Earthly wedded veil
Lonely barking canticle
Sugar in the sap
I know you receive many requests from friends and acquaintances soliciting contributions to a great many different worthy charities. Hospice of Cape Cod is one of them. Hospice has touched my life in a profound way and helped me to become a stronger person. One day, when I am strong enough, I expect to work directly with a hospice organization wherever I may live. For now, I view this annual cycling event as a testament of my will to become that stronger person.
Perhaps all fundraising events are so, but The Last Gasp seems special to me in its approach. You should know that 100% of all funds donated go directly to Cape Cod charities. Of course, you do not have to be a Cape Cod resident to support my ride for Hospice. Hospice is everywhere. What I find truly fun about the Last Gasp, though, is that the drive of the top riders is to raise money, not to win the race. I have ridden in 2009 and 2010, skipping 2011 for grad school at Antioch University, and I have been a Big Wheel each year. A Big Wheel is one of the top fundraisers, and I hope you will help me reach that goal once again.
If you prefer to send a donation via check, please make it payable to ‘The Last Gasp’, and mail it to: Christopher Green, 19 Whidah Way, Centerville MA 02632.
Donate $500 and receive a signed fine art giclee print of a photograph I made on Great Island years ago. These museum quality prints are made by Bob Korn.
Yours, Very very respectfully,
Fox lay down early in the morning. She had been walking about swishing her tail her whole life. It was raining, and her tail felt very heavy and wet. She was so tired she said, “I will sleep forever”, and she closed her eyes. She slept, breathing slower and slower.
Porcupine found her lying by a flowing river at noon and thought, “She looks so peaceful I should not wake her, but I am so happy to see my friend that I will just sit by her for a while until she wakes.” Porcupine passed the time picking flowers and making rhymes. She wrote a note, a poem in part; and placed the note and flowers flat on Fox’s heart.
In the afternoon along came Bear, and full of joy she was to find both her best friends there by the river. Bear had not seen Fox in such a long time that she thought, “I will wait with my friend Porcupine for Fox to wake, and such a racket we all shall make!”
Bear and Porcupine talked as friends will talk. They talked about swimming in the river when Fox woke up, and they talked about finding and filling teacups.
The sun sank low in the sky and they each began to think that Fox was sleeping for a very long time. Not only that, they were hungry. They said to each other, “We cannot leave Fox sleeping here in the night, there are hungry things that will find her and eat her.” Just then, Raven came to settle in the dead dark tree just above their heads.
Porcupine and Bear felt dreadful. “Now we know we cannot go and leave our friend asleep just so.” Porcupine and Bear both knew that when Raven appeared, black as night, that Fox, their sleeping friend, might truly never wake up again. They began to feel sad, and they began to fret that Owl might come too.
Raven was bad enough, but if Owl appeared, then Fox would surely never wake up to swim and drink tea. They knew that whenever Owl hooted near, someone sleeping soon disappeared. The sun went down, and night fell upon them. They were so hungry, and they were so sleepy that they leaned against each other and began to dream. With their heads touching, they shared the same dream.
When they woke, Fox was gone. Both Porcupine and Bear knew from their dream that Owl had come and hooted, but instead of feeling dreadful they felt happy. For in their dream Fox had spoken to them with a golden light and assured them that Owl is beautiful and is not to be feared.
Written for David Sobel’s ‘Ecology of Imagination’ course at Antioch University New England
I will study my house as a means to build a map of a journey across the bridge of years.
We must dig ourselves. The archaeology of our identity reveals our inner terrain. I am trapped in story, evidenced not just by photographs and childhood artworks but by my obsession with the endeavor.
It is Monday.
Christopher Green – State of the World’s Fisheries
Political Economy and Sustainability – Spring 2011 – Michael Simpson
“75% of the major marine fish stocks are either depleted, over-exploited or being fished at their biological limit.”
- UNEP Green Economy Report, 2011 (UNEP 2011)
“… brought to you by Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, high energy vegetable concentrates, and new, delicious Soylent Green… the miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world.”
- from the 1973 film Soylent Green
A comprehensive assessment of the state of the world’s fisheries must account for a great many different sources of information and a great variety of perspectives and changing dynamics. One must account for both marine and inland capture fisheries and aquaculture. One must account for large and small scale fishing operations. One must account for myriad local, regional, national and global policies. One must account for integrated ecological, social and economic systems. In the end, one salient feature of the assessment must necessarily remain, “We do not really know how many fish remain in the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers today, nor do we know exactly how many fish we remove from them every year, nor the condition of their habitats” (Kura et al. 2004).
This is not to say that nothing is known. Indeed, a great deal of scientific research and historical and anecdotal evidence all leads to a generally commonly held conclusion; the health of the world’s fisheries is at best unknown, and at worst seriously threatened (e.g. Swartz et al. 2010; Worm et al. 2006). Driven down by high tech harvesting methods and wasteful management, the stocks of this natural capital are overexploited and the ecosystems that sustain them are degraded (Montaigne 2007).
