Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is There Any Culture Left, Anywhere, That is Agile Enough to Prevent It's Own Failure?

There's certainly a palpable feeling that bureaucratic scale is simply outrunning our rate of regulatory evolution. If so, either systemic collapse or massively disruptive reform is imminent. The vast majority fear it's the former. Our current methods aren't driving results and we aren't changing our methods! Have we already lost control?

If we don't focus, quickly, on matching our rate of total methods change to the existing rate of situation change ... then we're in trouble. Seems everyone has become too specialized to coordinate effective group self-governance.

Cyprus Banks passed European stress tests in 2011.

Cyprus banks open after 12-day lockdown, 2013

At this point, looking harder at any one process won't help, nor will declaring ideology and recruiting completely blind faith - just to pursue randomly chosen methods masquerading as national goals. We need to coordinate everything at once, or don't bother trying at all.

National policy is becoming reminiscent of a common clinical conundrum where patients get over medicated.

Liver problem? See a liver specialist, who prescribes a liver drug. Gall bladder problem? Another drug. Intestinal problem? Yet another drug. Unexpected blood pressure & another drug? This goes on, and on, but every clumsy, uncoordinated intervention triggers negative complications that "no [isolated idiot] could have predicted."

Often, if the patient survives at all, some low-paid GP or Nurse Practitioner finally looks at the whole situation - and says "stop ALL the drugs," thereby triggering a recovery deemed miraculous by all the specialists.

If not too late, a not unheard of final solution is coordinated practice - in the form of improved diet, exercise and lifestyle, letting all the ~300 cell types and 60-odd organs in the human body simply do what's most required .... practice systemic coordination in a setting they're evolved to handle. Iterative practice does wonders for tuning of any complex system, from organ-sets to sports teams to large electorates.

That lesson - of full system practice - is one that legions of people learn innately - biologists, race-car teams, software programmers, ship operators, industrial engineers, etc, etc. Tune the damn system, NOT the components. The fact that nothing else works is self-documented by the consistent failure of alternative approaches. So why have we as a nation fallen into this embarrassing situation of shrinking policy space and near-zero policy agility?

Comically, what's the most difficult place to document enough failures to quickly define what DOES work? That's right, it's total system performance - because all local workers get used to the nation protecting it's components, not the inverse, where the components tune themselves to protect the nation. Most people irrationally avoid discussing early signs of total system failure.

People worry most about local failure, and forget to monitor and react to signs of systemic failure. It's easier to organize cultural components - from families to professions to corporations to agencies - than it is to tune an entire nation, simply because components are allowed to fail frequently and often, but whole systems aren't. The bigger the group, the harder it is to get all components involved in monitoring early signs of beginning system failure. Then it's harder still to get all components to cooperatively pre-tune the damn system vs tuning themselves in isolation!

Yet if everyone pays minimal, continuous attention to protecting their whole system, the total system protects all components, just as behavior of the human body protects all 60 organs and 300 cell types. This ain't rocket science!  Its just simple network connectivity logic.

Is national policy tuning always possible? Of course it is! Every system is capable of further tuning the organizational state it's already achieved. However, success ALWAYS involves everyone talking to literally everyone, at some minimal frequency, and then backing up to the leanest interaction set that fits a given situation. If we don't all practice some minimal level of "management by walking around," we won't know who to QUICKLY talk to - about exactly what - when signs of disorganization start to accrue. You can't practice prevention without preparation, and familiarity with early interventions, i.e., with far-flung interactions and system tinkering. If everyone doesn't explore their growing cultural system widely enough and often enough, they'll never see unpredictable surprises coming.

The only systems that survive and continue evolving THROUGH rapid situation changes are those that focus on the ability to reconnect all-to-all & then relax to the leanest pattern, and then constantly upgrade methods for reconnecting & relaxing, repetitively, on-demand, with the most agility.

Darwin concluded that Adaptive Rate trumped all other survival features. Current citizens should all understand that Cultural Adaptive Rate depends on our methods for frequently and completely re-organizing. Since methods drive results, that means paying attention to methods for triggering, initiating and finishing the process of changing everything. Especially so when it comes to Adaptive Rate of our own governance methods.

We knew this when we wrote the US Constitution. Some of the framers bluntly described the need to re-organize governance every 20 years. We're way behind schedule, and grossly out of practice. And we're clearly not the only country in this predicament.

Is the entire world economy a dead man walking, and just doesn't know it yet?

