A Second Interview and Conversation with Alexander Christakis
See also postscript Jan 2013 below !
Nicosia, Cyprus, July 19, 2011
My name is Heiner Benking, we are here for a Structured Dialogic Design Training Seminar in Nicosia in the UN Buffer-Zone in July 2011 and I am talking to Alexander Christakis. He is the founder of the international non-profit Institute for 21st Century Agoras (GLOBAL AGORAS) and past-president of the International Society of Systems Sciences.
I begin: Professor Christakis, in our first interview in Europe’sWorld we looked back to the origins of the work that you and your colleagues began 40 years ago, including your role in the launch of the Club of Rome. Today I am looking for your views on the current global situation – Arab Spring and the crisis in Greece, for example -- and what you feel needs to be done to cope with the mess we face today. But before we take on the global situation, please tell us a little about this Summer School and its unique opportunity as a training seminar for those who are interested in your design approach.
Christakis: Through this Institute for 21st Century Agoras we are trying to build capacity of people to solve complex problems together. Our training program is for those individuals who are looking for a science-based understanding of complex dialogue. We are basing our training on our experience with new approaches because we recognize that it is not possible to use the same dialogue process that our Athenian ancestors used 2500 years ago. As we have evolved in other areas of knowledge we feel like we need to evolve in our approach to dialogue so that we can now confront our rising complexities. This is what the training program is all about. We are building capacity for people to engage others in a science-based approach to dialogue and to enable them to talk across boundaries – to cross borders – because the problems we face are cross boundary problems. If we cannot engage in boundary-spanning dialogues we will not make important changes -- we cannot improve our situation. This year we have about 25 people in the training program. Some of these people will continue the work in their communities and in their organisations, and they will hopefully become change-agents. This is our hope.
Benking: Tell us about how this relates to the present situation here in Cyprus or in Greece.
Christakis: The complex situations that we face are called Problematiques – a situation where individual issues change over time and interact in changing ways with other issues over time. The situations are highly complex. We are facing such a situation in what we can call the Greek Economic Problematique – it is part of a broader problematique that we can call the European Conversation. Currently, however, the discussion which is taking place, in my opinion, is not deep enough … it is not seeking to get to a shared understanding of the causes of these messes. A part of the conversations are focussing on the financial break-downs and who owes money to whom, and how we are going to recover it and stuff like that. In my opinion, we should be considering the approach conceived in the Predicament of Mankind Problematique conceptualized by Hasan Ozbekhan in 1970. One of the fundamental principles of such an approach is that if we do not fundamentally change at the level of our value base then we perpetuate the present. So if we are going to address international problematiques at a local, national or global levels, we need to engage people in an authentic dialogue. I mean authentic dialogue, because the word dialogue is being used loosely all the time. People talk about dialog, but they offer a monolog – they come together and they monologue with each other. They speak without a capacity to listen and change. So my position now is that the only chance for change must come through a change in the way we hold our dialogues. It is difficult to be optimistic regardless of how much we care for people from different walks of life because political leadership tends to become trapped in a narcosis – an arrogance of self appreciation -- and they do not make the time that is needed to seriously change the way that they talk to citizens. Political leaders need to find new ways to engage with citizens and talk about the issues – otherwise we will see no fundamental changes in our value base. And without such a change, we are going to see more and more of the same behaviour that we have seen in the past. Our incapacity to respond to our problematique is a struggle and it is particularly sad for the young people.
Benking: Next year is the 40th anniversary of the report “Limits to Growth” that was produced through the Club of Rome. What are your general concerns about the impact of that report in the light of today’s developments? Is there something to be said about our capacity as the peoples to respond to prognostic futures such as were presented in the “Limits to Growth”? I realize that the report has been criticised in one respect because it lacked a futures creation element -- I am referring to Hasan Ozbekhan’s idea that “can implies ought”.
