Dear Rod:

I came to this thread after Steve has so nicely responded to your
comments in a very similar direction that I'd like to do. Stafford also
influenced my views on this as we did have ourselves this same
conversation: he was the first one to alert me in periods of my life
when I still felt a big responsibility in producing 'massive social
changes' - in my own country - as I felts that cybernetics would be such
a useful tool for that purpose; he was always aware that it could also
be a good tool for domination and empowerment of people with selfish,
not precisely humanistic goals - ; I did learn -not in a painless way-
this lessons! 

I did even discuss with him the possibilities of Org Cybernetics to be
used in topics of sustainability and he had accepted to supervise my
post-doctoral research on this topic before he became ill and died in
2002. He also alerted me on the paradoxical idea of 'sustainable
development' as he considered that there couldn't be any thing called
'sustainable' development; development (growth) can NOT and should not
be sustained as this is against the basis ideas of homeostasis and

So I am not -as you may think- inviting people to a messianic
expedition; I am more than aware of our major limitations to produce a
massive change. But I am still optimistic of the way that social change
evolves, from a higher level of consciousness on fundamental issues. I
have witnessed before massive social changes emerging and wide spreading
very strongly and quickly -in topics highly relevant to a social group-

 If we talk about sustainability and cybernetics, we are not going to
invert the climate change or revert the peak oil -and it is not our
responsibility to take on board such a messianic task!-; but as others
have commented before, we do have a powerful language and tools to
reveal innovative mechanisms for learning and collaboration that could
still potentially contribute to raising consciousness and designing
tools to handle better the complexity  in small groups/ communities or
businesses; even to inspire governance and governments on policy and
regulatory issues. I would -as Stefan did- expect that once more we can
get together -somewhere - and have a good experience exploring this
topic in some detail and coming up with interesting and innovative
proposals for action/research.




From: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of ROD THOMAS
Sent: 11 February 2008 21:58
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: System failure


Dear Angela,


Thanks for the detailed reply, I can appreciate the reasoning behind the
decision to hold the syntegration in Sweden on this subject.


My only observation relates to the view - you refer to Steve and
Russell's recent messages - that we have some kind of special role or
responsibility in being the mid-wife to what you call 'massive social
change'. I would caution against any view that it is in some sense our
responsibility to change, or for want of a better expression, 'save the
world'. I think this view continually appears in contributions to this
list server. In my mind this places too great a burden and too big an
expectation on those who have an interest in management cybernetics - I
thinlk that the likely outcome is psychological damage if not despair.
Indeed, some might argue that it is a variation on the ancient theory
(or prophecy?) of deliverance and / or destiny : either by messiahs,
chosen people, tribes, social classes etc. A view that throughtout
history has manifested itself in various guises.... always with the same
outcome: trouble.


I have a feeling that this issue has arisen before on this discussion
board because I have already recounted the story that when I asked
Stafford about PLATFORM FOR CHANGE (in about 2000?),  he replied that
during the 1970s he had made the mistake of thinking that it was his
reponsibility to save / change  the world. He said that he had been much
happier since re-evaluating the prospects of this. He said he was
unbelievably happy.


 'Is it my round?' was his next question, and we stayed up late enjoying
the time that we had in proximity to a bar that was open.



