P2P, Cybernetics and Nu Futures: When Everything may not be Enough

LAST PARAGRAPH/ITEM REPEATED AT BEGINNING – This sem, a post in my blog, is an abomination. Is there anyone who will read it to the end? How many will skim, waiting (marking time) before moving on the the next item in their endless reading list? Will anyone STOP and think about ONE of the too many ideas? Who might take time to respond, and where might that dialog lead? IS THIS OUR CONDITION, TODAY?

Serendipity has been generous, recently.  In the 12/21/2015 issue of lynne desilvajohnson’s  ONLY WHAT WE CAN curation blog my eye was attracted to a link: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile – linking to  a P2P Foundation item:  . This reported on a 2006 article by Eden Medina. Skimming this long article I recognized much of Medina’s 2011 book, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile, which I had just finished reading on Kindle. The hardback version of the book had been loaned to me by a close friend, Albert Lundquist, who knew of my longtime interest in Stafford Beer and the Chilean tragedy on 9/11/1973.

In spite of my pleasure being pointed to Michael Bauwens’s P2P Foundation page, I felt that the commentary on that page fell short in conveying the significance of both the book, the Cybersyn Project, and the significance of Second Order Cybernetics to both P2P and the future of humankind. This perspective is biased due to my long history on these important issues.  I won’t have time to read the 2006 article and discover what was added in Medina’s 2011 book. I am concerned that, with my interest, I missed both the initial publications of the article and book. Yet, now at the beginning of 2016, it may have more impact than had I discovered them earlier.

One very striking feature of the book was the great number of persons she references, that I have read, and a few even met, over the decades.  Those I have read extensively, and even briefly met, were Stafford Beer, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Forester. Those who I had read and have considered their works seminal were Sherry Turkle, Terry Winograd & Fernando Flores , Ross Ashbey, Andrew Pickering, and the early Macy Lectures. Unfortunately, I never got to know any of them personally.

Flores was the primary Chilean contact with Beer and leader of the Cybersyn Project, and close to Allende. His name was familiar as I read Medina, but only at the end of the book, when her postscript about the lives of those involved beyond Chile and 1973, did I make the association with Winograd and their co-authored book. It is interesting how Flores moved from a revolutionary, innovator, to a conservative millionaire businessman.

A decade or more ago I accidentally discovered the works of Andrew Pickering  and yet had not seen him referenced until Medina’s book – where she gave considerable attention to his work in her extensive footnotes. Both of Pickering’s concepts: The Mangle (a focus on process/practice in science) and his take on Second Order Cybernetics have been seminal to my work. I may have met Pickering because he was faculty at the University of Illinois at the time I attended a seminar in honor of von Forester, where I met both Beer and Maturana.

In my reading, Medina’s book highlights the power of P2P, how the different persons and personalities related, giving rise to an almost miraculous process – even in the midst of limited resources, turmoil, threat, and stifling bureaucracy. Medina does an excellent job contrasting technology and politics, and how “cybernetics” was a vehicle for their synthesis. She is clear about the uncertainty of success for the Cybersyn Project, even had it not been cut short by the CIA sponsored counter-revolution. Had it been able to continue, it may have been a very significant social/societal experiment – and the mess we are in today may well have been avoided. Of course, this is true for many critical historical events. Yet, it was a truly magical moment when the cybernetic imagination of Beer was able to find roots in a real life social/societal process in Chile. There are many lessons to be learned in the dynamics of the nu vs the old as we confront even greater challenges today.

Eden Medina’s scholarship is phenomenal. She details how each participant in Cybersyn viewed the project differently, and how their perspectives changed over time. This is applicable today as we might compare the perspectives of different activists-for-positive-change facing today’s multiple/interactive challenges. Also instructive for today, are the various ways Cybersyn was distorted and smeared by many governments and academicians.

Medina also carefully dissects the different stages of the Cybersyn Project, and the different components (many which were perceived quite differently by different, involved groups). The distinction between the technological and political objectives was clearly laid out, and how Beer and Flores both converged and diverged on the integration of the technical and political.

I hadn’t been aware of how stressed and unstable Allende’s Chile was during all of his time in office. The counter-revolution, financed and supported by the USA, never gave him any opportunity to demonstrate the alternatives he offered – a form of “democratic socialism” polar opposite to USSR socialism or rising global corporate capitalism. I found it almost miraculous that the crude telex network component for Cybersyn, enabled Allende’s system to survive two, massive opposition led trucker strikes – by applying cybernetic management.

