14th December 2003 | Draft
Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid"
From myth-making towards a "wisdom society"
- / -
of the "unsaid" in sustaining psycho-social community (and
are presented separately as an Annex
Examples of the "unsaid"
Encompassing the "unsaid"
of the "unsaid" in sustaining psycho-social community
The increasingly globalized communication society is paradoxically characterized
by an increasing number of topics on which little or nothing may be publicly
said. Whilst many of these "zones of the unsaid" have existed in the
past, their existence becomes all the more felt in an information-rich environment.
They might be compared with the astronomical "black holes" which populate
The concern here is at what point an increase in the number of "zones
of the unsaid" may completely undermine conventional hopes for global policy-making,
world governance, and the implementation of strategic initiatives in response
to global crises.
This concern builds on the experience of the author in profiling some 59,000
world problems (in the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential, 1995) -- as perceived by the
network of 63,000 international organizations (identified in the Yearbook
of International Organizations, 2003). Many of these problems have also
been considered unmentionable in the past -- and may continue to remain so.
Note that those considered unmentionable by one constituency may not be so for
The following text comprises three sections. The first offers some examples
of the "unsaid". The second discusses possible opportunities for navigating
a strategic-space with a relatively high density of the "unsaid" --
and the circumvention of its dysfunctional effects in a knowledge-based society.
This is seen as the basis for transforming a society grounded on myth-making
through the media into a "wisdom society". The annex provides clues
to further reflection in the light of extensive web resources on the variety
of forms of the "unsaid". The contextual challenge for a "knowledge
society" has been articulated in an earlier paper (Coherent
Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier, 1999) based on an earlier
exploration of Development
beyond Science to Wisdom: Facilitating the emergence of configurative understanding
in Councils of the Wise (1979).
Examples of the "unsaid"
- Over-population: The manner in which the explosion in the world population
and its implications for resources in the future has now been effectively
designed off the international agenda and is no longer a matter for discussion
for action. This is despite the fact that this increase is a prime driving
force for many social and environmental problems.
- Depletion of petroleum resources: Denial of the rapidity of depletion
of the resource on which modern civilization is built, and of the foreseeable
consequences as the extraction of remaining reserves becomes more difficult
and more expensive.
- Substance abuse: The pervasive extent of substance abuse is not a
matter for extensive debate, the focus being rather, in the case of drugs,
on inhibiting the process of manufacture and distribution from foreign countries
rather than on the need felt by consumers -- as a result of the inadequacies
of modern civilization.
- Hidden agendas: The ubiquity of unstated and hidden agendas that
effectively render meaningless any explicit rational strategic initiative.
- Withholding assistance: The characteristic empty quality of firm
commitments made to those in need (notably developing countries) knowing that
such promises will be broken in due time. Also the extent to which assistance
to those in need is not even offered.
- Threat: Failure to acknowledge publicly the high level of threat,
coercion and political bullying associated with transactions in supposedly
- Over-selling: The significant level of over-selling despite a track
record of product and service failure (even in the case of complex systems)
and its direct consequence for over-budget project completion and delay.
- Over-optimism: The extent to which official reports on problematic
trends tend to be dangerously over-optimistic to avoid facing decision-makers
with possibilities which they are unable to handle -- and which may increase
anxiety in their constituencies.
- Demonization: The level of demonization deliberately cultivated in
order to frame strategic opponents as completely unreasonable and unworthy
of any attempt at meaningful dialogue.
- Disparities in wealth and income: The extent to which such disparities
are only the subject of momentary and anecdotal comment that do not lead to
substantive efforts to address them effectively.
- Sexual disease: The failure to acknowledge infection by sexually
transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and the life-threatening consequences
- Corruption in highest places: The unacknowledged level of corruption
in national government and intergovernmental organizations -- exemplified
by the mass resignation of the European Commission under Jacques Santer and
its subsequent challenges in dealing with fraud.
