answer to people who might find the rest of the Networked Society elegant and compelling, but will find this sticking point intolerable. I’d welcome your thoughts.

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14 Responses to ‘Solving’ Complex Problems: The Networked Society vs the Hierarchical One

  1. Dale Asberry says:

    I’m not entirely satisfied with this ‘if you can’t do anything objectively useful, shrug off your grief and your outrage and get on with your life’ answer. Not so much because it doesn’t make some intuitive sense to me that sometimes bad things happen, and last a while, and that attempting to either prevent or avenge them simply compounds (complexifies?) the problem. Jared Diamond talks about how societies have collapsed because of the selfish need to overcome their bad situation made the collapse occur faster. I think others would argue that this is a sticking point of his arguments too.

  2. Rob says:

    Great blog! I’ve added a link to your blog on Blog of the Day under the category of Business. To view the post of your blog, please visit http://blogoftheday.org/page/111610

  3. David Parkinson says:

    You express optimism about the prospect of bottom-up solutions to small-scale problems, but pessimism about the same approach working in the case of large-scale problems (catastrophes). I’m with you in the former case, and agree with your reservations about the abrasive action of the entrenched status quo in disparaging, concealing, sabotaging, & co-opting non-canonical solutions & social structures. I think we need to admit that addressing and deflecting this type of sabotage will be one of the (eternal) problems that new methodologies will have to have built into them. Maybe your proposed 4-point program for establishing a method of solving some problem needs to be a 5-point one, where #5 is something like “Design and build defenses against the (inevitable) attack from the stakeholders in the current failed solutions”. Kind of like building in protective coloration, camouflage, or other adaptive biological defenses against predators. Failure to properly design/implement #5 means susceptibility to destruction from without (just as failure on the other 4 could be seen as failure to thrive, destruction from within).In that sense, maybe the distinction you’re pointing to is a quantitiative not qualititative one; meaning only that the likelihood of attack/co-optation (and the sense of despair) increases as the stakes get larger. The IMF won’t care about intervening in (e.g.) my co-housing effort, but will sit up and take notice if I try to socialize health care in my municipality. And once we’re talking about events on the scale of 9/11, Darfur, Katrina, etc., the likelihood of a non-canonical approach even getting a foot in the door goes to about zero.But maybe our ability to handle ever larger problems, crises, catastrophes, will increase over time. This can only happen after successes on smaller scales & an iterative process of solving/learning/generalizing/communicating/etc. I’m in a place right now where all I can realistically focus on is the smaller local issues that I feel I can directly affect. I suspect that most of your readership is there too, if anywhere at all. It’ll be a long time before we’re able to talk usefully about applying self-organizing distributed open-source (insert more qualifiers here) solution methodologies & resulting solutions to problems on the global scale. But we’ll never get there at all if we get sidetracked by the temptation to meddle in the failing top-down approaches. Not to say that we should pay no attention to that level, but we have to avoid dropping the work of developing alternatives for every crisis that comes along.My dissatisfaction with this answer is more because I can’t sell this answer to people who might find the rest of the Networked Society elegant and compelling, but will find this sticking point intolerable. I would say that the sticking point is integral to full acceptance of the Networked Society. Like trying to be a Catholic but balking at acceptance of transubstantiation. Well, good place to declare a schism, anyway.Great, very thought-provoking post… you’re only getting the first ones that were provoked in me, but this is a discussion worth extending.

  4. Jessie says:

    There are only so many ways to save the world. Politics seems to corrupt our ways of getting there, doesn’t it seem?A lot of people believe that global warming does not exist simply because the planet gradually gets warmer and cooler with time, but the fact lies within the word “gradually.” Gradually, not quickly. The rising and falling of earthly temperatures takes millions of years. An advancement in temperature of one degree celsius, in the past, took a thousand years. Since the 1950s, the temperature has risen several degrees. That’s only fifty years, if my mathmatical skills are functioning properly.

  5. Kevin Carson says:

    Best. Post. Ever.Seriously, the staying power of those large hierarchies depends on continuing inputs from the state. Without state-enforced cartelization to protect them from the competitive disadvantages of inefficiency, state subsidies to conceal their diseconomies of scale, and state privileges that make property grow on itself through compound interest, those hierarchies would be crumbling like the Berlin Wall.Besides the bottom-up action to organize counter-institutions, we need political engagement to force the state to withdraw and stop propping up the old dinosaur institutions.

