Joe, not responding to your message. But have you read David Weinberger's 'Everything is Miscellaneous- the power of the digital disorder'??

I think it's spot on and it overturns a lot of our (anyway, mine) preconceptions about databases and information systems, and, indeed, meaning.

On 15 Oct 2008, at 23:08, Joseph Truss wrote:

R & R,

I like Friedman’s book too although it did take me some time to get past the title and read the damn thing. I'm not misunderstanding his use, but you know that  flatness paradigms take the air out of me.  If the world was simply flat, it could not join up and connect in the way it does with its dense, multi-layered richness and near simultaneity.  I think what the Internet does is fold space and time so that this joining up and connecting can take place as if everything is next to everything else - an advantage of virtuality.  Flatness otherwise implicates farther and farther distances from the centre and each other and more time needed to connect (even inside my tiny brain and my computer’s tinier chip!). The Internet may have created the matrix within which we can have logical closure in flatspace. It is already too complex to model in 2 dimensions.  What is even more complex?  Brains!  We have a 3-D apparatus that simplifies the world into 2-D as a matter of survival. I've heard Stafford say that dichotomous thinking may simply be an artifact of brain as neurons are binary - they either fire or don't.  Why do dimensions matter? Stafford called dimensions ‘distinctions that matter’. To represent the number of dimensions, we must have 1 more distinction than there are dimensions. When paradigm shifted from dichotomy, a two distinction polarity to embrace the new triadic logic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, humanity’s consciousness expanded.  A three distinction system is clearly better than a binary one - but it can still only represent two dimensions (you cannot turn a triangle - 3 points, into a tetrahedron no matter how you rearrange the dots - you must add a 4th point). A three dimensional system would have a fourth distinction.  Interesting to ask what a four-some Trinity would look like? The fourth distinction might be ‘the Void’ or ‘Mother’.  We rely on the simplicity of representing triads and forget that they are, as in Plato’s cave, the shadow of a whole object.  Making the shadow square rather than triangular would be adding a distinction that didn’t matter.  Turning a triangle into a tetrahedron, now that adds a whole other dimension.
Wizard Prang chronicles the inter-transformable triad of Matter, Energy and Information - of what whole object might this triad be formed? What is the fourth distinction that matters? Is it also inter-transformable with the others?

Joseph Truss
Abbey North Drummers
Open Futures
Team Syntegrity AG

----- Original Message ----
From: Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 6:54:55 AM
Subject: Re: Toxic waste, loans, groans & moans

I don't know Friedman, but really enjoyed 'The world is Flat'. One of those books that at first sight is just plain wrong in terms of its being written, but on reading raises many valuable issues. I liked especially his comments about the realisation of the power to go global as individuals (which is he key for him of ;Globalisation 3.0) - 'the phenomenon that is enabling. empowering and enjoining individuals and small groups to go global........easily and seamlessly.......'


On 15 Oct 2008, at 00:59, R Clemens wrote:

Sorry but I must rudely drop this 'follow on 'in the mix and run to catch the train.

It is a good listen anyway -- but the key relevance relates to the comment by Friedmans that he can control or get a handle on anything he can name  (or words to that effect. He is referring to the US (Republican I think?) to associate green/climate change etc with being "a bit French ..."-- a very abusive slander it seems in their context. 

It was/is this 'naming capacity' that I was linking to as part of governance. I have read elsewhere that it was an original Adamic function to name. I have also read that ancient shamanism is somewhat based on the ability to know the name of the spirit etc. 

Thomas Friedman: Hot, Flat and Crowded

US author and columnist Thomas Freidman has won three Pulitzer prizes, his last book, The World Is Flat, was an international bestseller. In his new book he argues green politics has to be re-branded in the US, so that it is no longer the sole domain of liberals, but is something every red, white, and blue NASCAR Dad and Soccer Mom sees as patriotic and essential.

The link theme is 're-branding' and the VSM's capacity to serve the needs of/in the future.

--- On Wed, 15/10/08, R Clemens <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: R Clemens <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Toxic waste, loans, groans & moans
To: "Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer" <[log in to unmask]>
Received: Wednesday, 15 October, 2008, 10:40 AM

Yes, I have read that -- a guest speech to conference or dinner I think. It makes sense to me to help explain variety but does not engage with the issue I'm trying to resolve. Your comment that SB did not really think in terms of criminality is perhaps closer to the  issue -- whether this is a strength or weakness is perhaps beyond dispute. 

