Beyond The Edge

Followed a series of links from Johnnie Moore (on more reflective, indirect approach to “problem solving” when the situation is complex and the “problem” itself not at all clear – reminded me of Terry Eagleton’s “C-Word” reaction to the macho “can do” mentality).

Peter Block …  we have a deeply held belief that the way to make a difference in the world is to define problems and needs and then recommend actions to solve those needs.  We are all problem solvers, action oriented and results minded. It is illegal in this culture to leave a meeting without a to-do list. We want measurable outcomes and we want them now. What is hard to grasp is that it is this very mindset which prevents anything fundamental from changing.  We cannot problem solve our way into fundamental change, or transformation.

Led me to Viv McWaters “Beyond the Edge” – lots of good self-organization / emergence material.

This particular post caught my eye because amongst other things it includes specifc links to the Dutch Road Traffic approach – of removing all instructional road-traffic signs – improving road safety. I frequently quote it, but was beginning to think it was apocryphal, something I’d maybe imagined. Hell no. Wikipedia has the specifics.

The idea of self-organization arising from relatively few simple rules – the old flocking / shoaling “A-Life” simulations – rather than detailed expert instructions on how to achieve some complex end result (which can never work), is fitting with two current threads.

(a) How to handle complex situations, by simplifying the “architectural approach” rather than attempting to simplify the complexity of teh situation itself – which is conserved however you slice and dice “the problem”, (Cue Einstein – “Simple as possible, but not more so.”) and

(b) the “Aha!” moment that this is entirely consistent with the ethical approach to acting local – “tending one’s own garden” – rather than presuming to address a large complex global-scale “crisis” as something with a tractable solution.

(Both also fit another current thread – that ontologies may be a red-herring. Why spend time designing or discovering the best or correct ontology for a given enterprise, and debating which is best, when you can give the means to each player to characterize the ontological relationships with its neighbours ?)

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