- Criminal networks: Denial of the extent and influence on public policy
of international criminal networks
- Apocalyptic scenarios: Unstated influence of apocalyptic and biblical
"End Times" scenarios on the strategic thinking of some world leaders.
- Penal conditions: The unacknowledged level of violence and humiliation
within prisons, including male rape, and its tacit acceptance as an aspect
of the punishment meted out by the law.
- Sexual abuse by priests: The extent of abuse (unacknowledged until
recently) practiced by priests on parishioners and young people in their charge
-- and the complicity of their superiors in failing to acknowledge this.
- Unchallenged certainties: The extent to which unsubstantiated certainties
(of religions, scientific disciplines or ideologies) are promoted and inculcated,
unchallenged -- possibly with the protection of civil liberties legislation.
- Suppression of information: Collusion in the prevention of dissemination
of information on human rights abuses (eg Chechnya, Tibet, etc)
- Animal processing for food: Avoidance of information on the conditions
of factory farms, animal transportation and slaughter, and associated food
- Humiliation: The extent of the unrecognized sense of humiliation
forced upon the peoples of many developing countries by an arrogant industrialized
world (cf Mahdi Elmandjra. Humiliation à l'ère du méga-impérialisme,
- Collective incapacity of the wise: The significant difficulty experienced
by the "best and the brightest" to orchestrate their differences
creatively and fruitfully in response to complex strategic challenges.
Encompassing the "unsaid"
Regression to a mindset of myth
- Mythical consciousness in the past: One approach to the "unsaid"
takes the form of regression to an earlier stage of human psycho-cultural history
oriented to respond to diffuse and ill-formed threat. In that period the environment
was believed to be densely populated with hostile, and possibly malignant, spirits
and others forces articulated through myth. Such forces were primarily responsible
for accidents, illness and death -- and terror of every kind. Some populations
around the world remain in thrall to such beliefs -- and the need to assuage
the hostile spirits and counter their efficacy. This is notably the case of
those in the animist tradition and of their voodoo successors.
Those thriving in this environment succeeded in part through their capacity
to embody the forces in credible mythical stories -- offering great explanatory
power -- and to inspire fear in those who thwarted them, or in any way doubted
their credibility. These powerful people are partly recognized as witchdoctors.
They claim the ability to commune with the spirit world and to divine the intentions
of its inhabitants.
Culturally, the possibility of magical intervention in governance continues
to be celebrated through the involvement of Merlin in the Arthurian myth --
with its associated positive and negative dimensions. In the past century, aspects
of this pagan world view were deliberately cultivated by the Nazi leadership
using magical and esoteric practices. Indeed many features of the Nazi Party
are considered to have been driven by this perspective including the orchestration
of the mass rallies by Albert
Speer. Not since Augustus Caesar had there been such a total orchestration
of technology, media, art and music for political purposes. Hitler himself was
a member of the secret Thule
Society. [more | more].
Efforts have been made to distinguish between "black magic" in contrast
with the "white magic" that many hope would prevail. For example current
interest in shamanism focuses on its beneficial role, notably in healing. But
there are continuing concerns, notably amongst conspiracy theorists, at "satanic"
influence in government [more].
"Satan" is a descriptor used both by "jihadis" and "crusaders"
against each other. Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, US deputy undersecretary of
defence for intelligence (responsible for tracking down key leaders of al-Qaeda)
has said publicly in 2003 that he sees the war on terrorism as a clash between
Judeo-Christian values and Satan -- has been defended by the White House for
doing so [more | more | more | more].
