Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Psychological Panarchy

Perplexed by the inadequacy of visualising trichotomy dynamics in two dimensional graphs, I have begun modeling some of the adaptive cycles for psychosystems as 3D models. Yes, warning science content and nerd alert, ... yet in essence this seeing in many ways affects us all.

In examining the feeling of vertigo from following the contours of the spatial dynamics of the phases of conservation, release, reorganisation and exploitation in the adaptive cycle, I had a deep feeling of deja vu. Where had I seen the 3D adaptive cycle previously?

Then it occurred to me. In the writings of psychologist Clare Graves he describes the four phase cycle of psychological development, not of individuals, but of populations when looked at through a system ecologists eyes. Speaking in 1977 he describes the adaptive cycle of psychological growth in human society as follows:

"Overall, psychological development can be seen as a complex wave like phenomenon. But development does not occur in the smooth flowing manner suggested by Exhibit VIII. It is more a spurt-like, plateau-like, more a progressive, steady state, regressive movement in which certain demarcation points can be identified in the flowing process. As systems of personality and culture come and go with changes in psychological time and alterations in psychological space, four demarcation points can easily be distinguished. This progressive, steady state, regressive development and the four demarcation points are shown in Exhibit IX." (Graves, C. 2005, p. 178)

He goes on to describe how 'anxiety and rigid functioning' accompany the crisis that occurs following a period of adequate coping with the problems of existence [conservation], with regression in using older ways for newer problems then leading to 'fixation and pathology' [release], creating dissonance and new insights which have to overcome existing conditions in the existential space [reorganization], before the removal of those barriers leads to rapid movement and a quantum leap to the next steady state [exploitation].

Here is psychological panarchy described thirty years prior to its naming. To see a description of psychological multi-state resilience, in a systemic population model, in four phases, as a hierarchical open system of complexity, preceding the publication of Buzz Holling's pioneering work in ecological systems by some years, affirms the significance of this early and innovative research work.

Who would think that this understanding might have been lost to us, or that were it not for the 35 years of ongoing inspirational research work by the resilience theorists, we might not have even understood its profound significance for our own emergence.

All we can do at this point is marvel at what they together saw and continue to ask, now that the cyclical nature of natural systems (including human thought) are disclosed, what is it we must do ...?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something From Bees

Something is up in the human hive. If we think about evolutionary intelligences, the metaphor of the human hive discloses something about ourselves, not just at the city level, but at the humanity level.

While we can't know these things clearly (being mere drones within the system of emergent patterns), I suspect until this point the metaphor of the hive did not really apply to humanity, only to the colonies of our parts. Our cities and organising structures (i.e. trade cartels, workforce corporate identities, professional designations, and even generational patterns of consumption) have been our isolated hives, which together accumulate as the patterns of mankind and its effects on many landscapes (physical, sociological and psychological).

Yet looking to the clues within these meta-patterns, the divided hives are now becoming connected autonomous functions within a larger collective organisation. Something new is newly happening in the human hive.


While its simply misleading to take and stretch a metaphor too far, or to apply observations of one phenomenon that exists only in the eyes of the observer and apply them to other systems without new observations, what might the amateur apithological apiarist see happening right now in the human buzz?

One event is the launch of the connected and universal 'Like This' voting in the ever expanding and interlinking social network space. This will communicate collective information in new ways and prioritize information to awareness, both for astute use and in collective delusion (and perhaps manipulation) exponentially in feedback loops outside the governance of our previous close trust relationships. Another is the expansion of the virtual-teleconference experience where networks of people previously unconnected are now simultaneously connected into discourses previously outside of their reach. We have new content and new communication. The big two in apithological integration.

The theory says that the third element in the apithology trichotomy will then arise. A new clarification of Intention. This is the finding of a direction for humanity that is causing so much cacophony. According to Karl von Frisch (1967) in The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees:

"Departure only occurs when all the scouts are pointing to the same goal. Accordingly, the moment when the swarm will dissolve can be foretold, and from the dances of the victorious group that is advertising it can be deduced with certainty in what direction and to what distance the swarm will fly." (p. 271)

We are seeing the lead up to the decision of direction in Intention in fractal forums where ever the question is being asked at a sufficient level of complexity to reflect the question with integrity. Like the human hive, bees in the period prior to swarming have patterns of confusion which move eventually to resolution. There is, however, firstly a period of incoherency before a quorum in the decision making arises. The piping tune, heralds triumphantly the new direction found through the 'checking-out' of places recommended in a complex multi-criteria process of collective site rating and selection. The similarities with Web 2.0 are easy to formulate.

In making this comparison we should distinguish between the swarming of bees that occurs with the hive 'propagating', splitting in situations of abundance - and the alternative of the hive 'migrating' in scarcity when the environment begins to appear unviable and new territory is required. The dynamics are apparently similar in external behaviors to the casual observer. Yet, just like in the patterns in the transitions in levels of consciousness, they are very different in their motivation, form and effect when motivated by sufficiency or deficiency. Possibly one leads to a new location armed in hope with confidence, the other in cautiousness and defensiveness with all lacking in a sense of abundance.

According to Michener (1974) in 'The Social Behavior of the Bees: A comparative study', the capacity for complex communication in eusocial bees is what enables the evolutionary advantage of migration in pleisiomorphism. How the mysterious formation of an intention to leave for a new nesting location in response to unsuitable environmental conditions is formed, is unclear. He notes: "... a sharp difference exists and no intermediate conditions are known, so that understanding of the origin of Apis swarming is not so easy." If the existing colonies of humanity are our thought communities located around single ideas (our metaphorical queens of memetic reporduction) it is the capacity of our networks for communication that will enable the evolutionary leap to a single unified location. The new 'nesting location' for humanity is its common intention as a single eusocial entity. It is worth noting that the queens are pushed from the hive. They do not lead the swarm. No one existing idea will lead the way.

