Updated: 03/09/2003; 8:18:58 AM.
What is the nature of the new renaissance that we are experiencing?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I find it interesting that the Burning Man idea has taken off - see link to great pics by Xeni - The Burning Man is one of the oldest festivals that we have as humans. In the Horticulture period that filled the gap between the Guy's world of Hunting and the Guy's world of Farming, we had the time of the Goddess.

The King would have to die at the end of the season so that the land could rest and a new male energy could emerge to ensure a good harvest next year. In the time of his rule - he had a great time. Other versions of this had the King being torn into shreds by the women. Later versions substituted prisoners. The Druids did this and the Romans sacked the sacred grove on Angelsy to stop the practice.

On reflection most of our important festivals are linked to our past as worshippers of the natural cycle. Christmas - the winter equinox. Easter the spring equinox. Canada day or July 4th as near as to the summer equinox. Labour day close to the fall equinox. We don't need to "believe" in a story or abide by the teachings of a "book" if we link our life to nature. The reality of the cycle of nature reminds us all the time of where we are and how we fit - if we look up and notice.

If we immerse ourselves in nature, life becomes rich and juicy again - please have a look at the pictures and you will see what I mean. Much of our fear about death leaves us as we can observe how birth, growth, endings and death are part of the cycle of all things and that all things are connected. Much of our fear about being too small and insignificant goes away when we look up at the night sky and observe that we are part of this limitless universe.

We casually use the word pagan to describe a love of nature. If more of us were "Pagans" we would have a better world I think

8:18:30 AM    comment []

Friday, August 29, 2003

500 years ago the communications system in the west was owned by one organization - the church. If you wanted something in writing a monk transcribed it. Few knew how to read as a result of books being so expensive. Your network news was delivered from the pulpit. The system supported the status quo of the power of God's elect, the King and his henchmen the aristocracy and above supported the most powerful multinational enterprise the world had yet seen the church itself. The church was the largest landowner in the west at a time when land was the basis of all wealth. The barriers to competition were impossibly high.

I am sure that when Gutenberg built his first press that there was a lot of chatter about font types, about gearing and pressure and inks and about the best type of paper - the kind of geek talk that is central to all new things. This is where so much of the discourse is today about blogging - RSS etc. But the true power of the printing press was something else that went way beyond how it worked. It was how it was used that was to be important.

Within a hundred years huge numbers of people could read. It was possible to run off broadsheets - personal publishing very cheaply. So what happened as a result of this use of the new technology?

The reformation in Europe, the dissolution of the monasteries in the England the the redistribution of all that wealth to secular hands, the civil war and the end of the idea of monarchy being God's anointed. The modern world was created where new ideas based on observation - such as a new vision of the universe - could not be held back by the establishment in spite of persecution.

So this is what will happen with blogging. What blogging is, is an end run on the strangle hold of our conversation and on our mindset that the corporate and institutional world has established. Until now the costs of having a human voice were set impossibly high. Only Rupert Murdoch or a government could play. But now communication costs are ridiculously low compared to the mainstream media and communications in corporations and government. Not only are the costs low but the interactive element of blogging is so much more powerful than the broadcast technique owned by the institutions. Any one of us can have a voice and groups can have power.Institutions are frightened of this voice and will fight it because it means that they will die as a result.

As at the time of the reformation - the general adoption of blogging tools  will lead to the overthrow of the corporate and the institutional mind. In so doing it will release the vast treasure that it locked up in the costs of corporate and institutional  life. It will free men and women from being peons in a feudal state where they had to live as liege men and offer fealty to their overlords.

We are not only oppressed by those in power in institutional life, we, like medieval peasant, are complicit. We know of no other life. Knowing no other life, like those in Plato's cave, we cannot imagine what freedom from institutional life might be like. We fear freedom because we see no alternative to bondage.

Even simple blogging can help here. It offers for the first time to each of us the potential to find our voice. At first maybe to tell the world what we had for breakfast or to recall some work idea. But I have found in myself a huge change in the last year in my inner voice and in the confidence as I discover that I am not alone in how I think.

Until now people who think as I do have struggled alone. We are by nature are not joiners. Fewer of us every day work in institutional life and cannot use that voice. What "organ" do we have to speak with a human voice? Blogging By finding so many of us out there, we grow in confidence and our voice becomes less hesitant. I feel wonder as I read new blogs every week and see how close our thinking is. This is how power is created

Technical talk is helpful. It leads to better tools. But let's talk more about how we will use blogging to change our world. It is not about making the corporation better - this type of discussion would be the same as a group of monks talking about how printing was going to help the church. It is about how to we take the institution out of our lives.

(Thanks to Dave Pollard for getting me going this week)

11:14:24 AM    comment []

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

As the debate about Gay Marriage builds, I wonder what is the "natural state of marriage". Much of what I read in our local paper righteously informs me that Jesus, God and the church determine what marriage is all about. In short in this view, marriage is a union of one man and one woman whose role is to have children.

Just for fun, let's explore the history of the union of adults a bit further than the few thousand year perspective that the CW allows for.