Christakis: The “Limits to Growth” was not necessarily an inappropriate effort. I do think that the way that its message was propagated limited its impact. The message wasn’t communicated effectively as a forecast of what will happen if we continue the trends of the 17th, 19th or 20thcentury without any changes in our collective behaviours. The report didn’t offer hope. It didn’t fuel a hunger for us to engage in a futures creation response. Part of the problem at the time that the report was released was that there was not enough capacity to realise that there is an alternative way of looking at things. The authors didn’t have the tools for large-scale, collaborative futures creation responses at that time. I believe that this is why the report didn’t point us in the necessary directions. Futures creation is an option for transforming the present situation into the future, and futures creation can only happen when we do draw a distinction between what ought to be done and what can be done. This brings us down to a collective consideration of our core values once again.
Most of the discussions today are focused on what can be done without reaching agreement. We are caught in the “what can” mind frame – this is a collision of good intentions about solutions. Hasan Ozbekhan said “Can implies ought,” and though we are considering what can be done, we are not organizing ourselves in ways that will lead to collective response. This is what is going on today – we do not agree upon what we can do, and so we cannot agree upon what we ought to do -- we do not get to the stage where we consider how we will act together to solve our problem. Even in my home in the US where I live in an “intentional community” we struggle through monthly community meetings without reaching agreement on our intentions for current action. Even in my small community – and even though I am sensing some light at the end of the tunnel – most of our local conversations are what I call “plumbing” – we are focused on individual small details, such as are we are going to fix this road, or are we are going to take care of the basketball courts in the community, and we never really get a conversation about what we really ought to be doing. We don’t work to find a common agreement about how we will create the future for our “intentional community.” So it is not uncommon to find ourselves living in a community that is reluctant, unfortunately, to engage in a visionary futures creating dialogue … sadly and unfortunately, we believe that the discussion itself could be too painful and too ineffective to be worthy of our efforts.
Benking: You indicate that the word and the idea of “plumbing” means different things to different people, and that people can become mesmerised by plumbing “details.” Last time that we spoke, you mentioned the problems with engineering blue-prints for planning Can you tell us more about the portion of a needed “architectural design” for planning that includes the open-ended, co-creative and visionary process of jointly exploring discussing directions, alternatives and orientations?
Christakis: Right, Hasan’s approach encompassed such a full-spectrum concept of planning, including design and implementation with considerable attention to both the outcomes and the details of the planning process.
Benking: Is it fair to say that our technologists and scientists, our media, our political leaders and the general public are all caught up in a search for a panacea based on a hope for “quick-fixes” using either what is readily “at hand” or what is “hot” as a management fad? - Is it fair to say that without first taking the long-view, deep-view, and big-picture orientation view that we all will be ignoring promising alternatives and missing the connected impacts with our implicit values and hidden or tacit assumptions and agendas?
Christakis: Exactly, that is really what is happening. It is primarily guided or thwarted by the media and the political leaders. I believe that some of our journalists and political leaders might be victims too, because they don’t know how to get out of this box. As you know, people talk about thinking out of the box but, well, it is a very big box [laughing]…. And they are all caught – we are all caught – in the box and don’t know it. There are a few people who come together thinking about the “ought”, however most people are just wandering in the box.
Benking: Funny, we do with youth “Out of the Box Thinking and Paradigm Mapping” workshops with youth based on the work of “the Visualizer” Kurt Hanks, but that is another story. Unfortunately we have to jump now from these exciting reflections and “out-of-the-box” embodied and deep thought back into present time.
What are your concerns here in Cyprus and maybe also your home-countries Greece and the United States – what do you think needs to be done?
