Integral Manifesto Pt V(4) The Shape of Human Action/ Shape Shifting Through Time

Modeling the Sphere of Human Action provides a compelling way to re-interpret the various constellations of human actions, thought of as cultural stages in the Spiral Dynamics model. Consider the following diagram from http://globalvaluesnetwork.com

Stratified Democracy

The above is an illustration of “Stratified Democracy” and the “emergence of governmental structures over time” based on a quantitative description of the assumed distribution of thinking throughout the world population over time. The descriptions under the heading “political systems and power distribution ratios” can be seen as ranges of geo-social spatial values. From the perspective of this series, each of the “colors” are considered to be “spheres of authority” in the  realm of Human Action. “Purple” for example, while considered by the Globals Values Network,  to be a level in the evolution of cultures, this series considers “purple” to be one of a constellation of forms that constitute the totality of Human Action. Each constellation arises from its own set of geo-social spatial, technological and economic dynamics, and therefore can be seen, when the relative scales of its natural units are plotted in the Sphere of Human Action, to have a unique natural shape. The entire constellation of forms, is evolutionary in the sense of  generating “ecologically adaptive forms” — each subsystem must be both internally adaptive with respect to the three  domains of human action, to maintain its structure, and also have the capacity to adapt into the system that is the whole of Human Action.

We can map these different subsystems as hypothetical shapes in the Sphere of Human Action as follows:

Constellation of Human ActionIt is important to note that what is being portrayed is the relative scale among units — there are no absolute “values” to consider. If we look at the temporal narrative procided by Spiral Dynamics, wherein the arrow of time goes from beige, to purple, red, blue, organe, green and then yellow, you will note that in this particular hypothetical illustration, I have allowed t-units to scale increasingly throughout “time.” This would be consistent with the rise of the types and reach of various technologies, including languages and knowledges, from tool making nomadic families, through the agricultural civilizations, the great civilizations of the Renaissance, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and on to today. Through “time” however, both e-units and g-units are in flux,  with e-units intially out-pacing g-units, until the “orange” phase, where the introduction of representative democracy gives rise to both opening of geo-social space and the industrial revolution enables a  significant redistibution of wealth, creating the middle class. At “green” t-units soar, completely outpacing and therefore supporting mutually re-inforcing forces between -e-units and g-units. This is the period of the digital revolution and information technologies, as well as significant advances in scientific technologies (including medicine), associated with t-units, the emergence of the pluralistic society,  associated with g-units, and the enormous accumulation wealth on a global scale, associated with e-units.

We can map the trajectory of g-units, e-units, and t-units directly onto the diagram of the waves of values in the following manner:

Strat&FlowThis provides us with a hypothetical picture of the relationship between the interaction between the natural units of Human Action, and the various types and reach of the subsytems supported in the Constellation that is the whole of Human Action. Here it is important to note, that g-units fall between beige and blue periods, not because there are fewer forms (there are actually more forms of collectivities) but because greater and greater numbers of people are aggregated into and constrained by collective identities. In earlier periods, “red” seems to be a dominant “form” –having broad reach– but it actually represent a great number of discontinuous tribes and bands of people, each with their own particular “shape” of action, lumped together as a single “meme”. This is an unfortunate error in the values-memes scenario, where lack of understanding about the distinctions between indigenous, nomadic, agricultural, and strongly place-based groups, tribes, bands… has led to a conflation of their uniqueness into a single “type”.

The dotted lines represent a hypothetical future scenario of what might be the case following very recent events. It is a scenario wherein through investment in technologies (rapid rise in t-units) e-units will be able to recover without sacrificing the proliferation of new actor-roles (represented by continual rise in g-units).

What about the normative aspects of the Sphere of Human Action? Consider the following diagram:

res_robIt illustrates how overall “movement” toward the lower right, is associated with periods of increasing “robustness” in Human Action. These are periods where connectivities and loyalties are aggregated and reified, there is a sense of assurance and stability in familiar forms of engagement and exchange, primary cultures become hegemonic and increasingly cooperative at the expense of periferal cultures who experience decreasing opportunities to appear as actors on the global stage. There is a sense of overall coherence and inevitability to the system, a sense that development is in one direction only– along the same trajectory taken by the primary powers. These are the periods in which “global managers” — attempt to optimize their gains. We shall see in later posts, that an over-reliance on optimization resulting from a over-maximized robust system, actually creates the conditions for the system’s eventual demise. On the other hand, overall “movement” toward the upper left is associated with periods of increasing “resilience” — the ability of the system to adapt to shock and surprise, because of its variability. Robust systems are predictable, but resilience systems have more alternative resources to deal with unpredictable events. Transformation towards the upper left– towards increased resilience– entails increased discontinuities, inventiveness, innovation and novelty of forms– associated ecologically with long-term resilience to collapse; yet from a normative standpoint, these are times of uncertainty.

