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About SocioTectonics

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

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SocioTectonics — the convergence of human social behavior with certain structural and mechanical principles identified in physical geology. To the extent that an isomorphism holds (to the extent that a pattern or structure identified in one field also describes that in the other), each field might inform the other.

SocioTectonics is a term, concept and specialized branch of potential scientific inquiry I launched around 1980, eight years after the enthused acceptance by leading sociologists and historians of my initial theory of civilizations. That theory is now embodied in my book, Civilizations And Other Living Systems. Preliminary aspects of SocioTectonics are contained in my book, Toward A General Theory of Systems, which book is often paired with the first.

SocioTectonics may also be regarded as a specialty within the broader field of SocioMechanics, which seeks to identify in human social behavior counterparts to various structural and mechanical principles in physics, systems theory, physical geography and various others of the physical sciences.

SocioTectonics is thus far best known for identifying "fault lines" between massive social structures and/or various massive memes. As in geophysical tectonic plate behavior, stress accumulates along these lines of inadequately accommodated change. As in geophysical tectonic plate behavior, where slippage is easy, swarms of microquakes occur but no great quakes. Locked zones cumulatively build pressures to the point where release events are large and often deadly.

The same SocioTectonic model which predicted the sudden and startling fall of the Soviet Union, has been raising red-alert signs for the American system of education, whose precipitous but perhaps not-so-surprising breakup may be imminent.

Well-functioning democracies experience swarms of microquakes. Authoritarian and/or class-ruled societies, where change doesn't come easily, experience violent revolution. So many assumptions, however, swarm around the question of what is a "democracy," much less one that is well-functioning, that our initial smug response to or even dismissal of the question is frightfully unwarranted.

One of the best contributions we can make here is to re-examine definitions. For example, we should be able to look at a situation and reasonably assess just how much "democracy" is present, working there. But can you do this with "the rule of the people," the standard dictionary definition, as your yardstick?

One cannot.

In fact, 98% of what people say about terribly important things like "democracy," "freedom," human "equality" and the like is reflexive conditioned response, unburdened by any mediating influence by the higher, more rational functions of the brain.

Thought experiment:  Start to answer this question: "What's the best system of government?" —

Chances are, the instant you saw that question, your head was filled with all sorts of catechism and conditioned junk which not only failed to answer the question but pulled your mind away from even considering the question.

If you sat down this very moment and started writing out what occurred to you when you encountered that question here, our prediction is that you will be amazed at how little the stuff that came at you in response to that question had to do with effectively answering it — even now, after you've had a minute or so to think about this.

Under such conditions (and conditioning), is it possible to develop and entertain a rational discussion and examination of these vital quantities? We don't know if it's possible, but we must attempt it; the issues are way too important for us not to.

If we can manage here an article or so with reasonably rational propositions, and if you can manage here some rational propositions and discussions of your own, who knows but that we might, between us, arrive at fresh new insights on this utterly important topic — fresh understandings on these patterns of societal relationship and action which affect and shape everything else in our lives, our prospective future, our progeny.....everything....

A Basic Dilemma

  1. "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely," Lord Acton once told us. Wherever you have a serious imbalance in power relationships between people or between peoples: whatever the initial intentions and motivations, little short-cuts and compromises tend to happen and to accumulate, to become abuses. Long-standing deep imbalances in power relationships, however symbiotic they may or may not be in other regards, tend to be abusive and demeaning.

  2. To attain common goals and to exert public will and policy, historically we have sought to concentrate power and wealth. Through such concentrations there is much that we have been able to do, but one price we have paid for that is major and long-standing imbalances in power relationships, leading to abuses, leading to efforts to police and rectify the responsibilities inherent in those imbalanced situations, leading to further imbalance and further abuse in turn.

  3. Government and the giant corporation — "you can't live with ‘em, and you can't live without ‘em." Attempts to cut back on government, without addressing the public needs which called into being various parts of that government, have always resulted in even larger and more intrusive government. Attempts to rein in the corporation, with instruments like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act meant to block monopoly behavior, sees us now at the absolute and obscene mercy of Big Oil and other multinational corporations which wield more actual power than the nations and governments which once thought to constrain them. Friends: while we've been looking the other way, we've developed some serious problems!

  4. What amasses SocioTectonic phenomena? Throw an individual rock and you are not going to affect the eventual and remorseless movement of drifting continents, the tectonic plates of geophysical Earth. Structures lock, forces pile up ever more overwhelmingly until the locked area snaps and the continents suddenly and violently advance a little further along their destined paths. Nor, at first blush, do individuals any longer have much effect on the course of events. It seems that only if they form a counterforce, amass great money and great numbers of people behind them, can they even gain any kind of hearing for such perceptions as they might have for the great issues of common concern.

