Monday, April 13, 2009

A System of Future Planning.

Unlike last week, this post is not about developing a model for decision making (more on that later), but rather my thoughts on the future of this blog.  No giant changes in store, I’ve just been thinking about what to write about next, and part way through my thinking I decided it would be best to make this process itself into a post. 

In part, that’s because, at a meta-level, the purpose of this blog is as a tool for my own use.  This blog serves as a development platform for my own thinking—it forces me to keep thinking in order to meet my self-imposed weekly publishing schedule; it forces me to put my thinking in at least semi-coherent form; it allows me to get feedback from a very interesting, diverse, and intelligent group of people all over the world; and it gives me a platform to engage in dialogue with these and other groups of people in many different contexts (through The Oil Drum, at conferences, by discussions in blogs that I find through links to this site, etc.).  All the while, I get at least the occasional feeling that I’m reciprocating by helping others with the same process of intellectual development with which they help me.  That’s pretty amazing when you think about it—this is a process that was historically available to only a very select and lucky few who lived in the right place, at the right time, with the right friends:  a few elites among medieval religious orders (which reminds me of the prayer "God, give me chastity and give me constancy, but please Lord don't give it to me quite yet), the “moveable feast” of Fin-de-Ciecle Paris, the RAW/Timothy Leary/Hakim Bey network (beginning to show signs of a dispersed and mobile network, but certainly not “open”), Aldous Huxley’s Los Angeles circle, etc.  Today it’s available to anyone with access to the internet. 

Which leads me to my thoughts on where this blog is going.  This starts with what I want from this blog:  discussion and exposition of ideas on topics that interest me 1) where I have something original to add and 2) that is important to many individuals if not humanity in general.  I don’t want to be a news aggregator—many others are already doing that, and probably much better than I would.  Commentary on news items, something I do engage in on occasion, is something I hope to do less of, though there’s a fine line between the analysis of a phenomenon as reflected in several news stories and simple news commentary.  What I want to do is write stand-alone essays providing critical analysis from a systems-thinking perspective and provide novel system-oriented proposals for the future.  This, of course, can be a bit difficult on a weekly basis, so I will probably increase the practice I’ve used frequently in the past of publishing a series over several weeks to cover a given idea.  In the next post is a brief recap of some of the core analyses and proposals I’ve made so far, my thoughts on where these previous ideas need to go next, and in an interim conclusion, a post with a list of ideas I hope to explore in the future.  I’m not writing this just to see my thoughts turned into words—there are two goals here:  1) in keeping with the intent of this blog to be a meta-tool for my own thinking, these post force me to compose my thoughts on this topic in a more coherent manner; and 2) to solicit feedback (either via email or in the comments, as usual) on these ideas.   

However, before I delve into the details, there’s one more purpose of compiling these lists:  to evaluate whether they have done anything, either for my self or for a broader community.  I’ll comment more on this later, but have the ideas I’ve previously written about gained any traction?  Have they moved me or others to take action that would not have been taken without these posts?  Have they spurred anyone else to thoughts that have had an impact?  And, of course, my future writing plans must be influenced by these answers.  My goal, to the extent that this blog is a tool for my own thinking, is to impact my own life.  I’m increasingly of the opinion that “we” as a society will not take the steps necessary to “solve” our problems, so is there any broader value to my writing, or am I just entertaining myself while shaping my own plans?  Is there value in shaping the plans of others even though they will never constitute the mainstream or the power elite?  Should I, in fact, with it no other way (as I tend to think)?  What, specifically, is the broader value of this blog (which, it seems, must be one of my future topics…)? 

Your thoughts are not just permitted (the comments are always open), but encouraged.  If you have read this blog for one day or for years, I'd love to hear what you think of it, if it has been of value, if I'm drifting off course, and what that course should be.  Or even if you just have topic suggestions.  As always, I take comments and emails at jsvail@gmail.com and do my best to respond directly to all (though last week's 34 was a bit overwhelming, especially since I'm preparing for trial this week)...