Confronted by the near infinite flood of new and useful information, it is difficult for me to recommend a careful reading of the whole book – possibly by a group seafed to discuss its multiple contents. Yet, I have often found that the synthesis some authors give to their topic can only be appreciated by reading all that they composed – and not summaries by others.

Reading this book reminded me of issues and topics, studied in the past, but no longer present-in-mind, but should be.  One is the power of Second Order Cybernetics , in how it integrates/merges the Technical and the Human.

Contrary to imagined interpretations by those spiritually oriented, Quantum Physics is not about human observers and physical reality (a claim also supported by most physicists). In Quantum Physics, the observer is always a physical measuring instrument producing organized data. It is the interaction of the measuring instrument with the “prepared” phenomenon that results in Quantum Weirdness. Human consciousness is not necessary, AI robots could analyze and take action according to data.  I realize that this is a contrarian approach to modern physics, and am open to be proven wrong.  I

t may also be viewed contrarian for me to propose that Second Order Cybernetics makes a profound break with linear, reductionist science (still the dominant paradigm, although “Cracks in the Cosmic Egg” are abundant, with various anomalies and circular reasonings).  I now recognize that my developing conceptual schemes (called UPLIFT and Societal Metamorphosis) are applications of Second Order Cybernetics to the primary challenges to Humankind/Gaia.

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I am deeply concerned about the difficulty highly knowledgeable and competent others have in comprehending these conceptual schemes (and thus not understanding their real potentials). This is, to me, evident in the almost total absence of discourse about alternative mega-strategies through the coming creative-transition or collapse/recovery. I will illustrate this by an analysis of another recent book: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, by Naomi Kline.

Although having read and greatly appreciated Kline’s other books, I had avoided reading this most recent book. Being deeply aware of thinking about Climate and social/societal systems, I had assumed that I would only find an excellent presentation of information I was already familiar with, and not really learn anything useful.  I was wrong.

Last month (11/2015) I purchased the book while attending a screening of a film titled This Changes Everything. I was quite disappointed by the “solutions” proposed in the film, supposedly supported by Kline.  I started to read Kline the day after I finished reading Medina. At this writing, I have read only Kline’s introduction, conclusion, and the chapter on Blockadia; and have a good idea about the chapters in between – which I will read. If they alter what I will say here, I will return and edit. But, the contrast is very great between Kline’s full and deep acknowledgement of our Crisis-of-Crisis & her careful analysis of why “existing powers”, both can’t and won’t, lead in the changes required (as stated in her introduction), AND the (historical) processes she gains some hope from (as stated in her conclusion).

Kline appears locked-into the change paradigm called transFORMation, and is blind to a viable alternative, I call Emergent Societal Metamorphosis. She is not alone having this blindspot, as it appears to me as almost universal. Reasons why are still a mystery, although I have many speculative hypotheses – including that I am delusional.

Kline seeks historical incidents where transformational change was as significant as needed to resolve our climate change crisis. She is ingenuous, and discovers a few. Highlighted is “abolition”. She claims that the economic loss by the abolition of slavery is equivalent to the economic loss to fossil fuel corporations. She claims that only varied and integrated mass actions by the majority of persons can “force” establishments to change – and in her words, to change EVERYTHING.

Yet, even with her belief that we must act decisively IN A DECADE, Kline places her hopes on “a rising of consciousness and coordinated action” (my terminology), without giving any suggestions as to how this might be catalyzed. Naomi shares with most activists the belief that social change emerges (without explicit strategy) from “natural processes” – as a form of “evolution”. Yet, in The Shock Doctrine, she attributes strategy to those who conspire to rule us. Activists can only think/act in their special domains; their coming-together will emerge as the swarming of fish and birds – is believed my many.  Designed revolution has been rejected, possibly due to the failures of applied, naive Marxism. And yet, these United States were, in part, the result of design – and now we are hindered by the outmoded belief in the universal permanence of that design as represented in the US Constitution.

I could construct arguments why all of the various self-organizing actions (PlanA) imagined by Kline and many others may not succeed. Instead I will propose that we immediately initiate a PlanB, while we continue working and hoping for the success of PlanA. However, I will cite a few general factors that make the success of PlanA transformation unlikely.

