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Commentary on Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: a discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks (2020) arising from a roundtable of the Commission for the Human Future
The Commission for the Human Future convened an expert roundtable of Australian scientists, business leaders, public servants and academics which has called for the world’s nations to come together to develop a strategy for human survival. This was announced as a Call for a Global Plan for Human Survival (Media release, 28 March 2020) and subsequently as a Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks (Media release, 22 April 2020). This has resulted in a report (Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: a discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks, 2020).
The report is divided into three Parts:
It includes a set of five Appendices:
Most of the contributors prepared a page of key points for consideration by participants in the Roundtable before the discussion began. Three separate sessions were held by Zoom, each lasting more than 1.5 hours. Each was attended by 30+ of the participants. Each of the three sessions was recorded and the discussion was transcribed and distributed to all participants. This report has been authored for the Commission by an editorial group of five: John Hewson, Arnagretta Hunter, Bob Douglas, Julian Cribb and Alison Leigh, who have drawn from the transcripts and key points.
In commenting on this initiative, the concern here is not to focus on the content, since the points made feature to a varying degree in the articulations of other initiatives, as the Report notes in Appendix 3. The concern here is the role of yet another articulation in a context in which such reports have tended to be ignored -- to the point of being readily forgotten. How is that phenomenon to be self-reflexively recognized and addressed within reports contributing to that pattern? Insights in that regard are themselves dangerously neglected (Michael Wogalter, Handbook of Warnings, 2006; Karen A. Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006).
Potentially more problematic is the tendency of such reports to ignore the specific contributions of their predecessors without accounting for what they consider to be irrelevant. In this case the argument focuses on how such a report can be organized in terms of "ten risks" without clarifying why a larger or smaller number would not be more appropriate -- given the complexities of a crisis of crises, as recognized to varying degrees by others.
The ambiguity of a homonym is deliberately implied in the subtitle to emphasize that the number of critical dimensions discussed is both cognitively engendered and sustained thereafter by psychosocial processes. This is considered consistent with the arguments of George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2000).
The commentary concludes with a variety of dynamic representations in 3D of any 10-fold pattern of "risks", values, or strategic commandments reframing the tendency to represent them as bullet-points or "pillars" (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008). These follow from earlier experiments of current relevance (Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: Humanity "bristles" as the world "burns", 2020).
A specific focus of the argument here regarding the new report is the identification of "ten risks" as a singular "challenge" -- otherwise termed "catastrophic threats" by rapporteurs of the initiative (Arnagretta Hunter and John Hewson, 10 Catastrophic Threats Are Facing Humans Right Now, And Coronavirus Is Only One of Them, Science Alert, 25 April 2020).
This contrasts in a manner which merits clarification with the focus of preceding initiatives on the 15 Global Challenges of the Millennium Project and the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century, as framed by the US National Academy of Engineering (2020). The latter are themselves framed by a focus by the UN on "goals", namely the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, superceding the 8 Millennium Development Goals. Only the SDG initiative is mentioned in the new report.
With respect to challenges, the Global Challenges Foundation (unmentioned by the report) specifically identifies a set of 3 "global catastrophic risks" and a further set of 6 "other risks". It does not appear to frame the "challenges" in other terms. Similarly it is unclear how these should be related to the 15 "global challenges" of the Millennium Project. There is obviously a further concern in relating challenges, risks, and threats to the goals variously articulated by the United Nations.
Is it the case that the terminology is essentially irrelevant? Should any confusion be resolved by wording to the effect that risks are a threat and the challenge is to mitigate them in pursuit of goals -- possibly in the light of strategic "pillars"?
Potentially more confusing, on the assumption that some such correspondence can be recognized, is how to handle differences in the numbers of such "concepts" framed in the cases cited and in other initiatives, whether acknowledged by the report or not. Possibilities include:
With respect to the latter especially useful is the recognition accorded to the distinctions made by Donald Rumsfeld regarding; known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns, and unknown unknowns. So framed, it is then appropriate to ask which concepts in any such report are a reflection of known knowns, unknown knowns, unknown knowns, or unknown unknowns. From that perspective the tardy recognition of COVID-19 clarifies a further question of who is ignorant about what -- when it comes to risks and threats, let alone to the credibility of challenges and goals?
In its Appendix 3, the report lists activities and reports on global risks by a "growing network of august institutions and individuals round the Planet, and their invaluable contribution to our own deliberations".
The confusion highlighted above with respect to the number of "concepts" identified by such sources (however labelled) suggests that there is a methodological need to compare the insights framed, subsumed or ignored by each source. It would seem to be especially important to understand why this is the case in a context calling for a "global plan" and "global action", presumably requiring a degree of global consensus. The report does not attempt to do so, reflecting a characteristic tendency in other such initiatives. Typically each is associated with an appeal to support their particular articulation -- in quest of such global consensus (as is the case with the report's Appendix 5).
A thorough review of the new report might usefully have listed the bodies in Appendix 3 -- but together with other bodies who might also perceive themselves to be of relevance as "august institutions and individuals round the Planet". Against such a listing (possibly as columns in a table) might then be listed 10-20 (or more) "concepts" -- whether understood as threats, risks, problems, challenges or goals. The resulting pattern of recognized relevance (or irrelevance) would then be especially instructive with respect to any challenge of achieving global consensus -- especially if it reflected the perspective of all the initiatives listed.
