Some thoughts on Freedom and responsibility
These thoughts have been roused by a series of recent events.
A recent conversation with the new leader of the local runanga (pre european inhabitants) in which he declared that they were withdrawing from a process that was set up by a different leadership of that group 11 years ago, and to which I have given over 1,000 hours and quite a bit of money. He said they were reclaiming manawhenua, to which I replied they had never lost it, and that was about the extent of the conversation.
I wasn’t prepared to say much more than that at the time, because of the emotions present in me, I didn’t trust that I would be able to control them, or that they would lead to long term positive outcomes.
That event started me thinking about mana, and about freedom.
Mana is a very complex topic, that seems to me to contain elements of freedom, elements of respect, elements of power, elements of guardianship and responsibility.
Freedom also seems to me to be a very complex topic, potentially indefinitely rescursive and intimately linked to the ideas of agency and boundaries or constraints. Freedom seems to be one side of a coin that has responsibility on the other side, and awareness giving the coin the dimensions of depth and value.
So in that context, how does the change of leadership within an organisation effect the long term commitments made by previous leadership with other organisations?
The more I thought about this, the less simple it seemed.
After my initial conversation I had felt a deep sense of betrayal, a sense of a devaluing of all the time and effort I had put into creating the agreements present.
Then I realised that in a very real sense, those agreements always were varying in strength in multiple dimensions over time and the parties involved depending on the issues present.
It took me quite a few hours to get back to really creating for myself that the future that we create is only partially determined by the past, and only to the degree that we let the past determine the commitments we bring to the eternal present. There is a very real sense in which the future we create comes out of the commitments we bring to the present, and the degrees of awareness present of the many levels of relationship implicit in all we say and do.
Yes we all have the freedom to act, to change, and such freedom is never devoid of consequence.
In our complex world, there are many layers of systems, which operate on many different time scales. Some things change very much more slowly than other things, and one can see a lot of sense and power (as well as degrees of risk in some situations) in this system of processes at vastly different time scales.
One normally thinks of geological processes happening at very long time scales, but having just lived through a 7.8 earthquake, it is very clear that sometimes those very slow processes create conditions where quite significant and lasting change happens very quickly. Large sections of ground that had been solid for many generations moving many meters in a fraction of a second. Tens of kilometers of coast where the uplift was so great that all of what was the intertidal is now dry land.
It is very clear that both individual and social processes can have similar aspects.
Caspar asked me what the costs of a particular belief were.
The more interesting question to me is the dimensional mix of costs and benefits of the notion of belief itself.
I have had over 40 years of interest in survival in the face of existential risk level threats, and a similar interest in the artificial intelligence area particular as it relates to existential risk (both as a risk in and of itself, and as a path to developing effective risk mitigation strategies).
Living through the Kaikoura earthquake has convinced me that there is no significant survival probability outside of a quite large cooperative, which if one is talking about maintaining significant technology, means essentially a planet wide cooperative.
The question, of how does one minimise the risk to individual life, while maximising the degrees of freedom available to individuals, and then apply that universally across the planet and beyond, is profound, and even with my 160+ IQ, and 50 years of interest in highly dimensional structures, my head hurts trying to get any sort of useful pattern out of the dimensional structures present.
I keep coming back to Joi Ito’s question:
“How do you participate responsibly in a system that you cannot predict and whose outcomes to your intervention are almost random?”
His response is:
Instead of bulking up and resisting failure, work up systems to recover from failure.
Here are his nine principles:
1. Disobedience over compliance
2. Pull over push
3. Compasses over maps
4. Emergence over authority
5. Learning over education
6. Resilience over strength
7. Risk over safety
8. Practice over theory
9. Systems over Objects
When interpreting these principles, they must be interpreted in a context of responsibility (however that looks to you as an individual). These principles are not any sort of excuse for irresponsible behaviour, and they do acknowledge that even the most responsible individuals and groups will make mistakes from time to time, and there will be a need for cleanup and recovery.
So many myths out there.
One myth that is having major impact is that of 10,000 hours to mastery. It is kind of true in one sense, and there is a vast distinction between mastery and competence within a more restricted field.
Most people can achieve competence to a level that will produce about 80% of output of a master within a few hours work, if what one is dealing with is a fairly coarse distinction (like driving a bulldozer over a reasonably flat surface.)
As the levels of complexity build, and the need to involve more complex elements in decision making grows, then developing such mastery takes more time.
So freedom, and responsibility, have this recursive complex nature to them.
Nothing can be certain, the boundaries are always moving, and are always context sensitive, and some situations are much more dynamic than others, and some have far higher risk profiles than others. Sometimes orders need to be followed without question, but not very often, and a wise leader will be very clear about such distinctions, and develop competencies and resilience at all levels (personal and organisation and back to all people and roles within the organisation and those impacted by the organisation).
There is a very real sense, in which rule based systems are antithetical to the development of wisdom individually. If people are taught to simply follow rules, rather than being taught what the rules are there for, and when those rules may need to be broken.
At all levels, freedom must include the ability to break rules, and such rule breaking will never be free of consequence, and if the systems are powerful the degree of consequence will be inversely proportional to the degrees of responsibility shown.
We need systems.
Systems need boundaries.
The more complex the systems, the more sensitive those boundaries need to be to the specifics of the context of the instant.
And more than systems, we need freedom, we need responsibility, we need respect, we need cooperation.
Mana seems to me to have all of those things.
Mana seems to me to be very important.
And mana seems to have a depth that can demand a lot of us.