Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
Laetus in Praesens Alternative view of segmented documents via Kairos

2 November 2020 | Draft

Missiles, Needles, Missions, Rifles, Projects, Bullets

Transformation of a civilization of spikes and penis surrogates via Global Reset mandalas

- / -

Interpretations of reset and transformation
Transcending the unfruitful dynamics of conventional discourse: "positive" versus "negative"
Transformation maps -- as "strategic mandalas"?
Missing "halves" of the Global Reset mandalas?
Learning from other social change initiatives -- past and present
Knowledge cybernetics: the self-referential requirement of any viable reset
Encompassing a global dynamic of "bristling spikes" -- with "spikeholder capitalism"?


In a period of crisis, which the conventions of global governance have been unable to address, much is now being made by elites of the need for a "Global Reset". This has been most notably articulated and promoted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), and by representatives of influential institutions who have gathered at its annual Davos Forum (Klaus Schwab, The Global Reset, 2020; World Economic Forum, The Great Reset, 2020). Central to the reset is stakeholder capitalism as framed by the Davos Manifesto (Klaus Schwab, Why we need the 'Davos Manifesto' for a better kind of capitalism , 1 December 2019).

Use of "reset" is an appealing metaphor for techno-optimists. They are typically inspired by familiarity with the ability to reset a computer rendered inoperable by one or more applications. For critics the reset metaphor constitutes a rebranding exercise to disguise a new formulation of the New World Order strategy as variously deprecated -- business-as-usual in a new guise empowered by technocracy:

The Reset is specifically associated with COVID-19, as articulated by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret (COVID-19: The Great Reset, WEF, 2020) as variously reviewed (Michael Dunford and Bing Qi, Global Reset: COVID-19, systemic rivalry and the global order, Research in Globalization, 2, 2020; Catherine Austin Fitts, Reimagine and Reset Our World, Global Research, 9 October 2020; Andrew Stuttaford, A Useful Pandemic: Davos launches new 'Reset,' this time on the back of COVID, National Review, 29 October 2020).

The challenge for civilization is otherwise remarkably framed by the massive investment focus on missiles and the threats they constitute -- with the ultimate threat of nuclear war, as tracked by the Doomsday Clock now at seconds to midnight. This is curiously matched by the role of needles, whether to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine as the much sought cure-all, or in their role in delivering psychological relief from the stressful realities of daily life. As a new source of inspiration, a reset evokes a new fervour in some as a mission of dramatic urgency requiring worldwide mobilization -- recalling the acclaimed role of such missions in the past: sustainability, socialism, communism, capitalism, religion, and the like.

Those framing the Global Reset have done so through the unusual design of interactive transformation maps as a support and focus for "strategic intelligence". These are presented as a circular configuration of focal points whose detailed interrelationships can be highlighted by clicking on any one of them. Such a map is in remarkable contrast to the lack of ability of the UN to indicate the relationships between its flagship configuration of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with its 169 tasks -- despite reference to "reset" in that connection (Mukhisa Kituyi, The Big Reset: learning from Covid-19 to fast track the SDGs, UNCTAD, 15 July 2020; Robin Naidoo, Reset Sustainable Development Goals for a pandemic world, Nature, 6 July 2020).

Curiously the circular configurations each resemble a form of "mandala" for governance. As secular mandalas however, these beg the question of how they are related to any coherent form of governance inspired by the transcendent values cultivated by the religions of the world and their adherents. The irony is only too obvious, given the violent conflicts religions continue to inspire in the light of their contrasting perspectives on the transcendent unity in which all claim to believe.

It is of course the case that the conflicts of the world continue to engender the massive production and distribution of rifles of increasing sophistication in their capacity to deliver bullets of ever greater destructive power -- and the claims of many in having the right to defend themselves by those means. Curiously it is indeed "bullets" which are the primary metaphor in the articulation and presentation of bullet-pointed projects through which transformational missions are fulfilled. Given its role as a panacea, the Global Reset as an emergent strategy could then be understood as presented symbolically as a "silver bullet" -- with all the magical thinking that implies.

The Reset is framed to evoke global consensus in the light of the more sophisticated applications of the social sciences -- otherwise strongly deprecated as the ill-considered manipulation of public opinion in the process of "consent management" (Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media, 1988). Presumptuously or not, in its explicit intention to enable a new understanding of the meaning of being human, there is little concern in the Global Reset with the fundamental nature of the psychological response this is liable to evoke from humans themselves. Missions of the past offer many learnings in this respect, whether those of religions or sustainability itself. In this sense, as discussed here, the 2D reset mandalas presented are only "half the picture" -- cultivating a "flat earth" delusion regarding a global civilization for which at least a 3D is required.

The juxtaposition of the disparate forms cited in the title -- each aspiring to reset as variously understood, and especially through their metaphorical adaptation -- merits interpretation from a Freudian perspective. This is consistent with the dominant preoccupation with the penis and its functions, for which those forms are only too readily recognized as a surrogate. The curiously competitive preoccupation with rockets, capable of escaping orbit and travelling to distant parts of the solar system, is a feature of the imaginative underpinnings of that symbolic nexus. As a questionable response to the widely cited problems of capitalism, this nexus is a challenge to the conventions of appropriate discourse (Mysterious Complementarity between Capitalism and Arsenalism: metaphors crucial to sustainability and the crisis of the times, 2020).

Most curious is the extent to which the forms cited can all be recognized as "spikes". As "protein spikes", they feature prominently in the widely disseminated representations of the COVID-19 virus. This is currently framed as the primary threat to global civilization and business-as-usual, to a far greater extent than missiles, for example. The reset transformation maps, with their circular array of issues, might then be recognized as a questionable two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional global form of the virus -- spike-endowed.

There is therefore case for assuming that the choice of strategic patterning in confrontation with the virus is paradoxically determined by the onfiguration of its spikes, as separately argued (Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: humanity "bristles" as the world "burns" , 2020). As with those cited in the title, such spikes merit exploration as artefacts of the collective imagination in response to imagined threats and possibilities -- for a civilization usefully assumed to be unconscious to an unrecognized degree (Jonathan Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995).

Science is proving especially diffident in clarifying with how many spikes the COVID-19 virus is endowed -- despite enthusiasm for their representation to the public. The WEF transformation maps together configure an interrelated array of some 270 topics through their various circular configurations, but without any indication of how their totality is to be comprehended. In its innovative presentation of 17 such maps as articulations of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, WEF contributes to cultivation of the mystery of how 17 became the magic number of UN goals -- at a time when others favour 12, 14, 15, or more -- with no systemic justification on offer.

Rather than offering a simple critique of the WEF Global Reset agenda, the concern here is to frame the initiative in a broader systemic context. As with focal global strategies of the past, the question is how to detect the missing dimensions and blindspots which tend to render such strategies less than adequate to the challenge. Crucially it might be asked what those proposing vital alternatives have to offer -- especially when their perspective is deprecated or ignored in the WEF framework, and despite its benediction by the UN. Why indeed does "reset", itself implied by the appeal of the World Social Forum (WSF), seemingly lack coherence -- even though the WEF and the WSF may be complementary in  a sense to be discovered?

Does the provocative juxtaposition of missiles, missions, penises, needles, rifles, and projects indeed suggest a mysterious "confluence of spikes" echoed by dissemination of the form of COVID-19? Does that juxtaposition constitute a clue to the elusive "pattern that connects" -- presumably fundamental to any coherent form of global governance? Alternatively, in the seemingly surreal world of a post-truth era plagued by misinformation, is such a juxtaposition merely a symptom of apophenia? This is the tendency to mistakenly perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things -- as so readily deprecated by authorities with regard to conspiracy theories (Inspiration, Conspiration, Transpiration, Expiration: towards a universal model of conspiracy theories, 2020).

As indicated above, a metaphor appropriate to the experience of a global configuration of spikes is that of "bristling" -- while the world "burns". In anticipation of the results of the election to "leadership of the free world" -- one outcome was framed in those terms as follows: It would usher in a period of disorder and bristling conflict, as countries heed the law of the jungle and scramble to fend for themselves (Eliot A. Cohen, The End of American Power :Trump's reelection would usher in permanent decline, Foreign Affairs, 27 October 2020). Given use of that metaphor, rather than "stakeholder capitalism", is the proposed Global Reset better explored as "spikeholder capitalism"?

