Human dominion to negotiation, control out of our heads

Kathryn McCallum had said on 6/9,

I am interested in this idea of communicating the “systematic tendency to overestimate human knowledge and control…predicated on the premise of predictability” as discussed very eloquently by my friend Kate Rigby in Dancing with disaster. “It’s more like the practice of ‘contact improvisation’…”


Coming back to this, I’d entirely agree that humanity is part of nature, and just feels alienated because our minds confuse us so much. We’ve been trying to force nature into the shape of our thinking rather than work with nature, so I think discussing it as a switch from dominion to negotiation is quite appropriate.

I think the key to our reconnecting with nature, though, is being able to see *how* and has to do with recovering our ability to distinguish between our artificial worlds and the real one. I think lots of people have the desire, but just not the technique.

To me it’s clear that being confused about what is real and what is not is “in our minds”, and so an emergent property of our gift for abstract thinking. That would make it thousands of years old, but to also say that at least some basic ways of reconnecting with nature are then possible.

One starting point is with your observation that “we can predict”, but that it fools us. We can only predict based on regularities of the past, is the catch, and nature can also be very irregular.

How to have foresight about approaching “irregularities” is a large part of what my work is about. Some people call rule changing events “black swans” because they spoil our predictions.

If you consider nature’s developmental processes as themselves “rule changing events”, you can watch as their regularities directly stimulate the irregularities they invariably end in. Watching changes develop doesn’t make rare things predictable, of course, but gives you excellent hints on where, when and for what kinds of rule changing events to look for.

To generate the questions that help you find them I use the typical developmental life path for individual systems, (¸¸¸¸.•´ ¯ `•.¸¸¸¸). There is a sequence of six such rule changing events (if “black swans” is what you call them or not) in the path from beginning to end for all developmental processes. There may be other kinds of rule changes and systems, but the physics seems to say this model is useful for raising questions about the organizational innovations that originate changes in direction for systems of regular accumulation, such as growth systems.

It seems each period of irreversible developmental change (life phase) begins and ends with one. If you look for them, you won’t find them in your model of the past, though. They’re predictable exceptions to the regularities of one’s models, or “failures of the past” if you like. The catch is you have to look beyond the model to find them developing, out into the distributed processes of the physical system. You then use your certainty that change is coming to help gather clear evidence of when, where and how.

How I figured that out is by observing that change as a physical process involves physically distributed systems, that can’t possibly be in my head, and so can’t possibly be a matter of relations between the categories in my head either! Organizational innovations in physical systems are nowhere to be found in our categories, … that is, except in questions about the world around us some model of observation may stimulate.

Growth begins with a seed of organization and some free resource for it to use, for which there is no competition, a germ and a fossil source of plenty. It starts with using that resource to build up itself, becoming an explosion of new needs and relationships that take you where…. you need to negotiate, something else.   Negotiation is to become a partner of the things around you, eating only their leftovers to keep your partners alive!   I’m sure you’d agree it’s definitely not all bad to have that happen!


ed 2/14/12

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