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Psychohistory

Management of the Heterogeneous Matrix Problem



 
The Global Matrix
In the middle of the 20th Century, globalization, personal empowerment and integration might have been treated as three separate problems, each with a solution and each solution only conceptually related to the others. Globalization problems were centered on two, armed, military industrial complexes with the United Nations as a severely handicapped mediator. Personal empowerment focused on essential human rights issues involving voting rights, legal rights and basic freedoms. Integration was a word applied to purely local issues, usually concerning ethnic groups, races and classes. Responsibility for solutions was left in the hands of local governments. And the fact that none of these problems were solved, not even in principle, was of major concern only to a small minority of the world's populations.
 
At the beginning of the 21st Century, applications of advances in Information Technologies (IT) and their influences on industries and mass communications have amplified the unsolved problems of the last century so that they are now seen to converge into a single, critical problem that is in the process of being resolved-the heterogeneous matrix problem. All of history's causes seem to have combined climate, trade, politics, environment, culture, sports, and even natural catastrophes. The result is a new world organization. Its form approximates a matrix; its consequence is a global crisis in management at all levels.
 
Managing diversity is the primary problem as the emerging matrix generates five difficulties. First, a switch to matrix form by a world organized mostly as hierarchies is a major transformation that demands radical cultural and psychological changes. Second, network organization of a matrix demands a personal empowerment along with a sharing of information and responsibility that differ in many ways from traditional hierarchical concepts of organization. Third, that globalization makes the networks heterogeneous in every sense of the word forces hierarchies to integrate and deal with diversity on a scale that would have been unimaginable in centuries past. Fourth, people who developed skills of "leadership" find that matrices force them into roles where people with skills as facilitators are likely to be far more effective. Finally, the consequences of all of the above are that individuals and small groups are adapting much faster than governments and large organizations.
 
This means that small time windows of opportunity are created where a slow response is equivalent to failure to act. Stated simply, we have entered the era of the heterogeneous matrix where variation has become law, creativity and innovation top priorities and collaboration within and between organizations is proving every bit as useful as competition. Understanding time lines and the flow of history is not enough. Something like evolution, but much accelerated, controls the environment. Which "species" will survive and which will perish has become the ultimate question. Psychohistory uses mathematical psychology to predict and hopefully strongly influence the outcome.
 
Psychohistory
Psychohistory's primary role is to define the major problems of an age and to determine action and critical time windows when action must be taken in order to prevent or repair catastrophes. The word "Psychohistory" was coined by Isaac Asimov, a physical chemist, prolific author and polymath. Asimov's five volume Foundation Saga was published around mid 20th Century when it had become apparent, even to psychologists, that psychology was far too important to be left to the extremely limited vision of specialists. Unknown to the young Asimov (then in his twenties), biophysicist Nicolas Rashevsky, had in the 1930s, applied mathematical methods and techniques from biophysics to psychology's logical and conceptual problems. By chance, the same year as Asimov's 1951 publication of Foundation, Rashevsky published Mathematical Biology of Social Behavior. Both used the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Both suggested the use of mathematics. Also unknown to Asimov, one year before publication of Foundation, ecological psychologist Egon Brunswik published The Conceptual Framework of Psychology which established a foundation for psychology that embraced and extended Rashevsky's demonstrations to include experimental psychology and studies from diverse cultures.
 
Rashevsky used real equations to establish a mathematical psychology capable of dealing with historical trends. Brunswik integrated Rashevsky into conventional psychology's conceptual framework and Asimov used his imagination along with the techniques of a novelist to define and dramatize the new discipline and establish its ethics.
 
Humanist Isaac Asimov could not have been more explicit as to the nature of human psychology and the nature of our ethical choices. Homo sapiens' plight was mirrored by the plot of his novel Foundation's Edge. According to Asimov, after suffering through the dark ages that occurred after the fall of a military empire, humanity had to choose between 1) another military empire that would be "established by strife, maintained by strife, and eventually destroyed by strife", 2) a paternalistic empire "established by calculation, maintained by calculation, and a perpetual living death by calculation," or 3) a future based on Gaia's principles, "one that can be made favorable for all life in ways that we yet cannot foresee." Asimov's choice was the Gaia option, the choice not only to emulate Nature but to follow strategies and tactics dictated by the ecology.
 