I think perhaps the re-threaded 'ethics vs morality' theme may be touching on this matter. In terms of action/operations/governance I think I have found something in the management fraud risk management area -- something I had done some reading on and forgotten. 

Perhaps I need to re-think my understanding of the VSM at S5 level. If, as I was assuming, if implies some type of reductionism or variety attenuation down to a decision maker (identity, policy, homeostat in this case) then I have a problem with its real world mapping. But if we take Allende's view that S5 is "El Pueblo" then perhpas it is not an issue at all -- simply a process of self governance by the people. In this latter case who can define any meaningful absolute framework? Even cannibalism must be a decision by the people or chief. Human sacrifice -- simply a dietary or religious supplement process. Very amoral and very limited for certain situations of governance. 

Let's cut to the core of it: does evil exist (personified or not) and if so then how does it relate to the VSM? 

I'm happy if the VSM does not relate to this issue -- but in as much as it does not then it is limited in a core issue of modern emerging toxic state of affairs. 

There was one comment by SB that I remember that may touch on this: did he not say somewhere that it would be better if the Cybersyn (VSM?) was destroyed than fall into the wrong hands? That it was a tool that could be used wrongly? This, I think would  relate to my point. One could perhaps say then, that the greatest achievement of the intervention in Chile was that the military did not pick it up and run with it. What if they had? 

So, I guess, I have to come to the conclusion that this is simply life at S5 working through policy issues and their boundaries. The mafia are perhaps very viable and moral and ethical for their members -- and Somalia (or anywhere else or Other) are simply externalities. I can handle that -- albeit I'm disappointed. 

--- On Tue, 14/10/08, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Toxic waste, loans & groans
To: [log in to unmask]
Received: Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 7:04 PM

Thinking about it, in one of the books he does mention police in the context  of variety, as he did football teams. That in the limit (which would not be viable) variety would demand that every wrong-doer would require a policeman - whereas in the football example, viability is served by every player having an equivalent opposition player.

The critical issue - and perhaps you are saying the same thing - is the definition of the system-in--focus. The football game is, in Wittgenstein's meaning, a different language game from that of society. Language games have their own implicit rules and conventions  - their own 'family resemblances'.  And Stafford was fascinated by the whole thing of symbols, meaning, ritual, habits etc etc - all the crucial messy stuff of human life. And that doesn't always come out from the literature, where one can fall into the trap of treating the diagrams and conventions of the model in a vacuum.

Gets back to what I was saying about the use of 3D or diagrams that ENCAPSULATE a dense rich experience for their author, which is absent from the reader. If that is the case, the model does NOT encapsulate the author's experience for the reader, though there might be the illusion that it does.


On 14 Oct 2008, at 00:03, R Clemens wrote:


Thanks for those thoughts -- they have stimulated my thinking further.

(I note you appeal to Allenna at the end and yet only emailed the reply to me personally -- ? I'm getting a few of these and I've had a few troubles as well with rejections from the Listser because of embedded graphics or something which came through from replies from others So, I'm assuming that it is the way the 'reply' function works ... ? In any case the purpose, I assume of this forum is to share thoughts etc, so ...) 

I have no problem with the label -- it is just a convenient way of handling a difficult topic. Nelson Mandella spent many years labeled by a regime (and state) and yet has proven to be become one if the worlds most respected elders. 

And I live in a country that was once the toxic dumping ground for many types -- including Irish freedom fighters. That was not my point.

However, you mention GW Bush, and by extension his 'haves' and 'have mores' etc. It is perhaps close to what I'm seeking -- an understanding of plutocracy and kleptocracy and how these seem just too cozy at times. And of course the cynical would perhaps say that kings with their 'mandates from heaven' simply emerged from a successful protection racket business. One only needs to consider Zimbabwe to see a certain madness at work today. 

In respect to Stafford -- interesting that you say he could not use such a simple concept and yet the destruction of the work of himself and others in Chile must have qualified for this type label. However, in the end it is personal preference I guess. 

