Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Transformative Strategy

I received an email from Phil Bowermaster the other day in which he pointed out what he saw as similarities between my views on classical strategy, the evolutionary developmentalism concept John Smart writes about and the Prosumer concept I first became acquainted with in an Alvis Brigis blog post shortly after our mutual Future Blogger days.

Any of these ideas would make for a complex discussion on its own.  The idea of trying to summarize and present them in some combined form as a classical strategy holistic (I really don't like that word, but it does seem to sum up the non-linear process Sun Tzu formalized back when) presentation is an enormous challenge, one I just don't think can be clearly presented in a strictly verbal format.  To wildly mix the metaphors, it requires too much spade work to form up the foundational concepts that permit erection of the assumptions necessary to format the context from within which to extrapolate possible choices to select among so as to make an informed decision whereby to advance our individual position within the more general strategy that we are pleased to call "civilization".

In other words, this post is about calling a spade a context, or some such nonsense claptrap brilliant insight as that.

The expression "accelerating rate of change" (sometimes called exponential change) isn't really directly applicable to social constructs like "prosumer" (though it is to economics more generally), for all it has a measurable economic effect.  Intellectual constructs like economics are external to the individual person; the prosumer concept is one of individual, personal self-perception that informs how we each view the economic and other societal structures we inhabit and interact within.  I share the belief that a fundamental change in our personal and societal image of ourselves (such as that implicit to the prosumer concept) will likely be necessary for humanity to successfully adapt to the social instability caused by such a dynamic experience as an exponential rate of change would cause.  The immediate problem as I see it is to convince people that they should examine the set of personal and societal changes necessary to begin making such a transition will require, and then set about organizing to effect the process.  My personal belief as to how one might begin the former can be read here.

Moving on,  I have to say that the whole evo-devo concept John Smart (and others) writes about isn't all that compelling a proposition as of yet.  I'm convinced (indeed I would be astonished that it might ever become otherwise) that there are physical interactions and processes in this universe that humanity isn't even aware exist, never mind understand.  It doesn't strike me as unreasonable to suggest such unknown processes are expressed in such a manor as to mimic a deliberate design intent, but I think this more an effect of our ignorance of the physical universe and its controlling principles than it is of anything else.  There are lots of facts and a good deal of correlation being presented, but the absence of anything resembling measurable causation leaves me certain that this inquiry needs more development before it will begin to become useful as a factor in strategic consideration.

Phil's summation of my views as "... trying to advance one's position" gives me hope that I'm not such a desperation choice as an interview guest as I have only half-jokingly suggested in the past.  Not only is "no man is an island" a poetic truism, it's also another way of stating a strategic concept; all human beings (all independent intellects despite planet or source of origin for the more cosmic-minded reader) are unique positions within the strategic construct we are pleased to call "life".  Each such individual position has the capability to exercise independent choice as to action taken, but does so from within an interactive social construct of other positions each also acting independently (if occasionally in mutual cooperation) together.

Confused yet?

Classical strategy is the premise that we must make semi-informed choices of action, which we base upon the sometimes-measurable effects of the physical universe within which we exist.  Strategy never has offered a certainty of result, nor can it ever do so; what strategy does is provide a matrix of measurable cause-and-effect relationships upon which the individual can develop a course of action and re-action having a predictable outcome somewhat more likely than that allowed for by pure chance.  The more we each can know about our universe (both in total as well as in detail - the macro as well as the often seemingly contrarily structured micro/nano levels if you will), the better we can make use of the principles embodied in classical strategy.  The more our technology advances, the better we might become at predictably applying those principles.

Classical strategy doesn't offer any answers to our questions.  It does offer a proven platform by which we can determine the best answer we are capable of, given our limited knowledge and less-than-perfect ability to process what we do have.  It also offers a means by which to measure our belief in the reliability of the conclusions we draw based upon that known-to-be incomplete knowledge base.  Classical strategy offers proven standards by which to both acquire, and judge the trustworthiness of, newly acquired knowledge.  Unlike the practice of heuristics, which always assumes ignorance of the subject (so as not to rule out any possible answer), the principles of classical strategy provide a structure within which to itemize all known data and from which to create and validate the network effect used to advance position, which is built upon that knowledge by yourself as well as others.

From all of the foregoing, I hope to have the opportunity to talk with Phil and Stephen (and, through Erykah, my fellow members of The World Transformed commentariat)  about how modern technology might help us apply the 3500+ y/o principles of classical strategy to the problem of adapting to the demands of an exponential rate of change as well as a possible methodology to make that as seamless and un-disruptive a process as existing dominant positions will permit.

That's an interview topic I think would fit the constraints of The World Transformed interview format and in which I have some hope of holding up my end of the conversation.

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