Christakis: My concerns are that we have to redefine the leadership style for problem solving for Cyprus and for Greece. In my opinion current problem solving approaches have proven themselves to be obsolete and counterproductive. I remember yesterday in our Training Program the question was asked, “If we really adopted this democratic dialog process, and we engage the stakeholders, and we hear and honour their voices, what will then be the role of the enlightened leader?” Well, in my opinion the “enlightened leader” is a myth in our society. The enlightened leader cannot provide the leadership that we need in our contemporary situations. The only leader that I believe is enlightened is a transformative leader, who can be a follower as well as a leader, and who can engage the wisdom of a diverse community. Such a leader needs to be able to persuade a community to work together. I am saying that charisma is important, but it is a different charisma. It is different from the charisma of arrogance or narcissism. We can hope for transformations through the democratic revolutions that are taking place all over the planet, but also it is risky because if we do not find the new leadership styles and new leaders who are capable of practicing authentic participative democracy, things can get worse. So my opinion about the Greek situation and the Cyprus situation is that there is a leadership gap – yet I do not want to say vacuum. I believe that the difference between “what leaders ought to be” and “what the leaders currently are” represents a big gap. What they ought to be is transformative. They should not be the leader who thinks that he or she knows everything and become myopic or blinded by such arrogance. You see, I have experiences which are really painful that go all that way back to my own life as a youth in Greece. You get to a group of leaders that claim to represent the voices of the people -- the stakeholders, in other words -- and then they abuse the people’s voices. Just last year, I had a discouraging experience within an otherwise wonderful co-laboratory with people from an organisation in Greece. The organization did discover and express what they thought ought to be done -- and then the organization’s leader considered their views and threw the entire proposal away because he did not agree with half of their views. So that kind of leadership is counterproductive, I mean it is almost criminal. It teaches people that they will NOT be heard.
Benking: We talked yesterday about Yehezkel Dror’s initiative through the Club of Rome to launch Global Policy Colleges more than 15 years ago. What impact do you feel such an initiative could have had upon our situations today? [readers please see the much later published English version I call an “executive summary” – but also the full and original, more comprehensive German version of the Report to the Club of Rome: “THE CAPACITY TO GOVERN” and the recommendations summed up at the book-launch press conference with Dror in Berlin in 1995].
Christakis: No, I do not know about that much. I sounds like a great idea.
Benking: Given the discussions on a third and fourth wave of revolutions in democratic enlightenment in societal, cultural evolution – for the better or worse – how do such movements connect to your term the “spread think”? How can we get beyond overriding personal and cultural concerns and come to collective and shared actions? In other words, can we find a way of “going beyond the need to agree” and still find unity in our diversity?
Christakis: The balance between Unity and Diversity is the most complicated one. It is highly situational. I do not think we can find a universal balance for this. I believe it can be done more easily and responsibly at a local level if we move beyond “thinking globally and acting locally” and start “thinking locally and act globally”. This is part of the balance that I sense. One of the reasons I was very excited to come to Cyprus was the work we have done here for local authorities. We conducted ten co-laboratories for local authorities with people in ten different municipalities in Cyprus. These involved some very enlightened people -- both at the stakeholder and the leader levels. The work was part of a strategy of the European Union to enhance capacity and promote democracy at the local level, and to minimize reliance on national boundaries. Local collaboration with international interests makes national boundaries less prominent and I think that this is one of the ways that unity and diversity can be balanced at the local level. And this balance does, of course, help people deal with their situation. However, people do need to be willing to recognize that they are not islands. People do need to emerge in a global context.
Benking: We have met Professor Manfred Lange, who led the National Global Change Secretariat and who 21 years ago created the term “glocal” for polycentric, multi-actor problems that cross scales, the GLOBAL CHANGE – Challenges to Science and Politics exhibition we opened in May 1990. My experiences is that the political sciences and also the general public tends to close their eyes to effects having impacts on multiple “levels” – are complex and perplexing - perhaps because the challenge of detailing or generalising situations doesn’t fit well within current theory and may limit comparisons. What is your own view about in-between interactions across scales, and about how communities and individuals interact in such Commons? The question relates to the work of Elinor Ostrom over the past 30 years on global commons exercised in small communities, and for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics last year. Elinor’s work causes us to rethink centuries of belief that people cannot self-govern shared resources. [see a selection of her findings out-lined – (slide 3) one month before she received the Nobel Prize and what it means to define, outline, share, and live with Global Commons individually and collectively (position and relate scales and frames of references for actors and drivers].
This topic is a deep concern of mine. Different schools of thought exist with respect to how people can come to agreement – how they can subsume and resonate – even when their beliefs and conceptual frameworks are diametrically opposed. Consider the conversation between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore, where they moved their discussion of physics into another “plane” – into another “field” – and used the shared practice of music to discover “common ground” on another “plane”, involving eidetic, visual, sensual domains. Through analogy and metaphor, they may not have been able to agree upon details, however were able to translate situations and to connect shared perspectives and transcend isolated assumptions or theories. I mention this here only because I understand your structured dialog design method as means to explore and “walk the talk around the differences”, to pan and zoom into details about situations and meanings, to empower stakeholders to move boundaries, and to check the meanings of the other person, see overlap, location and outlines of their respective cognitive frameworks or mental models/cognitive spaces. (see: Cognitive Panorama we outlined and built 20 years ago).