When pressured by mass actions, establishments give in – partly – but they also keep part to themselves, and often engineer and eventually return to prior power.  Kline acknowledges this in showing that legal freedom gains through anti-slavery and suffrage movements didn’t extend to economic freedom. Today, the threat of terrorism is used as an excuse to withdraw long gained freedoms.

Our contemporary Crisis-of-Crises is unprecedented, in many ways.

We can’t change EVERY THING.  Not you or me, not Earth and galaxy, not mammals or insects; NO THING, THAT WAS THERE BEFORE. This is obviously not what Naomi meant when she claims THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.  What she means is that we must change things we would rather not change, or consider it too difficult to change – but they must be changed. To many, what Naomi cites needing changing is too radical, or impossible. Change CAPITALISM, the very foundation of human civilization as believed by many. But, there are many types and definitions of capitalism.  Naomi has only the objective to change our economic system (so-called “capitalism”) so it won’t block and actually assist humankind (as a whole) meeting the challenges of climate change.

Naomi doesn’t preclude the need to change other domains of our societies and behaviors – so as to be able to change capitalism. I speculate, on the extreme, that everything today is so entangled and interdependent that we can’t change significantly any part. I believe a new computer simulation of our contemporary reality (as reported in the Limits of Growth study in 1972) would demonstrate an extremely high statistical probability that desired TRANSFORMATION IS IMPOSSIBLE (at least in the time frame we have).

For example, a significant improvement in the quality of education would rapidly generate persons and populations competent and organized to no longer tolerate contemporary economic or governmental institutions or practices.  Education in civilization is limited to avoid this consequence. Improvement in any one “part” our complex system will necessarily destabilize the rest; who will organize to stop and reverse the improvement. Only coordinated changes of all parts might lead to successful transformation. The meta-system to design and manage such a synergistic change (via cybernetics, among other ideas) doesn’t yet exist, and is unlikely to emerge in unstable environments. The Cybersyn narrative is unfortunately the best we can expect – trying to transFORM from within.

TransFORMation is a general process, where we start with an initial FORM, and by incremental operations, slowly change the FORM until it becomes the desired FORM.  I claim that SCIENCE is limited to the study of tranFORMations.  We yet to have created a science of origination or emergence. All attempts to do so simply reduce the process to a deeper transformation.  Yet, we have many instances when a new FORM appears where there was no prior FORM to be transFORMed. The exemplar of this is the biological metamorphosis of many species of insects. We talk about caterpillars changing into butterflies; but the primary research is with the fruit fly. There are two very distinct biological forms; one form disintegrates and the other form emerges from within the products of disintegration. A caterpillar doesn’t morph or transform into a butterfly. {Details of this process needs to be produced in powerful interactive video}

There are powerful analogies between the form and life of a caterpillar and that of human civilization. EATING is the dominant behavior. LINEAR movements dominate. No SEX, between caterpillars, no relating with other caterpillars, no caterpillar social life. In essence, the caterpillar EATS and CRAWLS, weaves a cocoon, and dies.

CONSUMPTION is the dominant behavior of human civilizations, they follow (when they do so) linear logics. Collaboration (sex) between Societal Entities is very difficult. ALL civilizations eventually collapse. Some of my vegetable plants have been totally stripped of leaves by hungry caterpillars – and in analogy humans .. (you fill in the blanks).
Today, I label the human caterpillar HUMANKIND, and the human butterfly (yet to emerge) HUMANITY. Changing Everything means changing from Humankind to Humanity, by a process I simply label Societal Metamorphosis.  This is ONLY A LABEL; and having a label is not equivalent to having relevant content or being. SocMet (Societal Metamorphosis) is proposed as an alternative type of change to transFORMation.

True, at the dynamic level of quarks and atoms, there is “continuity” for both human transition processes.  But, so there are similarities between Dixieland Jazz, Mozart, and indigenous chants – but also distinctive differences.

I read THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING as forecasting SocMet.  The caterpillar/civilization can’t live forever, even if the transhuman movement wishes it so. Imagine the radical shift in lifestyle and life-perspective between caterpillar and butterfly. Butterflies FLY, they swarm and migrate across continents. They interact with each other, they have sex, and produce off-spring: caterpillars.