There is hope that growing recognition of and responses to the nature and scope of this threat to the security of the human population may yet result in a reversal of the trend of depletion. Scientific studies are currently describing the problem in ways that may empower those pushing for a paradigm shift in the approach to fisheries management strategies (e.g. Worm et al. 2009; Pauly, Christensen, Guenette, Pitcher, Sumaila, Walters, R. Watson, and Zeller 2002a). Indeed, hopeful success stories may be found in fisheries in Iceland (Arnason 2008) and New Zealand (Breen and Kendrick 1997) for example, but the current global fisheries trade is uneconomic and apparently unsustainable. The lack of a holistic global socio-economic policy making mechanism based on properly scaled models informed by definitive science and backed by effective enforcement is not an encouraging situation.
The dilemma human beings face with the state of the world’s fisheries is a classic example of biologist Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. Hardin wrote in his classic manifesto from 1968, “… the oceans of the world continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons. Maritime nations still respond automatically to the shibboleth of the “freedom of the seas.” Professing to believe in the “inexhaustible resources of the oceans,” they bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction” (Hardin 1968).
Human beings have harvested fish for food from our earliest times as subsistence hunter-gatherers. The limits of demand and technology and arguably the presence of an innate eco-intelligence produced a balanced, nested system that has yielded a naturally sustainable resource management strategy for millennia. Perhaps as a result of this historical continuum of unintentional sustainable management, fish stocks, especially those upon which large-scale commercial fisheries have been developed, have long been thought, as Hardin declared in 1968, to be inexhaustible. This belief is truly the central piece in the dynamic that has led to overfishing, which is the action of fishing beyond the level at which fish stocks can replenish themselves through natural reproduction.
The rise of modern industrial fisheries began about 1880 with the introduction of fishing vessels powered by fossil fuel burning engines with overexploitation beginning shortly thereafter (Swartz et al. 2010; Roberts 2007; Pauly, Christensen, Guenette, Pitcher, Sumaila, Walters, R. Watson, and Zeller 2002b). In the aftermath of World War II, boats with increased capacity and range coupled with improved technologies for locating and catching fish soon produced a new pattern of exploitation, culminating in peak yields in the 1980’s (Kura et al. 2004).
Marine fisheries have traditionally been assigned primary importance in the global fish trade due to its overwhelmingly dominant proportion of the market. Though inland capture fisheries are critically important to regional human populations, they account for a much smaller proportion of the global market. The rise of aquaculture as a means to provide fish for food is seen as a response to the limits of the global capture fisheries to meet the demand for fish.
The primary value of fish to the global human population is nutritional, primarily as a source of protein. Human beings, and all other animals, must obtain some amino acids through their diet in order to sustain life. Humans obtain amino acids by consuming and metabolizing proteins. Fish represent a generally excellent source of protein. Fish account for roughly one-fifth of the animal protein consumed by humans worldwide. One billion people, generally in developing countries, rely on fish for their primary source of protein and food security (UNEP 2011; Kura et al. 2004). Over 1.5 billion people derive at least twenty percent of their animal protein from fish (FAO 2010).
In addition to providing animal protein to the human diet, fish are increasingly understood to be a source of micronutrients essential to human health and wellbeing. Vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc are especially important nutritional components derived from fish in developing countries (Dugan et al. 2010). The worldwide demand for fish is expected to increase, perhaps sharply, as new concerns about the cost of not eating fish becomes more widespread. At one point thought to be an entirely beneficial food source, fish, especially those at higher trophic levels, became suspect due to increased levels of toxins (particularly mercury and dioxins) leading to a mitigation of demand. Yet, global mental health concerns are increasing (mental illness and depression are already becoming major health care burdens), and research suggests that seafood consumption and in particular long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFAs) appear to have positive impacts on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as depression (FAO 2010).
There can be no single set of data that definitively describes the global production of all fisheries. In fact, even the highly credible biannual report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, most recently produced in 2010 by the UN’s FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, presents differing numbers for the total annual marine fisheries catch in different sections. Nonetheless, the trend described by virtually all relevant data sets is that annual global marine capture catches rose dramatically from 1950 reaching peak yields in the 1980’s and have either been in slight decline or have remained essentially stagnant between 1992 to 2010 at 80-90 million tons with large inter-year variations (e.g. Swartz et al. 2010). With most of the top ten species, those accounting for 30% of world fish production by quantity, now fully exploited, total global marine catch production may be headed for a crash. While there is uncertainty associated with the many different estimates of the level of exploitation of single species stocks it may be said, “… the apparently increasing trend in the percentage of overexploited, depleted and recovering stocks and the decreasing trend in underexploited and moderately exploited stocks do give cause for concern” (FAO 2010).
Demand for fish continues to rise globally, currently at a rate of roughly 1.5% annually with aquaculture production now meeting nearly half of the worldwide demand (Kura et al. 2004; FAO 2010). However, with global catches either stable or in decline and aquaculture production falling short of anticipated yields it is evident that a shortfall between supply and demand will occur in the near future if current trends are not altered (e.g. Pauly, Christensen, Guenette, Pitcher, Sumaila, Walters, R. Watson, and Zeller 2002a).