It is of course the case that a number of online encyclopedic projects necessarily have entries on the "concepts" highlighted in the new report. Examples include Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica, or -- more specifically -- the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.
It is also unfortunately the case that any listing of those deemed "august" is highly controversial with many listed deemed irrelevant (if not dangerous) by others -- and many others considering their own perspective to be highly relevant. This dynamic is evident in the conflictual relationship between many think tanks, a primary source of reports of that kind (Tank Warfare Challenges for Global Governance, 2019).
The Commision contrasts its use of "august" with its call for "diverse voices":
To overcome the ten global risks, it is imperative to share solutions which are inclusive of voices outside of science, business, government and the traditional centres of power. This means especially including the voices of women, of youth, of First People the world over, of minorities, the poor and physically isolated. We need to recognise, hear and share, their views, values and solutions. We need to know there are other ways to solve these threats than through political, military or economic conquest.... We need to engage far larger numbers of young people in imagining and planning our common future. We particularly need to hear the voices of women at the broader system level. (p. 16)
Arguably the unqualified use of "august" is central to the challenge of the times -- given its historical association with the first Emperor of the Roman Empire. The unfortunate difficulty for the "august", readily conflated with "elite" and "excellence", is their significant failure in delivering more than their obvious disagreement with each other in claiming relevance to global governance. As elites, they are widely noted as having engendered the recent rise of populism through a failure to communicate successfully or meaningfully with those lacking the quality with which the elites identify.
The challenge faced by the "august" can be speculatively articulated in terms of delivering on a dream, as variously cultivated (Dreamables, Deniables, Deliverables and Duende, 2015). Given the many celebrations of fruitfulness associated with August, it could also be provocatively asserted that those associated with that quality could be said to be living in a form of "dreamtime" in their failure to recognize an existential reality for many.
In a context of multiple crises, the distinguishing feature of the new report is the prioritising it offers in reducing the number to 10 "risks" or "threats" on which it is recommended that global governance should focus. The difficulty this articulation poses by implication is any disagreement with other priorities in a context of more comprehensive scope. Presumably in reducing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to 10 "risks" reframes some goals to be of of lesser relevance than those perceived by the United Nations -- itself in quest of global consensus.
There is considerable mystery to the number of "concepts" considered to be of priority concern. This is evident in the UN's switch from the 8 Millennium Development Goals to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. There is no indication why either number was preferred in the first place. With respect to the new report, as noted above: why indeed 10?
The following ten are identified:
The underlying question was first highlighted in an early study (Patterns of N-foldness: comparison of integrated multi-set concept schemes as forms of presentation, 1980). One indication is itself unsatisfactory in explaining the preference for sets of concepts numbering more than 9 (George Miller, The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information, Psychological Review, 1956). The lack of concern with other indications merely suggests that the matter is arbitrary and considered of little consequence to achieving global consensus (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization, 2014). Are such lists merely "to do lists" reflective of current political priorities and public image management?
The following indications can be understood as suggesting the need for a more comprehensive exploration regarding the systemic implications of such sets, notably in terms of comprehensibility, communicability and symbolic appeal.
Threshold of viability and comprehensibility? Naively it could be asked whether a viable global plan could be framed as:
Intermediary articulations: Potentially more intriguing is the strategic articulation in terms of the following sets:
Strategic viability of 10-fold to 13-fold frameworks?
With respect to consideration of the articulation from one-fold to twelve-fold, a valuable comprehensive study is offered in a multi-volume study of systematics by John G. Bennett (The Dramatic Universe, 1956). Also of relevance is a summary emphasizing the relationships between the elements of a given set (Dynamic bonding patterns in n-tuple helices engendering n-fold rotating symbols, 2019).
Strategic viability of 14-fold to 20-fold frameworks?
Missing from most strategic articulations is why a particular number of elements is considered appropriate as a limiting condition or in terms of some design sense of "goodness of fit". Sensitivity to this is perhaps most apparent in the mathematical study of symmetry groups -- typically considered irrelevant to the articulation of a strategic framework -- both by mathematicians and by policy-makers.
The remarkable use of "pillars" in framing fundamental strategic principles bears comparison with the prehistorical use of configurations of pillars for symbolic purposes -- as with the 30 pillars of Stonehenge. Curiously, in comparison with modern checklists of pillars, those of Stonehenge were originally configured in a circle with lintel stones linking adjoining pillars -- a relationship seldom evident in current sets of strategic pillars. There is considerable irony to the identification from the perspective of management cybernetics of the viability a 30-fold icosahedral pattern of perspectives (Stafford Beer, Beyond Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity, 1994).
The new report of the Commission for the Human Future focuses on a 10-point articulation. There is seemingly no explanation as to why this number is appropriate -- rather than 9, 11 or more. Why is it assumed that "ten works" in contrast with the preference by other globally-oriented initiatives for 14, 15, 16 and 17 -- if not 20?
The following examples help to frame the question as to whether they imply in any way -- in a manner yet to be fully appreciated -- a 10-fold set of integrative functions (generically understood) vital to the integrity of their preoccupation. Or is it indeed the case that most, if not all, are simply checklists with little integrative function beyond that of a form of "conceptual stockade" -- a defensive device cognitively equivalent to "circling the wagons".