In any case, having committed it to the public ether (Listserv = risk) and having now slept on it over night I think the essence of what I was struggling with is in the recursion idea. Put simply, that in some cases the so called System 1 is in fact a 'hollow man' (we have a TV show here called Hollow Men) -- i.e. more perhaps a 'system zero' where the centre of gravity is in the recursion below the system in focus. I'm not really saying anything new here I know -- and it still does not address the core issue of disconnect from a governance perspective -- but it must be cybernetics surely. At the macro level why so much investment in police and military? I guess the closest direct link to another manifestation would be to cancer cells in the body. They live, they grow, but they are not connected to the whole like the rest of the 'normal' cells. 

In a similar way, we could perhaps, using the case in point, say the Italian Mafia, was originally a secret society that seems to have had some origin in the Islamic period of that area and has since descended into a self serving agent within the greater society. And I'm not suggesting it has anything to do with Islamic issues -- rather the remnant effects of a withdrawal or decay of a major system (say at n+1).

The question then is not so much how it comes about, or how it works (it is viable of course with its own S5 -to-S1) -- rather how the greater whole is impotent in dealing with it -- be it a cancer in the body or a hit squad of assassins taking out high court judges. 

It seems some of this identity must be culture. The body is a collection of interoperative organs etc and yet it can also support a brain tumor that eventually kills it.  Now some may say that every system has the seeds of its own death within it -- an perhaps that is what I'm looking at . Where are these seeds? ... by way of origin, maintenance, governance, and perpetuation? 

OK -- I've left the save zones ... and thinking aloud is dangerous ... but it seems a little naive if management cybernetics cannot comment on this area -- perhaps that is why it is dismissed by the management classes?  In fact this has reminded me of something I did in my Masters thesis on sustainable governance. 

There is a small field I came across in my Masters research into 'sustainable governance' it related to management fraud risk assessment. The Fraud Risk Triangle (e.g. see Ramos 2003) cites three factors: incentive/pressure + opportunity + rationalization/attitude. (1)

It was the third factor, the capacity to rationalise as a hidden variable (2), that the forensic auditor has to determine. A very interesting area of System 3*. There is also a very strong emphasis on the role of risk synthesis in audit test design (3). It is about the 'tone at the top' and at that time it was ENRON etc -- but the story is the same. 

So perhaps it is not a separate 'entity' per se -- rather a tonal relationship between the three factors of the fraud triangle that allows poor governance outcomes? 

References (1, 2 & 3) if anyone is interested: I have uploaded my thesis Appendix J (5 short summary pages) on this topic and the associated Reference for these pages at:  

If anyone was to look to take action in response to these interesting times then the lead-in on Appendix J covers the Lima Declaration of Guidelines on Auditing Precepts (1998) and International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) (2004) which might be good places the G30 could start writing to. 

--- On Tue, 14/10/08, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Toxic waste, loans & groans
To: [log in to unmask]
Received: Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 4:49 AM


Not addressing the substantive issues, but I don;t know of Stafford writing about criminality. And, I am not surprised (though Allenna needs to comment on this) because I guess that - to a degree like myself - Stafford would see criminality as something fairly trivial. Not in its effects or as a symptom of social breakdown, but as a label.

IN ANY CULTURE, criminality ISA (trivially) anything that goes against the dominant logic of that culture.  That;s why Bush got away with calling the Guatamo prisoners criminal instead of prisoners of war (and, indeed, is the case in all tyrannical endeavours, whether in the name of democracy or not [because inf atc, they usually ARE in the name of something such as democracy or freedom]

Stafford dealt with - on a personal as well as a professional basis - many criminal cases. To my knowledge - and we did talk about it because I have skeletons in my cupboard - Stafford never used the word 'criminal'. The concept with its moral overtones, was foreign to him.

However 'wrong' and 'right' were dear too him, but I imagine he would have placed these within the context of 'viability'..

I might be out of order here, Allenna??

On 13 Oct 2008, at 14:41, R Clemens wrote:

What I subsequently came to conclude, after posting this topic, was there is a need (for me at least) to better understand what the VSM has to offer by way of analysing this organised crime arena.  

Organised crime, in my definition, can cover a broad set of antisocial activities -- wars of aggression even. However, in this case (below), and others like it, we can ask, perhaps, by way of the VSM, at a sustainable planetary scale, qui bono? -- i.e. 

1) Can all systems (issues) be reconciled upwards in recursions to a single unified whole?