Capture and aquaculture fisheries are a crucial source of income and subsistence for hundreds of million people worldwide. Accounting for the people directly engaged in fishing and aquaculture as well as those engaged in post-harvest activities and those dependent upon these primary and secondary producers, the number of people whose livelihoods are supported by fishing is roughly 520 million, or 8% of the global population (UNEP 2011; FAO 2010).
The international fisheries trade generates over US$43-55 billion annually (UNEP 2011; FAO 2010). It has been estimated that the maximum sustainable profit from global fisheries is US$50 billion annually (Arnason 2006; FAO 1992). It has been estimated that the current economic waste in global fisheries, measured as lost profits, probably amounts to US$50 billion annually (Arnason 2006). The world’s fisheries are not profitable, and can only continue to exist through public subsidies (Garcia and Newton 1997). Subsidy reform, resource management reform and reduction of capture overcapacity are seen as necessary steps towards the conversion of wasteful global fisheries into profitable green economic systems (UNEP 2011).
The global fisheries trade is conducted in regions that encompass a variety of aquatic environments. Efforts to create zones of regulatory control have typically been directed without full regard for the limits of the ecosystems in which fish stocks actually complete their entire life cycles. This is especially true for marine fisheries, and it is not uncommon for fish stocks to straddle zones with different regulatory conditions. Even when one set of regulations is appropriate for sustainable management, this situation can easily create a dynamic that results in depletion of a stock when fish straddle a zone where the regulations are not.
It is hoped that Ecosystem-Level Management employed as a scientific approach combined with the more policy oriented concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) may provide a more sustainable approach to managing marine fish stocks (UNEP 2011). Ecosystem-Level Management of marine fish stocks requires the delineation of Large Marine Ecosystems (LME). These are likely to be the most problematic yet most important regions to protect. LME’s are by nature large, and may either extend past the limits of sovereign control (i.e. EEZ), or may occur entirely in deep water beyond any sovereign control.
Yet it has been shown that LME’s appear to be the minimum scale for the science used to inform policy makers for the development of future sustainable management. A paper published in 2006 titled Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services (Worm et al. 2006), has proven to be highly influential and is often cited for gloomy predictions that current trends indicate that all of the world’s food fisheries will collapse entirely by the year 2048 (e.g. Montaigne 2007).
Marine Protected Areas, areas where fish can escape fishers and rebuild their population, have not traditionally been employed on a large-scale basis for sustainable management of fish stocks. However, it is thought that the establishment and enforced protection of these areas can be effective in implementing Ecosystem-Level Management strategies. It remains to science, however, to initially define the correct areas and their sizes and to subsequently assess the function of the LME/MPA management strategy for success (UNEP 2011).
As early as 1977 the New England Fish Company (NEFCO) delivered a report to President Carter critical of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, a US national policy written by Senator Warren G. Magnuson who claimed upon its passing, “I am confident the days of overfishing are over”. The NEFCO report was titled Seafood: A Strategic National Resource, and as its title indicates, advocated the escalation of the importance of US national policy-making in regards to fishing to that of national security (NEFCO 1977).
In The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin talks about the recognition of necessity, and that inevitably a problem of the commons presents a situation where there is no technical solution. He proposes that coercion is the only solution to the problem of conscience being self-eliminating. The fisheries of the world are caught in the double-bind situation Hardin describes as the psychological imperative that drives the individual to, “deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers” (Hardin 1968).
It is this denial of truth that is most deeply concerning. In the 1973 film Soylent Green, the world of 2022 is described as one in which the resources of the world have been exhausted through the pressures of overpopulation. Climate change has progressed to profound levels. Life as we knew it in 1973 is long gone. The major twist in the plot is that the discovery by an individual that the world’s oceans are no longer capable of supporting life and that people are now simply eating their own dead appears to be ready to be dismissed by the masses as being an inconvenient truth (Fleischer 1973).
We may expect to see coercion exercised upon every instance of a commonly held resource, and global fisheries are no exception. Certainly regulations are already trying to keep pace with the rate of depletion. Yet the truth is that we will need to do more to avoid a much more ugly truth. It is likely that when the policy-making of food security is escalated to the level of national security we shall begin to see the sort of solutions that our future holds. Hopefully, we will not have to resort to eating each other, but as Hardin said in 1968, “the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed”.
Arnason, Ragnar. 2006. Estimation of Global Rent Loss in Fisheries: Theoretical Basis and Practical Considerations presented at the IIFET 2006 Proceedings, In P. Shriver (ed.).
———. 2008. “ICELAND’S ITQ SYSTEM CREATES NEW WEALTH.” EJSD Journal of Sustainable Development 1 (2). http://www.ejsd.org/public/journal_article/9.