10-fold sets of principles and strategies (selection):
Ten Commandments? It might be provocatively asked whether the preference for 10 is influenced consciously or unconsciously by factors similar to those which render the 10 Commandments to be both memorable and functionally credible in systemic terms. However it is less than clear what it is that "works" in terms of that articulation -- other than the simplistic correspondence to the number of fingers on two hands. Or is it more simply a matter of imitation of a pattern that others have found credible and authoritative -- and therefore less liable to evoke criticism?
Also known as the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in the Abrahamic religions (Imam Mufti, The Ten Commandments in the Quran, The Religion of Islam, 2012). The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, namely in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. As noted by Austin Cline:
Islam does not accept the absolute authority of the Bible, teaching that it has become corrupted over the years, and therefore it does not accept the authority of the listing of the Ten Commandments that appears in the Bible. Islam does, however, accept the status of both Moses and Jesus as prophets, which means that the commandments are not completely ignored, either. (Muslim View of the Ten Commandments, Learn Religions, 15 May 2019)
For Patrick Dewilde:
When a religious authority states "these are the ten commandments God has ordained", then that seems to stop any potential discussion on ethics at that point. God has ordained the ethics and no mortal can dispute it. But, as we all know, even religious discussions do not stop with the formulation of commandments. They just move to another level, namely their interpretation. No wonder much religious literature is filled with interpretative considerations, rule setting by authority etc. Some especially dogmatic religions, such as Catholicism, even claim a monopoly of interpretation as though God is immanent in their leadership, which then has received from Him the sole authority to translate His commandments to daily practice. Such a claim actually degrades the commandments to just a delegation or even usurpation of authority. (Systemic Relativism: a philosophical exploration of chaos and creation, evolution and intelligence, Institute for Advanced Study, 2018)
A related observation is that of the Opinion Sur group of Latin America:
The meaning of the word commandment refers to a "precept or order given from a superior to an inferior"and it is in this sense that it would be worthwhile to consider a list of precepts and orders that emerge from the interests, needs and emotions of the people so as to guide the action of those who lead global as well as national political and economic institutions. We should not be surprised by the appearance of new systemic crises in this XXI century; the current one had its epicentre first in the United States and now in Europe. It is a fact that, with a course of action and a way of functioning that lead almost inevitably to environmental destruction, an increasing concentration of assets and income, the primacy of financial activities over the real economy and shameful social inequity, situations of instability and insecurity within the countries and on a global level are reproduced with more and more virulence. (Ten Commandments to Avoid Systemic Crises (Opinion Sur 8 June, 2010)
Of some relevance to any such association is the effort by religious groups to adapt current preoccupations with the environment to a framework based on the Decalogue or its equivalents.
In the case of the new report by the Commission for the Human Future there is however a further delicate question, given the manner in which it emerges from an Australian context characterized by political authorities at the highest level with very strong associations to Christian fundamentalism and its Seven Mountain Mandate (Australia’s Pentecostal Extreme World Makeover Exposed,13 February 2020; Pentecostalism: the decline, infiltration and fall of Australian Democracy, Australian Independent Media, 1 February 2020).
To what degree have these factors helped to frame the Australian government's 10 Principles for Policy Makers and Ten principles for good administration -- and the framing of the Commission's own report? Given the Commission's focus, how was this related to the 8-Point Plan to Humanise the Future, as adopted by the Australian Academy of the Humanities?
How then to interpret the new report's assertion that;
One thing the ten existential threats have in common is that their solution requires the imposition of measures and some costs now in order to secure a future benefit. Contemporary politics is bedevilled by the fact that politicians are for the most part unwilling to impose any costs. Those who attempt to campaign for good policy become a target for scare campaigns by their opponents. (p. 12, emphasis in original)
Miscellaneous 10-fold checklists of "commandments" of secondary relevance:
Inferred 10-fold commandments of presidents of the USA
Commentary on the various sets of commandments, principles, and strategic frameworks noted above reflects little concern with the absence of any articulation of relationships between them. They are far better recognized as simple lists with no implication of constituting a system or any higher order of organization. In the case of commandments, an assumption may be made that these derive from a higher order of insight, as implied by frequent reference to "God's Plan". However the relationship to that higher pattern of integration, whether implied or not, is not presented in those cases as worthy of detailed commentary.
It is therefore of interest to consider several potentialt exceptions which do reflect a systemic perspective.
Despite a systems implication in the above, it is however questionable what the connection is between the "commandments" and how they constitute a viable system or contribute to it -- other than as a system of belief designed to inspire credibility.
This commentary on the report of the Commission for the Human Future can be taken further by exploring ways of presenting any set of risks, principles, or challenges -- other than as a simple checklist lacking any systemic implications. Arguably one of the reasons that global strategies are less viable than envisaged is precisely because they lack a systemic dimension indicating patterns of feedback loops between their primary strategic elements. With respect to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and its 169 associated tasks, for example, The Economist titled its comment as The 169 commandments: the proposed sustainable development goals would be worse than useless (26 March 2015), and referred to the result as a "mess".