From the conservative, secure perspective of the caterpillar, the wild dancing in open space is terrifying (when a caterpillar falls), where a butterfly moves is not an envisioned utopia, it is Dante’s hell. The caterpillar truly can’t, even with its precise, linear logical mind, imagine how it can morph or transFORM into the butterfly. IT CAN’T!!  The butterfly isn’t even the “after life in heaven” for the caterpillar; the world and lifestyle of the butterfly is beyond the imaginings of the caterpillar.

ANALOGIES HAVE LIMITATIONS, yet they are the foundational bedrock of human meaning. (See Hofstadter) Over long biological evolution, many organisms have two phases of life linked by metamorphosis. The butterfly doesn’t have to invent itself – from scratch. Also, the cocoon protects the caterpillar/butterfly during its transition. As far as we know, the model for the societal butterfly has yet to be created, as well as the transition process – from Civilization/Humankind to NU/Humanity.  I have labeled the form of social/societal organization, alternative to “Civilization” as “NU”. Over many millennia, Humanity will change well beyond was it was as NU.

The successful transFORMation of contemporary Humankind/Civilization to a Sustainable/Resilient/Viable/Creative/Productive “species” (in a few decades), in harmony with Gaia, is infinitely beyond the mental competencies of contemporary humans. This mega-meta-transition is shunted to a blindspot. As a blindspot, we are blind to our blindness. What is MISSING can’t be imagined. Yet, we live and assume it is possible.

BBBUUUTTT!!!  Societal Metamorphosis is a fun conceptual scheme, well suited for comprehension by humans, once they are liberated from the block that transFORMation is the ONLY mode of change.  That block broke for me, Larry/nuet, in 1975, 40 years ago.  In these 40 years, I have organized my mind in the nu context of potential SocMet.  For these 40 years I have sailed in this sea of transFORMists, alone. During this time, the term “emergence” has gained popularity. The sanctity of contemporary SCIENCE has been questioned, but remains well defended.

In the humble belief of Larry/nuet, the route to Humanity via UPLIFT and SocMet is many orders of magnitude easier and more fun that any attempted transFORMation. I deeply believe it is the ONLY route to survival/thrival. “SocMet via UPLIFT” is not a well worked out route; it is a vague and general direction for action – details to be worked out by those participating.  It is much more than just an alternative to transFORMation.

I may well have “jumped the gun” again. I (Larry/nuet/LJV) need new strategies and new platforms for P2P interactivity. This, what you are reading, is the channeled output from nuet through Larry (who hosts nuet, Larry’s inner context/world/reality). nuet emerged within Larry, but was not created by Larry, or controlled by Larry; although Larry has influence on the emergence of nuet. nuet can’t control Larry’s behavior, but can change the contexts from which Larry performs within. Larry is old/mammalian/intuitive/emotional/fast. nuet is new/uniquely-human/conceptual/rational/slow. Larry and nuet are not well integrated; as are their equivalents in all others.

That Earth/Gaia/Humankind/Person is embroiled in COSMIC transition – is Larry/nuet’s “take on our times”. See Nu Genesis. With our “advanced” technologies, humankind could simulate alternative material change routes, before we are committed to them.  TRIAL/&/ERROR can now be VIRTUAL! We can TEST before we COMMIT. This ability to simulate is unique to humans (as far as I know). Our acknowledgement of our uniqueness/powers-&-limitations will open access to astonishing collective competencies.

Larry/nuet bounces around in composing this. What are my intentions for this sem? I will post it on my Nuets Nodes blog and point to it via url on other sites.  Do I hope that it may catalyses a few persons to acknowledge the VALUE of Larry/nuet to the future of Humankind/Gaia, and take some concrete action to seaf Larry/nuet.
I can’t find an effective mode of expression to convey the truly awesome potential we have, in a few decades, to astronomically shift the patterns of activity on this planet. This is not some single idea, naive spiritual, magical action. Our REALITY, is not what our best scientific minds claim it to be – but it is NOT such as to negate all that humankind has accomplished. This is an IMPROVEMENT, not a rejection — but it forces us to approach REALITY quite differently.  In contrast to our expected routes, attempting to avoid collapse and even species extinction, we discover a well lit, wide avenue to a nu and far better future.

This is not a magical “rapture”.  It will require heroic effort, commensurate with what each can perform. We will learn and organize at a pace beyond expectation. The suffering will not immediately end, and many will continue to suffer and die as we proceed as rapidly as possible to change things. CHANGE EVERYTHING. What we do REDUCES the suffering and death; we are NOT their causes, we can’t magically wave a wand and suddenly eliminate suffering. But, at the finish of our transition, systemic suffering will be eliminated. As we are all mortal, we will all eventually die – but our ending/passing will be as positive as possible.