17 comments:

Neven said...

Jeff,

I was planning on sending you an e-mail to ask how you incorporate all your ideas into your daily life. It is my own personal experience that once I have digested some idea or theory and followed it to its logical conclusions, I have to act on it, whether it has any impact on or use in the grand scheme of things or not. Like Confucius said: 'To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.'

I haven't sent you the e-mail because I figured you'd be busy enough as it is, which I gathered from this post seems to be the case. :-)

I've been reading a lot here since a month or two and what this blog has done for me mainly, is put into words what I more or less already had concluded myself. But with more details, more coherent thinking and more content. It was quite exciting at first to see someone follow the exact line of thinking I was conducting. The Problem of Growth-series really blew my mind that way. It was like: 'Wow, I would've written the exact same thing if I'd be smarter or have more time!'

The theory is there, I've got it, and right now I'm about to put it into practice. I have moved with my family quite a long way from home to a place where we hopefully have the space and financial possibilities to start getting more and more self-sufficient and work towards a future sustainable society. It doesn't really matter if this society will come about or not, whether at all it is even possible given humanity's relatively low level of consciousness. By letting go of the old thinking and the destructive system it created, and by creatively looking for solutions, we give ourselves the best chance of reaching self-actualisation. You hit two fighter jets with one stone, so to speak.

So now I come here to see where you are in your thinking. You're ahead of me and by reading your stuff my own thinking speeds up considerably, which saves time. I also come here because there are always interesting links or comments that I can use to stay inspired and awake.

My only problem with this blog is that it inspires me so much to start acting that I get frustrated that we haven't found the place yet to start things up! We'll have to find it before the end of summer. As much as I enjoy reading this blog and other stuff, it's time for me to get my hands dirty. Sitting behind the computer all day (mostly due to my job) and thus being dependent on the system that corrupts our world and minds isn't the way to go for me.

I hope my personal experience of your blog inspires you to continue digging, exploring and rehashing. That way I can return the favour a bit. Maybe I'll send that mail some other time.

Neven

ps This blog also partly inspired me to team up with a friend and start a wiki that revolves around solutions for the global problems we currently face. I've summarised your Problem of Growth-series there (for my own use mainly).

Nick said...

Jeff,
I have read your blog for over a year and have found myself continually compelled to consider your ideas and views.

I have wondered before what my worldview would look like right now had I not encountered your work and the work of your peers (John Robb, 4th gen warfare, and others)

What seems interesting in my case is that I have only been formally educated in engineering and had zero formal education in politics, government, and warfare. What attracted me here was my interest in our energy problem and my realization that it is in many ways an orginizational problem of our current form of the state. So the rhizome theory seemed to compelling for me not to really soak in. While doing this though I also feel that my worldview has been bootstraped up by all the high level geopolitical, and energy topics that are discussed here. This is something that is no doubt uniquely and internet phenomena and a definite map changer. I mean after all I am living in rural Wisconsin and don't exactly find this level of conversation at the local coffee shop.

As great as this high level view is I do often wonder about all the "holes" my thinking prbably has as a result of extracting it from mainly virtual sources. It just seems that what is really needed is live conversation and dialogue to take peer to peer evolution to its maximum.

I have tried to put some of this theory into action. I become involved in openfarmtech.org As brilliant as this project is it is a little ways off from providing the financial support I need to service student loans. So now I'm looking to balance my sustainable technology efforts with a part time farm job. What is interesting is that the area of wisconsin I am in is seemingly trending towards rhizomatic order without any one person even being aware of this concept. Which only supports the idea that it is an emergent order. The small scale local resilent idea is a common goal amongst groups from far sides of the spectrum. I know ultra conservative farmers heading that direction to get by, liberal doctors looking for the holistic lifestyle, and lots in between.

Despite all these trend lines I am not aware of any communties or groups approaching a high level of sufficiency or resilency. How do we speed the development of them, or perhaps they must emerge more organically? In any case I hope you keep up the blog and look forward to continued reading of the material here.

