One of the ways of thinking about modern society is that our lives are becoming more like membership in a wild ecosystem. Our common CAS is becoming more like the ecosystems that existed before humans had such a profound impact on nature.
For many centuries, societies have reflected some set of values and outcomes derived from the effort by elites to make society gratify elite needs. But the shift toward a more ecosystem-like CAS is gradually undermining this hierarchical control, and like an ecosystem, it is becoming more difficult for any individual to organize their own future. Hence, the willingness of Tech tycoons to consider going to another planet in order to preserve their privilege (see linked article above).
Although we think of power as something that an individual has, power is gifted to a person or group by a larger community (human, financial, religious, etc.). It can be and is taken away when the community no longer sees that the person or group contributes to its purpose. While an “apex predator” makes a convenient political metaphor for power and control, in a real ecosystem, the predators die off if the actual ecological basis of their supposed “power” disintegrates.
Our society is becoming more like other evolutionary systems, and there is no guarantee that such a process shift will favor humans (or our disability community), or for that matter anything that now exists. Evolutionary systems favor continuing evolution, not any of the “parts” of the CAS. The continuation of evolutionary change depends on the generation of variation as evolution’s hedge against the uncertainty of the future. That future uncertainty clouds all efforts to control the future and spawns a dodgy business opportunity for anyone willing to claim they can predict the future.
We humans tried to work around that reality by isolating and organizing our exploitation of nature to buffer our goals against the relentlessly increasing complexity of unintended consequences. We are losing that long-standing effort for the same reason that all short-term advantage gives way to the “revenge” of long term biological processes.
My point is, as it is elsewhere, that traditional control behavior is becoming less and less effective and more and more expensive every second of every day.
There are two problems with the Title Question: How and Exactly.
We automatically use machine model beliefs and operational planning to build and implement change. Such an approach is largely inadequate for a CAS.
Any CAS has mechanical aspects and we can delude ourselves into thinking that because we can change the mechanical aspects with operational planning, that we should be able to change the whole Kit and Kaboodle that way (as in, for example, “you can only change what you can measure”, and similar sophistry).
It ain’t so.
As the slide image suggests, changing a CAS is more like wrangling (cats, say) than standard measurable outcomes based operational planning would have us believe.
If our old standard tools and operating assumptions don’t give us the control we seek, what will?
Well, the bad news is that nothing will give us that amount or scope of control over a CAS. The good news, as unlikely as it might seem, is that we can change the way we approach CAS and be effective.
A CAS is a “dispositional system”, not a mechanical one. A CAS tends to move in directions, but because of the interaction of its parts, there are no guarantees about where it will end up.
Changing a CAS is like approaching a cobra to take close up photos. You can get those photos, but you need to be circumspect to avoid getting bit.
Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good. -Plato
Even if we remember the past, odds are good we’ll still repeat it.
–Guy Gavriel Kay
Reminiscence and self-parody are part of remaining true to oneself. -John Updike
After a half-century of progress in the advocacy by our community for the support we need to live lives of choice and freedom, our work is stalled. Many forces (together called the #reaction) in the larger society are contributing to this struggle. Changing any one of them will not alter the momentum of this steadily expanding global backlash. Recently, the effort to stop and reverse the progress the disability community has achieved has become increasingly public and has spread to every part of the political and support systems upon which we depend for the quality of our lives and the freedom to make our own choices about how we will live those lives.
The disability community has gradually become a part of the general response of many communities to the current reality, popularly know as the #resistance.
The resistance seeks to restore the momentum of change in the direction it had previously. However, the trouble with resistance is that the past can’t be restored to what it was so that progress can continue as it would have if the forces of reaction hadn’t fought against progress. As necessary as resistance is, it is not enough. Resistance can’t “correct” the complex adaptive system that is our society. Resistance can undermine the momentum of the reaction, but it can’t create a new basis for progress by itself.
While resistance can slow and disrupt the reaction, resistance is meaningless unless we have a strategy which we can use for a counterstroke when the reaction is sufficiently weak. Without that strategy, the result of resistance will be less capable (if less damaging) society, at least as far as our freedom and choice are concerned.
The counterstroke of the disability community must have two phases:
We must support the resistance to weaken the reaction because doing so is a tactical necessity for keeping us living our lives.
We must begin to build our counterstroke, a response that will reduce our dependence on the social system for those supports we need to survive.
This double-sided approach is FutureStrategy. If we embrace it, we will need to simultaneously try to extract as much support as we can from the society through the resistance, and we will begin to build our own supports, separate from the system and emerging from our local community, based on the system realities we face in each moment of this rapidly, and complexly evolving society.
The image in the slide is the original attractor model that Lorenz used in his discovery of the volatility of weather. I suggest you view it as a metaphor for the two-pronged strategy described here.
If our disability community is to build and implement a sustainable strategy that preserves our lives and our freedom, we will need to build our skills to support the implementation of that FutureStrategy. These posts will outline some tools we could use to accomplish that.
The big picture is emphasized below because there is no simple relationship between a tool and the problem you are trying to solve when you are trying to change a complex adaptive system.
First, I’ll recapitulate a summary of FutureStrategy described in the previous blog posts. Then, I’ll provide a crash course on how changing Complex Adaptive Systems is different from our standard ways of changing complicated and mechanical systems. Finally, I’ll pass on things I and other people have learned about the larger world of effective advocacy.
The resistance tools below will be drawn from three large scale categories:
Advocacy as an arena of the system change effort.
Organizing for change in and through the disability community.
Managing the Ecosystem of Targets in which our community will work for change. It is this ecosystem in which we must focus our strategy.