Interpretations of reset and transformation

Arguably the many approaches to social change and transformation can be understood as forms of reset. This is arguably the case with respect to the various agendas implied by the title: missiles, needles, missions, rifles, projects, and bullets. Curiously strategies change have long been framed in terms of military metaphors, as previously argued (Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998). Traditional Christian reference to the Church Militant has been adapted by the Salvation Army -- adding a particular implication to any use of "mission". The agendas cited, as with indoctrination, all imply a form of invasive penetration -- whether destructive or otherwise.

This is also the case with other change agendas embodied in global plans and implemented through missions and projects. The use of missiles, rifles and bullets is of course one way of framing the engagement with those who resist a preferred method of change. More subtle are the processes of consent management though which the media are variously manipulated and censored, as has become only too evident in the case of dissenting views with regard to the COVID-19 narrative of authorities.

Especially intriguing is the role of needles in delivering what is upheld by authorities as a panacea in response to COVID-19 -- a "silver bullet" of one kind. This merits comparison with the use of needles to deliver psychological relief -- most obviously for those who value alternative engagement with the reality upheld by mainstream conventions of discourse, namely a "silver bullet" of another kind.

It is curious to note the widely-cited declaration of Matt Hancock that the UK National Health Service was ready to "inject hope into millions of arms" (10 November 2020). This could be compared to that of Franklin Graham (now president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), who indicated that he had relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population's post-war physical and spiritual needs (Crusaders sending in missionaries after the Blitzkrieg, 2003; Christianizing the Enemy, 2003).  

The technocratic familiarity with reset is curiously echoed by the popular appeal of "stopping the world", as long anticipated in song (Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, 1961, etc). Missing from any such stopping is how the world would be characterized by any restart. Also questionable is the understanding of reset as a form of switch, in metaphorical terms -- switching the world off, and then on again (Recontextualizing Social Problems through Metaphor: Transcending the 'switch' metaphor, 1990)

Reference to "transformation" has appeal of a different kind -- potentially inspired to a degree by the existence of transformer toys. It presupposes a degree of recognition of the current "form" of society or civilization. This is somewhat curious in the light of the preoccupation of cosmologists with the shape of the universe. However there is seemingly no corresponding understanding of the "shape of society" or the "shape of civilization" -- other than vague allusions to its global nature, implying it is somehow spheroid (rather than flat). Cosmologists have challenged assumptions relating to that form in the case of the universe.

It is therefore far less evident from what civilization is to be transformed, to what it is to be transformed, and along what viable pathways this might be achieved -- by who and at what cost to whom. Such transformation is of course an implied feature of many global plans which tend to focus on the goals of the process -- namely the end condition -- without clarifying the intermediary processes and stages.

Both reset and transformation tend to reinforce a further limitation, namely the step-wise relation between an outmoded Condition A and a desirable Condition B. As a goal, "sustainability" is characteristic of a final Condition B. Transformation has the advantage of implying for some the possibility of a continuing dynamic, namely a process of continuing development and evolution. This dynamic is evident to a degree in the historical perspective on the rise and fall of civilizations -- a dynamic totally divorced from preoccupations of governance in the moment, irrespective of any predicted threat of collapse.

The dynamics of transformation can also be understood as requiring a dynamic appreciation of values in contrast to their conventional static framing (Freedom, Democracy, Justice: Isolated Nouns or Interwoven Verbs? Illusory quest for qualities and principles dynamically disguised , 2011). This static bias is especially evident in the titles of reports fundamental to governance (Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes: suggestions for process-oriented titles of global issue reports, 2013).

Transcending the unfruitful dynamics of conventional discourse: "positive" versus "negative"

There is a long history whereby the initiatives and agendas of groups such as the World Economic Forum, the Club of Rome, and the Trilateral Commission, are framed as suspicious by those who argue otherwise -- whether especially in favour of "alternatives" or for other reasons. This is exemplified by the role of the World Social Forum, with its own agendas and adherents -- readily framed as "losers" by the former.

Positive versus Negative: Simply stated, each deems itself to be "positive" -- whilst framing as "negative" those who do not sympathize with their approach. Such framing extends to perception of the other as "evil", even dangerously and fundamentally so. It is worth endeavouring to articulate the dynamics of this systemic pattern.

  "WEF and sympathisers" "WSF and sympathisers"
self-perception as "positive"
  • answers without questions
  • promotional campaigns
  • "missionaries" and missionary language
  • directive(s)
  • order ensured by authority
  • doubt free, ignoring critics as irrelevant
  • innovative strategic reframing
  • answers without questions
  • media events and demonstrations
  • "missionaries" and missionary language
  • directive(s)
  • order through diversity
  • doubt free, ignoring critics as irrelevant
  • innovative strategic reframing
perception by others as "negative"
  • answers without questions
  • propaganda
  • misinformation
  • arrogance
  • slide into snide
  • poisonous
  • questions without answers
  • propaganda
  • misinformation
  • arrogance
  • slide into snide
  • poisonous

The interplay of questions and answers is further developed separately (Sustaining the Quest for Sustainable Answers on COVID-19: beyond the divisive preoccupation with unquestionable assertions and unanswered questions, 2020). This is elaborated in relation to the pattern of (un)known (un)knowns famously presented by Donald Rumsfeld (Relevance of the framework articulated by a US Secretary of Defense? 2020).

The difficulty for both "archetypes" includes a highly problematic relationship (often unmentionable) with those which share their agendas to some degree. In the case of the "WEF", this is exemplified by the relation between think tanks, as discussed separately (Tank Warfare Challenges for Global Governance , 2019). In the case of the "WSF", this is exemplified by the problematic relationships between (and among) environmental groups, left-wing groups, peace groups, humanitarian groups, etc. As "civil society", claims for any degree of coherence are highly questionable, as with those bodies claiming to represent it.

More generally, for change agents of any kind, the problematic ego-dynamics undermine the emergence of any coherent eco-dynamic (Reframing Personal Relationships between Innovators or Leaders: the unmentionable challenge to sustainable paradigm shifting and social transformation, 1998).

Question of style? With respect to the Global Reset, as promoted by Klaus Schwab, the uptake of that agenda will be determined to a high degree by tolerance of his personal style -- exemplifying everything which feminists have framed as objectionable. A corresponding point was made by Naomi Klein with respect to leadership of the World Social Forum, as argued by Naomi Klein (What Happened to the New Left? The Hijacking of the WSF, January 2003):

How on earth did a gathering that was supposed to be a showcase for new grassroots movements become a celebration of men with a penchant for three-hour speeches about smashing the oligarchy?

The issue is especially obvious in the case of Donald Trump and his particular appeal to a considerable segment of the American population -- although evoking a relatively high degree of antipathy from many others. Despite repeated analyses of his neuroses, there is little doubt that he has proven to be a change agent of  kind  -- whether appreciated or not, as featured in many web documents (Rebecca Seales, US election 2020: How Trump has changed the world, BBC News, 24 October 2020).

The question of style is evident in those articulating valuable critiques of the Global Reset promoted through the WEF. A notable example is that of Winter Oak (Klaus Schwab and His Great Fascist Reset, Off Guardian, 12 October 2020) and to a lesser degree that of James Corbett (Your Guide to The Great Reset, The Corbett Report, 16 October 2020). Both argue from the perspective of the "99%", just as Klaus Schwab argues from the perspective of the "1%". Neither considers the perspective of the "99%" to be worthy of challenge -- as is the case of Schwab with respect to that of the "1%".

Whether in the case of Klaus Schwab, the WEF, or the participants in the Davos Forum, the emphasis is indeed on style and status, of a form resulting in photo opportunities and widespread media coverage using expensively crafted videos. The quality of content and new thinking is far less obvious. Slickness necessarily has its inherent appeal -- whether or not it can be said to get in the way of the promotion and wider appeal of the agenda, or its effective implementation.

For the critics, the reverse is partially true since many are obliged to cultivate a degree of anonymity -- as a potential threat to society unable to encompass alternative perspectives. The focus is therefore on the sharpest of criticism readily linked to conspiracy theories and the cultivation of fear. The style is necessarily alienating to many. This precludes careful consideration of any well-documented points raised. Ironically it could also be said that this ensures that they get in the way of their own agenda.