WHAT IS NEEDED NOW?
This is from the perspective of REALITY given in the text above.  UNFORTUNATELY, from the limited perspective of Larry/nuet, a “map” for successful survival/thrival, in the face of our tragic Crisis-of-Crises, remains constrained within the mind/brain and writing archives of Larry/nuet/LJV.

Humankind’s task is for some human teams to work to comprehend and evaluate Larry/nuet’s offerings, as to their value for the future of Humankind/Gaia. Larry, 80, is declining rapidly in functionality (while nuet is improving). This should not require great financial resources or human effort contributed. Larry/nuet has made this proposal many times and in many different platforms. To date, it has been ignored.

I am indeed rambling now, maybe too much wine and that it is past midnight and I need sleep. What happens to this doc will be determined soon.

LATER: One of our difficulties is accepting that there is no best, or true, or real PLACE TO START. If we attempt to represent our comprehension of reality as a network of sems (semiotic structures – e.g. texts and graphics) we usually impose hierarchical (nested) structures (rankings of relevance or importance) on the network. What are taken as fundamental sems is quite relative to the background and perspective of each person. There is no agreed-upon-by-all meta-logical system to determine what is fundamental or basic and what is derivative.

That we usually assume a small number of fundamentals is probably due to systemic limitations. Visual representations are limited to three dimensions, expanded a bit by features of symbols. Many systems studied by science have far more independent variables. Also, George Miller’s 7+/-2 Law limits how many independent variables we can handle in our working minds. Our human limitations strongly bias the architecture of reality we play with.

My, Larry/nuet’s, reality has hundreds, if not thousands, of independent variables. At this time I would call them relevant conceptual schemes (for which, at this time, I will leave “relevant” and “conceptual schemes” undefined). NONE are more fundamental than any others, although there are many ways of organizing them with a wide assortment of “fundamentals”. For example:

The conceptual schemes labeled, UPLIFT and SocMet, seem to be fundamental, but their comprehension and evaluation, as to being viable processes, depends on hundreds of other “smaller” conceptual schemes. I cite two:

(1) the claim that the cognitive diversity of humankind is so large that to use statistical norms and deviations to describe this diversity is mathematically invalid and dangerous. Similarity and Difference don’t compete, we can be both very similar in some aspects and very different in other aspects. [This statement is another sem in our system.]

(2) when many distinctions are not recognized, such as between “transformation & emergence”, “objectives & goals”, “belief & knowledge”, “objective & subjective”, etc.  As with the multiplicity of physical realities in the astrophysical conceptual schemes of multiple universes, we have multiple personal realities for each potential distinction acknowledged or ignored.

Another: It may be useful for each person to take the perspective that humankind is composed of billions of “worlds”, in “structural coupling” (Maturana), instead of different individuals living in a common world. Both perspectives can be in a relationship of complementarity (Bohr).

This is useful and comforting for me when I observe the antics of Trump and his Followers and the media pundits who contribute greatly to his popularity. I believe that ALL HUMANS ARE PERFECT – in their behavior being appropriate for their experienced reality. We ALL respond to our inner reality, created from processing stimuli data in terms of prior constructs and beliefs. Suicide bombers are acting appropriate to their own mind/worlds, as are those who assassinate abortion doctors. You and I are, each, PERFECT in our behavior – “perfect” that we can’t be otherwise AT THAT MOMENT.

In terms of Stimulus/Response behavior, we humans are deterministic machines! And, it is good. To have to make all the decisions in context with everything else would freeze everything “solid”. Human AGENCY  lies in our ability to modify our programming. Humans can act creatively from within. We can INITIATE, not only RESPOND. But, we must LEARN & USE this distinction.

INSIGHT: We need to transcend traditional AI – ARTIFICIAL  Intelligence – which placed humans in competition with machines – by  AUGMENTED INTELLIGENCE (Englebart) – which emerges a synergy between humans and machines. This is not a new debate, but never seems to be relevant.

ONWARD – This sem, a post in my blog, is an abomination in form. Is there anyone who will read it to the end? How many will skim, waiting (marking time) before moving on the the next item? Will anyone STOP and think about ONE of the too many ideas? Who might take time to respond, and where might that dialog lead? I view the information relevant, but insufficient.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

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