An invitation to some thinktanking
and do the peculiar things they do
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
... and what can some observations on this scale tell us about our own enterprises? Let's see.
For background on this topic, I heartily recommend a very absorbing read, one which has shaped my own life. In England, one of the great historians, Arnold J. Toynbee, published a multi-volume and rather encyclopedic comparative anatomy and dynamics of the various high civilizations throughout our recorded history. Named A Study of History and published by Oxford University Press, the full Study might be a bit of a challenge for those among us with a shorter attention span, but it is a classiceach time one reads it, one discovers new things being said.
You might want to start in with one of the abridgements first to see if you want to go furthereither the abridged one-volume condensation by Toynbee himself or the one which got me started in 1947, by D.C. Somervelle. Both of these were also published by Oxford University Press. Any of these works are a reward to read, for perspective and scope, for historic insights, an intellectual treat, because of the quality and language of Toynbee's writing and for his rationality in a field which has gone through entire eras lacking same.
Where Toynbee's Study connects with our focus of interest here, aside from motivating my own quest for better methods of solving problems and leading to your and my being here in this discussion, is in his description of the conditions accompanying and possibly therefore causing or helping to cause the birth and rise of civilization, the evolution of those conditions, and the conditions when entire civilizations decline and fall and literally commit suicide. These conditions can all be defined in terms of what is affecting a civilization's ability to adapt to and solve the various difficulties and problems it faces.
Toynbee's model made intelligible for me why entire civilizations go through this destructive cycle and plunge into wasteful and miserable Dark Ages, though the key part of this is where I depart from Toynbee's own opinion of why this cycle occurs. I will make that plain below. It is that very point of departure which enables me to describe for you and to release here probably the true nature of that problem and of its possible solution. It happens to have bearing on how we conduct toward success some or most of our sundry enterprises today, and so may yield some practical utility for us even this side of the more global considerations.
The best conditions prevailing when a civilization is arising and thriving, conditions which may play a causal part in the very rise of such civilization
When do YOU find it easier, or when do you think it would be easier, to solve problems:
In other words, that which caused thirty-some high civilizations prior to our own global-western civilization, in which nearly everything we value as human beings is itself existentially at stakeand which caused nearly all of our predecessor high cultures to do themselves inwas how the decision-making of each such culture got centralized as the civilization grew. The more centralized, the more the civilization became structurally incapable of solving its problems, so even a minor problem could produce the point of breakdown and launch into a Time of Troubles spiraling into Rout-Rally and ultimate downfall.
I respectfully submit that this model and discussion contains information of some value to your own endeavors as well, not only pointing to possible ways out from the trap which caused nearly every high civilization prior to our own to commit suicide by processes resembling those we see all around us today. Your business, your business empire, your social movement, your "cause," very likely could gain not only from an examination of this argument but from a good read of Toynbee's extraordinarily lucid work.
Even if the stakes now in play weren't so existential and global, here is a simpler basic model which points toward the same solution that I offer you below and invite you to help happen.
A non-Toynbeean description of how things are
How do we do this? With either model, our wish is to get these modern resources in problem-solving (and in education) to as many people as possible, as soon as possible... and as widely as possible, and across as wide as possible a range of different cultures and subcultures. How do we do that?
I have drawn up a set of suggestions how to form and conduct your own thinktank and local support group. Under today's Internet conditions, it will be easy to follow the Toynbee model and have a swarm of a good many of these differentiated, independent thinktanks too small and too separate to limit each other's actions or doings, but close enough in communications to imitate each other's successes and to avoid each other's failures.
In this perspective, relations among these independent thinktanks have to be cooperative; they are doing their own things for their own reasons even if in some instances they are drawing upon some of the same methods or addressing some or the same problems.
(Any historians among us familiar enough with the history of how each of the modern sciences began, once our natural philosophers got started on the idea that to be universally accepted, any finding should be replicable by anyone? And thence, exchanges among "men of letters" as our European Renaissance came to flower into our modern Euro-Western civilization?)
This swarm of many differentiated, independent thinktanks should operate each autonomously, free of anyone's control, including free of my own control. That, in itself, instead of anyone's particular solution to one particular cause, should suffice to both reduce our overload of complexly interacting problems and difficulties and improve the chances that the larger problems also get solved.
Either way the world gets better, and the people who come up with working solutions also harvest some practical immediate advantages by doing so. At least this is the intent of the set of suggestions I have prepared and will send to anyone who sends me their physical delivery groundmail address (since I have printed these in hardcopy), and their email address in the event that we set up an Internet forum to recapitulate in this context how most of our present modern sciences got started.
I will request, in return, though not require, that in your own attempts to implement these step-by-step suggestions, you observe, record and detail to me and/or to the rest of us, your successes and failures and how they came about. This will help evolve this assemblage of suggestions into a much smoother kit so that a far larger number and far larger range of people can take advantage of this kit and create their own, among a swarm of hundreds of diverse such thinktanks and local support groups. The resulting natural dynamics of such a set-up may well in itself constitute, not only provide, a solution to the existential question now all around us all.
To participate in this adventure, please send to Win Wenger's AOL address, with CC to Win's Yahoo address, your physical groundmail address and your email address, plus any ideas, information or suggestions you deem pertinent.
This first round of communications will be kept private, pending your telling me your decision on whether you think it a good idea to inaugurate a list-serve or other Internet forum on "Civilization & Sociotectonics." Thank you.
P.S. To explore a little of what is developing with the application of CPS methods to education, you may freely explore the Teaching & Learning section. An additional part of our reasons for wanting these thinktanks to be autonomous, and functioning each for its own reasons, is indicated in the article, Improve the Schools.
Comments to both addresses, please:
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