Christakis: The term “glocal” for a spectrum of meaning or manifestations is really beautiful. It is very interesting to me that I have never heard the term before. It really captures how I visualize situations. Such language is needed so that we can achieve local transformative evolution without civic revolution.
Benking: In the first part of my question I was referring to some of your recent videos and some of your broader orientation statements about what is going on in the Sciences, with Technologies, and within Societies. You have introduced me to some innovative terminology which seems to have been necessary to get where you are today. For example, you mentioned First and Second Phase Sciences, waves of revolution in democratic enlightenment, and the concepts of “Spread Think” and “Group Think”. Please say more. This NEWSPEAK suggests that what you are doing is really something new so words need to be crafted. How do these academic and intellectual terms carry forward into daily life at the grassroots level?
Christakis: I think we first have to recognise that the science traditions that were shaped by someone like Newton or even Einstein were founded on the notion that we want to generalize. When we observe a physical phenomenon, we make an observation wherever we are in space and time. A scientific observation in this context is invariant in time and space – for example, observing an apple falling from a tree anywhere on the planet’s surface. This science has been broadly adopted and has contributed to the evolution of humanity; however, we have to realize that this preoccupation with generalization or generalizability is not applicable to the new science of complex systems. In complex systems, observations have local and situational meaning; and what the new science is offering is a means of working with observations of these types. The new science is awakening people from all walks of life to make high quality, local observations with superior relevance and meaning for systems understanding.
Consider the question “Why do pupils drop out of school.” The old science can only provide data which are necessary, but not sufficient, to understand the situation. Measurements and statistics relate to empirical data, and these data are not enough to understand the system. Even so, traditional observations are valuable and important. We call them “observer independent data.” But we also need observations from the level of the school in that specific situation – observations from specific pupils, teachers, or parents. These observations cannot be reduced to a common value with statistics. We call these “observer-dependent data.” This is the qualitative information that you get when you ask for views from the children or other stakeholders.
Benking: Maybe this is what is called “Qualitative Social Research” these days?
Christakis: I do not know, but maybe it is something on the same wavelength.
Coming back to your next term: “Group Think” is a phenomenon which has been around for some time. It relates to how leaders in a tight team can influence each other to make a decision that is agreeable and yet also stupid. Such decisions can be made because groups can be influenced by the group or opinion leader; a good example can be made of the decision making process related to the military action in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Group think was bringing the world down a dangerous path. Fortunately, the situation and the thinking changed favourably.
“Spread Think” was a term coined by my colleague the late Dr. John Warfield. We were working with many groups using the first generation of structured dialogic design and we found out that regardless of the composition or the situation of the group, the ideas and proposals by the group were spread out. You might typically find a group come up with 60 or 70 ideas in response to a focused question and when we ask them to express their preferences and select their top 5 ideas, their preferences show limited correspondence. We could say that one idea might be most highly preferred over all other ideas: however, many distinct alternatives were highly preferred too. In such a situation, a winning idea really has little relevance. What the group is saying is that its thoughts are spread out all over the place. The point from a grassroots perspective is that even as people are demanding democracy through voting, voting itself is not going to be sufficient because of spread think and because their understanding of the situation is going to be spread all over the place. There are many-many positions, perspectives, and ideas that need to be considered in a truly complex situation. The emergence of a spread-think must be considered when a culture experiences a democratic revolution. I see this as a problem in Northern Africa as well as in other parts of the world. My fear is that if we do not have the capacity to engage the people in a structured dialogue they will become victims of Group Think. From the resulting inaction and confusion, someone will emerge from among the people and will become the next leader who will have few options other than to use the governance habits of the past. The new leader will pretend that he or she has a new answer but will discover that governance that is not connected to a process that can manage both Group Think (from the top) and Spread Think (from the bottom) will create new crises. The community or nation will coalesce around a new circle of leadership, and as this new circle gains confidence and power they will have another Bay of Pigs phenomenon. And the outcome eventually will be far worse. I do not know how rapidly nor how extremely things will deteriorate, but situations will get as bad as those that we have experienced in the past until we are able to manage this spread of ideas and have them converge to an agreement and understanding on how they want to create their future.
