Observing Complexity

To me, observing real life systems is something like this:

A real life System comprises of a meaningful set of objects, diverse in form, state and function but inter-related through multiple network of interdependencies through mutual feedbacks enclosed by variable space, operating far from its equilibrium conditions not only exchanging energy and matter with its environment but also generating internal entropy to undergo discrete transformation triggered by the Arrow of Time forcing it to behave in a dissipative but self organizing manner to either self destruct itself in a wide variety of ways or create new possibilities in performance and/or behaviour owing to presence of ‘attractors’ and ‘bifurcations’; thereby making it impossible to predict the future behaviour of the system in the long term or trace the previous states of the system with any high degree of accuracy other than express it in terms of probabilities since only the present state of the system might be observable to a certain extent and only a probabilistic understanding may be formulated as to how it has arrived at its present state and what would keep it going, thus triggering creative human responses to manage, maintain and enhance the system conditions, function and purpose and create superior systems of the future for the benefit of the society at large.

Such a representation of an observation looks quite involved. Perhaps it might be stated in a much simpler way. Most real life systems behave in a complex manner creating multitude of problems of performance and failures. But how do we get rid of complexity and uncertainty as exhibited by systems? We may do so by deeply observing the complex behaviour of the system to improve our perception to gain insights about the essence of the system; find out the underlying ‘imperfection’ that causes the apparent complexity and uncertainty and then find ways to improve the existing system or create new system and maintain them in the simplest possible manner. We do this by applying the principles of chaos, reliability and design. Surprisingly, the same process might be used to troubleshoot and solve problems we face on a daily basis. If done, we are no longer dominated or dictated by the ‘special whims’ of the system.

The crux of the matter is how we observe reality and understand it so as to make meaningful choices as responses to life and living.

Expert Knowledge is Passé; Long Live Masters!

Engaging with flow, created by any phenomenon, is an essential step that we take to create something new, which invariably amounts to an interpretation of our environment or surrounding triggered by noticing something from the higher levels of the mind that is less dependent on sensory inputs.

Why is this necessary?

Since our mind is a system consisting of complex networks it has memory like all other networks. Memory would then compel the network (our mind) to behave in very predictable patterns i.e. it would continue to behave the way it does unless the energy of the system is changed by design. It would mean that our response to any situation would stay the same unless we add new energy to our existing network urging it be respond or behave differently.

That is the basic idea of engaging with the flow — to add new energy to our neural network to come up with a different response to a situation we are facing in the moment.

But that is tricky business. Much more tricky than we might care to imagine. It is because we must notice in quick succession (almost as quick as clearly noticing a ten digit telephone number) for our neurons to get energized enough to rise above their critical threshold limit to create harmonious oscillations, helping us to create new knowledge and response. Fortunately, our neurons, under this situation of noticing different aspects of a phenomenon in quick succession, produce different frequencies from moment to moment, which helps to create new responses. However, to produce useful and new harmonious frequencies our mind also needs to be supported by a healthy relaxation oscillations. Relaxation oscillations help us absorb new learning. Relaxation oscillation in the brain is something like this — neurons slowly absorb energy and then quickly release the energy. This new release of energy helps neurons to jump over their critical threshold limit to create harmonious oscillations.

Let us understand this process by some live examples.

For example, Sachin Tendulkar is considered the ‘god’ of cricket. For him, captains and bowlers of rival teams have a hard time setting a field to hold him down. He always tends to find the gaps too easily against any type of bowling. It is easy to imagine that he is quickly noticing so many aspects of the phenomenon — the bowler, his run up and stance, his delivery, speed of the ball, trajectory of the ball, movement of fielders, etc in quick succession (really quick since the ball is traveling at a speed of nearly 100 km/hour). Within that time he decides where and how to place the ball to get runs, which is invariably between the gaps in the fielding.

Or take Ravi Shankar, the great musician, who plays so intuitively. To me intuition is nothing but the same process as described above, where new harmonic oscillations are produced with the help of relaxation oscillations.

Or say Michel Angelo who saw entrapped figures trapped in uncut stones waiting to be freed by his hands.

