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 viability!

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.

Angela

 


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.

 

Rod

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 minimal.
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 to
create values and systems for a brighter time. The young are pretty
media savvy - they can smell a crunch is coming but only have decision
making facilities within their circle. The crazy nation states systems
are beyond them and most of us..

And perhasp in this sense we should be focussed. Most of our sustainable
and survivor systems are about protecting the unsustainable and cannot
gurantee the safety of the many. Most of my work is about the
militarisation of sustaining the unviable and the horror show that
accompanies it. History tells us that when habitats diminish most
cultures do not die peacefully, they raid!

Kids today might inhabit a variant of Brave New World but the movies
warn them 1984 is a reality for the majority and it may just be around
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 might
not be so obvious. For example on ecological viability, perhaps my
"deepest green" friend said recently: "Give me an SUV driving vegetarian
anyday over a meat eacting cyclist since the SUV vegetarian generates
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 of
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
volunteering...it is small scale and "real". The struggle to avert
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 crude
Dawinian logic which ensues. What should we be saying to that generation
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 therapy..but
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 failure.

Steve

-----Original Message-----
From: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of R Clemens
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 younger
generation of potential 'followers' see nothing and hear nothing -- not
because they are blind or deaf -- rather perhaps so little is detectable
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. It's
about dialogue on 'wicked problems' -- but that is another infiltration
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.

Russell













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