Benking: Yes, there I see an example of the need – there is the need not only to realize and cherish the requisite variety of autonomous statements and ideas, but also to cope with the “spread” of statements and ideas across hierarchical times and scales, including episodic and epochal changes, different national and subject languages in vague subject areas, and the immense variety of cultures. So you see, I am focussing here on terminology which needs referents and contexts to explain given concepts [see concept and context mapping in terminology research and information generalisation and harmonization – see meta-data, Commons and Covenants].
Coining the term “Glocal” was needed to come to grips with the overlapping, extensional effects on spatial scales - think of a spectrum in spaces – as we encountered around the early days of International Global Change research, like mid 1980ies, and the quest to support the “Credibility of Ecology” (Access & Assimilation, Kluwers GeoJournal). In such highly complex, dynamic and perplexing and dangerous activity “areas” as humanity ventured into during the last 100 years “thanks” to technology, the population density and pressures, and the missing checks and balances for acting not only in nation states but also on a planet and across cultures has effected unprecedented impacts. [pls. see “robust recommendations”].
So here we also have to consider the overlaps of subject areas and terminologies, and times, how effects we cause have repercussions in time. This, by the way, was a central concern of John Warfield and hisPanetics board collegue, Ralph G.H. Siu, a distinguished American scholar, military and civil servant, and Chinese philosopher, founder of Panetics, besides the author of “The Tao of Science” as featured in our ISSS Wholeness Seminar. Siu was examining the infliction of suffering: who is causing what kinds and extents of suffering and how suffering might be concretely measured in “dukkhas” -- units of pain inflicted unto others. Siu’s work is what I call an “Art of Living” or an “Art of Governance” – “Regierungskunst,” we say in German – not as a martial art, but as the “art of poetry-making and policy-making” – as envisioned by Anthony Judge who collaborated long ago with Erich Jantsch, Hasan Ozbekhan, and Robert Jungkwhich lead by the way to the Encyclopaedia of World Problems and Human Potential, Actions, Options, Strategies – definitely an outcome also of your work 40 years ago . The approach involves checking frames of references and intersectorial dilemmas, and involves including stakeholders coming to workable solutions by keeping the rights of minorities in focus. Sorry for the long impatient excursion but I feel concerned and passionate about this and Hasans and your work which was not really taken up and appreciated, but shining through in the presentation of the “intersectorial dilemma” tabled by UNU and UIA in the preparations for Rio 1992 in the Geneva UNCED process - -- all this particularly in view of the lack of a proper balance between citizenship and “rulership”, positions and identities, detail and context and overlaps of issues along and across scales.
Picking up on the thread of our conversation, we were talking about how to manage Spread Think in view of the inflation of facts and issues, messages and noise in a Global Information Era. Broadcasting views was once an effective way of focusing attention. Now everyone is easily a broadcaster. We can speak more rapidly that we can listen to each other. We haven’t the time or the gathering places to meet and to discuss things as deeply as they deserve. So what is going on in our Modern Communication Times with your new generation of colleagues? I have raised the question of using structured dialogic design with new audiences with Yiannis Laouris here in Cyprus at the European and bi-communal level.
As you know, there is a lot of talk about collective intelligence and smart mobs. We have seen the sudden emergence of a new season – a “Spring” or a “Spark” – but we don’t seem to be building a new House of Consensus – or what the Japanese now call “kizuna”. Kizuna is the very fabric and bonding that holds a society together – cherishing all elements of a modern society: it’s legislative, executive, and judicative powers and their checks and balances. The how do you think your methodology and processes can be applied to larger communities and distributed communities – given in particular the different realities among people reaching across from the other side? I was encouraged to hear Paul R. Hays discussion of the use of structured dialogic design being applied in the Pacific now – and as I recall in seven languages. This seems like a scale of use that can involve regions and cultures in a new level of deliberation and peace-making. So how do you see us coping with the challenges of the noise in the modern Internet? Will we fall into the old traps of voting from our individual thoughts, without sharing thoughts, feelings and perceptions?