There is one thing that is common to all of them which sets them apart from the rest. They all intuitively find the gaps or the existing imperfections in the present moment with their uninhabited awareness to reach their goal. This is because all human minds by default are goal oriented since human consciousness is more temporal than spatial. They improvise their games based on those gaps or existing imperfections in the most intuitive way — no copy book styles for them. They have learned the rules of their games so well that they now break them with impunity by mastering the way to trigger relaxation oscillations at will. This process of engagement is played over and over in whatever game masters choose to play. Games differ but the process of engagement does not.

This is what innovation, improvisation, improvement, creating new knowledge is all about.

The Japanese have a name for it. They call it Wabi -Sabi, which means understand the imperfection in a given situation and improve upon it to make it stronger and more reliable.

The Chinese have a name for it. They call it Shan Zhai, which originally means balancing numerous resistances, see what is possible to be done cheap and effectively, start small and then grow in strength.

The Indians have a name for it. They call it Juggad, which means understand what is to be done, start with whatever is available at hand, go with the flow and build up over time.

How would this be useful in present times?

Today, expert knowledge (essentially a knowledge bank) is sold in the market as a commodity that is continually being sold at lesser and lesser price wiping out premiums that they once commanded. It is so since expert knowledge is increasingly being converted to cheap ordinary stuff through algorithms. In some fields of human activity the value of expert knowledge is almost zero — given freely over the internet. Then how are we to survive in the present situation. It definitely calls for a new skill – the skill of mastery, where new knowledge can be created moment to moment. This amounts to present moment responses to a changing situation. People who can really do that are priceless and can still command a premium in today’s market place.

Such skill of mastery basically calls us to be in touch with one’s essential nature. Gregory Bateson reminds us of this fact when he said, “When man lost touch with nature, he lost touch with himself.” Simply stated, “losing touch with himself” is disengagement – a phenomenon that is so common in our professional world.

This is the only way to create a good sustainable future for all since, “The future is never empty, never a blank space to be filled with the output of human activity. It is already colonized by what the past and present have sent to it.” (Fry 1999)

How do we develop that is the question? Understanding that involves deep learning. And deep learning is done by power of engaging with the flow of the moment.

Learning Quickly & Adapting Rapidly – A Simple View

If I were to make a very simplified understanding of our brain it would be this:

Our brain has three parts, which are: –

1. The Rear Brain

2. The Mid Brain

3. The Frontal Brain

The Rear Brain

The rear part of the brain is an alarm, which sets off as soon as it senses danger that can threaten survival and life. It works on the principle of ‘fear’ (the modern term is stress) that propels us to either fight or run away. When faced with anything new this part of the brain triggers first. Though for city dwellers, tigers and snakes are mostly not around to scare us to death, this ancient part of our brain sets off alarms by sensing anything which is unusual, uncommon, seemingly big for us to handle, new or doesn’t fit our regular routine or schedule. But isn’t learning all about embracing something new? So we have a big problem to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Mid Brain

This part of the brain stores all our sensations and experiences as images including the lessons we learn. It is the memory section. It throws up information as and when we need those. So when faced with something new this part of the brain searches for something similar and prompts us to take note of what is already stored there for us to act. At times, it conjures up new images by combining existing images some of which can be illusory or false, which may create stress or delusion. Under stress, it communicates to the rear brain triggering fight or flight response. When deluded it induces us take actions without thinking of undesirable consequences. Now, these become big problems to learn anything new or different when faced with familiar objects or situations making it difficult for us to pick out something new or different from seemingly familiar patterns. The mid brain would say, “You know that. There is nothing new in the world.” This is because mid brain would force us recognize existing patterns only, which usually prompts routine or scripted behavior as a response. This then poses as a big impediment to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Frontal Brain

This is the new part of the brain that is responsible for learning from any situation and under any condition enabling us to create new solutions and new actions. However, this part of the brain isn’t powered up fully so long the mid brain and the rear brain dominate the show. That appears to be a big problem too for learning quickly and adapting rapidly to changes.

So what is the way out?

The way out of the mess may be summed up in a neat mantra — 3S which stands for Slow, Small and Steady.