Breen, Paul A., and Terese H. Kendrick. 1997. “A fisheries management success story: the Gisborne, New Zealand, fishery for red rock lobsters (Jasus edwardsii).” Mar. Freshwater Res. 48 (8) (January 1): 1103-1110.
Dugan, P., A. Delaporte, N. Andrew, M. O’Keefe, R. Welcomme, Unep, The WorldFish Center, and A. Delaporte P. Dugan. 2010. Blue harvest: inland fisheries as an ecosystem service. Text. http://econpapers.repec.org/bookchap/wfiwfbook/39222.htm.
FAO. 1992. Marine fisheries and law of the sea: a decade of change. Special chapter of. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/u9345e/u9345e00.HTM.
———. 2010. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture – 2010 (SOFIA). FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture Dept. http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1820e/i1820e00.htm.
Fleischer, Richard. 1973. Soylent Green. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070723/.
Garcia, S.M., and C. Newton. 1997. Current Situation, Trends and prospects in World Capture Fisheries. In Global Trends: Fisheries Management, ed. E.K. Pikitch, D.D. Huppert, and M.P. Sissenwine. American Fisheries Society.
Hardin, G. 1968. “The tragedy of the commons. The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 162 (3859) (December 13): 1243-1248.
Kura, Yukimo, Carmen Revenga, Eriko Hoshino, and Greg Mock. 2004. Fishing for Answers: Making sense of the global fish crisis. Washington DC: World Resources Institute. http://www.wri.org/publication/fishing-answers-making-sense-global-fish-crisis.
Montaigne, Fen. 2007. “Still Waters, The Global Fish Crisis.” National Geographic 211 (4): 32-41.
NEFCO. 1977. Seafood: A Strategic National Resource. New England Fish Company.
Pauly, Daniel, Villy Christensen, Sylvie Guenette, Tony J. Pitcher, U. Rashid Sumaila, Carl J. Walters, R. Watson, and Dirk Zeller. 2002a. “Towards sustainability in world fisheries.” Nature 418 (6898): 689-695. doi:10.1038/nature01017.
———. 2002b. “Towards sustainability in world fisheries.” Nature 418 (6898): 689-695. doi:10.1038/nature01017.
Roberts, Callum. 2007. The unnatural history of the sea. Island Press, July 30.
Swartz, Wilf, Enric Sala, Sean Tracey, Reg Watson, and Daniel Pauly. 2010. “The Spatial Expansion and Ecological Footprint of Fisheries (1950 to Present).” PLoS ONE 5 (12) (December 2): e15143. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015143.
UNEP. 2011. Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. United Nations Environment Programme. www.unep.org/greeneconomy.
Worm, Boris, Edward B. Barbier, Nicola Beaumont, J. Emmett Duffy, Carl Folke, Benjamin S. Halpern, Jeremy B. C. Jackson, et al. 2006. “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services.” Science 314 (5800) (November 3): 787 -790. doi:10.1126/science.1132294.
Worm, Boris, Ray Hilborn, Julia K. Baum, Trevor A. Branch, Jeremy S. Collie, Christopher Costello, Michael J. Fogarty, et al. 2009. “Rebuilding Global Fisheries.” Science 325 (5940) (July 31): 578 -585. doi:10.1126/science.1173146.
Emergent Autotelic Leadership and the Astrodelic Experience
Christopher Green – Applied Research Case Study
Leadership for Change – Fall 2010 – Abigail Abrash-Walton – AUNE
I’m in command of 18 competitively selected super-perfect physical specimens with an average age of 24.6 who have been locked up in hyperspace for 378 days. It would have served you right if I hadn’t… and he… oh go on, get out of here before I have you run out of the area under guard – and then I’ll put more guards on the guards!
- Commander John J. Adams, in the film ‘Forbidden Planet’ 1956
Nulla est homini causa philosophandi, nisi ut beatus sit.
(Man has no reason to philosophize, except with a view to happiness.)
- Saint Augustine (Schumacher, 1977)
New models of leadership based on leaderless, decentralized systems are developing seemingly coincidentally with a paradigm shift in the understanding of human neurophysiology. In both cases, theories are trending towards describing complex systems capable of creating and supporting emergent properties. It may therefore be interesting to consider whether an organizational structure modeled on human neurophysiology will produce effective leadership as an emergent property. It may also be interesting to consider whether the type of leadership produced in such a theoretical construct would tend to be driven by the classic reward and punishment motivation paradigm, or whether it might in fact tend to be autotelic. Hypothetically, a decentralized system properly structured and enabled will produce a form of autotelic leadership as an emergent property.
My very first post to the Discussion Forum in Sakai for the Leadership for Change course focused attention on the efforts to correlate human neurophysiology with leadership behaviors in the book Primal Leadership (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002). I was challenged to dig deeper into the correlation between human neurophysiology and leadership behavior. Feeling that the leadership model presented in Primal Leadership was ‘missing something’ I thought to consider interesting new science and theory and how human neurophysiology itself might present the underpinnings of an alternative model for organizational leadership.
