No Straight Lines

From P2P Foundation
Jump to: navigation, search

* Book: No Straight Lines. Alan Moore. Bloodstone, 2011

URL = http://www.no-straight-lines.com


Contents

Description

"In No Straight Lines, Alan Moore argues that we have reached the nadir of the adaptive range of our industrialised world. Now faced with an unsustainable trilemma of social, organisational and economic complexity, we have entered an era in which the rules we have previously organised our lives around no longer apply. Leaving us with both a design problem and a design challenge which we must urgently solve. By describing an entirely new way for true social, economic and organisational innovation to happen, No Straight Lines presents a revolutionary logic and an inspiring plea for a more human-centric world."


Citation

"A car company built around a global community as an organisation, enabled by combining flex manufacturing techniques, open source platforms, open legal frameworks and social communication technologies premised upon cooperation, fuelled by the desire to be a great company and green; that can build cars 5 times faster at 100 times less the capital costs. A crisis management platform and organisation born out of the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2008 that can record critical information of events unfolding on the ground via a blend of location-based data, eyewitness accounts and mobile telephony, from often hard to reach places which visualises those unfolding events so that others can act and direct action at internet speeds. And now utilised for free in many parts of the world. Or, the largest organic diary farm in Britain, that has evolved a methodology that allows it to remain autonomous, profitable and sustainable in a market that is acutely volatile ... They are collectively representative of a new reality of living, working and organising. These organisations or companies have quested to find a means to serve humanity better, to search for meaning in the work that they and others do, and offer up new viable alternatives for the ways that, in the past, these things were done. They seek an outcome that is more distributive of wealth, ideas and resources. In fact, one might argue an outcome that is more humane and community centric. Rather than premised upon the extraction of wealth, and resources, whether they be physical, mineral or otherwise, these very different initiatives represent both moral courage and a collective purpose, if you will. And why is that important? Because it does not matter if you are an employer, a worker, VC fund, an NGO, an organisation, a local council or a government, you will miss out on the energies and capabilities of your people who will increasingly seek those new realities to discover a better way of living, working and being, when better and viable alternatives are on offer. And the fact is we now have the possibility to truly transform our world, to be more lightweight, sustainable and humane, through the tools, capabilities, language and processes at our fingertips." (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/the-no-straight-lines-challenge-be-realistic-imagine-the-impossible.html)


Contents

Alan Moore:

"“Chapter One demonstrates why we are at the end of the industrial society and why we have a ‘system breakdown’ in industry, healthcare, education, banking, finance and politics and capitalism itself. It dissects the breakdown of trust and the quest for identity and concludes that answers have to be found in renegotiating the power relationships between individuals, communities, organisations and governance. The challenge, I argue, is how we can engage differently as human beings, companies, governments and as society at large.

Having demonstrated why we are at the end of the industrial society, Chapter Two goes on to look at the social context of identity and the human need for connection and interaction. What’s emerging to fill the vacuum in post-industrial society is essentially a modern version of a participatory culture, where communities can connect, organise and get stuff done enabled by communications technology. But it will happen best in natural, non-linear ways that reflect the shapes of humanity and of life itself. What are these ways, in which we can again start to define ourselves by our connection to communities, not by our lack of them?

Some of the answers, I believe, are already evident in the innovative ways that leaders of the new networked society are introducing new modes of interaction, whether these are to do with transacting business, connecting with friends or solving some of the inequalities of nature’s distribution of resources. The rest of the book seeks to explore these ideas, sector by sector, whilst not being restricted by their boundaries. As navigating the new non-linear world begins with the networked society, Chapter Three explains its rise and discusses what it really means, arguing that what mankind now needs is a new human operating system to organise it.

Chapters Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight go on to envisage what such an operating system might look like and what needs to change to bring it about. As truly mobile communications underpin this new society, this is examined first in Chapter Four. But getting to this new infrastructure will also require change in political mindsets and structures (Chapter Five), the relationship between work and play (Chapter Six) and knowledge and participatory cultures (Chapters Seven and Eight). Finally, Chapter Nine offers six principles to guide your journey into the non-linear, networked society that I believe is necessary to solve the problems of the system breakdown with which I begin the book. This seems a logical order to address all the changes that will be required but this is a no straight lines philosophy so I make no apology for diving in and out of these sectoral boundaries, led by the shapes of the new economy and society that is emerging.”



