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Record of a 1976 Postal Symposium with observations and comments by Anthony Judge [AJ] and by David Horton Smith [DHS]
1. It would appear that many national and international programs are effectively "contained" such that every success in one area is counter-balanced by a failure in another - although the link amy not always be apparent. The success and the failure may not simply cancel one another out. The dynamic interaction between programs may introduce unpredictable systemic and synergic effects which propel the system into a progressively less stable condition. We are currently not equipped to detect these types of change (except through such initiatives as the Club of Rome's reported in Jay Forrester's World Dynamics). [AJ]
1.a. Don't always, or really ever, yet know which interventions will result in what degree of "formal progress". Linkages need to be studied. How does inquiry affect system? Social science equivalent of Heisenberg Constant. Complexity of system makes studying interactions difficult. Computer simulation? Some interventions may produce catastrophe; side or back effects. [DHS]
2. "Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants in innovation, people in short 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 (a social institution) has no need to react in either of these ways. It specializes 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". (Stafford Beer. Chairman's Address to the International Cybernetic Congress, September 1969) [AJ]
2.a. Well taken. Le Chatelier's Principle and absorption of thrusts. Continually redefined system to include attacks. [DHS]
3. It may well be that the system functions entirely satisfactory and of its own accord in responding to disturbances to its dynamic evolving equilibrium conditions. As sub-systems within the system we would be unable to detect the manner and justification of the corrective measures. If the system is self correcting, then any "within-system" efforts to correct it are bound to give rise to counter-balancing responses. It therefore becomes questionable as to which changes should be proposed or implemented since every such intervention is counter-balanced in an unforeseeable manner (e.g. The Club of Rome study of World Dynamics concludes that industrialization is an important cause of world problems, whereas Picht in Germany casts doubt upon the significance of computer based studies and the American forecasting school of thought and considers industrialization to be the only solution). Each such effort causes system disturbances and counter-balancing responses acts as a lure for time, energy and organizational resources and creates its own school followers and opponents. These are within-system changes and not changes to the system. [AJ]
3.a. How could one know more about the ways in which actions/ interventions are counter- balanced in fact by dynamic systems? (U.S. poverty program and maximum feasible participation/manipulation; c.f. Moynihan). "Blind systemic affects" (flow of goods, services, information, people) vs. perception of niches by particular people who can turn a program to one's own use ("abuse"). Options chosen by actors for their own ends not ends of programs or public interest. [DHS]
4. It may be that world problems become apparent due to a systemic psycho-social ("sub-conscious") response to a need for tensions and inequalities on which the culture can "feed" (through a complex process of identification with opposing aspects of an issue - opposite poles of the inequality - and then interacting over the new territory thus created). This would generate social energy and provide new perceptual complexes to internalize. (e.g. it would be interesting to note the changing balance of concern over the last 30 years between "war" and "world problems" - they both provide a needed social tension and both may be systemic correctional measures.) The recognition by groups within society of real world conditions as "problems" may be somewhat similar to the presentation to an individual's consciousness of hallucinations and delusions as a response to conditions of sensory deprivation. [AJ]
4.a. Aggregation of need for tension at individual level. When is a problem really a problem? How much happiness/dissatisfaction is salutary or inevitable? Where should we draw the line between constraint and freedom for individuals or higher system levels? If all dynamic systems are in some equilibrium, when should changes of the "negative aspects" be sought, given the system context? Dead dog in a puddle here vs. in Africa. Expectation level theory in psychology is relevant here. Being troubled by lack of poverty in Dusseldorf. Why change things if people and groups/social systems adapt expectation levels accordingly anyway? Why force one perception of needed changes on others and their systems - e.g., LDCs?
- Identify problem in terms of definitions by some people/groups?
- Identify problems worth doing something about in our terms or in "real terms" (external model)? When is a problem worthy of intervention? Why? Why not?
- Identify possible intervention strategies and need of them, if any.
- Consider possible side effects and back effects as well as intended "forward effects". Do we know? Should we act in face of uncertainty?