2) If so, then what is/are the relationships between the System 1s such that 'crime' can exist? Is this a necessary function, state or condition?

It seems to me that the core issues here, assuming the VSM is somewhat useful and accurate as a model to think with on this type/class of problem, must either revolve around sophistry or the question of whether is there really is dualistic reality (or dualism in reality)? 

If sophistry, then we don't ultimately don't need to know more -- as it is only a mental passing of time.

However, if dualism, then we need to understand what makes criminality viable and how this viability is ultimately sustained? That is, by way of theory, and by way of praxis.

As you point out, rightly I believe, a key issue here, if not the key issue, is where in the meta-system is this dualism: (a) located; (b) sustained; (c) balanced; (d) grounded in identity; (e deployed in policy; and finally (f) operationalised in action? 

If the 'problem' is not in the meta-system per se, then how does it manifest in a viable universe -- i.e. it would seem that at least one System 1 must be at odds with another. Then it must be a System 3, 3* or 2 issue? Or the algedonic. Otherwise, it seems to me,  we must refute the notion 'universe' and start developing 'multi verses' etc -- which it would seem the VSM cannot easily address by definition (it being a model leading towards a unitary synergy I assume). 

Now I can subscribe to the opposing thumb (makes a hand) theory -- but I find it difficult to see this specific situation of concern (e.g. as per this case study) as anything other than either systemic failure and/or theory failure. I am working through Beer's books as fast as I can, it's a hard slog, but I have not yet seen anything on criminality. Does this exist? 

I'm not interested in conflicts due to subsidiary system 'freedom fighting' issues. Nor am I interested in the viability of the mafia etc -- I assume the VSM simply applies as per normal. What I am interested in is the fuzzy boundary where S5-S4-S3  reconcile this issue logically and S3-S2-S1's in practice. 

To ground this in the current thread: what is the commonality between these two case studies? (one focused on the virtual and the other on the very real). Systemic failure -- yes!  But there is intent also, and not just neglect or ignorance? And at the highest levels of governance it seems! 

In what is this intent grounded and how is it explained via the VSM? 

I am aware of many tribal narratives that attempt to explain (away mostly) this issue -- and I'm sure Dr Watson and Sherlock H. will be chasing Moriarty forever -- but does the VSM offer any help in addressing this issue in the real world of (future) sustainable governance?

Any ideas?


-----Inline Attachment Follows-----

Thanks for bringing this back to VSM specifics. This is a good example of the need for effective S5 of a global scope. It seems like this would be an appropriate focus for this group -- to articulate what that would look like -- and I emphasize "effective".

Doug McDavid

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"I start things, but I never" -- D. Stahl (Twitter)


It seems we have a significant systemic problem with our current approaches which require, to be 'viable', a dumping ground for toxic waste and toxic loans etc. It seems to be the same underlying problem with sustainality to me -- the Tragedy of the Commons.
In the case of Somalia (former) and Finance industry (latter) we see the outcome of a lack of good governace. In both cases it seems not having a working overwatch function is the problem (i.e. effective government and regulation) . Is this not related to the S5 level ultimately? Or do we target S3 & S3* -- or the whole rotten lot?
Somalia: 'Toxic waste' behind Somali piracy
Somali pirates have accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and are demanding an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukranian ship they captured, saying the money will go towards cleaning up the waste.
The ransom demand is a means of "reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years", Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates, based in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said.
. . . .
"European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.
"And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it."
. . . .
In 1992, a contract to secure the dumping of toxic waste was made by Swiss and Italian shipping firms Achair Partners and Progresso, with Nur Elmi Osman, a former official appointed to the government of Ali Mahdi Mohamed, one of many militia leaders involved in the ousting of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia's former president.
. . . .
However, Mustafa Tolba, the former UNEP executive director, told Al Jazeera that he discovered the firms were set up as fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of hazardous waste.
"At the time, it felt like we were dealing with the Mafia, or some sort of organised crime group, possibly working with these industrial firms," he said.
. . . .
The Italian mafia controls an estimated 30 per cent of Italy's waste disposal companies, including those that deal with toxic waste.
In 1998, Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian weekly magazine, claimed that although most of the waste-dumping took place after the start of the civil war in 1991, the activity actually began as early as 1989 under the Barre government. . . .

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