- Fear-mongering as a basis for power: There is a case for reflecting
on the position acquired and cultivated by George Bush and Tony Blair in relation
to the above patterns. Both are highly focused on promoting a sense of fear
in society as a means of ensuring that their populations, and the world community,
continue to follow their leadership. George Bush, for example, has launched
his 2004 election campaign stressing fear of terrorism -- keeping US citizens
terrified is a key componenent of the re-election campaign (see Maureen Dowd. A Cold, Clammy Hand (Guardian, 25 November 2003). She notes that
James Goody and Kenneth Weisbrode (Financial Times, November 2003) argue:
"Fear has been used as a basis for curtailing freedom of expression and
for questioning legal rights long taken for granted." (see also Promoting
a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: Strategy of choice for world governance,
Similarly, Tony Blair is intent on taking every advantage of the attack against
the British Consulate in Istanbul (20 November 2003) to justify reinforcement
of every possible security measure in the UK through a new civil contingencies
law (updating the Emergency Powers Acts of 1920s and 1940s) -- irrespective
of any human rights considerations (and in contravention of European conventions)
and the inadequacy of safeguards against misuse of such powers [more].
- Unproven chains of evidence: But, in both cases, as with the witchdoctors,
the chains of evidence substantiating their stories about "al-Qaida terrorists"
are never exposed to public scrutiny, criticism or independent evaluation. And
this is despite their false claims, based on secret evidence, regarding the
existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and links between "Saddam
Hussein" and "al-Qaida" -- on which they both requested the trust
of their populations. Doubters are offered as evidence further bombings and
horrendous loss of life -- but no hard evidence of the role of "al-Qaida",
"Osama bin Laden" or "Saddam Hussein" is offered for public
scrutiny. Under the circumstances, the justification in terms of "reasons
of national security" bears an uncanny resemblance to the disputed reasons
offered by witchdoctors and psychics whose claims fail to stand up to rigorous
scrutiny by scientifically trained sceptics.
It was the rational era that sought verifiable chains of cause and effect that
diminished the credibility of the stories of witchdoctors and their fearsome
hold on their populations. Whether it was a case of witchdoctors manipulating
their own gullible agents to act on their behalf, skilled use of "special
effects" and sleight of hand, or verbal manipulation of their audiences
through charisma and "shock and awe" -- in the final analysis the
zones of influence of witchdoctors were severely reduced. The powerful world
of the spirits, with its terrifying inhabitants, was neutralized in the "civilized
George Bush and Tony Blair continue to claim to be receiving strong messages
concerning the shadowy invisible world of terrorists that are bent on annihilating
that civilized world. But it is most curious that it is their own professional
intelligence agencies who have expressed most doubt concerning the interpretation
made by the White House and Downing Street of the information received. As affirmed
McGovern, co-founder of the Veteran
Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (USA): "No President has lied
so baldly and so often and so demonstrably"(Independent on Sunday,
9 November 2003).
- Re-activating the mythical past: To what extent then is it Bush and
Blair themselves, through their private fears, who are seeking to draw the world
community back into a pre-rational state of permanent fear -- in order to preserve
their respective power bases? As deeply believing Christians, it is a supreme
irony that they should feel most comfortable in assiduously cultivating a pre-rational
mindset which Christian missionaries did much to neutralize over past centuries.
On the other hand, as some argue, is it precisely their desire to force the
world to act out the biblical "End Times" and Apocalyptic scenarios
of the final battle of Good vs Evil that is the evangelical Christian hope for
closure in the near future? It is indeed the case that Bush and Blair are very
close to those who seek to activate this scenario.
It is of course a travesty of that story, and an indication of the depths of
the fundamental unbelief of the "good guys", that the "bad guys"
in the drama -- "Saddam Hussein" and "Osama bin Laden" --
had to be secretly promoted and funded (if not trained) as agents of the USA.
This is in no way to deny the existence of groups -- such as "al-Qaida"
-- hostile to the Christian agenda as articulated by Bush and Blair, whether
or not the evidence for their significance is more substantive than that for
the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
As the saying goes, "being paranoid does not mean that no one is really
out to get you". But reactivating fear of a "bogeyman" in every
public place and in every form of public transportation, is simply to reignite
the fears of earliest childhood -- notably as practiced by the cruelest of parents
who enjoy terrorizing the vulnerable. It is a symptom of personal insecurity
in leaders (for whom "help" might tactfully be sought). It is not
an act of maturity and bears no relation to values upheld by Christians. Or
is it the case that the kind of Christianity they represent desperately needs
Evil -- and ever more of it -- to sustain its self-esteem and sense of righteousness?