Challenging collective relationships: One of the icons of the critics of the institutional nexus represented by the World Economic Forum (Davos) has commented on its relation to the nexus that has been represented by the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre) -- although the perceptive commentary can be read as tongue-in-cheek. For Slavoj Žižek:

Since 2001, Davos and Porto Alegre have been the twin cities of globalisation: Davos, the exclusive Swiss resort where the global elite of managers, statesmen and media personalities meets for the World Economic Forum under heavy police protection, trying to convince us (and themselves) that globalisation is its own best remedy; Porto Alegre, the subtropical Brazilian city where the counter-elite of the anti-globalisation movement meets, trying to convince us (and themselves) that capitalist globalisation is not our inevitable fate – that, as the official slogan puts it, 'another world is possible.' It seems, however, that the Porto Alegre reunions have somehow lost their impetus – we have heard less and less about them over the past couple of years. Where did the bright stars of Porto Alegre go?

Some of them, at least, moved to Davos. The tone of the Davos meetings is now predominantly set by the group of entrepreneurs who ironically refer to themselves as 'liberal communists' and who no longer accept the opposition between Davos and Porto Alegre: their claim is that we can have the global capitalist cake (thrive as entrepreneurs) and eat it (endorse the anti-capitalist causes of social responsibility, ecological concern etc). There is no need for Porto Alegre: instead, Davos ca become Porto Davos. (Nobody has to be vile, London Review of Books, 28, 2006, 7)

The requisite shift in modality does not feature significantly in the arguments of those uncritically supportive of the new WEF agenda, as with Justin O'Brien (The Moral Foundations of Stakeholder Capitalism, Law and Financial Markets Review, 14, 2020, 1). The latter cites as a historical compromise the partnership forged by the WEF with the UN, noting that the latter graciously acknowledged the "absolutely vital" role of WEF in brokering global solutions to intractable existential questions. As stated at Davos by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres:

... we need to work together. There is no way we can do isolated responses to the problems we face. They are all interlinked and it needs to be an inclusive multilateralism. It needs to be a multilateralism in which not only states are part of the system, but in which more and more, the business community, the civil society, the academia, they are all part of the way to analyse problems, to define strategies, to define policies, and then to implement them (Speech Delivered to World Economic Forum, Davos, 24 January 2019)

O'Brien comments on the compromise in the following terms:

It would be misconceived, however, to dismiss the Davos compromise as mere public relations. Multinational corporations have staked their own future and legitimacy on a rejection of the chrematistic logic of shareholder capitalism. The negotiations enable and necessitate a further question. What is corporate purpose if not to maximise shareholder returns? These are indeed the hard facts we must overcome.

It remains far from clear how the parties concerned might fruitfully "work together". In his uncritical appreciation, O'Brien fails to recall the earlier compromise with multinational corporations -- hailed and institutionalised as the United Nations Global Compact to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. Its creation was announced by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an address to an earlier Davos Forum  on 31 January 1999 (Secretary-General Proposes Global Compact on Human Rights, Labour, Environment, in Address to World Economic Forum in Davos, 1 February 1999, Press Release SG/SM/6881).

The problematic nature of that Compact was highlighted in reactions at that time ('Globalization': the UN's 'Safe Haven' for the World's Marginalized: the Global Compact with Multinational Corporations as the UN's 'Final Solution', Transnational Associations, 2000, 6). One flaw in that compromise was made evident by the Volkswagen emissions scandal involving one of the Compact's iconic members.

Missing dialogue modality in a highly divided society: Beyond the preference for platitudes, it can be readily argued that fruitful dialogue is extremely difficult to ensure under the current conditions of society -- an assertion vigorously denied by those who promote their preferred dialogue modalities, however limited their appeal.

The tragedy is only too evident in the sociopolitical divisions exacerbated to an extreme degree by contrasting responses to COVID-19. More generally it is evident with respect to:

  • inter-faith dialogue
  • inter-ethnic dialogue
  • inter-cultural dialogue
  • inter-disciplinary dialogue
  • inter-ideology dialogue
  • inter-gender dialogue

The necessity of virtual dialogue as a consequence of COVID-19 would seem to offer new possibilities, but with every likelihood that the processes of the past will render them equally unfruitful *** (From Zoom Organization to Zome Configuration and Dynamics: integrating the doughnut, helix and pineapple models towards global strategic coherence, 2020).

Transformation maps -- as "strategic mandalas"?

As noted above, a key feature in the promotion of Global Reset by the World Economic Forum is the focus on strategic intelligence as articulated through transformation maps. Their presentation is a significant innovation which merits careful review. The relevant introduction to the nature of such maps is by James Landale, Director of  Strategic Intelligence Content and Partnerships at WEF (What is a Transformation Map? WEF, 8 November 2017):

The World Economic Forum's Transformation Maps -- a constantly refreshed repository of knowledge about global issues, from climate change to the future of work - are now publicly available for the first time and free of charge. But what are they? And what can we do with them? What exactly are the Transformation Maps? Transformation Maps are the World Economic Forum's dynamic knowledge tool. They help users to explore and make sense of the complex and interlinked forces that are transforming economies, industries and global issues. The maps present insights written by experts along with machine-curated content. Together, this allows users to visualise and understand more than 250 topics and the connections and inter-dependencies between them, helping in turn to support more informed decision-making by leaders.

The maps harness the Forum network's collective intelligence as well as the knowledge and insights generated through our activities, communities and events. And because the Transformation Maps are interlinked, they provide a single place for users to understand each topic from multiple perspectives. Each of the maps has a feed with the latest research and analysis drawn from leading research institutions and media outlets around the world.

Of particular relevance to any review is the manner and degree to which such maps are copyrighted -- given their potential global significance. This is indicative of a more general challenge with respect to any articulation of strategic intelligence, most obviously when access to key models and methods is subject to intellectual property constraints inhibiting its uptake, as separately discussed (Future Coping Strategies: beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors, 1992). This has been rendered obvious to an unusual degree by the manner in which publishers, notably online media, have removed paywalls for materials relating to COVID-19. Ironically however, it is questionable whether this extends to the depiction of the virus itself which has now been so widely disseminated.

Landale's presentation is specifically indicated as being freely usable according to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License. Although it includes presentation of the interactive transformation maps, these are specifically indicated as subject to copyright by the World Economic Forum. Although valuable to communication and understanding of the innovation achieved, the following screen shots of the maps are therefore potentially in a grey area subject to legal challenge.

Animations of selected screen shots of the transformation maps of the World Economic Forum
Selected topics Sustainable Development Goals as topics
Animations of selected screen shots of the transformation maps of the World Economic Forum Animations of screen shots of UN SDGs in transformation maps of the World Economic Forum
Extracted from What is a Transformation Map? (WEF, 8 November 2017) by James Landale

Explanation: At the time of writing, a total of 270 WEF maps are accessible, clustered as follows:

The screen shot animation on the left is indicative of typical maps offering the following features:

  1. a single topic positioned centrally (with the option of indication in a parallel panel of the institution curating that topic, typically a single university and the relevant WEF report, accessible by those who meet WEF criteria)
  2. a circular array of topics deemed relevant, typically numbering from *** up to 80
  3. an intermediary array of clusters, typically numbering from 5 to 8
  4. clicking on any of the (b) cluster highlights in blue the topics deemed relevant to that cluster
  5. clicking on any of the (c) array accesses a new map in which the topic selected appears at the centre

Especially noteworthy is the treatment of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In contrast to any presentation by the UN, this takes the form of 17 maps (each Goal figuring in the central position), with indication of a circular array selected from the 270 topics with the relevance links to them, as clustered by the intermediary ring. This feature is clarified for the purpose of this commentary by a crude animation of a succession of screen shots of the 17 Goals (above right), in each of which one pattern of links has been arbitrarily highlighted.

Origin of "transformation mapping"? Of particular interest, and worthy of a footnote in their presentation, is the technical history behind "transformation maps". The term may by now have become generic (if not subject to intellectual property constraints), following early comment by Ava S. Butler (Transformation Maps, 31 August 2013: How and when to use Transformation Maps, 31 January 2018):

Transformation Maps are best created with a group in a workshop-type setting. The process of developing the Transformation Map with the appropriate stakeholders is as important as the map itself. Simply presenting a finished map without significant stakeholder input and involvement will not have nearly the same level of ownership or understanding or consensus...

