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Integrative exercise for the future


System Dynamics, Hypercycles and Psychosocial Self-organization (Part #2)


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Potential of Chinese insights?: The dysfunctional fragmentation associated with the bifurcations from the original insight regarding the need to address the "predicament of mankind", recalls the much-quoted warning of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Following recent concern with an integrative approach to the future, it would seem appropriate to point to possibilities that remain to be explored (Self-reflexive Challenges of Integrative Futures, Futures, 40, 2, March 2008).

Given that the Club of Rome initiatives of the past, and the bifurcations, together reflect a primarily western bias, the emergent role of China on the global scene suggests the special merit of giving some consideration to frameworks emerging from that culture. This is consistent with the argument of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) as separately discussed (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).

The relevance of traditional cultural concepts has recently been recognized in relation to China's foreign policy (David Lai, Learning from the Stones: a go approach to mastering China's concept, Shi, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, 2004; Josh Kerbel, Thinking Straight: cognitive bias in the US debate over China, Studies in Intelligence, 2004). This follows from earlier strategic analysis of the Vietnam war (Scott Boorman, A Protracted Game: a wei-ch'i interpretation of maoist revolutionary strategy, 1971). It is appropriate to note that two metrics of fundamental importance to current decision-making -- with respect to financial risk-management and climate change -- were developed by sino-japanese mathematical economists (Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics: the Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else? 2009).

Of particular relevance to this exercise is the emerging recognition of the relevance of Chinese insights in cybernetics (Maurice Yolles and Paul Iles, The Knowledge Cybernetics of Culture: the case of China, International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Sciences, 3, 4, December 2006; Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye, From Knowledge Cybernetics to Feng Shui, 2005). There is some irony to this given that Chinese culture was one of the early inspirations for the binary coding system fundamental to computer operation.

The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (one of the "bifurcations") contained an experiment in the interpretation of the Chinese classic, the I Ching (or Book of Changes), for contemporary strategic issues, given the appreciation of its traditional role in Chinese governance (Transformation Metaphors -- derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997).

A much-debated, western synthesis is the AQAL framework of the Integral Movement, instigated by Ken Wilber, which endeavours to integrate eastern perspectives (Steve McIntosh, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: how the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality, 2007). It use was proposed as a means of providing an organizing framework for a conference of the State of the World Forum on climate change (Washington, 2009). The question is whether such inherently integrative perspectives would reframe the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations -- if new responses to the "predicament of mankind" are to be envisaged. It is of course also the case that any such initiative, however integrative its intentions, evokes bifurcations which presumably need to be understood as a feature of change itself, as tentatively discussed (Coherent Patterns of Schism Formation, Bifurcation and Disagreement -- and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they evoke, 2001) -- as indeed implied by the interrelated conditions of the "Book of Changes".

Experiment: The question then is whether there is any degree of correspondence between the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations (as responses evoked by requisite variety for governance) and such schemes  -- purportedly of relevance to governance from a different cultural framework. The following exercise should therefore be considered as an afterthought -- of potential value to the future -- evoked by frustration with the experience of a 40-year history and its inadequacy to the challenges of the times.

The procedure summarized by the diagram below has been to make use of the ordering of the 64 change conditions encoded as hexagrams in the I Ching. The 8 trigrams (of which the hexagrams are composed) are conventionally grouped in a circular configuration (BaGua), in one of two arrangements. The hexagrams are then typically grouped into a tabular arrangement of 8 corresponding "houses" (Organization of I Ching hexagrams in terms of traditional "houses" 1995). The approach taken below is to configure these "houses" in circular form, corresponding to the core BaGua (after which the houses are named) as a means of approaching the quadrant organization of the AQAL system. The question is whether the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations can be understood both as corresponding to quadrants of that system and to four paired sets of "houses". It should be stressed that this exercise is solely intended to evoke discussion and is not proposed as a definitive correspondence.