It is unfortunate that the youth called upon to fight against Evil in Iraq
have had it defined for them by a continuing diet of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- that justifies their righteous lack of compunction in slaughtering civilians.
For those leading them, Evil was previously defined for them by the archetypal
"bad guys" from the cowboy "bad lands" of the West.
The challenge of "terrorism" -- as a symptom of systematic neglect
and marginalization, and a failure of dialogue -- calls for subtler approaches
worthy of the most mature achievements of humanity (see Transforming
the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002).
The mathematician Ron Atkin has addressed the issue of formally analyzing incommunicability
in social contexts (1972, 1974, 1976, 1977) -- most accessibly in Multidimensional
man: Can man live in 3-dimensional space? (1981). The relevance of these
insights to an understanding of the psychology of operating in complex communication
spaces, with much that is "unsaid", is given separately (see Comprehension:
social organization determined by incommunicability of insights)
The poet John Keats articulated (in 1817) the concept of negative capability:
"being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching
after fact and reason". Robert French ('Negative
Capability', 'Dispersal' and the Containment of Emotion) explains it
in psychoanalytic terms as the quality of attention as:
This state of mind depends on our 'Negative Capability', that is, on our
capacity for thinking and feeling, for learning and containment, for abstention
and indifference. Without the quality of attention made possible by this 'capability',
any amount of insight 'from a psychoanalytic perspective' is in danger of
remaining irritatingly indigestible or aridly intellectual.
Global strategic implications
Coherent governance: At what stage does the coherence
of the strategic and planning process of international, national and regional
governance become critically lacking in credibility to those whose support is
required? This stage might be termed the "Emperor's New Clothes Threshold".
Up to that point there is sufficient coherence to governance to sustain the
credibility of an ideological line. Beyond it, the number of "zones of
the unsaid" is so great that their overlap and fusion results in irreversible
fragmentation of the social fabric and the processes of governance. The coherence
of globality is lost -- there are too many holes, of too great a size, in the
block of "gruyère" to sustain its integrity (see . Distant,
and longer-term, perspectives become impossible. In astronomical terms again,
the "dark matter" obscures the healthy viable processes. The "Dark
Riders" are free to roam (see The
"Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring.
Engendering authenticity: As argued elsewhere, Bush
and Blair are to be praised for having given credibility to "regime change"
-- even though they fail to recognize where it is needed most (see Crusading
from Washing-Town to Bag-Dad: Pre-emptive regime change as the key to sustainable
development, 2002). Like the suicide bombers, they might also be praised
for having shifted the debate of the international community from decades of
arid futility to a focus on existential and transcendental values -- even though
their actions (as in Guantanamo Bay) belie their rhetoric. This focus will indeed
give expression to some of the organic immediacy of the neglected mythic consciousness
-- but without a need for bogeymen and evil spirits.
The irresponsibility and duplicity of their initiatives have indeed served
to evoke an unprecedented degree of authenticity amongst thinking people worldwide
Authenticity: through polyhedral global configuration of local paradoxes,
2003), heralding the emergence of a new humanity (see Authentic
Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003). It is this which will
provide the catalyst and template for a new style of global policy-making (see
Beyond the Information Barrier, 1999) inherently capable of discerning
non-sequiturs in specious arguments and faulty
chains of reasoning.
Reframing hegemony: The question is how is their disastrous
hegemonic strategic initiative to be successfully reframed -- given the level
of denial promoted by the world's only superpower (see also Strategic
denial: reframing the unknown). For a surrealist inspired by the tale
of the Emperor's New Clothes, the current imperial mindset would preferably
be reframed and dissipated as the first genuinely global joke.
