Turquoise consciousness

What does turquoise consciousness mean? In this blog post I’m pushing the boundaries as a researcher here about what I can say with certainty. For natural reasons there is not that much data supporting any claim that can be made on this issue. This is also a short description and I am probably assuming one or two things about all theories that I don’t write out explicitly. So just let this speculation be a discussion opener and let’s stretch our imagination a bit. Anyway, let’s play with it!

Turquoise consciousness is often referred to as two closely related lines of thinking, Ken Wilber’s integral theory and Clare W. Graves’ Spiral dynamics model in Don Beck’s interpretation. They both use colors to label the stages in their respective developmental models. In Wilber’s case the stage following the teal stage and in Beck’s case the stage, or vMeme, following yellow. Both those cases show in my opinion pretty sweeping descriptions and are in neither case backed up with that much data.

In terms of Spiral dynamics, yellow (flex-flow) is the first vMeme that is not attached to any particular value system or vMeme. Rather, it can be said to be a synthesis between all previous vMemes, thus it can be referred to as a value metasystem. The yellow vMeme can see through any of the previous lenses or perspectives. Furthermore, as it is described, it arranges these vMemes in a developmental order. The following turquoise vMeme is described as a more complex and more integrated version of the more cognitively oriented yellow vMeme. It typically emphasizes a collectivism, global identification, spirituality and subtleties of reality.

Nevertheless, according to Wilber, teal and turquoise roughly correspond to the action-logics strategist and alchemist, respectively, in Bill Torbert’s version of Jane Loevinger’s stages of ego development. This is pretty well described by Susanne Cook-Greuter, who named them autonomous and construct-aware, respectively. She also elaborated the description of what an action-logic is, which in my interpretation is very close to the concept of meaning-making, which is how we construct and organize reality in our mind. Meaning-making is the story that we tell about who we are, about the nature of reality and how we should and do act. And as Robert Kegan shows us, this meaning-making can be more or less complex in its structure, hence different orders of consciousness or stages of ego development.

Nowadays, action-logics or stages of ego development according to Cook-Greuter are more often used since they are more thoroughly researched and described. She identified some themes of the test responses that were evaluated at the higher stages. She also ascribed an increasing ability of perspective-taking to each stage, but I find these not that stringently defined so I won’t go into those. Here, several models or theories are discussed and it’s good to keep in mind that they show different aspects, or perhaps developmental lines, of the psychological development. Wilber’s is in my view not that well defined but typically talks about perspective-taking, Spiral dynamics is about values (content), ego development is about complexity in meaning-making structure, perspective-taking, content in themes and so forth, Kegan’s is complexity in meaning-making structure and MHC is about structure in conceptualized information. So when I mean stage of development I’m probably closest to Cook-Greuter or Kegan’s descriptions, but it’s also interesting to see what content, values, that show up at the respective stages.

Anyway, here is my suggestion on the issue at hand:

The two stages or vMemes yellow and turquoise can be divided into two sub stages each. The first yellow stage, denoted yellow 1, mean that you can coordinate and shift between worldviews or identifications, but not order them in a developmental sequence. This is in accordance with Robert Kegan’s fifth order of consciousness (see this diagram) where he refers to subject as trans-system. In Kegan’s descriptions and examples of this order there is no developmental or hierarchical sequence between the systems. According to MHC a metasystematic coordination doesn’t necessarily need to be nested and hierarchical, it can consist of two or more systems being compared and put next to each other. An illustration of this is the value system model called Common cause, which is non-developmental and non-hierarchical although it evaluates multiple systems of values and coordinates them. Common themes in ego development test responses are balancing personal and social perspectives. This also shows up in Kohlberg’s descriptions of the corresponding stage 5.

The second yellow stage, yellow 2, is the one commonly described in Spiral dynamics, with an emphasis on and identification with a developmental process, where one vMeme is a step on a developmental or evolutionary ladder. This theme also shows up in ego development test results. I would say that this stage typically has its focus on the development upwards, but it’s of course a pretty extensive process that takes years. A possible difference between yellow 1 and 2 is the ability to take a vertical perspective.

The first turquoise stage I am proposing, turquoise 1, is based on another theme that Cook-Greuter refers to and places at the construct-aware stage. Compared to the previous stage, I’d say that this has integrated more shadows and is more coherent from bottom and up. Loevinger denoted this stage ”integrated”. A theme that Cook-Greuter describes here is an identification with a developmental or evolutionary process that coordinates the personal development with the cultural evolution, and seeing that one’s own development is an expression of a personal trajectory as well as a cultural, structural and behavioral. Cook-Greuter’s description resembles Wilber’s notion of a tetra-evolution in all quadrants. I’m proposing this to be a coordination at the paradigmatic order according to MHC. And why not a corresponding sixth order of consciousness according to Kegan’s subject-object theory?! (Remember where you read this description first!)

The second turquoise stage, turquoise 2, is based on the theme after which Cook-Greuter named this stage, construct-aware. At this stage it is realized that language, meaning and identity is something that is being constructed. The construct-aware person can take the entire meaning-making as an object and is not attached to and controlled by it. For instance, the previous identification with the evolutionary process is here released and the construct-aware realizes that stages of development are mere constructs, which can be quite provoking for the previous stages. For the second yellow stage and the first turquoise stage it is meaningful to advance to the next stage on the developmental ladder, but turquoise 2 has stepped off the ladder, it is in free fall and thus meaning-free. This is a huge paradox, yellow 2 and turquoise 1 will sacrifice anything to get to the next stage, but turquoise 2 realize that it’s not always worth it. It is after all pretty nice to have structures to which you can attach your ego and get direction in your life. Nevertheless, there are benefits of this increased sensitivity in the silence and the shadows, and the cognitive abilities such as perspective taking remains of course. From this stage it is obvious what Cook-Greuter says: ”higher is not better, not happier”.

For further descriptions I would recommend Susanne Cook-Greuter’s Nine levels of increasing embrace or any video series by her.

One remark from these four stages is that the first three, yellow 1, yellow 2 and turquoise 1, are sequential in that they are increasingly complex. The last stage here, turquoise 2, on the other hand could possibly occur earlier than that. It might be possible to take the entire meaning-making as an object and recognize it as a construct even before one has acquired a developmental meaning-making structure. Or at least in theory.

