Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How IS National Culture Actually Built?

Commentary by Roger Erickson

Great video here, that all citizens should see, by age 10.

How Linux is Built

We desperately need a similar video - showing how national culture is actually REBUILT - every year.

Such a video would remind all that our culture is continuously built and re-built, just like new babies are "built," after every act of sexual recombination. Cultures are complex babies where interleaved embryogenesis proceeds continuously, in a highly distributed manner. Their birth, growth, senescence and death is a biological process.

The difference between human babies and human cultures is only one of degree.* Our cultural "germ cells," as well as their recombination events, are highly distributed and nested, rather than concentrated, thereby providing a human culture with orders of magnitude more degrees of freedom than any single human of any age has. However, our demands for cultural self-regulation are also orders of magnitude higher, and those demands scale at rates that are exponentially faster than the rate of increase of our numbers alone, or even the rate of increase of our compounding group options.

You might want to compare aspects of the Linux Foundation versus the USA. Organization? Or disorganization? Both, obviously, for both. The immediately obvious point is that too few in every system study the tolerance limits inherent in their own communities. Walter Shewhart and W.E. Deming became aware of that, ~80 years ago, and described in depth how and why neglect of system-self-awareness was the dominant cause of all mis-allocation of investments. Sun Tzu recognized the same problem, over 2000 years ago, but no culture has actually mastered a scalable solution.

We could.

Well, we could if we made our students aware of the problem - and the insane payoff - and then let them set their minds to it.

In every complex system, the highest of all costs - by far - is the cost of coordination.

Hence, in every complex system, the highest return of all - by far - is the return on coordination.

Neglecting that fundamental truth is the dominant cause of erroneous investment in static assets at the expense of investment in far more more valuable dynamic assets. [Example: invest in co-employing, not constraining, people. Their coincidental widgets ALWAYS come second. Tools without an agile army always lose to an agile lacking tools. The tools are far easier to achieve than practiced group agility.]

Wherever the inflection point of cultural self-awareness lies, most organizations don't seem to have reached it, let alone maintained it. That holds for all groups, from the Linux Foundation to the entire USA.

First problem is that most organizations don't even bother to look! Cultural self-awareness is largely ignored as an enabling goal or outcome! The USMC and some War Colleges recognize the problem and it's value, but even they haven't adequately practiced solving it!

Why does systemic self-awareness and coordination always rise first among parasites, pirates and the 1%? Simply because their population is smaller, and hence their organizational requirements, are much lower. Subgroups can always act first, but they can never win ... without destroying their host. Parasites and the 1% can only perturb, then eventually succumb to, the 99%.  We have bigger things to be interested in, they don't. None of us can be anywhere near as intelligent, or imaginative, as all of us.

Yes, parasites, pirates and the 1% are always easily overwhelmed, but ONLY if the 99% actually put an ounce of effort in to coordination themselves. It doesn't take much, no more than the effort of swatting aside a blood-sucking mosquito. Ignored, however, even the lowly 1% mosquitoes can suck the divided and conquered masses dry.

* One could wonder about those people who are willing to kill to prevent abortion of a baby, but don't seem to recognize when they themselves are aborting a fledgling human culture, still trying to grow. Situational awareness is a function of practiced perceptual ability. It doesn't improve if not constantly practiced, tested and re-examined.

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