Monday, September 29, 2014

Inherently Inanimate Individuals

In his collaboration with E. J. Applewhite, Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, Buckminster Fuller postulated that if we don't allow our minds to exercise their "supreme power" within the decade of the 80's, "it will be curtains for all humanity within this century."  When they were proposing what evidence conscious mental capacity would manifest they went to great lengths to critique individuated specialization and the isolating limits that it imposes on the human condition and its facility to thrive.  Multi-orthogonal interdisciplinarity at the individual and collective experience is, according to them, inextricably linked to the evasion of extinction.  If we seek to operate in isomorphic optimal performance, we, like nature must engage in radiational divergence and gravitational convergence.

So why is it that we've been seduced to atomic isolation where each of us is supposed to be a stable isotope dependent solely on monetary transactability?  Why is it that an idea begets the impulse to enclose; the impulse to enclose begets the impulse to form the individuated inefficiency of a company, group, or movement; and the form begets a demand for economic succor to succeed as mediated by the ultimate exit through sale or extinction?

A few days ago I sat with a lovely scientist who is operating at the edge of intelligent biochemical nano-scale technology.  She is passionate about finding ways to radically transform diagnostics and therapeutics so that complex human ailments can be detected and intermediated at cost and temporal efficiency.  Having found her experience with academic bureaucracy intolerable, she was encouraged to "start a company" and "file patents" based on research that was years away from commercial use.  With the support of investors and grants, she formed a laboratory, hired business people, and put in motion an interminable dance - at once seeking to pursue her science and training herself to communicate with investors and business types for whom she had mild (and at times profound) intellectual contempt.

By forced individuation, her access to collaboration was strangulated through contracts, patents and countless impediments to the flow of information and insight.  Casting her efforts towards fulfilling investor-mediated application of research at the cost her passionate inquiry harmed both her professional purpose as well as her capacity to fully appreciate the capital that had sustained her.  When asked about several companies that were intimately involved in direct competition and derivative innovation, her awareness of other actors in her precise ecosystem was significantly impaired.

I've had the privilege of interacting with numerous individuals and groups who have statements of purpose and expressions of intent that are so similar as to be indistinguishable.  But, when offered the opportunity to synthesize a geometrically complex tensile structure that could be resilient, appropriately flexible and scalable, identity and proprietary individuation explicitly preempts the evident efficiency of covalent bonding.  "We don't know who is in charge."  "How will we divide the equity?"  "How will people be trusted to perform?" These and countless other objections - all aligned towards preservation of isolation - stand in lieu of expressions of gratitude and synthesis.  At a recent meeting, the suggestion that I offer one of my trading platforms to another organization for their integration and use was met with an initial suspicion that my generosity was a covert attempt to mask a clever co-option of distribution channels.

If we seriously consider our existence, we can recognize that each of us - regardless of our metaphysical proclivities - are the organization of inert, allegedly inanimate atoms which, at some fuzzy margin, are imbued by us with animate specialization.  Where our calcium, carbon, and hydrogen cease being anonymous commodities on the Periodic Table and become Being is a puzzle that is unconsidered by most.  But what we can agree is that we are, at our organic essence, non-specialized heterogeneous amalgamations.  So why is it offensive for us to default towards intraspecies interdependence and interoperability?  Why do we draw the line of proprietary or individuation at the limit of our physical or psychic perimeter? 

We are relentlessly pursuing a rather simple model that we think makes sense.  For every "new" idea we have, our goal is to find the counterparty who can already integrate or deploy it and work with them to build a stronger existing institution rather than "creating" new.  And, whenever possible, we're looking at our existing institutions to see which, if any, can be partnered with organizations that need innovation where we can consolidate our efforts.  In short, our view is to be additive to existing impulses even when our contribution is radically disruptive.  It's too early to tell whether this is a "better" model from an economic return but the one thing that's clear:  it's much more rewarding to work with business people than to work with the noise of corporate formation.  And in the end, if the livability of a model is better then that's better all around.

1 comment:

  1. From Anonymous in Ireland...

    I can really relate to this. There are vast systems put in place to encourage patenting, chasing investment, and company formation--not to mention "training" in all the above (aka brainwashing). When combined with inexperience and incompetence in such organizational affairs, it is difficult to see other options, or how to implement them without having contacts who actively support other frameworks and approaches.

    I remember my first meeting with a government business/enterprise support person. I asked about setting up something as a co-op. They let me know they didn't have any information about that and they didn't get involved in that kind of thing. It was made clear that this kind of inquiry was not welcome if I was to be taken seriously be them--and they play an important role in the business ecosystem.

    The reality of getting burned by collaborating individuals or institutions makes things even more confusing. It is painful when trust is extended and then abused, or when partners do not have the skills, strengths or networks they had represented.

    That said, resorting to isolation / patent protection / disengagement is no answer. It's not always easy to find or recognize the right partners--but it's crucial to keep trying.


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave