For A Particular Purpose
Hayao Miyazaki | A Network Of Circles | Factoids | Elsewhere: Astra Taylor
Quote of the Moment
Ecosystems can't possibly exist for a particular purpose.
| Hayao Miyazaki
A Network Of Circles
I have long believed that one of the flaws at the heart of industrial business thinking is the model of the company as a linear, machine-like apparatus. Something designed, like a clock or an egg-beater, intended to do one thing, and to do it in one way.
The linear, machine mindset precludes many options and centralizes a great deal — if not all — of power in the hands of the organization’s designer. In particular, such a design stops the organization from operating as an ecosystem, as Miyazaki’s words point out. Or at least, it seeks to, and that is the source of a great deal of conflict and tension in organizational life.
The reality is that the linear concept of organizations runs directly in contact and conflict with the nature of sociality: ecosystems are non-linear and self-organizing, and people in social groups, below the myth of the organization chart, operate like that, as well.
Organizations have always been unpredictable, non-linear feedback systems: a network of circles, not really the map of linear processes we attempt to impose on them.
We should make the circles more evident, and downplay the machine. People will be happier, the company will be more resilient, we’ll make better cakes, and more trains will run on time.
Across America, 59 million homes lie within one kilometer of a recent fire, and between 1990 and 2015 more than 30 million homes were added to the most fire-prone regions of the country. | David Wallace-Wells
The Economist reports on the whipsaw effect hitting the US logistics sector | The cost of “dry van” shipping—the most common way to transport non-perishable goods on the road—is 21% lower than in early 2022. That, in turn, is squeezing margins and putting less competitive firms out of business. Some 20,000 truck operators, nearly 3% of the national total, have ceased activity since mid-2022.
@firstname.lastname@example.org | The reason most public transportation is seen as ‘losing’ money is precisely because it charges for trips. If you don’t charge fares, suddenly it can’t ‘lose’ money. It just costs money, the same as the roads.
A new paper that breaks down inflation numbers in Europe shows that higher company profits account for 45 percent of price rises since the start of 2022.
Back in 2015, I wrote a piece for Backchannel (later acquired by Wired) on the theme What Will a Corporation Look Like in 2050?. In a nutshell, I wrote scenarios about possible futures based on what we — the people, companies, and countries — decide to do about three threats: inequality, climate change, and AI. In one scenario — Humania — we manage to dodge a climate catastrophe, regulate AI to stave off its worst potential effects, and drastically curtail paralyzing inequality. The other two scenarios are not so great. (I left out the worst possible worlds, where Earth becomes uninhabitable, the robots take over, or inequality leads to global political collapse.)
At any rate, almost ten years later, I am seeing a lot of thinkers turning to these issues, and making their own projections from our current state to other alternative worlds.
In Why Does Everyone Feel So Insecure All the Time?, Astra Taylor takes a deep dive into inequality [emphasis mine]:
Since 2020, the richest 1 percent has captured nearly two-thirds of all new wealth globally — almost twice as much money as the rest of the world’s population. At the beginning of last year, it was estimated that 10 billionaire men possessed six times more wealth than the poorest three billion people on earth. In the United States, the richest 10 percent of households own more than 70 percent of the country’s assets.
Such statistics are appalling. They have also become familiar. Since it was catapulted onto the national stage more than a decade ago by Occupy Wall Street, “inequality” has been a frequent topic of conversation in American political life. It helped animate Bernie Sanders’s influential campaigns, reshaped academic scholarship, shifted public policy, and continues to galvanize protest. And yet, however important focusing on the inequality crisis has been, it has also proven insufficient.
So, Occupy did have a real outcome: awareness of inequality (‘the 99%’). But she goes on to argue for us realizing one of inequality’s outcomes, insecurity, is the real issue: it makes the economics involved personal, not just political.
The ways we structure our societies could make us more secure; the way we structure it now makes us less so. I call this “manufactured insecurity.” Where existential insecurity is an inherent feature of our being — and something I believe we need to accept and learn from — manufactured insecurity facilitates exploitation and profit by waging a near constant assault on our self-esteem and well-being. In different ways, political philosophers, economists and advertising executives have pointed out how our economic system capitalizes on the insecurities it produces, which it then prods and perpetuates, making us all insecure by design. Only by reckoning with how deep manufactured insecurity runs will it become possible to envision something different.
And to do something to make what we envision a new reality.
We need to seek to channel insecurity in constructive ways. Indignation at the way our current system manufactures and exploits our fears and anxieties can help strengthen existing movements and coalesce new ones, uniting powerful — and expanding — coalitions that can fight for collective forms of security based in care and concern rather than desperation and distress.
She suggests insecurity could become ‘a motor for renewing and improving our society’. Insecurity is an opportunity, she says:
Rather than something to pathologize, I want us to see insecurity as an opportunity. We all need protection from life’s hazards, natural or human-made. The simple acceptance of our mutual vulnerability — of the fact that we all need and deserve care throughout our lives — has potentially transformative implications. When we spur people on with insecurity because we expect the worst from them, we create a vicious cycle that stokes desperation and division while facilitating the kind of cutthroat competition and consumption that has brought our fragile planet to a catastrophic brink. When we extend trust and support to others, we improve everyone’s security — including our own.
She brings in the thread of climate catastrophe as a common element of existential insecurity.
Recognizing our shared existential insecurity, and understanding how it is currently used against us, can be a first step toward forging solidarity. Solidarity, in the end, is one of the most important forms of security we can possess — the security of confronting our shared predicament as humans on this planet in crisis, together.
Taylor is setting the stage for Humania, although she doesn’t spell out the steps to the necessary Human Spring, the revolution where the insecure rise up and demand a better future, and compel governments and corporations to join with us in building it.
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