I live on the Pacific Rim, in Portland, Oregon, which has a Chinese Gate, marking a long history of East-West traffic. The Dragon is pretty much a powerful creature but more often celebrated than demonized.
We have parallels in the west, but in Genesis the serpent plays a decidedly negative role. Although it’s a “dragon” that St. George would slay, I think that hearkened back to the generally negative connotations in the Bible. Serpents and dragons were one and the same.
These days, I do a lot of programming in Python, perhaps another reason to think ahead. True, Monty Python was more the target of Guido’s homage, but the familiarity of the Python, to Athena, really has to be remembered, which brings us full circle, as Athena reminds us of Eve, scholarship I needn’t duplicate here, check the Web.
In one re-telling of Genesis, in a limited edition art book called Tetrascroll, the authors of Genesis want to punish any knowing of the Dragon religions, older and further east.
That our world is actually a sphere, is also forbidden fruit.
Eve is like the name of a ship, feminine, where ships have ribs and convey Adam, around the world. They’d flip their ships over on shore back then: the ribs became eaves. Like I said, an art book, not real etymology.
My friend Sam Lanahan owns one.
He went to the Philippines with Bucky in Martial Law days, as a guest of the Marcos family. This was well before I knew him, even though I was in high school in Manila in those days. Our paths would cross later.
sam’s copy of tetrascroll
Posted: August 30, 1998
Modified: August 30, 1998
The Applewhites flew out to Portland for a visit with us in the summer of 1996. The details kept changing up until the last minute. At first it looked like maybe just Ed would come, but June decided to come along, despite health issues (the cane was new).
I’d visited with Ed in Georgetown a couple times, and Ed and June got to meet my parents briefly on another trip over Mexican food in DC. Ed and I also both attended the Synergetica conference hosted by the BFI in 1991, where Yashushi Kajikawa was the guest of honor. This was the Applewhites’ first trip out to the Pacific Northwest and it was our privilege to show them around.
Dawn, Tara and I drove Ed and June up to Crown Point in the Toyota. Alexia might have been working at the zoo that day — where Ed and I had dropped her off enroute to the Rose Garden on the first day of the Applewhites’ visit (Ed was waiting for us in front of the Arlington Club).
Ed was very taken with Portland’s architecture, doing lots of walking tours reminiscent of those he did of Washington DC for his
guide book. At Crown Point, he chatted a lot about the upcoming Nobel Prize for chemistry, much on his mind because it was to be for the discoverers-namers of buckminsterfullerne this time around.
June Applewhite Crown Point, Oregon
Interesting day for vehicles at Crown Point that day. I missed getting a shot of the classic Rolls Royce, but snapped these two of the sherrif’s van and this fleet of red cars around back.
Ed and June were most generous with their time, kind and gracious visitors to our neck of the woods. They took us out to dinner as a family at the Newport Bay restaurant on the Willamette, and got to meet my friends Matt Ryan, who had accompanied me on a visit with Ed in Georgetown some years earlier, and Harold Long, architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ed and June invited me to the Heathman for a lavish coat and tie dinner.
Some other EJA references:
Never before in all history have the inequities and the momentums of unthinking money-power been more glaringly evident to so vastly large a number of now literate, competent, and constructively thinking all-around-the-world humans. There’s a soon-to-occur critical-mass moment when the intuition of the responsibly inspired majority of humanity, in contradistinction to the angered Luddites and avenging Robin Hoods, faced with comprehensive functional discontinuity of nationally contained techno-economic system, will call for and accomplish a world-around reorientation of our planetary affairs.
R. Buckminster Fuller
“Can’t Fool Cosmic Computer”
Grunch of Giants (St. Martin’s Press, 1983), pg. 89
So does Fuller encourage hot heads to rise up and overthrow the oppressive state apparatus? No. Remember, this guy received the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Desovereignization is a natural evolutionary process stemming from the inevitable effects of globalized communications and trade — and is already very far advanced.
In his book Critical Path, Fuller traces the evolution of lawyer-capitalism (LAWCAP ) from its Malthusian origins. The LAWCAP dogma of scarcity, upon which modern economic theory is based, pits exponential population growth against a merely arithmetic increase in food supplies. But know-how, humanity’s competence as a metaphysical entity, is also increasing exponentially, and today’s capitalism is centered around intellectual assets more than physical ones.
The ability to do more with less, to ‘ephemeralize’ our technologies to a point where humanity is capable of providing itself with sustainably high living standards, derived entirely from renewable energy sources, is another consequence of our increasing competence which Malthus never predicted. When living standards rise, as measured by kilowatts per capita for example, birth rates are seen to fall. We have a chance to get ahead of the population curve with new global university lifestyle options, wherein the process of ‘learning a living’ is potentially productive, rewarding, and life-long, for all the world’s students (consider yourself and your family enrolled).
Version 1.1, October 1996
by Kirby Urner
General systems theory begins with Earth as the microeconomic client of an energy-grant source, the Sun. Given that solar energy grants are not interest-bearing notes, the client economy is off the hook as far as submitting a repayments schedule, is really more akin to a not-for-profit in receipt of grant monies than a third world borrower against World Bank accounts. By extension, the subcircuitry within the Earthian ‘motherboard’ derives from this initial macrocosmic relationship. This is not a new model. Ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations came up with something similar. But every age needs to find its own characteristic narrative accounting language most relevant to the challenges at hand.