The term seems to derive from a particular use of Microsoft PowerPoint templates, as presented by David Tracy (Transformation Maps: Collection of Transformation Maps PowerPoint Templates, PPT Lab Crowdsourced Business Presentation Design Service, 3 March 2013). Others offer such templates to depict the transformation or change in any process or entity (SketchBubble, Transformation Map).

Given this history, and the close relationship between Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab, it might be inferred that the WEF maps are based on a recently enhanced feature of PowerPoint, potentially that associated with the Azure Data Factory, described as follows:

Big data requires service that can orchestrate and operationalize processes to refine these enormous stores of raw data into actionable business insights. Azure Data Factory is a managed cloud service that's built for these complex hybrid extract-transform-load (ETL), extract-load-transform (ELT), and data integration projects.... This is the platform that solves such data scenarios. It is the cloud-based ETL and data integration service that allows you to create data-driven workflows for orchestrating data movement and transforming data at scale.

As noted by Microsoft in that respect, and with detail of some relevance:

In a select transformation, users can specify fixed mappings, use patterns to do rule-based mapping, or enable auto mapping. Fixed and rule-based mappings can both be used within the same select transformation. If a column doesn't match one of the defined mappings, it will be dropped (Select transformation in mapping data flow, 2 June 2020)

Further comment of relevance is that in the Microsoft Power BI Community (World Economic Forum - Transformation Maps, ?3 June 2019). However potentially most relevant is the early account of the use of the graph database Neo4j by WEF, as presented by Scott David (Building a Global Issues Graph for World Leaders, WEF, 6 January 2016)

Unclarified features of the WEF maps: Far less evident from the WEF presentation of the maps are issues relating to:

A fundamental criticism is however that the glossy presentation precludes any explicit critical comparison between what it does appreciably achieve and what it fails to achieve. Such assessment is normal practice with respect to the technocratic mindset to which the reset endeavours to appeal, especially one that is being presented as a panacea. This highly questionable avoidance of such a healthy approach to any technology is further highlighted by the disassociation of WEF from the efforts of a number of institutions with related data mapping initiatives which have preceded it, most notably the Club of Rome (as noted below).

Is the glossy presentation, with its many supporting videos, to be recognized as essentially misleading -- whatever the appeal to those to whom it is presented? What are the cognitive challenges it effectively frames which are typically fundamental to any effective application of strategic intelligence? How are these to be imaginatively configured to evoke widespread credibility and uptake?

Learning from other social change initiatives -- past and present

It is extremely curious that change agents carefully avoid reference to initiatives of the past which are potentially indicative of the difficulties they are likely to face. There is an assumption of tabula rasa with reset itself recalling the related notion of ab initio. As stated by George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Indicative examples: Given the manner in which the Global Reset into stakeholder capitalism has been framed by the Davos Manifesto (2020), sobering examples are offered by: Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto, 1848; Das Kapital, 1867–1883). Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf, 1925), Mao Tse-tung (Little Red Book, 1964), Muammar Gaddafi (The Green Book, 1975); Donald Trump (The Art of the Deal, 1987).

Rather than the provocation these may be held to evoke inappropriately or not, attention can be given to the variety of global plans of the past and present, for example:

What factors tend to ensure that these fail, or are far less effective than originally promoted? Where indeed are the many extant and proposed strategies profiled and interrelated with any degree of coherence -- given the tendency of each to engage in "silo thinking"? With respect to a corporate environment to which WEF appeals, this is helpfully described by Will Kenton as:

A reluctance to share information with employees of different divisions in the same company. This attitude is seen as reducing the organization's efficiency and, at worst, contributing to a damaged corporate culture (Silo Mentality, Investopedia, 4 February 2020)

The question with respect to the "contextual blindness" of any proposed Global Reset is explored separately in the light of the initiative of the Global Challenges Foundation (Global Challenge of the Global Challenge: ¿In-quest of a decision-making framework appropriate to a world in crisis? 2016). With respect to the insights of the Commission for the Human Future (Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: a discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks, 2020), a complementary argument can be presented (Organizing the Future of Humanity: critical dimensions to be born in mind, 2020). In the latter, use of "born" rather than "borne" is indicative of the cognitive dimensions of the challenge.

Contrasting strategic initiatives: From that perspective, given the strategic preoccupation with a "global reset" in whatever guise, attention can be focused on learning from the strategic initiatives of particular institutions:

Dysfunctional oversimplification: Faced with the challenges of the complexity of interconnections in complex data sets, uncritical efforts are typically made to "design out" complexity of system relevance -- breaking connectivity rather than enabling it in response to the pressures and preferences noted above. This achieves a measure of satisfactory comprehensibility unrelated to the reality of the dynamics by which governance could be said to be bedevilled -- framing the question of what sets of "topics" merit juxtaposition from a systemic perspective reflective of such dynamics. The progressive erosion of scope and interlinkage, as illustrated in the case of the Encyclopedia initiative, can be illustrated by the schema below left:

Ironically mirroring the much-cited ongoing massive extinction of species as a result of human activity (the Anthropocene extinction), editorial priorities have ensured the exclusion of an extensive  range of potentially endangered species from the problem data set. The primary argument was the lack of printable information on the threat to a given species -- in contrast with the Wikipedia practice of using a "stub" entry inviting completion.The irony is all the greater in that there is typically little precise information on the threat to a species in the natural environment.

A number of data sets were successfuly included in the subsequent period as suggested by the image on the right below, including statutes, patterns and metaphors, and visualizations. These have had to be abandoned or archived.

Requisite variety of data sets for any Global Reset?
Evolution of interlinked Encyclopedia data sets
(since 1976)
Towards an integrative representation of strategic data sets
(framing future possibilities and requirements)
Evolution of interlinked Encyclopedia data sets of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential Evolution of interlinked Encyclopedia data sets
Adapted from Selected Presentations of Interrelationships between UIA Databases within a strategic reframing of the Union of International Associations (2007)

Stakeholder capitalism as a form of cartelisation? How is the scope of the preoccupations of the initiatives above to be compared with that of WEF? Why is there no reference to this? Or is this lack a characteristic feature of institutional game-playing in a competitive environment -- which the WEF approach to stakeholder capitalism is unable to encompass, or consider necessary?

In a global context in which some seek a singular order (like WEF), with others arguing for a multipolar pattern, there is a case for addressing this as a real world dynamic -- rather than a matter that must necessarily be resolved in one way or another. From that perspective, global governance has a meta-problem calling for a different order of understanding. One approach to this is through recognition of distinctive approaches to order, as framed by various authors (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993). One of these is especially fruitful in distinguishing a set of seven predictable axes of bias, as summarized separately (Axes of Bias in Inter-Sectoral Dialogue, 1992).

Especially intriguing in terms of stakeholder capitalism is the tendency towards cartelisation of major industries, epitomised by the Seven Sisters of the petroleum industry. A valuable study in this regard is that of John M. Connor who presents and analyses economic data on 167 international cartels that were discovered by antitrust authorities after January 1990, with more than 20 being discovered each year thereafter (Private International Cartels: effectiveness, welfare, and anticartel enforcement, Purdue University, 2003). The mean size of cartels ranged between 4 and 12 companies per cartel, being significantly lower for global cartels (5.3) and significantly lower for EU-wide cartels (12.5), with a mean of 8.2. The median size ranged between 4 and 6. A striking feature is the precipitous drop-off in the number of cartels with more than six participants.

From a systemic perspective, the notion of "cartel" might be fruitfully generalized to include covertly interrelated hi-tech corporations, organized crime rings, and religions, for example. How best to explain the global significance of the major religions, as presented by Stephen Prothero (God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World -- and why their differences matter, 2010) -- or the viability of the system of seven Mafia families commonly recognized as operating in the state of New Jersey (List of Mafia crime families, Covert History Wiki). Possibly "covert" only in its undeclared dynamics, the argument extends to teams (Kelly Goetsch, Why Seven is the Magic Team Size, Medium, 15 September 2018). Also provocative is the recognition that there are only seven types of elementary catastrophe -- yet to be adapted to the meta-stable dynamics of a cartel-type configuration.

