- Large Systems Usually Operate in Failure Mode
- Systems Tend to Expand to Fill the Known Universe
- Systems Tend to Oppose Their Own Proper Function
- People in Systems Do Not Do What the System Says They Are Doing
If we must continue to use The System while we try to build supports that we can effectively control and scale, we will need to understand how The System operates, and what we might do to make the best use of it.
The first reality that we must accept is, “The purpose of a System is what it does”.
- The stated Mission of the System
- The Strategic Plan of the System
- The stated Policies of the System.
Does this characterization seem harsh to you?
For example, I have watched the changes in the Social Security system around SSI disability supports since the early days of the system. Starting in 1981, there has been an incremental alteration of the original purpose of the program (to provide basic income and health care access), to one that reduces real-time eligibility and bureaucratizes due process to the point that it has become a system for denying eligibility to the greatest extent possible without triggering too much bad publicity and political backlash.
My experience is not unique. Everyone who became an advocate in the early days has recognized the same overall deterioration in the purpose of SSI.
Because the purpose of a System is what it does, not what it says.
And our use of The System to support our community must reflect that reality.
The System is always corrupt (maybe disrupting is a better word). Not because the people in it are necessarily committing financial crime. The System is corrupt because, over time, its original purpose degrades, and the uses to which The System is put gradually become as diverse as the local needs of all its stakeholders, including us as members of the disability community. Such complexification of the original mission is a normal response of aging in any CAS, including each of us. If no one tries to alter this trend, you get a trajectory that tracks the following phases:
- Narrowing and self-centering of mission (Bureaucratic Narcissism)
- Mission and Self-Interest become Indistinguishable (Functional Psychopathy)
- Use of System assets for personal gratification (Frank Exploitation)
- Networked misappropriation (Gang Exploitation)
- RICO activities ( Corrupt Insurgency)
AND, at the same time:
The system is always different from what it was just before now. Novelty, broadly understood, is constantly changing The System. Novelty includes all our efforts to make The System work more effectively for us. All CAS create micro-diversity as part of their evolution. The people in the system are only dimly aware of this, which means the behavior of the system is often surprising. It is the micro diversity which give The System its resilience, but this micro diversity triggers in any bureaucracy a futile effort to eliminate that diversity. It is the inability of the system to eliminate this diversity or its production that provides us with a landscape in which we can become better at using The System.
We have two main methods for getting better at Using The System. One is scanning and learning (Fishing for Tools), and the other is Crowd-Sourcing our search for solutions.