By imputing a current-to-currency exchange rate, as we find implemented at every household kilowatts meter, we recognize even more clearly the cash infusion value of solar grant income. A solar farm becomes the theoretical (and sometimes practical) nexus where to investigate the ‘currency’ concept in relationship to its ecosystem origins. Given that agriculture is ‘solar farm’ technology of another kind, and the archetypal village market is where cash enters the picture to facilitate the trade of agricultural goods, we have further information with which to tie ‘velocity and volume of money’ measures with the kilowatt-infused biological processing to which this ‘cash economy’ is well-synchronized — or not, if food supplies dwindle while money values shrink in proportion, ‘inflation’ being equally the ‘shrinkage’ of money values vis-á-vis a ‘grocery basket’ of biologically derived solar farm outputs.
Combined with this picture of our ‘Earth-appliance’ plugged into a ‘solar wall socket’, comes a ‘global balance sheet’ of assets minus liabilities, and resulting net worth. GST builds human intelligence into the model on the assets side, with the definition of intelligence as ‘energy channeling programming.’ Just as software processed through the CPU channels electrons in their to-and-fro trajectories enroute to the ground (motherboards being fancy detours between the wall socket source — AC converted internally to DC — and the ground), so human intelligence exercises energy-channeling control over whatever energy units, be these currency units or other assets (props).
Using the web and ecash (ID-linked and anonymous) as a place to think about human intelligence (programming), we design theoretic websites with Java thermometer applets, displaying a rise in ‘temperature’ as ecash donations flow in, responding to human decision-making investments. Websites set forth ‘theatrical scenarios’ involving energy inputs (props, currency, players, budgets) with designed outcomes (results) and go on-line to attract investments in sufficient amount to permit a ‘green light going critical’ threshold, at which point the ecash-charged storage accounts discharge through the programming, animating the storyboard for real, providing feedback as to the effectiveness of the original programming in creating the intended outcomes, along with the outcomes themselves. Participants in such dramas (scrolling credits) have new items for their resumes and transcripts with which to attract (or deter) future types of investor, recruiter, collaborator and so on.
Obviously GST is mirroring the movie-business in this picture of the individual enterprise, but is expanding the metaphor to carry the ‘dollars and sense’ values of film production into the larger economy, where lifestyles, both ‘at home’ and ‘at work’ are theatrical productions minus some of the camera work (some jobs in politics, having cameras everywhere, are now practically indistinguishable from TV and movie-making).
‘Storyboarding’ stands for generic planning and the ‘Java thermometer applet’ stands for the generic need to attract investments. But of course real world investors are usually risking monetary account equity with an eye toward reaping rewards in kind, and so commit to transactions involving commercial paper with cash infusion promises attached (or at least the paper itself has to have trade value, even if a redemption date is set for some years hence). In other words, website scenarios attract funding in proportion to their ability to deliver those currency units most relevant to investors, who usually carry debt themselves and need to discharge back to their creditors, and so on.
Money creation through telescoping loans through bank lending is equally debt creation (all those dollars are loaned, not dispensed as grant income — a significant difference between bank-sourced units and solar units), with the pressure of exponential interest rates keeping the debt load increasing, pushing investors to underwrite whatever theater is going to discharge them of their unrelenting and increasing debt obligations (short term destruction of long term assets may seem sensible behavior given this pressure to repay, and so go the forests, including last remaining stands).
Sometimes war seems the only way out when the debt curve gets too overwhelming, although this is ultimately an illusion as it involves trashing underlying ecosystems (including physical human biologies), which are ultimately where currency values arise. In individual cases, repaying in worthlessly inflated cash can get a borrower off the hook, after using the initial loan to get some real world assets, but most loan officers would go after those assets, building in some language pegging the value of the loan to the grocery basket (not to the someday potentially worthless paper units used to secure it) — and so it comes down to the loaners having the enforcement powers to seize the real values, and hence the ongoing war threat as borrowers feel increasingly hopeless about their debt loads vis-a-vis debt-discharging theatrical productions (e.g. ‘the job’).
Human intelligence, through storyboarding, circuit designing, programming, acting, has the task of coming up with sustainable ecosystem-energizable scenarios in which human players don’t get squeezed to death and forced into drastic-action behaviors owing to their ‘cornering’ in no win, no exit scenarios. Of course life itself can seem this way, given its inevitable end in death, but scientific analysis shows humans to be on average reasonably cooperative and good natured when participating in scenarios where their loved ones are doing OK, and have vital prospects for the future. Hopelessness and ‘quality of life’ measures go hand in hand (no GNP/capita measure means anything useful to storyboard artists in the absence of clear data about how folks are feeling about their futures).
GST is about designing computer-based circuitry wherein human players have secure sources of life support with scenarios that contribute to the short and long term sustainability of the whole show. Both ID-linked and anonymous transactions are a part of the various programmable reward systems, with the additional feature that not all credit units have the cash-like attribute of purchasing just about anything that has a price tag.
Of course some props are not ‘for sale’ as usable-in-scenarios in any simple ‘price tag’ sense. This is true, for example, where you need to pass certain competence tests before being allowed to do surgery, fly an airplane, pilot an oil tanker or whatever. There’s no substitute for learning the job, no way that currency units will short circuit around this requirement, because the phoniness of the ensuing performance will be obvious to all (or at least to those trained to detect fakes, e.g. the examiners).