Slow:

Slowing down offers many benefits. The most important one is relaxation of the body and mind. Once the body and mind are relatively relaxed, the rear brain, which is usually very alert lets down its guard allowing other parts of the brain to act fully. This facilitates learning something new.

Small:

When we notice small and subtle things; think in small pieces and connect those; and take small actions – the rear brain doesn’t interfere since it doesn’t consider small things to pose any danger to survival. Likewise, when we see, think and do small things the mid brain doesn’t quite interfere with the new experience either since it usually fails to conjure up an existing pattern to match the small experiences other than trying to judge by giving it a name and form . So, once we suspend our judgement while experiencing something new the possibility of new learning grows exponentially. However, once the small things are done the mid brain would faithfully store the lessons for better adaptation and survival in the future.

Steady:

So what happens when, over a time, we steadily exchange value through small actions? Obviously, the small actions accumulate, coalesce, combine and recombine in self organizing way to produce new learning, which usually grows wide and deep enough to allow us learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

Go Slow. See Small. Engage Slowly, Think Small. Act Small. Go Steady.

That is perhaps the easiest way to learn new things quickly and adapt rapidly to changes promoting resilience and sustainability for organizations, groups, communities and individuals.

Note: This is a part of a forthcoming book — “Sleeping with a Stranger” — a new book belonging to the Nemetics series.

Strange habits of Gunter Grass

Gunter Grass, novelist, artist, Nobel laureate and all-round agitator, died on April 13th, aged 87.

While writing, he had some strange habits such as:

1. It was important for him to say the words aloud while he wrote.

2. The writing of his long dense books was slow, punctuated by coffee and by drawing and sculpting in which he was not only gifted but also trained.

3. Many of his drawings appeared in the books and on their jackets often replacing texts when words failed him.

4. He spoke his mind as he wrote, chewing over the sentences with the same reflective relish he might devote to potato pancakes, roast goose or liver sausage.

My questions are:

1. Why did he do so?

2. Did such habits help him to do better at what he did?

3. What insights we may gain from the habits of Gunter Grass?

Reference:

The Economist, April 18th – 24th 2015, Obituary Gunter Grass — The beat of the drum, page 78.

3 Best Gifts

Three best gifts a human being may give to another are:

1. Gift of material resources (physical – the R wave)

Without basic material resources to support life no human being can ever hope do something worthwhile to develop himself/herself. No music would be created. No poems would be written. No paintings would be made. No inventions would come about. No talent would blossom. It is about providing long term sustenance since honing of any talent needs years of persistent practice in good health.

2. Gift of Knowledge (mental – G wave)

Gifting knowledge to someone helps a person to navigate through complexity of life so as not to get swamped by it. It is an invaluable gift. Without basic knowledge and skill to navigate in complexity, even the best amongst us, would soon lose their way, get distracted, depressed and be left in a state of utter despair. It provides the wherewithal to stay the tough course of life by understanding oneself and others. In other words, it provides the wisdom to live life without much of mental sufferings and afflictions.

3. Gift of Assurance (emotional – B wave)

With this gift one gets the much needed confidence to do better in what one does well. This gift helps one to develop a sense of belonging, a state of peace, happiness and equanimity enabling one to reach one’s highest potential. In that way, the world automatically become a better place to live. Mere presence, an approving nod, a kind word, a smile, sharing love, showing respect, sharing the good word are some of the subtle but powerful forms of this gift. It unleashes the most powerful transforming force in an individual and society at large.

A baffling problem

Last week I was invited to engage with a baffling problem. It left engineers and managers of the power plant baffled for the last four months.

Instead of writing the technical details of the problem, which might not be of much interest to non-technical people I would instead write about my approach to solving baffling problems along with the principles involved. This is because we often wrongly interpret problems as technical, non technical, financial, social, etc. Essentially all problems are problems of the human mind. Invariably they always originate and live in the human mind. However, problems, as a rule, are always solved or resolved through enlightened (understanding, wisdom) consciousness.

The process, which I intend to highlight below, may be used to successfully solve both personal and professional problems or quickly adapt when a baffling problem (or a black swan) strikes.

The seven steps of the integrated process are as follows:

1. Look at the event as perceived in the present and the events that went before it.

Principles:
a) See all, sit still, breathe deep, care for the ill.
b) When drinking water think of its source.