Configuration: One advantage of the elements of the configuration below is that each hexagram in the diagram is explicitly hyperlinked to a document interpreting its relevance from a policy/strategic perspective -- in the light of traditional commentary. These 64 documents are integrated into 6 complementary sets of corresponding documents (on sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, network, community and lifestyle), making 7 interlinked sets in all. The focus of each set might be said to be relatively closely related to the preoccupations of the Club of Rome and its bifurcations. Although the diagram below provides access to the "policy" set initially, the primary mode of access to the array of documents and related tools is via the above-mentioned page (Transformation Metaphors, 1997).

Hexagrams indicative of conditions of change from a policy perspective
individually hyperlinked to explanatory texts
(in some browsers, notably Internet Explorer, placing the cursor on the hexagram will bring up the relevant number and label)
Hexagrams indicative of conditions of change from a policy perspective

Correspondences?: A first question arising from such a diagram is the implication that the 8-fold BaGua set might bear some correspondence to the 4-fold AQAL system. This clearly calls for careful exploration. Surprisingly it would appear that this possibility has not been actively explored, although mentioned in earlier papers by this author (Interrelating Metaphors to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes, 2007). Of related interest within the AQAL framework is whether the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations correspond distinctly to the four AQAL quadrants -- if only as a demonstration of the requisite variety engendering the bifurcations..

If the various forms of "opposition" (noted in the earlier paper), both to the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations, are themselves to be taken as being a challenge to integration, one of the questions is whether the pairing of the "houses" -- possibly within quadrants -- offers a means of recognizing the functional role of such opposition in each case. Does one of any pair of "houses" correspond to an initiative and another to rejection of that initiative? The two together would then be complementary in a cybernetic sense as a cognitive sub-system.

Statics vs Dynamics: A diagram such as that above can of course be subject to useful criticism because its essentially static nature obscures both the dynamics of change (with which it is explicitly associated, as the commentaries clarify) and some fundamental issues about how such a document is to be "read" as a coding system -- especially to the extent that a degree of alternation is built into the significance of the hexagrams. Some of these issues have been addressed in separate experiments (Embodying Values Dynamically through Alternation: integrating sets of polarized static values through indicative metaphor, 2008; Sustainability through Magically Dancing Patterns, 2008; Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements: a dynamic representation of Neti Neti, 2008; Dynamic Exploration of Value Configurations: interrelating traditional cultural symbols through animation, 2008). Other experiments of relevance are the use of hypergraph techniques to explore such relationships (Mapping Songlines of the Noosphere: use of hypergraphs in presentation of the I Ching and the Tao te Ching, 2006).

Of particular interest is the effort of Robert Daoust (Map for an Algonomic Pain Management, 2009; Part 2, 2010), combining a mapping approach based on the I Ching. with a framing of the challenge in terms of complex systems dynamics -- especially in the light of the role of imagination in opposing initiatives in response to the "predicament of mankind" or favouring those variously held to be "unrealistic" (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). There is some irony to the 40-year history of the above initiatives in that the role of "imagination" was effectively deprecated and ignored, despite calls for "imaginative thinking", preoccupation with "image" and vast military expense on engaging "hearts and minds".

Assumptions: It is important to stress the degree to which it is appropriate to consider diagrams such as that above as experimental and speculative. This may apply as much to purportedly fundamental frameworks such as AQAL as to subsequent integrative efforts -- a challenge for any future approach to the "predicament of mankind". Ken Wilber makes a case for AQAL being fundamental in response to the effort to develop it further as made by Lexi Neale (Introducing The AQAL Cube Perspectives: transcending and including the AQAL square, Guest Blog, 12 June 2009):

The following is one possible extension of the basic AQAL framework. Lexi presents it as the fundamental framework, whereas in my opinion it is but one of several possible extensions of the simpler, more fundamental framework, anchored in the present moment. But it won't work as the fundamental framework because it puts too much stuff in to go all the way up, all the way down, and thus actually ends up leaving out important dimensions. (Ken Wilber, Guest Blog, 4 November 2009).

Given the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations, how is "fundamental" to be understood and by whom? What then of integral futures in the future?


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