  6. Janene says:

    Hey Dave –Interesting stuff.I am sure you have been pointed there before, but if you have not checked it out, I would suggest you have a look at some of Jeff Vail’s work on Rhizome. It ties in rather well with your (and Jon’s) Netork Systems.At the same time, Matt Kabwe and I have been having a discussion on how to go about building intertribal economies based upon the tribal-business model Quinn proposed, specifically discussing how one would create stability for such in an environment currently controlled by heirarchal, megacorps and globalization. There may be something there you would find useful…Regarding ‘big’ problems… I think it is important to remember (although VERY HARD to internalize) that all big problems are fundamentally comprised of many inter-related smaller problems. Local, focused effort CAN and WILL address these big problems, if those localized efforts are compounded enough times. No one controls those efforts on a meg scale — but perhaps that is WHY they can be so powerful…Janene

  7. Jon Husband says:

    sheesh … you’ve put into a coherent collection of words what i’ve been thinking, and thinking about, for the past ten years. I have more than half of this in words here and there, but have never managed to pull it together anywhere exceopt in my head. I know that you’re right.Given time, and with enough criticcal mass either ignorinhg or actively fighting against the dominant structures, I believe much of this will come to pass. If it does not, with the relative degree of transparency afforded us by so many smart and aware and heartful people everywhere listening, watching and trying to find ways to bring about change, we will KNOW that we have acquiesced to a form of generalized authoritarianism and will be left to fend for ourselves to keep our psyches and the rhythms of our daily lives less than fully subjugated to a structural system that relies on putting limits on our agency.First, we shape our structures .. then our structures shape us.As you have often written about, we have to learn to want, ferociously, to transcend the learned helplessness we all acquire from our educations, integration into adult workforces (what a word, workforce and the socializing forces of peer pressure (with a nod to your point up-blog about losing our capacity or desire to understand, marvel at and flow with complexity that we have as children).i wnat so much to return to this planet in 2100 to see what has happened, or not.

  8. Jon Husband says:

    archy = the organizing or governing principle of large systemswired – we are increasingly (more and more of us) living in a wired world. The “wiredness” becomes increasingly invisible, woven into the warp and woof of our daily liveswired + archy = wirearchy … a 2-way (or n-way, thanks to an Athabasca U. exec MBA class i once had), dynamic flow of power and authority based on knowledge,m trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and communications technology .. derived from the aphorism that “knowledge is power”. david weinberger once (actually, more than once) has stated that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Clearly, the printing press instantiated MAJOR change .. will the internet and hyperlinked personal publish do so also ? Clearly, I think so .. but the shifts as they unfold are likely to be brutal, bloody and not easily ceded. Caveat .. I believe hierarchy can be appropriate and useful in certain situations and processes .. and yet I am opposed to it being THE only structural principle for organized activity. I believe that it is becoming clearer and celare that there are also other appropriate and effective forms of organized activity. The point is being aware enough, and competent enough, to be able to assess and choose, collectively, what to do and how to do it.Will the Tofflers’ Powershift (Knowledge, Wealth and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century) continue ? Like I said above, I would love to be able to come back and look at what has happened by the year 2100.

  9. Jon Husband says:

    Politics seems to corrupt our ways of getting there, doesn’t it seem?Today, almost all politics is about obtaining, maintaining and sustaining hierarchy and power … in, of and for itself.

  10. Jon Husband says:

    sorry for the double post .. overly excited by the subject and your brilliant coherence

  11. pdc says:

    You do yourself and your readers a great disservice when you throw in your political opinions. They suck big time and take away from your message. Contrast the political influences today with those even in the 1980’s. The global political influences, to me, seem much less relevent then the past. This is a result of the things you have so elequently put into words in this entry. Secondly your connatation and perceptions are negative. Why do you portray to your readership that his recipe will cause pain?I would be appreciative if you would stick to the facts of your arguments and the excellent research you are doing.

  12. Bill Seitz says:

    I think it muddles things to talk about demonstrating the viability of alternatives as changing their perceived *urgency*.Pip Coburn’s *Change Function* book, while not seeming very deep to me, does a good job of separating the benefit-of-change (urgency/compelling) vs barrier-to-change (it seems to hard, etc.)

  13. I’m curious as to whether you have read any anarchist literature (left or right). As an anarchist, I have great sympathy for most of what you said, but you are stating old ideas as if they are new ones.To me, the interesting question is how we will ever get to such a society. That is, why would those at the top of the power heirarchy relinquish their power? Could they be forced to?I have my own crazy idea about how to do it, by building floating cities. here is the book on how to do it, check out the link “Dynamic Geography” for the philosophy of why floating cities will naturally have more anarchic, responsive governments.

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