In the usual pattern of propagation of the hive in situations of abundance, food collection declines as storer-workers increasingly refuse to accept food from foragers, with foraging activity becoming a search for new nesting locations, the role of foragers moving to scouts. In migration (known as absconding) different triggers may need to occur. What we do know is for both patterns the trigger to actually swarm is the 'buzzing run' where pheromones and vibrational signals are rapidly spread communicating the moment of decision and the signal to depart. It is this I am listening for.

What is also interesting is how the bee life-stage progression from cell cleaner, to nurse, to food storer, to forager is both developmental and yet highly diverse in its sub-roles, and how transitions in population cycles probably create overall mitigating responses to fluxing role-needs as the fortunes of the hive change (see Seeley, T. (1995) The Wisdom of the Hive: The social physiology of honey bee colonies). If we think about the changing population in the spread of generations, differing roles in global production and developmental levels in the human hive, perhaps the 'fifth' life-stage role we are about to see is the 'migration monitorers' who trigger the relocation of the hive in an environment of decline where food and foraging conditions have created the consternation of confusion. Who will be these guides to a new location in thought when propagation of separate hives is no longer the hive's primary question?

Perhaps from the world of the bee in its adaptiveness and evolution, we might find the key to humanity's own evolutionary next stage. As the bees produce honey, so we daily produce thought, described in the poetic words of Maurice Maeterlinck in the translated classic The Life of the Bee (1901):

"I know of no other creature that has thus been fashioned to produce this strange fluid, which we call thought, intelligence, understanding, reason, soul, spirit, cerebral power, virtue, goodness, justice, knowledge; for it has a thousand names, though only one essence. ...
A time will then come when all things will turn so naturally to good in a spirit that has given itself to the loyal desire of this simple, human duty, that the very suspicion of the possible aimlessness of its exhausting effort will only render the duty the clearer; will only add more purity, power, disinterestedness, and freedom to the ardour with which it still seeks. (p. 349-350)

Buzzzz .....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Purity of Thought

I was following a line of inquiry today in response to working with the Landlearn , Creating Sustainable Futures cards in the Oblique Inspiration series by Natalie McDonagh. The inquiry prompt from one card reads:

"What is the map engraved in your heart?"

For if we pause for a second, we each have our own map of our homeland, coastlines and own fields held in our hearts. These are not just the mental perceptions and assumptions we have of the world, those that reveal themselves in the structures and formations of society. It is the map engraved in our hearts that decides the routes and pathways we feel into.

At this mid-way point in my thesis research, having just returned from presenting overseas on thought and health, I get the indulgence of asking where is my work in the world and what does that look like for the future. It is not hard to see two themes of recurrence in the work and play that has captured my attention. Several years of working in water sustainability, examining the flows and currents within the obstacles to growth and development of organisations, the quality of thought and strategic thinking in all aspects of civil society, and my chosen sports of surfing, kayaking and scuba diving in hundreds of remote locations. Even my forest ecology project has as its focus the brook that runs through it as a life-stream providing habitats of diversity. There is a David Bohm quote that has stayed with me constantly since its first reading. It poses an evocative thought picture:

“Imagine a stream which is being polluted near the source. The people downstream don’t know about that, so they start removing bits of pollution, trying to purify their water, but perhaps introducing more pollution of another kind as they do so. What has to be done, therefore is to see this whole stream, and to get to the source of it. Somewhere, at the source of thought, it is being polluted – that is the suggestion. Pollution is being diverted into the stream, and this is happening all the time. You could say, in one sense, the wrong step was when people first started pouring it in. But the fact that we have kept on pouring it in is the main point – it’s pouring in all the time. Therefore, the source is not in time – not back in ancient times, when it may have started – but rather the source is always now. That’s what we have to look into.” ~ David Bohm

Source: Bohm, D. (1996) On Dialogue. London: Routledge. (p 57)


This it seems is the role and metaphor that is writ upon my heart. The themes of the quality of consciousness as being like water, as the body that surrounds and sustains us. The old metaphorical inquiry of asking does a fish know what water is, is made out daily for me when talking about the structures of consciousness and seeing the astounding revelation people experience when they hear about psychosystem dynamics for the first time. We may recognise and acknowledge that we are in a sea of thought. What is of distance to us conceptually is how the quality of that ocean is profoundly different in a localised way, in its currents, surges and particulates ~ and in another way is of a single purest and unchanging quality. In an allusion to Rumi's poetry, we are not one drop in a mighty ocean, but a mighty ocean's drop and 'what could be luckier than to have the ocean come to court the drop?'

As other people turn to the conservation of the marine and terrestrial aquatic environments that are the fundamental basis and last remaining bastion of our most essential ecoservices for health, I turn once more to the conservation of our psychological environments that are the fundamental basis and first contributor to the quality of our essential psychoservices for humanity's health

It may be many decades before the respect for the generative dynamics of the psychological environment catches up with the recent confirmation of how our perceptual world and our response to it potentially has an epigenetic intergenerational effect that is presently, as we think, having an impact on the future capacities of human thought. Yet, these aspects of care need to begin in one place, to immediately show up in many.

Yet for now at least ... I am going to continue to ask, not the question: "How does a fish know what water is?" ... but explore the implication of the answer, which is to understand that they already know "by the finely tuned sensitivity to the quality of what is all around, in continuously co-evolved forms, so as to have an intimate and present, if unconscious effect, on the awareness of self".

Where that takes us .. we will just have to wait and see.

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