Review

Arjan Postma:

"No straight lines is the new logic as Alan described in this inspiring plea for a more human centric and above all more participatory society. The book reads like a roadmovie from the rise of the assembly line mentality to the fall of the Berlin wall and now the growing emancipation of people throughout our world via information-technologies. As a true designer Alan carefully articulates the changes in our society and page by page distills a new form to understand our world, no straight lines. It’s not just a subculture of some hackers, in fact it is not even about technology, moreover this meta-trend is about true social innovation. NSL will enable open-government, open-data, perhaps even opening up your own DNA. But where does that leave the concept of a company or industry? Be prepared to experience the unexpected since this book will create a virus of the mind. The shocking answer is that there is no quick fix, not even a solution to be engineered. This is a world of no straight line thinking, embracing complexity is the answer. How? That itself needs to be explored in a participatory fashion in the search for more social entrepreneurialship or maybe distributed or creative leadership. Whatever that might mean is yet to be discovered. Alan clearly has a mission and I would happily choose him as a guide, off the beaten track and through these uncharted territories." (http://www.no-straight-lines.com/)


Excerpt

Why: No Straight Lines?

Alan Moore:

“Steve Watts is a wealthy Californian businessman. He decided he would take his family on holiday to Europe, travelling by train, and his children implored him to take the opportunity to read the Harry Potter books that they had enjoyed. Watts decided that he would leap into the digital age by buying the latest iPod, and uploading Harry Potter books as audio files.

Donning the iconic white headphones as the 16.16 from Rome to Turin moved out of the station, Watts looked out of the train window and began to take in the scenery and the stories. At the end of the week, sitting down to breakfast, he announced to the horror of his children that Harry Potter was severely overrated. In fact, it was just plain rubbish. His kids looked perplexed. Obviously they disagreed, so Steve explained that there was no structure, no plot line and the characters constantly came and went in random order.

Steve’s kids picked up his iPod, looked at it and then laughed until they were in tears, to the consternation of their father. Why? Because Watts had been listening to Harry Potter all week on Shuffle. He did not get Shuffle and this simple everyday story sits at the very heart of No Straight Lines. Because for many of us, we have only ever experienced a linear life and a linear culture, Watts’ inability to comprehend even the possibility of Shuffle is a simple but telling example of that fact. A linear approach to what we make, how we make it, who we make it with and how we share and communicate is a framework or lens that sets us to look upon our world and act in a very particular fashion. Shuffle is an example of a non-linear approach, a means by which we can access, curate and interpret the world in a different way. But for some, it’s very hard to grasp.

Think about it like this – the only straight lines made in nature are made by man, and similarly our industrial world has been built with the same straight lines logic and philosophy. Yet nature has no straight lines. Nature flows, nature is more connected, grassroots and interdependent. Nature is interested in populations of individuals, not individuals per se. Nature is evolutionary and it is an organism. ‘Living organisms are consummate problem solvers’, says John Holland. ‘They exhibit a versatility that puts the best computer program to shame.’139 It suggests a different type of process and logic at play that’s not centralised, bureaucratic or inflexible. This is the world of no straight lines.

For straight lines thinkers the no straight lines world is akin to living in a foreign land: the customs, language and symbols are dislocatingly alien. They’re outsiders, unable to fully participate, as they don’t have the comprehension, insight or the necessary capability to fully engage. They become concussed observers to the vital world around them. The visceral shock, however, is that this is not in some foreign land but in their own backyards. As one commentator on my blog wrote: ‘I have no idea what particular combination of software, ethos and policies these networks have implemented that attracts people to exhibit these female qualities online, but it’s basically changing people’s behaviour, and that behaviour is female in nature.’

This has deep implications as to how culture is created, how business is made and how organisations are structured. Our world of business, media and communications is evolving from the straight lines of an industrial era to the more complex and networked world that mimics nature. As I have already argued, this interactive networked world isn’t about vertical silos, traditional notions of product and service creation, mass production and mass media and marketing. It’s about the massive flows of people who are connecting, collaborating, organising and creating in a manner that has nothing to do with a linear approach. This is truly an engaged and participatory culture. For more than 150 years our economies, culture and society have been shaped by a straight lines logic producing considerable economic success. However, in the dawn of the networked society, a straight lines logic of getting stuff done becomes a barrier to progress. Why? Because as many argue, the change wrought by the networked society is structural.”


Introduction: the Design of a Regenerative Society

Alan Moore, Cambridge 2011

"The challenge: be realistic, imagine the impossible


What do these have in common ? A car company built around a global community as an organisation, enabled by combining flex manufacturing techniques, open source platforms, open legal frameworks and social communication technologies premised upon cooperation, fuelled by the desire to be a great company and green; that can build cars 5 times faster at 100 times less the capital costs. A crisis management platform and organisation born out of the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2008 that can record critical information of events unfolding on the ground via a blend of location-based data, eyewitness accounts and mobile telephony, from often hard to reach places which visualises those unfolding events so that others can act and direct action at internet speeds. And now utilised for free in many parts of the world.