Neurophysiology & Astrocytes
In the book The Other Brain, Dr. R. Douglas Fields describes very simply the explosion of the paradigm that human beings use only 10% of their brains. The other roughly 90% of the brain previously thought to be composed of cells limited to purely structural functionality is now being viewed quite differently. Roughly 85% of the human brain is composed of a group of related cells named glial cells, glia being Greek for “glue”. Scientific research has shown that glial cells are involved in the control of a number of neural activities, and possibly even direct the development of the human brain as well as support its healthy function (Fields, 2009; Koob, 2009).
Astrocytes, or astroglia, are star-shaped glial cells found in great numbers in the human brain and spinal cord and are now understood to be highly engaged facilitators of a range of neural actions (e.g. Benarroch, 2005). It might be said that they nurture and reinforce as well as regulate neuronal cells executing known processes. Still clearly integral to the structural integrity of the brain, astrocytes are distributed throughout the Central Nervous System (CNS), deeply woven into the neural network and possess their own system of long distance communication (e.g. Newman, 2001).
Decentralization & Leaderless Organizations
The viability of decentralized organizations has been discussed very effectively in the book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Brafman & Beckstrom, 2006). This book presents the starfish as an entity analogous to the decentralized organization. With its distributed neural network and redundant organ structure the starfish can regenerate whole appendages, and in some cases entire new bodies from a small amputated piece. A starfish can be virtually impossible to kill. The spider is presented as an analogy for the traditional centralized organization. Such an organization possesses ‘a head’, or a central ‘command and control’ nexus, that may be disabled with a single blow effectively disabling the entire organization, perhaps permanently.
Decentralized organizations are not a new concept. In The Starfish and the Spider, Brafman and Beckstrom describe the conflict between the Apache and the Spanish in the region now known as Arizona as an example of the power of a decentralized leaderless culture. The Apache did not have a chief, but followed a person called a Nant’an. Anyone could be a Nant’an, the Apache would simply gravitate towards one and thereby he would become one. Nant’ans had no real power to tell anyone to do anything, but people would follow them because their life energy seemed good.
The Spanish were able to destroy in one fell swoop larger, more powerful centralized empires in Central America by simply killing their traditionally organized leadership. Yet the Apache were able to sustain a conflict with the far more powerful Spanish forces for 200 years by increasing the decentralization of their physical communities and absorbing the targeted killing of their Nant’ans by replacing each one lost from a nearly inexhaustible reservoir. The pre-existence of a leaderless culture and the ability to adapt to increasing decentralization through effective long distance communication enabled the Apache culture to survive much longer than the more sophisticated and powerful Central American empires.
A similar scenario has been playing out recently as Al-Quaeda and the Taliban have both been effective at eluding destruction at the hands of an apparently more powerful adversary. These organizations have been enabled by the capacity of the Internet to provide the long distance communication essential to the maintenance of a decentralized organization. As long as their system produces leaders to replace those that are lost they will likely persist.
The Internet has also enabled vastly successful organizations such as Wikipedia, craigslist, Skype and eBay (Brafman & Beckstrom, 2006). All of these recent successes of decentralized organizations in the Technology age may presage the need for more than a sea-change in organizational structure. A full fathom five our father may lie indeed, and perhaps we are to leave the sea-nymphs to ring his knell hour by hour and concentrate ourselves on the true transformation of old ways into new.
While the concept of emergence is currently in vogue and consequently used quite freely to explain various epiphenomena, it has been around since the time of Aristotle, and its meaning is arguably quite specific. The term “emergent” originated with psychologist G.H. Lewes in 1875. He wrote, “The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference” (Lewes, 1875). From this philosophical start, the tension between those who can rectify the concept of a property emerging from components that it cannot then be reduced to and those who cannot continues unabated.
Nonetheless, emergence represents an important concept in complex systems theory. Jeffrey Goldstein proposed an updated definition of emergence in 1999, “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems” (Corning, 2002). Free of the ballast of reductionist paradox emergence comes into its own as a useful and resonant concept.
Examples of emergent patterns and structures are seen throughout the natural world from snowflakes to ripple patterns on sand. Emergence is seen in every complex system, and from the human perspective perhaps the ultimate emergent property may be consciousness. The view that consciousness and products of the mind such as behavior are emergent properties of the complex system known as the human brain is virtually an article of faith for Artificial Intelligence (AI) designers. Using human neurophysiology as a model, AI designers theorize that reproducing the complex system will enable the production of the desired emergent properties.
The study of emergent leadership originates with J.B. Rieffert, the director of German military psychology, and his Leaderless Group Discussion (LGD) tool in 1920 (Bass, 1954). The widely used and well-researched LGD method is employed today as a management assessment tool to identify and measure group leadership role behaviors (Hobson, Strupeck, & Szostek, 2010). Yet focusing on identifying and measuring tendencies to perform particular pre-defined roles may reveal more about what sort of leadership skills a person may possess, and perhaps not so much about how that person will perform as a leader.