In this respect the new report is relatively unique in asserting with respect to the ten risks identified:
The group recognised that all these risks are interconnected and therefore cannot be solved one at a time. It is a systems issue. All risks must therefore be solved together, as a system, at the same time and in ways that make none of them worse. We assert that, at present, no nation or government on Earth recognises all of these threats as a related complex, nor does any have an explicit policy for human survival. We consider this needs to change, urgently, to focus world attention on what needs to be done. (pp. 4-5, emphasis added)
Unfortunately, as is typically the case with such reports, there is no effort to articulate the interconnection of such risks, to depict them visually (and comprehensibly), or to recognize where such articulation has been systematically documented. The early report to the Club of Rome (Limits to Growth, 1972) remains relatively unique in mapping such connectivity. As such it was a primary inspiration for the highly networked Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.
The approach explored here follows from earlier experiments with visual representation of configurations of "pillars" and the like (Coherent Value Frameworks: Pillar-ization, Polarization and Polyhedral frames of reference, 2008; Dynamic Exploration of Value Configurations Polyhedral animation of conventional value frameworks, 2008). In the case of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, this made use of Rubik's Cube as a pattern especially significant for its global appreciation (Interplay of Sustainable Development Goals through Rubik Cube Variations, 2017).
The approach to any 10-fold framework follows from arguments made in critical reviews of reports to the Club of Rome -- whose long-term relevance is not recognized by the Commission for the Human Future. The reports are:
The question to be emphasized, in seeking more systemic insight of global significance, is how can a 10-fold articulation be mapped to suggest an integrative pattern of feedback loops between its elements -- if only to evoke exploration and debate on the utility of the mapping and its comprehensibility. This could be understood as potentially highlighting what may have been ignored that is essential to the systemic viability in global terms.
The further point is why there is no impetus to seek such mappings in preference to the oversimplistic nature of lists which are essentially meaningless in systemic terms. Arguably the many situations in which systemic articulations are presented are resistant to non-textual presentation in colour, in 3D, or in dynamic terms. This is typical of powerpoint-like presentations, photocopies, and the constraints of book and journal publishers.
There is a case to be made for arguing that articulations of ever more complex strategic plans in hierarchically nested linear text form can be seen as vulnerable to a variant of the notorious Peter Principle. As a concept in management articulated by Laurence J. Peter, this indicates that people in a hierarchy tend to rise until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent.
Is there a case for recognizing that strategic principles tend to be articulated to the point at which they become inoperable? There is a challenging irony to the possibility that widespread preference for a 10-fold articulation is one step beyond the cognitive competence associated with George Miller's Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two (1956).
10-foldness: In the light of the critical comments above, notably with respect to the checklist of "ten risks" identified by the Commision for the Human Future, there is a case for experimenting with more integratively meaningful representations. This is also consistent with the questionable tendency to present any form of "Ten Commandments", or strategic guidelines, as a checklist. As noted, these follow from earlier experiments (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008; (Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: Humanity "bristles" as the world "burns", 2020).
Why is it assumed that strategies or commandments can be adequately articulated in text form, when clearly such articulations have not elicited in the degree of credibility presumably essential to global coherence of anyu form of governance? On the other hand, why is value attached to variously symbolic representations, most obviously in religious iconography? In comparison with the latter, why are representations of major strategic articulations, such as the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, presented (if they are) using simplistic articulations of extremely limited symbolic value?
A point of departure is the strong case for greater connectivity between sets of strategies, whether 8-fold, 10-fold, or the 17-fold set of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, as argued separately (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? Possibilities of reconciling the "headless hearts" to the "heartless heads", 2018). The latter drew particular attention to the integrative pattern of the dodecahedron with 12 faces and 20 vertices -- and the aesthetic coherence with which it has been associated over millennia. In the quest for a more integrative representation of any 10-fold pattern, use can be made of the 10 axes linking the 20 vertices through the centre of that polyhedron. This offers the interesting opportunity of holding the polarization of any 10-fold pattern in which the 10 dimensions may be understood "positively" or "negatively" in the global dynamics of the real world.
It could for example be emphasized that the challenge to comprehension is not one of "ten commandments" but rather of "being commanded 10-fold", or strategically constrained 10-fold. Framed as "ten threats", it is similarly a case of "being threatened 10-fold" -- as implied by the phrase "crisis of crises".
5-fold, 10-fold and 12-fold: Before exploring further the relevance of the dodecahedron to any 10-fold mapping, it is appropriate to note its relevance to the sets of principles underlying both the Abrahamic religons and the Chinese Wuxing pattern, as noted above (the Five Pillars of Christianity; the Five Pillars of Islam, and the Five Pillars of Orthodox Judaism).
|Dodecahedron with its 5 great circles (and 10 axes through 20 vertexes)|
|Faces solid||Faces transparent||With 10 vertex axes||Without great circles|
The relation to the 10-fold may be explored otherwise through the complete pattern of great circles of a dodecahedron which can be explored interactively (Sándor Kabai, Fifteen Great Circles on a Sphere, Wolfram Demonstrations Project, 19 June 2008)
|Great circles of dodecahedron|
Various patterns of the 15 great circles on a sphere are associated with features of the dodecahedron. The 3 sets of 5 circles are distinctively marked with small stars of 3 different colours
In relation to 10-foldness, for example, 2 sets would apply.