In the coming ESRAD conference in Freiburg May 31-June 2 we are considering a session where Spiral dynamics is discussed in relation to e.g. other theories of development. There are several aspects in this short analysis that could be further elaborated, but this will do as a discussion opener and thought experiment based on a comparisons with different theories and own experiences rather than on data from sentence completion tests or Spiral dynamics. Apparently Cook-Greuter has been discussing a split of the construct-aware stage into two, I don’t know the rationale or details. If someone knows it would be nice to hear…

Note that Cook-Greuter has also proposed a stage following the construct-aware, the unitive stage.

References:

Beck & Cowan – Spiral dynamics

Commons et al – World future’s special issue on the model of hierarchical complexity (2008)

Cook-Greuter – Nine levels of increasing embrace, Postautonomous ego development (doctoral thesis)

Hy & Loevinger – Measuring ego development 2nd ed

Kegan – The evolving self, In over our heads

Torbert – Action inquiry

Wilber – Integral psychology, Integral Spirituality

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Garden earth – excellent book on sustainability

This year I have signed up to a distance course in sustainability, or Sustainable transition as it is called. I have been doing a lot of reading and discussing on my own last years and wanted to learn more, connect with others that have an interest in sustainability and to see what course content and literature are being proposed. The final point is of interest to me since I might give a course in sustainability this fall and I’ve been searching for good introductory books to the vast subject of sustainability, which has been hard given my demands:

  • Sustainability is an extremely broad subject, so it can’t give a too narrow view only focusing on one or a few aspects such as climate change or Peak oil.
  • If we want to understand how to make our civilizations sustainable we need to understand how we got here from the start, i.e. we need a historic view ranging from the beginning of agriculture up to present day and further. Such a view is presented in e.g. Jared Diamond’s excellent books Guns, germs and steel, and Collapse together, but they are too extensive to have as course literature, other than possibly excerpts fore case illustrations.
  • The subject is also extremely complex, which means that the different aspects can’t be presented in a too simplistic or fragmented way. The different aspects or dimensions of sustainability, such as resources, waste, social, economic, political, ecological, historical and so forth, need to be synthesized into a coherent whole.
  • It can’t be ideologically biased, or at least, it can’t be too political. Often, books or analyses of this genre bring some sort of underlying assumption or ideology with them, such as Marxist, feminist, anti-capitalist, anti-civilization or apocalypse-alarmist, although those perspectives can be useful. It is of course hard not to have opinions at all and to be totally free from political views such as ”us being sustainable seems like a good idea” or not stating when something in our society clearly is dysfunctional. But in those cases I want to hear all arguments and I want the writer to separate facts from own opinions or meaning-making.

This seems like a hard task, but the main textbook of the course does in my view pass these criteria! It is a Swedish book called Trädgården jorden – Från fångstsamhälle till global kapitalism och därefter by Gunnar Rundgren (2010). And, good news, since a few months it is also available in English: Garden Earth – From Hunter and Gatherers to Global Capitalism and Thereafter (link to Gunnar’s webpage, book description and blogg).

The book is divided into four sections where the first is a historical view on how some civilizations has evolved and some has collapsed with references to e.g. Jared Diamond. Diamond’s focus is however mostly on geographical factors, thus making it somewhat deterministic. Rundgren weaves together the technological perspective with the development of the economic and political systems and our view on us and nature. The second section is an overview of the ecological challenges we are facing, such as loss of biodiversity, resources, energy and global warming, toxic chemical waste, farming, population growth and migration etc. The third is about the functioning of our society and ourselves and the different forms of capital: natural, human, social, manufactured and financial, and the relation between them, and issues of global justice such as distribution of resources.

The title suggests that the way forward to tackle the challenges of sustainability cannot be found within the current reign of capitalism and market economy, but rather beyond them. In the final section Rundgren presents a broad critique towards the current global capitalist economy in that it is not the solution and that something beyond is needed, but only after first having presented the historical background to why we have capitalism and a market economy. Only by understanding why we have it we can move forward in our development, if we just consider it evil and reject it per se we only get another system that probably will be plagued with all problems that capitalism actually solved for us.

Before the industrial revolution people were typically farmers and only a small surplus from what was produced at the farms were sold on markets. Workers were not free to move, e.g. loathing was typically prohibited. When the production at the farm was mechanized it required capital for purchase and the production therefore needs to be increased, you need a secure access to labor and to resources. Now a big market for goods was motivated, a market for labor (that in great deal moved into the cities) and a market for land were created. And it became possible to make money on trade itself without producing anything by oneself. Today this capitalism, symbolized by Wall Street, has grown to disturbingly large portions in relation to the value it produces to society, one can safely say.

Capitalism and the market economy are systems that have solved some problems and contributed to our socio-techno-economic-political development (and psychological I would argue – Something I would like to add to the discussion is obviously a developmental psychological). But it is a system that is inherently designed to grow – and now that we have hit this planet’s limits we see the problem in growing dept and an accelerating depletion of natural resources. As it continues to grow, more and more of our resources as well as services and existential necessities will be priced and traded over an open market.

This development is particularly discussed around the issue of ecosystem services, such as nature’s ability to provide us with services such as the production of food, energy and oxygen and carbon storage by means of photosynthesis. Is it better to put a price tag on that than letting it remain free from economic value as it is now? Rundgren discusses solutions within the current economic system, but emphasizes the need for some sort of transformation. One conclusion is that the commoditization of nature and relations undermines the ecological and social capital. Capitalism will continue to grow to eat its own basis, which will eventually kill itself. Thus, the economic system needs to be subordinated the ecological, not the reverse, and it also need to be subordinated the social system.

Although emphasizing a holistic view on our problems, Rundgren’s main concern is the issue of food production, his background is from ecological farming and he has been actively aiding farmers, governments and being part of development programs around the world for decades. We need to produce food for 9-10 bn people and we need to do it sustainably.