Some ID-linked credits towards accessing some of the props and scenarios will be dispensed in exchange for performance, and will not be sellable for cash in exchange, i.e. your competence to do brain surgery is not something you can turn around and sell for cash to someone with no training, although you can ‘bank on it’ in other senses (e.g. become a teacher of your skill if you can find others willing to invest (of course some ‘dying arts’ don’t attract many earnest learners, which can mean the art is of fading relevance, or maybe the surrounding curriculum context is bogus (lack of learners doesn’t ipso facto mean the discipline is worthless, contrary to what a ‘free market’ analysis might conclude))).
Some credits, ID-linked or not, will also be earmarked as ‘being good’ only towards certain kinds of transactions. Videogame designers already have lots of experience designing interfaces around these concepts, as characters collect charms, tools, assets of various kinds, each with characteristic powers. GST wires distance education circuits to dispense life support to global university students, but not always in the form of ‘cold cash.’ Sometimes life support might look like another training manual to read, even though you were hoping for other assets. Remember, there’s no monopoly on intelligence in this school — feel free to unenroll or cross-enroll elsewhere (not every school is lenient about this — you can hurt your career prospects if you take some misguided detours, to be sure).
GST looks at the microeconomy of a university with its own power plant and solar farms, self sustaining in terms of food services, with sufficient talent and creativity to come up with tradable assets for those props not obtainable locally. This university is in good shape, in other words. But internally, students and faculty still need to work out circuitry, scenarios, plays. Who gets to use what props to what ends? We don’t have an infinite supply of everything, and yes, life is short. So even if no one is in danger of physically starving, there’s lots to work out in terms of what plays to put on and how to reward the participants, with what etc. Lots of ‘opportunity costs’ enter this picture (doing this with these assets now, means not doing that, which might have been a lot cooler — people quit in disgust when it looks like their crew is going to waste a chance to do quality theater, and so they move to a new job (happens every day)).
Now we zoom out and see the whole earthian economy as such a university, with a fusion solar plant safely insulated by lots of space, and solar farms plus other energy harvesting tech which provides food services. The GST information bank shows that human intelligence has the potential to wire up this university so that no one physically starves to death. Hopelessness can be drastically reduced through intelligent programming.
Internal circuitry needs a lot of work though. For one thing, we need to offer more GST via the internet, so that world game players everywhere come to see their global university situation with clearer understanding. And much of the rewiring will involve phasing in storyboard accounting languages which divest some of the earlier human accounts of much of their load-bearing significance. GST displays some of its data on Fuller Projections, for example, whereon the political jigsaw puzzle is generally considered irrelevant to getting on with this more serious business of shared university living.
Some of the old great tragedy theatrics indulged in by casts of characters in the past, will no longer attract much funding. What were once considered highly trained actors with access to inner sancta and highly secured storyboarding rooms will find the combinations have been changed, new cyphers put in place, and new learning curves intervening between them and their license to perform certain roles or functions.
But that’s not to deprive anyone of their human rights or to corner earnest actors in no-win, hopeless careers. On the contrary, learn some GST, tap in to some of the curriculum websites (or create some new ones of your own) and you’ll be back in business, ready for the big time circus once again.
For further reading:
Synergetics on the We
maintained by Kirby Urner
First shared via wholesys-l, an email discussion list, June 30, 1995, responding to a thread suggesting We the People launch a new round of Federalist Papers. Last modified (slightly): April 20, 2000.
I find any talk of The Federalist Papers Part II uncomfortably removed from the fact of some two hundred years of intervening history. The USA, as signifier in the algebra of narrative accounting, no longer has anything close to the meaning it had back then. That was an era of looking ahead whereas now we can look back and see a long record, and that makes a big difference.
I don’t go for political analysis much but here’s my basic take: the left is grappling with a “torn discourse” wherein it wants to send “USA” towards the sunlight of high ideals (e.g. freedom and democracy), but has a viewpoint overlooking a vast battlescape of carnage and destruction, with “USA” playing anything but an heroic role in this tragedy. The right has an easier time, finding the will of God dictating a brave new way ahead for our shared symbolset (flag, coins, monuments, military).
Forgiveness and salvation are integral to the born-again landscape, but from the leftist viewpoint, the possibility of redemption appears far more remote. After Guatemala, Indonesia, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama… the story simply cannot be given a happy ending. The age of nation-states was brutal and horrific beyond repair. Its perpetrator characterset (USA being a chief term) needs to go the way of Latin and ancient Rome, into the history books, where we (“we” being the as-yet-unborn) can breathe a sigh of relief that history has since moved on to a new, more promising chapter.
Of course I oversimplify, especially in my characterization of the right. Again in religious terms, the newly militant USA/NRA public looks at DC as demon-possessed, perhaps by UN/Trilateral Commission/CFR and very much in need of exorcism. So it shares with the left this sense of lurking evil, undermining even more deeply than the national debt.