Or, the largest organic diary farm in Britain, that have evolved a methodology that allows them to remain autonomous, profitable and sustainable in a market that is acutely volatile, because large-scale agricultural farming is mostly run on an oil-based economy, plus diary farmers are at the calculating mercy of the marketing needs and whimsys of large chain supermarkets. They are collectively representative of a new reality of living, working and organising. These organisations or companies have quested to find a means to serve humanity better, to search for meaning in the work that they and others do, and offer up new viable alternatives for the ways that, in the past, these things were done. They seek an outcome that is more distributive of wealth, ideas and resources. In fact, one might argue an outcome that is more humane and community centric. Rather than premised upon the extraction of wealth, and resources, whether they be physical, mineral or otherwise, these very different initiatives represent both moral courage and a collective purpose, if you will. And why is that important? Because it does not matter if you are an employer, a worker, VC fund, an NGO, an organisation, a local council or a government, you will miss out on the energies and capabilities of your people who will increasingly seek those new realities to discover a better way of living, working and being, when better and viable alternatives are on offer. And the fact is we now have the possibility to truly transform our world, to be more lightweight, sustainable and humane, through the tools, capabilities, language and processes at our fingertips. As Tony Judt argued, ‘why do we experience such difficulty even imaging a different sort of society? Why is it beyond us to conceive a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?’

Which brings me on to the title and the challenge of this project. Be realistic, imagine the impossible is taken from a poster from the 1968 Paris riots. In making sense of its meaning for our time, I would argue that what we face at the tail end of our industrial society is a design problem. The reason is that we are witness to a systemic failure of many of the institutions that have brought us so much prosperity and it is this convergence of failures that requires us to understand the challenge from a whole systems approach.

Many of the institutions, organisations and systems that we still use were designed and built for a less complex world, the increase in the complexity of our world is placing an unsustainable load upon those institutions, organisations and systems. One could argue the our industrial world has reached the nadir of its adaptive range. Consequently, faultlines are running through our society which present a trilemma based around interlocking social, economic and organisational

tensions and questions. The design challenge involved in resolving these questions comes because the non-linearity is causing a comprehensive restructuring of society at large, breaking old models of organisation, and the trilemma heralds the coming of the age of uncertainty. All three tensions are in flux, and cannot be addressed without considering the other two. So each and every part of this story reflects upon and relates to this trilemma: the relationship of the individual to companies and other organisations and forms of power, economically, socially, politically. Now is the time when we need a way of evaluating of what comes next, when we face a world that has gone in a very short period of time from seemingly linear (simple) to complex and non-linear (chaotic). When we move into a world that is inherently more complex, the result is concussive, its disorientating effects surround us, and our responses either individually or at an organisational level result in reflexes and perspectives that can be dangerously corrosive or inappropriate. And yet, this chaos seems to be, if anything, accelerating. At this very moment, great debates are raging. The spanners are in the works, defined by 9/11 (we now talk about asymmetrical warfare) and the near collapse of the world banking system (and its asymmetrical impact on every single one of us). And, as the global centre of economic gravity moves east, this has set off a series of events that are having significant asymmetric economic effects on societies around the world. These are but three examples of faultlines creating battles, ideological or otherwise, that are exploding and imploding at the same time. They all surfaced in a single decade. Though it is important to add that their gestation period has been much longer and are indeed multidimensional. These challenges are highly interlinked and interdependent, so a one-size-fits-all response just won’t do. There are no longer simple problems; what we face is the trilemma of a complex world. This book does its best to face them, because we are in more than just an economic crisis; it is equally political, educational, spiritual and moral. The biggest challenge we face is cultural. How we contextualise (make sense of ) the world around us determines how we engage and what action we take. Those actions then determine the outcomes we must live with and this requires a change from our industrial mindset and behaviour to one that is more cognisant of what is now seen as a non-linear world. This is where I want to return to the idea that what we face is a design problem, where answers exist not at an unattainable theoretical level but on the floors of our factories, in the streets of our towns and cities, the classes of our schools, the waiting rooms of our hospitals. These answers will manifest themselves as true acts of creation, originating new ways of getting stuff done, informed by the decisions we collectively take. So in re-designing the world, we need human creativity in the sense of the capacity to ‘make’, we need visionary leadership in the sense of making a difference. And we seek the craftsman’s critical eye, steady hand and creative mind. It is this process of seeing – realising new pathways to success, by bringing two ‘unlikes’ (new information, tools, processes etc.) together in close adjacency – that we create, and make new things. Then we can meaningfully apply that capability.