A naturalized evolution of the cultural memes would see the emergence and dynamics between subsystems– spheres of appearances of human action– as part of an overall constellation or ecology of types, which contribute both robust dynamics and resilience dynamics to the Sphere of Human Action. Systems such as Spiral Dynamics emphasize the robustness of the system — based primarily in the absolutely robust notions of mainstream integral theory– and fail to incorporate the equally important– perhaps the more critically important– notion of resilience dynamics. From the standpoint of evolution, whose over-arching dynamics tend toward variation of form, resilience, rather than robustness, can be seen to be the correct evolutionary imperative– not a series of nested sets that sum up to one single optimized form. Indeed,  Buzz Holling, the founder of Resilience Theory, made just this statement: That from the view of evolution, variety, is more important than stability or equilibria.

The supposed “pull” of the teleological imperative in iSD, relies exclusively on the role of top-down, integrating dynamics; and fails to incorporate the crucial roles of bottom-up dynamics that proceed at different scales and are never completely transcended, because they are always operating toward the direction of resilience. This is the most salient feature of the last generation. The exclusive focus on optimization of Human Action (as well as optimization in eco-system management)– forces that, as we shall later define them, are associated with a single type strategy– has led to the conditions of environmental crises, world financial crises, proliferation of terrorist acts, and global instability. The normative desire humans have for rationally coherent, theoretically robust world, carries with it a dire warning: “Be careful what you wish for!”

Finally, we can adopt the principles of the natural units of Human Action, to the many worlds described by James Rosenau, by assigning relative scale values to each of the worlds as summarized in the following table:

geosocial
economic technological
Insular Local + (-) (-)
Resistant Local (-) (-) (-)
Exclusionary Local + (-) +
Affirmative Local + + +
Affirmative Global (-) + +
Resistant Global + (-)/+  * (-)/+  *
Specialized Global + (-)/+  ** (-)/+  **
Territorial Global (-) (-) +

This table demonstrates that each Rosenau’s worlds, has a particular “shape” in the sphere of human action, if we mapped it according to the relative scales assigned above. For Insular Locals, g-units scale greater than both e -units and t-units; Resistant Locals are “adverse” to growth in any direction; Exclusionary Locals affirm increasing scale in both the geosocial and technological direction, but resist movement in the e-unit direction.;Affirmative Locals are comfortable facilitation all scales of Human Action, they  affirm growth of e-units and t-units and forego scalar increase of g-units… and so on.  If we compare this matrix of worlds with thee diagram illustrating the direction of robustness versus resilience, it is easy to see that the model of the Sphere of Human Action suggests that future scenarios based on the worldview of Affirmative Globals are not sustainable, because although they maximizes the conditions of robustness,they fail the test of resilience. While a futures scenario based on the worldview of either  Exclusionary or Affirmative Locals would be sustainable, because of the resilience that would be provided; but living in a Exclusionary World entails so much discontinuity, that it is probably unimaginable with respect to human nature. We will return to various futures in latter posts of this series.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(3) The Shape of Human Action/ The Natural Units of Human Action

Like Max Plank reasons in Susskind’s imaginary narrative, I began to reason how the three domains of human action — geo-socio spatial, technological, and economic– could be conceptualized as “perfectly related natural units” of human action that could be dynamic operations in a complex system. I also realized that when natural units that are perfectly related are mapped as coordinates, they produce discrete shapes that morph dynamically, as variables are entered into their equation, as in cybernetic modeling. So, for example, the three sides of a right triangle are perfectly related, and therefore, as you vary one or two of the lengths of the sides, the other side(s) vary in a way that preserves the perfect equation: a(squared) times b(squared) = c(squared). I began to sample drawings that represented the shape of human action by scaling the three natural units in 3-dimensional coordinate space as in the following illustration:

shape of action

Questions flowed from envisioning the Shape of Human Action in this way.

  • What were the appropriate scales along the indivudal axes?
  • What is the meaning of increasing distance in the g direction?
  • What does increasing technological scale in the t direction represent?
  • What is happening in the “real” economy, with respect to the whole of human action, as it plots further along the e dimension?

Answering this question, meant assigning both values to the units, as well as meaning to a system whose purpose was to model real-world conditions and actual lived experience. I reaalized that the model had to map the kinds of distinctions and transformational dynamics that authors like Neil Brenner, Saskia Sassen and James Rosenau had written about the emerging epoch, as well as being able to contextualize the partial truths represented by other kinds of models like Spiral Dynamics. In other words, the natural units had to be multi-scalar, their values had to scale for fragmenting dynamics or discontinuities, as well as integrating dynamics or interconnectivities; these natural units had to provide for emerging identities, both upward and downward causalities, and the many worlds described by Rosenau, as well as the cultural levels– re-envisioned as speheres of influence– and their historical emergence as described by Spiral Dynamics. The solution was easy to see in their words; and so I define the natural units of the shape of human action as follows:

g-units scale “up” toward increasing discontinuity (less inter-connectivity)

e-units scale “up” toward increasing aggregation (greater inter-dependency)

t-units scale “up” toward incresing variability (more types, kinds, forms as well as greater reach)

In meaningful terms, increasing the value of g accounts for the opening of geosocial space, the emergence of new identities, the undoing of old connections and ties, the lossening of culturally embedded roles and expectations, the movement of peoples across previously impervious boundaries (both physical, social, and cultural), the shifting of power from the aggregated elites to the discontinuous and uncoordinated populous. From the standpoint of complexity theory, this is the condition for chaos and the emergence of novely. From a normative standing, increasing g-values represents the times when people feel uncertain and at risk of the unknown when more and more individuals “bump into” each other at the level of “raw” encounter, given that the old, familiar ways of characterizing and categorizing people are shattering. Society is perceived to be (and therefore reflexively, is) in a state of epochal flux and flow. In order for individuals to purposefully actualize or even reluctantly accomodate such shifting patterns of identity, the domain of g requires a capacity for forgetfulness and forgiveness, and the ability to begin anew.

