November 17th, 2012
in Op Ed
Fixing Bayonets, and Charging Toward the Next Adaptive Permutation of Our Own Electorate
by Roger Erikson, Mike Norman Economics
It's the adaptive permutations, silly. Follow up:
Warren Mosler's forecasts now make perfect sense to me, even when the rest of the world appears to be headed in the opposite direction. He's really changed my life, by illuminating a path through one particularly hard to recognize adaptive window, a conceptual bottleneck. I can extrapolate from that path, to clarify the path to other tough windows as well. Twenty years back I might have thought Mosler was lost in left field. Yet there's always a steady trickle of people (Socrates, Wallace, Tesla, Shewhart, Deming, Boyd, etc), who sense that orthodoxy never makes enough sense past yesterday, and are already looking for a better paradigm. Improving our National Adaptive Rate means turning that trickle into a stream. As a nation, we need a faster CAR (Cultural Adaptive Rate).
Losing Net Agility
Every culture faces tasks in dimensions beyond it's training. We now have thousands of distinct, new professions that didn't even exist when most current adults were born, and a steady trickle of revolutionary innovators in each and every one of those professions. Yet we're grossly neglecting how to continuously explore and select optimal, revolutionary permutations of all these mini-paradigm changers. We're simply ignoring our own, multi-level selection. Our diversity is growing faster than our organizational methods, so that we're actually losing net agility. That's ironic, since multi-variable calculus is a 400-yr old topic taught in introductory math, but not practiced outside the classroom by 99% of those who've passed a calculus class!
The Evil of Credentialism
Methods drive results, and we are (mostly) what we practice, not what we say. Therefore, our bigger problem, really, is that even while we're desperately looking for new paradigms, we're simultaneously practicing the opposite, by conditioning most students to either not look, not recognize better ways even when they see 'em, or actively oppose anyone saying a better way is possible (or desired) - i.e., the insidious evil of Credentialism. We need a better underlying paradigm for dynamically addressing our paradigm progression!
Our present approach ain't scaling.
Pirsig might say that we're personally dynamic ... yet socially static and self-suicidal; that we're furiously training static-value thinkers in an obviously increasingly dynamic-value world. Hence, our methods momentum, as a vector, is carrying us away from, not closer to, our avowed goals, where we want to go. What happens when methods-momentum and goal-momentum are orthogonal? That produces a really sick organization approaching an inflection point where survival and failure are equally probable options.
Surviving Our Own Devices
It turns out that the rate limiting task for all social species - and now cultures - is how, exactly, to scavenge net diversity as a reserve, and drag it - kicking and screaming - through the sequence of rare windows that define an unpredictable survival path through "Adaptation Space." Forget banking reserves. We need to be operating on an entirely different level - just to survive our own devices.
Unfortunately, we don't drive that situational awareness home at the beginning of training, even in Biology 101, let alone in economics or political science - or any other of our 2000+ other training diciplines. We always have far, far more capabilities than we need, but always lag in developing the agility to use what we already have. Couch potato culture, indeed! It's actually much worse than even the most pessimistic among us imagine - but never hopeless.
As a nation, Wall St. and the 1% are the bulk of the expanding duff we're sitting on, while our electorate falls ill exactly because of it!
What's the economic metaphor for type-2 diabetes? The self-induced, runaway methods triggering maldistribution of incomes & assets? What's the simplest prevention AND cure? Coordinated, economic exercise?
That means simply unleashing public initiative, to feverishly explore, analyze and select from our exponentially expanding group options! Why are we making this anything except insanely great fun? What's the next scale beyond individual sociopaths? Culturopaths? Is that what we're slipping into? A Rush Limbaugh culture? The smell is already noticeable, and a cleansing bath is needed - pronto.
The 'Fix Bayonettes' Problem
Here's our Catch-22 dilemma (where's Joshua Chamberlain when we need millions like him?):
We can't afford to leave the unmotivated behind, and we can't learn how to motivate their growing ranks fast enough - which means there's a better way.
Can't we continuously tweak and subtly alter the edu/training production process? Can't we start practicing cheap prevention vs. expensive repair in the way we continuously replenish our own electorate?
Is it ALWAYS time to "fix bayonets" in policy battle? We're in continuous war with our own bureacracy. We don't want to destroy it, and we don't want to dismantle it. Hence, the "bayonets" we fix must be emerging tactical devices which run circles around, under and through those parts of credentialism and bureaucracy that are always becoming obsolete. We need to take leaner/faster/better bureaucracy with us wherever we all need to go. We need continuously faster national, not just local, OODA loops, and national statistical process adaptation rather than control (dynamic SPA, not SPC).
A Master OODA
To do that, we need a bias to action. We need to trick the Luddites into rapidly enjoying what they don't understand, and make it fun for kids to try insanely novel exploration - WHILE always practicing agile, full-group feedback. We need methods for continuously improving our quality of distributed decision-making.
We need Master Ooda and the Klaxon Klone Army ("Ooooda! Ooooda!").
We also need theme songs. "Ooda loop loop, loop .. loop, loop."
MMTcat stew? Toughest paradigm alive?
Cargo Cult Mentality
Comically, neither economics nor accounting classes bother to tell most paying students that ignorance is still bliss. We'd be better off starting Econ 101 out with reviews of both Valhalla and CargoCult paradigms! That way more capitalists could at least be conditioned to heartily enjoy whatever time they have on or off the golf course, while audaciously thinking about inventing new games on a greater scale.
To practice, and increase agility at multi-level adaptation, we need to embrace agile use of cargo-cult tricks on on ourselves. For example, constant battle with every one of our own existing methods - since they constitute our own cargo-cults. A culture with infinite agility is one where audience participation runs the Kabuki show, knows it, embraces the fun of doing it, makes joke about themselves, and can laugh at themselves. That takes practice, and preparation. It's not for the faint of heart, but no harder than watching a toddler enjoying the new risk of learning how to walk. Our kids - and even the "7th culture yet unspawned" - will do this, whether we try to shield them from the risk or not. Better to enjoy the hell out of it while we can.
About the Author
Roger Erickson is a systems entrepreneur based in Maryland. He worked for years in neurophysiology system research, at the Humboldt Stiftung, MIT, Yale, and NIMH before becoming more interested in community, business and market systems. Roger's newest interests are being pursued through several startups, as well as pilot agriculture commercialization projects with the USDA.