About meta-values to guide more effective action about global crises.

The increasing urgency and global scope of crises like climate change has incited discussions for how humanity can take more more effective action about these challenges. One suggestion was for the common adoption of ‘systemic meta-values’ that would guide decisions (LinkedIn ‘Systems Thinking World’:  ‘Can systemic values  help overcome the doctrinal blindness…) The suggestion triggered some discussion about the advisability of the idea, that highlighted its importance. The LI format with its length limitations of posts prevented a more constructive and ‘systemic’ examination. So it seems it might be meaningful to develop a more comprehensive look at the range of arguments, on a platform that permits longer entries.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that some meaningful meta-value or values can be identified. To assess whether and how well they / it would guide decisions about ‘more effective actions’ (About climate change or any other issue), questions arise, such as:
A) How would it come about?
B) How would it come to be ‘accepted’?
C) How will we know what ‘more effective actions’ are available that could or should be taken?
D) How would it be established whether a meta-value applies to a specific issue?
E) How would such actions be implemented? More specifically”
F) What, if any, changes in governance (local and global), economic, production and distribution, education, decision-making etc. would be needed?

About A): Possibilities:
a) Meta-Value formulations would be identified and stated (by whom?) as ‘axioms’ — self-evident concepts in their general ‘meta-‘ form and needing no other justification or explanation?
b) Such a concept would have to be ‘constructed’ and ‘aggregated’ from more detailed, individual value judgments about what is good, ethical, etc.?
c) Other?

About B): Possibilities:
a) The concept would (if Aa) have to be presented to everybody; if self-evident, it would be inevitably accepted by everyone?
b) ‘Brain-washing’, indoctrination: incessant instruction, propaganda?
c) Presented as derived from widely accepted and recognized authorities: philosophical, religious: divine commandments; ‘infallible’ papal announcements), other?
d) Imposed by power, with various justification stories a-c; “on behalf of ….” subjects;
e) Involving everybody (at least potentially) in its construction / negotiation, so as to make it everybody’s ‘own’ creation?
f) Other?

About C):
a) Building on ‘tried and true’ traditional knowledge in established ‘Knowledge Bases’
b) Using existing and new scientific knowledge to develop new tools and action possibilities, ‘tested’ by ‘calculation, simulation, (controlled experiments at small scale?
c) Other? E.g. Pure ‘exploration’?

About item D):
a) If general validity is accepted, no distinctions and adaptation to specific situation is needed?
b) Must be established on a case-by-case, situation and context base for every issue;
c) Other?

About item E) and F):
a) If the meta-value is indeed ‘self-evident’, would it not be ‘automatically’ applied by everybody in all institutions (which may adapt accordingly without prior re-organization)?
b) Some of all of the traditional social institutions may have to be re-designed in order to make more effective action possible;
c) New institutions will have to be established to replace existing ones?
d) New institutions developed ‘parallel’ to the existing ones, gradually taking over decisions-making and implementation of needed actions that could not be achieved by the ‘old’ systems?
If I were asked to suggest what should be done, based ‘on the best of my current knowledge and understanding’ which I can only offer as a contribution to the discussion, here is my take on those items: I would start out on the following positions: Ab; Be; Cb; Db; E/Fd.

I do not believe we currently have compelling, definitive answers to any of the above questions, that are likely to be globally accepted soon enough for any ‘global’ ‘unified’ solution. I also believe that we are at a stage where people are interested in kinds of ‘pursuits of happiness’ that consist of ‘making a difference’ in their lives — and consider this a part of their ‘human right. This desire will inevitably determine their acceptance and application of values to their personal lives, and issues of global common urgency and concern cannot easily be exempted from this aspect. I also believe that — even for such global issues as climate change — there will be so many different local context conditions that overall unified meta-principles would have to be adapted in many different ways. To the point where the top-down adaptation process would not look much less complicated than a bottom-up ‘construction’ process.
I agree that there will have to be some global decisions, agreements — I like to use the model’ of the rules of the road: we will have to agree on which side of the road we’ll drive on for all of us to reach our different destinations. But we do not yet have a platform on which proposals and concerns, arguments can be shared, and decisions reached that are based on the merit of the contributions to the discussion. This is the most important collective task we face, in my opinion.
I have sketched my suggestions about the steps to be taken in some essays, books and papers. Briefly, they consist of the following ideas:

1 We should encourage and support all the different experiments, initiatives, ‘alternative’ developments that are proposed and already going on. The emphasis is on difference, not unified action: They may be based on different, even contradictory principles. We need to know more about what works and what doesn’t before embarking on ‘unified’ global systems. The meta-value I might suggest, if any, for this aspect, is: Support collective decisions to make as many different initiatives possible but compatible. The condition for that support and tolerance is twofold:
a) the mutual agreement not to ‘get in each others’ way’ (hurting, destroying, limiting, unnecessarily constraining); and
b) agreement to openly share their experience — successes and failures — for increasing our global knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

2 These experiences as well as proposals for ‘global’ agreements should be brought into a ‘global’ platform I have tentatively called ‘Planning Discourse Support System’. which should be developed with urgency. It must have a number of features that are not currently part of the international ‘platforms’ such as the UN, EU, ASEAN or similar governance models, or the various ‘social media’ networks. Mainly: wide public access and participation, better means of providing overview of the core of information being assembled, systematic means of assessing the merit of contributions, and decision tools that are transparently based on that merit, instead of traditional ‘voting’ modes. (I have developed tools, e.g. for the systematic assessment of planning arguments, and ideas for the design of such platforms, for discussion. Most of those are available on Academia.edu or on my WordPress blog AbbéBoulah.com.).