In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi described a method for “enhancing the quality of life”. Csíkszentmihályi theorizes the possibility of the “optimal experience”, and that a key element of this is that the experience is an end in itself. He calls this flow, or the “autotelic experience”. The word autotelic is derived from the Greek words for “self” and “goal”. Essentially, any experience may be autotelic as long as it is done for its own sake. For example, a painter could create a canvas for the pure joy of expressing his or her self and the experience would be autotelic, or that painter could produce a canvas for the purpose of selling it for money in which case the experience would not.
The capacity to be internally driven by “a purpose in and not apart from itself” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990) is the definition of an autotelic personality, and autotelicism is considered to have particular relevance in leadership, motivation and managing change in people. Csíkszentmihályi writes of autotelic personalities, “They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside. At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).
A study of retiring US Army Generals (Dowd, 2001) cites Csíkszentmihályi’s definition of autotelicism in a discussion of characteristics contributing to the success of these very accomplished military officers. The “capacity to be internally engaged regardless of the nature of the external environment” is considered to be a key component of a truly successful leader. Dowd also writes that the success of a leader cannot be reduced to this quality alone, and that the organizational structure must nurture and reinforce a common culture to support its development. In the case of the Army, the development and valorization of leaders expressing a “can do” attitude satisfies the “indispensible necessity” of producing leadership qualities throughout its membership.
If autotelicism is to be considered a key component of a successful leader, how does it become present in a leader? How does an individual become internally motivated to achieve a high goal for no other purpose than to achieve the high goal?
Historically, a critical element in the design of AI systems has been modeled on the classic motivational paradigm of reward and punishment (Steels, 2004). While this paradigm has never been questioned as the dominant motivational paradigm of human behavior, it has long been troubling in its lack of self-regulating principles. Following Lord Acton’s famous quote about the corrupting influence of power, William Pitt, the Elder, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778 spoke to the House of Lords in 1770, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it”.
At the dawn of the AI age, human beings are uneasy about creating machines with limitless potential for self-development. As we approach the hypothetical technological singularity, or that point in time when the world will become unpredictable to humans due to an inability to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities (e.g. Kurzweil, 2005), there is concern that a lack of self-regulating principles for these entities will be our ruin.
With great prescience, Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 short story Runaround;
1. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.” (Asimov, 1950)
Lacking any consequence of punishment Asimov’s laws are classically autotelic and provide virtually a blueprint for designing a self-regulating AI system. Perhaps then it is not surprising that AI development has been turning towards schools of thought like the one expressed in The Autotelic Principle which states that the goal is to establish the motivation as striking a balance between the highest possible level of challenge and skill (Steels, 2004).
Perhaps designing autotelic principles into an AI system is a technological challenge that human beings can master. If these principles can be seen as essential components for superintelligent entities, should they not be for our selves as well? How might we produce such principles in ourselves?
The core concept of Flow introduced in Csíkszentmihályi’s 1990 book sits at the heart of the autotelic experience. Flow is a state of mind in which “attention can be freely invested to achieve a person’s goals, because there is no disorder to straighten out, no threat for the self to defend against”(Csíkszentmihályi, 1990). Flow engenders happiness, and its attainment is the reward and hence the motivation. In 1990 Csíkszentmihályi wondered about a physiological basis for naturally autotelic personalities and even writes about the possibility of a genetic predisposition that might produce them, but admits that no such basis can be concluded without research producing evidence not in existence at the time.
The healthy function of the complex system known as the human brain is dependent upon the moment-to-moment regulation of the dynamic changes in cerebral blood flow. “Emerging evidence implicates astrocytes as one of the key players in coordinating” this regulation (e.g. Koehler, Roman, & Harder, 2009). Astrocytes are able to perform this regulation of blood flow over a large spatial range because they are distributed across the physical landscape of the CNS and they are capable of long distance communication via calcium wave transmission. A single astrocyte can communicate via calcium waves with other astrocytes within an area hundreds of times its own size (e.g. Cornell-Bell & Finkbeiner, 1991). Interestingly, it has been shown that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, stimulates calcium wave release in astrocytes (e.g. Blázquez, Sánchez, Daza, Galve-Roperh, & Guzmán, 1999) whereas lysergic acid diethylamide (d-LSD) apparently does not (e.g. Reissig, Rabin, Winter, & Dlugos, 2008).
Could there be a correlation between Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of flow and cerebral blood flow? Might optimal blood flow regulation in the human brain produce the optimal experience? It would seem as if the two disparate paradigms appear to be converging towards at least a metaphysical meeting place. Might astrocytes be the networked system of control capable of producing the optimal experience or, to coin a new phrase, the astrodelic experience?
What is the astrodelic experience? Many commonly used phrases may help with the understanding. People speak about the ‘runner’s high’, or being ‘in the zone’, or having one’s ‘head in the game’. In all cases these are references to a state of hyper-focused attention and elation evocative of Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of flow or autotelicism. The astrodelic experience is essentially the same concept, but intentionally reinvented to focus on a paradigm of complex networked interactions incorporating astrocyte-like facilitation that enables the emergence of properties associated with it.