- Decide whether to implement, when and how, if at all. [See World Problems and Human Potential: a data interlinkage and display processproblem project brochure; also Computer-aided Visualization of Psycho-social Structures Peace as an evolving balance of conceptual and organizational relationships, 1971].
Focus on roles, not individuals. Define species (of roles) in terms of possibly fruitful intercourse. Validity of voting inter-species? Antelopes' and lions' views of "problem" of their ecosystem. Depends on which is in greater number. Is present voting system equivalent to having pigeons vote on cow problems? Perhaps we should drop equality bit? Why pretend all are equal? Prevents getting a better system. Don't assume inequality is bad. Are pigeons better than cows? Aquarium model. Some fish bigger and take more territory. We, on outside, try to affect equality of territory of fish. Destroys interaction process. (Have to consider change from large to small fish, etc.) But could do this. Question of what state of total eco-system is really desirable and whether intervention to achieve this is needed. [DHS]
5. Concern with world problems may be "unnecessary" except as an educational and developmental experience - a sort of social "training game" in which our culture can be absorbed. Forrester remarks that his system analyses of corporations in trouble generally showed that whilst each person was acting as best he could, with the best intentions given the information at his disposal, it was the interaction of these "well conceived" departmental policies that kept the corporation in its difficulties. The same may be true of the world system - its problems may be created by the interactions of well-intentioned programs. [AJ]
5.a. Clearly, much concern with an intervention in world or social problems may be useless, unnecessary, or actually harmful in long run to people. At least it may be a waste of effort and resources better directed to enjoyment of experiences. But the experiential aspect - the "being in becoming" - may be crucial. Perhaps this is the key to why we need to try to deal with them. Tension and tension reduction as valuable. [DHS]
6. It is unwise to assume that people or organizations are attempting to improve the system as a whole. In the case of politicians, academics, and organizations in general it is not always the substantive question which is important. This is in many cases merely a symbol for the territory constituted by the issue.
6.a. Agreed that there is much phoniness in the apparent or ostensible goals of people and organizations. Conspiracy of silence not to discuss this phoniness. Agree often (usually?) to take each others' individual and organizational games seriously. Turf and territoriality and protection of the familiar. Innovation and change as too tension producing to continue for long. Law of least effort here, even for innovators (individual or group). Regression toward mean. Saddle effect - stable and quasi-stable dynamic equilibria. Peter Principle. Corporation man. Parkinson's Law. Organization man. Bureaucratic imperative. Resistance to innovation as territorial intrusions. Ego-involvement and self extension, both personal and organizational. Possible role of evaluation research in affecting ability of systems to play games unchallenged. Expected resistances to such research and its implications. Policy research to confirm vs. to set new policy. Research for truth vs. to prove "X". Which is more important for the system as a whole? How can one say? What can be done to really institutionalize evaluation research on a broad scale? Will this do any good? Will it affect how "games" are played? Will it matter if it does? [DHS]
7. Activity in politics, organizations or academe may be more directed to stabilizing a condition of fulfilling behaviour. As a result "more effective" or "more truthful" may become interpreted as doing more activity of the same kind. The tension required to detect and solve the problem, and the associated behaviour, may be considered a desirable feature of the environment and therefore oppose convergence to any "solution".
