Humans are masters at hiding their true intentions and their sub-conscious expectations. The uninspected gaps between objectives, words, and actions cause distortions that may not be immediately obvious to any individual or group, but are “recorded” by the socio-cultural system and “played back” by the rules of systems dynamics, as miscommunication, mistrust, stress, lower capacity, or unhealthy conflict. Conversely, objectives, words, and actions that are both well-aligned and also aligned with embedded cultural imperatives are played back as joy of achievement, asset-building and personal sense of meaning in one’s life.
The rules of dynamical systems, which in fact govern all living things and their social and political constructs, are founded on powerful forces called feedback loops. Reinforcing feedback loops are those which cause cascades in behavior, such as addiction (negative outcomes) or a loving relationship between two people (positive outcomes). Counteracting feedback loops are those which reverse a cascade, such as a struggle to quit smoking (increasing the probability for a positive outcome) or infidelity in a marriage (increasing the probability of a negative outcome).
All unhealthy human conflict is a fundamentally predictable result of reinforcing feedback loops constructed of deceit, mistrust, miscommunication and its fellow traveler of agendas built on blame and scapegoating. Any proposed solutions based on shallow assumptions of directed guilt or blame of the “other” are unsustainable and ultimately doomed to failure, due to their inherent property of spinning off counteracting feedback loops that gain strength as a function of the distance between the actual root cause and the protagonist’s (often a politician or presumed “leader”) agenda.
Thus, the only sustainable (i.e. affordable, supportable, and executable over the medium and long term) approach to unhealthy conflict can be found in identifying true root causes, then applying system-driven solutions optimized for basic cultural imperatives. Short-term “solutions” will always yield short-term results, so it follows that all political and social incentives that reward short-term results will in fact increase the probability of a much larger and even greater unhealthy conflict to follow. In conventional public dialog, these are often called “unintended results” or “unforeseen circumstances”, when to any proponent of dynamical systems, these are in fact quite predictable.
It must be emphasized that the recording and playback of distorted dialog and action takes place at every level of granularity, from the smallest word uttered to a young child, to a public policy that affects 10 million people. Thus, any and all embedded false assumptions and beliefs expressed as dialog or action will find its way into the dynamics of the particular socio-cultural system, and will ultimately be evidenced in some unhealthy way, usually far from the source of the distortion.
It must also be noted that dynamical systems theory’s ability to predict behavioral outcomes and thus prescribe effective solutions follows three principles:
Any community of living things can best be understood as a complex interaction of adaptive individuals, with behaviors and outcomes not measurable by any linear tools or reductionist methods. A process for understanding the behaviors and outcomes of such a system is critical to preventing loss to the system of productivity and positive feelings, while decreasing the risk of future loss.
The only sound method for understanding these complex adaptive systems, i.e. a human being’s body, a family, a club, a society, or even such things as a prison, is to borrow useful concepts and best practices from relevant professional fields of study and integrate them into a cohesive process founded on evidence, cognition, measurement, validation, and predictive power. Without these elements, such a system would be subject to a degree of distortion that would call into question all resulting conclusions.
In pursuit of this objective, Coflict has formulated a comprehensive approach to modeling the behaviors of such systems, resulting in its ability to more accurately determine root “causes”, identify high-leverage points to mitigate these causes, and simulate best possible outcomes given available resources.
Each culture has its own set of symbols, mores, and myths that are initiated by its members, promoted by them through dialog and action, usurped by its opinion leaders to gain control, then re-promoted downward to its members by those self-same leaders. These symbols and myths get further reinforced and gain power as they become woven into conversation and action
The process by which these cultural controls take root, and by which they become coin of the realm, then public policy, and finally gain legal status, reflects the process by which all living systems evolve. This process is well-understood both in nature and society, is founded in the power of feedback loops, and is known within professional circles as dynamical systems.
Even though its principles are understood and used to great advantage in everything from rocket science to finance to marketing to military campaigns, its power is overlooked and discredited within society and everyday action largely because its conclusions contradict so many of the myths that drive society’s hopes and structure, not to mention the agendas of its opinion leaders whose careers depend on the sustainability of their particular myths and symbols.
Such feedback loop systems find their expression throughout the universe, in everything from the shape of galaxies to the shape of a flower, from the incidence of earthquakes to the probability of love at first sight, from the screeching sound of a microphone placed too close to a speaker to the booms and crashes of economic systems.
Such dynamical systems have their own rules, which will be detailed within this book, yet here focused solely on their impact on socio-cultural behavior. Understanding the constraints and motivations these rules impose on human behavior and our interaction with the environment is key to determining which of our most closely-held beliefs are mostly true and which are primarily distortions. It will also provide a framework for understanding where the concepts of “good” and “evil” come from and how to stimulate more of the former and less of the latter.