Neven,
Do you have a link to the wiki you are developing?

Nick said...

OK one more idea I just had to post. What if to facilate deeper discussions there was maybe an optional weekly conference call associated with this blog?

Someone with a fairly high level of involvement and understanding could moderate and write up discussion points and anyone else could join in. I believe this could be done with a skype channel.

Understandably the author might not have the time to participate, but even so I think it could really help shape and evolve the blog feedback in deeper ways. Any thoughts ideas on this?

Eadwacer said...

Jeff
I've been following you via bookmarks/RSS feed for a couple of years now. About the only thing I'd suggest is that you might start incorporating more explicit systems ideas in your work. For example, much of what you write about could be categorized as Systems Dynamics, but you don't talk about SD as such.

Theo_musher said...

Jeff, here is my feedback:
Jeff Vail's blog

Jeremy said...

Jeff,

I think your idea of Rhizome community is extremely important and something you don't hear from other sources. While I share your belief that significant action will not be taken to head off and prepare for the problems that are coming, I think once they are here these sort of communities will emerge and your thinking in this area will then be very useful.

Jeremy Hickerson, Salem Oregon

TH in SoC said...

I think your blog and your ideas are quite valuable. The fact that you are trying to solve problems that the elites and the mainstream deny or ignore should not discourage you. I agree with you that the problems we face now will probably not be addressed by either the mainstream or the elites. However, clear-eyed individuals and small groups of forward-thinking people will be more receptive and more likely to take appropriate action.

gaiasdaughter said...

I am a new reader to your blog but I am always impressed with your sharp, analytical analyses. We have such different minds and yet often you express what I've been thinking in my own muddled way. I often recommend your website to friends who are turned off by 'hippies' and 'new-agers' but are impressed by your credentials and your focused logic.

I don't believe civilization as a whole is ready to embrace fundamental change just yet, but as we broadcast seeds of a new paradigm, some will surely take root and grow. Hopefully, when conditions are right, the seeds that have been lying dormant will find fertile ground.

Lonnie said...

Jeff,

I am new to your blog and find your insights match a lot of my own thoughts. Being unable to articulate as well as you and a person of few words, I would like to try and contribute here in my own limited way. Possibly, you are planting the seeds for some individuals and groups to come together and create ‘solutions’.

Two things come to mind which create an obstacle to change, regarding a conscious and deliberate progression to Rhizome. Just simplifications of what you have already postulated.

Aesthetics and semantics.

This site, similar sites like TOD and for that matter the general public throw around terms like ‘hippie’, ‘green’, ‘commune’, ‘sustainable’, ‘mainstream’, ‘right wing’, ‘left wing’ and the list goes on and on. This labeling and mislabeling has the effect of handicapping positive development (development…there’s another one) for the masses.

Not only are most of us lulled into thinking that all will be fine if we recycle, reuse, buy green, create sustainability, blah, blah, blah, while subsequently we are generally repelled at the thought of living like dirty hippies in a commune.

Somehow, a new lexicon needs to evolve that disassociates the wrong positive and negative connotations that cripple the ability to pursue the logical next path.

Dirty hippie communes need to become sexy.

Jeff Vail said...

So... needless to say the best of intentions have not magically created the time I need to respond to all of these thoughtful comments. I *will* respond to all of them, but probably not until late next week. I have a civil trial starting Monday, and will be doing nothing else until that wraps up.

rich said...

Hi Jeff

While family and life has taken me away somewhat from reading your blog as regularly in the past, it's still always a refreshing treat to read. While my personal preference for your topics tends towards the concrete examples (Hamlet Economy comes to mind), your thoughts on our current and future conditions are always refreshing, clear, and welcomed. Whatever you end up writing on, I'll be reading, if somewhat late to the table.

Best to you and your family

Rich

Theo_musher said...

Jeff,

This might be helpful too as far as future direction. Being a pundit has its drawbacks.

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