An experiment was conducted with a group of students in a leadership course to establish experiential evidence of the possibility of such a synthesis. The group of students were introduced to the concept of a self-organizing, decentralized, leaderless organization; were instructed in the use of a physical contact protocol modeled on astrocyte networking in the human brain with the explanation that this would allow the members of the group to communicate via energy flow and the intention that the repetitive employment of this protocol within the group and beyond would imprint a cultural value; and they were set to the task of developing a presentation about team building. As a result, the group rapidly self-organized around a leaderless structure, adopted primary goals to support and nurture each other, incorporated the contact protocol and even named themselves ‘The Astrocytes’. During the course of the group’s multi-week project various members spontaneously emerged to lead the group through various phases, and one member developed a strong autotelic interpretation of his motivation for leadership after having been catalyzed into accepting leadership positions within the greater community of the school at which this experiment was conducted. Upon reflection this particular student wrote about the experience as the basis for the conception of the astrodelic experience (Green, 2010).
Now, to synthesize a paradigm of complex networked interactions incorporating astrocyte-like facilitation that will give rise to the emergent property of autotelic leadership. Following the example above, it is proposed that members of a leaderless organization connected by a common culture will self-organize as necessary to nurture and support the emergence of leadership in whichever individual possesses the skills that best balance the requirements of the goal at hand. Through active engagement the members of the group may regulate the emergence of leadership literally moment-to-moment. In this manner the group satisfies the requirement for leadership dynamically. Leadership is likely to be autotelic as long as it is understood by all that any perceived hierarchy is transitory, and that individual achievements are irrelevant when taken out of context of the well-being of the group.
Humans face great challenges in the present and in the future. The greatest challenges are the ones without precedent. Our leadership will need to adapt to these new unprecedented challenges, especially as the limits of our traditional models are exceeded. We cannot simply put more guards on the guards to ensure our security or our happiness.
Autotelicism, having been identified as a possible motivational solution for the self-regulated development of AI entities, may be the appropriate realm to explore in the evolution of new leadership models in human society. While some humans appear to express naturally autotelic personalities, perhaps such an expression would emerge in any individual when that individual is incorporated into a system that supports and nurtures its development.
Perhaps like the Apache, we need our Nant’ans, people who lead by example in their simple way. Perhaps they are our naturally autotelic personalities, people who understand flow. If such a person can begin to teach others how to attain the higher order pleasure of true happiness, then perhaps others will emerge as autotelics themselves. One day we may say that in the sweet beautiful universe every one of us enjoys the astrodelic experience all the time ☺
Asimov, I. (1950). Runaround. In I, Robot. Gnome Press.
Bass, B. (1954). The leaderless group discussion. Psychological Bulletin, Sep(51(5)), 465-92.
Benarroch, E. E. (2005). Neuron-astrocyte interactions: partnership for normal function and disease in the central nervous system. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Mayo Clinic, 80(10), 1326-1338.
Blázquez, C., Sánchez, C., Daza, A., Galve-Roperh, I., & Guzmán, M. (1999). The stimulation of ketogenesis by cannabinoids in cultured astrocytes defines carnitine palmitoyltransferase I as a new ceramide-activated enzyme. Journal of Neurochemistry, 72(4), 1759-1768.
Brafman, O., & Beckstrom, R. (2006). The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. Portfolio Hardcover.
Cornell-Bell, A. H., & Finkbeiner, S. M. (1991). Ca2+ waves in astrocytes. Cell Calcium, 12(2-3), 185-204.
Corning, P. A. (2002). The Re-Emergence of “Emergence”: A Venerable Concept in Search of a Theory. Complexity, 7(6), 18–30. doi:10.1002/cplx.10043
Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.
Dowd, J. J. (2001). From Officers to Gentlemen: Army Generals and the Passage to Retirement. In Restructuring work and the life course. University of Toronto Press.
Fields, R. D. (2009). The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2002). Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.
Green, C. (2010). Emergent Autotelic Leadership and the Astrodelic Experience. Unpublished manuscript.
Hobson, C. J., Strupeck, D., & Szostek, J. (2010). A Behavioral Roles Approach to Assessing and Improving the Team Leadership Capabilities of Managers. In Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/50738185/A-Behavioral-Roles-Approach-to-Assessing-and-Improving-the-Team-Leadership-Capabilities-of-Managers
Koehler, R. C., Roman, R. J., & Harder, D. R. (2009). Astrocytes and the regulation of cerebral blood flow. Trends in Neurosciences, 32(3), 160-169. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2008.11.005
Koob, A. (2009). The Root of Thought: Unlocking Glia- the Brain Cell That Will Help Us Sharpen Our Wits, Heal Injury, and Treat Brain Disease (1st ed.). FT Press.
Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity Is Near. New York: Viking.
Lewes, G. H. (1875). Problems of Life and Mind (First Series) (Vol. 2). London: Trübner.