Much activity is therefore a question of "tourner autour du pot" in order to ensure maintenance of the status quo. One perceives a central but unintegrated truth which one does not wish to see integrated and expressed explicitly because this would "take apart" and render "transparent" one's system and life style. [AJ]
7.a. Problem solutions resisted because of real desire to continue "solving the problem". Again, process is important. Perceiving as problem what one can really handle, given one's interests and resources. Refusal to face other problems that tend to destroy one's organizational or personal life style. Cognitive consistency motivation. Familiarity. Equilibration dynamics. Compartmentalization as a defense mechanism. [See also Wrecking an International Project: Notes from a saboteur's vade mecum, 1972]. (CVS Reprint #3). [DHS]
8. Problems are recognized and organized for in order to provide a structured environment of such dimensions and complexity as is adequate for one's ability to respond. Other problems are not recognized. The stimulus of the presence of the problem is a reinforcement to one's identity. It is selected to provide a domain on which one can demonstrate one's ability to master one's environment. [AJ]
8.a. Same as 7.a. [DHS]
9 "Progress" and the acquisition by an individual or group of adequate "identity" may be basically incompatible. "Identity" is achieved in terms of certain organizational or conceptual structures or invariants which become progressively more widely recognized as one's identity is accepted as a reference point in society. But each person reaches a stage at which he feels he has found and is satisfied with his identity and associates it closely with a unique set of invariants defined as his territory.
Progress and social change are essentially the change in the constellation of organizational and conceptual patterns which govern behavior. Progress must therefore threaten those identified with any existing set of invariants. Their loss of identity may not be compensated by the opportunities for new identity in the new situation. The society may be stripped of identification opportunities causing the culture to decay or decrease in richness. [AJ]
9.a. Incompatibility of personal/group identity and "intervention of an effective sort in regard to a particular problem" ("progress"). Change and progress as endemic and pervasive threats to identity - both organizational and personal. Ego and "Orgo" - consistency motivation. Only by basing identity sense on embracing of change and progress can the tendency to embrace change/progress be fostered, if at all. Great importance of "identity-protection" mechanisms in personal and group behavior - barriers to change, insofar as change threatens identities. [DHS]
10. There appear to be cycles of intimate integrative or disintegrative interaction between concepts current in society, organizations formed to protect or further such concepts, and the manner in which an individual is fragmented or integrated by adherence to or formulation of such concepts, or allegiance or opposition to such organizations. Each part of this cycle is the territory of a different discipline and "invisible" to the others. [AJ]
10.a. Overlay of problems, organizations and concepts in society. Identities as linkages among these levels. Shifting linkages over time at all system levels. Differential perception of these linkages and differential perception of total "mapping" of problems, organizations and concepts. Cycle of relationships here also. [DHS]
11. Individuals and groups choose courses of action to protect and extend their identities. Their choice generates a flora, fauna and eco-system of roles and structures which must be respected and observed before any dramatic attempts to "develop" them are made. "Development" and "education" may in some ways be equivalent (in difficulty and desirability) to a bio-engineering attempt at converting one species into another. There is not yet a framework on which the possibilities and dangers of ontogenetic development can be examined. [AJ]
11.a. Action/intervention strategies are basically identity protection and enhancement mechanisms. Development ,as speciation? What are the relevant analogies to the biological problems? Fruitful intercourse criterion. Roles as central. [DHS]
12. The system may not be of a "big-bang" developmental type in psychosocial terms, or on the time scale to which we are exposed. It may be oscillating, cyclical or homeostatic in terms of a framework which we have not yet clarified explicitly. [AJ]
12.a. There are "unseen ends" and macro-processes whose elements are too large and subtle for us to observe. How can the curvature of a really vast globe be perceived by a being on its surface? How can such "unseen, macro-processes and ends" be inferred, if at all? What effect will perceiving macro-processes and ends have on our commitment to nearer term micro-processes? Should we care? Should we give up? Should we concentrate on micro-processes and aspects of "becoming"? [DHS]
13. The assumption is made that evolution of man has now ceased or may be ignored and that man may control his future. But the structures with which we identify and which we are learning how to modify may merely be temporary containers for an ongoing evolving life-process. Evolution may now be mainly along psycho-social lines but it will be as invisible to us as it was to our physically changing ancestors.
