Instead of answers, clues

In her recent post, A world without answers, Gail expounds on one of the effects of increasing rates of change and growth in complexity: Answers aren't what they used to be. So how then, as we venture into panarchy, can we utilize the incredible expertise time has accumulated, if not for answers?

An effective process through which to put "expertise" is a syntopical reading. Most often (in my experience), this is done in groups, with each person having different books or source material, and taking an hour or 90 minutes to scan and note. However, it can also be an enlightening way of thinking and engaging with ideas as an individual.

Create a dialogue with and among the authors. Don't limit them to analysis and critique - let them imagine and galumph with each other's thoughts. Use syntopical reading as a means of getting familiar with someone's ideas and the all important context and situations they rest upon... and then carrying them forward. Engage both imaginative, play-of-mind thinking as well as analytical and critical thinking.

Don't set your sights on answers. Rather, seek out clues, and explore the relationships that connect them.

I'm using syntopical reading and conversing in this way in a current exploration of paradigm shifts and other kinds of phase transitions. Gail and I recently crafted a paper touching on paradigm shifts in general but more particularly, exploring current history for compelling signs that a significant shift is unfolding, and may be on the verging on a global upcreation to borrow a term from Kevin Kelly.

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"The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient, along with the way the differently paced parts affect each other. Fast learns, slow remembers. Fast proposes, slow disposes. Fast is discontinuous, slow is continuous. Fast and small instructs slow and big by accrued innovation and occasional revolution. Slow and big controls small and fast by consrtraint and constancy. Fast gets all our attention, slow has all the power. All durable dynamic systems have this sort of structure; it is what makes them adaptable and robust."
- Brian Eno as quoted in The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand

Resilience is something I want to understand better. It is an interesting word and weaves throughout our conversations whether they are focused on health, ecosystems, economies, communities, chemistry, engineering, businesses or design.

Last year I thought about my body's resilience while undergoing surgery and chemo therapy. Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from major shocks and in the process become stronger, more adaptable. Cancer kills and chemo therapy kills cancer. Is my body strong enough to take this double whammy? Will it bounce back stronger than before cancer? Perhaps.  I can't rush it though. There is a lot of slow taking place. I have good days, good weeks, I feel solid again and then something puts the brakes on and slows me way down and says "Not so fast".  My doctors and nutritionist tell me I have another six to eight months to go before my body has woven itself back together, before slow stops nagging me with sudden nerve pains, falls, headaches, and tiredness.  Fast makes multiple trys over time to assert itself so that I feel I can do anything! It's interesting because the fast and slow parts of my essence don't seem to be working together. How do I come to know my body's resilience? Is it a matter of just biding time, eating right, exercising and sleeping well?

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Spark Card: Finding New Search Images

We are prepared to see, and we see easily, things for which our language and culture hand us ready-made labels. When those labels are lacking, even though the phenomena may be all around us, we may quite easily fail to see them at all. The perceptual attractors that we each possess are the filters through which we scan and sort reality, and thereby they determine what we perceive on high and low levels. - Douglas Hofstadter
todd_0755.jpgHofstadter's 'perceptual attractors' are what we call search images. These images are the perceptual cues we look for to identify and assess the systems that make up our world. Kevin Kelly's Out of Control, Chapter 4: Assembling Complexity, provides a great example by telling the story of what ecologist Steve Packard learned over numerous attempts to grow a prairie from scratch. He has some of the necessary search images going into his exploration, but they proved insufficient:

... He felt yet another ingredient must be missing which prevented a living system from snapping together. He started reading the botanical history of the area and studying the oddball species...

"What the heck is this?" he'd asked the botanist. "It's not in the books, it's not listed in the state catalogue of species. What is it?" The botanist had said, "I don't know. It could be a savanna blazing star, but there aren't any savannas here, so it couldn't be that. Don't know what is." What one is not looking for, one does not see.

... An epiphany of sorts overtook Packard when he watched the piles of his seed accumulate in his garage. The prairie seed mix was dry and fluffy-like grass seed. The emerging savanna seed collection, on the other hand, was "multicolored handfuls of lumpy, oozy, glop," ripe with pulpy seeds and dried fruits. Not by wind, but by animals and birds did these seeds disperse. The thing -- the system of coevolved, interlocking organisms -- he was seeking to restore was not a mere prairie, but a prairie with trees: a savanna... once Packard got a "search image" of the savanna in his mind, he began to see evidence of it everywhere.

What search images are you using to identify the key ingredients and instructions for assembling the project or venture you're working on?

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Seeing Beyond Sight

Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not as in fiction, to imagine things that are not really there, but just to comprehend those things that are there.
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law

Yesterday I heard a podcast about  blind teenagers becoming photographersTony Deifell, a teacher and photographer, has created a new book called Seeing Beyond Sight.  He  tells this story: After the photographs have been developed, we, as a class, talk about each one. I remark about what I see and the student acknowledges whether this was her intent.  Sometimes, Tony, assumes that the photographer missed the image she was trying to get.  In one such case where there was  a photograph of a sidewalk with a crack, he assumed that the creator had missed. But, the young photographer said, "No, this is what I wanted.  My cane gets caught in the crack and I trip. I want to send this picture to the city department so they can fix the crack." Tony went on to talk about the letter she wrote to the city acknowledging how they must have no idea how such a thing could be bothersome. In fact, she went on, it is only because I am blind that I notice it.  (The crack got fixed!)

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Search Images

Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not as in fiction, to imagine things that are not really there, but just to comprehend those things that are there.
-Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law

Yesterday I read that human creativity is at least 25,000 years older than we previously thought. This made me think of one of my favorite fiction books about creativity, The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel. I don't know that Auel thought that her book was about creativity; rather she was telling an incredible story of survival and emergence of a young Homo sapiens girl being raised by a Neanderthal clan. Her story was rebuked by many scientists and anthropologists and then, with more discovery, Auel's story became quite plausible and many of the ficticious parts in her stories have proven to be fact.

I have heard that 80% of inventions come from the beginner's mind.

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