Communication as the problem to the answer

In answer to Groups as complex systems, excerpt from the ‘Social Dimension’ of Gaia Education’s online course in ‘Design for Sustainability’

Biological, living systems and their derivatives (groups) create themselves through self-reference and perform autopoesis. We call autopoesis “complex adaptive systems”, because they are “operationally closed”. Complex basically says, we don’t know the causes, don’t know how it works. They — and we -have no access to their working. This closure is inherent, so there is no way we’ll ever know how “it works”. When you don’t know how it works, you cannot design it, and, vice versa, living systems are self-designing systems (a.k.a. evolution). 

All adaptive behavior is communication and all communicating is behaving, they’re equivalent. Interestingly, our system of thought is also a complex adaptive system — self-referent, operationally closed (I don’t know “how I know”)  — and a way of communicating. Because we have only access to the behavior of our body through our senses and to any other system through the same senses, we communicate our own behavior on that system, through behavior by referring to our senses. Thinking then becomes a set of metaphors”, telling about sensory experience.

“Groups are also responsive to information concerning the context in which they operate and their impact on that context, and will adapt in response to feedback about the efficacy of their actions.” ( ) For instance, the use of “response” suggests such. Or: groups don’t “respond”, human beings respond. “.. Influential variables in a group can include written and unwritten norms that dictate behaviour, …) Norms don’t dictate, human beings dictate. Ideas don’t coordinate behaviour, human beings coordinate behavior through behaving. Communication “is” coordinated behavior. Language is a human made tool in order to coordinate behaviour (and a very effective and efficient one, I must say). The simplest way to coordinate behaviour is “telling” and “selling” — including, i’m afraid, “designing”. However, we cannot coordinate complex adaptive systems through telling (it has been tried for ages, the results are still negative). The idea of “designing” a better system is, i hate to say so, the “behave spontaneous”-paradox and will always lead to utopian thinking. (paradox: “wouldn’t it be great, a world without utopia’s”)

Complex adaptive systems develop themselves through strengthening their evolutionary processes of communicating. Ashby’s law (The Law of the Requiste Variety), clearly states, that the development of a (complex adaptive system) is constrained by its capacity to communicate. Communication and the constraints in communicating is — off course — part of the problem (# Communication is the problem to the answer # 10CC ).  

The constraint we’re now facing is an interesting one, a kind of limit to cooperating, induced through the problem of distributing wealth (or profit, or gains, or …) through the advancement of communicating systems (and also, that’s why “communion” is also used in sharing bread and whine — other story). On the one hand, some people profit extraordinary from the current system (“lucky free riders”, though they pose themselves as “responsible leaders”), while at the same time crucial elements remain under produced, as there seems no “profit” in them. Our human systems are at the same constraint cellular biological systems faced billions of years ago which led to the invention of RNA/DNA.

About Jan Lelie

Jan Lelie works as a facilitator in The Netherlands and Europe. He is a father of two - now grown up - children. He is a Certfied Professional Facilitator and has degrees in Business Administration and Physics. He is developing a legend of meaning.
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