Going for psychoanalysis over political analysis, I see a Jungian scenario: our desire for security, expressed through ownership of consumer products, combined with our ignorance about how to attain sanity in our lifestyles, leads to a planetary economic system that kills humans for profit. Human sacrifice is nothing new of course, nor has it diminished in any way-only the rituals have changed, and the justifications. Our shakey, misinformed egos are in no condition to accept any measure of personal responsibility for the trail of corpses left in our wake, especially since we see no solution to the economic puzzle, so we create a tremendous Evil wherever our defenses will credibly base it: in the Federal Government, IMF/World Bank/ WTO, Fundamentalist Fanatics, Elitist Media, Corporate Headquarters. The ego’s best defense is to project itself as powerless, a victimized, innocent bystander to the holocaust. The circle is vicious: a self-righteous, abused “little me” is a painful thing to be, begetting a stronger need for comforting palliatives and escapist blockbuster fantasies.
Do I see a way out from my self-spun web of analyses and perceived pathologies? As a writer, I find ego-power in authorship, and project Language as a potentially healing vista, provided we reinvent it continually, recognizing our competence to do so as our heritage and birthright. The grammatical conventions handed down to us, in the form of legalese especially, need to be reworked and made newly transparent. Our grasp over the concepts that govern our lives is tenuous at best, and the belief that people at the top of the Ivory Tower, or the Bank Tower, have a significantly stronger grasp is unfounded, simply because much of what drives our moneymaking apparatus is nonsense, garbage from another time and place, reduced to empty jargon and cant. We live in a GIGO economy (garbage in, garbage out). The overspecialization of the disciplines has made of our culture a Tower of Babel, where the highest language of all is total BS.
A movement towards self-evaluation is gaining momentum in academia these days, self-suggesting that the curriculum, if relevant and vital, needs to prove itself in the field, in the form of better designs for living. A curriculum subjected to heavy-duty reality checking generally finds itself rewriting its own manuals. I look for a Renaissance in education, following a prerequisite period of demystification and deobfuscation. We need to see, once again, that the emperor is naked.
Bottom line: I think new invention in Language will permit the emergence of new forms of human collaboration that is less Babel-like by many orders of magnitude. We might actually start getting some real work done, in a dramatic change for the better, instead of wheel-spinning idly while watching the sun go down. I don’t look to political discourse to lead the way, but to the everyday communications of ordinary human beings concerned and engaged with the challenges before them. I look to computerized networking, to our free-wheeling e-lists.
The first step is to see the Sea of Ignorance in which we toss, and then for each one of us to place a hand firmly on the tiller, to “take control” even when we do not see the results of our efforts. Causation is no simple matter in the real world. Of course every sailor knows that “control” is a relative term on the high seas, and humility before Nature is another meaning of sanity. Humans live and die by the same rules as stars and moons. Steering is not an experience of “forcing” but of keeping an open heart and mind in the faith that a way ahead will open.
The future is not up
to “powers that be”
if that means anyone
but you and me.
Version 1.16 by Kirby Urner
Entering line items onto the planetary balance sheet of energy Assets & Liabilities, we place Sun, an atomic-powered fusion furnace, in the assets column.
Earth Incorporated is a nonprofit corporation, if conceived in bookkeeping terms, because she is a sponsored enterprise fueled by grant income from Sun. Terawatts of full spectrum, sky-filtered, radiation bathe our land- and sea-scapes — not a loan, but a grant, continuously given.
Whatever circuitry we humans co-invent with nature within and around our biosphere, does not for a moment reverse the cosmic flow. Earth receives a steady current, like a home appliance plugged into a grid, and current equals currency: money from heaven pure and simple. We cannot repay Sun.
Sun is not a bank, and yet is at the top of the wealth pyramid, empowering all below. At some level further down the pyramid, we humans contrived banking and invented interest, but not on the model of our whole system enterprise, the Earthian economy.
Pyramidal power structures intervene between sunlight and those who would consume it, to create areas of light and shadow. This we call our economy, although it is seamlessly embedded within our ecology from which it ultimately cannot be differentiated.
In the shadowy realms of our economy, the energy-starved turn to skeletons and die for lack of calories and care. We contrive mountains of excuses for our neglect, but the bottom line is, if our criteria are to remain humane, we must judge our economy as broken, fallen, sinful, in error, a failure, all of the above. Until recently, we had not the tools to provide for all; but today we do. The price of technological advance is the crossing of evolutionary thresholds, and the ignition of new tests, new imperatives. To continue “business as usual” (rampant neglect) is to artificially dumb ourselves down. And so we list this broken economy in the Liabilities column, recognizing that it contains the seeds of transformation, the potential for advance to the next level.
Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth. Where do we come out in the eyes of would-be investors. What investors? Suppose you knew for a fact that you would reincarnate again and again, for many generations, as many believe you will. Would you feel more like a long term investor then? Surely a rising Net Worth would portend a greater statistical likelihood of prosperity and happiness in your next life. How would you strive to improve our global economy, given your understanding of cause and effect?
This is an open ended question designed to invoke a thoughtful response, which is to elicit another item for the Assets column: intelligence. Sun + intelligence must contend with a broken economy. An objective measure of our intelligence is, in fact, a diminishment of pain and suffering on our planet. Intelligence must flow through our broken circuits, our madly misfiring neural nets, in order to heal an injured humanity. This challenge, to transform our broken economy into a working one, is a call to the alchemists, for such is their vocation: saving the world.
Saving the world is a deadly serious business and every generation has committed to it. The world is in perpetual need of saving, and at no point in time becomes “saved” — the job is never ending. Every action, every inaction, joins the incalculably complicated web of events, perhaps advancing our economy, perhaps making others work harder to advance it. Am I part of the problem, or part of the solution, right now. And how about right now? — more open ended, intelligence-eliciting questioning.
