In yesterdays post, I raised a question: “What are the chances that we should be afflicted en masse with OCD, autistic tendencies, narcissism, schizophrenia, ADD, and latent inhibition diminishment? I suggested that the time had come to burn our copies of the DSM, and to start again. We need a new paradigm for new problems.
Which paradigm? There might be something useful in Complexity theory. The complexity theorists posit something called a CAS, a complex adaptive system. The CAS has 4 properties: aggregation, diversity, flows and non-linearity. The complexity theorists intend the CAS as a way of thinking about a species. Clippinger and company have suggested that it is a good way to characterize a business organization. It occurred to be that it might be a useful way to characterize the self.
Clark defines the CAS aggregation as something that occurs when “heterogeneous elements are temporarily recruited to form a coherent whole. The aggregation is, in Clark terms, a “soft assembly, the pieces neither internally fixed nor externally bounded.
A second CAS property is diversity. Clippinger defines diversity as a “measure of variety; in general, the more diverse an organization, the more fit and adaptable it is. Innovations find their way into and out of the aggregation with some frequency.
The third property of the CAS are flows. Clippinger defines these as “webs or networks of interactions, a meta-message system by which diverse parts of the aggregation communicate with one another.
The fourth property of the CAS is non-linearity. Manville defines this as the ability of the organization to move beyond “linear projections[s] of the past and under take “sudden and unexpected threshhold changes.
Lets say we are, some more than others, turning into Complex Adaptive Systems. We exhibit the symptoms of OCD because we are, as a CAS, newly attentive to a changing environment, always looking for the way to best read and react. This is the Monk in all of us. We are sometimes autistic in tendency, because there are moments when we retreat from the world for periods of disengaged reflection. We might think of these as “soft assembly moments. We are narcissistic in moments because we are incapable of self regulation in highly dynamic unless constantly monitoring the things we want. We are schizophrenic in moments because we are running many selves in order to maximize our adaptive advantage. We are ADD sometimes because the world comes at us suddenly and from many origins and we must attend to it often and quickly. And finally we cultivate “latent inhibition diminishment because this is one of the sources of the creativity that is now demanded of us.
Or something. Just a thought. But it feels like this is a better approach than heaping up the psychiatric acronyms.
May I say, as a closing note, that I devoutly hope that Portugal never wins another soccer game. Todays victory, and every victory, makes my neighbors here in Montreal drive endlessly in circles, honking their horns, blowing whistles, and sounding air horns, for hours. Normally, the Dionysian in me responds well to expressions of pagan joy. But I am beginning to think these people need to get some seriously counselling. Please feel free to blame all logical inconsistencies and typographical errors in this post on the people of Portugal or the game of soccer, as you wish.
Clark, Andy. 1999. Leadership and Influence: The manager as coach, nanny, and artificial DNA. The biology of business decoding the natural laws of enterprise. editor John Henry Clippinger, 47-66. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, p. 49.
Clippinger, John Henry. 1999. The biology of business: Decoding the natural laws of enterprise. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp. 10-22.
Holland, John H. 1995. Hidden order: How adaptation builds complexity. Helix Book. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
Manville, Brook. 1999. Complex Adaptive Knowledge Management. The biology of business decoding the natural laws of enterprise. editor John Henry Clippinger, 89-111 San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, p. 99.