Anyone in charge of almost any kind of organization, throwing a party, running a business, etc., will want it to build up to a point where it’s exciting, but not to where you loose control. You usually want things to approach the edge of stability, but not go over it to lose resilience. It’s fun, and in business, makes money and gets the most out of everyone.Perhaps the deep sort of common experience that explains it is playing with a water hose as a kid. The fun really begins when someone turns up the pressure and the person holding the nozzle at the time (usually one of the girls) gets scared and lets go.
It wasn’t the pressure so much that made the hose go out of control, but naturally slow reaction times in correcting minor mistakes holding it steady that multiply. Everyone flees screaming their heads off, having a wonderful time. It’s the same edge involved with the inherent thrill and danger of speed.
Playing the edge of control makes a great contest with yourself or others, and going over it in a harmless way, is often huge and memorable fun. Dangerous play, like driving ever faster up a mountain road, is huge fun too. Only those who know the fine edge of what is and is not play survive it, however.
Unfortunately our economic system does not know where that fine edge is at all. It has no brain. Over the past few centuries it’s been huge fun always exceeding our expectations, even granting that it’s been more fun for some than others. However you rate the experience, though, as operated the world economy is positively destined to go out of control.
Continually multiplying the through-put of a system necessarily leads to multiplying mistakes in controlling it, i.e. destructive consequences as critical signals multiply faster than competent responses. Where I think you can see that today is in critical issue overload. The common thread to all our competing great world problems is that they can’t be solved because people are distracted by all the other multiplying great world problems.
There are also a certain number of poignant glaring mistakes being made and going unattended. Many of us would point to one or another favorite issue, loss of security, loss of rights, rising major climate change, extinctions, etc. Some of us have long and growing lists. Here are two I’m really bothered by.
The US is attacking terrorism in a way that terrorizes the major religious community it comes from. It seems basically incorrect and profoundly dangerous. In comparison, perhaps it’s just perfectly laughable that the controlling political movement in the US is trying to restore simpler times at home by disabling government functions and shifting government debt and taxes from the rapidly growing part of the economy (investment) to the completely non-growing part (wage earning). It doesn’t fit our myth in several ways, granted, but seems to be happening. It’s totally operatic!
So this is what I think. Growth has been fun for a long time, mostly staying on the fine edge of play. That has apparently ended. There are things that can be done about it, to get the fun and fair play back, non-disruptive and highly effective things potentially, but paying a price of another kind.
It’s a new kind of physics that touches personal matters. For some it would be admitting we’re licked, when every bone in our bodies refuses, only because reason paints a vividly clear picture of the alternative. For some it would be admitting that humanity is just another living thing in the sense of having a life of growth and maturation like anything else, with no special dispensations on that part of life of any kind.
For some it would be feeling queer about the need for inventing a new kind of control strategy. We need to make a global group decision, yielding to self-interests so plainly drawn that we choose to give up what many feel is a sacred right, to passively multiply our savings, in order to retain continually evolving stable free market business and political lives.
I have an unusual vantage point, and my writings are frequently found to be unsatisfying because of it I think. It would really help me make my work more accessible if you complained about where it falls short, over-reaches, seems just plain wrong or unbalanced, or whatever. I seem to somehow have learned how to look at complex natural systems, those things where the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, from the inside and outside at the same time.
Most people just don’t recognize that things that grow even have an organizational inside. Most people don’t recognize that their own image of the world even has an outside. Yes, having a strange perspective is problematic, and a pain in some ways, but it also exposes tremendous beauty and occasionally fabulous choices where there seemed to be none before. It apparently came from and continues to be, I guess, a somewhat risky form of play.