|Adapted screenshot of Wolfram Demonstrations Project (2008)|
12-fold configuration of 5-fold dynamics: Of particular interest is the classical use of a 5-fold "container" in 2D, namely the Hygeia (the original pythagorean association with hygiene and health) and the Chinese Wu Xing processes, as discussed separately with respect to current use of such configurations (Memorable Dynamics of Living and Dying: Hygeia and Wu Xing, 2014; Cycles of Enstoning Forming Mnemonic Pentagrams: Hygiea and Wu Xing, 2012). The latter notably includes more detailed discussion of:
|Fivefold clustering of ways of being stoned
Towards a cognitive variant of the viable systems model
|Comprehending cognitive metabolism
Cycles of enstoning forming mnemonic pentagrams: Hygiea and Wu Xing
|5-fold patterns -- traditional and contemporary|
|Hugieia Pentagram of Pythagoreans||Chinese 5-phase Wu Xing cycle
black=generating; white= overcoming
|Star Model ™ of Jay Galbraith
(Designing Organizations, 1995)
|Five Elements model of Tom Graves
(Needles of Stone, 1986)
|Reproduced from Hygiea entry in Wikipedia
with labels added
|Adapted from Wu Xing entry in Wikipedia
||Reproduced from Wikipedia entry
on organizational architecture
|Reproduced from Tom Graves
(The Perils of Prior-Art (Five Elements), 16 June 2011)
With respect to the Commission for the Human Future, the new report recognizes 5 root causes of the 10 risks it identifies:
Such a pattern of processes can be distinctively mapped onto the 12-faced dodecahedron, as used in exploring the relationship between poetic, multivocal and improvisation, as discussed separately with respect to Transformation pathways in multivocal discourse (2016).
Each face of the dodecahedron offers an indication of 10 unidirectional processes (as indicated in the Wu Xing diagram above), or 20 reversible (bidirectional) processes.
The challenge is to configure the 3 colours at the vertices shared between contiguous pentagram faces such that the colour combinations are distinctive.
Given that there are 5 corner colours, of which 3 are shared at a vertex, this gives only 10 possibilities if there is no repetition and the order is not significant. However the dodecahedron has 20 vertices to be distinguished. The question is then how to allow for a distinctive second set of 10 vertices. The pattern of processes can then be explored as a map of "cognitive metabolism" -- metabolic pathways in which the vertices constitute "cognitive vitamins". How the labels are to be appropriately positioned requires further consideration
|Mapping of 12 distinctive 5-fold conditions onto unfolded dodecahedron|
Mapping of Wu Xing to dodecahedron
|5-fold Wu Xing patterns distinguished by colouring of 3-fold vertices|
|Prepared with features of the Stella Polyhedron Navigator software package|
Animation of 10-foldness: Various approaches can be taken to the design of animations to elicit insight into 10-fold relationships. The 10 axes between the 20 vertexes can be presented in static form, as illustrated above -- possibly varying the diameters of each as an indication of relative importance attached to each, or varying the length as an indication of their relative association with the containing docdecahedron.
The length of the axes can be varied dynamically as shown in the animations below. These invite consideration of varying the respective rates, whether randomly or in some dynamic pattern -- thereby suggesting that the dodecahedral container is best understood as a potentially emergent pattern of coherence rather than predetermined.
|Animation of 10-fold dimensional axes thru 20 dodecahedral vertices|
|Faces solid||Faces transparent|
|Animations prepared using X3D Edit (as with those below)|
Feedback processes for sustainability? Another design metaphor of interest is to allow small spheres to pass along each axis through the common center (below center). Such movement can also be applied along the edges of the dodecahedron (below right), thereby implying the role of feedback loops interrelating the functional preoccupations of associated with each axis -- an indication of the integrative functional coherence of 10-foldness. In both cases colour alternation could be used, as suggested by the use of black and white spheres along the edges (below right).
This follows in part from the dynamics indicated above with respect to the 5 outer links in the Wuxing pattern (without considering any 5 inner links across that pattern on each face of the dodecahedron).
This approach can also be taken to the 5 great circles -- with one (or more) small spheres passing around each, whether randomly or according to some pattern of phases (below left). This suggests insight into any potentially conflictual interaction at the crossing points of the circles.
|Selected animations of indicative feedback processes using different design metaphors|
|Spheres on great circles||Spheres on polarities||Spheres on edges|
Modification: The examples all lend themselves to further modification (by colour, rate, size, etc) or completion
Combination: The different patterns of sphere movement can be combined in a single design of greater complexity.
12-foldness: Of particular significance in multiple strategic contexts is the widely recognized strategic role of 12-foldness, as noted above (Checklist of 12-fold Principles, Plans, Symbols and Concepts: web resources, 2011; Eliciting a 12-fold Pattern of Generic Operational Insights: recognition of memory constraints on collective strategic comprehension, 2011). It is of special significance to Christianity, although the relationships between 12-foldness and the 10-fold set of commandments is seldom considered, if at all. The dodecahedron holds that 12-fold pattern -- symbolized notably by the 12 Apostles of Christianity, the 12 Imams in Shi'a Islam, or the 2 Tribes of Israel.