  5. Every situation evolves with some people relatively at advantage and others not.

  6. Any change in a situation means, by definition, also a change in the power relationships among people therein. Thus, more often than not, the people most at advantage in a situation may understandably be less than totally positively enthused about such a change. As situations grow to continental proportions, this reflexive resistance to change begins to create the locked zones which will become the site of future great socioquakes.

Pointing Toward Possible Solutions

Why, in a website devoted mainly to techniques for improving teaching and learning, athletic and artistic performance, problem-solving, and general abilities of the individual, are we attempting also to address these societal issues?

  1. Basic re-empowerment of the individual:  we see this as one possible path toward solution of our greater problems and problems of most general concern — problems in large part caused by the cumulative dis-empowerment of the individual before the increasingly massive forces wielded by our concentrations of wealth and power and the counterforces which attempt to offset these. If we can somehow redress some of the long-term imbalances of power, a lot of the abuses will stop; much of social and political behavior will improve; a lot of the problems of general concern will yield to solution.

  2. Most of this site is devoted to enabling all human beings who have access to the Web, through better problem-solving procedures, accelerated learning procedures, and methods for better functioning in many ways, to be empowered — empowered by becoming better equipped with effective techniques, and empowered by greatly strengthening their general ability to cope.

  3. This particular section of this site, however, is searching out a path wherein the individual may be much more directly empowered to cope with, influence, even re-direct the massive institutions and social forces which now bear upon us all so overwhelmingly.

  4. In our little thought experiment above, in answer to the question, "What is the best system of government," you likely found your head filled to overflowing with conditioned responses which not only didn't answer the question but which helped prevent you from being able to effectively answer the question and come up with fresh, useful insights. Alas, many of the topics we will attempt to address rationally here will also, at first blush, have much the same effect. Can you — and we — reach past those tidal onslaughts of conditioned response and get to where we can surprise ourselves with fresh new understandings?

  5. We also have here, at this site, the advantage of some of the best and most specific problem-solving methods in the world, self-taught step by easy specific step. We may find, along this search for ways to empower the individual, points at which to apply various of these problem-solving methods to good effect.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Our current experts and leaders are responsible for the problems we are now undergoing and/or threatened by. Do you really want to continue to put the entirety of your and our fate in their hands? And have our problems these past few years gotten any easier, or are they getting harder? What makes you think that this dire trend won't continue, if we don't turn our hand now toward solving them?

Search for Solutions

In the left-hand column below, we list and briefly describe some articles which directly seek solutions to some of the problems. In the right-hand column below we list and briefly describe other articles which provide special information bearing upon one or another aspect of SocioTectonics, including two articles on matters of physical science which have counterparts in societal issues and social dynamics. We also invite your comments as part of this effort at a rational discussion of these crucial matters.

Democracy and Freedom — What are these, really? How do they interrelate? Do we really have these and, if so, just how much do we have? This article attempts to reach beyond our conditioning, to obtain needed fresh understandings of some very key matters.

Freedom and Technology — What aspects of freedom are we in fact gaining under modern conditions and what aspects are we losing? If we understood these clearly, would we in fact be making the choices we currently are making? What is the short-term prognosis and what is the long-term prognosis for "freedom" in our society?

Five-Fold Path towards a Robust Economy — Ways to strengthen local, community, state, national or regional economies, using local resources.

Mixed Economy — This national and world solution suggests using incentives to ameliorate dislocations in the market economy. A fascinating analysis of historical economic forces.

On Incentives as a Preferred Instrument of Corporate and Public Policy — an entire online book for you here. Original techniques of incentive/equilibrium and cost/benefit analysis: Adjusting incentives as a main way to get desired things done, preferred over conventional administrative and governmental methods for improving conditions without constraining individual freedom.

Win-Win Finder — Incentive Equilibrium analysis finds solutions so both sides win.

Grassroots Solutions — Declining and falling civilizations attempt to solve their problems through central agencies and authorities. The source of real answers is at the grassroots levels, with the people themselves: us.

Complex Homeostasis — Understanding how systems behave and how they seek constantly to restore equilibrium.

Winsights No. 31, "How to Wipe Out Most Taxes in New York City, and Improve City Services at the Same Time" — a proposal for turning a million square feet of neglected and unclaimed groundspace into income-producing and revenue-producing real estate.

"Reviving Appalachia" is the subject of Winsights No. 30, outlining how incentives for slag recovery could bring this poorest of regions back to life.

Winsights No. 36, "How to Bring Lasting Peace to the Middle East" — a proposal for establishing a major, permanent U.N. headquarters on the Golan Heights.

Winsights No. 65, "A Peace Possibility Hanging Out in the Ether" — How to develop and use Japanese joint-venture trade interests in Kashmir to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan.

Winsights No. 59 outlines a bold plan for "Feeding the World" by creating low-cost, oceanic fish farms, achievable with present-day technology.

