Evolvability of governance - responding to a wonderful conversation amongst John Vervaeke, Jordan Hall and Gregg Henriques

Coherence, chi, and wisdom-energy w/Jordan Hall and Gregg Henriques - Voices with Vervaeke

My comment

(also published in the comments section on the YouTube video on John Vervaeke’s channel):

Love this, including the to-me-new word “evolvability” which nicely describes a key feature of the meta-governance I too sense we need for C21. I suspect we could potentially meet that need with the aid of wisely ‘designed’ AI (and appropriate resources wisely deployed, obviously, but now I’m getting ahead of myself).

Seems to me that one of the stickiest traps awaiting us is that we don’t consciously ‘know’ much about nature’s fixed constraints (Dave Snowden language) or, as Jordan seems to be using the term, “code”. We’ve been swimming in and interacting with those constraints and the contexts they potentiate and actualise since forever, almost entirely taking them for granted, rarely realising just how powerful they are in terms of limiting and enabling ranges of systemic possibility for everything we like to think we do know. Any attempt to directly extend our technologies (broadly used, including for example laws and institutional processes) beyond the context in which they were created into new contexts (e.g. the virtual realm, or a different bioregion in a different time period) leads to dystopia. (By the way, John/Jordan, if this sounds familiar – it is indeed just a slightly different angle on what I already said here: https://medium.com/@kylie_23759/culture-war-2-0-paradigm-shifts-belief-pyramids-and-social-commons-cf46c30712b6 – a piece which actually started off just like this, as a comment in response to another one of your jazz sessions!)

To get back to evolvability of governance, there’s a metaphor/concept which has been recurring for me over and over again for a while now as I think of how we make sense of and interact with the world – that of “catch and release”. Culturally, it seems to me, the west tends to suck at releasing things … ideas, assumptions, stereotypes, definitions, categories, institutions, organising structures, processes, roles, you name it … even after the point at which they’ve diverged so far from the context in which they were systemically functional as to be, in current reality, either deadweight or destructive in their impacts. We ‘catch’ something to make use of it, get attached to it for the sensemaking value it had to us at the time we caught it and added it to our map, and then get attached to the map itself. Or, to paraphrase Nora Bateson’s pointing (I believe) at the same bad habit – we pull something out of context in order to understand it … as we must! … but then forget to plug it back in to context afterwards.

I think this ‘catch and release’ metaphor (or Nora’s pull out and plug in metaphor, if you prefer it) provides a useful lens for considering what is required for evolvability. A fish which has been caught and held out of the water for too long will die and can no longer participate in the evolutionary process for its own species. Similarly, governance (or organising) structure/process/pattern which has been caught, pulled out of its original context/habitat, and crystallised into legislation tends to have low evolvability because it does not retain continuous living contact with relevant reality. I resonate strongly with Elinor Ostrom’s phrase - “Organizing is a process; an organization is the result of that process.” We tend to make zombies out of our governance processes, which is the very opposite of evolvability.