Sensemaking with Daniel

Daniel Schmachtenberger’s Facebook post

[ 12/6/20 Daniel linked to 2 videos – saying we must watch both:



Both demonstrate classic failure modalities in sensemaking.

Both oversimplify complex situations.

You cannot simplify a person down to good and evil, right and wrong.

We all contain multiple levels of complex motivations all the time.

What gets to express in any real situation is always the result of the superposition of thousands of different potentials, modulated through the perceived contexts (which are themselves deeply complex sets of discriminator functions and selected biases without which we could make no sense at all of the deep complexity that we are and within which we exist).

Trying to simplify any person or situation down to a binary – good/bad, right/wrong, good/evil, friend/foe – is a failure to comprehend the complexity present.

Understanding why people consistently do such things requires understanding the evolutionary drivers to produce rapid assessments of situations and the selection of a survivable response under stress. Understanding how and why our brains do that is important.

Understanding the evolutionary drivers behind the many levels of cultural constructs present in our complex society is important, and cannot be simplified down to binaries like true/false, good/bad.

Any response that contains such simple binaries is necessarily wrong, and is necessarily a failure modality.

Complexity and diversity demand of us that we accept infinities.

Infinities cannot be reduced to binaries.

Yet faced with the need to make rapid responses all human brains do in fact reduce complexity to simple binaries – it is a totally subconscious process, and it happens at every level of perception, model construction, and evaluation.

The systems that construct our experiential reality do it for us, without any conscious input on our part.

Urgency (and or stress) demand it of us.

It is hard coded into the physiology of brain – all levels of living systems – no other logical option available.

When we have social and political structures that attempt to reduce all complex constructs to good/bad or right/wrong – we are in a systemic failure trap.

When we have economic and political and religious incentive structures that force such failure modalities (by creating and maintaining stressful situations) we are in a failure trap.

The only way out is accepting that binaries are not applicable.

We may need to make rapid decisions from time to time, and we need to accept that in doing so in complex and novel contexts we are doing something that is a very close approximation to random (not “True”, not “Right”, just essentially random).

We need to avoid such situations if at all possible.

Random search has a valid place in any strategic environment, and that is a deeply complex topic.

One thing that comes out of all of this, beyond any trace of reasonable doubt, is that our existing social and economic systems are no longer reasonable heuristics in the context we find ourselves, and need to be fundamentally reformed. And that is a very deeply complex subject, that cannot be approached with binary notions (like right/wrong, good/bad).

The only approach that works in such complexity is an iterative one that demands of each and every one of us that we accept diversity and uncertainty, and in the face of knowing that we will make mistakes from time to time, we use all the powers of our complex brains to make our best guesses at what being accepting, loving and socially and ecologically responsible actually looks like to us – personally, irrespective of what anyone else thinks or believes. And that is always hard – as parts of our brains are tuned to social agreement with others.

Daniel does a great job of many aspects of approaching that complexity – and it is deeply more complex than anything I have heard him explicitly approach to date.

People under stress cannot hear such complexity.

Whatever is said or written will be reduced to a binary, and assessed as right/wrong, good/bad.

Those of us who are capable of altering systemic patterns must do so to create contexts that are as stress free as possible, if we are to get real systemic change.

And in doing so we must do so from a place of respect for individual life, individual liberty, and must reinforce the notions of social and ecological responsibility, and to the best of our abilities do so from a position that accepts that we are in a reality with at least 15 levels of complex adaptive systems, and sometimes 20+ levels; and that some of the communications may have 10+ levels of abstraction encoded within them.

And we cannot ignore the hard won lessons from history that are encoded in many levels of our biology and culture, and nor can we be entirely constrained by them. We must give them due respect and attention, while still being able to responsibly express our creativity.

Communicating even second order abstractions is extremely difficult and uncertain. Any beyond 3 is going to occur as essentially random noise to most.

Yet that is the reality of our present existence.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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