The final section on ways forward is a bit brief and sweeping in description, although he points to the relation we should have to our earth as the one gardener has to the garden. And the view of nature as something that needs to be respected and honored for its own sake, and not only as something that is instrumental to our needs. We need to move from pioneers to stewards of the earth, we are totally dependent on it and we are part of it. In this new future Rundgren sketches thoughts on the relation between work and leisure time, global and local solutions, the role of governmental and non-governmental institutions, energy, technical development, global justice and diversity in species, ideas, cultures and so forth. In the 2½ year later written English version this section is expanded, which is a good idea.

Concluding, if you want to read only one book on sustainability, I warmly recommend this one! This one gives me hope for the future. But we are still facing the biggest challenge in the history of the modern human being.

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Ny sajt – komplexitet.se

Nu är det dags att ta nästa steg i vuxenutvecklingen! Aktiviteten på den här bloggen vad gäller vuxenutveckling flyttas nu över till den nystartade sajten komplexitet.se! Jag står bakom den också.

Där flyttar jag över det viktigaste av den kunskapsmassan som jag byggt upp här. Och jag strukturerar den bättre så att det blir mer överskådligt. Inget kommer dock att tas bort härifrån. Jag kommer kanske inte skriva riktigt lika mycket här, och förmodligen om lite andra saker som jag har på gång.

Man kan säga att komplexitet.se blir den professionella vuxenutvecklingsforskar-Kristians hemsida medan fication.se blir privata Kristians blogg. Följ mig gärna på båda ställena!

Den stora nyheten med komplexitet är att vi öppnar upp vårt värdesystemtest för alla att göra gratis!

Och fler tester ska läggas ut framöver!

Så följ mig på twitter @komplexitet, på facebook www.facebook.com/komplexitetse eller lägg till mig i rss-flödet så håller du dig ajour med vad som händer på forskningsfronten när det gäller personlig utveckling!

Väl mött!

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Jämställdhetsbluffen – en revolution?

Nu har jag äntligen fått hem Pelle Billings Jämställdhetsbluffen och sträckläst. Även om jag har läst alla inlägg på http://www.pellebilling.se/blogg/ sedan starten så var det en och annan nyhet, men framförallt presenterade den en sammanhängande bild av kunskapsmassan som han byggt upp under flera år. Översikten man får av att läsa boken kan man inte få av enstaka inlägg.

Rubrikens revolution avser den Kopernikanska, som i perspektiv- eller paradigmskifte, som i sådana här sammanhang brukar ofta associeras till en omvälvande förändring och ny syn inom ett ämnesområde eller för en enskild människa. Så varför inte göra en jämförelse?! Nicolai Copernicus var alltså den som framlade vetenskapligt stöd för den heliocentriska världsbilden. Den heliocentriska världsbilden var revolutionerande i och med att den utgick från att jorden kretsade kring solen istället för tvärt om, dvs den rådande geocentriska världsbilden. Fast det fanns förstås en hel del makt investerad i det gamla perspektivet, främst från kyrkan, så det var inte helt lätt att övertyga folk.

Galilio Galilei fick kännedom om Copernicus beskrivningar och tillsammans med sina egna observationer blev han övertygad om den heliocentriska världsbildens riktighet, men precis som Copernicus ville han inte heller stöta sig med kyrkan. Därför gav han ut boken ”Dialog om de två världssystemen” där han beskriver och diskuterar de båda världsbilderna som två möjliga alternativ. Jag är absolut ingen expert på området men jag tycker att det låter som en bra och diplomatisk modell, jag vill ju inte heller stöta mig med någon som har mycket makt. Och man kan ju alltid ha fel.

Det finns nu alltså två världsbilder eller perspektiv över hur könsroller fungerar och vad jämställdhet är:

Världsbild 1 – Genusordningen eller könsmaktsordningen

Den här världsbilden grundar sig på antagandet att vi lever i ett patriarkat där mannen är överordad kvinnan. Dagens könsroller är helt och hållet resultat av en kulturell prägling från uppväxten och om vi bara avskaffar dessa sociala konstruktioner så kommer män och kvinnor att uppföra sig lika, välja lika, fördela sig lika, få lika mycket betalt och få lika mycket makt. Men vi har långt kvar till denna s.k. kvantitativa jämställdhet. Tills dess måste vi alla arbeta för att utjämna alla skillnader. Mäns våld mot kvinnor och motstånd mot detta jämställdhetsarbete kan här ses som mannens försök att upprätthålla könsmaktsordningen. Vi har alltså ett könskrig som bara kan vinnas genom att männen delar helt lika med makt och lämnar plats åt de nu till stor del maktlösa kvinnorna. Det kan möjligen finnas ”fickor” av enstaka män med problem, men dessa kan förklaras med den manliga könsrollen som bör problematiseras.

Världsbild 2 – Jämställdhet 2.0

Den andra världsbilden, den som presenteras i Jämställdhetsbluffen, erbjuder en förklaring till varför det ser ut som det gör idag och hur könsrollerna har vuxit fram. Precis som Newton med sin gravitationslag förklarade varför planeterna kretsade kring solen förklarar här Pelle Billing mekanismerna bakom könsrollernas uppkomst, varför  och hur männens och kvinnornas respektive könsroller har kommit att formats som de har. Det gör han genom att bland annat titta på hur matproduktion, arbete och civilisationerna som helhet utvecklats genom historien. Då framträder en bild där båda könens fördelar såväl som utsatthet belyses, där männen gjort det hårda fysiska arbetet, skickats ut till de riskfyllda uppgifterna och varit maktlösa på andra plan än de ekonomiska och politiska, där kvinnorna tidigare saknat makt. Jämställdhetsdebatten förs idag på många fronter, men i Jämställdhetsbluffen förs en världsbild fram som är sammanhängande, som tar stöd i befintlig forskning från alla tänkbara discipliner (även genusvetenskapen) och som leder till rimliga och nyanserade slutsatser om varför vi har de olikheter mellan män och kvinnor vi har idag. Dessutom ger den en rättvis och human syn på hur vi bör arbeta vidare med jämställdhet på ett sätt som inte skuldbelägger ett helt kön och offerförklarar det andra. Könsfred helt enkelt.

