What need does speed satisfy? LO17955

Mnr AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Sat, 2 May 1998 21:21:03 GMT+2

Replying to LO17918 -- was: What is the Right Size?
[Subject line changed by your host...]

Dear Organlearners,

Ben Compton <BCompton@dws.net> writes the following about speed:

> Speed has become a symbol of our information age. Everything has to be
> now, this instant, today. . .I'm working on my computer, and I can't stand
> how slow it is (a Pentium 166 MHz computer, 64 mb RAM). I want a Pentium
> 200 with 128 mb RAM because I want my software to run faster. I don't want
> to see the little Windows hour glass as much as I do. . .what am I, nuts?
> What is it that drives my expectations and my desires? Why am I not
> content with the computer I have, as it is pretty damn fast?

Unfortunately, I had to snip Ben's many othe serious contemplations
about speed.

> I think that's the root of the issue you raised: Why are we so attracted
> to speed? When do we hit maximum capacity, where we just can't speed
> things up anymore? There is, I'm quite certain, a minimum amount of time
> which is required to make a pair of shoes, sew a pair of pants, and build
> a house. Perhaps once we discovered those time limits we'll devise new
> ways of doing things, and they'll be shattered, and new expectations will
> emerge. But what will they satisfy? What need does speed satisfy?

Ben, in my opinion, your last question gets to the heart of the
problem: "What need does speed satisfy?".

As I have said in my previous reply (LO17927), it all has to do with
entropy production. Entropy production is the time rate or "speed" by
which entropy incerases. Entropy has to be produced at a very fast
speed to have the emergence of something new. It is because
aome entropy leaks away. I have used the metaphor of a tin with holes
in it to explain why entropy has to be produced at high speed.

Drug addiction is becoming more and more the most serious problem of
society. These junkies use drugs to experience what they perceive
as physical and spiritual "emergences". We look upon them, thinking,
how is it possible that these junkies are fooled so easily.

But we are no better. We also crave for emergences. Whereas the
junkies use drugs, we use technology as Ben has so eloquently
described. We can also use other things, like the economy or
religion. But are we not all "emergence junkies". This is the
terrible disease of the twentieth century!

Why? In my opinion it is because we are ignorant of what drives
emergences. Emergences are not driven by emergences. Consider the
following metaphor. The birth of a baby is an emergence. But babies
cannot have sex - babies cannot produce babies. Babies have to
become, at least physically, adults. They have to pack in, at least
physically, roughly twelve years. Even then, physically, they also
have to experience the emergence of puberty before they can have

Why are we ignorant of what drives emergences? It is a very complex
question. Up to now, we are very ignorant of how emergences happen. I
have an Encyclopedia Brittanica - the magificant 9th edition of 1876,
endeavouring to reflect the status of all knowledge up to then. It is
now 120 years old. I have searched its many volumes for any
indication in any topic of anybody telling something about
emergences. It is like searching for any reference to the electron
(it was dicovered 1898, precisely 100 years ago. De Nada.

Then, the first two persons to think about emergences were Henri
Bergson (he did not even use the word emergence, but used the term
"creative evilution), C L Morgan and S Alexander. Later they were
followed by the great A N Whitehead. Only after WWII and its
horrendous destructive immergences, people began to think more of
creativity in general and emergences in particular. Before WWII, only
Morgan (in the 19th century) and Whitehaed (in the early thirties)
used the word creativity. But in 1952, Guilford, president of the
American Assosiation for psychology, finally pushed creativity into
the ring of investigation.

How is it with each of you? Have you ever tried to speak to your
famility about emergences? Have you ever tried to speak to your
friends about emergences? Have you ever tried to speak to your
colleagues at work about emergences? Have you ever tried to speak to
street children and begaars about emergences? Try to do it and
experience how they stare at you with sheep eyes.

If you ask me, our craving for speed has very much to do with our
nightmares of WWII. Actually, it was the nighmare of our fathers. (I
was born in 1944, near its end.) Jan C Smuts, the father of holism,
(see his book "hilsm and Eviltion" 1926) considered WWII and the
years immediately before and after it as the period when all
humankind has become insane. (You should read any one of the
biographies on him to realise how vividly he experienced this
insanity.) People in every country (Germany, Itally and Japan on the
one hand, and countries like Britain, France, Poland, USA on the
other hand) sought for emergences. But the majority of people reaped
only horrendous immergences.

And, if you ask me, our craving for speed has very much to do with our
nightmares of the future! We know tacitly that we are heading head on
in collision with nature. We know tacitly that we have a global
economy which cannot sustain itself. When the one share market has a
hiccup, the others get the flue. We know that our poiltical systems
have become extremely frail. Criticise the Monarch or the President
and the our institutions rattle. Why?

I think it is because we do not know enough about emergences,
especially their context. Why? Because we do not know enough about
the self-organisation of learning, whether it be in personal mastery
or in a learning organistion. We are behaving completely out of size.

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email: amdelange@gold.up.ac.za

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