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Guided evolution of e-culture

by Vigdor Schreibman Friday, Oct. 26, 2001 at 1:31 AM
Vigdor@cyberspacecapital.org 1-202-547-8715 18 - 9th Street NE Apt #206, Washington, DC 20002-6042

Americans have no clear account of the commercial aircraft attack 11 Sept, struggling over the official explanation and intriguing alternatives but "Who is the enemy?" The evolution of e-culture offers solid evidence of where we are going with surprising disclosure of the troublemakers and the next great political movement.

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Guided evolution of e-culture: pursuit of "total world domination"

October 24, 2001

Guided evolution of e-culture: pursuit of "total world domination"

By Vigdor Schreibman

It is difficult these days to tell the difference between fiction and reality, especially over claims of the enemy seeking "total world domination." In an account of the commercial aircraft, as cruise missiles, attack against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September, written by Donn de Grand Pré, The enemy is inside the gates, the auther observes:

The so-called terrorist attack was in fact a superbly executed military operation against the United States, requiring the utmost professional military skill in command, communications and control. It was flawless in timing, in the choice of selected aircraft to be used as guided missiles, and in the coordinated delivery of those missiles to their pre-selected targets.

Looking at a graphic illustration of the Final flight paths published by USAToday, it is plausible to suspect, as Donn de Grand Pré suggests, that only an insider group that has great power and control could have carried out that coordinated attack. Beyond the obvious marks of mutual animosity the "trail of evidence" connecting this attack with Osama bin Laden, the immediate target of public vengence, is a broad network of prior terrorist conduct and a wise respect for the ability of that adversary, together with admittedly tenuous conjecture or gilt by association, certainly not what is needed for judgment in a court, according to FRONTLINE news sources who have been covering the story for some time. Of more intriguing interest is the suggested insider explanation - arising from the evident need for utmost skills, command and control - offered by Donn de Grand Pré, to grab the awesome prize: "destruction of all national sovereignty and establishment of a global government" but the fundamental questions still persists: "Who is the enemy?" and "What Would Drive Them to Such Acts of Desperation?"

The story of multinational globalization, not a blue sky story but one with the looks, feeling, and smell right on the dirty grounds on which it is played, raises similar concerns of an emerging evolution toward "Total World Domination"! I first picked up the story of multinational globalization in my News Column February 24, 1997, entitled, GII: Global Power Grab, which discussed the trillion dollar deal for the takeover of the global information infrastructure for telecommunications. In the following News Column March 10, 1997, entitled, Evolution in a Technological Civilization, I wrote, "The next evolutionary stage that is likely to come about projected from present trends, is world corporate governance emerging, perhaps, within the span of a single decade or earlier."

Of course, the game of globalization can be played both by capitalists and by "the People," and after the US Congress delivered a knockout defeating a new legislative "fast track" for globalization, my next critical News Column on this topic was written in November 24, 1997, when I proposed, Building a "Sustainable Fast Track". The idea was to reorient the "fast track" legislative process sought by capitalist advocates of globalization, into a "fast track" sustaining goals for "the People." I reasoned "A Sustainable Fast Track could advance economic prosperity, social equity, and ecological integrity, as interdependent, mutually reinforcing goals." Just as finance capital could organize global systems to serve the few, "the People" could organize global systems to serve "the will of the whole"!

That suggestion was made two years before the Protest of the Century over globalization really broke into world consciousness at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Third Ministerial Meeting, at Seattle, Washington, November 29 to December 3, 1999. At that event the first Independent Media Center (IMC) was organized. Now there are many IMCs around which tens of millions of citizens throughout the world have been organized in opposition to capitalism and globalization. The line taken by "the People" was precisely what I anticipated in my "Sustainable Fast Track" column; indeed, President Clinton surprised everyone when he released news at Seattle99 of his package of NEW DREAMS AND PROMISES, including the following items: >/h4>
  • White House Executive Order, Environmental Review of Trade Agreements (Nov 1999)
  • White House Fact Sheet on Trade and Ensuring a Healthy Environment (Nov 1999), and
  • White House Fact Sheet on Policy Declaration on Environment and Trade (Nov 1999)

This surprise package promised to rewrite the global trade regulations and sustainable development policies of the American government, accompanied by this declaration: "Economic growth must be pursued in the broader context of sustainable development, which integrates economic, social, and environmental policies."