The platform should be established ‘parallel’ to existing institutions — see item E/Fd above. It should focus on as few necessary agreements as possible. The agenda of ‘projects’ should include the development of means for ensuring that ‘global agreements are actually adhered to — means or ‘sanctions’ that would reduce the need for ‘enforcement’ by, as the word implies, force, coercion’ and the related issue of control of power. One item, overall or part of the task for each of the projects, would be the construction and acceptance of measures of performance and the underlying criteria, values or meta-values as applicable to that project.


3 Comments on “About meta-values to guide more effective action about global crises.”

  1. joevansteen says:

    I’m tracking what you are writing here as follow-on and continuation to all of the other discussions and am trying to thread your concerns into my representational models, which continue evolving.

    I support your conclusions. 1b is critical to success. Relative to 2 I’ve been seeing more implemented variations on the basic concepts of formalized collaborative discussion systems. For example, this upcoming experiment in professional societal debate: http://standards.ieee.org/events/multimedia/governing_the_rise_of_artificial_intelligence_webinar.html

    See the link for Assembl, also: http://assembl.bluenove.com/en/ (Amelia from a different point of view.)

    This is a professional planning exercise, being run on collaborative basis, along the lines of systems thinking: divergence, argumentation, synthesis; with a focus on core player roles within the process. They have the same issues you describe re global concerns. This is how they are addressing it with IT; leveraging technology to address a significant concern that is one of the agenda items for most global dashboards. Think about this capability and model occurring on a simultaneous basis across multiple discussion spaces, with shared semantics about the meaning of what is being discussed, and notifications being automatically shared between processes or discussions. Other discussions might take place about microfinance options in the developing world, separate discussions about education systems and opportunities, training for dealing with the effects of environmental change, etc. Interaction is not all at once, but by subscription and automatic update notification or reactivation when conditions of true cross-impact significance are deemed to have changed.

    That is, I believe, some of the basic plumbing for the AI environments that are on the way. What I have not researched is how Assembl, or the others, might include the integration of your specific measure in detail for what you want to do in terms of assisting evaluation and choice of alternatives. However plenty of options would seem available since, as I recall, you are adding a spreadsheet calculable metric to the process.

    In terms of what you’ve written, I’m trying to further envision it as a process. Is there an implied facilitator role that is distinct in role if not personage, from the other participants? Something is required in terms of stewardship and ownership of the discussion content. Some “agent” or “agency” is an assumed owner if nothing is stated, but it still exists, even if not identified, and it becomes consequential to the integrity of the process. If so, clarifying that would help. My impression is that what I see needed is a set of scripted processes defining discourse procedures that comes with a toolkit of programs, templates, and some preloaded data. Beyond that each “user” would develop their own content, decide how to share it, and decide what other party content they might want to subscribe to.

    Again, see the Assembl methodology documentation regarding roles for discourse participants. Those “roles” are the job descriptions of people who will be implementing your process as part of collaborative action programs. Each “role” that is going to be done by an AI (a computer program) needs a functional specification (a scripted, parameterized query or statement with some statement of expectations as a result of the request, eg, report all decision’s in the last 3 cycles). Each “role” that is going to be done by a human needs a “persona.” A persona is different than a functional spec because it is a functional spec for a human rather than a machine. It needs to define motivations factors for the players relative to the overall concern of the discussion topic. What concerns for each participant are their chief motivators for participation in the discussion? (These reflect and become potential biases toward conclusions.) Machines either follow instructions, or they break in identifiable ways. Humans are erratic, and sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly, do not follow instructions and simply do their own thing, or they don’t play the role the way it was expected in the script. To script a viable system you need to include scripting that accommodates these “human quirks.” (Motivation-based process scripting is planned regularly as an industrial practice using Six Sigma and other techniques, but it needs to have appropriate selection of and commitment to motivational goals as expressed and shared between parties[1b]. Design decisions need contextual framing, and for designs of viable systems involving people we need to include much better models of societal framing. Some of which should include maintaining a viable planet to live on until we find other accommodations.)

    Otherwise, for some of what you want to do I’m impressed with Google’s current product set and wonder how much can be done in simple form with what is available there. A fundamental model which works at the small end of the range for “team” discussions on a potentially federated basis. Have you looked at Google Apps? I’ve done a little there with generating Kumu and sharing content from a Google Drive sheet to Kumu for graphing and it worked quite well for me.

    Best regards – Joe

    • abbeboulah says:

      Joe, thanks. I thing some of your questions are addressed, in part, by the earlier post where I suggested a framework for ‘planning discourse’ trimmed down to what can be done on Facebook. I didn’t get much in the way of constructive comments, though some people wanted me to start an experiment with it. I haven’t done that yet because I needed some time to work out some of the things that can’t be done on the FB version — argument evaluation, credit points, etc. — that I feel need to be included in a ‘global platform that also could use AI support. (I thought I sent you some ideas on that a while ago?) So I’m still working on the bits and pieces on those issues, but felt that the Linked-In suggestion of Meta-Values needed some questioning.
      I need some time to look at your links and respond to other questions — again: thanks.

  2. joevansteen says:

    Reblogged this on Building Architected Futures™ and commented:
    Updating thoughts and implementation frameworks beyond where this started.

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