Podcast Review – Rewiring technology to rewire the way we organise

Platform Design Toolkit, an open source toolkit and community that helps organizations to build platforms that mobilize ecosystems for an age of innovation, complexity, and interdependence, recently launched their Boundaryless Conversations Podcast.

In the first episode, Boundaryless founder Simone Cicero interviews Holochain Chief Architect Arthur Brock. They touched on a number of topics. 

A link to the podcast can be found here.

Here are my thoughts.

On unencloseable carriers and decentralized technology

Arthur and Simone discussed the concept of unencloseable carriers, which I would summarize as follows: If power is exerted by controlling the flow of information and resources, and we refer to the mechanisms by which we control that flow as [information] carriers, then unencloseable carriers are communication mechanisms that are not subject to manipulation or corruption through centralized coordination.  Creating unenclosable carriers is a great way to summarize the essence of decentralized technology. More on unencloseable carriers can be found here.

On a monocultural vs. ecological nature of DLT

Arthur and Simone discussed the merits of scaling decentralized technology through various means, such as through blockchain’s global consensus on data (i.e. monocultural) vs. a Holochain’s approach to coordinating the states of local nodes on a network (e.g. ecological).  For me, either approach is acceptable if the goal of achieving unencloseable carriers is achieved at scale, but I am inspired by the ecological nature of holochain and its biomimicry oriented approach.

On technology enabling the emergence of new kinds of organizations

Simone then asked about what new forms of organization decentralized technology can enable and why Arthur chose to start by focusing on technology rather than other new capabilities or narratives. Arthur responded by sharing the metaphor of a ladder with “one side of the ladder [as] consciousness, and you know, the story, the vision, the mythos, the ways that you think and the other is the embodied practical physical tools”. The rungs on the ladder represented projects or initiatives.

This immediately brought to mind the double helix metaphor used in Spiral Dynamics (framework for human psychological development), where one strand of the DNA represents the ever changing life conditions we encounter and the other strand represents our infinite ability to adapt our intelligence to solve the problems created by those life conditions. The base pairs in between represent a predictable series of progressively more advanced world views that arise as we develop. The quote below from SD Advisors NVC Consulting sums up the double helix aspect of the SD model:

“The interplay of existential problems in the milieu with the neurology of a human brain is the core of the theory, as well as one of its most practically useful aspects. (Graves used the double-helix as a metaphor.) An understanding of this dynamic is what gives this approach such power for explaining why people do as they do, and anticipating where they will go next. That is because why and what we do are logically consistent with the world we experience. People put first things first and behave in ways that they believe are adjustive and adaptive to the realities at hand, using the equipment available to them in their brains. The impacts of experiential and genetic aspects are intertwined.” 

I’ve written previously on how effectively Spiral Dynamics explains the relationship between technology, mental models and societal advancement (see also presentation on mindsets and ecosystems) and can be used as a predictor for our emerging future. In short, Spiral Dynamics organizes mental models into two tiers of development, the first tier representing mindsets we develop when we focus on our individual needs and the second tier representing mindsets we develop that focus on our collective needs. Clare Graves, whose work Spiral Dynamics was based upon, referred to the shift between the first and second tier as mankind’s momentous leap. I can’t help but think that with the life conditions that the current pandemic is creating, the need for new mental models and behavior reinforcing technologies has never been greater. Arthur’s ladder metaphor led me to envision a triple helix model with life conditions, our mental models and behavior reinforcing tools as the strands.

On the transition to new models enabled by decentralized technology

Arthur suggests little energy and time should be invested in incumbents and how they adapt to decentralization because they will be inherently slow, but I can’t help but think of Corporate Rebels and the work around community capitalism being done by incumbents like Haier and Chobani, largely without decentralized technology. 

On Governance

I highly recommend listening to the conversation on governance (40:08 in the podcast). Arthur’s take on governance, a hot topic for ecosystems, epitomizes a yellow/interdependence mindset (the first level of the 2nd tier of Spiral Dynamics). In describing human nature as encompassing both a desire to move toward things we want (i.e. progressive) and steer away from dangers and hold coherence of patterns we’ve found that work (i.e. conservative), he nailed the mindset needed to govern a more cooperative and sustainable existence. I love his idea that good decision making happens when patterns of behavior that work are moved to the subconscious and those things that require governance and enable us to navigate things that are unfamiliar move to the forefront of our conscious. He states good governance is less about an overt wielding of power and more like an organic building of patterns and habits that allow us to steer our way forward.  Truly insightful!

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