Diversity LO20173

Sun, 13 Dec 1998 19:17:51 -0800

Replying to LO20061 --

At, I replied to your assertion that
> Whereas it was the business of the universe to create more diversity in
> nature and culture since the beginning of time, humankind is succeeding
> the past couple of centuries to reverse this process.

by asking
> Is it possible that the larger rhythm of becoming is an alternation of
> diversification followed by a sort of consolidation (inevitably causing
> local immergences) that sets the stage for the next wave of
> diversification? On the level of mind, could this be a characterization
> of the progress of learning?

In your reply back to me, you focused again on the current tendency of
humankind to reverse the process of diversification, certainly a "burning
question" as you said.

Nevertheless, I'd like to step back again and focus on the possibility of
a larger rhythm consisting of diversification followed by a reduction in
diversity as a natural, inevitable characteristic of the evolution of
complex systems. In the geological example I posed, meteorites have been
agents of reduction, along with other external forces. In the case of
culture, you've identified technology as an agent of complexity reduction.
Another example is the ecology of fire in a forest not disturbed by man,
with the fire as an agent that "simplifies" the biome, both causing
immediate immergences and laying the way for the slower emergences, as you
pointed out. Is it possible that, as a system diversifies, _some_ agent,
internal or external, will always arise to "prune" the system's diversity?
Could this be looked at as a kind of "annealing" that keeps a system from
getting stuck at a "local maximum" of diversity or complexity?

To return to learning organizations: if this is the case, we should be
able to observe the phenomenon in organizations that have been around for
some time. If we look, for example, at the "visionary companies" of
Collins and Porras' "Built to Last", they've certainly had their ups and
downs. Could these be understood as inherent "long wave" cycles in
successful systems?

I'm concerned that, if there is a general principle here, we should learn
about it, and how to work with it, rather than trying to fight it (as
we're learning to do with forest fires, for example).


Don Dwiggins "When you're losing the game, SEI Information Technology change the rules." d.l.dwiggins@computer.org -- Seen on an office wall

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