Asimov's choice of the Gaia option opened the door to General Systems, a multidisciplinary science of integration founded by a biophysicist Ludwig von Bertalanffy. General Systems focused on comparisons between living and non living systems and the possibilities for ultimate cooperation between the two. Psychiatrist James G. Miller gave structure to Bertalanffy's theory and mathematical psychologist Anatol Rapoport introduced game theory into the General Systems framework. The addition of game theory corrected a serious flaw that limited psychohistory's predictions to very large groups so that it became practically useless when confronted by the emergence of an extremely adaptive individual. (Elements) gives the technical details about how a psychohistory based on Asimov and Rashevsky's original formulations emerged from an integrated approach to behavioral science. Psychohistory is a perpetual work in process, an open system that is both process oriented and goal oriented. Ironically, the "heterogeneous matrix problem" is a test that psychohistory must pass if psychohistory and/or the heterogeneous matrix is to survive.
 
Second Scenario
Unfortunately, applications of psychohistory's predictions and mathematical psychology's control to the problem of the matrix have to focus on Asimov's second scenario, the Gaia option. The first challenge is a response that has become a psychological stereotype. Confront contemporary leaders with predictions concerning the matrix, predictions that have a near certainty of being true and the leaders usually defer to some combination of committee and accountants. The steep learning curve and extensive investments in time and resources necessary to replace outdated organizational practices convince the leader, the committee and the accountants that a common sense solution (one that almost inevitably includes long delays and cheaper options) is best. Here real life differs from the novels that help define psychohistory.
 
Unlike Gaia in Asimov's novel the integrated ecological systems that we call Gaia will resolve the matter-with or without human consent or intervention. The result is often catastrophic damage. If enough of the organization survives, the rebuilding stage (that almost inevitably requires multiples of the cost that would have been required for prevention) will be considered. New leadership (also almost inevitable!) is given the responsibility of repairing the damage and guarding against future catastrophes. This marks the beginning of the second scenario when people are supposed to "choose" between leadership alternatives analogous to those presented in Asimov's Foundation's Edge.
 
The new leaders will have to work under a severe handicap as their efforts to deviate too far from the behaviors and attitudes that led to the original catastrophes will almost inevitably be hampered by face saving strategies of those who survived the first catastrophe and by individuals and corporate cultures that supported by conflicting paradigms. Once again Gaia may resolve the problem. To minimize the number of times Gaia will have to resolve the problems before individuals and organization choose to emulate Gaia's integrated systems was the reason for the creation of psychohistory.
 
A Personal Matrix in a "New Reality"
A real-life example, hurricane Katrina, a natural catastrophe that went to land in the Gulf area of Southern U.S.A. in 2005 serves as a prototype of Gaia's resolutions of psychohistoric problems. The day before the hurricane hit a cable TV station in Denmark aired a program where an expert described the degree of preparation and the potential for disaster. He explained how the horrific damage caused by a previous hurricane, Andrew, had prompted experts to draw up scenarios for a most probable attack in New Orleans. Despite plans discussed years in advance and several days warning the worst case scenario that the experts described occurred. And a large city in the most technically advanced nation on the planet was reduced to a state of bureaucratic anarchy while the nation's response was judged by the rest of the world to be on a par with that of a third world nation that would be able to command far fewer resources. Ignoring advice that would cost about twelve billion dollars to implement led to damage that would require hundreds of billions to repair.
 
Of primary interest to psychohistorians are the reasons why it is easier for leaders to raise the hundreds of billions after the disaster than it is to raise twelve billions before. Prevention as well as an optimal response required construction of a heterogeneous matrix of people, communication networks and machines. The requirements demand that the system be defined and designed in the twilight zone between fantasy and reality. Facilitators, rather than leaders, would be part of a matrix that would have to include a diversity and variety of personnel that would resemble those necessary for the launch of a space satellite. In addition to people with personalities and machines with characteristics that behave in conventional ways there would have to be special cybernetic systems that think like humans, humans that think like machines and cyborg like combinations necessary for coordinating the diverse parts so that they become an integrated system-a focused, open, heterogeneous network.
 
Of course psychohistorians realize that despite the availability of resources, the demands of designing and constructing such a system are far too great for organizations that have not yet constructed efficient methods of controlling traffic of any sort. Psychohistory's primary role is to define the major problems of an age and to determine action and critical time windows when action must be taken in order to prevent or repair catastrophes. A personal understanding of how Gaia will resolve the problems is the essential first step.
 

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