Men är det inte väl pretentiöst att kalla boken en Kopernikansk revolution? Nej, det är så man ibland refererar till den typen av skiften i vetenskapliga områden och även på det personliga planet. En upplevelse som leder till en ny syn på jämställdhetsfrågan, åt det ena eller det andra hållet, har också kommit att kallas en WTF-upplevelse och vid sträckläsningen av den här boken fick jag flashbacks till mina tidigare WTF-upplevelser i området. I och med senaste veckans händelser med boksläpp och den nya mansutredningen så är det nog stor risk att vi snart får en rejäl WTF-upplevelse på det kulturella planet.

Finns det då inget att kritisera i boken? Det brukar jag ju ha som regel att göra, även här där jag är partisk (för det är jag). Jo, ett par skönhetsfel kan jag allt hitta:

Det är genomgående felaktiga avstavningar, ett par referens-siffror som har fel storlek och vid några ställen ser det ut som om punktstorleken i texten ändras. Det kan ses som störande, men å andra sidan kan man se det som en illustration av de ekonomiska förutsättningarna: Den första världsbilden representeras av miljardtals i skattepengar till en genusvetenskap och -industri som producerat hela bibliotek av forskning (inom ramarna för den rådande världsbilden); Den andra världsbilden representeras av en donate-knapp på en hemsida och en massa ideellt arbete.

Om man tycker att en revolution på jämställdhetsområdet låter som en bra idé, om man vill göra frågetecknet i rubriken till ett utropstecken, eller om man bara vill jämna ut oddsen lite så att båda världsbilderna kan granskas och diskuteras öppet, så kan man stödja Pelle med en donation. Eller ännu bättre, genom att köpa en hög med böcker och ge till vänner, bekanta och människor man tycker kan behöva den. Sen är det bara att vänta och lyssna efter ljudet…

– WTF!?

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Common cause

Up to date I have written almost 100 introducing texts on adult development in Swedish and started to consider translating them to English, which is a future project. Until then I have compiled everything (and more) in a pretty condensed paper that I am about to submit to an open-access journal. The analysis is based on an idea I got two years ago and an earlier version was presented at the ESRAD meeting in Lund 2011.

Now, let’s take a brief look at another approach of mapping values or meaning-making of individuals and cultures in relation to issues of sustainability and consumerism. A recent but already famous quote by the British economist Tim Jackson that captures this is:

“We buy things we don’t need with money we haven’t got to make impressions that don’t last on people we don’t care about.”

But what governs what we buy and the way we act? According to the research by Shalom Schwartz our values are, to say the least, an important factor as they are said to represent our guiding principles. And his research shows that our values typically show up in clusters or groups. Schwartz’ research has been popularized by a handbook made by a British network called Common cause from which the following illustrative value-map is presented:

Ten value clusters are defined and conclusions from the research are e.g. that if one value cluster is prominent in your life you also tend to prefer values from the neighboring cluster and that you tend to shy away from values that are in opposite of the prominent value cluster. Values are also, very roughly, divided into intrinsic and extrinsic values where the latter are centered on external approval or rewards, such as striving for wealth, social status and power. These extrinsic values are easy to associate to Jackson’s quote or short-sighted, profit-maximizing Wall street investors from 2008. Intrinsic values are, on the other hand associated with connection with nature, concern for others, creativity and so forth. From this it is easy to draw the conclusion that intrinsic values are inherently good and extrinsic are just bad, but is it that simple?

“It is common to see people segmented into distinct groups or dichotomies (right/left, for/against, good/bad). The evidence, however, suggests that people are far more complex than this and are unlikely to subscribe purely to one set of values or another. Rather, everyone holds all of the values, and goals, but places more importance on some than others. Each of the values will therefore have an impact on any individual’s behavior and attitudes at different times.”

Intrinsic values are said to be associated with a behavior that is beneficial for a more sustainable society and that they should be endorsed in communications and campaigning, as well as in schooling. Although it is easy to sympathize with this conclusion one has to be extremely careful with saying what values other people should have. There are some ethical concerns and discussions that always need to be kept alive. And trying to change people’s values can easily back-fire.

Nevertheless, the values of a culture can and most definitely do affect how well we manage in our efforts to create a sustainable society. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond refers to one reason why some societies fails to be sustainable in that they cling on to values that clearly aren’t fit for the situation they are in. On Easter Island people kept raising the famous statues in order to impress on the neighboring tribes and the own tribal members instead of perhaps working together or focus on more sustainable and equal food production. Another example is from the colonizing of Greenland where the Vikings refused to learn anything from or even cooperate with the Inuits and persisted on keeping cattle despite the fact that the sensitive environment eroded from this. A more contemporary example, coming from The first earth summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is the famous quote made by George W.H. Bush: “the American way of life is not negotiable” which signals that the rest of the world, the resource base and the environment should adapt after this, a view that grows more and more remote from reality.

The website’s name is Values and frames, so what does “frames” mean?

“Frames are both mental structures that order our ideas; and communicative tools that evoke these structures and shape our perceptions and interpretations over time.”

It could be said that values represent the drivers or motivation, the affective component of behavior, and the frames represents the cognitive aspect.

One question that I can’t find in the Common cause handbook is if values can be more or less mature. Well, if we compare the value map with models from the field of Adult development the answer would be yes. For example, in Spiral dynamics, which is a model of how values evolve on a cultural and individual plane, similar value clusters or value systems do show up (even the choice of colors appears to be almost identical!).

Further, the notion of frames appears to be very similar to what in Adult development is referred to as meaning-making, of which Jane Loevinger’s ego development theory and Robert Kegan’s subject-object theory are describing. So one could ask how Adult development perspectives could be fitted into the research of Schwartz and others, besides pointing out the similarities between the fields of research. They do differ in methods where the one in the AD field typically uses qualitative data that according to manuals are transformed into quantitative evaluations of stage (with the exception of MHC), while value surveys typically are being quantitative with multi-choice questionnaires.

One alternative is to use the same approach as the value survey above and try to find evidence in the data that one value system is more developed than another. This is something we have been working on in our Swedish network for some time. In our second ESRAD meeting in Coimbra, Portugal this summer I presented the work by Per Sjölander, who actually was able to identify value clusters with a varying degree of development from data from the World Value Survey, i.e. the value clusters represented stages of development. Those results will soon be published, so stay tuned!

