Civilizations of opportunism
Civilizations of opportunism
Introduction and summary
The civilizations of opportunism advanced by irresponsible government and big business, bring catastrophic destruction and dispair to the Planet Earth. Democratic powers alone can make governments and business responsible institutions. These words hope to explore the terrible barriers and pragmatic possibilities for achiving a wise democracy in a technological civilization.
Exercising democratic powers
now widely recognized that the institution of democratic values and distribution of power that control such matters are crucial to relations between government, management, professional, and those who are governed, managed, or represented. [See e.g., Ackoff, 2000; Christakis, 1996; Drucker, 1993; Flexner, 1989; Follett, 1918]. There is great tension in these political relationships derived from various democratic values and theories-of-action such as: "consent of the governed" "Representative government" "ballot-box democracy" or "direct government," as explained by Mary Parker Follett, the early 20th-century philosopher of democracy. The preferred alternative is based on political democracy conceived as a "genuine union of true individuals" -- an expression of the will of the whole.
Prophet of Management whose work was celebrated in the late 1990s by leading scholars of the management profession. She anticipated that her democratic ideal required a "technique of democracy." During the closing decades of the 20th-century, just such a "technique" was developed by design science to facilitate meaningful dialogue that can support true democracy. A number of barriers that distort the purposes and context for the application of this "technique," now bring that goal into question. I describe here how this "technique" works, how its unique promise is now being severely undermined, and how it may yet fulfill that promise.
contrast with group encounters where an initial euphoria is
drained away in linguistic Babel "meaningful dialogue" can
advance further dialogue that clarifies, surfaces values, and generates enhancement patterns. The results of this process, produced through a technology supported discipline of focused and open dialogue described as "technologue" [Christakis and Bausch, 2001], are these: "emancipation of the stakeholders, individual and collective learning, integration of diverse viewpoints, discernment of salient priorities of design, and the emergence of a situation-specific consensual linguistic domain that enables
understanding and meaningful action."
Real-world applications of this technology in a large variety of designs in many diverse fields, particularly during the past 15-years, have confirmed the reliability of those claims. This includes, for example:
Jeffrey, Disarmament and Demobilization,
(Interactive Management Workshop hosted by the European
Commission, Monrovia, Liberia 1996) (design of a plan of
disarmament and demobilization by the "Warlords and Warriors"
engaged in a civil war in Liberia).
Alberts, Redesigning the Defense Acquisition
System (Interactive Management process applied by the Defense
Systems Management College 1986-91, to design a functional
defense acquisition process).
for Interactive Management, George Mason University, Report on
the Issues Identification and Structuring Session of the Alliance
for Nursing Organizations (1986) (Interactive Management
seminar to identify significant issues in Nursing in Virginia in
the next 5 years, organize these issues for appropriate action,
and develop preliminary strategies for the Alliance in addressing
Christakis, The National Forum on Nonindustrial
Private Forest Lands, 2 SYSTEMS RESEARCH 189 (1985)
(Interactive Management forum sponsored by the US Department of
Agriculture 1984, examining national issues, options, and
responsibilities faced by representative national assembly of
consequence of these events is that a scientific revolution in
the process of dialogue has occurred, one that could compel a
paradigm shift away from pursuit of the "power of the people"
toward pursuit of the "wisdom of the people." This shift was
premised on the discovery that the wisdom of the people obtained
through "meaningful dialogue" is necessary to enable the people
to exercise their sovereign democratic powers.
new democratic process grounds its legitimacy on an ethic
supporting participation by individuals in decisions of public or
private organizations that affect their lives. The democratic
ethic is consistent with an expression of the "will of the whole"
anticipated by Follett. In the most important issues of our time,
wise policies can be found in the "will of the whole" and not in
the technical cleverness of the few [Yankelovich & Harman,
Starting With The People
8, 13 (1988)]. These conclusions
are also consistent with the current view of science, the "third
phase science," as articulated by Professor de Zeeuw (1996),
followed in the "technologue" of Christakis and Bausch, in which
stakeholders are engaged as "expert observers" of the situation
in which they are embedded. "They are the ones who should decide
how to take action in their situation, since they are those most
affected by the existing situation and its evolution."
Individuals do not need
to engage in political revolution in order to realize this new ethical process.