President Clinton's revolutionary proposal was not serious, as I wrote in a News Column November 24, 1999, The Missing Core of Clinton's Proposed Revolution; nevertheless, the idea of a public trade and environment policy that would serve the goals of "the People" was gaining ground in the public sector. Before the end of the 20th-century, A Better World For All, was proposed by Kofi A. Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations in a Report by the United Nations, OECD, World Bank, and IMF, setting goals to reduce global poverty (and implicitly admitting that globalization did not bring prosperity to any but the wealthy nations). This was followed by The Global Compact, an agreement under sponsorship of the United Nations upon 9 principles between big business, labor, and civil society to unite the power of markets with the authority of universal ideals. These plans evidence clear recognition by dominant governmental forces in the world of the need to move public policy beyond the laissez faire capitalist ideology toward a post-capitalist, responsible civilization.

Meanwhile, within the paramount realities of the elite business organizations, a massive expansion was getting under way to further develop their "collaborative" powers via Internet, as documented in a large body of research data produced by Harvard Professor of Business Administration, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, for her book Evolve! (2001). The primary source of data used for the global e-culture survey was drawn from the January 2000 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That research project and the text of the book as well as the conduct of the business organizations described there, largely disregard the goals of social equity and ecological integrity in all but amusing pretence. For example, the World Economic Forum Task Force on the Global Digital Divide Initiative, seeking specifically to put a progressive face on the topic in its recommendations to the G-8 Kyushu- Okinawa Summit 2000, offered this statement of principle inter alia : "The digital empowerment of civil society is a key foundation of development in the information age." Nevertheless, no mention is made of the WEF Task Force principle on digital empowerment of civil society in the text of Evolve!, which otherwise highlights "the truth" that the buildup of the e-culture has been generated in "superficial" forms, offering the fast and cryptic over the deep and intimate, as the dominant mode of communications in the e-culture.

A similar scenario of the current situation pertaining to America's educated elite was also documented by David Brooks in his social comedy, BOBOS* in Paradise : The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2000). "BOBOS" means "Bourgeois Bohemians," and as Brooks explains, infra at pp. 61-70, radical changes in the behavior of the most educated American class have emerged by integration of the life styles of the Bourgeois and Bohemian, the historical roots of which began in the early 18th-century with the first glimmerings of the industrial age. BOBOS recognize a movement in thought away from laissez faire capitalism, but as Brooks reveals, these changes in life styles of wealthy Americans, are hilarious pretensions of sensitivity without serious commitment to civil and ecological responsibility.

"Total World Domination" appears as a dramatic theme over and over again in the text of Evolve! adding only style but not substance to the story. There is no grand plot there, just a bit of melodrama for a youthful audience of computer hackers. Recommendations offered to the G-8 Summit by the World Economic Forum Task Force were framed to avoid recognition of the severe Global Digital Divide problems in favor of highlighting the opportunities offered by global trade liberalization principles of the World Trade Organization telecommunications regime. What seems altogether foreign to the e-culture described in Evolve! or the life styles of the educated elite described in BOBOS are the kind of widely publicized public policy principles and plans announced by the United Nations and other global leaders: A Better World For All, and The Global Compact. Those two sets of institutions involving private business conduct and public policy determninations, are now moving in mutually exclusive directions. The public position will almost certainly expire without strong civil support.

The capstone of the private business strategy has paralyzed the real potential effectiveness of the Internet, which is unnecessarily trapped in superficiality and resulting Babel, instead of serving as an effective instrument in the pursuit of social equity, ecological integrity, and economic prosperity as mutually reinforcing goals. While the e-culture has the propensity to develop an ethic of cooperation to maximize the economic utility of the global information infrastructure, these developments are without a sound social foundation raising the possibilities for unanticipated suprises yet to come. The same e-culture largely disregards "The digital empowerment of civil society," which was ironically identified by the World Economic Forum, as the "key foundation of development in the information age." Civil society cannot be empowered by an infrastructure that is limited by an inherent superficiality, precluding the pursuit of meaning and wisdom and the social, ecological, and economic goals that are derived from the larger values of a sustainable civilization.