Christakis: Yes, Heiner, I do not know the answer. You are asking really a difficult question. I let people like you together with Peter, Yiannis, Kevin, and many young practitioners, younger than you, engage these challenges. I have been told that in efforts to scale up through the Internet to reach beautiful virtual worlds we might fall into the traps you mentioned. So we have to take special care. I do know that if we do scale up face-to-face on a small scale of 50, 70 or 100 stakeholders, and then we may discover their commitment to deal with the larger situation. I know that we can access what I call the “wisdom of the people” – I know how to do this and I have done it many times.
When you tell me scale up to thousands of people using virtual networks I am a little uncertain how to do this. We have tried. You know this because you were an early participant. We have tried managing virtual dialogues where we applied bottom-up democracy to address a question for the Obama administration. And we also have used virtual dialogue with 50 people or so, in a pilot project 4 years ago. These efforts were successful for getting information. Some of the participants had already known each other and engaged because they were also interested in the topic. Taking the virtual dialogues to a larger scale causes me concern because we simply do not yet know if we will be able to replicate the wisdom of the people which we have experienced when we gather in one place at the same time. On the other hand, I am pleased that our colleague Yiannis here in Cyprus is involved in European projects to explore the possibility of scaling the process. We are working together not only in his research but also in efforts to establish collaborative process research funding priorities (CARDIAC). I can only say Bravo, and I tell you that I am learning new things about such endeavours, even when they are still in an early and embryonic phase. So when frequently hearing about approaches involving new communication technologies are being applied in multiple spheres of meaning and languages I am very happy. I will let others lead this important work. My small part is to help assure that will happen in the best possible way.
So, Heiner, when I hear of ways that people are experimenting and innovating what we have introduced to you as the “Science of Dialog,” I hope that you will appreciate that I am just one of many. You mentioned people with historic standing like John Warfield, Hasan Ozbekhan, Erich Jantsch, with whom I have been fortunate to join in our common effort. All of these people, many more like West Churchman, you know them from the Systems Encyclopedia with Charles François, have contributed significantly, and in a very thoughtful scientific way. What we are presenting in the training course is the result of a journey that began many years ago and, as you well know, has many years of work yet to do. So when I look into the future I am sometimes concerned that whatever we do we must take care to work together to be certain that the science will evolve responsibly – in a way which is disciplined – if you like. I am speaking about the discipline of the dialogue – the discipline of the structured dialogue – and I am saying to my colleagues who are younger and who are looking into scaling up, “Do it! And make sure that you do it without compromising some of the learnings that have emerged and taken shape in the form of this new science of dialogue. The learning has shaped some of the axioms – so I am in favour of learning from experience in practice to shape the evolution of the science, but I hope to see that the learning is being done in a responsible, disciplined way.
Benking: I fully agree – you should not re-build a house by taking the foundation slab away. We played with the terms oikos – ecumene – ecudomy – economy to show the roots of communities and how they are cherishing the commons and celebrating the different ways of reaching common goals while cultivating compassion across cultures and scales – but that is again another conversation.
As a final question: Your board president at the Institute for 21stCentury Agoras Tom Flanagan expressed his individual interest in bringing structured dialogic design into the youth movement. He sees this as an opportunity to go across scales in an intergenerational sense. What do you think is the unique thing youth can do to help people of the world to think out of the box, work across-media platforms, and collaboratively and poly-aesthetically learn from each other, and to discover something which we might agree to call “paradigm mapping”? Do you think is it possible to rewire and un-learn by questioning not only meanings but also the assumptions and frames that lie beneath established understandings and meanings? And aren’t we putting too much hope onto the youth that they should do the job and repair what we have messed up!?
