“Spooky theory” helps with wicked problems

A way to respond to experience we’re unable to articulate.

There are lots of cases when what attracts us to a theory is its sort of “spooky” truth. “Urban myths” often contain them, and science can often be the source of them, as well as cultural sayings and religion too, of course.   The value is that they give you, a way to respond to experience we’re unable to articulate.

For applying them to real world problems, however, it’s rather important to “do the work” of finding real examples you can study and articulate. What’s NOT needed is “spooky action” for real problems… ;-)  So here are a couple notes on how to find  real examples to help you apply curiously attractive metaphors and “spooky theories” to decision making about the real problems, such as our groping with finding our place on earth.    jlh

“spooky theory” then becomes a metaphor for something real you understand well enough to use as a guide.

Piercing the Veil: Markovich. Painting In Oil On Wood, 2006
    1. Spooky “biomimicry”   Sep 2012
    2. Spooky “Q.M.”               Sep 2012
    3. Spooky “chaos”            Sep 2012
    4. Steering for the organizational Lagrange Point Jul 2012
    5. Now real steering at the tipping points…! Jun 2009


1. for Greenleap 9/23/12 – “Spooky biomimicry” as “what to do”

Richard –  Ultimately “what to do” is a communal process somehow, as we’re in communal trouble.   Lots of people are seeking new directions of learning, but I can tell are often still using the blinders of the past to guide them… and not wanting to hear about it at all.    All you can offer them a more authentic way to search for new learning, hoping they’ll see it as fun.

Natural systems are the complexly organized and behaving “creatures of nature” that by definition operate without our thinking about them, or knowing anything about them, or doing anything, and are largely invisible to us.   That’s by definition “spooky nature”.   It’s also the source of all our mysterious stories about unanswered questions, and all our mysterious experiences.   What we can do with “spooky ideas” that situations suggest to us is then find an example that isn’t spooky, that we can then use as a real guide to how complex systems work and how to interact with them. – ed jlh

Accepting that we’re part of nature can let one notice that nature presents a great variety of systems design experiments for us to study, both on-going ones and in the records of the past.   Many seem to present different versions of our own growth dilemma, for example, showing how nature responded in each case and what effect it had.   People should study them for more insight into who we are, and let the fascination with it help overcome the blinders of textbook science telling us not to.   Systems are events in life and science doesn’t include a study “events”, actually.   (That was one of my first major discoveries!)

That makes “systems biomimicry” more like watching a great events of nature as how a great architect builds things, to understand her “kit of parts”, and the problems solved or not solve by them.   So the first step is to identify complex natural building processes, systems like our own that work by accumulative design, for a whole network of parts.

The “great architect” of course is the system itself, not an external force, exercising “its nature”, by adding new parts according to how they fit somehow.   That’s why I suggested we look for systems in nature that seemed to exhibit the “Priocracy” characteristics of responsibility and caring, to see how such natural systems developed.

General examples are individual business growth and adaptation stories and the great transformative events of history, but also any other kind of lasting change that begins with a “viral” process.   Such explosions of new relationships and energy use are the sign of an internally animated network exercising “its nature” as if searching for new connections.   To discuss them as natural phenomena you talk about their natural steps of accumulative change (rather what social symbols the might offer, for example).    It’s a matter of “noticing things that go zoom” and “then asking both how the zoom worked, and how that worked for it”.

One dramatic example is the change of heart exhibited by the people of Russia in the 1980’s.  The people lost faith in the Soviet Union as an institution, discrediting its authority and losing their allegiance to it by an unmentioned smaller scale social process not normally observed as being powerful.   As a result the USSR was disbanded instead of coming to an end in war.

How to discuss whole system contagion events like that as natural phenomena of “great living machines” might seem to require new science and new language.    I get a lot of my insights from a natural source, “mining natural language” for natural meaning, like the phrase “pushing it” as referring to the limits of some system of relationships.  So when “pushing it” is perceived I then ask “What’s being pushed?” as a way to begin studying the relationships involved and what’s happening.   Prefixes and suffixes also often reflect observations on complex natural relationships.

