Goo-Rue Guide to the Future

WayFinding in a world of Evolving Strange Attractors

Introduction

What the heck does that mean? Don’t worry if you suspend disbelief and meaning will emerge. While I have never been accused of making things simple I will do my best to write about complexity and foresight in ways that should be accessible. 

The Village Echo has offered me a space, an opportunity and a challenge to share in bite sized chunks my understanding of possible futures and future possibles. The future is a big place and getting bigger.

My intention is to engage in two streams of thought. One stream will be a leisurely elaboration about the future of work, identity and the digital environment. I hope that this stream of writing will help me create a first draft of a larger work that can be transformed into a book. Although I would like this elaboration to unfold in a straight-forward linear chronology, I will have to admit on the onset that this won’t be possible. Any effort to explain a complex living system in a simple narrative of beginning, middle, end is not possible. Living systems are entangled and beginningless (in the ‘turtles all the way down’ sort of way).

The other stream will be explorations of events or discussions of articles and books as they arise. Each entry will be between 500 to 1000 words, in order to avoid the ‘Too Long Didn’t Read’ (TLDR) barrier. A little about me. I suffer an undisciplined mind - by which I mean my education path has not been constrained within any one discipline. My formal education includes degrees in psychology and anthropology, and post-graduate level studies in sociology and philosophy. I have always been a free-range thinker foraging in many domains including foresight, economics, complexity and technology. I am retired after 25 years as a public servant (15 years as a strategic foresight analyst for National Defence). 

I have also been an active community volunteer in Lindenlea since 1991 and am currently focused on how we must re-imagine how we create inclusive community, housing, and work for the future. Among the many challenges of the future is the need to create conditions within which all people can find a path to creating value for themselves and others - a path beyond the traditional frame of employment and market. 

Most people should be familiar with the phrase the Future Ain’t What It Used To Be. This is not only true - but becoming ever truer - even in the age of fake news. The future is changing not only faster it is changing in the way it changes - we are living in a time of change in the conditions of change.

The simplest metaphor that helps us understand what ‘change in the conditions of change’ implies is the well known phenomena of ‘phase transitions’. Everyone knows the reality of what a phase transition is - we see this when water changes into ice. I will explain this more completely in the posts which follow.

Because the nature of the changing future is changing itself, it means we have no map. This is why I have emphasized the term ‘wayfinding’. When we have a map we are able to navigate from ‘A’ to ‘B’, considering the nature of the landscape and make corrections as required. But when the ‘environment’ is unknown (as in an ever changing future) we are reduced to ‘wayfinding’ - finding a path as we travel. Future posts will bring further clarity to this concept.

Finally, I want to touch upon the concept of ‘strange attractor’. Living systems including ecologies, cultures and societies are Complex Adaptive Systems. This means that not only is the ‘whole greater than the sum of its parts’ but that the parts are entangled as they undergo adaptive change. Each step changes the conditions of the next step. 

Even when these complex systems are stable, change within tends to follow non-linear, non-repeating paths of change - that maintain a sort of ‘family resemblance’.  

There are many types of attractors. A simple definition is a set of physical properties toward which a system tends to evolve and propagate, regardless of the starting conditions of the system. Attractors display recognizable trajectories which can be periodic or chaotic. The only constraint they have to satisfy, is remaining on their particular trajectory. An example would be the behavior of a soap bubble. No matter what the initial shape of the bubble wand is – the bubble will tend toward a perfect sphere even as it undulates and shifts as contextual conditions nudge it. Later posts will explain the concept of strange attractors in greater detail. The images below are examples of strange attractors.

                       

 

To conclude this initial post - I hope I’ve introduced myself and the key concepts with reasonable clarity. I look forward to comments and more posts.

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