2. Examine the responses of human beings to a problem. Spot the responses that emanated from stored memories (usually collective).

Principles:
a) Buddha is a toilet stick.
b) The gateway is found only after a long search and the long search is a spiral going inward.

3. Check implementation of the responses for assumptions, acceptance of imperfections, ignorance of facts and avoidance of details.

Principles:
a) See the whole universe in a glass of wine.
b) Can you see the cloud in the book?

4. Scan the various perspectives people have about a problem, i.e. how individuals feel about the problem. Identify the blind spots.

Principles:
a) No question; no answer
b) Cut the grass; pull the roots. 
c) Pine cones look at different directions but do they?

5. Listen intently to what they say and what they don’t say about the issue.

Principles:
a) Noise of the unsayable, unspeakable and unsaid is music.
b) Go up the mountain to meet the sage, know that it is you, come down to mix with the lakes and rivers.
c) A ruler and a worthy person who don’t connect, a musician and a listener who don’t find each other, or two potential friends who never meet; all lose.

6. Gain deep insight about the problem.

Principles:
a) Don’t catch the snake by its tail.                          
b) Birds are not afraid of directions.
c) Question, test and use every sense you have and believe that dawn would come.
d) Imaginary lines between stars guide us to new harbors.

7. Form understanding of the problem. Formulate viable solutions for minimal intervention. Exchange the understanding in the simplest possible terms as logically as possible to change collective consciousness. Leave it there.                                         

Principles:
a) No question; no answer.
b) Spirit is wrapped in reason and reason is wrapped in spirit.
c) One raindrop creates thousand ripples.
d) Don’t wish for spring; spring gives life to wish.

Chances are that baffling problems would no longer appear baffling and would soon be solved/resolved by people.

RGB waves in Real Life

The first pillar of Nemetics, as described in my earlier post 5 Pillars of Nemetics, is the RGB Waves, whose description is as follows:

“It helps us understand any phenomenon happening around us in the material world.

R wave represents ‘events’ that take place around us.

G wave represents the ‘behavior(s)’ of human beings and of systems that initiate any event.

B wave stands for ‘intentions’ and ‘beliefs’ that lead to particular behaviors which precipitate ‘events.'”

Here is an example of how the principle of RGB waves works in life. It is taken from an experimental work on psychology.

In this experiment, researchers examined the effect of two beliefs that run in society on personal behavior and results.

Belief 1: Women are not very good at math.

Belief 2: Asian students are good in math.

These social beliefs are the B waves that direct personal behavior to produce subsequent events or results. Let us see how.

In their experiment, psychologists Margaret Shih, Todd Pittinsky, and Nalini Ambady took two groups of female Asian students to take a math test.

But before taking the test the two groups of female students were primed differently to modulate their behaviors (G wave) to see whether holding on to beliefs produced different test scores (R wave).

For one group, the female students, who would be holding on to their identity of “Asians,” were primed by asking questions like — “Is there anyone in their extended families who spoke languages other than English?”

For the other group, who would be holding on to their identity as “woman,” the female students were primed by asking questions such as “whether they lived in a coed dorm?”

After being ‘primed’ both groups took the test. The primed B waves produced dramatically different results (R wave).

The scores (R wave) plunged for the group whose B wave was ‘Women are not very good at math.’

However, the scores (R wave) soared for the group whose B wave was “Asian students are good in math.”

I consider this as a good example, where a particular B wave directs behavior and performance (G wave) to produce different results (R wave).

It also informs me that if performance or results are to be improved it might simply be wise to pay attention to the B wave and modulate it to produce desired results. However, most often educator, leaders, politicians focus on results and behaviors and get busy changing or correcting those instead of paying attention to strongly held beliefs and intentions of individuals and groups, which generates complex behavior patterns and results.

Ref:

1. Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

2. Winning Anywhere – the Power of SEE

3. Workshops

Personal Transformation — A Nemetical Approach

We are always in the midst of changes.

That is the fundamental reality from which every other thing happens.

It has no fixed image. It has no fixed direction. It comes from ‘nowhere’. It goes ‘nowhere’.  It is always in a state of flux. So none can put a permanent meaning to it.