Are we all just sitting on our hands, waiting for "Rome" to actually fall, so we can all revert to being Russian gangsters? Every marauding gang for itself? Or, can we trigger significant, adaptive change. Can we still adaptively trigger, on-demand, the subtle, Fast Transients, catalysts or co-factors, buried n-layers deep in every example of institutional or process momentum? Philosophers noted this hundreds of years ago, and coined the phrase "to know the truth, ask 'why' 5 times."

Today, to know WHY we aren't changing everything fast enough, we need everyone asking "why aren't things changing," 5-times in succession, about everything. That depth of analysis will easily trigger enough change to let us survive any challenge. Just do it.

So why aren't we constantly tinkering with our own systemic governance? Why aren't we practiced at and prepared to start re-connecting everyone to everyone? Simply because behavior follows habit? We are what we practice?

If we want things on the surface to seem the same, everything below the surface must change, rapidly, not later on. Why do we provide ourselves with so little practice at changing everything? We're failing simply because we're no long comfortable with change.  We know what happens to people and whole nations that never get outside their comfort zone, yet eventually find themselves in just that position. When change finally occurs, they're paralyzed for lack of practice.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reference Material Useful for Understanding the Context of People Requesting Tax and Financial Deregulation

International Regulatory Rivalry in Open Economies: The Impact of Deregulation on the US and UK Financial Markets

It helps to understand our frequent opponent's oft-shared paradigm. "If hot money evading taxes in other countries is looking for a haven ... WE HAVE TO COMPETE TO RETAIN EQUAL ACCESS TO THAT STOCK OF CAPITAL."

We do? Ther
e are so many naive assumptions implicit in this claim that it's useful to just skip over all of them for now, and summarize a response. Many of the people taking this narrow view on financial deregulation, in isolation, are depressingly ignorant of the basic realities of system-operations. They seem universally unfamiliar with the hierarchy of sustainable returns in complex systems, or with the principles of systemic resiliency.

In fact, it's rare to find people outside specific sciences, the military or industrial statistics who are comfortable discussing return-on-coordination as the highest return - by far - in any complex system.

Clearly, one of our problems is that policy discussions have atrophied dramatically in recent decades - and are dominated by increasingly narrow outlooks.

Any ecologist, system scientist or control-engineer would say that the combination of fewer control channels and growing degrees of freedom in a system ... means growing instability, and danger of collapse. The Soviet Union and failure of Central Planning comes to mind. That same lesson was documented while building the Pyramids, if not before, and it was reiterated in detail during development of the steam engine.  Yet despite those and countless other ancient illustrations, the concept of a feedback/instability ratio is still a disputed topic of discovery in economic and other forms of national policy? IN A SUPPOSED DEMOCRACY? Who are we fooling, and why?

Given our ability to produce systemic lunacy on this scale, the only question is "how" we're managing to produce this unstable operational state, so we can stop propagating it!

My first thought goes to our systemic education processes. We're churning out growing numbers of people dedicated to increasing specialization in increasingly fragmented specialties ... exactly as we're noticing declining ability to muster net Situational Awareness in our aggregate.  Plus, we're also witnessing declining group policy agility. Hello!  Anybody home in there?

This ain't rocket science. If we want to own our democracy and our fate, we have to have distributed members acting like owners of their democracy, not just their isolated specialties.

Meanwhile, as we ponder how to stop increasing dissociation in our next generation, we must also look for shortcuts to catalyze even a bit more coordination among our existing electorate.

Interdisciplinary coordination platforms, anyone? Do we have a National Situational Awareness app for students 10 and above? Is there a whole spectrum of such "SA" apps? Minimally one for every category in the NAISC database? Plus another one every day, for all the new professions we're spawning, not to mention all the subcategories among and between all existing and emerging professions? (Actually, we do - it's called the human brain, and the group-brain.  We simply aren't challenging ourselves to use either type, at least not very well.)

Do we really need all those apps? Yes, we do. Here's an example why.

There are roughly 300 cell types and minimally 60 "organs" making up the human body and it's functional physiology. Yet to make a functional "person" requires countless hormones, metabolic indicators and cell-surface receptors - not to mention all the inter-connecting regulatory feedback loops connecting all receptors, neurotransmitters, hormones, cellular activities and organ activities.



Anyone even remotely familiar with network concepts understands that there are more connections than components in any organized system.

With a little more thought, you next realize that there are more connection-adjusting feedback loops than there are connections ... yada, yada. Every complex system is a near-infinitely nested "stack" of subcomponents and their sub-connections, including all the methods and sub-methods for coordinating all the sub-connections at every sub-level.

