HOW TO READ A BOOK: ANALYTICAL
“You have to break it up between its form and its function. What looks and behaves like the memory crystals versus what has sci-fi promised us about storage. Our principals of what constitutes massive storage keeps going up, and up, and up.” - Chris Noessel
"We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too"
-Senior advisor to George W. Bush, 2004
Gellner’s assertion that ‘The way in which time and its horizons are conceived is
generally connected with the way the society understands and justifies itself’ (1964: 1)
Every language in the world has a way in its grammar to express direct causation: a local application of force that has a local effect in place and time. You pick up a glass of water and drink it: direct causation. You bomb a hospital, destroying it and killing those inside: direct causation.
No language in the world has a way in its grammar to express systemic causation. You drill a lot more oil, burn a lot more gas, put a lot more CO2 in the air, the earth’s atmosphere heats up, more moisture evaporates from the oceans yielding bigger storms in certain places and more droughts and fires in other places: systemic causation. The world ecology is a system — like the world economy and the human brain.
From infanthood on we experience simple, direct causation. We see direct causation all around us: if we push a toy, it topples over; if our mother turns a knob on the oven, flames emerge. And so on. The same is not true of systemic causation. Systemic causation cannot be experienced directly. It has to be learned, its cases studied, and repeated communication is necessary before it can be widely understood.
Many proposed total utopian spaces (islands cut off from
the rest of the world, per Fredric Jameson’s discussion of the utopian genre in science fiction), including, as already mentioned, OMA’s Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture (1972) and Superstudio’s planet-spanning Continuous Monument (1969), while others sought the utopian through the maximal perforation of boundaries by ludic interfaces and absolute grids, including No-Stop City (1969) or Constant’s New Babylon (1959 – 1974). The merger of cities into planetary-scale conglomerations was imagined, among others, by Constantin Dioxiadis as Ecumenopolis, a single planned urban form across the whole world, and Paolo Soleri as Arcology, enclosed megacities
rising into the lower atmosphere, so large that they constitute their own ecosystems. The impetus for these massive, even planetary-scale architectural propositions may be a positive or negative reaction to the Buckminster Fullerian vision of Spaceship Earth as a single design problem, and attempts to see the whole of society in terms of the whole of space (part of the desire for totality important to Jamesonian utopian desire and dystopian anxiety). 48
"All my computer work has been about expressing, and representing, and showing interconneciton among writings especially. And writing is the process of reducing a tapestry of interconnection to a narrow sequence. And this is, in a sense, illicit, this is a wrongful compression of what should spread out. In today's computers, they've betrayed because there's no system for decent cut and paste, and they've changed the meaning of cut and paste and pretended them to be the same thing.
Humanity has no decent writing tools
When the mind wanders, the monastic theorists observed, it usually veers off into recent events. Cut back your commitments to serious stuff, and you’ll have fewer thoughts competing for your attention.
Whereas elites of the 20th century had to actually neglect, demolish, and rebuild physical buildings to manipulate the price of land, the new titans of the FIRE industry can create artificial scarcity — from Uber availability to who your roommates are — with algorithms. With the surveillance technologies built into their Toronto and Hudson Yards projects, Google does to these buildings what they made billions doing to the internet: monitoring for advertising opportunities. Meanwhile, the We Company has grown from a humble but trendy co-working space to a globe-spanning real estate empire. Their recent smart cities initiative was introduced as part of a commitment to “globalization, urbanization, and climate change”; it is easy to imagine members-only WeCities as literal oases surrounded by guarded gates to keep out climate refugees. Big tech is poised to take the inscrutable filtering and sorting methods used on your Facebook Newsfeed or your Google search results and apply them to the streetscape.
The purpose of Stage 1 is to build a foundation for change. The intended result is to develop collective readiness for change. Stage 1 incorporates three steps:
• Engage key stakeholders. This involves identifying the range of possible stakeholders and designing strategies to engage them individually and collectively.
• Establish common ground by creating initial pictures of what people want to achieve and where they are now. It is useful at this point to develop an initial shared vision of the ideal outcomes and an overview of what is and is not working now.
• Build people’s capacities to collaborate with each other. This involves developing people’s abilities to think systemically and hold productive conversations around difficult issues, as well as their underlying capacity to take responsibility for current reality.”
The purpose of Stage 2 is to help people face current reality. The intended results are to build not only a shared understanding of what is happening and why, but also acceptance of people’s responsibilities—however unwitting—for creating this reality. While it might seem logical at this point to develop a clearer and richer picture of the ideal future, Michael and I have found that digging more deeply into reality at this stage more accurately reflects many people’s desires to understand and be understood for where they are before venturing too far forward.
As Otto Scharmer observed based on his work with Ed Schein, professor emeritus of management at MIT, the primary job of leadership is to “enhance the individual and systemic capacity to see, to deeply attend to the reality that people face and enact.”
The tasks of Stage 2 are to:
• Identify people to interview about the history of the current situation and clarify what questions to ask.
• Organize and begin to improve the quality of the information.
• Develop a preliminary systems analysis of how different factors interact over time to support or undermine achievement of the vision.
• Engage people in developing their “own analysis as much as possible.
• Surface the mental models that influence how people behave.
• Create catalytic conversations that stimulate awareness, acceptance, and alternatives.”
The purpose of Stage 3 is to help people make an explicit choice in favor of what they really want. The intended result is that they consciously commit to their highest aspirations with full awareness of the costs, not just the benefits, of realizing them. The steps to achieve this result are to help stakeholders:
• Identify the case for the status quo uncovered in Stage 2—the short-term benefits of the current system such as quick fixes that work, for instance, and the immediate gratification that comes from implementing them—and the costs of changing, such as the need to make longer-term investments in effort, time, and money.
• Compare this with the case for change described in Stage 1—the benefits of change and the costs of not changing.
• Create both/and solutions that achieve the benefits of both—or be willing to make hard trade-offs between them.
• Make an explicit choice and bring it to life through a vision that illuminates what people feel called to or deeply wish to create.”
The purpose of Stage 4 is to help people bridge the gap between what they deeply care about, which they affirm in Stage 3, and where they are now as clarified in Stage 2. This final stage involves identifying leverage points and establishing a process for continuous learning and expanded engagement. Specific tasks are to:
1. Propose and refine high-leverage interventions with community input. This includes:
a. Increasing people’s awareness of how the system functions now.
b. “Rewiring” causal feedback relationships.
c. Shifting mental models.
d. Reinforcing the chosen purpose through updated goals and plans, metrics, incentives, authority structures, and funding.
2. Establish a process for continuous learning and outreach. This covers:
a. Engaging existing stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
b. Developing an implementation plan that incorporates demonstration projects as part of a long-term road map.
c. Refining the data to be gathered based on new goals and metrics.
d. Evaluating and revising the plan regularly with input from current stakeholders.
e. Expanding stakeholder involvement by tapping additional resources and scaling up what works.”