In these terms we should neither expect the sympathy of the evolutionary process, nor regret its absence, for the preservation of psycho-social structures. In evolutionary terms the criterion is the survival and transformation of the most appropriate. This has never included the preservation of excessive numbers against the catastrophes which their presence must evoke. Attempts at preservation may be anti-evolutionary. [AJ]
13.a. How can we begin to perceive, assess and even measure the relevant, on-going processes of psycho-social evolution? Is psycho-social Darwinism an appropriate model? If not, how do we determine appropriate intervention strategies? Must psycho-social evolution be as invisible to us as biological evolution was to our ancestors? Should we embrace or resist psycho-social evolution? Do numbers of human beings matter? Given an interest in the quality of psycho-social evolution, can this be achieved without quantity and variety also being sought? Isaac Asimov and his Foundation trilogy as one model. Can an elitist approach ever be stable and ever guarantee sufficient variety and innovation? Is protection of quantity of human life productive? At what point? What do we do if there is basic inter- group disagreement on this point? [DHS]
14. We may indeed be living at the peak of a "golden age", as the "World Dynamics" study claims, and will from now on be progressively or catastrophically losing all our gains in organizational, technological, and possibly, cultural terms. These losses may be counter-balanced by gains in terras of psycho-cultural organization.
To ensure the latter, however, we must ensure the transfer of the experience acquired by the passing technological society - a "Noah's Ark" policy. What is the kernel, borne of the tremendous pressures, stresses, opportunities and resources available today? Through what media can it be passed on - given that the next decades or centuries may be "throwing many babies out with the bathwater"? Is it melodramatic to call this an exercise in cultural propagation and the conservation of "psycho-social genes" through a time of chaos - or at least the distillation of the essence of acquired experience to permit its transformation into a form applicable to a society with other values and resources and within which it would be impossible to glean such experience. [AJ]
14.a. Must experiment with the means of transmitting and preserving accumulated psycho-social experience. Is selection within this "treasury" necessary? Can it all be preserved and suitably indexed? If not, who selects on what basis? For how long should plans be made to preserve the "treasury"? Can we plan to preserve it independently for variety of times and by a variety of means? How to deal with earthquakes and other major forces of nature? Why pass on anything at all, if the essence of human life is "becoming"? Will discovery of a rich past culture destroy initiative and create dependency in a more primitive later culture? Will a more advanced later culture really need or have much interest in a less advanced prior culture? On the basis of whose_ values should such decisions be made? How do such decisions affect other options for life and time and resource allocation? Is intervention worth the price? What else could we better be doing? [DHS]
15. The world is exploding into sub-systems at a rate which is now exceeding the rate of development of the communication techniques to overcome the psychic distance between sub-cultures--with the exception of very crude messages. Sub-culturization may be looked upon as control over one's own concerns and a rejection of, or indifference to, "world order". In evolutionary terms, it is a protection of psycho-genetic variety - essential in a time of disaster. [AJ]
15.a. Given an expansion of sub-systems at a rate faster than the rate of development of inter-subsystem communication techniques (a proposition requiring empirical testing and elaboration), intervention in the form of developing better trans- system communication may be crucial. It is unclear that the growing task of communication is more a "protection of variety" than a symptom of disorder/"disease"/ world problem. How to bring differentiation and integration into a systemic balance is perhaps the general problem. The conceptual inventory/modeling project may become very crucial in the light of such considerations. Document-based information systems are all but useless to deal with the information explosion in the long run. More integrative conceptual approaches are needed. These approaches, if successful, will automatically help with the earlier (#14) problem of selection and transmission of psycho-social experience residues. One will want to transmit, perhaps, access to an integrative, conceptual, computerized system of psycho-social experience residues. But, again, this may destroy initiative for future generations or societies. How can such an issue be dealt with?