What does that imply for human political economics? If we want a national culture to be anywhere as agile and accomplished as our individual physiologies are, we need a HELLUVA lot more, real-time, data-exchange apps, and they must be far leaner/faster/better than ANYTHING which we now possess.

Newspapers? Please. Don't embarrass yourself. Journalists? Bloggers? Aggregators? Ok, we at least have the rudiments of the ancient principle. How's this? Every bit of data you hear is USELESS, absolutely useless, if not accompanied by the full context or data-spectrum it is but a part of. Cue Walter Shewhart, circa 1926: "Data is meaningless without context."

Are we there yet? :) It always helps our mood to aggressively label a joke as a joke.

Face it. Aggregating news or opinions is a tactic.


Accurately conveying changing context - in real time - is a goal we as aggregates are just beginning to aim for. The payoff if we reach it is unimaginable. Let's just say that none of us is as smart as all of us. The USA - as a collective - is only as smart as our coordinating apps allow it to be. Until then, we're just an uncoordinated mob trying to stop acting like one, and desperately trying to coordinate as fast as our numbers are increasing. We're only treading water, and we're actually sinking a bit low, gasping for air, and beginning to choke on our own, disconnected components.  Call it a regression into class and clan war.

Does the USA policy apparatus know what the USA collectively knows? :) :) :)

Sorry to close on another joke, but it's an honest necessity.

[To be fair, do ANY grandparents know the sum of what their grandchildren know?]

At least we now have some goals articulated, which our kids can have fun aiming for. If you know kids, you know that all we have to do is tell 'em what can't be done yet, then let them have fun actually doing it.  Please tell 'em something more challenging than hoarding static capital in some other country, or trying to attract someone else's static capital here. Turn their eyes to a far larger prize, our own, dynamic capital, waiting to be accessed ... through coordination.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is This Possible? Start Continuously Re-Building a "National Map of Vulnerable Processes"

Everyone, and every organization, and every nation would benefit by doing this more formally. (A more organized attempt to "know ourselves" - and keep that profile up to date. That's what dictates cultural adaptive rate.)

That would be 100x more important than only the following.

Hacker Creates Worldwide Map of Vulnerable Devices

Vulnerable equipment? That's certainly important, but it in reality also the least of our worries! There are always options for improving all equipment and all tools. All the hard lessons about system dynamics, however, converge to a simple fact. ADAPTIVE RATE dictates survival, i.e., the methods we use to change any and all equipment, tools, processes and operations in general.

Given hierarchies in systemic organization, i.e., (all linked by diverse operations) ... we are always using countless emerging methods to map diverse operations to emerging context hierarchies. The historical pattern, rarely excepted by surprises, constitutes a design-build hierarchy. Recognize context, then set and achieve major goals (one at a time, in sequence), using context-dictated policies, policy-constrained strategies, and strategy-constrained tactics. Tools and equipment - if not selected per the above hierarchy - can easily become a fatal resource sink.


It is always true that novel options for linking, sequencing and staging net activities (i.e., re-organizing) - are both dominated - AND most threatened - by resiliency issues further up that hierarchy.

After all, thinking organizations are always, via practice, rebuilding the following, iterative mappings.

"National Map of Changing Context"
"National Map of Vulnerable Goals"
"National Map of Vulnerable Policies"
"National Map of Vulnerable Strategies"
"National Map of Vulnerable Tactics"
"National Map of Vulnerable Equipment"
"National Map of Vulnerable Tools"

Out of those mappings comes an always unpredictable list of what has to start changing soonest.

Evolution of complex systems means that survivors are those that are quickest to adequately refine infinitely nested, evolving methods for re-mapping context-navigation operations to changing context.

The iterative stages of evolving faster/better/leaner methods stretches is an unbroken stack, extending from human culture back to enzymes and further back, to the physics of quarks - maybe beyond.

At our level, luckily, we need only focus our attention only on, say, the latest 5 layers of this nested stack of methods. All our tasks are subsumed into a general process of continuously re-building two, inter-dependent and iterative mapping processes:

  semi-static....................... more-dynamic
 "National Map of                     "National Map of
Vulnerable Processes"               Vulnerable Methods"
.................................... (for adjusting any/all processes; on-demand)

Creating those 2, overall maps describes the, often intangible, outcome of OBT&E exercises, aka, effective team building.

It's somewhat chilling that we're still struggling to scalably restate principles that were - at least in context - already obvious over 2000 years ago. Somehow, we're raising citizens that don't practice knowing themselves and their situations, and therefore can't see emerging group options for the spurious details?
I can't imagine what could happen if we changed our training methods, but it gives me the chills just trying to imagine it.