For a popular short blog post connecting some other things, also mentioning the collapse of the Soviet Union as phenomenon see #3 in Four comments “the world” liked… I also have a blog post category of “what to do” discussions, for understanding what’s happening to us as quite natural, and how to steer and adapt to it.

2. for Systems Thinking World 9/23/12  – Spooky Q.M.

@Angela – I think the inventive side of Q.M. theories are fine for generating metaphors of “spooky” reality, but Q.M. per se really only has application to the particle and sub-particle scale phenomena, and not at all directly by any means to what we call “systems”.    What you have to do to make use of them is study natural system phenomena to see where they might apply, and use them to help stretch people’s minds to recognize the otherwise invisible real behaviors of the systems we’d have to come to understand anyway to engage with them.

That said I’d say well over half of popular Q.M. philosophy is way too spooky…   I’d say 90% or more is for the excitement of describing the universe as a direct projection of human thought.    The real corollaries to that are perceptual, of course, not physical, such as having a disturbing dream and then watching it come true.

Intuition does indeed anticipate some things in a kind of magical way, but in systems terms it’s indicative  hidden kinds of organization and untraceable kinds of thinking you can’t do on command.  Deep levels of “happening” of lots of other kinds are similar is the more important systems point, as all complex systems rely on and may be changed by events on hidden scales of organization.

One easy example is the “spooky” way the people of Russia kind of just said, in unison, “Oh forget about it” and the mighty USSR was promptly forgotten about.    That represents a kind of collective disillusionment with that failing experiment, a impromptu “change of heart”.   Shared moments of disillusionment are not so uncommon, in other kinds of personal and social affairs.   It’s just rare to see them transforming gigantic nations.   We could possibly see a change of heart regarding our question for prosperity now destroying our future as well, perhaps, though it still seems as secure a belief as any there is today.


2. for Systems Thinking World, “the spooky limits of chaos theory” 9/24/12

@Lewis – You’re quite right about the need to “push yourself” to confront traps created by your own dogma.   One of the mental tricks I’ve found for helping with that is reading the emotional “push-back” or fearful doubt I get from testing a new idea.   It’s not just positive/negative issues that one can learn from.  You also get different responses for hitting a wall of rigidity (that might be shattered, tunneled under or patiently followed to an opening…) versus an inflammatory response that increases or decreases in sensitivity by testing.   Because trying to “shatter” or experiment with “inflaming” thinks is dangerous, I sometimes make little “safe rooms” where I can experiment more freely.  I might play with exaggerating them to the point of ridiculousness, for example, so neither my feelings nor reasoning feel threatened.

The idea of creativity at the edge of chaos is demonstrated for the equations of chaos theory, yes, and can be a useful metaphor.  The actual edge of real chaos for physical systems is the point of unleashing turbulence and spontaneous disordering.   That’s not a smart place to play at all and there are way more safe ways to play with new arrangements of curious parts than by threatening yourself with disaster if you don’t come up with something! ;-)    So I think the “risky experiment” aspect of real creativity depends more on whether you know, in your heart, to be on the path of truth and not really in danger.  To the appearance of others, of course, “risky experiment” of any kind is likely to seem frightening and irresponsible.

I don’t actually think mathematical chaos as a subtext of reality exists as a phenomenon in nature at all.  The theorists persistently cite the same totally irrelevant examples as characterizing the whole universe, for example.  One needs a “bullshit factor” alert device to help with things like that.    I just don’t get why they seem unaware of saying that there are timeless unchanging equations defining the behavior of radically changing environments of systems.  There’s simply no conceivable recordkeeping facility other than the changing systems themselves is there?

So, it seems rather clearly a computer toy, represented as a idea about environments not run by a computer as if operating in a computer.   In nature there is no such relationship anywhere in sight.  They treat that as an insignificant difference, as if it never occurred to them that a difference between conceptual and physical systems is that conceptual systems need a physical one to express them, but not the reverse.

Your friend Stan, as have many others, has found it “odd” that we don’t control in the world the things spawned by what we control in our minds.    For some reason neither popular nor intellectual culture took that to heart as an interesting property of nature.   Those I know of who responded to that difference produced only “flash in the pan” kinds of moments of thrilling insight that were quickly extinguished by the mainstream culture… so far.


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