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Designing the Future - David Braden

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This is an entry in The Future We Deserve - a collaborative book project about the future. See all the entries or talk about this entry.

We are, already, engaged in a single pattern of flows. We are affected by any change to the flows because one thing is related to another and everything is related to everything else. Therefore, every problem we face is also related to every other problem we face and we cannot fix them one at a time. When we try to control for any one variable, all the other variables adjust according to their own internal mechanisms.

We humans are rightly proud of our science and technology but now run up against the cold hard facts that all choices have consequences for which we cannot control. Unless we calculate for the impact throughout the entire pattern of flows there will be unintended consequences. That fact requires us to begin thinking in terms of how the parts fit together, how things work together. Knowing that we cannot control all the consequences, we can still seek to understand the synergies and symbioses inherent in the system. We cannot control the system but we can place elements in proximity and influence inherent synergies.

Fortunately for us, the system is fractal. Patterns of flows repeat themselves at all levels of the system. That means that we can design at the local level – and think in terms of millions of different experiments – in millions of different localities – all looking for better ways to arrange the flows so that they work better for more people, plants and creatures. We do not, and cannot, improve the flows from the top down because the flows are generated at the level of the individual interaction – and we already discussed how we cannot control for all the variables.

This is a different way of looking at the problems of the world. We are used to looking for someone or something to be “responsible” for the problem. The truth is that the world we have is the cumulative result of all the choices each of us makes – so, in that sense, we have the world we have chosen. The exciting part is, we also have the power to design a different future. [1]

  1. Designing the Future,