Alchemists work with language. Words have spectral bands of meaning, like chemical elements, and reflect differently depending on how the light of intelligence shines through them. Unillumined, words turn to bricks, turning pages into walls, opaque in their superficial literalness. Intelligence turns solid walls into transparencies, metaphorical overlays charged with links to future interpretations. The alchemist seeks to free herself from the dead-weight of calcified textbooks — economics textbooks especially.
If our concepts are to shift their meanings, to create new prisms, mirrors, optical fibers of significance sensitive enough to guide us onward, then they must be recharged with a sense of possibility. Words like “profit” must first be enabled to receive new values. Human language variables, like places in computer memory, signified in code, do not have fixed content. A vast computation goes on in every corner where language penetrates, in the crevaces of every mind. Each one of us operates within a personal studio, editing and recombining language, putting out new codes. Evolution proceeds quickly in this medium, but not without rhyme or reason, as language is deeply invested in both.
Each word follows a spiral, a trajectory, through semantic space. Dictionaries do not manage to track these perpetual perturbations in language, as the relations among human language variables iteratively recomputes. Poets work on capturing the subtle shifts, but revector the very atoms they seek to chart. Advertising, journalism, cyberculture — all provide windows into language, but it is the task of the individual alchemist to fine tune her apparatus and seek to read the global mind. Of course few have ‘alchemist’ on their business card, and yet their jobs require the skills nonetheless.
Take this word “intelligence” for example. What are its spectral lines, its signature connotations? Resonance with bell curves and IQ are obvious, sun and sunlight abound in its metaphors. Images of eccentricity, ostracism and iconoclasm shimmer in its corona, as in the cliche about genius and madness being intimately conjoined. Less obviously in the foreground, perhaps, are the networks employed by the power pyramids to probe one another, to infiltrate, subvert, undermine. As the specter of madness haunts the picture of an individual intelligence, our collective embodiment of the word, the so-called “intelligence agency” is steeped in opposites: brutality, dogmatism, paranoia — attributes of “intelligence agencies” which make the very concept sound ironic, oxymoronic, even more so than “mad genius.”
General Systems Theory posits human beings as intelligent agents within a planetary economy — an economy in which it makes sense to design around the principle of profitability. Net Worth will increase as our networks of intelligence agents converge towards strategies intended to eliminate death by starvation for example, a first benchmark along the critical path, and a milestone we must reach if we are to know we are succeeding.
To act with the zeal of nonprofits, charitable organizations, NGOs, with a mission to heal, towards the same humane ends, though perhaps with different means, is not inconsistent with the profit-seeking motive, nor with the overall design of our sun-sponsored economy. The competent creation of wealth, defined as life support for humans and nonhumans alike, in measurable amounts for quantifiable periods of time, translates into security — the kind of security for which financial securities were originally named.
The money world rests on ancient pillar words, like trust, fidelity, prudential. These words may appear hollow on billboards and commercials, but the ties cannot be severed at their roots. The real meaning of security, which intelligence agencies are defined as protecting, is firmly anchored. For language as a whole to make sense, we must allow its weightiest signifiers to fulfill their destinies, to hold to their trajectories within semantic space.
Superficial corruption depends on sound structural engineering at the core. Nature herself provides the vast majority of our core technologies, but humans have insinuated themselves into her circuits, and now must respect her strict performance standards or pay dearly. And dearly we have paid. Security, national or otherwise, will be protected only if we recognize that strict obedience to “higher” principles is not simply an ethical or aesthetic commitment, but an economic requirement, and the key to future profitability.
Vast numbers of humans receive sufficient energy incomes to negotiate enjoyable lifestyles as “knowledge workers.” What is the carrying-capacity of our global economy with respect to the intelligence agencies, academic institutions, think tanks, and other curricular circuits which it nurtures? To the extent that intelligence is fostering our global net worth, it pays its own way, insofar as we can talk this way about an economy sponsored by energy grants from our Sun.
In fact, expanding enrollment in the “knowledge worker” sector is what will allow us to use global distance education circuits to channel inventory to work-study programs in the field. The global university metaphor serves to overlay the economy, one map among many. Our starving students, quite literally starving, need better access to work-study curricula that will net them the kinds of goods and services needed to complete their courses.
That our students are starving en masse right now serves as testament to the weakness of our curriculum, the insufficiency of our syllabi, the poverty of our language and imaginations. Seen through these lenses, our concern should be less with voting the bums out and more with updating our textbooks — or discarding them for curricula on the net.
General Systems Theory posits itself as a competing discipline vis-a-vis Economics, as much about resource distribution, living standards, the exchange of goods and services, as the Dismal Science. Economists hold that monopoly breeds laziness, inefficiency, lower quality goods. General Systems Theory agrees, and in that spirit seeks to end the monopoly of Economics over the “real world” of Assets and Liabilities, Profitability and Net Worth.
Synergetics on the Web
maintained by Kirby Urner
Approach to Public-Private Enterprising
Distribution: Internet, Press
Originally Posted: 04 June, 1997
Last Modified: 08 June, 1997
Author: Kirby Urner
Company: 4D Solutions
Project Renaissance is an approach for integrating public and private enterprising into a unified model or rubric. The concepts are in the public domain and no trademark or copyright ownership of the central Project Renaissance name or literature is expressed or implied.
