Book Review: The participatory architecture for "a more perfect Union"
The deplorable present situation of global wars, massive poverty and human misery in a world of abundance exists not because those who oppose change are too powerful, with all the tools of the Information Age at their command, but because those who say "a different world is possible" have failed to make it happen. This failure is unnecessary. "Under our constitutional assumptions" founded upon the Republican form of Government, the Supreme Court has ruled "all power derives from the people.".
However, paralyzed by unshakable human burdens of dialogue -- limitations of human cognition, group pathologies, and unequal power relations -- the people have failed to harness their wisdom and power despite the promise of democracy, which dates back 2500 years to the ancient Greek city-state of Athens. A new book takes on that challenge: to provide the global people with the means to remove those problematic barriers to group progress, with tools that have a proven track record and, if widely used, can reliably turn this deplorable situation around.
Alexander N. Christakis with Kenneth C. Bausch,
How People Harness their Collective Wisdom and Power
(Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, CT, March 2006)
In an email discussion with FINS just a few weeks ago, from his summer residence in Crete, Aleco Christakis, who is past president (2002) of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), revealed his father wanted him to be a physicist so he could win a Nobel Prize, but he wanted to be an actor. Following his father's edict Aleco studied physics at Princeton, where he learned about cosmology, the origin, structure, and space-time relationships of the universe; then he went on to graduate work at Yale to study nuclear physics, which endowed Aleco with an understanding of the fundamental building blocks of elementary particles.
Subsequent to his education in both the macro and the micro dimensions of planetary reality, Aleco amazingly embarked on his preferred career to realize his dream as a performer. He adopted the role as lead facilitator in group dialogue, which is the basic building block of a democratic society! In this role he manages group dialogue of the ordinary citizen-participants in communities around the world. And what a performance they give!
I found this photo of Aleco, just wonderful, when I saw it a few months ago. I have been a supporter of the research and development of facilitated group dialogue over the past several decades, and this image conveys to me something like music, flows so naturally as a creative performance. When I last resided in Puerto Rico in the late 1970s, serving as President of the Executive Advisory Council of the Governors Office of Cultural Affairs (Hon. Carlos Romero Barceló, Governor), I met a Spanish writer who had just published a book on the essence of creativity.
The idea that I especially liked was the transparency of creativity. When in the space of creativity, what takes precedence over every sense, is the pure creative act, everything else vanishes from sensory view. In a great musical recital what one experiences is the sublime music, the stage vanishes, the musicians vanish, the room itself vanishes, nothing remains for the mind to contemplate but the pure creative act of making music.
In the dialogue attended in this picture, we see the merging of minds into community wisdom, flowing together like a musical score. Aleco conveys this musicality in his hand inviting the citizen-participants who are the "content-experts" of group dialogue, to convey their ideas to the unfolding group-mind. A unique Structured Design Dialogue Process (SDDP) divides the group dialogue into role responsibilities of context, content, and process. This frees citizen-participants to concentrate on the content of their ideas. A running script of the proceedings is produced with computer support to ease the integration of new knowledge and information. The intent is to build patterned interactions among stakeholders in a socially produced linguistic domain of shared vocabulary, and to engage them in designing social systems that integrate their diverse cognitive realities into community wisdom. The SDDP design team provides a context for the dialogue that prevents the emergence of group pathologies during the design work. The SDDP content process relieves the participants of the unshakable burdens of dialogue by unbundling the complexity of the dialogue into easily assimilated relational patterns graphically illustrated to augment the linear nature of dialogue. SDDP gives attention to the inherent lack of consensus on values, priorities, norms of truth and behavior, expectations for the future, and the use of competing interpretations of complex situations. The SDDP blocks the traditional "competition of ideas" that yields only one winner and marks everyone else as loosers. SDDP is designed, instead, to emancipate all participants in a collaborative, strong consensus building mode of association that always respects the autonomy of participants and the authenticity of their ideas while striving for multidimensional comprehensiveness that integrates diversity.
When properly used the SDDP can guarantee to maximize the effectiveness of the inherent human sensibilities of citizen-participants in group dialogue in all sectors: government, business, and especially the civic community, the wellspring of essential public trust. Virtually everyone everywhere is capable of participating in the SDDP, and the authors of this book have launched a transcendent global plan to be undertaken by The Institute for 21st Century Agoras, described in the book, to reconstruct democracy on the planet starting with 100 demonstration projects around the world during the next four years following the script for SDDP.
In his Foreword to the book, the Argentine systems scientist Dr. Enrique G. Herrscher writes: "Few books present an idea that might change the world. This is one of the few." Indeed, the discovery and application of the SDDP architecture may well be among the most significant contributions in the fields of physics and the human sciences both to improve the development of the creative powers of the global people and to achieve the ultimate political goal of establishing "a more perfect Union" of the whole people, which has eluded humankind since the promise of democracy was first envisioned.
Information News Syndicate (FINS),
Vigdor Schreibman, Editor & Publisher.
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P. Atchley, artist,
Portrait of Vigdor in blue 2001.