Why is the idea of craftsmanship significant at this epochal moment in time? Because it is about shaping our future and the ‘engaged’ craftsman brings the full power of humanity to bear upon his work. His hand is guided by his eye, informed by his creative mind; his productivity the act of unique creation. Indeed, the master craftsman is adept in using a philosophical framework, as well as tools and materials, to deliver useful things to the world. But more than that, the craftsman must be open constantly to new ideas; he is essentially always in beta. Therefore, we cannot engage with our uncertain non-linear world with the linear and inflexible orthodoxy of logic alone. The craftsman’s critical eye and creative mind is vital to evaluating new possibilities; he must be open to new ideas, information, tools and materials to make things that enable humanity to flourish. This approach is inherently more creative in that it synthesises all aspects of what make us truly human. But the 21st century craftsman does not only exist in the dusty workshop of a forgotten age; a games designer is a craftsman, a Linux programmer is a craftsman, innovative organisations like Local Motors and Ushahidi, which are discussed in more detail in Chapters 3 and 8, embed craftsmanship into everything they do. These are well designed responses to what real life previously perceived as intractable as the plot line in Catch22.

And so I come to this project with a strongly held belief, that there is an opportunity to bring a way of thinking to many of the seemingly intractable problems that confront us today. But this requires us to think and act as craftsmen and women and apply our critical thinking to understanding our non-linear world, which is in part shaped by participatory cultures, open, complex and seemingly ambiguous systems that are highly interdependent of each other. We need to be inspired to be epic, to seek epic wins, to make informed choices and co-author innovative new possibilities that can enable humanity to lead a life not constrained by the crushing reality of industrial-age thinking but one designed around the primary needs of humanity. We need to explore our non-linear world, not exploit it. I believe there is much evidence demonstrating the possibility of this society. It exists in philosophical frameworks, language and literacy, legal frameworks, tools and technologies, and real stories of how others have been motivated by a real desire to create new and better answers to what others would call unsolvable, wicked problems. And it has been my mission to bring together these separate component parts to offer to you a vision of the world which is both realistic and eminently possible. But to create this regenerative society requires us to take a voyage of discovery and to look upon the world as Proust would say with fresh eyes. This is the world of no straight lines and this project is how we make sense of this non-linear world, and then act in it."


The Coming Age of the Craftsman

"Why is the idea of craftsmanship significant at this epochal moment in time? Because it is about shaping our future and the ‘engaged’ craftsman brings the full power of humanity to bear upon his work. His hand is guided by his eye, informed by his creative mind; his productivity the act of unique creation. Indeed, the master craftsman is adept in using a philosophical framework, as well as tools and materials, to deliver useful things to the world. But more than that, the craftsman must be open constantly to new ideas; he is essentially always in beta. Therefore, we cannot engage with our uncertain non-linear world with the linear and inflexible orthodoxy of logic alone. The craftsman’s critical eye and creative mind is vital to evaluating new possibilities; he must be open to new ideas, information, tools and materials to make things that enable humanity to flourish. This approach is inherently more creative in that it synthesises all aspects of what make us truly human. But the 21st century craftsman does not only exist in the dusty workshop of a forgotten age; a games designer is a craftsman, a Linux programmer is a craftsman, innovative organisations like Local Motors and Ushahidi, which are discussed in more detail in Chapters 3 and 8, embed craftsmanship into everything they do. These are well designed responses to what real life previously perceived as intractable as the plot line in Catch¯22.

And so I come to this project with a strongly held belief, that there is an opportunity to bring a way of thinking to many of the seemingly intractable problems that confront us today. But this requires us to think and act as craftsmen and women and apply our critical thinking to understanding our non-linear world, which is in part shaped by participatory cultures, open, complex and seemingly ambiguous systems that are highly interdependent of each other. We need to be inspired to be epic, to seek epic wins – to design for transformation, to make informed choices and co-author innovative new possibilities that can enable humanity to lead a life not constrained by the crushing reality of industrial-age thinking but one designed around the primary needs of humanity. We need to explore our non-linear world, not exploit it.

I believe there is much evidence demonstrating the possibility of this society. It exists in philosophical frameworks, language and literacy, legal frameworks, tools and technologies, and real stories of how others have been motivated by a real desire to create new and better answers to what others would call unsolvable, wicked problems. And it has been my mission to bring together these separate component parts to offer to you a vision of the world which is both realistic and eminently possible. But to create this regenerative society requires us to take a voyage of discovery and to look upon the world as Proust would say with fresh eyes. This is the world of no straight lines and this project is how we make sense of this non-linear world, and then act in it." (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/the-no-straight-lines-challenge-be-realistic-imagine-the-impossible.html)

More Information

  1. video introduction to the participatory e-book methodology of the book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5Y0a30z-v20
  2. Alan Moore on the Faltering Mainstream Economy and the Emerging New Economy
  3. 2.5 min watch, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ntkr_U-9EQ&feature=relmfu
  4. 28 minute listen BBC Radio interview with Peter Day http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ph35n
  5. 40min listen SXSW, http://audio.sxsw.com/2010/podcasts/Interactive/2010-03-16/No-Straight-Lines-Straight-Line-Thinking-Stops-Here.mp3
  6. Slide Deck Transformation LAB, http://www.slideshare.net/alan.smlxl/nsl-transformation-lab