The Project Renaissance approach seeks to converge the not-for-profit sector with the R&D operations of high technology enterprises, which have likewise historically received generous treatment from the government, especially in times of war – hot or cold.
The USA Johnson Era War on Poverty programs, these days branded a failure which even liberals have a hard time defending, at least captured the ‘moral equivalent of war’ rhetoric, but did little at the bookkeeping level to motivate the transition to a peace-time economy characterized by opportunities for advancement at all socioeconomic levels.
Indeed the Vietnam War was in full swing at the time and prime contractor relationships between Washington DC and high tech R&D divisions, via such Manhattan Project legacy institutions as the national labs (e.g. Los Alamos), think tanks such as the RAND corporation, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), left little room in the budget, or on the drafting tables of USA engineering studios, for a Project Renaissance approach. So what has changed? The American people, promised a Peace Dividend at the conclusion of the more overt phases of the Cold War, have yet to relinquish their historical fascination with positive future scenarios, as typified by Walt Disney’s groundbreaking creation of his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), wherein brand name corporations would showcase prototypes, working models, drawing board solutions, and garner public feedback – a combination of market research and willing guinea pigging, in this case providing all the safeguards expected of Disney-quality family entertainment theme parks.
Given this latent optimism about the future, always just beneath a more cynical surface, cogent story boarding showing how the Peace Dividend may indeed be deployed in a real time context, without loss of security or exposure to unacceptable levels of terrorist threat, immediately attracts a receptive audience. Enter Project Renaissance.
Project Renaissance converges Hollywood experience in scripting and casting with military experience in contracting for and testing prototypes, and focuses the synergies thereby derived within the noncommercial, public service sector, with an eye towards field testing new solutions at the ‘front lines’, in a real time ‘school of hard knocks’, the outcomes of which will be, in many cases if not most, commercializable goods and services, ready for vending to the public at large.
The public, in the meantime, will already have some clear ideas about how the new products and services are used, having tuned in lots of media ‘from the front’ showing the prototype versions in action, often in demanding situations (more demanding than the average civilian is likely to encounter, unless volunteering for duty in public service, or unlucky, as when involuntarily subjected to severe weather or other harsh environmental conditions).
Prototyping work may be exciting, sexy, and attractive to people who wish to excel and gain recognition for their competency and skills. Test pilots generally fall into this category, as do astronauts, technology jocks (both female and male) and other forms of dare devil. However, given the often times significant investments riding on the success of a prototyping venture, set-backs owing to over confidant or cavalier behavior or foolish misjudgments of the true risks involved need to be minimized.
So between the gung-ho would-be star performers in Project Renaissance scenarios, and their dream jobs (or roles – Disney referred to his human resources division as the ‘casting’ department), one or more layers of ‘gatekeeper’ intervene, trainers and recruiters of various stripes charged with ensuring that trainees advancing through their ‘gates’ have attained an appropriate level of mastery.
Such screening never completely precludes the possibility of disaster, nor of people ‘slipping through’ on the basis of fraudulence or other leaks in the gating system. Furthermore, highly trained professionals with all the necessary skills and credentials may nevertheless find themselves participating in a no-win situation, either because the prototype is in some way fundamentally flawed, or owing to freakish circumstances beyond the control of participants. The goal of the gating system is to establish the conditions necessary for optimized field testing, and not to assure in advance that all field tests or missions will succeed (in which case they would not really be tests).
For example, remotely deployed Fly’s Eyes, hard-shell dwelling units, optionally tripod-based and outfitted with telecommunications and sensing equipment, take skill to operate, especially in harsh environments such as close to the poles or in ecosystems with little use for humans. Trainees operating these units must know what to do when critical systems fail, when to call for emergency evacuation as a last resort and so on. Trainees must also know how to follow ‘zero-impact’ guidelines when this protocol is in effect, meaning the team will leave approximately no trace of its presence once the mission (perhaps a survey mission) is complete.
Beyond certification on various technologies, however, trainees will in many instances be called upon to evidence high level ‘people skills’. The public service community, via UNESCO, UNHCR, CARE, the Red Cross, and other well known NGO operations, has historically been charged with all kinds of disaster relief, rescue, evacuation and medical response missions.
These operations typically require line of supply logistics, command and control, communications, crowd management, triage, rapid deployment, rapid pull-out and so on. Of course NATO provides similar services, with greater emphasis on weaponry, but the central point is the same: trainees may be called upon to exhibit extremely high levels of proficiency in languages, diplomacy and negotiating skills, often under time pressure, with grave consequences attending any delays.
Project Renaissance works to minimize the size and intensity of such ‘crisis’ situations however, as the human design has its limits and will fail under extreme conditions, as will any special case design. Putting humans in intractable and superhumanly difficult situations is generally to be avoided except perhaps in certain simulated situations.
Thinking, planning and storyboarding provide an antidote to a purely ’emergence by emergency’ approach of lurching from one crisis to the next, wherein humans predictably suffer a decreased ability to coordinate, or even freeze into a panic-stricken, immobilized mode, neither of which conditions helps us get a grip on the situation.
Uncoordinated or inappropriate responses, including violently damaging ones, are symptomatic of humans pushed beyond the limits of their present capabilities and is often a manifestation of having done too little too late in anticipation of contingencies that might have been planned around or otherwise prepared for, had the relevant situation rooms worked harder to keep abreast of real time developments around the world and in its surrounding space.