Christakis: Yes, there is a danger in expecting too much from any one group. This, of course, is not the idea that Tom had in mind. He is making an invitation and not placing an expectation. Perhaps this point might be recognized in the approach that Tom Flanagan and Kenneth Bausch, our Executive Director at the Institute for 21st Century Agoras have expressed in a recent book titled “A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures.” They are offering a wonderful and innovative way of engaging the young people through a role playing experience. The reason I am saying that is that because in this workbook they manage all the regional conceptualisations of Ozbekhan. Tom and Ken went back and revisited the Predicament of Mankind, they excavated the architecture of that proposal with computer support in a classroom, and they engage the classroom on their own discovery of the problematique. If we were able to do that on a large scale – engaging young people with tools and software - they like the toys. So these courses will engage them in playing with the computer, and reengage them with the Problematique, sensitize them, and make them thoughtful and concerned and as they revisit the original design of Ozbekhan on their own terms.
Benking: So here we are back to our first Interview, revisiting the historic roots of your work and now from the present time engaging the future generations. We are moving from computer games, to designing alternative futures with the new generation and I think about Ökolopoly and Frederick Vester and the set-backs from involving experts who think they know when they do not know, as so brilliantly outlined by Frederick Vester’s colleague Dietrich Dörner in his book: “The Logic of Failure: recognizing and avoiding error in complex situations”. Dörner is one of the most prolific and profound psychologists. I believe that your colleague Vester from the Club of Rome can only be fully understood through his friendship with Dörner – Unfortunately most of Dörner’s writings have not been translated.
In our first interview we discussed normative and participatory Futures Creation through individual and collective exploration. It is not enough to model the “blue sky” without grounded stakeholder observations (the data of Third Phase science). First Phase Science is a starting point. Inviting students to role play with the Problematique, checking meanings, assumptions, agendas and exploring “root causes” and jointly establishing shared meanings and agreements paves the way through Second Phase and into Third Phase scientific investigations of our increasingly complex world. The role-playing effort through Tom and Ken coincides with our plans next year to “celebrate” not only the 20th year since Rio’s Earth Summit but also the 40th year since the publication of “The Limits to Growth.” After the Methodenstreit in 1970, The Germany Volkswagen Foundation funded key aspects work on the “Problematique” which has brought us all to the hope that we still carry for the future.
Aleco, thank you very much.
At this point at the end of the scheduled interview another participant and journalist, my colleague from the Open-Forum, Farah Lenser joined the conversation. Aleco was eager to learn about how she experienced the Summer School after learning at the ISSS in Crete in 2003 about it and doing interviews with some original players in the scene. (see: GLOBAL AGORA publications in the WORLD FUTURES MAGAZINE: “Using Systems Thinking to Construct Agoras of the Global Village” from that time. Her answer and our discussion about the role of the moderator as a midwife and harmoniser, about other functions of moderators as facilitators being invisible and many other topics when “seasoned” dialog practitioners come together is another story. In a nutshell, these conversations were often very critical, objecting to rigid voting procedures and rules for how people engage, how they are seated, at tables or in circles… or what requisites are. Are the participants attentive, do they listen, have they learned to listen and explore subtle differences qualitatively? How is dynamic exchange invited, and how through embodiment of interest and encouragement participants get encouraged to grow personally and take over positions and actions. See the Magic Roundtables Farah referred to as a requisite to encourage listening and inviting enlargement of statements, manage given settings and formats and enhance the dynamic of exchanges and leanings [see background materials], or get more concerned about Unity in Diversity. Consensus of the above evolving trialog was that lots of commons are to be found with other self-organising group-conversation methods, that the purpose of empowering people to be stakeholders is to make them speak-up and “hold the stake”, that learning to listen and speak-up without missing the point or cultivating vanity as typical of the talkers, such as we find in media and politics these days, are star-high goals, and that such objectives are needed to set the stage, providing directions and help to negotiate orientations and reflect the richness of assumptions, agreements, norms, traditions and values in societies.
Reports and Interviews are under preparation by the Future Worlds Center Summer School SDDP Facilitators Training team in Nicosia and the Global Agoras group are published separately.