It is unlikely that any really integrative, conceptual, dynamic, computerized system will be supported because it is too broad, too general, and challenges too many turfs and territories. If started in one area of substance or "culture", it is unlikely that it will be evenly expanded. A new "territory" to be protected will be created. [DHS]
16. The next decades will probably see an increasing disenchantment on the part of the individual with any "distant" structure or chains of conceptual or organizational relationship which are supposed to be relevant to his concerns. The acceptable number of links in such chains "out" from the individual may be decreasing year by year. There is liable to be a general loss of confidence in links which the individual cannot inspect for himself. This applies to news media, TV documentaries, advertising, expert and political statements. This is significant because it is the projection of this confidence into such structures which provides the energy and oil to make our more sophisticated control structures work. Without such confidence, such structures can only persist as shells with symbolic value. Individuals will isolate themselves into relatively small communities. [AJ]
16.a. Is there any real data on this? Cannot the reverse be argued - that more distant, abstract and conceptual links will become more important in the future, as propinquity, kinship, and occupation become less important? Are there various senses of "distant" structures? Cannot individual inspection of "linkages" be compatible with new and more abstract linkages (eg., through voluntary groups)? Is there ever more to a group than a "shell with symbolic value"? Will the kind of "small communities" mentioned really isolate people or reduce their isolation? Cannot both happen? What role will electronic communication media play? Can they become more personalized? Will the balance of mass vs. personal media change drastically, but with an increasing dependence on electronic vs. personal interaction? How do cable TV and video plans fit in here? What about holographic video phone connections? How will confidence in organizations and individuals be affected by all this? Will confidence necessarily decline in all areas? Why? [DHS]
17. The written and spoken words are "babelizing". Use of the written word with precise meanings is becoming equivalent to that of Latin as a medium useful for communication between those (in the academic and administrative worlds) committed to a rationalized, abstract perspective. It is increasingly irrelevant to the "lower" reaches of society. People can no longer read and comprehend items which do not reinforce their own views. For many, the written word is used as a visual symbol with floating meanings aimed at achieving an impression and an involvement (cf. McLuhan). "Lower" here means poorly informed rather than the usual class distinction. Visual imagery is as yet at a crude stage of development equivalent to the old peasant dialects - the "Bible" has not yet been translated. [AJ]
17.a. What will happen in the future re: the distribution of the major world languages? What impact will this have? Is "literacy for all" good? For what? In what language or languages? Should language (cum world-view) training be pushed as the most important kind of education so that people of different nations could understand each other better and, perhaps, work together better? Or would this be counter- productive, with "familiarity breeding contempt" and making it easier to take advantage of others who are weaker or "less evil."
What is the optimal amount of information for a person or group? How much should confirm what is "already known" and how much should be new and mind-stretching? How much "informational imperialism" is really "good for people"? Under what circumstances? How should information be delivered? How valuable is a comprehensive "information existence alerting system," which can be used interactively by people and groups? Why?
Does having a certain kind of information really make a difference in the long run? Are not information levels simply adjusted to, as are other constraints on a person or system? Is more information always or ever clearly better for a person or group? How can one tell? Who can really decide? Can one tell without seeing the consequences empirically both of having and not having the information? Could one really disentangle the effects of the information from other effects? How is the provision of unasked-for information different, if at all, from propaganda and PR? Can unasked-for information ever be helpful, useful, and non-propaganda like? Under what circumstances? From whose viewpoint? How is information likely to be harmful to people or groups? Can one generally tell in advance? How? Why?
What is the overall value to a human eco-system of a body of common information? Of accurate information? Of necessary information? How can such information be defined? Packaged? Delivered? Can uninformed people or groups be trusted to recognize their own self interests and how to work to accompli; them most effectively? What are the political implications of this position? Is information power? For whom? Should it be shared? Why? With whom? How? Will this really work, or is it but another illusion that "the system" will counter act? [DHS]
18. Information is a threat to existing structures and identities. It is not required unless preprocessed in such a way as to reinforce the perspectives of the receivers.
As before, the politician and academic want information to improve their holds on their territories. Information must therefore be presented in terms of relevance to the territory. There is no framework for cross-disciplinary discussion - -- no inter-territorial language.
The "transparency" that information can offer to the existing social and conceptual structures is viewed as a threat to entrenched positions - both by those who profit from the current state of obscurity and by those who need to protect the germination of new or compensatory processes from over-exposure. The formula for controlling the controllers of such information systems has not been found.