Project Renaissance aims at providing plenty of historical, computer simulated, extrapolated and real time global data, so that humans may provide themselves with the most relevant kinds of preparation and training. Project Renaissance also looks to what R. Buckminster Fuller termed “comprehensive anticipatory design science” for clues as to what might be in store in upcoming chapters of the humans in Universe story, which has already proved to be something of a cliff-hanger (or ‘touch and go’ as Fuller would put it).
All of the foregoing analysis, starting with a focus on willing recruits anxious for front lines experience, moving through systems of gate keepers or trainers based around the need for a huge variety of skill sets among trainees, and concluding with a commitment to assist people in staying well-versed in big picture planning, via access to timely global data, is but the tip of the iceberg, a quick overview of the Project Renaissance context. A more detailed treatment of public-private enterprise management is taken up in General Systems Theory (GST) in the form of curriculum coursework and hands-on work-study engagements. Access to Project Renaissance top management positions requires a high level of mastery of GST concepts and their application in real time.
Project Renaissance is about converging civilian and military disciplines into a more unified set of public services which tackle difficult problems faced by humans, families and communities both locally and overseas. The Peace Corps (with analogous services in other countries, e.g. WUSC, UNV…) provides a lot of useful templates for how these services will look, but with the added dimension of higher levels of technology (designed for appropriate use), more characteristic of the military.
For example, there’s no reason why aircraft or helicopter carriers can’t be used as valuable assets in support of ground-based emergency relief or evacuation efforts (indeed, USA aircraft carriers have been involved in just such evacuation missions recently, off the coast of West Africa for example). Some of the personnel operating these assets may have trained in NATO — others may have a background with Greenpeace. Despite past political differences, both the military and the NGO sector have produced personnel with complementary and compatible training.
The expected outcome is a growing inventory of ‘props’ available for use within storyboarded ‘theater’, as per General Systems Theory’s model of the Projects Completion Cycle. Many of these inventory items will have been brainstormed and prototyped in the field by private firms, with an eye towards commercializing the perfected models and offering them for sale or via leasing agreements through networks of value-adding resellers (VARS) or direct outlets.
Whereas commercial advertising will remain in the picture, a lot of the best PR will have come into viewer living rooms from the front line operations theaters, or from lower profile situation room scenes — often shown in real time ala Houston’s Mission Control or NORAD, not just as Hollywood-style mock ups. Although mock ups are often more impressive than their real world counterparts, they fail an important relevance test when showcasing technologies we have no idea how to actually implement in real time, as in the Star Trek scenarios, which feature a ‘Federation Science’ only hypothetically available to humanity in the 24th century (western calendar).
Project Renaissance style ‘science fiction’, by contrast, is both ‘near future’ and centered around existing, accessible, operational props and prototypes. Project Renaissance storyboards are critically dependent only on currently attained levels of comprehension of scientific principles. Not every storyboard launched in the public domain for testing and feedback should or will be implemented, at least on the scale originally planned, but at least the degree of realism will remain high, so that the general public will not be overly confused as to their options, which confusion too often leads to voting taxpayers pinning lots of hope on scenarios that scientists and engineers simply cannot make real, hence wasting valuable time and investments and resulting in widespread cynicism and dissillusionment with the political process.
According to this Project Renaissance storyboard, we anticipate that the general public will not generally begrudge the tax-exempt status given the public service sector, nor the tax-breaks afforded corporate R&D departments, given ample media unambiguously documenting the positive impact of Project Renaissance type programming. The commercial sector will not complain (or at least not too loudly) that their operations are adversely affected by all this focus on noncommercial programming because so many of the goods and services it markets will have derived from public sector risk-taking. Furthermore, commercial enterprises will be actively engaged in exchanging information and personnel within this public sector context, finding the positive synergies discovered in field testing are a constant source of new ideas for commercial operations and collaborative ventures.
Finally, the viewing public, which includes people from all walks of life, will in many cases feel drawn to get involved, to do more than passively experience all the action via one-way television. Two-way, interactive circuits within the living room or home office context, giving viewers ways to track favorite teams (sometimes including friends and acquaintances), will likewise supply a variety of channels for providing teams with backing, both directly and indirectly, monetarily and otherwise. These ‘distance education’ circuits are already in place, and are becoming more sophisticated and prevalent with each passing day. Schools are coming on-line and will also have many opportunities to mix classroom experience with community service opportunities, with some of the action on screen suggesting role models worth emulating, despite the long years of training that may sometimes be required before joining an all-star cast.
In sum, media programming designed to provide sustainably higher living standards on a global basis is inherently interesting, and the products and services stemming from this programming, perhaps soon to appear via local outlets and distributorships, will require lots of time, energy and human ingenuity to perfect in the field, and to variously integrate into our increasingly complex econosphere, characterized by many differently organized and differently performing cultures — more all the time as communities experiment with new ways of integrating various traditions, sometimes producing attractive and viable results (of course folks will always disagree when it comes to matters of taste).
Project Renaissance, with the emerging disciplines of General Systems Theory and Design Science to back it up (among others), is a logical extrapolation of many trends and already tested models. It provides a way to maintain continuity and professionalism for those trained in a military context, while bringing high technology corporate R&D divisions under a new umbrella, to be shared with public sector operations, including religiously minded ones, not as ‘mere charities’ good for PR and tax write-offs, but as partners in prototyping — the public service arena being ‘where the action is’ when it comes to getting our next century (western calendar) off to a promising beginning.