While Publishing Sept 19, 2011:
A recent publication in "Le Regard Cretois” is the Cretan Glance, the "Critical Eye", the conjunction of outward stance and inner poise …”featuring Alexander Cristakis in Crete as the Zorbas - Le Regard Cretois" - is also recommended: It is about the Zorbas… By the way, Christakis lives close to Milet and the Museum of Kazantzakis, which possibly explains a lot…
We selected this day as the elections in Berlin with new Parties like “Die Piraten” (Pirate Parties International - PPI) have a new quality and words like “electonic voting” are ubiquitous, and some groups around the UN look into a Democratic Reform with meetings in the German National Press Club tomorrow. And last not least the Interview is “mingling” into matters like European Finances as seem from Berlin and with a “Cretan Eye”.
To get a more personal picture of Christakis in perspective, please make sure you read the first Interview in Europe'sWorld and "Le regard Cretois" above.
AGORA LINK http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/725289192
Postscript January 2013:
I attended the celebrations of 50 years Volkswagen Foundation and 40 year “Limits to Growth” with Dennis Meadows including a Youth “Winter School” and beside learning about some new PhD studies of the foundational times in the late 60ies/early 70ies were little was new or worth mentioning here. Except meeting again Roberto Peccei. I had see him 15 years in the Smithsonian, but we did not have time to talk ! But now it was great to check his memory about Hassan Özbekhan and Erich Jantsch. He told me that he will send me some documents where Aurelio Peccei remembered very well and positively meeting and working with them and how important their impulse and contributions were for getting the Club of Rome started.
I have covered in my Blog quergeist.info some events, maybe you find them of interest. November 2012, Club of Rome Revisited, May 2012 A Global Forecast for the next 40 years - 2052 See also Anthony Judges article:
This brings me back to some questions I encountered in the last 3 years after doing the two interviews above with Alexander Christakis. Here I want to give some answers and realisations which came to me as they might invite some further study into the times we cover in the interviews.
Why I mention Anthony Judge repeatedly: I was introduced by Robert Jungk to Anthony Judge in late 1991 and saw many common interest and people we both have met on our ways. I had seen him linking to Jantsch, Warfield, Siu, Deutsch, ... and many others and collaborating with him as Director of the UIA in Brussels and later every since. I can only recommend his work and treasures he wrote over 50 years or so. The Wall Street Journal featured Anthony Judge recently, so maybe read the front page and page 6 on Dec 11, 2012: Encyclopedia of World Problems Has a Big One of Its Own to get an idea and then immerse into this page:
1.1 Significance: acknowledgement of the universe of problems and even more interesting for me the setting of what was going on in these year: 1.5 Significance: precedents and parallels and 1.6 Significance: precedents in history and tradition
Only by reading the wealth collected by Lynton Caldwell and Elinor Ostrom, both Arthur F. Bentley Professor at the Indiana University in Bloomington ! Maybe start here: “Is Humanity Destined to Self-Destruct”and see some responses, not only Galtung, Daly, ... and also in there my essay: Show or Schau?, and the above summary of precedents and parallels, also in history and tradition mentioned above to really get a feel for the richness and uniqueness of the Encyclopedia envisioned by people like Robert Jungk and Jantsch/Özbekhan…. Only with this taken in you can get a good idea where to position the work of Özbekhan and Christakis and their colleagues and friends, where it fits into a bigger picture, and how all this links to the work of OECD, Battelle and Wharton etc. those days and what all this had to do for example with the Academy of Contemporary Problems. I feel it is important to get this richness of efforts from these days for fresh approaches we need today. Nowadays we juggle with a few “Scenarios” and “Ceilings” or Guardrails, but have lost the curiosity to dig deeper, question frames, values and connections. So maybe we should in line with the above article by Judge: “Re-imagining the Present”also consider Re-imagining the Past !!!
I feel we are much to little concerned with our living styles, diets, values, behavioural patterns... and neglect the ways we conceptualize, present and communicate. All this is a central concern in the 3 volumes Encyclopedia, and we really should build on it instead of reinventing wheels and muddling through in the dark. Maybe some has read the Wall Street Journal article !
Meanwhile we have done a session in Crete at the Orthodox Academy, a Council of Churches event: OCA-connecting Dots & Spaces (publication in progress). Check in Spring 2013 or write an e-mail.