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Peak Oil, Zombies and Adult development

This is the second part on Peak Oil. In the first part I reviewed Kjell Aleklett’s Peeking at Peak Oil which summarized a decade of research on Peak Oil. That was in Swedish but there are several English introductions e.g. here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

In Peeking at Peak Oil Aleklett writes:

”In recent years while lecturing on Peak Oil there have been many times when I have observed one or more people in the audience experience what we call their “peak moment”. That is the moment when they finally, and usually suddenly, become convinced that Peak Oil is reality. (Often a rather shocked expression spreads over their face and they look very uneasy.)”

Here is my “peak moment”: I had just finished my PhD thesis 2009 and successfully defended it after spending half a year in more or less solitary confinement and single pointed focus, and I started to broaden my view and check the world status, so to say. With a PhD and a habit of using integral models I should be able to get an overview, I thought. For starters, I tried to dig a bit deeper into the economic mayhem created by of the subprime crisis one year earlier, which in turn led me to resource issues. Soon I found my way to a Swedish blog called “Livet efter oljan”, or Life after the oil, which gave a thorough introduction of Peak Oil and its possible and even probable consequences for the future of our civilization.

How did I react to this? I lay awake for several nights with a constant thought running through my head: “I need to get two things: 1. a food supply, and 2. guns to defend it.” Yes, that was pretty drastic. But why did I react that way? And what was I afraid of? Zombies? (What’s with the zombies by the way?)

When you read about the oil’s function in our society you soon learn that our system for food production, from farming to distribution to our tables, is very heavily dependent on oil. Should you remove all of the world’s oil in a blink of an eye it would probably take just a few days before the shelves at the supermarkets are empty. It is sometimes said that we are only 72 hours away from starvation.

As a consequence of insights such as this you can today see a growing subculture of neo-survivalism emerging with people that have become aware of our society’s fragility with a spectrum ranging from the ones storing candles at home for power failures to the ones that actually have a BOB that they can take on their way to their BOL.

In this thought of scenario there will typically be a few that are well prepared, those foresighted with a food supply, and the rest who are not and are surprised that there suddenly is no food to be found, except for at the prepared neighbor. In this sudden collapse scenario all law enforcement and social control have also collapsed, so people are typically returning to their pre-civilized mentality in order to survive. This might sound drastic, but in his excellent book Collapse Jared Diamond actually proposed overpopulation and food shortage to be one of the driving causes to the genocide in Rwanda 1994.

Think of this situation of hungry and desperate neighbors suddenly turning against you and trying to get into your home. If they succeed, they will take your food supply which will make you just as desperate and you will all proceed to the next house. This situation has very much in common with a classic zombie attack. Fortunately there are instructions on how to handle these attacks. 🙂

This tendency in popular culture that can be observed I believe is a sign of a shift in the zeitgeist of the western world from saving the world to pure apocalypse. I think one of the best examples is the movie I am legend starring Will Smith walking around in an abandoned New York City, heavily armed, searching for a cure to the man-made virus that has been released. The virus has killed most of the population (people that has already starved in the collapse scenario), turned almost everyone else into zombie-like mutants (the starving neighbors searching for your food) and the remaining one percent is immune to the virus (you, the survivalist). The loneliness of Will Smith’s character is easy to identify with since no one seems to believe a person with an anxiety that our society might collapse in a near future. He is having conversations with mannequins at the record store he visits in order to keep himself mentally sane.

 

Nevertheless, regardless how exaggerated my reaction was, it was just as real to me and this reaction is often compared to the reaction of receiving information of having a serious decease. This is a reaction that is also reported by many else. But can we learn anything from this? Can we somehow get some understanding of these types of reactions by employing an adult development perspective? Yes, I believe we can and it is probably a good idea for me to give some examples here. Perhaps that might restore some of my credibility as a sane researcher.

First, one important aspect is perception of time. When we imagine a collapse it is typically within a few days that everything goes to hell, this would be the Hollywood version. Climate change according to Hollywood is just a few days away in The day after tomorrow when we in reality need a 100-year perspective to understand this. Time horizons has by the way been examined by the organizational researcher Elliott Jaques who came to the conclusion that we have a varying of ability of taking long term effects in consideration when decide what to do. Most people lie between thinking two to five years ahead in time, some even shorter and some much longer.

Another aspect is complexity in meaning-making, when you get into a new area and starting to see reality with new eyes, you typically have a very black and white view on it. After some time you are able to see things in a more nuanced way, even if you already are a fairly complex thinker. But this might also vary from person to person. Concluding, Peak Oil means problems in a nearer future than climate issue, but it is still a good idea not to do anything in panic and instead more slowly moving in a healthy direction, trying to decrease unnecessary transports and personal dept is a good start.

Aleklett reports on his frequent battles with economists that claim that oil production is mainly a consequence of the demand after oil and other economic factors, while Aleklett, as a physicist, argues that it is geological factors that set the limits of oil extraction and of course the amount of oil in the ground. This may sound obvious and even ridiculous, but it is a controversy that goes deeper than just being a battle between the faculties. It is an abyss between the two worldviews in that it is either us that are in control of our development, if we decide that it will be business-as-usual then we will have business-as-usual (economic growth forever), or that we are more or less left out to factors beyond our control, such as the limited nature of limited resources and the limited nature of our nature. The first view sounds more life-affirming, of course, whereas the second tend to be more negative and dystopian in a fundamental way. Going from the first to the second view you could swing from a very bright view on what a human being to a very dark, when the structures and systems for social control disappears. Still, they are assumptions on whether a human is inherently good or evil. And we are a bit more complex than that. This swing in value and worldview could mean that you shift from one vMeme to the next according to the Spiral dynamics model, e.g. from orange to green.

What we see from an adult development perspective is that people are neither good or bad, but rather that we relate to social structures in different ways. This is one of the results from the research made by Lawrence Kohlberg and his theory for moral development. To make it simple, we have pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional ways of relating to conventions and social order, where the conventional group is in vast majority, say 75 percent. This means that if we in a thought experiment should gently remove all laws and structures, not too sudden to cause panic, we should expect that for the vast majority of the citizens it would be meaningful to uphold some order and good relations to others rather than deteriorating to anarchy and chaos.