However, in the light of the highest insights of such as a Sufi or a master
of eastern martial arts, the art may be to benefit from the engendered global
mindset and frame it otherwise. By reintroducing a mythic dimension, the tendency
to over-design and over-explicate a global strategy according to the sterile
-- and unfruitful -- rational models of past decades may be avoided. The "unsaid"
may thus be appropriately positioned at the centre of global strategic thinking
-- rectifying the unfortunate effort to focus such thinking on a distorted exclusivist
understanding of Christian values.
Configuring around the "unsaid": The coherence
of the complementary global strategic initiatives of the future may then derive
from their configuration in relation to the "unsaid". The functionality
is admirably illustrated by an image from a classical Taoist poem:
Thirty spokes meet in the hub. Where the wheel isn't is where it's useful.
Hollowed out, clay makes a pot. Where the pot's not is where it's useful.
Cut doors and windows to make a room. Where the room isn't, there's room for
you. So the profit in what is is in the use of what isn't. (Tao Te Ching
interpretation by Ursula Le Guin)
Given the explicit importance of such poetry to the governance of the vast
Chinese empires of the past, and the value of poetry to many western statesmen
of recent centuries, there is a case for exploring the value of such insights
to strategic thinking (see Poetry-making
and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast,
1993) in providing a new grounding for such strategic thinking (see Enhancing
the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
A global approach, centred more insighttfully on the "unsayable",
would then create a new framework to sustain the dialogue between those of radically
different perspective -- the missing dialogue that is now being transformed
into frustrated acts of indiscriminate suicidal violence and its indiscriminate
violent suppression. This calls for recognition of a neglected understanding
of "global" -- too easily framed in terms of movement of goods and
services (see Future
Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through
conversation in the present moment, 1997).
Governance through metaphor: This further suggests
that reflection on governance of the future "information society",
or "knowledge society" -- supported by the future semantic
web -- might fruitfully be framed in terms of enhancing the movement of
meaning through metaphor. As discussed elsewhere, with respect to "governance
through metaphor", governance then becomes fundamentally the process
of ensuring the emergence and movement of such "guiding" metaphor-models through
an information society, as well as their embodiment in organizational form (see
through enhancing the movement of meaning; and Being
Other Wise Clues to the dynamics of a meaningfully sustainable lifestyle,
For Philippe Quéau (Growing
the Global Good, 1998) as Director of UNESCO's Information and Informatics
Global regulation is indeed needed in many areas as we have seen. But above
all, we need to find a new meaning to our collective action. We need to formulate
a higher and wiser vision of what we are aiming at, as citizens of our global
society. We need new mental tools to help us think global. Too much data is
just noise. Information is not knowledge and even less wisdom. We need meaning
not just information tools. We need wisdom. Proliferation of information will
not add one minute to a day. In the information overflow, we are not necessarily
doing any better than before. On the contrary, we may simply lose touch with
reality, and lose the human touch. Information flood is a serious challenge,
requiring discipline, distance and scepticism. We will need cognitive skills
of awareness, perception, reasoning, and common sense judgement.
Towards a "wisdom society": The contrast
of such concerns with the current framing of the issues of the "information
society" and e-governance as a transformation of the service model (see
UN World Summit on the Information Society,
2003) -- even when extended to the development of collaborative knowledge-based
intelligence processes -- suggests the need to reflect on the nature of
wisdom essential to governance,
and the emergence of a "wisdom society". This has been variously envisaged
by bodies such as the Institute
of Noetic Sciences, the Co-Intelligence
Institute, George Pór's Community
Intelligence, or the Fetzer Collective
- Toward a Wisdom
Society: An Interview with James Botkin, 2002;
- Roar Bjonnes. Towards
a Wisdom Based Society, 2000;
- Jay Earley. Envisioning
a Wisdom Society, Arlington
- Henryk Skolimowski. Information:
Yes, But Where Has All Our Wisdom Gone? The Ecologist, Vol.
