extreme adds to extreme...
is the message, from a sensor of a system to the controller
of the system, of the difference between expectation
feedback in a system attenuates. Positive feedback amplifies.
Positive feedback, out of balance with negative feedback,
leads to instability in a system; unchecked, it leads
to increasing oscillation and, ultimately, breakdown
due to exceeding the limits of the system.
in mechanical systems is relatively straight forward;
even so, we are now building systems of such complexity
and scale that providing adequate feedback is a serious
design issue. In very complex and adaptive systems
like a society, the
than with the
physical tools and systems we build. This is what
Norbet Weiner, the father of Cybernetics, called
”feedback of a complex
complex systems, just
what is feedback is not easy to understand
and how to act on it is not always clear or determined
by a single rule. A very complex
system (VCS) does not has a single controller. It
has multiple controllers with multiple feedback loops
on multiple levels of recursion. These various feedback
often compete with one
another. This is a feature. Systems built this way
can get wildly out of balance and still find a path
to the edge of non-stability is a strategy by which
a VCS, and in particular living and social systems,
brings themselves to transformation and evolution.
Creating initial instability is an essential function
of the creative process. Creative people do it habitually.
They also know how to use feedback to regain stability.
society has just exited the decade of the 90s
which by any measure was characterized by multiple
positive feedback loops. Many if not most of these
out-of-balance messages are still in place. In recent
have seen a contested election, Enron et. al., a
stalling economy, 9-11, the war on terrorism, the
crisis, weapons proliferation and many other signals
related to energy waste, state economies in crises,
educational breakdown and drug abuse. We are outstanding
developed nations in the percentage of our citizens
in jail, the
deaths in our hospitals and the general health of
our citizens. Are we paying attention to these signals?
function, in our system,
What do they mean as a system response? In
the late 80s, there was a great social shift at the
the Cold war.
It seemed that few noticed the implications of so
sudden and peaceful end to a conflict that
had lasted nearly a half a century. By ther mid 90s
the “new economy” took off - a
study in excess if
there ever was one.
has been pointed out that, periodically, there is
a large scale engineering catastrophe because, in
a generation or so of successes, engineers tend
to forget the past, “believe the numbers” and
move towards cutting what come to be considered conservative
safety factors; good
on what can go wrong and systematically
taking those risks out of the system. Poor engineering
that 10, or even a hundred,
in a row means that we understand what we are doing
and we can afford to cut the safety margins and function
and I facilitated at the World Economic Forum in
2001 and 2002. The difference between these two experiences
and the implications of what had happened in the
year between them were staggering. Yet, the attention
was on the
incidents: a contested election, 9-11, the emergence
of corporate scandal, the strong signs of a rapidly
The majority wanted to fix these things, almost no
one wanted to discuss the system-ness of
one of the most remarkable social reversals in recent
and what may be the drivers of this. A year later
(January 2003) questions that challenge the fundamental
structure of our society and how we may have brought
down our own house of cards are still being ignored,
and in some cases, actively repressed.
the Roman Circus goes on. The distractions continue
to build. Attention Deficiency, in the US, is becoming
a national characteristic.
is much about our society that is accelerating already
excessive trends. Excessiveness-on-excessiveness.
Extreme adding to
extreme. Look at our media, political “debate,” consumerism,
economic swings; add your own list. The same pattern
can be seen embedded in all of it.
February 1, 2003
voice of this document:
• VISION STRATEGY •
February 1, 2003
February 2, 2003
• 20030201.230931.mt • 20030202.123400.mt
this document is about 5% finished)
Taylor 615 720 7390