For most of the 4 million years that humans and our predecessors have been around, our primary social unit has not been a union of two adults of opposite sex but a small tribe of between 15 and 25. 25 appears to be the optimal size with the right threshold of complexity for survival. These tribes were in turn linked into their surrounding tribes into "nations" of about 150. These in turn were linked into federations of around 500-600. Why these numbers?

The Math of Genetics - There is also a genetic link to group size and Magic Numbers.

A person living alone has a "half life " of about one year. Set ups of one lose half their number in one year, half in the next and so on. Living alone is a very weak strategy in a natural environment where there are many risks and challenges. Today the power of the state is encouraging us to live this way - the state is the dependency creating family and its not a healthy relationship.

The half life of a group of 5 is a generation or about 20-40 years

The half life of 25 people is 250-500 years. 25 seems to be an ideal blend of comfort and complexity. A company that lasted 250 years would be a remarkable organizations. In a tribe about half a group of 25 would be adults - say about 8 men and women - now we see the core underlying magic number revealed. It is the ideal single sex work group derived from the ideal familial work group, the tribe.

The 500 person group is the ideal "marriage gene pool" Incest taboos prevent breeding in the 25 person tribe. Wives and husbands have to be found outside this group. But not too far outside. After all we don't want our daughter to mary a stranger or worse someone who cannot add wealth by his connections. We also want them to speak the same language and worship the same Gods. So being close means that we can enter your wife's family hunting ground and that it creates the potential to have large scale group hunts on occasion. 475 people = the ideal gene pool of 19 x 25 member bands.

Dave Pollard writes eloquently about how great it would be to live/work in a group whose sole aim would be mutual support - this is what this tribal set up was all about.

The reality is then that for most of human time, we lived not in units of two adults but in social units of 25 that include about 8 adults. The purpose of this tribal unit was obviously to raise the next generation but to do so in the context of doing all of the related work as a large team. This was above all a social and economic unit.

There was no clear line between work, play and society. No Work/Life balance issues here. Belonging to the tribe and having a tribe that functioned well was in every member's survival interests. No individual was safe on their own. No child could depend solely on her natural parents. They needed the power of the larger group. If we are honest with ourselves, this issue of safety and the need for a support group has not changed. The game can disappear - we are fired. Partners and children die. Our kids need a job. We get injured or sick. In our diminished social world, we now look mainly to the state or to insurance companies for the benefits of the protection of the group. The most important unit in our history was not the "family", it did not exist, but the tribe.

Ah but you have left out the best bits you say. So what about men and women and sex? Any study of primal people tells us that there are many arrangements for how sex was accommodated. There are tribes where the big man has most access to most women. There are matriarchal tribes where the power and the choice is in the hands of the women. There are tribes where most of the sex is homosexual and where mating for children is a by product. In most tribes your own gender is where your primary social and affection relationships reside.

My point? The tribe is sacrosanct - sex and sex partner rules are diverse. The point of the tribe is to raise children not simply to produce them. No two parents in a tribe focus on only their own offspring. They look after all the children as do all the other adults. With all property belonging to all members, there is no need to make a strong link of who was the father.

So where does this leave us now?

The reality is that most so called families are now one adult organizations lead by a woman. This is as small and as vulnerable a unit as is possible. Even with two parents, most are so stressed out at work that they have little energy for their children. We see the results in grade 1 when 30% of the kids have behaviour problems that are so overwhelming that they are unlikely to make it through school. Many families are blended but are so hooked into the CW that they blame the other for the breakdown and have little or no contact. So the children can be cut off from Grandparents and are shuttled between warring parents. Many blended families have the potential to be tribes if only the warring parents could see through their anger and see the potential.

Our view of jobs has meant that work and social life have been split apart and we vainly try and find a balance. Our social structures have been destroyed. In desperation we turn to the state or to the company benefits plan or help for those times when we as individuals cannot help ourselves. .

What marriage really means now is a legal construct by which the benefits of the state and from insurance companies, pensions etc, can pass from one party to a related party. This is what most Gay couples want - legal recognition and access to the state and company tribal benefits.

The church is fixated on sex. No surprise that this is its own weakness. The church assumes that we organize around sex which makes the conventional marriage the central organizational unit. BUT the observed fact is that humans do not naturally organize around sex - we organize around work and survival. Human social organizations are not built for procreation but to raise children so that they can take over the leadership of the tribe. Sex is not why my Gay friends want the recognition of their union. They want the protection of the state tribe. Most importantly, they want to be able to raise children so that they too have the ultimate benefit of dying in the knowledge that they have raised good people who will remember them as their ancestors.

8:46:38 AM    comment []

A theme of my posting is to examine why so many people today are so deeply unhappy about their work life. Recently I have been looking at our need to have a higher purpose and at our need to have a more collegial relationship in the hierarchy.

I have posted two great articles by Ross Mayfield below because it seems clear to me that we have another basic flaw in how we organize - except for the military who have never forgotten - we are mainly are ignorant of the inherent numbers and structures that facilitate the optimal human relationships.