Angela Espinosa <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

	Rod (and others)
	I do appreciate your original question about the next
Syntegration in Sweden and consider we must respond it clearly if we
want to go ahead with it. To give you a brief reaction on my side; we
agreed on the decision to make the next event as a Syntegration as a
suggestion from participants at the final session on the last Conference
in Saint Gallen. The opening question was suggested at the Steering
Committee last November in London -and I liked and supported the idea-;
we choose Sweden as we had received a kind invitation from Professor
Stig Holmberg to do it in Sweden. He has had previous experiences
organising Syntegrations and has been working recently in using them as
a mechanism for local governance. It seemed to us that by focusing in
this particular application of Stafford's work we'd be able to encompass
the interests/ wisdom from a wide variety of both researchers and
practitioners as the topic affects us all one way or another and we
believe cybernetics' contributions to sustainability still have not been
well discussed or known. The steering committee was happier with the
idea of 'developing the Metaphorum community internationally -after the
succeess of the St Gallen's one. We had close to 50 participants; only
30% of them were British; the rest of them came from other European
countries and from Canada, Australia and Latin America. Given this
composition of the membership last year, the difference between making
this year event in the UK or in Sweden -from a sustainability point of
view- won't make much more difference. But the decision to fly or not is
clearly relevant to the topic of sustainability and to our personal
'actions', so it's worth the debate.
	As decisions have been made already and we're launching the
formal invitation and details of costs and logistics in few days time,
we'll wait and hear the reactions from the majority of members and then
we'll see where to go from there.
	Regarding the meaning of talking about sustainability and
cybernetics, I do support what Russell, Roger and Steve have already
argued. On my personal view, I have felt passionate about the
possibilities to re-understand the ideas of 'sustainable development'
that we use and have felt that the language offered by the VSM and the
tools Stafford suggested -as the VSM and Syntegration- have important
potential impacts in producing massive social change. I do agree with
Steve that even if the topic seems too big -global change- unless we
find useful mechanisms 'that work in practice' to revert the trends, the
possibilities we have to leave some hope for the next generations are
	I know of situations where people inspired by 'cybernetically
sound' organisational and governance schemes have managed to produce
important changes at least at a local level. More than favouring
'unsustainable' conversations about sustainability, I'd expect this
event may contribute to share and make more precise the sort of actions/
projects that we or others may lead to contribute to advance in the
desirable direction of change both locally and globally. At the global
level, for instance there is a clear gap in the structures in place to
represent people's views on massive decisions affecting all countries
(i.e. energy use).
	As Russell has explained before, I consider that the topic on
sustainability -understood in a broad sense- could be a very clear
application on how innovative mechanisms for governance could be
developed, and even on how major societal risks could be addressed -as
the conversation leaded by Arthur has shown us all before- or as Steve
says, how the non sustainable futures we're creating could be revealed
and contrasted.
	I feel quite optimistic we can contribute to create
consciousness on which the major issues are and where decisions are
being made - as opposite on where/how they could be made from a more
cybernetically sound criteria...
	Angela E
	-----Original Message-----
	From: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer on behalf of
Wright, Steve
	Sent: Mon 2/11/2008 13:10
	To: [log in to unmask]
	Subject: Re: System failure
	It is quite posible that the younger generation are aware that
they will
	have to put into place any remnants of wisdom that might enable
them to
	sustain! In all of this, we in Metaphorum are presumambly aiming
	create values and systems for a brighter time. The young are
	media savvy - they can smell a crunch is coming but only have
	making facilities within their circle. The crazy nation states
	are beyond them and most of us..
	And perhasp in this sense we should be focussed. Most of our
	and survivor systems are about protecting the unsustainable and
	gurantee the safety of the many. Most of my work is about the
	militarisation of sustaining the unviable and the horror show
	accompanies it. History tells us that when habitats diminish
	cultures do not die peacefully, they raid!
	Kids today might inhabit a variant of Brave New World but the
	warn them 1984 is a reality for the majority and it may just be
	the corner for them. What Metaphorum has done for me is advise
me just
	how complicated big systems are - and how some of the solutions
	not be so obvious. For example on ecological viability, perhaps
	"deepest green" friend said recently: "Give me an SUV driving
	anyday over a meat eacting cyclist since the SUV vegetarian
	less greehosue gases!" I think if we surveyed the next
generation we
	would find they are expecting to die violently in some future
war and
	there is some hostility to previous generations that they used
	everything up...But they are very aware of the screwed up nature
	policy making and politics so why get involved in trying to
change "big
	systems"? And yet count how many are now involved in charity or is small scale and "real". The struggle to
	global catastrophe isnt over and yet it seems too big...One
challenge of
	the next generation of "systems designers" is scaling things
down so
	that more become involved. 
	Climate change is of course already wreaking collossal damage
and we're
	getting news of its day to day devastating human impact only
slowly. But
	if we get to consume it via a series of sudden tipping points
then it
	will be young people who have to endure the winnowing process of
	Dawinian logic which ensues. What should we be saying to that
	in ways which are clear enough and inspirational enough to
persaude them
	to know how to build viable systems as if people mattered? i
think most
	of all we need success stories - a sort of solutions based
	if all of us fail then the kids will be the consumers of that
failure or
	the target of the feral forces that gobble up and recycle
	-----Original Message-----
	From: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer
	[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of R
	Sent: 11 February 2008 12:04
	To: [log in to unmask]
	Subject: Re: System failure
	Yes, if my precocious comments can perhaps be tolerated once
	more: you (collectively) ARE them. But I fear that today's
	generation of potential 'followers' see nothing and hear nothing
-- not
	because they are blind or deaf -- rather perhaps so little is
	by them, through the noise, that the current batch of potential
	"characters & beacons" are (for them) the 'silent generation'.
	Communications is essential but it is not about modems and
	telecommunications, it is about marketing in the market place.
	about dialogue on 'wicked problems' -- but that is another
	of sustainability into the wrong "Subject:" area. From what I
can see,
	today's heroes are not in economics or engineering -- rather
they are
	seen in those areas focused on ecological viability. 
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