14, No. 5-6, 1984
- Doug Fulcher. The
Blooming of Wisdom: The Seeds of the Wisdom Society
- John McClellan. Envisioning
Learning Societies Across Multiple Dimensions
- John Wood. Real
estate and the virtual farm (Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space Conference)
- Barry Wolfer. Wisdom
- Co-Intelligence Institute. Wisdom
Society Survey Results, 2002
- Copthorne Macdonald. Toward
- George Pór. Designing
for the Emergence of a Global-scale Collective Intelligence. 2001
- Wisdom and
requisite variety. Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential,
For Simon Longstaff (Wisdom-based
Organisations, Australian Business Magazine, January 1995)
...I would respectfully suggest that the current enthusiasm for 'knowledge-based'
companies may cloud our perception of an even more important development --
a development that is only just starting to stir the consciousness of the
management community; a dawning realisation that the successful organisation
of the future will need to be wisdom-based. By 'wisdom' I refer to a capacity
to discern what is appropriate in a given situation; to see things as they
really are; to make a true measure of people and events. Wise people are economical
and accurate in their assessment of circumstances and are able to ensure that
facts and processes are applied in ways relevant to the particular circumstances.
Rather than being carried away by technique, those with wisdom exercise judgement
based on a mixture of experience and mature reflection.
Organisations lacking wisdom are prone to a predictable range of ills. For
example, they are easily seduced by the latest fad - applying novel management
or production techniques without critically assessing their relevance. They
are like people who combine intellectual brilliance with a complete lack of
common sense. Blinded by science, they disregard all warning signs and press
on until disappearing over the precipice of experience....
People with wisdom are alive to the vagaries of ethical decision-making.
Drawing on a type of experience that cannot be learned, they avoid the error
of trying to make each new situation fit within a pre-defined set of categories.
And so it is with organisations, too. Wisdom-based organisations will not
walk blindly into ethical death-traps.
It took the poet T.S. Eliot (The
Rock) to pose the question:
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? [more]
How indeed is the interface between "wisdom", "knowledge"
and "information" to be ensured in a computer-enhanced environment
beyond Science to Wisdom: Facilitating the emergence of configurative understanding
in Councils of the Wise, 1979; Gene Bellinger, et al. Data,
Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom) when vital distinctions are easily
lost in the new enthusiasm for "knowledge
management" and its commercial possibilities [more
| more | more | more
Ironically it would appear that the US Air Force has focused most attentively
on an understanding of that interface in the study by the Air Force University
( Air Force
2025) -- perhaps to be be more wisely understood in the light of Iraq.
But perhaps the supreme irony lies in the fact that WisdomTM
is a trade mark of Arthur Andersen (see Modelling
knowledge with WisdomTM, 1999; more)
for a "knowledge modelling" tool that was applied in the EU ESPRIT
(Information Technologies Programme) project KARE (Knowledge Acquisition and
sharing for Requirements Engineering) completed in 2001 -- although clearly
such tools were not sufficient to provide the "wisdom" to prevent
Arthur Andersen from being implicated in the Enron accounting scandal of 2002,
and duly convicted [more
| more]. Financial
subterfuge, although an example of the "unsaid" in knowledge management,
is clearly not an example of wisdom.
Just as the "information society" is needed to undergird the "knowledge
society", it is the latter that will provide the foundation for the processes
of a "wisdom society" through which the challenges and dilemmas of
global governance can be wisely handled. The assumption that the "wisdom
free" processes envisaged for an "information society" (or for
a "knowledge society") are adequate to the challenge of global governance
have been totally undermined by the disastrous information and knowledge handling
associated with governmental policies in response to Iraq. A study of the European
Parliament's Directorate General for Research only comments in passing on whether
the information society can be transformed into a wisdom society (Cultural
Diversity and the Information Society Policy Options and Technological Issues
Final Study, 2001).