Professor Kanter places her class pointer right on the problem with this statement about the e-culture while drawing a peculiarly wicked conclusion:

E-culture is superficial--in good ways. Communications is the core of e-culture. Internet time requires fast, cryptic, communications among strangers who cannot take the time to interpret subtleties or build a deep relationship based on intimate knowledge.

Of course, some communications will always be of the superficial kind in a business and social environment with many purely ministerial functions but this can be interpreted as a "good" norm of guidance for the e-culture only for those who would benefit from a community structure without the capacity for deep social bonds and highly vulnerable to exploitation. Who wants that? Broad limitation of communications to superficiality is obviously not a "good" derived from any inherent need or desire of mass users of Internet communications.

Corporate guidance of the e-culture by preclusive limitations of the possibilities of Internet technology have trapped mass users in the ethic of superficiality imposed by the new medium. The outcome is a disaster thriving on chaos instead of advancing the possibilities of democratic coherence. An e-culture that is limited to superficiality cannot survive the complexities that it promotes, without having the capacity to rise above the limited concerns of strangers, to contemplate the needs of communities that give life to the medium and to facilitate users in their essential interpretation of subtleties or to build deep relationships based on intimate knowledge of the situations they must face together. Indeed, virtual communications can work as a marvel of illusion that offers powerful attractions between men and women, between producers and consumers, between rich and poor classes, but deprived of the capacity to examine deeper, more complex relationships these extraordinary attractions can pose severe dangers to everyone impacted by such unnatural conditions.

Moreover, the trap of unnnecessary superficiality has been locked in place by design and business management practitioners who possess the critical knowledge and experience for advancement of "meaningful dialogue." They have failed and continue to refuse to provide the necessary leadership support for enhancement of Internet communications, as my paper on Civilizations of opportunism clearly reveals.

Subsequent to the publication of that paper the Dialogue Game of AN Christakis, with a set of new simplified instructions, was designated as a "public domain" property by Dr Christakis, at my request, in an email message sent to me dated October 14. This was a welcome gesture but in order for "the People" to pursue meaning and wisdom with the "Dialogue Game" or, more importantly, to facilitate "meaningful dialogue" about the global problématique they must be able to secure the competent use of systems methodologies via Internet where the broad mass of "the People" may obtain affordable access. But no significant ongoing leadership support for enhancement of Internet communications beyond the superficial mode identified by Professor Kanter has yet been offered that I am aware of. Examples of systems methodologies in electronic mode are rare, and attempts by this writer to expand upon those rare examples have been rejected by the insult of silence. This situation is not the result of any insurmountable difficulty in adapting available systems methodologies to electronic format, as my paper on cyberspace capital suggests. On the contrary, this conduct is a means of limiting access to advanced techniques that can facilitate "meaningful dialogue," thereby, exacerbating the "digital divide" and strengthening the ability of elite institutions to guide the e-culture by a brutal philosophy of greed, as the story of Evolve!! further suggests.

Harvard University Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter wisely includes this observation in the final chapter of Evolve!:

Our next step in human evolution is not to become cyborgs attached to our machines. It is to become more fully human, attached to each other, with our machines on our toolbelts for use when we need them. The challenge is social evolution: to develop shared consciousness of the human community.

Nevertheless, Professor Kanter admits that her massive research project on corporate development of the global e-culture failed to collect the necessary knowledge to engage in "social evolution: to develop shared consciousness of the human community." Kanter claims "We don't know enought"! Others may ask "Why not?" The channels of corporate information were wide open to her research team at Harvard Business School but the set of survey questions produced by Professor Kanter, who is described on the jacket of her book as "THE WORLD RENOWN EXPERT ON CHANGE" simply did not probe for any response to these critical issues. None of the key issues included in her final appraisal appeared in any of the six sections of the survey questionnaire! Indeed, by declaring "E-culture is superficial-- in good ways" without any exploration of available alternatives, Kanter wickedly promotes the mode of superficial relationships over the deep and complex e-culture relationships, which are at the very core of the challenge of social evolution.