I bet also a dinner that there is not a text book on HR that talks about natural networks as opposed to formal departments and which then includes the theory of magic numbers for optimal relationships. My bet is that organizational theory today is an artificial construct just like the Ptolemaic view of the Universe. What is really on the table here is another Copernican revolution for organization based, now as then, on observation of reality that we are humans rather than acceptance of a  doctrine based on the hope that we are machines. .

7:41:14 AM    comment []

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I am reading Simon Singh brilliant book on Maths "Fermat's Enigma". (See link) Fermat's problem is based on the one equation that even the most dunce maths brain such as my own understand - in a right angled triangle, the Square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the square of the two other sides. - Fermat's problem is based on this simple equation. But that is not my point today. My point is that Pythagoras was struck by how the natural world, such as music and so on, was run by a series of numbers. Numbers can be found at the core of most natural phenomena and relationships. Did you know that you can calculate the actual length of a river by multiplying its crow's length, the point to point, by Pi (3.14)? How weird!

My aha for today is that, why should not human relationships be also governed by numbers? If so, we  are underplaying the importance of magic numbers. Why are nurses so unhappy? Might it be that they go to work as groups and not as teams governed by the rules of magic numbers? Why is there bullying at school? Might it be that we do not organize them by using magic numbers? Why do many of our social and work organizations need so much bureaucracy? May it be that we do not use Magic Numbers. Why do all armies have the same core organizational structures of 8 - 15 - 35 -150 and 500-600? Might it be that they have found out intuitively that these sets work best under stress. Why are all HG groups functions of 15 and 35.? Why are larger tribal groups not more than 500? Why is 150 such a perfect number for getting complex work done?

I am beginning to feel that much of the inhumanity and stress in our work place is the machine culture that pays no attention to these hard numbers.


2:54:21 PM    comment []

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Project Management and Horses.

Project Management and Horses.

Spotted this gem on Anders site:

The tribal wisdoms of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that 'when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount'. However, in many companies as well as in the UN and NGO community a range of far more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Changing riders

2. Appointing a committee to study the horse ...

It just gets better from there.

[High Context]

It does.

[McGee's Musings]

And we think that we are so civilized and clever!

6:16:06 PM    comment []

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I was being interviewed today by a PHD Student who is working on the topic of Communities of Practice. We had a bit of an aha that I wanted to share

It appears that the corporate model that most of us work in now squeezes out our humanity. We develop machine relationships - even odd corporate voices - not simply a use of lanaguage that is not human as described in Cluetrain, but a manner of speaking a "dead sound" where our real personality has been excluded as has emotion and feeling.

This machine world is causing us to become ill and depressed. I speculate that as we assume this corporate personality that it takes over our whole life and affects our marriages and our relationships with our children.

No wonder marriage is failing and our children are in such trouble. We act in this impersonal and unreal way in our whole lives. We even act like this to ourselves and no longer have a real relationships with ourselves.

How can we learn and experience being human again? What is the essence of being human? It is surely to hear our real voice. What does blogging do? It allows many of us to develop this voice. Blogging can enable us to become human again.

Not a small issue.


6:43:05 PM    comment []

Sunday, July 06, 2003

I wonder - have we become trapped in a type of culture that has turned us into Neanderthals? What do I mean by this weird statement?

I wrote yesterday

"Remember that we think that complex language was an adaptation to hunting on the savannah and hence was our start as homo sapiens - the tool maker. Our new ability to learn across tribes and across time, rather than only directly face to face in present time,  gave us the ability to adapt to changes in the environment by using culture not biology.

Neanderthal did not innovate. In 200,000 years his tools' set did not change much. He could not cope with the invasion of Homo sapiens and was extinct within 1,000 years of first contact. With no complex language he could not communicate ideas in the abstract. He therefore could not cross tribal barriers. With no complex language he could not recall the past nor imagine the future. He could only work in the context of the present.

We are like that today.

In the modern organization there is no allowance for cross tribal discussion. Instead of looking across, we look up and down. This is also true of our learning organizations such as Universities. University departments are trapped inside their disciplines and find cross disciplinary work very challenging. Yet we know that the breakout in human potential came as a result of using complex language to look across boundaries. Innovation seems to demand a diverse perspective. As one human tribe found a new way to make a tool - the horizontal links drove not only adoption but improvement. Recursive loops between tribes accelerated the improvements.

In the modern organization, and in political life, we live in a fixed present - the life cycle of a CEO or an administration. There is a denigration of the past. We puff up our selves by dismissing the work of the predecessors. Because we do not look to enough to the past, we fail to see the patterns available there that tell us why and how we are in the present. Consequently, we cannot see the systemic causes of current problems. So, instead, we look for simple cause and effect - a view of causality that does not exist in the natural world. We not only do not look at the context of the past, but we seem incapable of imagining the future. Our days and minds are filled with the crises of the present. So we, like Neanderthal, are trapped in the present unable to move .

We have been trapped by a cultural meme that has turned us into Neanderthals.

So what is the way out? I think that social software will be like complex language. It offers us the chance to cope with our challenges by once again opening up the context of the past so that we can see the patterns. It  re-attaches us to the power of the future to pull us forward. How does it do this? By opening up the horizontal channels and by opening up time again.

Is blogging an evolutionary tool?

1:12:24 PM    comment []

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