Saturday, February 12, 2011

Starting with the Universe

"The function of what I call design science is to solve problems by introducing into the environment new artifacts, the availability of which will induce their spontaneous employment by humans and thus, coincidentally, cause humans to abandon their previous problem-producing behaviors and devices. For example, when humans have a vital need to cross the roaring rapids of a river, as a design scientist I would design them a bridge, causing them, I am sure, to abandon spontaneously and forever the risking of their lives by trying to swim to the other shore."

- R. Buckminster Fuller, from Cosmography

Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak was not attuned to new artifacts. As a result, history will remember him not as the man that stood with Egypt’s peacemaker President Anwar El Sadat – close enough to be injured in the grenade blast that killed Sadat and propelled Mubarak to the Presidency in 1981 – nor the man who did much to bring Egypt onto the international scene as a vital source of power and stability. No, he will likely be remembered for the legacy of his perpetuation of the Emergency Law 162 (1958) which gave him sweeping powers so expansive that he believed himself to be above the law. And, on this week in 2011 he departed on the 32nd anniversary of Iran’s Shah’s exile in Cairo. He will be remembered as one of the first globally recognized powerful elite to fall to a new breed of social activism. While the U.S. would never allow a change of government like the one that we just witnessed in Egypt to take place in Washington D.C. without far greater human rights abuses and loss of life, I wonder if leaders across the globe took this week’s message to heart. The 363 year old Nation State is ending and a new social order is emerging.

And what took down Mubarak’s illusion of power – and will take down many more in the coming weeks, months and years – is the failure to honor the third tenet of Westphalia; namely, the covenant not to interfere with the sovereignty of states by any non-state actors or foreign interests. While it’s easy to point to the United States’ violent intervention as a clear affront to this revered principle, the more profound and consequential violation of the tenet is the prohibition on letters of marque, reprisal, and privateering. As I’ve written and spoken many times before, the transnational Corporation State, launched in the banking and corporate coup d'état which began in Europe in the early 19th century and whose cancer killed representational democracies across the globe by the early 20th century, thought that it could hide behind the façades of puppet heads of state in perpetuity. But when you build systems which remove the wealth of nations through agreements with despotic leaders for the benefit of foreign interests, the system will fail. The most ominous specter in the demise of Mubarak is sharpening his scythe for parasitic corporations who saw themselves beneficiaries of heads of state who did not care for their people.

Ironically, the wisdom in the Peace of Westphalia came from a multi-ethnic consciousness awakening that recognized that, left unaltered, petty religious and territorial conflicts animated by control of resources and trade, would lead to violent ends. Seventeenth century humanity was more awakened than most of their progeny today. And, at the core, one can discern the consideration of four dimensions of social consciousness that is required for such awakening. In an effort to simplify the concepts that I believe represent the environment into which alteration and new artifacts need to be inserted, we need to first understand our roles as Citizens, Leaders, Parents, and Provisioners

Citizens. We’ve long abandoned the recognition of the centrality of citizenship to all human endeavors involving any social structure. In our race toward the cult of the isolated identity, we failed to see that we only apprehend full identity in a context defined by the community in which we operate. Our awakening requires us to see that our liberty empowers us only when we are aligning our efforts and resources for their optimal use benefiting ourselves while insuring that others have suitable equivalent benefit and use.

Those who evidence mastery of this efficiency and inspire others by their mastery are ones worthy of the mantle of Leadership. I am deeply disappointed to see universities and business schools promote “Leadership”. The world doesn’t need leaders. Leaders emerge as being worthy of being followed – not by perceiving the direction the masses are facing and then racing to the illusive “front” of the milling masses and being the loudest voice in the room. Quality leadership empowers others to teach those characteristics that bring about a more harmonious system without pandering to self-interest or the interest of loyal sycophants.

Parents (both biologic and those acting as mentors) need to reclaim their role as both the nurturers of emerging citizens and as models of deliberate action emanating from a confident, powerful center. Rather than teaching lessons of scarcity and fear-based hording and consumption, parents need to convey the wisdom of suitable adequacy to manifest the individuated role of the provisioner.

Most radical in this understanding is the replacement of the role of the “individual” or the “consumer” popularized by our psychological or commercial memes with the omni-dimensional Provisioner. Beginning with you making sure that your own identity and well-being are sufficiently sated, you take on the capacity to understand your own productivity, consumption, and access to resources directly or through networks and then create the capacity to keep all of these in balance. Having done so for yourself, you can both steward that which you have while also engaging your capacity in the milieu of providing for those around you. Inward directed provisioning recognizes that the impulse to consume is replaced with the impulse to be adequately equipped. Outward directed provisioning recognizes that the need to be identified with what has been horded is replaced with the impulse to demonstrate the capacity to expand provisions for and to others. Identity, in this dynamic sense, fosters a perpetual reminder of one’s role as Citizen and thus the fortuitous cycle persists.

When this system is fully functioning, Presidents and CEOs won’t spend the majority of their energy reinforcing their grip on power by the suppression of others. History has demonstrated that this Tolerant Citizenship model fosters unprecedented prosperity and stability. And, to that end, let us engage in transformation by introducing new artifacts whose utility will necessitate their utility for safe transit to new behaviors – not in futile revolution.


  1. May I suggest that the most basic and urgent "social artifact" is the Universal Basic Income?


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