It is possible that a historical perspective will show that just as a contributing factor to the fall of the Roman Empire was an inability to transfer funds rapidly, so the fall of the Western Civilization may be due to an inability to transfer meaningful information rapidly. [AJ]
18.a. If information really threatens existing structures and identities in general, it will tend to be resisted in general - though perhaps in subtle ways (e.g., by being ignore- by not taking steps to make it retrievable when needed and by whom it might be needed Example of U.S. Food and Drug Administration records - massive in quantity and hence unmanageable. Information defines "reality". Therefore, who controls information, controls the definitions of reality and has great power. New and different information thus becomes a threat, not all information or confirmatory information. New and really different information also usually require the system and "gatekeepters" to adjust and restructure the existing information base and indexing/retrieval system, hence an additional reason to resist it.
Development of "territorial information systems" (for a defined substantive or disciplinary/professional area) is protective of personal and group identity, and resistive to change through new and different information. The formation of a "profession" is especially relevant here, because it allows for maximal legitimate control over the definition of "reality" and "valid information". Any unwanted or system disturbing information can always be rejected on methodological grounds, if no other. Use of any method for obtaining information. always involves some trust and faith in a person or persons, and this can be collectively challenged by a profession or group. This dynamic of "informational power" leads to the fantastic proliferation of professional specialties and sub- specialties in contemporary society.
Across linguistic lines similar critiques of the validity of information can always be made, hence there is room for repetition of all informational/professional subsystems independently in all linguistic/cultural systems. Cross-disciplinary and cross-linguistic languages and models are resisted because they involve a sharing of power and a blurring of identity. As a result, the most difficult kind of task is to perform any kind of generalized, cross- disciplinary and cross-cultural, conceptual/informational model building. If it is to be done, however, it should focus both on the methodological- perceptual approaches of people in different professions/fields, as well as on the major kinds of abstract event models relevant in each field. These are much more crucial than specific bits of information of a more concrete sort. Problem of "superficiality" from the standpoint of any given field or approach. Inevitable breadth vs. depth dilemma. Focus on information access and search strategies, rather than on specific, primary information itself. Both at the individual and organizational levels, systems tend to avoid new and different information thatwouldrequire adjustment and dissonance reduction through restructuring and réintégration of knowledge. Thus, one cannot expect either indivi- duals or groups to seek out, accept, attend to, or deal with really new and different information in most cases. One rare exception is where the person or group identifies itself as an absorber of new and different information and when it thrives on the process of restructuring and reintegrating its knowledge.
Most major innovators have this trait, whether individual or organizational. Naturally, they are resisted strenuously by other individuals and groups. The "Inquisition" can be seen as a very "healthful" attack by "white blood corpuscles" on the "foreign bodies/germs" being introduced into the social body by heretics/innovators who were unsatisfied with existing integrations of information/knowledge and tried to present their own new and different versions. The larger question is, however, can such new and different integrative systems and kinds of information be known in advance to be "good for the system in the long run"? When is a chemical added to an aquarium likely to poison the whole system, and when will it enliven and invigorate it? What about "species selective" poisons, or their information and knowledge equivalents? Is information in general a poison or elixir of life? Under what circumstances is it either or both for whom in the long run?
What does all this mean with regard to what information systems are worth setting up with what content delivered, how, to whom, under what circumstances? How is the ideal different from the likely here? Is there any extant model of a fully appropriate information system for some constituency? What are the implications of this? Is this an unattainable ideal? Is it worth striving for? Is there a value to trying to share power with the weak by sharing information? Why? What will be the likely result? Is there a value to sharing information with the ignorant? Why? With what results? In a zero sum game, with limited resources, with whom should what information be shared and how, in order to raise the average quality of life? What are more appropriate uses of resources? What are the tradeoffs? [DHS]
19. With respect to peace and social inequality, it is important to meditate on the functioning of any natural eco- system and the problems, and desirability, of suppressing violence in it. The assumption in the case of man is that each person is an "indivisible" individual basically of similar nature. But each individual is in fact represented in society by a multiplicity of roles of unequal importance, even to himself, and it is through roles and organizational and conceptual structures inhabited by such roles that the (extra- or meta-systemic?) "individual" participates in the system. Society is an eco-system of roles and an individual is a very abstract concept indeed.