Of further potential interest is the geometric dual of the dodecahedron, namely the icosahedron -- in which the 12 faces of the dodecahedron are transformed into 12 vertexes, and the 20 vertexes are transformed into 20 faces, as illustrated in the animations below. In these examples the 10-axes of the dodecahedron are understood as indicative of 20 polar extremes -- "positive" and "negative", however those distinctions may be fruitfully understood in a systemic and functional context. So labelled, their correspondence between the dodecahedral and icosahedral pattern is evident below.
|Relation of 20-vertex dodecahedron with its dual -- the 20-face icosahedron|
Polar extremes on opposing vertices
dodecahedron and icosahedron
Polar extremes on opposing faces
|Animations prepared with features of the Stella Polyhedron Navigator software package (as with those below)|
Enfolding a cognitive container? There is clearly a challenge to comprehension in understanding 10-foldness and 12-foldness and the nature of any encompassing cognitive container for the functions and dimensions with which they are associated in systremic terms. Another design metaphor is the use of animation to (un)fold the dodecahedron or its dual as shown below. In the case of the icosahedron the face labelling is preserved by the software.
Intriguingly the quest for a safe place for humanity could be explored in such terms (Kate Raworth, A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: can we live within the doughnut? Oxfam, 2012). Geometrical transformations between the dodecahedron and the torus can be explored. The construction of bunkers by survivalists, could be seen as an intuitive recognition (however unconscious) of the cognitive challenge to the comprehension and construction of some such container.
|Creating complementary containers for polarities through folding duals?|
|Folding of dodecahedron||Icosahedron unfolded||Folding of icosahedron|
Eliciting further feedback loops through complexification: Polyhedra such as the dodecahedron can be subject to a geometric transformation known as stellation. This is the process of extending a polyhedron in three dimensions (or, in general, a polytope in n dimensions) to form a new figure. Starting with an original figure, the process extends specific elements such as its edges or face planes, usually in a symmetrical way, until they meet each other again to form the closed boundary of a new figure.
This results in forms variously consistent with the original geometry, but multiplies the number of links framing the axes -- thereby providing a more articulated context through which 10-foldness or 12-foldness is sustained systemically, and potentially associated more closely with less abstract systemic insights.
|Complexification of relations between strategies as suggested by stellation|
|Animation of stellations||Stellation diagram||Stellation diagram||Animation of stellations|
Of related interest is the great stellated dodecahedron shown below with the 20 axial polarities duly labelled, but associated with pentagonal prisms on each face. This form may in turn be (un)folded as shown below.
|Great stellated dodecahedron (with 10 axes through 20 vertices)|
|Rotation of 10 polarized dimensions||Folding|
Physics is now highly dependent on understandings of the higher dimensional nature of the reality with which it is preoccupied. These extend beyond the three or four dimensions which commonly feature in conventional discourse and governance. There are theories that attempt to unify the four fundamental forces by introducing extra dimensions. Most notably, superstring theory requires 10 spacetime dimensions, and originates from a more fundamental 11-dimensional theory tentatively called M-theory which subsumes five previously distinct superstring theories.
Of relevance to the argument with respect to any ten commandments, threats, or N-fold strategies, is whether these can be considered as "dimensions" -- thereby evoking the possibility of benefitting from the explorations of physics regarding their comprehension. Curiously there is seemingly little effort to challenge the assumption that psychosocial dynamics can be usefully encompassed by three or four dimensions. Exceptions include: Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man, 1982) and Antonio de Nicolas (Meditations through the Rig Veda: Four-Dimensional Man, 2003).
To the extent that reality is a direct experience of space-time, as physics would have it, quantum reality may reinforce such comprehension. One such is the radical exploration by Alexander Wendt (Quantum Mind and Social Science: unifying physical and social ontology, 2015). Why is it so readily (if not arrogantly) assumed that any set of "ten commandments" is less of a challenge to comprehension than that recognized by fundamental physics?
In physics it is argued that if extra dimensions exist then they must be "hidden" by some physical mechanism. Understood as compactificiation, one well-studied possibility is that the extra dimensions may be "curled up" at such tiny scales as to be effectively invisible to current experiments. Considerable efforts are seemingly made to avoid any inference that psychosocial reality may call for recognition of elusive "curled up" dimensions, although the applications of complexity theory would suggest the relevance of some such understanding.
Is there a case for recognizing how any set of "ten commandments" may be "curled up" in such a way that many deny their existence or significance -- as could be argued with respect to the worldview of secular cynics?
Peter Senge, for example, considers a sixth discipline to be ungraspable (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, 2006). Patterns of greater complexity, such as the UN's SDGs, then become patterns which ought to be meaningful -- if people could but comprehend them. The point can be emphasized through juggling as a metaphor. Given the limited number of objects the average person can juggle (2, 3, 4?), what is the possibility of juggling 7, 8 or 9 disciplines in practice and collectively (Governance as "juggling" -- Juggling as "governance": Dynamics of braiding incommensurable insights for sustainable governance, 2018)?
Given the subtlety to which mystics refer, and which is honoured to varying degrees by theology and sacred geometry, the geometrical arguments developed above could be explored otherwise through mathematical theology, as discussed separately (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief: self-reflexive global reframing to enable faith-based governance, 2011). There is a degree of irony to the possibility that reference to such subtlety is most evident in widespread use of profanity (Profanity as a compactification of an intuited multidimensional experience, 2020).