The last aspect relates to complexity. One realization one makes when digging into these questions is that our society is complex, so complex that no one seems to have control over how it works. And no one does. There is no master designer sitting at some office that you can ask when we have some arbitrary problem. Our society has evolved thousands of years to get us here, and so have we. Most people typically have a faith that everything will work in the future, just as we have faith that our body can manage to e.g. digest the food I am eating without me understanding exactly how it works. On the other hand, our oil dependency is sometimes compared to as an addiction.

So, what is the lesson here? That there are psychological mechanisms and that we may freak out, but ultimately there is nothing to worry about? No, I would like to put it this way: We have problems. We know for certain that our societies are not sustainable. For example, we are dependent on fossil fuels such oil, gas and coal, and those are not renewable, which means that they will eventually run out. Not today and not tomorrow. But we are starting to feel the consequences. It’s ok to freak out and it’s ok to have zombie nightmares. But my advice is to try not to get stuck in that mode for too long. It’s not healthy and not very constructive either.

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Peeking at Peak Oil

Vi måste ställa om och fasa ut våra fossila bränslen!

Det är ett budskap vi får höra titt som tätt, till leda enligt vissa. Men ändå går det trögt. Klimatförhandlingarna kärvade ordentligt i Köpenhamn och sedan dess har inte mycket hänt i världspolitiken. Människor verkar överlag inte så intresserade att ställa krav på sina ledare eller för den delen själva minska sina transporter och övrig energikonsumtion och nu har vi dessutom en ekonomisk kris att ta hand om. Vi måste ju först få igång tillväxten innan vi kan tänka på att minska utsläppen heter det. Och global uppvärmning är ju ändå något som drabbar någon annan långt bort och långt senare…

Men om vi går tillbaka och åter frågar oss varför vi ska ställa om så finns också ett annat svar. Istället för att fokusera på den fossila avfallsprodukten, utsläppen av CO2 som orsakar den globala uppvärmningen, så finns det en mycket bra anledning att rikta blicken mot resurssidan, alltså hur mycket fossila bränslen som finns kvar att bränna upp. Och det är precis vad Professor Kjell Aleklett gjort med sin forskargrupp Uppsala Global Energy Systems det senaste decenniet. I början av sommaren släppte han sin bok Peeking at Peak Oil som summerar resultaten från deras forskning och hans egna erfarenheter under resans gång.

Det är en annorlunda fysikbok man får läsa, med historik, anekdoter, egna reflektioner, synpunkter på och ibland även sågningar av andra experter och politiker, möten med underrättelsetjänster(!) och en del ekonomi. Men det är främst en fysikbok och det är en mycket viktig poäng och anledning till varför man bör lyssna mer på Aleklett i fortsättningen. Energi och oljeutvinning är i första hand fysik. Och idag är det främst ekonomer som ”bestämmer” hur stor framtidens oljeutvinning och konsumtion kommer bli. Men inga ekonomiska modeller innehåller något scenario där oljeutvinningen kommer att minska, efter det som kallas Peak Oil, tidpunkten för den maximala oljeproduktionen och då vi utvunnit ungefär hälften av all tillgänglig olja.

Hur kan Aleklett och hans kollegor då så säkert veta att oljan kommer att minska i framtiden? Det enklaste sättet att få en uppfattning är att studera hur mycket olja som hittats genom historien och då ser man att de största fyndigheterna gjordes på 60-talet och att det blir allt svårare att hitta nya oljekällor, trots investeringar och ny teknologi. De nya fyndigheter man hittar ligger som regel i svårtillgängliga platser som kräver riskfylld djuphavsborrning i Mexikanska golfen eller i Arktis när den isen smält. Den lättillgängliga oljan, den lågt hängande frukten, är redan till stor del utvunnen.

Genom att inventera storleken på världens oljereserver, beräkna hur snabbt man kan utvinna dessa, göra realistiska uppskattningar om framtida fyndigheter och ta hänsyn till övriga fossila energiformer som Kanadas tjärsand och förnybara sådana som biobränslen drar Aleklett slutsatsen att vi har stora problem och en liten beredskap.

När inträffar då Peak oil? Man ser inte vad som är maximum förrän man är en bit förbi toppen, men det verkar som om vi är i närheten. Sedan 2005 har den globala utvinningen av olja legat på en konstant nivå. Under den här platåfasen har den inhemska konsumtionen hos de exporterande länderna ökat, vilket innebär att de nationer som måste importera olja har fått hålla till godo med en stadigt minskande exportmarknad. Dessutom har importörerna Kina, Indien och länderna i Sydostasien ökat sin konsumtion, en trend som förväntas hålla i sig (se figuren nedan där man optimistiskt och förenklat antagit en fortsatt konstant global oljeutvinning).

Vad kan då förvänta oss i spåren av Peak Oil? Man kan också fråga sig vad det redan har fått för konsekvenser. Olja står för 90 % av bränslet till transportsektorn och det blir förstås den som tar stryk i första hand vilket märks vid bensinpumpen och på flygbolagen som faller som käglor. Men den har också en betydande inverkan på världsekonomin. Efterfrågan på olja har under 00-talet stadigt ökat medan utvinningen inte har kunnat följa den utvecklingen som de tongivande ekonomiska bedömarna förutspådde. Om inte utbudet kan följa efterfrågan så stiger priset och 11 juli 2008 gick oljepriset mycket riktigt upp till 147 US$/fat, vilket med största sannolikhet var den utlösande faktorn till att världsekonomin kraschade med början i USA:s subprimekris:

”In the United States before the financial crisis in 2008 it was noted that it was these poorer, fringe-dwelling households that were the first to be affected by high oil prices. The more than doubling of the oil price from 2005 to 2008 took a huge toll on the budgets of these households. One way for them to cope was to abandon their mortgage payments and give their house keys back to the banks. Thus, Peak Oil and the financial crisis were intimately linked.”