The whirlpool of changing phenomena is created through interactions of flux fields.

Such fields connect everything to everything to create an intricate web of relationships.

Interactions happen between all relationships.

Such interactions form the fundamental level of communication.

In this flux of continual changes we are both players and spectators of the changes.

Such changes manifest as events.

We create those events through our behavior and actions.

Our behavior is governed by our intentions.

Our Intentions are generated by our skills: Noticeornot, Engageornot, Mullornot, Exchangeornot (NEME) that give rise to either Skillful Actions or Unskillful Actions.

Quality of NEME is dictated by the quality of our four human faculties — Feeling, Imagination, Thinking,  Actions, where Feeling is the secret Key. Imagination is the Creator, Thoughts are Gifts and Actions form changing Reality.

The process of developing those faculties is: Love yoked to Respect and Reason.

The underlying mechanism of yoking Love, Respect and Reason is through the Power of See. The goal is to go beyond the present consciousness and see things anew to continually expand consciousness to its highest potential.

Power of See is developed through the knowledge in Arts, Science, Engineering, Technology, Mathematics, Communications and Design.

The undesirable or inauthentic constraints to ‘Seeing’ are formed from products of conditioned existence.

The method of eliminating such constraints of conditioning is through Memory, Discernment, Merger and Action.

The unconditioned self is the liberated self — empty of all conditioning, that constantly adapts and/or adjusts to changes.

When we adapt or adjust our selves to the environment; the environment also adjusts and adapts to our liberated consciousness.

Then higher levels of communication take place — inducing desirable flows.

It is creative. It is original. It delights. It is liberating.

One liberated self liberates many selves through sharing.

 

Ref: Winning Anywhere – the Power of See

The Search 4 – the path

In our search we feel we found a way. We stick to it. We follow its practices and rituals.

By doing so we believe we can make progress. In fact, at times, we do progress a lot.

But simply sticking to rights and rituals are not ends in themselves.

Our goal is to free our selves from all concepts that build up in our minds and free our selves from all experiences that try to shape our identities since all of those are utterly false.

At the end of the day, it is we who are responsible for seeing our own selves.

It does not matter what we read. It does not matter what we hear. It matters less what we are shown. It does not matter what we have had experienced. In the end it is down to us and down to the present moment, since that is the only livable moment we have with us.

It is not possible for anyone to push us along a way strapped to a shopping trolley.

Whatever we need to learn, whatever we need understand and whatever we need for our internal happiness, peace and stability are presented right in front of us, in every moment. The reality is right in the moment we live. The reality that would form in the future is right in the moment we live. We just have to open our eyes and ‘see.’

The present moment has many things to teach. But we can only interpret the present based on our own present understanding and experience. So, in fact, it is we teaching our selves all the time. It depends on how far and how wide and how deeply we can see the present. It depends so little on our past understanding and past experiences, if at all. It simply can never be anything else.

We do learn something from teachers and gurus. They inspire us to see a path, engage with it, mull over the experiences that greet us and exchange our understanding with the world. But that is not the end.

Respect your gurus but set them free.

Find your own path. See it. Question it. Challenge it. Test it out. Change it if you may.

And that path lies in your mind.

The problem is we hardly see it clearly.

The Search – 2

Each one of us is an artist.

To realize that – the words of Godard makes sense.

“Three polarities, three contradictions, three paradoxes of filmography :- visual vs narrative, fiction vs documentary & reality vs abstraction.”

Though he was talking about films, it is true for the apparently cold, unforgiving world of mathematics and science.

Take for instance, the famous equation E = mc^2 . It is a narrative as well as a visual. It began from the world of imagination flowing into the strict rationale of science and its documentation. And it portrays a fine balance between reality and abstraction.

So the apparent distinction between the different disciplines like art, science, economics, history and literature is meaningless. There is an artist as a practitioner  behind each of these.

The artist tells us a story through poems, stories, narratives, films, painting, a finely crafted argument, analysis, cold logic, drama, design etc..

We are continually telling our stories and that is what makes our world.

In that way the world and its people are enriched.

What story do you have?

Simply tell it.

 

By Dibyendu De

Author of #PowerofSee