Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simplicity and Self-ishness

I have been looking at contributive and dissipative cycles at the humanity scale and a topic of intrigue is whether providing contributions to systems of destruction provide a coaction of meaning. This is a very theoretical way of asking: "Does doing good things for bad systems really help anyone?" 

While localized benefits can always be found, in extensive coaction analysis the ecological benefits (and detriments) are often distributed and so are more complex. Such is the path of looking at the health of the whole. Recognizing this complexity, those seeking simplification while still caring want to know: "What should we do?" 

For ecological management, we already have the answer; courtesy of intellectual ecological systems leviathan,  Simon Levin, who always provides such elegance and brevity in describing natural systems complexity. In Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons, he provides a framework for sound practice by the eight commandments of sustainable stewardship of the natural commons. They are, in summary, (with apologies for the brief paraphrasing):

1. Reduce Uncertainty (expend effort on knowing what it present and how it contributes)
2. Expect Surprise (build flexible systems able to respond to what is not knowable)
3. Maintain Heterogeneity (diversity does enable resiliency by the fact of probability)
4. Sustain Modularity (compartment connected functions to preserve parts in the whole)
5. Preserve Redundancy (be able to replace lost functions with the spare one)
6. Tighten Feedback Loops (makes costs and benefits more local to their impact sources)
7. Build Trust (demonstrable actions count, even if you are not to be held accountable)
8. Do Unto Others as You Would Have them Do Unto You (the universalism of respect)

While I am biased towards always looking at the positive and generating feedback loops in human systems, in this rare situation, the entreatment to the opposite of the moral 'ought' invited a question as to how is the future we are creating truly "fraught" (my word of the month).

So ... from a more detailed academic paper I am working on dealing with the alternatives to Simplistic Singularism, is the negative brainstorm of Levin's commandments, being a reverse-apithological perverse list of commandments for destruction of the complex commons, simplistically and selfishly, simply to highlight the apparent absurdity of the present:

1. Increase Ignorance (ignore what we do know and negate what is already obvious)
2. Plan for Predictability (adopt linear predictions with no change of assumptions)
3. Mandate Uniformity (ensure there is only one source or type of each vulnerability)
4. Centralize Connectivity (design so if there is a failure of a part the entirety falls)
5. Zealotry in Efficiency (reduce alternative forms and favor only the extreme case)
6. Untraceable Externalities (make feedback and consequence as remote as practicable)
7. Delay Cooperations (wait to be the last to commit and never lead as an exemplar)
8. Privilege Self-Interest (do unto others before they do unto you)

The compounding effects of the negative entreatments are so horrifying as to make them almost impossible to consciously enact. We are caught frozen with the fear of their impact. One of the difficulties in seeing the effects of generative loops for enhanced strewardship is that they are 'adnormal' and so being beyond a normalized state that seems to enable us to (briefly) survive, we wonder if the effort is worth it.

I think in taking a moment to imagine the opposite, which is the present, I am now convinced more than ever, the effort is worth it, 

 ... and we had better believe it. 

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