Distortion is the central contributor to antergy or badwill, the root cause of unhealthy conflict of both cohorts (affinity groups of Complex Adaptive Systems) and commons (the resource and talent well from which cohorts draw the raw material of emotional health and productivity).

If unchecked within any level of a system, whether an acter, a cohort, a community, a society, or even the general commons, then antergy, violence, and harm to system sustainability such as that to the commons will inevitably result. The worst of these depredations is the result of exponential growth of distortion loops, or cascades of action/transaction due to the lack of counteracting loops. In conventional terms, this is known as evil, or within religious groups as Satan or equivalent. Terms differ, but concepts, causes, and consequences remain constant.

The most cost-effective (using whatever unit of measure is appropriate to the domain in question) counteracting loops are those that are self-referential, in other words introspective. In psychology, this is known as self-monitoring, or in political systems, known as checks and balances. Equivalent conceptual patterns can be found at every system level from acter to cohort to nation, whether or not a conventional term has been assigned.

Without the benefit of counteracting loops within the domain, then a counteracting loop will inevitably be created external to the domain. The expression of this external “adjustment” (to borrow a term from financial markets) can be anything from a bump to total violence. This is purely a system effect with a predictable probability, yet human nature and human societies will often assign blame to individuals or the “other” as it’s known in psychology and philosophy, rather than take internal responsibility for contributing to this outcome

The lag time between a major distortion and its external counteracting loop is measured in dysfunction and violence. Following this predictable violence, which in itself is simply a triggered explosion of an accumulation of dysfunction, the system will inevitably return to some form of equilibrium. This equilibrium, if internal counteraction loops are not put in place, will simply reproduce the system of dysfunction and violence that existed previously, and new scapegoats and blaming will be created as memes by marketers of the domain and promoted by its managers.

The prevention of distortion takes place at every level of granularity within the domain in question, and is the responsibility of each and every acter who wishes to reduce the cause of conflict at its most fundamental level. Refusing to contribute to distortions in the Dialog-Action-Transaction (DAT) mechanism within daily life significantly boosts the counteracting feedback loop against incipient violence.

Equally important is the active rejection of disorted DAT when observing such behavior within others, although such rejection must be expressed in a way that “black-boxes” the positive effect (e.g. walking into a private Ku Klux Klan rally and ripping hoods off while shouting anti-white slogans will not prove effective; seek alternatives).

Identifying distortions and learning how to counteract them is the subject of in-depth SCD practice in Book 2. In general, however, they originate within each of the vesting, framing, cognition, dialog, action, transaction, and association stages of human behavior.

Within any of these stages, such conflict-inducing distortions are most usefully classified as follows:

  • Evidence (lack of), in three major forms - bad or missing narratives, data, or patterns.
  • Assumptions - unwarranted or unfounded.
  • Meme bias - rigid adherence to vested forms and memes.
  • Selection - including selective exposure, selective process, and selective recall.
  • Logic - bad or missing metaphors, analogies, predicate logic, partitioning, proportion, inference, etc.
  • Context - attempting to apply deconstruction methods to a systemic or holistic issue.
  • Leverage - Short-term advantage, stealing from sustainable domain-wide advancement.

Actors who wish to counteract these root contributors to conflict would be advised to promote healthy approaches to DAT and framing, while actively correcting distorted process.

Examples are given in the section on Systems Ethics.