Sambandet mellan oljeutvinning och ekonomisk tillväxt är svåröverskådligt, men de båda korrelerar i alla fall starkt med varandra. Och det är ju förstås svårt att få att gå ihop med den ständiga ekonomiska tillväxten som förutsätts för att ekonomin ska gå runt. Vissa ser det som att oljeutvinningen alltid kan ökas genom ekonomiska styrmedel som ökade investeringar och innovation om ekonomin så kräver, medan Aleklett tycker att ekonomin måste anpassa sig till den fysiska verkligheten. Ekonomi betyder ju trots allt ”hushålla med resurser”.

Peak Oil har också stora politiska konsekvenser. EU (sammantaget) och USA ligger i topp i konsumtionsligan och båda har stora ekonomiska problem, vilket innebär en global maktförskjutning och som nu också börjar få sociala konsekvenser. Betänk också att de två i särklass största oljeexportörerna är Saudiarabien och Ryssland så kan man förstå varför våra ministrar helst inte stöter sig med dem i onödan genom att kalla dem diktaturer eller liknande. Inte ens Obama klagade när Saudiarabien gick in i grannlandet Bahrain för att slå ner mot demokratiförkämpar. Så det är verkligen en obekväm sanning som Aleklett visar upp.

Men är det verkligen en sanning? För det är långt ifrån alla som håller med, exempelvis de flesta ekonomer, bedömare i oljebranschen och politiska rådgivare. Men till skillnad från andra har Alekletts grupp producerat en gedigen mängd forskning i form av ett stort antal peer-granskade artiklar och doktorsavhandlingar och de finansieras inte heller av några oljebolag eller låter sig påverkas av politiska intressen. Framför allt baserar de sina uppskattningar på beräkningar som de förstås redovisar öppet istället för att göra rena gissningar som fram tills nu styrt världens energipolitik. Så om man inte håller med eller om man tror att den alternativa energikällan X kommer lösa allt bör den omedelbara motfrågan bli: ”Hur många miljoner fat olja per dag räknar du att X ska ersätta och hur snabbt kan X byggas ut?”

Efter denna mycket översiktliga och högst ofullständiga sammanfattning kan vi dra slutsatsen att vi måste anpassa oss till en framtid med mindre energi och att vi måste göra det snabbt. Inte för att vi borde utan för att vi måste. Vår oförmåga att göra det drabbar främst oss själva och det i en mycket snar framtid. Det är svårt att säga hur snar, men mycket har ju hänt med ekonomin bara de senaste 4 åren. Man pratar om 5-10-årsperspektiv snarare än klimatfrågans 100-årsperspektiv.

Om jag får lov att ha en kritisk synpunkt på Alekletts framställning, och det måste jag eftersom jag är akademiker och alltid måste hitta något att racka ner på, Aleklett är dessutom från Uppsala medan jag är från Lund, så tycker jag att han borde lägga mindre krut på att kritisera andras åsikter och ståndpunkter, från IEA till IPCC, och fokusera mer på att bygga en argumentation som går snabbare att introducera och sälja in till icke-naturvetare. Fast det får kanske bli någon annans uppgift.

En avslutande reflektion från Aleklett om framtiden:

“…but what the world needs most is a global leader who understands systems thinking.”

Jag skulle nog uttrycka det så här: Världen behöver många ledare som kan kliva ut ur det konventionella ”business as usual”-tänkandet och som är åtminstone metasystemtänkare och har en förståelse för hur fysik, ekonomi, politik, säkerhet osv. hänger ihop. Jag kommer nog att gå vidare och tillföra ett psykologiskt perspektiv och framför allt då ett vuxenutvecklingsperspektiv.

Illustrationer från boken av Olle Qvennerstedt respektive bild från Wulffmorgenthaler.com.

Några andra användbara källor:

Aleklett’s Energy mix: http://aleklett.wordpress.com/, Livet efter oljan: http://efteroljan.blogspot.se/, Cornucopia: http://cornucopia.cornubot.se/, Flutetankar: http://flutetankar.blogspot.se/, The Oil drum: http://www.theoildrum.com, ASPO: http://www.peakoil.net/about-peak-oil

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The Dark Knight Rises – An integral analysis

We are at the end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy where we also find a reconnection with the beginning. In typical superhero stories the superpowers of the heroes and of the villains can be seen as allegories for mental and psychological strengths. Batman and his opponents on the other hand have no superpowers and therefore Nolan can be more explicit that the battles, although they do fight with their guns and fists, are really battles of their psyches. Batman’s greatest strength lies in he his understanding and mastering of his own fears, which he learned at his training with The league of shadows in the first movie.

“To conquer fear, you must become fear. You must bask in the fear of other men, and men fear most what they cannot see.””

With these insights he can fight the criminals with psychological warfare, he knows his own shadow and can thus embody the criminal’s worst fears – when you enter the darkness you enter the home of the Dark knight and you will lose.

The villains of the three movies, Ra’s Al Ghul, The Joker and Bain, however, all master these aspects. Ra’s Al Ghul was the one who trained Batman, the Joker was unpredictable with his fearlessness and total irrationality, and Bain has a background of his own, so let’s take a closer look at him. While Bruce Wayne was born in a loving and wealthy home and started his journey into the dark after losing his parents, Bain has been molded by darkness. He is nothing other than darkness and has the edge of Batman who also seems to enter the fight for his own ego’s sake.

Bain is Gotham’s shadow, he literarily rules from the underworld, Gotham’s sewers. Anyone who tries to enter and hunt him down finds himself in hell, which is by the way not the place of ultimate pain but rather the place of no hope, and of course Bane’s home. And at a certain point hell gets unleashed and with that all that has been swept under the rug during the last years of successful ridding the streets from criminal elements.

When taking control over Gotham city Bain argues that he is really starting a “people’s” revolution against a corrupt system governed by the rich elite which he is bringing into a people’s court. Nolan touches on many issues of concern in today’s debate, such as the Occupy movement protesting against the one percent but not really knowing what to replace the current system with or sometimes naively thinking that just overthrowing it will solve everything and all will live in harmony. But there will always be someone with power in charge, which is a lesson from e.g. the Russian, Cuban or even the French revolution.

Bain claims to be one of the people, one of the 99 percent, and uses this green (or Kohlberg stage 4/5) rhetoric, but in reality he is just another red warlord using the rigged court and unrest as a demonstration that Gotham really is rotten from within and deserves abolition.