Might it then be the case that a higher order of organizational stability is more probably achievable in any domain with "cartels" of a size corresponding to those achieved by corporations? The question is necessarily provocative but it highlights the limitation of the dynamics explored so intensively in the binary configurations characteristic of international politics and many competitive sports, as argued separately (Destabilizing Multipolar Society through Binary Decision-making: alternatives to "2-stroke democracy" suggested by 4-sided ball games, 2016; Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization: number games people play for survival, 2014).

Is it the case that there is a form of "island of stability" curiously reflective of the arguments developed by George Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: some limits on our capacity for processing information, Psychological Review, 63, 1956, 2). Is there some form of (approximately) 7-fold complementarity to be recognized? In the absence of games offering insights into 7-fold dynamics ("plus or minus two"), is the operation of cartels indeed indicative?

An unusual clue is offered by the strange form of the Szilassi polyhedron -- unique in that it has 7 faces touching each other (Mapping of WH-questions with question-pairs onto the Szilassi polyhedron, 2014; Potential insights into the Szilassi configuration of WH-questions from 4D, 2014).

Missing "halves" of the Global Reset mandalas?

Despite its welcome interactive possibilities, the WEF transformation map is necessarily constrained by the two-dimensionality of the technologies through which it can be disseminated -- whether over the web, on technically sophisticated white-boards, or in non-interactive documents regarding the Global Reset. This could be understood as contrasting with the adaptation of technology to facilitating access to Wikipedia, for example (Wikiverse: a world of knowledge; Owen Cornec, Wikiverse: a galactic reimagining of Wikipedia, 2016).

Clearly of relevance to governance is the manner in which the scope of any such information facility is constrained and variously ordered in relation to strategic preoccupations in response to issues -- and the preferred frameworks of different audiences. Such has been a continuing concern of the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

Maps as projections: If the Global Reset mandalas are to be understood as 2D views of an essentially global form, the challenges of the latter's representation merit reflection in the light of the much studied issue of geographical map projection -- of which there are many alternatives (List of map projections). With respect to any 2D configuration of concepts, it is then clearly of value to ask what other projections might have been used and whether the display technology allows users to switch between them in full knowledge of the distortion of each.

Unfortunately, although there are various organizational and issue maps developed in support of governance, the question of what might be omitted or distorted in a 2D projection is typically not considered.

Blindspots and omissions: The delicate issue is then how to detect what may have been omitted and rendered invisible in the distortions of a 2D mandala -- whether or not these are held to be implied by that form (as in their original design and use for meditative purposes). More specifically, how is any articulation of the globsl reset agenda to be understood as having strategic blindspots of some kind. Thus for Alec Scharer:

... today's mainstream seek objectivity by operating 'scientifically' in distinguishing, observing, describing, measuring, etc.. Most forget that this attitude generates an implicit subject-object split and a 'blind spot' that can only be shifted to other realms, but not solved on principle within the approach.... The 'blind spot ' shows also in the undecidabilities of which Finsler, Gödel, Church, Turing, Post, Cohen, Chaitin and others revealed ever 'new' aspects. Ultimate objectivity can't be warranted by extracting the mind from the subject matter in an imaginary quasi-divine style (the real divine does not extract itself from reality), but only by encompassing strictly everything in the structure – including the categorial instrumentation, which must cover also the implied mental activity. (The Systematics of Global Failure and Success, 2013).

The nature of a blindspot is clearly of importance to corporate strategy, although any blindspot would tend to be a characteristic of the corporate objectives. This would be consistent with the warning of systems scientist Geoffrey Vickers: A trap is a function of the nature of the trapped (Freedom in a Rocking Boat, 1972). Of interest to this argument is the detection of blindspots of relevance to global governance.

One approach to such detection follows from the lipogram, which offers an interesting metaphor for the challenge of articulating a strategy in response to a complex of problems (a problematique) whilst omitting a single problem (Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem: the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues , 2009). Clearly however many problems may be omitted, rather than one -- and this may well be an issue with so-called wicked problems (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems, 2013).

Collective shadow: Another approach is to recognize that any articulation of a strategy or mission tends necessarily to have its "shadow side". This is especially the case when the articulation is deemed to be "positive" and enlightened, raising suspicions regarding its possible "negative" implications (as with any technology). A 2D mandala, by whatever enlightenment it is characterized, raises questions as to what is hidden on the "other side". Any view of the Earth from space exemplifies this problem, especially when one "side" is entirely lit by the Sun -- the other being necessarily in shadow,

The shadow metaphor is also helpful in raising the question as to whether the World Economic Forum, or its leaders, have a "shadow" -- possibly framed as a "collective shadow". This would necessarily be vigorously denied, despite the assertions of observers and critics. The issue is especially credible given the dynamics associated with the global leadership of Donald Trump -- in the light of a variety of assessments of his psychological condition, and those of his supporters. Expressed otherwise, is the reset discourse embedded in a bubble of complicity and groupthink which only the development of that agenda will make evident (Pricking the Bubble of Global Complacent Complicity, 2017; Radical Disaffection Engendered by Elitist Groupthink?  2016).

Vulnerability to hacking: A further possibility is any response to the question as to how the Global Reset might be "hacked" -- given the extensive preoccupation with cybersecurity in response to evident threats of global system disruption. Promotion of the Global Reset could be considered naive in its assumption that extensive deployment of surveillance and artificial intelligence will circumvent any major threat to its disruption. Those with contrasting agendas may well welcome this assumption whilst they develop their own use of AI.

Within such a dynamic context, widely held to be complex, the question the reset presentation fails to address is how to engage effectively with this complexity -- rather than using a particular technology to create the pretence of having done so. How is that complexity to be comprehensibly framed to elicit a degree of coherence consistent with the cognitive paradoxes which seemingly need to be addressed?

Systemic feedback loops and cycles: An unusual feature of the Encyclopedia is the identification of feedback loops and cycles. There has long been recognition of how one problem can impact on another. The Encyclopedia registers many relationships between problems in complex networks. Such relationships may form chains or pathways linking many problems. Hidden in the data as presented is also the existence of chains that loop back on themselves to form loops, as described by Nadia McLaren (Feedback Loop Analysis in the Encyclopedia Project, 2000)

Functionally and conceptually such vicious cycles may offer a better way to approach complex networks of problems. Any organization or policy maker focusing on a single problem needs to be aware of any vicious cycle of which that problem is a part. Unless the other problems in that cycle are addressed, the work towards a solution may be undermined, or worse, reinforcing other problems. Despite apparent success in responding to a particular problem in the short term, a narrow approach may not sustainably impact on its target problem if it is encouraging a vicious cycle. The problem may be regenerated by pressures building up in other parts of the cycle.

Special techniques are required to detect such loops rapidly in an online interactive environment, as developed and described by  Tomáš Fülöpp (Loop Mining in the Encyclopedia of World Problems) prepared for the 17th International Futures Conference (Tackling Wicked Problems: where futures research, education and action meet, Turku, 2015). This constituted a development of previous work in relation to such loops in the database on (perceived) world problems.

The facility currently recognizes 175 3-loops, 228 4-loops, 379 5-loops, 739 6-loops, 1714 7-loops, 4036 8-loops. The facility can also detect interlocking loops alone. Examples of the online presentation are given below using animations of screen shots.

The cycle of screen shots (below left) is an earlier facility used to display problem connectivity. The design metaphor, termed hierarchical edge bundling, corresponds very closely to that currently used in the transformation maps of WEF (as shown above). Use of later force-directed layout techniques is shown in the animations below (centre and right).

Examples of mapping of inter-problem connectivity
Selected problem "mandalas" Problem spring map animation Problems in aggravating chains / loops
Selected circular arrays of problem relationships Problem spring map animation using force directed layout Problems in aggravating chains / loops using force directed layout
Images derived from the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

The images below show selections resulting from the interactive extraction of loops of different sizes using a force-directed layout technique.