Newman, E. A. (2001, April 1). Propagation of Intercellular Calcium Waves in Retinal Astrocytes and Müller Cells. Retrieved December 15, 2010, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2409971/?tool=pubmed
Reissig, C. J., Rabin, R. A., Winter, J. C., & Dlugos, C. A. (2008). d-LSD-induced c-Fos expression occurs in a population of oligodendrocytes in rat prefrontal cortex. European Journal of Pharmacology, 583(1), 40-47. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.12.031
Schumacher, E. F. (1977). A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper & Row.
Steels, L. (2004). The Autotelic Principle. EMBODIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, LECTURE NOTES IN AI, 3139, 231-242.
When I need to grow, I go to see my mother. I am so fortunate that she is in a place that is so incredibly sacred as to be the site of an epic journey every single visit. It takes me two full hours of solid hiking to reach the location, and the transitions of the terrain are fantastic. You pass by a salt marsh, then go upland just a bit through a pine and oak forest, then back down past another salt marsh, then upland just a bit through another pine and oak forest, and then down once more to a salt marsh with the bay at your side much closer.
I have been going to this place for many and many a year, since long before my father and I brought my mother and my brother there one day last year to set them free forever. My youth is bound to this place along with a rich natural connection that is now so powerful as to feel like tripping when I visit. It is awesome.
I was called there today. I woke up in a hotel in Keene NH, and soon after I knew the visit had to be made. A very long day, but one I could never have refused. I saw a Diamondback Terrapin female on a nesting trip at the start and lightning bugs at the end. They were the candy, but perhaps not the true reward. It was the sort of day when I knew early on that I was not quite up to the journey, and I was extremely grateful to find a decrepit piece of pine deadfall that seemed to be just up to the task of serving as a meagre walking stick.
These journeys represent highly sacred moments to me. I truly believe that I will receive knowledge during the course of them, the sort of knowledge that cannot be predicted. The sort of knowledge that comes from the same place as a dream. The unknowable comes to mind through a process of faith. Light shines on a rock, you pick it up and mark it evil. A voice tells you that you do not have to carry it. You put it down, and moments later you see a perfectly heart-shaped rock beckoning.
Today I am not sure that I was successful in interpreting signs. I know that I was called, but I am not entirely certain why. I have an idea, though. I made it all the way to the point where half my family remains. I wanted to hear, but I heard very little. I did not hear nothing I am sure, but nothing did I hear that gave me to understand my calling. I felt called back to the wooded areas I had passed through on my hike earlier.
In the first wooded area I felt a distinct notion that I was safe. I knew that I would see the red ball of the setting sun through the trees eventually, and that I would emerge to see the sun set itself. So I did.
In the second wooded area, however, the sun had set many minutes earlier, and I soon became oppressed with a feeling of unease that rivaled any I have ever felt before. My hair was standing straight up from my head I am sure. I could not account for it. I had to keep looking back over my shoulder even though I had not seen a living soul for several hours. I knew that no one but myself, no corporeal human form, was about the land. I tell you that if it was not evil, it was certainly an unknown entity that made my skin crawl. I found in the very most oppressive moments that my decrepit walking stick grew in stature. I leaned on it with a will.
I emerged to the final long salt marsh section that preceded my arrival at the car park, and breathed a sigh of relief. I was in fact rather glad that the anxiety of the wood had propelled me through a phase of extreme exhaustion. I do this regularly, especially at this time of year. I push myself far beyond comfort in some insensible pursuit of enlightenment. I seem to have faith in my ability to follow signs that I do not yet know how to read.
I made it out of the second wood, well into twilight, exhausted, and wanting very much to sit down and walk no more. That would not be a good choice, however, because my mantra had become the phrases I had heard back at the point when I was striving to listen, “I believe in Good. I am strong”. I could not in good faith sit down with fatigue and still chant that I was strong.
I had a walking stick in my hand that I had picked up hours earlier in my first passage through the difficult wooded area that I had carried since. Now it was powering me along, a virtual staff despite its terribly fragile state, the poor old pine deadfall. I came to realize moments before the lightning bugs rewarded me with their candy of sight that the walking stick itself was the lesson. It had been in my hand all the way through the uncertainty. It had grown in force as I had kept it to my being, using it, taking it for granted.
It has been said that you never miss a mother’s love until it is gone. I know this because my mother told me those words herself! She left nothing to chance. She taught me everything she could, and that is why I do not in fact miss her love because it is not gone as long as I have faith that it shall be there every time I go to see her.
Last year I rode my bicycle in The Last Gasp which is a bicycle ‘race’ of about 62 miles from Sandwich to Provincetown on Cape Cod. I do not think of it as a race, though, because I am never going to win it! Still, it is a great way for me to raise money for Hospice of Cape Cod, and I shall soon be adding instructions here on my web site on how to make a donation in my name. I was a ‘Big Wheel’ last year in my first fundraising effort, and I hope to exceed that by quite a bit this year. Thank you all in advance for your support!