As noted above, the approach to any 10-fold framework follows from arguments made in critical reviews of reports to the Club of Rome -- whose long-term relevance is not recognized by the Commission for the Human Future. The following animations derive from the first report (2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, 2012), as reviewed separately (Engendering 2052 through Re-imagining the Present, 2012).
Engendering 2052: This report identified 34 "glimpses" which were tentatively reframed to 30 in the commentary, as indicated there (Reframing the 2052 Report through imaginative inquiry, 2012) and in the right-hand columns below -- enabling the animations presented thereafter. However the "glimpses" interspersed throughout the report can (in many instances) be understood as the "glimpses of humanity" which are not integrated into that systemic framework. The 14 "tangible factors" bear a degree of correspondence to the 10 "threats" identified in the report of the Commission for the Human Future.
|Mapping of dimensions identified by the Club of Rome 2052 Report|
|Mapping of 14 "tangible factors" onto faces of a cuboctahedron
||30 "Glimpses" imaginatively reframed as fundamental to dematerialisation in a knowledge-society (see mappings below)|
|Mapping of 30 "glimpses" onto icosahedron edges||Mapping of 30 "glimpses" onto icosidodecahedral vertices|
|Animations prepared with features of the Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Come On! A similar approach was applied to the insights of the second report to the Club of Rome (Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet, 2018), as reviewed separately (Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018).
|Circular configuration of segments from sections of the Come On! Report (rotation for clarity)|
|C'mon! Don't tell me
the current trends are sustainable
|C'mon! Don't stick to
|C'mon! Join us on an exciting journey towards a sustainable world|
|(12 Segments of first part of report)||(10 Segments of second part of report)||(18 Segments of third part of report)|
|Reproduced from Towards a higher order of coherent global strategic organization? (2018)|
The three circles above can then be understood as configured in 3D -- interlocking dynamically -- as suggested by the animation of screen shots below-left, and separately discussed (Towards a higher order of coherent global strategic organization? 2018). This could be understood as the dynamic complex of dimensions by which global governance is currently challenged. The animation on the right is an experimental representation of the issues identified by the report on a 3 tetrahedra compound, also separately discussed (Towards a geometry of systemic thinking and its symbolism, 2018). With respect to 10-foldness, the central image above is the Club of Rome's articulation of "outdated philosophies" -- potentially to be compared with the 10 threats-risks of the report of the Commission for the Human Future.
|Experimental global mapping of Come On! issues of the Club of Rome|
|Mutually orthogonal global configuration
of the 3 circles of Come On! (animation)
|Mapping of Come On! issues onto 3-tetrahedra compound
(12 vertices="unsustainable trends"; 18 edges="strategies")
|Reproduced from Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome (2018)|
The succession of screen shots above left is of some interest for several reasons. Whilst it is possible to explore the rotating circles by rotating the configuration interactively as a whole, there are technical difficulties in rendering accessible a non-interactive video via the web (hence the set of screen shots), avoiding the inversion of the text of the circles from certain perspectives, and the apparent reversal of direction of rotation.
As an effect of the design of the representation these constraints usefully recall the differences in perspectives encountered in reality -- with the understanding from one perspective being confused or incomprehensible from another. Aspects of this challenge to global consensus can be explored in more detail (Unquestioned Bias in Governance from Direction of Reading? Political implications of reading from left-to-right, right-to-left, or top-down, 2016)
Planetary boundaries and torus geometry: The report to the Club of Rome refers to the 9 planetary boundaries which have been related to the torus through the doughnut model of Kate Raworth (A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: can we live within the doughnut? Oxfam, 2012), as discussed separately with various visualizations (Exploring the Hidden Mysteries of Oxfam's Doughnut: recognizing the systemic negligence of an Earth Summit, 2012).
It is intriguing to note that cosmologists continue to debate the shape of the universe, whereas the social sciences have seemingly reinforced an understanding of the shape of civilization as being global -- to the extent that the "shape of society" is a matter of concern. For cosmologists, however, one aspect of the debate is whether the topology is simply connected like a sphere or multiply connected, like a torus.
To the extent that the shape of civilization may be other than is implied by the geometry of "global" -- if only cognitively -- there is a case for exploring the manner in which it may be toroidal -- if only as a phase in a pattern of transformations (Imagining Toroidal Life as a Sustainable Alternative: from globalization to toroidization or back to flatland? 2019). This is intriguingly consistent with the desperate efforts to construct a toroidal container for nuclear fusion to resolve humanities future energy requirements, suggesting a cognitive analogue (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing (ITER-8), 2006).
It is obviously far from clear -- as yet -- why cognitively there is a preference for 8-foldness, 9-foldness or 10-foldness. It is intriguing therefore to explore one carefully cultivated insight into 10-foldness which lends itself to visualization on a torus, namely the 10 ox herding pictures of Zen. In contrast with many other 10-fold articulations, framing a form of enlightenment, the pictures are held to indicate stages in the process towards enlightenment (Phases in the "Re-cognition" of "Bull" according to Zen? Experimental attribution of significance to traditional distinctions, 2017).