Selective views of systemic relationships between perceived problems
179 loops containing 3 nodes 1212 loops containing 6 nodes. 379 loops containing 5 nodes
(animation of interactive selection)
3-node Vicious problem cycles 6-node Vicious problem cycles Animation of extraction of 5-node vicious problem cycles
Images derived from the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential
Indication of a selection of main titles of 5-loop problems in the animation above left

Substance abuse > Cultivation of illegal drugs > Illicit drug trafficking > Corruption of customs and excise officials > Inadequate drug control

Uncontrolled immigration > Delays in processing immigration requests > Corruption of customs and excise officials > Refusal to issue travel documents, passports, visas > Illegal movement across frontiers

Lack of leadership initiative > Lack of urgency in village operations > Dependence on authority > Unreceptive structures for citizen leadership > Ineffective operation of community networks

Religious terrorism > Religious genocide > Religious repression > Religious and political antagonism > Religious war

Natural environment degradation > Undervaluation of natural capital > Failure to take account of externalities of systems > Lack of incentive to care for community property > Undervaluation of nature in planning and decision making

Paralyzing patterns between villages and administrative structures > Reluctance of professionals to take country positions > Restricted delivery of essential services to rural communities > Prohibitive cost of basic services > Inadequate public services for communication

Unfocused design of community space > Ownership as a basis for land allocation > Short-term profit maximization > Profit-motivated utilization of construction technology > Prohibitive construction costs

Limited historical method > Anachronism > Failure to profit from patterns of history > Commemoration of dishonourable historical events > Historical misrepresentation

Restrictive business practices > Economic inefficiency > Economic inflation > Excessive costs > Non-viability of small states and territories

Neglect of the aged > Loneliness in old age > Fear of growing old > Cult of youth > Disrespect for elders

Hero worship > Disagreement among experts > Intellectual dissent > Intellectual conflict > Propaganda

Boredom > Human errors and miscalculations > Underestimation of human potential > Human contingency > Meaninglessness

Indication of main titles in selection of 8-loop problems (of set of 4036)

Diminishing capital investment in small communities > Discouraging conditions for small business > Redundancy of workers > Community demoralization > Distrust of professional service delivery > Unprofessional health care > Limited horizons produced by survival living > Deteriorating rural community cooperation

Affectation > Defective reasoning > Human errors and miscalculations > Disasters > Chaos > Ugliness > Discrimination against unattractive people > Dissatisfaction with personal image

Inadequate community care for transient urban populations > Lack of specialized transportation > Inadequate social welfare services > Denial of rights to vulnerable groups > Inferior status employment > Lack of emphasis on basic education > Inaccessible educational facilities > Lack of secondary schools in the countryside

Natural environment degradation > Undervaluation of natural capital > Failure to take account of externalities of systems > Unconstrained exploitation of natural resources > Unemployment in the wood industry > Unethical practices in forestry > Deforestation > Environmental hazards of exotic species introduction

Social fragmentation > Power complex > Unethical personnel practices > Exploitation in employment > Caste system > Social discrimination > Social injustice > Social conflict

Bureaucratic inaction > Indecisive multilateralism > Lack of realism in intergovernmental organizations > Intergovernmental bureaucracy > Mismanagement by intergovernmental organization leadership > Endorsement of false government claims > Disagreement among experts > Unproven relationships among problems


The early focus on visualization explored spring mapping and virtual reality, as indicated below

Screen shots of earlier experiments
(representation of interlocking problem loops in spring maps and virtual reality)
Spring map for interactive representation of problem loops relating to deforestation Spring map for interactive representation of problem loops relating to deforestation Interlocking problem loops in virtual reality Interlocking problem loops in virtual reality

Transactional maps: Experiments in more complex methods of interrogating the Encyclopedia data set were made using the NetMap facility, as described separately (Preliminary NetMap Studies of Databases on Questions, World Problems, Global Strategies, and Values , 2006). This can be described as a sophisticated suite of computer programs designed to help identify and analyze formal and informal networks. The link may be hierarchical relationships between the nodes, or functional relationships (Node A "aggravates" Node B, etc), or relationships between Nodes of different types (such as a problem and a strategy, or a strategy and a value).

A simplified version of the application was kindly loaned by the developer of Netmap, John Galloway, in order to explore the possibilities in the case of the Encyclopedia data sets. Galloway's approach is now central to a new venture Causality: causal activity analysis

The primary output of the NetMap system is a series of graphic displays, or NetMaps (as shown below). These NetMaps are created by the program's analysis of the networks. NetMap allow the user to easily examine the data from a variety of viewpoints and to focus on specific areas of interest.

Indication of the visual displays of selected Encyclopedia data using Netmap
Study of Energy Strategies
(represents 1472 strategies and 4790 links;
click on image for larger version)
Strategies responding to Violence
(represents 2367 strategies and 6740 links;
click on image for larger version) 
emergent groups detail emergent groups detail
Energy strategies represented on Netmap Energy strategies represented on Netmap (detail) Strategies responding to violence via Netmap Strategies responding to violence via Netmap (detail)
Study of Water-related Problems
(represents 1690 problems and 4115 links;
click on image for larger version)
Study of Water-related Strategies
(represents 1506 and 5730 links;
click on image for larger version)
emergent groups detail emergent groups detail
Water problems emergent groups via Netmap Water problems detail via Netmap Water strategies emergent groups via Netmap Water strategies detail via Netmap
Water problems detail via Netmap Water strategies detail via Netmap

Knowledge cybernetics: the self-referential requirement of any viable reset

The technocratic discourse framing the Global Reset and ensuring the global order considered a requisite is necessarily informed by the technicalities of cybernetics and operations research -- namely the science of systems control. Seemingly missing from that thinking are the self-referential dimensions of higher orders of feedback. These are notably a feature of viable systems modelling as originally developed by the management cybernetician Stafford Beer. Understanding of higher orders of feedback is clarified by Maurice Yolles (Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, Organisational Transformation and Social Change, October 3, 2006, 1; Organizations as Complex Systems: an introduction to knowledge cybernetics, 2006)

A core question for any Global Reset is the nature and number of higher order feedback processes which are essential to its viability in the light of cybernetics and viable system theory (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007). These include second-order feedback, third-order, and higher orders of cybernetics, as discussed separately (Cybernetics of cybernetics: complex adaptive systems? 2007). The particular difficulty is that the degrees of self-referential feedback which are inadequately integrated tend to be framed as the "negativity" of external critics -- who may thereby justify eradication. The difficulty will presumably increase with dependence on artificial intelligence and the challenges its conclusions of a higher order imply.

One 5-fold interpretation of such self-referential distinctions is provided in the discussion of Cadell Last (Towards a Big Historical Understanding of the Symbolic-Imaginary, 2017), as noted in Phases in the "re-cognition" of "bull" according to Zen? (2017):

The argument can be developed to some degree in the light of an earlier assessment of the constraints on another "mandala", namely that of the 15 Global Challenges articulated by the Millennium Project (mentioned above). The relevant 2D image as disseminated by that project is the circular form below left. For the purpose of discussion, this was juxtaposed with a complementary circular form on the right, as previously described (Embodying Strategic Self-reference in a World Futures Conference: transcending the wicked problem engendered by projecting negativity elsewhere, 2015). Both circles were set within a Mobius strip as an indication of the cognitive paradox to be recognized.

30 Future Global and Conferencing Challenges for Humanity
(self-referential adaptation of the 15 Global Challenges of the Millennium Project)
30 Future Global and Conferencing Challenges for Humanity

The 15 external global challenges on the left are framed here as "wickidity" (rather than wickedness) to suggest the stimulus they constitute to innovation. These are presented as mirrored by the 15 internal psychosocial processes of any collective initiative, exploiting the suggestive ambiguity of "intercourse" (Radical Cognitive Mirroring of Globalization, 2014). As with sex, use of "tackling" as a metaphor was considered as potentially quite inappropriate to the fruitful engagement with wicked problems (Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities: learnings from sexual harassment as a metaphor, 1996).

Encompassing a global dynamic of "bristling spikes" -- with "spikeholder capitalism"?

From a historical perspective it is characteristic of new initiatives -- as "spikes" -- that little if any reference is made to those of the past,  even if they continue to exist in some form. Whether or not any engagement with them is considered relevant, most significant is the failure to learn from their successes and failures by appropriate assessment. This is especially evident in the transition within the UN from Agenda21, as a product of the 1992 Earth Summit, to the Millennium Development Goals, to the problematic viability of the SDG process -- despite vigorous public relations efforts to disguise its inadequacies.

