Some of you will know that a lot of my current writing is directed at framing the “systems thinking” problem / solution as more formal research, but notwithstanding that, the thinking and writing continues.
Recently I framed this as “Where Next With Iain McGilchrist?” Iain has characterised the situation as well as anyone, but stopped frustratingly short of the “so what” does a world-scale solution / improvement look like?
Jonathan Rowson, CEO of Iain’s publisher Perspectiva, has already picked-up that baton a couple of times, with his Systems Souls Society initiative and his “Attention as a Moral Act” series, also with Iain.
Today Jonathan posted on the Perspectiva blog, a long piece with some direct questions about the problem and solutions:
“Prefixing the World –
why the polycrisis is a permacrisis, which is actually a metacrisis, which is not really a crisis at all.”
I’ve not digested the whole, but I did respond to his direct questions:
Q1: Do the world’s problems have an underlying/overarching/inherent cause that we might do something about?
A1: YES, one underlying problem – to do with our (individual and collective) decision-making rationality – but as you suggest more meta than specifically relatable to each “crisis”.
Q2: Do the main ways that those with political and economic power currently try to solve problems (policy, regulation, trade, technology, economic growth) tend to make those problems worse?
A2: YES (and no) – the problem above – we including our political executive peers are held to account by us and by our press suffering the same meta-problem above, it’s the knowledge ecosystem in which we (all) operate. – (even if we / they individually have more creative flair).
Q3: Is there reason to think our historical moment is qualitatively distinct from other historical moments in a way that calls for a fundamental shift in our relationship to reality?
A3: NO – more a matter of degree with the multiplying factor of mass (ubiquitous and instant) electronic communications. Same problem really existed since “the enlightenment” but much slower / mediated dialogue. But YES- we therefore have to take issue with the meta-problem, adopt the better world-view directly, head-on rather than assume / hope common sense will automatically prevail (it won’t).
Q4: Should we take care to ensure that the terminology we choose to distil the essence of our global situation is as accurate and edifying as it possibly can be?
A4: YES – but this is more to do with “care” than tight “definitions” – we won’t simply be able to create neologisms or new definitions of old words that automatically escapes the baggage of old thinking. It’s why I see the solution more like evolving a better knowledge (and communications) ecosystem.
Q5: Is there something about the very idea of crisis that militates against the kinds of transformation we now need?
A5: OH YES! – I think this is key. The reason for Douglas Adams “Don’t Panic”. I’ve made myself unpopular with some “activist” groups by suggesting that their making everything critically urgent is a major part of the problem. If we rush to perceived solutions in this world of here and now, we miss out the meta-level where the real problem lies. And make THAT problem even more intractable.
Although I’ve not digested the whole of Jonathan’s thoughts, do have a read yourself and answer his questions, and give him/us any other feedback.
He does (as he has before) also mention the influence of Robert Pirsig’s thoughts on his work too.
Only this morning I was (a) referring to Iain McGilchrist
And (b) discussing the 50th Anniversary of Pirsig’s ZMM.
Onward and upward.
I first related Jonathan’s “Meta-Crisis” proposal to my own 20+ year Meta interests a couple of years ago in May 2021: “Meta (Really) is the Word“.