If it’s true that we are in the beginnings of major change, then I’d like to hope that we are moving towards more “natural”, more “realistic” ways of living.
This industrial, capitalist age, has not been based on either natural or realistic premises. Nature doesn’t produce anything like the machines and organisations we have created in the world. Why not? Because nature is not mechanical, it isn’t a closed system where everything can be controlled and outcomes can be reliably predicted in all circumstances. It’s just not true that if only we have enough data we can figure out the future in detail and then the way to get there.
What alternative is there?
For me, the alternative is found in reality. It’s found in Nature – including in our own bodies.
How do our bodies work?
They work by developing a diversity of elements which then create mutually beneficial bonds between them – think of the organs of the body for example. A human being has a liver, a heart, a pair of kidneys, a brain….and so on. Each of these organs grows from the same original seed cell, but each develops as a tight network of specialised cells which, when they work together, perform incredible feats. But when the different organs work together (NB NOT in competition with each other) in mutually supportive ways, then they become something else entirely – they become part of the workings of the body in which we find them.
So diversity is a key feature of Nature. Mutually beneficial bonds are a key feature. Networks of connections between the elements are a key feature. As we extrapolate this model up we find more and more elements and more and more complexity – the best model I know to represent this is the “complex adaptive system“.
Here’s an important feature of complex adaptive systems (exactly the kind of phenomena we find in living organisms everywhere in Nature) – they don’t have a central controller who is in charge of a hierarchy, setting the goals, laying out the strategy, tasks and jobs and the ensuring they are delivered to it’s own particular levels and standards.
Might sound attractive if it was like that, but it isn’t.
Instead we have networks of nodes, systems, feedback loops, influences, clusters, organs and so on, which TOGETHER ensure the integrity of the organism – self-defence, self-repair, reproduction, growth and maturity are functions of the entire system – not the prerogative of one particular part.
Take this model and scale it up to groups of organisms, to societies, to ecosystems, to an entire planet even – the principles remain the same – diversity and the creation of mutually beneficial relationships.
So, the industrial, capitalist, dare I say it, inhuman, system based on machines and hierarchies is probably coming to an end because, well it just ain’t natural!
Here’s a piece about control which I read a few years back –
The industrial age and the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor made control popular as we used humans to mechanize our factories. Control permeated society down to the education systems that eliminated variability, encourage conformity, and produce the mechanized humans for the industrial machine. But the control mentality does not have utility in a world that is co-creative and cognitive. We must replace control with the creation of shared value, a fondness for contribution, appreciation for human uniqueness, and the embrace of uncertainty. We need to create an atmosphere of humility where co-creative energies are released instead of subdued. Our future depends on the cultivation of new ideas and shared knowledge — a future easily smothered by control.
As I think about Paul Mason’s piece which I posted about yesterday, I think the important thing for us to do now, is look around and look within – the answers are here already – and they don’t include the creation of more controls.