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Cognitive Cycles Vital to Sustainable Self-Governance

Uses the Lord of the Rings to explore integrative understanding appropriate to global governance.

Cognitive Cycles Vital to Sustainable Self-Governance
Embodiment: how "one" engages with reality
Interweaving singular metrics
Emergent integrity of a configuration of cognitive cycles -- a "Lord of the Rings"

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Part 3 of Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics (2009)

Cognitive unsustainability

Cyclic irrelevance: It is precisely the subunderstanding associated with pursuit of a single way of knowing that transforms the "knower" into a cognitive "wraith" in Tolkien's terminology. Those in possession of such singular knowledge are "doomed to die" in the words of the poem above (in Part 2) -- effectively to lose the immortality conferred upon them by that knowledge.

As noted in framing the Integrative Knowledge Project, the inadequacy and natural limitations of specialized approaches are poorly recognized -- although is however increasingly recognized that it is both inefficient and inadequate to organize research or action programmes as though nature were organized into disciplinary sectors in the same way that universities are.

How, asks Russell Ackoff (1960), is a practitioner of any one discipline to know in a particular case whether another discipline is better equipped to handle the problem than is his? It would be rare indeed if a representative of one of the many disciplines in some way related to the problem in question did not feel that his particular approach to that problem would be very fruitful, if not the most fruitful.

This tendency is also institutionalized, as noted by Hasan Ozbekhan (1969): "This almost subconsciously motivated attempt, that of a sector to expand over the whole space of the system in its own particular terms and in accordance with its own particular outlooks and traditions, compounds the problem by further fragmenting the wholeness of the system. For sectors cannot become systems, they can only dominate them; and when they do they warp them."

On the same point, Ackoff notes (1960): "...few of the problems that arise can adequately be handled within any one discipline. Such systems are not fundamentally mechanical, chemical, biological, psychological, social, economic, political, or ethical. These are merely different ways of looking at such systems. Complete understanding of such systems requires an integration of these perspectives. By integration I do not mean a synthesis of results obtained by independently conducted undisciplinary studies, but rather results obtained from studies in the process of which disciplinary perspectives have been synthesized. The integration must come during, not after, the performance of the research." 

This predictable death in time constitutes a valuable reminder of the "cognitive unsustainability" of any particular mode of knowing -- of any single-factor explanation. Its apparent appropriateness to any given challenge must eventually fade. It effectively falls victim to a generic variant of the incompleteness theorems of Kurt Gödel. The emphasis of Edward de Bono, on the need to shift between modes of knowing, offers a contextual insight into the nature of transdisciplinary insight (Six Thinking Hats, 1985; Six Action Shoes, 1991). This dynamic has been explored elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002).

Intelligence and learning: However, as "ways of knowing", these might be understood as "intelligences" -- in the light of the theory of multiple intelligences, initially developed by Howard Gardner (Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, 1999). This set variously includes (or excludes): bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, musical, naturalistic, spiritual, existential, and moral intelligence. Each might be understood as a distinct form of "metric" -- a way of assessing the world and defining a worldview.

Another approach is to consider these modalities as patterns of learning which lend themselves to being "bound together" through a higher form of ordering, as explored separately (Towards a Periodic Table of Ways of Knowing -- in the light of metaphors of mathematics, 2009; Periodic Pattern of Human Life: the Periodic Table as a metaphor of lifelong learning, 2009; Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive: necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety, 2005).

Psychosocial hazard: The drama of The Lord of the Rings emphasizes essential danger -- a significance typically drained from any single metric, no matter the indicator. As noted above, it is therefore fruitful to recognize the nature of psychosocial hazard undermining any fruitful assessment of risk (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009)

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