We have been brought up to believe that we are part of a mechanical universe where the application of force upon us and upon our world will yield results. We apply force to the land and to animals and we call this Agriculture. We apply force to our children and we call it Education. We apply force to our workers and we call this Management. We apply force to customers and we call this Sales and Marketing. We apply force to enterprises and we call this Capitalism. In a more simple world - this used to yield quite good results. Now in a complex world, this approach is yielding more trouble than good. We are seeing the system limits of using this approximation of how the world works.
This is a simple trajectory where the only forces in play are gravity and the wind. There are no other bodies in play. This is how we often think of our lives - a beginning, a middle and an end. This is how we often think of the life cycle of a product or a company. But in reality, this is too simple a view.
All development involves an interaction between the subject - you and me or a product or an organization - and our environment. In the environment are many other bodies - other people, other aspects of nature. They all interact with us creating many variables along the way. As we interact with these other bodies, we also change. We do more than change, we transform and become very different from what we were before. This is easiest to see in many insects such as a butterfly.
Transformation is not only found in insect life but in human life as well. Think along these lines about an organization. An organization of 8 people is very different from one of 15 which is very different from one of 35 which is very different from one of 150 which is radically different from one of 500. There is no smooth transition between each stage. As milestones in numbers are reached, a bifurcation in complexity takes place demanding that the organization transform its relationships or die. Any entrepreneur has experienced this.
We also go through this process as individuals as our world view is affected by those close to us. Think about your own life. You have transformed many times. At 2, the baby breaks from believing it is part of its mother to a troubled form of interdependence. . In the teen years - 14-18, the youngster breaks from child and her parents to become a young adult in a social world of friends. Somewhere in the 40's to 50's the young adult breaks from the rat race and hopefully becomes an elder. All of these transitions are painful, messy and confusing. They are transformations. In humans they take place in our psyche. It is our world view that is transformed. If we miss a step, we regress and never fully develop.
There is also more complexity in development than in merely reaching the mature form of the single body.
An acorn's final destination is not an oak tree. It is to become a complex forest of not only many oaks but also of many other interdependent forms such as other plants and animals. Helium atoms want not only to become a star but want to become a galaxy. You also want to be more than a physically mature person - you yearn to be an interdependent part of a supportive community. No human is fully developed until we are a recognized part of a supportive community. A healthy community is our destiny. Those of us who fail to find our place in relationship with a group that accept and support us, are not fully developed as a human being. Those who have few healthy relationships are systematically unhealthy.
We are not cogs in a machine. We are not interchangeable. We are not stand alone. We are not only individuals. We are primates for whom finding a place in our tribe is the best place to be. We are genetically all but identical to these chimps and we share our deepest needs to find a safe place, a Trusted Space, in a supportive community.
But until 10 years ago - we managed to do OK using a simple concept of the application of force and a parabola as the typical trajectory for a life cycle or the pathway. So what has changed in only a decade?
It is the advent of the web. What did the web do? It has added an all but infinite amount of new interactions with other bodies into the development equation. The complexity of our environment has broken through the simple metaphor that we have used for 5 thousand years - ever since we gave up hunting and gathering and settled in simple hierarchies in cities.
This bifurcation in complexity is overwhelming our institutions and our fragmented society. All the institutions that we set up to serve us now serve only their masters or the survival of the institution itself. So our food system poisons us and our land. 30% of boys in school have to be on medication to cope with being nagged. Chronic disease caused by stress is an epidemic. Our companies serve only the insiders. Our politicians serve not us but their party and the office itself. Communities have become dormitories. Families are collapsing into individuals watching their own TV and eating dinner alone. Marriage has no power to sustain a couple and we risk becoming alone. Our children are increasingly lost.
What to do? Nature can help us if we would only step back and see the advice that she offers.
Now we live in a truly complex world again, we have to relearn how nature itself copes with complexity. We will have to understand that nature has a very simples set of rules that govern relationships. So simple that nature has found one set of relationships that is best in all circumstances and at all scales. If we understand this one set of rules, then we can remake our world to work in partnership with nature rather than as her enemy. The stakes are high as nature always makes those who take her on pay for their foolishness.
So what is the simple rule about relationships that nature uses? First an example of how we know this and how we apply this already.
This (nice animation here) is how you get a rocket to the moon. You do not use a parabola. This is the development trajectory that nature uses. It is designed to maximise the benefit of working with a complex relationship between interdependent bodies that both exert forces upon each other.
See the resemblance? This is the non linear curve that drives development and relationships and the rectangles are the proportions that show this in linear form. The numbers are the Fibonacci numbers that originate in the Golden Mean or Phi. (Here is a link to a treasure trove of information on this subject)
Nature has found over 14 billion years that the ratio of 1.618033988749895... is the best relationship for complex interaction in the known universe. It applies not only to galaxies but even to parts of the human body. It defines beauty in all human cultures and it defines what most think to be attractive in architecture. It is found in the design of DNA, in our heart beat, in the relationship of the planets to each other and the sun, to Saturn's rings. It is found everywhere.
It is the Lego kit rule of how nature fits object into complex arrangements.
Over the next few weeks I am going to explore with you what it would mean to redesign our world and our lives by using this essential rule of nature. I intend to start with how this would apply to how we raise our children.