In a social system, the "top dog -underdog" inequality may be as natural and necessary as the dynamic carnivore - herbivore relationship is in a natural eco-system. There are chains of processes in the role eco-system just as there are food and other chains in natural environments.
Legislating for peace may be the equivalent of creating a human zoo, in which each role is sealed off from the next - the "carnivores" must still be fed, however, but by the organizers of the zoo.
The only satisfactory approach to peace appears to be through the development of a precise means of transferring status, equivalent and parallel to the money system. This is a long way off. All other approaches will stunt the development of the social system and the individuals within it. War is war between roles, not between individuals. [AJ]
19.a. Violence per se vs. violence toward certain persons or groups for certain ends. Can violence and aggressiveness in general be sublimated by mankind? Is it good to do so? Will it affect our long range capacity to adjust and use creativity? Is all human life equally valuable? Is human life always more valuable than the life of any other species? Why? If the inequality in value is admitted be- tween humans and others, then why not inequalities within humanity?
Is there any but a very loose theological or biological justification for treating all human lives as equal in value? Is this any more than a convenient fiction, that no one has really believed or acted in terms of? Does equality in the value of human life imply that the quality of all human lives should be equal? Could this be so? How? If it were valued sufficiently highly, could inequality of experience be eliminated by a complex system of compensation, etc. Would this involve reducing mankind's experiences down to a dull common denominator. Should the wings be clipped from those who can fly to make their experiences no different from those who can only walk ( or crawl or merely vegetate)? Is not inequality inherent in all species, including mankind? What will increasing the equality of opportunity accomplish? At whose expense?
What about intervention to affect the opportunities for social/intellectual/economic/political mobility? Is it really possible on a broad scale in an effective way? What results does it have overall? Does "relative deprivation" create a "psychic backlash" that eliminates the value of mobility opportunities. Can mobility opportunities be "optimized" for a society? How? Would equality eliminate war? Would equality of opportunity eliminate war? Why? If neither peace nor equality are really possible or feasible for mankind, how should most of our thinking about world/social problems be changed accordingly?
Can mankind face this information? What professions/disciplines/fields could accept this under what conditions? How does focus on peace and equality drain off resources that might better be spent on other goals? Or should resources be allocated toward achieving peace and equality even if they are not really attainable? Perhaps the process is again what matters. [DHS]
20. It is widely recognized that the whole system is becoming less and less credible and acceptable to (i) the younger generation, (ii) the man-in-the-street, (iii) the developing world. As yet, however, we have no clear historical parallel to provide the necessary perspective. Perhaps a useful parallel is that of the place of the Catholic Church and religion in society after the Renaissance.
We now have a new Universal Church with its orders, namely the United Nations and its family of agencies. In the interstices of this system we have new "protesting" sects, namely other organizations, governmental, academic, business, voluntary, trade union, and otherwise. The Church considers itself the one true church and is anxious to enfold the dissenting and in some cases, heretical groups. The latter are anxious to spread their message at all costs. Most organizations are anxious to proselytize
There are ecumenical movements amongst the protesting organizations, for they realize that they lack the strength of unity.
We have with this system an organized society, just as that period had a religion- based society. One must belong to an organization. Organization has become a religion with a strangle-hold on thinking in the Western world. It is "the only way of getting things done". The processes that cannot be organized are ignored or condemned - just as the activities in the past which could not be given a religious association were ignored or condemned. A non-religious perspective was inconceivable and smacked of heresy.
Today it is the younger generation which is opting out of the societal religion in search of a more organic life style. The results must be condemned, as quackery, superstition, witchcraft and devilry were condemned.