Instead, one can build on the recognized origin of all political power, which is
derived not from any dominant sector of society (e.g., government or private
industry) but from the people-at-large, which is the sine qua
of the "republican" form of government guaranteed by the
Constitution of the United States [US CONST art. IV, § 4;
City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc
., 426 US
668, 672 (1976), citing The Federalist
No. 39 (J.
Barriers to democratic design strategies
bands and tribes were able to obtain "meaningful dialogue" by an
egalitarian leadership organization but this does not arise
in a centralized technological civilization either by natural
conditions, custom, or culture. On the contrary interactive
strategies are essential to human and organizational competence
in an age of increasing complexity and uncertainty. The danger is
now threatened, however, that only the elite will be positioned
to master these strategies, thereby, blocking the democratic
participation of an estimated population
of 7.6 billion individuals who are expected to inhabit the
Planet Earth by the year 2020, who are likely to be robbed of
their minds and their lives by the elite unless they are allowed
to participate fairly if not perfectly in the structures of
decisions that affect their lives.
than a decade ago Nolan Bowie called attention to the gap that
existed between the information rich and the information poor
[Bowie, Equity and Access to Information Technology
ANNUAL REVIEW OF INSTITUTE FOR INFOORMATION STUDIES 131, 146-150,
1990]. Despite the ethical basis on which facilitated dialogue
claims legitimacy, the "values gap" between "the information rich
and the information poor" is now paradoxically widening by
limitations that curb the use of the new technology and treat it
as a luxury for privileged users. Invited to comment upon the Dialgue Game that helps potential
users understand the laws of design
used in this
technique, CC has called for enlarging the dialogue through an
ethical design and management strategy that would broaden
participation in the dialogue via
Internet. However, a
nasty limitation has been placed on CCs call.
Following an online exchange of comments between myself
and Dr. Alexander N. Christakis, a world renown practitioner of
the "Dialogue Game" [President-elect, 2002-2003
International Society for the System Sciences], a collaborative
venture was undertaken for development of a new version of the
"Dialogue Game" for broad public participation via Internet.
Subsequently, various requests were made to Dr. Christakis by
email Sept. 9, 2001, for "a simplified version of the dialogue
game" in order to "close the values gap that has been disclosed."
Dr. Christakis previously expressed his agreement with my
critique of the situation: "I am in full agreement with
everything you say. Your observations are indeed very profound."
But in response to my request for action to simplify the process,
Dr. Christakis was unable or unwilling to relate to the need for
any change in his game plan.
continuing to espouse the role of democrat as he has for the past
quarter century, which this writer can personally confirm, Dr.
Christakis responded to my requests Sept. 9, 2001, with this
seem to challenge my intentions to offer the opportunity to
everybody to participate through meaningful dialogue. I am
totally committed to this endeavor for all my life, and have
never accumulated any wealth as a facilitator, ...
not know what revisions you are talking about in order to close
the "values gap." If you know what is required, please go ahead
and do it with the help of your friends. I am supportive of your
efforts, but unable to understand your presumed "value
Christakis explains his ethical choice with the same mask of the
truth as the often quoted Anatole France (Jacques Anatole
François Thibault, 1844-1924), one of the major figures of
French literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who
was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921,
law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to
sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, or to steal bread."
[From The Red Lily
offering "the opportunity to everybody to participate" only the
elite can afford the professional fees charged for facilitated
dialogue, which costs tens of thousands of dollars per session, a
million or more for education of an organization in the process.
A simplified version available via
Internet could greatly
broaden access to the process, without diminishing and, perhaps,
greatly enlarging the commercial market.