In a period in which N-foldness of any kind is subject to the distortions of misinformation and fake news ("bull"), the metaphor invites consideration in that light (Zen of Facticity: Bull, Ox or Otherwise? Herding facts and their alternatives in a post-truth-era, 2017). The use of both an icosahedral-dodecahedral container and a torus are indicated in the animations below from that argument -- without mention of alternative variants discussed there.
|10 Zen images in polyhedral and toroidal containers|
|Icosahedron as a container with images mapped onto 10 great circles||Torus as a container|
|animation of cycle in .mp4 format: vertical, expanding. Also x3d source||(also .mp4, .wrl and .x3d versions)|
|screen shot of vertical animation (10 images)||screen shot of expanding animation (5 images)|
|Icosahedron edges in green, dodecahedron (dual) edges in pale blue
Icosahedron face centre points in red (10 axes of spin)
|Reproduced from discussion in Circular configuration of cognitive phases framing toroidal experience? (2017) with indication of variants|
|Polyhedra generated with Stella Polyhedron Navigator
Configuration of great circles enabled with the aid of Sergey Bederov of Cortona3D
Mysterious systemic failure? The report of the Commission for the Human Future echoes the sentiments of the Club of Rome's "Come On" with conclusions such as the following:
It is essential that all human belief systems, political, religious, monetary and in terms of the narratives we tell ourselves, commit to a shared goal of surviving and thriving. We must recruit the best and brightest young people to build and lead this process. This demands the inclusion of far more voices outside the current centres of power: women, youth, First Peoples, minorities, the poor and physically isolated.
Unfortunately the report completely fails to address the process of why such calls continue to fail, despite the highest values promoted by the "august" and with which they purport to identify -- despite claims to the contrary by the less eminent. Unfortunately early examples remain relevant to the collective learning challenge for the future (Collective Learning from Calls for Global Action, 1981). As the date suggests, lipservice has longed been paid to what ought to be done, with little capacity to identify why it is not done -- other than by allocating blame to other parties, as may be variously explored:
Such articulations, however speculative, frame the question as to why the global system of governance is so vulnerable to failure -- and how failure is to be anticipated. The argument above suggests that this is partially a consequence of negligence in the articulation of strategic frameworks (Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions, 2016). Does negligence with regard to each feature in an N-fold strategic framework then imply a weak link? Are ill-thought out exhortations and injunctions (if not commandments), as to what "we" should all do, another aspect of the problem -- in the absence of any realistic understanding of "we"?
Framework reconciliation? The challenge of "we" is only too evident in the conflictual relations cultivated over millennia by the Abrahamic religions, between each other and in relation to other belief systems. There is therefore a case for addressing their relationships through their preferred sets of principles as suggested above with respect to the sacred geometry variously valued by them (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief: self-reflexive global reframing to enable faith-based governance, 2011).
The contrasting assertions night and day from different parts of the globe -- at a particular moment in time -- suggest that there is the delightful possibility that the challenge of reconciliation could be explored as a matter of contrasting perspectives on geometric frameworks and their relationships. Do different belief systems articulate their fundamental beliefs through the manner in which they variously emphasize features of relatively simple geometrical forms -- point, lines, circles, polygons?
Ironically a well-known aspect of this problem is evident in the desperate effort to find a meaningful way to map the 3D globe into 2D -- a process of projection, of which there are many (List of map projections, Wikipedia). Are contrasting strategic frameworks to be understood as contrasting projections whose reconciliation involves a relatively simple geometrical transformation -- whether in 3D, 4D, or higher dimensionality?
The example above of the dodecahedron is especially interesting. Through its great circles, it holds the relationship between the 5-fold beliefs fundamental to the Abrahamic religions, for example, as well as offering a relationship to a fundamental Chinese articulation. It clearly offers a relation between their 12-fold and 10-fold patterns. More complex examples are offered separately (Associating significance with a dodecahedron; Increasing the dimensionality of the archetypal Round Table?; Necessity of encompassing a "hole" -- with a dodecameral mind?).
More intriguing is how the geometrical relation to the form of the Star of David can be recognized from such a perspective -- given its particular importance to Judaism, and the contrast with the 5-fold star characteristic of Islam. Given the ongoing conflictual relations between the Abrahamic belief systems, does investigation of geometrical reconciliation offer new possibilities, as suggested by the following:
Given the hopes associated with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, how is that framework to be reconciled with any Abrahamic framework, or the 10-fold pattern of the report of the Commission for the Human Future? Is that "future" singular or potentially multiple, as called into question by the World Futures Studies Federation?
Aspects of the challenge are explored separately (Global Coherence by Interrelating Disparate Strategic Patterns Dynamically: topological interweaving of 4-fold, 8-fold, 12-fold, 16-fold and 20-fold in 3D, 2019).
Karen A. Cerulo. Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst. University of Chicago Press, 2006
Joël de Rosnay. Macroscope: a new world scientific system. Harper and Row, 1979
George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez. Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being. Basic Books, 2000
Alexander Wendt. Quantum Mind and Social Science: unifying physical and social ontology. Cambridge University Press, 2015
Michael Wogalter. Handbook of Warnings. CRC Press, 2006 [summary]
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