But the weakness of the organized society is that it is detached from the needs and individuality of the person - but particularly from his perspective. Itis becoming "irrelevant". People will increasingly slip through the grasp of organizations Our preoccupation with static organizational and conceptual structures may appear to the eyes of the future as irrelevant and irritating as does Columbus' preoccupation with the religious salvation of the Caribbean Indians. [AJ]
20.a. Generally well taken, though it much overestimates the importance of the U.N. system and the importance of organizations in general. I don't think people will increasingly slip through the grasp of organizations, because I think that the term "organization" is taking on a much increased breadth of meaning. Traditional work organizationsand dues-and-membership voluntary organizations may be weakening in their hold on people, but other kinds of formal and informal groups and networks are taking up the slack. The article on transnational networks gives a good set of examples (see The Nature of Organization in Transnational Networks, 1972).
Formal, bureaucratic organizations may be on the wane, but I doubt very much if human group affiliations are waning. In fact, I believe they are increasing. A recent study by ISR at the University of Michigan shows that informal interpersonal relations consume two orders of magnitude more time than formal organizational relations in non-work contexts. People may increasingly slip through the grasp of formal, bureaucratic organizations, but these same people will generally be picked up in a larger net of group and personal affiliations, often by new non-bureaucratic forms of formal organizations. [DHS]
21. It may be that we are close to discovering a psycho-social equivalent to atomic energy - with all its implication for society. What does hindsight offer in the way of guidance to the social scientist? What protective devices can he introduce? How can the investigation be made sufficiently general in order to foresee all the disturbances to the system? [AJ]
21.a. What would be the psycho-social equivalent of atomic energy? What would its character- istics and general parameters be? [DHS]
22. There are practically no channels through which multidisciplinary studies or projects may be proposed - unless a specific tie is made to some unidisciplinary concern, thus prejudicing the success of the project. All such projects must be voted and approved by organization channels with unidisciplinary biases. Furthermore, there are practically no environments which are not locked into the perspectives of a single culture. [AJ]
22.a. Agreed, sadly. The only solution I see is to work, if one is interested in multi-disciplinary activities, toward creating one's own multi-disciplinary environment with a reward system structured to encourage such activities. To do this, I maintain one must first start with a powerful, intelligent and sympathetic person in an existing organization as an ally, or else start fresh with a new organization. Once you have demonstrated its feasibility and value, you should try to propagate the program into other, similar systems.
It is crucial that the program not be simply a "paper tiger" with a multi-disciplinary board of directors from various disciplines whose main concern remains the reward system of their respective disciplines. Having a full-time occupational, role within the new, multi-disciplinary program/ organization is thus crucial, especially for the principal decision-makers of that system. It may still fail to accomplish its goals, but it will surely" fail otherwise. The members of such an organization should very carefully be chosen for their genuine, deep and abiding multi-disciplinary interests and openness. Almost by definition, they should be perceived as deviants, intruders and "mavericks" by the fields in which they are technically trained or primarily worked. If the "top people" of their profession are solidly behind them, it is probably unlikely that they will be able to contribute creatively to an interdisciplinary endeavor. [DHS]
23. Finally, how are the results of any world system investigation to be reported and to whom? When is an explanation satisfactory and for whom? What is to be said of an explanation which is meaningful for one group, which agrees to use a special theoretical framework and accompanying jargon, but is meaningless to outsiders?
A problem of the same form is posed by objectivity. If objectivity is achieved by cross-checking within an (academic) community, objectivity is then a matter of consensus. One man can never be objective, unless by acclaim after the act, and consensus never extends to the total population. If it is a question of"a majority", what of the objectivity of the innovator?
A third problem of the same form is posed by far-reaching policy decisions based on highly technical presentations understandable to very few - when are such decisions "in the interests of the majority" and how is this to be determined and to whose satisfaction?
A fourth problem of the same form is posed by the definition of relevance. There is no framework within which the relevance or irrelevance of a particular approach to a real world problem can be examined. Relevance is discipline oriented and not real world oriented. [AJ]
23. Help! [DHS]
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