facilitation of dialogue limited to the elite in a process
designed to realize democratic dialogue, manages the dialogue so
as to release the greatest potential of the participating group
membership. The flaw in this structure comes from the inherent
limited perspective of any one specific group, itself, which avoids
any adjustments of the social order, which might otherwise upset the
power of the dominant class structure. This strategy is also
congruent with the anti-dialogical
cultural reality of
liberal Western societies, particularly the United States
[Hernán López-Garay, Dialogue Among
, in INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON WORLD PEACE (March
2001): pp.15, 24]. Political pluralism, moral relativism have
taken hold of modern humanity. Without a rational standard to
discriminate between competing moral conceptions, "then morality,
the conduct of life, becomes just a matter of
result is a society made up of individuals who have nothing
transcendental (i.e. a common history, a common life project, a
meta-narrative) to share except an interest in exploiting each
other in the most effective and efficient way possible. Id., at
compounding the manifest lack of moral and ethical sensitivity of
the economic market and liberal culture, there exists a set of
inherent human barriers to sociotechnical design activities,
which resist strategies to facilitate competent dialogue
[Christakis, Keever, Warfield, Development of Generalized
Design Theory and Methodology
41-48, in 1987 PROCEEDINGS OF
NSF WORKSHOP ON DESIGN THEORY AND METHODOLOGY (1987)]. The
following barriers (among others) have been identified by
investigators from a study of the following human
limited human perspective within complex, multidimensional
systems [Ashby, 1958]:
Individuals bring to each problem situation they encounter
(regardless of their educational level), a set of personal
perspectives and a generally limited understanding of the
problems. Without adequate consideration of all of the dimensions
of the problems they encounter, short cuts will be taken that
ignore important aspects of the problems and alternative
possibilities. Effective solutions will not, therefore, be
limited human capacity for short-term processing of
information [Miller, 1956]:
In direct contrast with the multidimensional nature of the
problem situation, individuals have only a limited short-term
ability in processing information. Attempts to deal
simultaneously with more than between five and nine observations
at one time are met with cognitive overload, imposed by
physiological and psychological limits that preclude sound
unshakable cognitive burden that hinders human transformation
[Goudge on CS Peirce, 1969]:
Individuals have a deep mental blueprint of the means to their
own effectiveness, while the act of transforming personal values
required by the problem situation can require fundamental change
of the cognitive program under which human beings think and act.
Since individuals must start any investigation "from where they
are" significant change in cognition is normally resisted and
effective solutions to emerging problems blocked.
outcome of all such barriers to democratic dialogue, particularly
in an increasingly global economic environment, imposes a
terrible threat to human civilizations. In subordinating all
global and social relations to the market the remaining
restraints and mitigating illusions have been stripped away from
the "war of all against all." By these means a state of organized
anarchy has been propagated, spawning the diabolical
civilizations that are defined by these new
global warming, with a scientific expectation that we are at
of a mass extinction, a mass dying, such as the planet has not experienced
since the end of the age of dinosaurs, some 65 million years ago.
individual collapse of hope and purpose, producing an epidemic of
suicide, in which there were a total of 535,890 deaths in the
U.S.A. from 1979 to 1996 that were diagnosed and reported to have
breakdown leading to a
counter-culture of madness involving a continuing epidemic
of youth violence.
"leaderless resistance" such as the
Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City (1995),
which killed 168 individuals.
acts of desperation such as the World
Trade Center bombing in New York City (2001), in which more
than 9,300 individuals are listed as dead, wounded, or
are the tragic outcomes faced by "the People" in civilizations of
opportunism when all ethical professional sensibilities are subordinated to the
"free market," social and community bonds
are gravely weakened, and "meaningful dialogue" made available by
technology is limited in practical terms to the elite. Indeed,
only as a consequence of the absence of "meaningful dialogue" by
all can it be emagined that the root causes of these tragedies
remains obscured by official policies: global warming -- not in the
American economic self-interest to join responsible action under the
Kyoto Protocol signed by 178 other nations; an epidemic of suicide -- uninvestigated;
an epidemic of youth violence -- just a family matter; bombs on our prominent
public buildings -- just a work of evil terrorists.
Nevertheless, there is nothing
inevitable about these outcomes, there is nothing wise about those official responses.
On the contrary, the possibilities of "meaningful dialogue" for all and a wise response by "the
People" are a spectacular wide open
opportunity -- in cyberspace
democratic possibilities have been opened by design science and
the creative genius of Aleco Christakis, John Warfield, and their
colleagues. Do "the People" desire to engage in "meaningful dialogue"
or are they just paralyzed by the elite assault on the
minds of the masses? Will Homo sapiens sapiens
crash under existing conditions, or rise up to the occasion?
There is much to contemplate as time for choice quickly slips
Someone must take the responsibility
at this time for deliberate action in meeting the challenge of breaking the
debilitating cycle and developing the transformative public model for
"meaningful dialogue" via
Internet. I suggest that this cannot be the
role of the government as it is now constituted. The professions of design and
management have already refused that role. Only "the People" have the power to
act on such fundamental concerns, there are no other sources of wisdom within the
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