A fundamental difficulty is that strategic initiatives, when new initiatives are proposed to supercede them, do not evoke careful investigation of their strengths and weaknesses. Insights of that kind tend to emerge only from anecdotal reporting by external critics or by the disaffected in defiance of the constraints of non-disclosure agreements, as with the shocking account of Shirley Hazzard (Defeat of an Ideal: a study of the self-destruction of the United Nations, 1973; Countenance of Truth: the United Nations and the Waldheim Case, 1990). Insights from such accounts are typically ignored.

What indeed is to learned from encyclopedic projects or the many gatherings of experts -- and the reports they have produced, typically quickly forgotten? Given that prospect, how forgettable will the Global Reset initiative of the World Economic Forum prove to be? The question is especially pertinent given the explicit support of a UN Secretary-General -- with no reference to the analogous support by a UN Secretary-General 20 years previously.

That gave rise to a questionable Global Compact with multinational corporations, namely the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative with 13,000 corporate participants and other stakeholders over 170 countries. Curiously the extent to which this is integral to the WEF Global Reset remains to be clarified -- especially in the light of recognized criticism and the Diesel  emissions scandal involving iconic members of the Global Compact (John Dudovskiy, Criticism Associated with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Business Research Methodology, 26 July 2012; Subhabrata Banarjee, Corporate Social Responsibility: the good, the bad and the ugly, Critical Sociology, 34, 2008, 1).

Also to be clarified is the involvement of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which might be assumed to be complicit in the Global Reset agenda -- especially given its collaboration with the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (Translating ESG into Sustainable Business Value: key insights for companies and investors, 2010).

"Too humanistic"? As an exercise in strategic learning, especially noteworthy is the early strategic schism within the Club of Rome -- rejecting a commissioned proposal as "too humanistic". The rejected methodology was however the focus of an assessment twenty years later by those advocating it. Thus in 1993, Hasan Ozbekhan, Ann Ozbekhan and Alexander Christakis engaged in a structured process to search retrospectively for the essence of the global problematique as manifested in the time period 1970-1991.

The intent was to discern whether humankind had made progress in resolving some of the component problems as conceptualised back in 1970 when they had collaborated in the elaboration of the original proposal, and especially to investigate the engagement with the core of the problematique in the ensuing years. The procedure used is described in detail by Alexander Christakis (Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind Prospectus of the Club of Rome, 2004) -- from which the problem-tree shown below was reproduced.

Indication of relationship between a selection of 24 Continuous Critical Problems (CCPs)
as identified in 1993 from the 49 in the original prospectus for the Club of Rome
Relationship between a selection of 24 Continuous Critical Problems (CCPs)
Redrawn from Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind Prospectus of the Club of Rome (2004) by Alexander Christakis (with correction to presentation of CCP-35)

The problem-tree shown above displays graphically the propagation of problem resolution power among a subset of 24 Continuous Critical Problems(CCP) from the total set of 49 originally articulated. The location of a CCP at the seven levels shown above is an indication of the strength of resolution-influence that a specific CCP is exerting on the other CCPs included. For example, those CCPs located at Level I, are at the surface of the problematique, and hence they do not help resolve any other CCPs. On the other hand the CCP that is located at Level VII is exerting an influence on all the others -- as graphically illustrated by the streams of arrows flowing from the core of the problematique towards its surface (i.e., from Level VII to Level I).

The relevance of the articulation is apparent from the recent use made of it by other authors (Brent Cooper, Social Paradoxes and Meta-Problems: the hard facts about conflicting truths, Medium, 11 March 2018; Kenneth C. Bausch, A Social Systems Approach to Global Problems, Institute for 21st Century Agoras, 2013; Tom Flanagan, et al, A Systems Approach for Engaging Groups in Global Complexity, Systemic Practice and Action Research, 25, 2011, 2).

The Club of Rome offers a remarkable example of institutional incapacity to learn from the inadequacies of past initiatives, especially its own -- given the extensive range of expert reports it has evoked over 50 years. Little account of these is taken in formulating a future agenda for humanity (Jørgen Randers, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, 2012). This constrained capacity is ironic in that an early report it evoked was titled No Limits to Learning: bridging the human gap (1979), as reviewed separately (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980).

Circumventing change? A quite distinct approach to the dynamics of "bristling spikes" is evident from a person with a technical profile of the kind most admired with respect to the WEF constituency promoting a Global Reset. As a pioneering management cybernetician, Stafford Beer is renowned for his articulation of a viable system model and his later exploration of Platform for Change (1978). He notably clarified the need for at least 5 different levels on which processes need to function to make the organization viable -- recalling the levels in the rejected proposal to the Club of Rome. 

Consequently there is considerable historic irony to Beer's articulation of the following insight as it might apply to the Global Reset initiative:

Le Chatelier's Principle: Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants in innovation, people in sort who "want to get something done", often fail to see this point. They cannot understand why their strictures, advice or demands do not result in effective change. They expect either to achieve a measure of success in their own terms or to be flung off the premises. But an ultrastable system (like a social institution)... has no need to react in either of these ways. It specialises in equilibrial readjustment which is to the observer a secret form of change requiring no actual alteration in the macro-systemic characteristics that he is trying to do something about (The Cybernetic Cytoblast: management itself. Chairman's Address to the International Cybernetics Congress, September 1969)

The irony derives to a notable degree from his experience in applying his cybernetic theories to the management of the state-run sector of the Chilean economy through the never-completed Cybersyn project. This aimed to use a communication network enhanced by computers to allow the government to maximise production while preserving the autonomy of workers and lower management. Cybersyn was a little remembered victim of the removal of Allende from power by the Pinochet coup in 1973. (Rod Thomas and Nigel van Zwanenberg, Stafford Beer in memoriam – “An argument of change” three decades on, Kybernetes, 34, 2005, 5).

As a primary candidate for any initiative in enabling a Global Reset, has Dominic Cummings now recognized the validity of that insight by his intellectual forerunner -- given his problematic experience during 2020 as architect of the revamping of governance in the UK (Dominic Cummings: PM's top adviser leaves No 10 to 'clear the air, BBC News, 13 November 2020; Glauco Benigni, Big Data: a world in the hands of mathematicians, Other News, 18 November 2020; Remaking the British state: a misguided counter-revolution, The Economist, 19 November 2020).

Spikeholder capitalism? If indeed global civilization is to be understood as bedevilled by a vast array of bristling spikes -- as suggested by this argument -- then "stake" merits particular consideration as a metaphor through its embodiment in stakeholder as the "stakeholder capitalism" promoted as they key to a Global Reset. Given its physical origin, a stake can be recognized as of similar form to those cited in the title, emphasized by its use in "staking a claim" and "staking out a territory" (Mike Clayton, The Origin of Stakeholders, The Influence Agenda, 2014). Whether these take the form of missiles or missions, they can all be considered as embodying the identity of those claiming possession of them -- most evident in owners of a rifle.

The question is how the dynamics of stakeholder capitalism are to be understood as encompassing and holding the array of bristling spikes -- the diversity of competing claims. The challenge is more evident when the stakes are framed as spikes -- a reminder of the harm that bristling may cause. Hence the question of whether a Global Reset based on "spikeholder capitalism" is an appropriately complex response to the challenge.

Hedgehog versus Fox? With respect to understanding the challenge of war and peace, many have been inspired by the strategic implications of the exploration of Isaiah Berlin (Hedgehog and the Fox: an essay on Tolstoy's view of history, 1953). With a bristling globe to be compared with a hedgehog, the dilemma of the tale derives from the sense in which the hedgehog "knows only one thing", in contrast to the fox who "knows many things". Spikeholder capitalism might then be compared with the hedgehog, begging the question as to what actors (or factors) would adopt the nimble strategies of the fox.

So framed, the issue is then one of acquiring an understanding of the "many things" which "spikeholder capitalism" would typically ignore given its singular defensive strategy. However, as explored by Berlin in relation war and peace, the requisite variety in cybernetic terms may call for a transcendence of the simple binary contrast between the strategic extremes.

