Seeing The World …
Poetry, for me, has always been code. Ever since I studied it at school I discovered that the words, restricted by technical constraints dictated by tradition, fashion and the type of poem being written, were being enlisted to do many things, acting as more than just vehicles of their own meaning.
Their sound, position, technical variance, local usage, historical context, cultural significance and even origin, became semantic signals of their own, metadata, if you will that unfolds with each reading because our own understanding is different. Of the hundreds of poets I love across history, William Blake (http://goo.gl/4wkhoN
) holds a special place in my heart and mind. A conflicted visionary, a mystic, a man who saw angels in the streets by daylight. A family man who would leave his bed at night to talk to the people of the night in Soho, London’s somewhat less salubrious district.
In Auguries of Innocence
) he starts with two lines that have been etched in my mind ever since I first came across them when I was 14: To see a world in a grain of sandAnd a heaven in a wild flower,
Here, I always thought, the printmaker had looked at his prints and seen more than just what he wrought. Hyper-connectivity and semantic technologies have taught us that there are two things we know of the world now to be true and they both sound almost mystical in a way Blake would have approved: 1. Everything is connected. 2. What we observe always means something.
We know, now that the world is a complex system, built up by many other systems (http://goo.gl/ZiAHep
). Systems theory (http://goo.gl/NGX11N
) tells us that there ought to be a finite number of guiding principles that are equally applicable to every system. Systems science (http://goo.gl/1ncIHO
) suggests that not only are all systems related but that the close study and analysis of one can help us understand others that appear to be radically different.
Science has been studying parthenogenesis (literally virgin birth) wondering that since it happens in the wirld would it be possible to apply to humans? (http://goo.gl/bDvGYR
[two links supplied as UK-based readers do not always have access to content from the BBC Magazine that is produced, I assume, from the license fee paid by them, for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me]).
On the face of it such a ‘small’ change sounds reasonable. We could immediately forego a lot of the issues that are faced by reproduction (the uncertainty of when to have kids, the ever tightening biological window women face, the pressure to find ‘the right one’) and simply have them when ready, without worrying about career breaks (because they’d be better planned), fathers and the issues associated with them. That would be a system optimizing itself, right?
Maybe not quite so. Sex, it would appear, is more complex than we think (http://goo.gl/gWkLk
) and when it’s stripped of all the usual reasons for it that come to mind when in company we’re left with the fact that it is necessary because Fundamental social, interpersonal dynamics are apparently present…
in every aspect of it. And why would we need it? Because apparently every man-made societal construct we have in place is predicated upon the smallest building unit we can use: a dyad (http://goo.gl/84emzm
In the relationship formed between two people some of the overt complexities (trust building mechanisms, treaties, agreements and complex rules of conduct) disappear to be preplaced by a social dynamic governed by and expressed through our sex drive. Simply put, when you trust someone, sufficiently, to be at your most vulnerable with them you then have a relationship that works. Trust comes up again and again in our online world. We have been looking at it in detail trying to analyze it, create it, make sure it’s there. But perhaps what we should be looking at is not trust but trustworthiness and vulnerability is key to it. This is something that British philosopher Baroness Onora O'Neill suggests in a recent TEDx Talk (http://goo.gl/IRY9pK
) shared by +Marguerita Farrell
Which leads us now back to systems. If we did the absolutely logical thing and took control of reproduction so that parthenogenesis could be achieved, we’d be impacting, suddenly and negatively, upon one of the most fundamental mechanisms we have for building societal structures in our world.
We know less than we think about more than we know. A recent study showed that elephants, a species that biologically could not be more removed from us and still be of planet Earth, “…are cognitively much more like us than has been realised." And have an innate ability to understand human gestures (http://goo.gl/wzD9qF
There is an underlying logic to nature (and natural systems) that we are only just beginning to see: http://goo.gl/R1kZJa
. In a recent piece I placed here (http://goo.gl/oQPoZh
) where I mentioned driverless cars the simple observation in the comments that they’d impact the car insurance industry and affect the funding of Police Departments across the world (because they rely on issuing speeding tickets for some of their money) shows how a relatively ‘simple’ change in what we do, driven by technology, will force us to rethink some of the key components that make up our modern societies.
There is more change coming. We see attempts to curtail our current freedom (that is unprecedented) like the net neutrality legislation (http://goo.gl/SSwGbB
) are the natural response of systems facing disruption and protecting themselves. The fact that governments can shutdown (http://goo.gl/4xb46S
) when they’re supposed to run the country on behalf of those that voted for them, lawmakers can give themselves a raise (http://goo.gl/GhhNpU
) while demanding austerity from the rest of us is evidenced everywhere: http://goo.gl/1BAZRf
. Its ubiquitous nature a signal that it’s ‘normal’ behavior for systems that now need to be changed.
We see all of this now. We understand at a deeper, more profound level than ever before, how the world works, how it is interconnected. How the Butterfly Effect (http://goo.gl/QcSdL5
) is at play. We are becoming more and more powerful (http://goo.gl/eJTi7z
). Our systems sense that before we can reasonably articulate it, never mind decide what to do with that power.
It’s a challenge we may not be ready for but one which we now have to face. All we have is, really, each other and our ability to share knowledge, skills, ideas, experience and …yes, show vulnerability. We must be willing to take a small leap of faith in order to get to affect lasting change.
As always with Sunday Reads you need to have the ingredients right: Coffee (lots of it), donuts (a small mountain of them), cookies (aplenty) and a little time to dive into all this and allow it to ferment. I will be on only patchily next week as my time will not be my own but upon coming back I will have some really meaty issues for us to dive into. In the meantime, enjoy Sunday, wherever you are. #davidamerlandsundayread #systemsthinking