Winsights No. 53 proposes a solution for how to "Save Millions of Lives Around Bengal" and make that region prosperously productive while fending off the destructive cyclones that periodically devastate the region.

Winsights No. 38, "Frog Warming" — How to rearrange incentives as a means to restoring the global temperature balance.

Two monographs on Systems Theory — Description of two short books by Win Wenger on a general systems approach to the theory of civilizations. This work gave rise to the concept of SocioTectonics.

Reform the U.S. Patent System — A proposal to restore support and incentive to the individual inventor, involving only a very slight change in the existing patent system and none that would affect existing patents or future patents for those who wanted to continue with the present system.

Winsights No. 60, "One Destiny, or Many?" — The urgent need to pick up the pace of space development. On our one small world, what's a utopian heaven for one culture or society is hell for just about everyone else. We have to get out to where we can try out different solutions at the same time.

The Progressive Strangification of Order — The tendency, and its implications, for everything in the Universe to drift toward more and more complex agendas.

Notes toward a Unified Field Theory — A useful general model in which every aspect of humanity makes sense.

SocioMechanics — Large populations may be subject to the same forces and effects that operate on other massive systems.

Resonance Physics — A hot new science for the 21st century, centered on phenomena now studied under different names and histories in about twenty different specific physical sciences, not only acoustics. Unifying the studies of that one set of phenomena under one systematic science might reveal much which is not apparent to our splinter specialties.

Intermodulation — Towards a theory of everything——the negentropic behavior of systems. Unlike string theory, this theory can be tested at every point and at every level, and is grounded in very basic observation. This as yet undeveloped study, as does the closely parallel Resonance Physics, shows many physically based structural and functional relationships which appear to be recognizable also in SocioMechanics and SocioTectonics.


 

Even if you and we manage to rise above our conditioning and maintain a rational discussion on these important issues, most public discussions turn into a mere exchange of opinions without much listening. Some ways to make our public discussions here turn out better than that:

Overall, we need to pay more attention to current and sensitive perception, which is where new intelligence and new insights enter in. Locked in the past, our opinions are all but impervious to new data and new considerations, and new synergies find it hard to evolve. In particular:

  1. Let us pay more attention to what we are actually perceiving than to what we "know."

  2. Let us adopt "the Support-First Rule" — Before we slam someone's input, we first find something meaningful in it that we can positively support. That way we reinforce each other's serious and thoughtful contributions, and get reinforced accordingly, and can still get our licks in on inputs we disagree with.

  3. Socratic-like, let us actually draw out each other's deeper and subtler awarenesses instead of immediately dismissing or slamming them.

  4. Let us frequently turn from "what we know" and opinion, to using specific problem-solving process aiming to let ourselves be surprised by what that process reveals, and report our findings and observations as perceived from that process.

Many specific methods of ingenious problem-solving are self-taught and spelled out step by step for easy use, right here in this website. A few of these include:

  • Freenoting and/or Windtunnel!, depending on whether you want to work with a notepad or with a live partner and/or audio recorder. Both processes are newer and more advanced descendants of one of the oldest creativity methods, classical "Brainstorming." These two descendants of "Brainstorming" feature a much stronger and more forcing flow to pull up new understandings.

  • DEAM and Evoked Sidebands, which subsumes it, methods discovered in 2006 and the easiest, most accessible creative problem-solving and insight-generating methods to come along in some years. Works well with just notepad, even better with a live partner along with your notepad.

  • Classical Image-Streaming used in problem-solving mode. Just ask your question, then follow the instructions provided to find yourself looking at and understanding the image coming from or through your own mind in reflexive effective answer to that question.

  • High Thinktank method, related to Image-Streaming but faster and stronger for getting at answers. This method is highly advanced, one of our more challenging methods, but has its greatest advantage with the most important problems and questions. These are the problems and questions where our "knowledge" and our conditioned junk (like that evoked by the question of "What is the best form of government?") ordinarily so get in our way that we are unable to see things afresh and get new insights where we most need them. High Thinktank is the surest way to good answers on any matter so important that positions, especially stock positions and public opinion, have already been staked out all over it.


Note — with any of these or our dozens of other specific methods: even if more accurate than answers gotten by more conventional means, these methods are still only shortcuts to the best hypothesis. Those answers still need testing and verifying, to the extent that the issues they address are important. Use good sense, test and verify — but these methods will get you to better answers than you are likely to find elsewhere or by other means.

Your tools are right here, your STARTING content is right here, your own best answers and comments can reach other good people as well if you join the discussion, email your comments to Win Wenger to be published here. Your best expert on your own situation, and a better expert than you might think on most other situations as well, including those of great and general concern, is sitting right between your ears, in your necktop computer. You are brighter than you think! Let's start and see what we can, between us, discover!

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