By Kirby Urner
4 June 1995
I propose we look at Starship Earth (Buckminster Fuller’s metaphor for our planet) using another metaphor as well: that of Motherboard Earth.
I tip my hat to the criticism that this is another off-base nerdy engineering lens through which to misperceive a living planet and that, although the “mother” part is apt, linking to circuit boards is just more Newtonian mechanism, more of which we simply don’t need.
But I don’t see it that way myself. I think of the powerful film images I’ve seen linking urban-scapes from high altitudes with microchips. Good native American-sounding titles like Powaqqatsi and Koyanisqaatsi come to mind (both interesting films). And the energy bathing our motherboard is more than metaphorically electrical.
In sum, I don’t see “motherboard” as necessarily whiteman talk at all, but a clear-eyed snapshot of what, in fact, our eco-economy is: a set of spherical circuits, layer upon layer, some phased in with humans just a split second ago, on the geologic timescale.
Moving on, I look at the psychology of banking, which seems to view this pool of liquid capital, called gold or currency or whatever it is that’s convertible to just about anything of value, as the one thing we cannot afford to “leak” away. The whole investment banking circuitry is about wiring up projects and programs and powering them with “juice” (liquid capital) only if it appears the return will exceed the investment. The only electronics on the motherboard that interests bankers is the kind that “nets a return” meaning it has to return all the juice received, and then some.
If I think of my computer as the motherboard, and the wire plugged into the wall as my umbilical link to the sun, then I start to wonder about the intelligence of microcode which plans to starve motherboard assets which are not designed to amplify and return juice. I mean, the way a computer is designed is like a water wheel: current flows downhill to the ground, in the meantime turning wheels which turn other wheels and so on. Yes, the liquid electricity all drains out the bottom, but serious work got done in the meantime. Capacitors and storage batteries pool current for a time, before allowing it to surge onward (the banking idea of savings). But nowhere is the motherboard (the computer I’m using) designed to return juice to the wall let alone “with interest.”
I look at TV images of human skeletons, either getting a little charity, or dying in droves, or both, with economists off to the side shaking their heads: no way to organize these humans into projects which will net a return to the bankers, and we can’t allow our precious “juice” to just “leak away.” So we let our human families starve to death.
That’s just the way it is … but is nature our model here, or banking? The sun is broadcasting terawatts of energy in our direction, second by second. What we do is insert our programmable circuitry, our gizmos, our wheels turning wheels, and reap the benefits. Within this game, we have liquid asset accounts, and transactions, and trade. But the overall big picture is of a motherboard plugged into the sun and human circuitry that is designed to starve large portions of the motherboard based on some dogma about needing to retain precious liquid, currency, without regard for the true state of affairs, which is that the great global ecosystem is not about returning juice to the sun, anymore than my computer is about returning juice to the wall socket. Doing useful work, yes. Keeping energy from flowing downhill, no way.
So that’s why I propose General Systems Theory, which has a clear view of the sun-powered motherboard, the humanly programmable circuitry which interlayers with nonhuman circuitry, and the pain and suffering of numerous humans who are left out because they don’t have magic ‘juice returning powers’ — why I propose that GST build itself as antithetical to the juice-worshipping tribes who use their primitive ‘economics’ to justify the status quo media programming.
GST takes inventory of human inventions, artifacts, and storyboards multi-media deployment scenarios, casting humans in new, interesting, intelligent roles, and sees that we have the props, and the actors necessary, to make the real-world scenario entitled: Humans Make a Success of Themselves (lots of subplots). But instead, the old curriculum directors continue to produce episode after episode of The Great Tragedy, claiming that they are the sophisticated ones, whereas we, the success-oriented directors, are naive, because we don’t properly understand their Theory of Juice.
GST has a different view of juice, it’s true. I say we can afford to drive programming, using solar inputs, that will not only prevent starvation, but enroll the starving in new distance education programs that nets them lots of other relevant assets besides food: medical care, shelter, information, entertainment, vehicles for self-expression, opportunities to see more of the planet before they die. I say we don’t have to expect our global university students to pay back their scholarships in any silly literal kind of way, but that the work of learning a living, of demonstrating competence, of being a star in world game scenarios worthy of high caliber acting, is repayment enough.
Do the work of Making Humans a Success, and forget about ‘netting a return’ in the traditional bankers’ sense. Create wealth (life support), not just more money, and find out how much better off we will all find ourselves in short order. Lets co-invent General Systems Theory to light the way forward. And lets leave Economics behind, in the current Dark Age, where it belongs.
There is no dictionary word for an army of invisible giants, one thousand miles tall, with their arms interlinked, girding the planet Earth. Since there exists just such an invisible, abstract, legal-contrivance army of giants, we have invented the word GRUNCH as the group designation—”a grunch of giants.” GR-UN- C-H, which stands for annual GROSS UNIVERSE CASH HEIST, pays annual dividends of over one trillion U.S. dollars.
As world society divests itself of that which experimental evidence demonstrates to be untrue and embracingly enters into its computer the mathematical formulae of all that can be experimentally proven to be true, all the socially, selfishly malignant characteristics of the giant may vanish and the omni-pro- social-advantage-producing capabilities may prevail and flourish.
— R.Buckminster Fuller, Grunch of Giants, 1983