Connecting the dissident dots from…Glasgow to the Great Pyramid: a practical lesson in Complexity Theory


Long before I gained any real understanding of  complexity, systems, fractals and power laws it had struck me how very different – I choose the word in preference to “better” – the world had become!

For some time now we have had the tools to facilitate communication like we had never experienced. But there was something fundamental missing…a widespread understanding of just how to put it to “good use”.

For as long as I can remember I have believed in and advocated interdependence [even though at various times in my life I have found it difficult to practice what I preach – delegation has never been a strong point!] and worked in an industry that, patently, doesn’t get it. The financial sector thrived, grew fat, lazy and untrusted by structuring (increasingly) win/lose contracts where value was replaced by advertising, hard-sell marketing and cheap prices.

Abandoning quality for quantity; mis-selling inferior products; misrepresenting debt as credit; abusing customer loyalty and inertia; peddling the myth of financial independence and contaminating a generation…

So, as web 2.0 began to impact our lives, my reading progressed from dry business and related books, via Covey, to such as, Seth Godin, Charles Leadbetter, Clay Shirky and Nassim Taleb (Adam Werbach came later but still worthy of a mention) . In addition an array of fascinating blogs began to really convince me that there was a better way.

A paradigm shift was needed, if not imminent…my personal “tipping point” was approaching and (of course) I didn’t even know it! 

By this point “the cause” was pretty clear to me and was made clear to colleagues, business associates, family and friends. The cause was to attempt, in my own small way, to highlight how badly served the customers, clients, policyholders and citizens were by the institutions they had been brought up to trust and believe in.

OK, so this isn’t exactly news and had been going on long before I really felt I needed to do something. But I was immersed in an industry content to moan and complain privately – for fear of “financial reprisals” – rather than to act. Then things started to change. The novelty of email and mobile phones for show was beginning to wear off and the “new web” was so much more accessible…and useful.

The reality was that, for as long as it was just me [that’s the way it felt] ranting about insurers, banks and politicians, because prior to the advent of social media, contrarians were a rare breed! I was unaware there was a whole world of like-minded people ready to put these fantastic tools to work. To share ideas, work, papers. To communicate, not just about how bad things are but about how WE go about making things better: communication; conversation; collaboration; innovation… At every step of the way embracing what was required – TRANSPARENCY and TRUST.

Once THE vital missing ingredients in the prevailing business culture were identified the likelihood that the contrarians could become more than a dissident movement increased but it is still a lonely and difficult place…when your efforts are geared toward achieving for customers what regulation will never deliver in the face of “limitless” marketing budgets

THEN, the roof caved-in and all of a sudden the scale of Institutional abuses were laid bare. The truth has gradually seeped out and the bad news for tired, greedy old “Kleptocracies” hasn’t really stopped!

But still nothing has really changed. Just to illustrate how out of touch with they are with the world as it is now, they believed (many, apparently still) do, that the same old rhetoric about fairness, about community, about values, about justice…about change would be enough to appease the masses before an indecent return to BAU [business as usual]. Wealth and power intact with a staple diet for the masses of: Austerity measures, broken promises and more “blah” for good measure.

THEY did not reckon on the power of the crowd…or WikiLeaks! They assumed that, if their organisations couldn’t achieve promised returns from the new technology, then the “fault” must lie with the market or some other external factor.

WRONG! The problem was not the medium. It was the message. More importantly, it was what the message didn’t convey…the missing ingredients: TRANSPARENCY and TRUST. They chose a dimly lit path of opacity and manipulation. They have ignored the lessons of history, preferring to heap layer upon layer of crushing complexity onto the environmental foundations, cultural and social infrastructure that they have long neglected. Electing to save the, morally and financially bankrupt, economic system that feeds the elites who preside over it.

Now the “cause(s)” are as much about rediscovering the illusive ingredients. But these commodities aren’t for sale, so you can’t buy them. Even though these old, established, but tarnished, institutions have the funds it is clear that they have preferred not to pay…because the price is CHANGE and that can only begin with TRANSPARENCY. The cost is so high that they simply cannot afford it and, as is being demonstrated in Egypt, will cling on to what they have even at the expense of the considerable suffering of their people and the countless others, globally, who are connected to these events!!!

Is the For obvious reasons this and other blogs that talk about the threat of contagion and systemic risk have focussed, almost exclusively, upon financial and ecological inter-connectedness. HOWEVER, once again we see a “pattern from nature” in these Geo-Political events. The institutional model is and will continue to be under extreme pressure to change as it is the vehicle of the “elites” and in uncertain or turbulent economic times scrutiny and crit … Read More

via Get “fit for randomness” [with Ontonix UK]

That’s me got that off my chest! “And now for something completely slightly different…”

Usual superb insight from Paul Mason’s blog “Idle Scrawl” (and that prompted me to pen the above):

Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere

We’ve had revolution in Tunisia, Egypt’s Mubarak is teetering; in Yemen, Jordan and Syria suddenly protests have appeared. In Ireland young techno-savvy professionals are agitating for a “Second Republic”; in France the youth from banlieues battled police on the streets to defend the retirement rights of 60-year olds; in Greece striking and rioting have become a national pastime. And in Britain we’ve had riots and student occupations that changed the political mood.

What’s going on? What’s the wider social dynamic?…

One Response to Connecting the dissident dots from…Glasgow to the Great Pyramid: a practical lesson in Complexity Theory

  1. Nassim Taleb’s contribution “The Black Swan of Cairo”- http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/ForeignAffairs.pdf

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