Can we do this? We have so far, for about 3.5 Billion years.  The ONLY thing generating any doubt is us. Luckily, our kids don't even see what the adults have learned to fear.  Our job, mostly, is to not stay in their way too long.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Minimal Planning for Sustainable Organizational Coherence

If anyone thinks any of the discussion raised below is obvious, simple or not needed, one needs only review the ongoing charades over massive financial fraud, political treason, WikiLeaks,, or Bradley Manning to see how compromised our high level policy processes are.

How does ANY growing organization invent new methods - fast enough - for keeping it's policy staff aligned with "general welfare of the people" - a task that is increasingly distributed, by definition?

The interests of politicians - or "leaders" of any sort - are FAR too easily diverted by very simplistic, existing methods. Protection & maintenance of their personal needs and pressures are grossly neglected relative to the impact of the national issues they're supposedly shepherding.

We tend to discuss this as personal treason, but a better perspective is that of the group. From a group perspective, leadership treason reflects gross neglect and mal-adaptive group methods which have exposed key people in key positions in key organizations to concentrated pressures. Those are not just stupid mistakes, but ones trivially correctable by groups, given their immense resources.

As an analogy, how does any "immune system" protect it's immune cells from infection by novel agents? How does a commanding CNS protect itself from being hijacked by a virus? How does an organizational culture protect itself from Control Fraud?

The bigger the organization, and the faster the growth, the sooner and easier it is to derail and pervert it from the top.

Ergo, managing organizational risks & uncertainties requires that top-down methods regulation remain top priority, and that such management always use "general welfare of the people" as a constant reference. In all system models of evolutionary Adaptive Rate, maintaining simultaneous diversity and recombinant discovery of options is roughly synonymous with maintaining "general welfare of the people."

If we don't continuously model, test and pay minimal attention to safeguarding the regulatory pressures that "policy-level" staff are subject to ... then we make a mockery of all organizational investments at all subsidiary levels. We may as well invest all national resources in winning an evolutionary race, and then voluntarily give away the victory.

Unfortunately, the following questions are novel for most people. What methods keep emerging, key leaders fully immersed, oriented to and constrained by the general welfare of the people? How do we make policy staff immune to narrow temptations, and instead adequately connected to group, and fully motivated by group outcomes? How do we keep such people from becoming isolated, pressured, misguided, susceptible ... and tempted by things that shouldn't even matter to the group?

More attention to modeling and practicing our own group outcomes-based practice methods?

Practice our own practice methods? You know who's most familiar with that concept? Sports & other team coaches. We really need to discuss running our politics and policy apparatus with the same attention to group outcomes. It obviously matters, more than anything else.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our Only Real Goal is Operational Agility

In a recent post, Warren Mosler comments on the economic impact of the recent FICA Hike and Sequester.

Warren's terse writing style is sometimes difficult for for beginners to follow, but it provides a very refreshingly different view of policy, showing how much divergence & uncertainty there is between goals, policy, investment strategy, governance tactics ... and unpredictable outcomes. Given that unpredictability, our only real goal is operational agility in realigning our goals, policies, strategies and tactics with ongoing versus preferred outcomes. 

For Pete's sake! We make simple outrageously difficult. Why? Simply for lack of adequate interaction?

This country has far more talent than it marshals to work together. Sequester is a minor issue. Squandering available talent is a far bigger issue. We're not even trying to build a whole greater than the sum of it's parts. Instead, we're hoarding the freaking parts!

We have too many partially blind people all squabbling over their incomplete views. That's reminiscent of a horde of gnats so thick you can't even see the economy they're mobbing. Just a mass of gnats (or piranha?) flopping around this way and that, like a drunken sailor.

Hottest bets in both 'Vegas and Wall St.? Waiting for proof of whether the piranha cloud shows even a semblance of active navigation, or just truly random floundering. 'Vegas and Wall St. are like drunks in an Irish pub, arguing over what will happen at their wake.

If everyone is driven by incentive, and the biggest return - by far - is ALWAYS the return-on-coordination, why don't ALL of us always see that biggest return as the biggest incentive? Simply for lack of adequate interaction?

A brain is not a brain if the neurons aren't all connected to one another. Similarly, group and cultural intelligence is not an impressive intelligence if all people aren't connected to one another, exchanging at least key feedback and iterative discussion.

Did I mention that our only real goal is operational agility? Please. Go practice some random acts of coordination.