On the other hand, increasing the value of e entails the aggregation of various human resources and capitals associated with labor and economies. The aggregation of human resources beginning, as Arendt claimed) with the division of labor inthe family, and the extension of hierachical laboring to communal laboring and finally collective labor, through the creating of inter-dependencies of all types along with powerful abstract mediators (currency, commoditites) that allow capital growth and accumulation at increasing hierarchical scales, from a share economy, to a barter system, to mafia-style commitments, and all levels of exchange economies– commodities, currency, securities. Along with increasing aggregation and interdependence, this domain of e requires a robust network of interconnections to function, so that proper amounts, value and order of exchanges can be adequately traced with sufficient guarantees for reciprocities and reliable “accounting” of events. The domain of e, in other words, requires sufficient capacity for memory and retribution.

In the domain of technology, increasing the value of t-units represents proliferation of technologies, with respect to both diversity of kind, and extent of reach– just as in the metaphor we assigned to technology previously, as the river both widening and branching at the same time. And just as the main channel of the river, current technologies tend to cut deep grooves of habit and stasis in the realm of human action; but also, like the ever-branching arms, technology continually breaks down old routes and breaks into new routes. Eventually arms can become major channels, drawing more and more “water” resulting in old channels drying up and becoming fossil evidence of bygone eras, or silt up until they are completely invisible.Unlike the other two domains, t can increase dynamics in both directions, through openings and the creation of new opportunities, as well as through the proliferation of old form to such extents as to create (temporary) closings. Because of its exploratory, inventive and uncertain nature, the domain of t requires sufficient capacity fo inquiry and exculpation. We can now begin to speak of the dynamics involved in the internal relations of these three domains. Whereas t relates to both  g and e through feedback and feed-forward loops, with the ability to increase and/or diminish momentum in the other domains, g and e themselves  alone might seem to be related as complimentaries , i.e. the more you have of one, the less you have of another– in which case it would make sense just to reduce them to one scale, with rising g-values representing movement in one direction, and rising e-values representing movement in the opposite direction. However, this would be too simplistic a model, since it may be the case (as I will argue in subsequent posts) that in the realm of human action, under certain conditions,  increasing g-values results in a geo-social “fabric” that can accomodate increasing e-values, and alternately, increasing e-values can result in conditions that allow for rapid increase in g-values. In other words, under certain condition, g-dynamics and e-dynamics may be nutually interferring, while under a different set of conditions they might in fact be mutually supporting. The difference in conditions might well turn out to be how technology is engaged as the third dynamic. We can represent these dynamics as a simple flow chart:

Flow Chart­_BG

It is important to recognize that the unit-values are performative, not ostensive units — in other words, the terms and their values represent not some thing but something going on: they are descriptive of activies such as adding or subtracting social ties, investing or liquidating money, connecting to a public utility grid or cutting the power line once and for all and high-tailing it to the backcountry. This willl become even more evident in the later posts on actor-network theory.

With this in mind, we can create logical formulations that represent the internal relations between the natural units as follows:

g=t/e     e=t/g      t=eg

The following are scenarios that give the reader a sense of the internal dynamics of this Sphere of Human Action:

  • As new openings in geo-social space emerge, and individual as sel as collectivies realize more degrees of freedom, technological innovation also increases with new kinds and forms of technologies being developed, and, as a result, economies become more distributed (e-units decrease). According to our formulations above, the conditions for this scenario would be where growth in technological scale lags behind growth in geo-social spatial scale, since for e to decrease where e=t/g, g-units would have to scale faster than t-units. In this case, there are counter-acting dynamics between g and e units.
  • A prolonged period of accumulation of capital in a global economy, along with a proliferation of technologies to support the globalization of finance, results in a “shrinking” worldspace, the hegemony of western economic values and techne, and the marginalization of indigenous peoples and subcultures. If g = t/e, then conditions for this scenario are when technological scale lags behind economic scale. Increasing the reach of technologies to individuals and subgroups, to an extent where t-units succeed in out-scaling e-units, allows for the proligerations of new geo-socio spaces, and the excelleration of new identities arriving onto and the propulsion of subcultures onto the global stage.
  • If t=eg, then the simultaneous growth and redistribution of capital resources (in its widest sense) creates a fertile condition for the exploration and invention of new ways (technes) of being. Alternately, envisioning new ways of being should create the condition in which both geo-social spaces and economic distribution can mutually support each other.

I believe the reader will find each of the above scenarios, accurate depictions of dynamics occuring in the world today.