But, given that "information society" and "knowledge society"
are increasingly in use as code to disguise narrowly focused agendas of particular
vested interests, any preoccupation with "wisdom society" should embody
processes which correct for tendencies to coopt the vision in the service of
restrictive, self-serving agendas -- however well-meaning. As with efforts to
displace "information society" by hyped-up visions of a "knowledge
society" on international agendas, it becomes apparent that through such
conflation each quickly tends to mean less than the aspirations and vision of
what people would want to project onto them.
|Some Varieties of Wisdom
(with constraints on their computerization)
(knowing - cognitive)
(enacting - behavioural)
|Wisdom of the enlightened individual (aphorisms,
koans, gurus, etc)
[Possibility of aphorism ("sacred") knowledge-base, without
insight into its significance]
|Wisdom of the enlightened community (collaborative
/ collective intelligence, collective wisdom, etc)
[Possibility of computer-mediated learning environment, but without integration
of other forms of wisdom]
|Wisdom of the enlightened "hands-on"
practitioner ("know-how", fix-it engineer, "best practice",
[Possibility of "best-practice" knowledge-base, without insight
into its applicability]
|Wisdom of the enlightened "people person"
(street-wise, facilitator, charismatic, etc)
[Possibility of action guidelines and training modules but without sense
of how to internalize them]
It is perhaps worth distinguishing some flavours of "wisdom" as in
the table above -- identifying the constraints on enhancing access to each variety
through computer-mediated communication:
- Generic-Individual: There are many aphorism collections, increasingly
providing for computer-mediated access, possibly together with sacred writings
from which they may derive (notably through the variety of "wisdom schools").
This material might indeed be organized "knowledgeably" (beyond
the facility of web-based
concordances) and linked to knowledge bases on strategies and problems
(as in the case of the Human
Values module of the online Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential) -- but whilst the aphorism
may embody the wisdom, the wisdom is not necessarily meaningful through reading
the aphorism, and cannot necessarily be readily communicated. Such wisdom
may be challenged as to the relevance of integrating that of the other types.
- Situational-Individual: There are many "best practice"
knowledge bases for dealing with material challenges (as with the Global
Strategies and Solutions module of the online Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential). The challenge, as with any
recipe, lies in the wisdom of when to apply which recipe and how to make it
work in practice. Situational success in the moment may obscure the existence
of challenges addressed in principle by aphorism-type wisdom.
- Situational-Collective: There are a number of guidelines to group
facilitation (and animation) that are susceptible to adaptation as computer-enhanced
training modules, whether with respect to the practice of non-violence, commuity
facilitation, or otherwise. Perhaps the most comprehensive is the International
Facilitator's Companion (1998). Again there is a difference between
absorbing "the knowledge" through training and the wisdom of engaging
meaningfully with a group in practice. This may be undertaken whilst imbued
with aphorism-type wisdom, but this too may not translate into action that
is credible to others. Similarly the people skills may not ensure the integration
of the "best practice" wisdom into group projects.
- Generic-Collective: Emphasis may be placed on the emergent wisdom
of collective learning processes as enhanced by groupware facilities. Whilst
there are many groupware packages to enhance collaborative work, few recognize
or emphasize the wisdom dimension (those initiated by George
Pór being one exception). The challenge of participant-oriented environments
is how to integrate them with the other forms of wisdom. Excessive facilitation
in the light of people-skills and training insights may inhibit processes
of emergence and learning. Whilst individual participants may be imbued with
aphorism-type wisdom, this may not engage or constrain others. And, although
individuals may access "best practice" wisdom, its discipline may
be antithetical to the collective group process. Reference can usefully be
made to sustaining such wisdom emergence through special metaphor-enhanced
languages (as explored in research on appreciative
inquiry and generative
metaphor in organizational
discourse). Arrays of interconnected traditional stories embodying community
wisdom, and lending themselves to knowledgeable computer-mediated organization,
can be seen in this light (eg Buddhist Jataka
tales, Sanskrit Panchatantra,
The classic aphorism-type wisdom that points to the essence of the challenge
of reflection on any "wisdom society" -- capable of interrelating
the various forms of wisdom -- is the following:
"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The
name that can be named is not the eternal name"
in Annex on Varieties
of the "unsaid" in sustaining psycho-social community