One must draw the conclusion that the real challenges of the e-culture that are essential to a better future are obviously not the driving ideas that concern either big business or the elite educational institutions that inspire and guide their conduct. We have seen it all before. In an analogous situation this same pattern of critical ommissions and distortions guided another elite panel of experts at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government when they facilitated a set of political planning sessions for corporate lobbying of Congress to promote the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That group of elite educators produced a public policy that affects the widest possible scope of economic activity, guided by an Orwellian logic, as bluntly described by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in an Op-ed piece published by "The Hill" Newspaper (October 20, 1999).

The practical lesson of large scale systems changes reported by the world's leading scholar on integrative systems, Dr. John N. Warfield, is that citizens must expect the most "despicable outcomes" from their "expert" leadership institutions.

The next great political movement must be to secure the "digital empowerment of civil society" and to deepen the civil society's organizational efforts in complex, disciplined, and democratic forms. Citizens are the only true "experts" of what is happening on the ground in global civilizations. The way to build upon street protest in a movement toward real democratic transformation is with the use of systems methodologies, which can help overcome the debilitating limitations of human incapacities in group decision making concerning complex issues, as my paper on cyberspace capital explains. Design science and systems methodologies have worked a real revolution during the past few decades in the process of face-to-face dialogue. 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 this revolutionary process. This includes the following examples inter alia:

  • National Association of Mental Health, Mental Health Internet Leadership Summit (Feb 2001) (Discussion paper, Summit Proceedings, Clarification of Principles).
  • 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).
  • Center 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 these issues).
  • 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 stakeholders).

By adapting the use of such methodologies to the Internet, and by using community computers as a portal to even broader community dialogue as demonstrated, for example, in the successful Electronic Town Hall via Internet Relay Chat, people all over the world can obtain access on affordable terms to collaborate with each other in realizing the goals of democratic sustainability. Power will not be ceded by the elite without a great struggle but those who are likely to be robbed of their minds and their lives by the elite unless they are allowed to participate fairly in the structures of decisions that affect their lives must have an adequate forum for development of a democratic counterculture. When "the People" take the power to engage in meaningful dialogue with each other and with the elite their authenticity will be authenticated and their genuine unity and true individuality strengthened to realize the ideals of democracy.

The political stakes in opening the e-culture to "meaningful dialogue" could not be greater, but the great complexity of the politics should not be confused with the specific functions of group decision making, which must be adapted to the electronic format. It is my impression after more than 25 years of concern for these issues that the complexity in achieving this latter goal is rather of the elemetary kind and not terribly complex at all. This may come as something of a surprise to those who suggest that a great team of extraordinary genius is needed to produce the required computer programs. I say, it's just not that way.

There are several basic functions of the key systems methodologies involved in support of group decision making such as, for example, the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) [Delbecq, Van de Ven, Gustafson, Group Techniques For Program Planning: A Guide to Nominal Group and Delphi Processes (1975)]. These functions are comprehensively described and illustrated at the linked site for NGT. One can also see how the process flows in the below illustration.

NGT_fin.gif (40K)

The basic set of functions involved in using NGT includes the following :

  • formulating and transmitting a concise trigger question to a participant group of from 10 to 100 participants;
  • receiving, organizing, and displaying sets of participant ideas about an issue or problem;
  • receiving, organizing, and displaying group clarifications of participant responses so that an agreed upon, integrated description of the issue or problem can be found; and
  • tallying participant ranking and voting of preferences in the structure of relations between the collected sets of ideas

The computer program should be developed under the "Open Source" licensing process for free computer software [e.g., OS, or GNU]. This will assure wide availability of the software on affordable terms. Any well experienced computer professional or information sciences department of a competent school should be able to handle this computer design problem, in my opinion.

Funding for this purpose may be obtained from the National Science Foundation (NSF), under the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, mandated by this goal: "To contribute to universal, transparent and affordable participation in an information-based society." CC will be pleased to administer a grant application and coordinate work on the project for any competent professional or group that is seriously interested in collaborating with CC in this very important public service initiative.


Federal Information News Syndicate (FINS),
Vigdor Schreibman, Editor & Publisher,
18 - 9th Street NE #206, On Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20002-6042. Copyright 2001 FINS.
Integrated Phone/Fax/Voice Mail: (202) 547-8715;
Email: fins2000@mindspring.com
Browse Fins Information Age Library at URL: http://sunsite.utk.edu/FINS/
Republication authorized for nonprofit use only, provided message is kept intact.

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