A distinct but related use is made of the hedgehog metaphor in strategic commentary on the hedgehog's dilemma. The dilemma clarifies the challenges of human intimacy, although potentially fundamental to collectivities in the case of spikeholder capitalism. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs seek to move close to one another to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp spikes. Though they all share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur, for reasons they cannot avoid. That dilemma is discussed further in the light of others of potential relevance (Strategic dilemmas: hedgehog, trolley and pineapple? 2020).

The framing of the dilemmas of governance through animal fables offers a reminder that the challenge is not whether one or the other perspective is appropriate but rather how the situation calls for a requisite variety of perspectives -- especially in communication strategic complexity to an increasingly sceptical public (Enrolling Winnie-the-Pooh's Companions in Climate Change Discourse, 2019).

Identity and spike dynamics? As noted above, any spike-like form potentially evokes Freudian connotations, as most obviously evident informally and in corporate boardroom discourse -- unrecorded except as so frequently presented in movies as an indicator of authenticity (Mysterious Complementarity between Capitalism and Arsenalism: metaphors crucial to sustainability and the crisis of the times, 2020; The Coalition of the Willy: musings on the global challenge of penile servitude, 2004). Such discourse is also commonly characterized by reference to "bullshit", a phenomenon evoking increasing attention in relation to fake news (Zen of Facticity: Bull, Ox or Otherwise? Herding facts and their alternatives in a post-truth-era, 2007).

Curiously, but significantly, the dynamics of any spiking initiative are framed in such discourse by reference to "fucking" -- whether with respect to "fucking the competition" or being "fucked by the competition", or by regulatory authorities. More curious is a response to disagreement by the injunction of "go fuck yourself" -- which in its physical improbability could be construed as a form of intuitive recognition of self-reference, potentially framed by the paradoxical form of the 4-dimensional Klein bottle (Intercourse with Globality through Enacting a Klein bottle, 2009).

Given the potential harm associated with any spike, it is of course appropriate to note the extent to which those associated with any initiative are typically caricatured pejoratively by critics as "pricks" -- or even a "bunch of pricks". Such language would be only too evident in descriptions by the corporate constituency of WEF of those associated with WSF -- and vice versa. Such questions are explored separately with respect to "Spiky / Prickly" personalities (2020) and Identity, sex and "being a spike" (2020).

In the light of such understanding, will the Global Reset come to be recognized as "putting a spike" into the evolution of global civilization, or of being a "condom on the penis of progress" (a phrase variously cited as one extreme of public discourse in Australia and New Zealand).

Axes of bias? One valuable complexification of the strategic framework is offered by recognition of a set of 7 axes of bias, as articulated by the philosopher W. T. Jones (1961), summarized separately (Axes of Bias in Inter-Sectoral Dialogue, 1992; Axes of Bias in Inter-Cultural Dialogue, 1993), and presented in the animation below (left). This is comparable with the set of 7 pairs of opposites of Oliver C. Robinson (Paths Between Head and Heart: exploring the harmonies of science and spirituality, 2018), as summarized by the author (Palintonos Harmonia: the alchemy of opposites, Paradigm Explorer, 2018, 2), and presented below (right). Images of both configurations were presented in an introductory argument (Values, principles and axes of bias -- as configurations of spikes? 2020).

Rotation of configuration of 7 pairs of contrasting cognitive modalities
(mapped onto opposing vertices of a rhombic dodecahedron -- linked by implied axes through the centre)
Axes of cognitive bias (Jones, 1961) Pairs of opposites (Robinson, 2018)
Configuration of 7 axes of cognitive bias on a rhombic dodecahedron Configuration of 7 pairs of opposites on a rhombic dodecahedron
Animations made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator

Especially noteworthy with respect to use of the rhombic dodecahedron is the importance of its role in the study of logical connectivity (Oppositional Logic as Comprehensible Key to Sustainable Democracy: configuring patterns of anti-otherness, 2018). This polyhedron is a geometric dual of the cuboctahedron whose particular characteristics with respect to transformation between polyhedral forms have been highlighted by Buckminster Fuller, notably proving fundamental to his design of geodesic domes.

It might then be asked how mapping the strategic biases of WEF and WSF onto the axes of that configuration would position them such as to render their asserted differences predictable.

Dynamic patterns of strategic N-foldness? In the light of Miller's indication of cognitive clustering preferences for "7 plus or minus 2", there is a strong case for exploring preferences in practice for clustering between 5-fold and 9-fold. This is apparent in the unexplained clustering within the WEF's transformation maps (evident above). A potentially related insight is offered through a set of polygons by Edward de Bono (Six Frames For Thinking About Information, 2008; slideshare). The viability of teams or cartels offers a further indication (as mentioned above).

It may become apparent that the viability of any system involves a requisite variety of seemingly discordant "voices" -- as a form of strategic "meme pool", by analogy with a "gene pool" (in accordance with the insights of biomimetics). This would necessarily contrast with the singular voice explicit in the particular Global Reset promoted by WEF, although potentially implied by the variety of "stakes" in stakeholder capitalism. Consistent with this argument are the circular images available on the web articulating the types of stakeholder to be recognized. These range between 4 and 14, but primarily numbering 6 to 8. Potentially more relevant is the distinction of ways of engaging with stakeholders, which are similarly clustered.

Rather than dependence on any static 5-fold to 9-fold clustering, the issue may be how to comprehend a variable strategic geometry, namely a cognitive dynamic through which such fixed patterns are variously manifest. A valuable clue in this respect is the geometrical transformation associated with the cuboctaheddron, namely the vector equilibirum so central to the insights of Buckminster Fuller. This dynamic is variously demonstrated through what are named as jitterbug models (Joe Clinton, R. Buckminster Fuller's Jitterbug: its fascination and some challenges, 2011). Potentially more relevant is the fundamental role of resonance hybrids at the molecular level with respect to organic structure -- thereby offering a complex insight into alternation (Configuration of Modes as a Resonance Hybrid, 1986; Policy Alternation for Development, 1984).

Encompassing differences within "cognitive containers"? Use of a polyhedron for global mapping purposes can be understood strategically as "spike holding" with respect to the diversity of spikes. This is curiously consistent with recognition of the polyhedral structure of the coronavirus, as discussed separately (Cognitive Engagement with Spike Dynamics of a Polyhedral Coronavirus: alternation between assertive arrays and systemic patterns of comprehensible coherence, 2020; Encycling wickidity in the light of polyhedral viruses and their mutation, 2015).

On the assumption that the set of strategies advocated in recent reports to the Club of Rome could be considered as global arrays of spikes, the possibilities of such mapping exercises are illustrated separately in critical reviews of those reports (Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018; Engendering 2052 through Re-imagining the Present, 2012). These have the merit of both highlighting their coherence for purposes of governance and recognizing the challenge of its comprehension and communicability. This is an issue which the array of transformation maps of the Global Reset of WEF has yet to address -- as continues to be the case with the UN's SDGs.


Paul Andersen and David Salomon. The Pattern That Connects. In: Architecture of Patterns, Norton 2010 [excerpt]

Stafford Beer:

Isaiah Berlin. Hedgehog and the Fox: an essay on Tolstoy's wiew of history. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1953

Alexander Christakis. Retrospective Stuctural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind Prospectus of the Club of Rome. 2004 [text]

Brent Cooper:

Edward de Bono. Six Frames For Thinking About Information. Vermilion, 2008

Shirley Hazzard:

Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media. Pantheon, 1988

W. T Jones. The. Romantic Syndrome: toward a new method in cultural anthropology and the history of ideas. Martinus Nijhoff, 1961 [summary]

George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez. Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being. Basic Books, 2001

Justin O'Brien:

Hasan Ozbekhan. The Predicament of Mankind. In: C. West Churchman and Richard O. Mason, eds., World Modelling: A Dialogue, North-Holland, 1976

Jonathan Ralston Saul. The Unconscious Civilization. Knopf, 1995

Jørgen Randers. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012 [summary; review]

Alec A. Schaerer:

Klaus Schwab:

Klaus Schwab and Nicholas Davis. Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A Guide to Building a Better World. WEF, 2018

Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret, Covid-19: The Great Reset (WEF, 2020)

Geoffrey Vickers. Freedom in a rocking boat: changing values in an unstable society. Allen Lane  1972

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman. Come On!: Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet. Springer, 2018 [review]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

For further updates on this site, subscribe here