Amongst other themes in the Dark knight rises we also find the theme of meaning and self-sacrifice, and here is a useful lesson to be learned. A meaningful act, in contrast to an egoistic, is when you do something or fill a role not for your own sake but for the sole benefit of others. Meaningfulness in this sense is giving everything without expecting anything back. And sometimes this act can require breaking the law and becoming a vigilante, which would be the post-conventional move if there is a greater good (But what does this say about The league of shadows?).

It is, however, easy to confuse this meaningfulness with self-importance, when you have defined yourself and identified with the role of the hero or savior and find that more important than to actually do good. That’s when the role has become your ego. A useful question is if you could imagine giving the role of the savior for someone else that might do a better job.

And not being afraid to die can mean that you really have conquered all your shadows and fears. But it can also mean that you actually don’t care about and choose not to get attached to anything, perhaps in fear of losing it. Freedom from fear and attachments is not the answer to everything. In order to fight pure darkness and fight for your life, perhaps you need both. And getting them might require to unconditionally loving what you fight for.

Finally, it is interesting to note is that clean energy, and with that a sustainable fossil free future, used as a weapon certainly has made its way into American mainstream popular culture, here ­in The dark knight rises but also previously in The Avengers and even in Disney/Pixar’s Cars II.

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Why do we evolve?

Since this is quite an ambitious question, let’s try to narrow it down. Firstly, the ”why” in the question here implies a reason, a backward-looking analysis of what made it possible to reach the point we’re at. And what it would take to move on. (For the record, I don’t believe in any purpose, predestined goal or omega point in the future that we are heading to, other than to die. Sorry.)

Let’s also leave out bigger aspects such as Why big bang? Why matter? Why life? Why intelligence? as in How did it all happen?

I would also like to leave out the biological evolution, which is a pretty well researched area, and focus on the psychological evolution and further aim at the individual that we study in the field of adult development. Let’s thus disregard from any form of cultural support and scaffold and consider it an individual endevour. Then we can formulate the question as follows: What makes a person move from one stage to the next? And making a stage transition is what we regard as vertical development, evolving in the horizontal direction is development that takes place without a stage change.

Before we continue it’s useful to further illustratate the difference. Imagine your own development in a best-case scenario, where everything goes your way, you get the optimal challenges in life, optimal support and no unpleasent surprises. Where would you be in say one, three or five years? What would you do? Who would you be?

What you’re imagining right now is your horizontal development. You take your current experienced trajectory and extrapolate it forward. It’s simply more of the same.

Your own vertical development you can’t imagine. You cannot possibly imagine what it will be like at the next stage of development. It will be a complely new ballgame, a new qualitatively different dimension and it will per definition blow your mind. Now, think back on all the narrowing down of the question to the single stage transition of the individual and expand it to include the understanding of all aspects of the evolution and of our role in it. Now peoples minds tend to blow even more. That’s one reason that some people are hyping vertical development nowadays and saying evolution is da shit.

However, we do know some things and we can see some patterns. One is this: That which is your current meaning-making, your current developmental trajectory, your current worldview and life’s purpose, will be one of several parts of the puzzle at your new stage. But it will no longer be a holy unquestionable truth that is taken for granted. It will be negotiable and it will be an object that you no longer are attached to, a pawn that you can sacrifice for a better position.

With this in mind we can turn back to the Why-question. Why do we move from one stage to the next? What makes this shift happen? Well, we can draw some conclusions from the pattern described in the above.

As Einstein supposedly said, ”No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” and leave the creation part out for a few seconds. One trigger to vertical development is the realization that my current way of thinking just doesn’t suffice to adress the problems that I’m experiencing. Not even in a best case scenario will my current plan work. It might solve a small part of it, but no more than scratch the surface of the real issue. I might find that the game is rigged and that there is no point in playing, or not being satisfied with playing what I just discovered was a zero-sum game. With a completely new and more complex understanding of the problem and corresponding abilities it might be solved, perhaps creating new problems as a consequence. And we’re off to the next stage…

Or I could find that my problem is already being adressed by others that do it better than I do. I could discover that the frontline doesn’t collaps should I leave the trench to get a new perspective on things.

Another possibility, perhaps more positively stated, is that I with practice and experience get so good at what I do that I now can do with my left hand what used to require my full attention and soul, such as playing the piano and now also being able to sing at the same time. That could be triggered by curiosity or why not boredom: Done it, been there, seen it…let’s take it to the next level!

Finally, and there are most certainly more worth mentioning, I think another important reason is the discovery of new domains of perception, the ability to make new distinctions and failing to fit these into the current worldview. Look, abstract variables. Let’s do something with them!

As previously stated, this is under the assumption that we are sole heroes on our journeys. And sometimes we are. But our psychological development is most often due to a cultural support. Every human doesn’t need to invent the wheel on our own. We take advantage of each other’s inventions and other’s thoughts and we use ropes and maps that others have left behind on their journey upwards. And we give each other pushes and encouragements on the way up. We also find ourselves embedded in a society that places on us a curriculum of a certain complexity which puts us under some pressure to evolve.

While it is important to keep in mind that stage transitions hardly ever come without pain, there are lot’s of reasons to why we evolve.

And sometimes, shit just happens.

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Meaning-making and Higgs boson

As you may notice I have switched language to English, so this blog can be said to have made the transition from an ethnocentric focus to a (western) world centric. I think it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up in the development… My aim is to introduce theories within the field of adult development as simplified as possible to get a fundamental understanding. I hope to also start translating my introductory texts on Piaget, Kohlberg, Kegan, Loevinger, Commons, Wilber, Graves etc that I have in Swedish, unless I find someone to do it for me (and money to pay that someone). English is not my mother tongue so please excuse my rather rudimentary skills. My motto is: Don’t get it right, get it written!

Within the field of Adult development there seems to be two main directions, one that focuses on the cognitive development which could be seen as the ability to handle complex information and problem solving. The best example is MHC or the Model of Hierarchical Complexity by Commons et al, which defines a scale of 0-15 orders of hierarchical complexity. Using this we can define tasks at a certain order and at certain domains and assess persons, or other organisms, according to this scale.

The other direction or branch is ego development or development of meaning-making. This is, at least to me, a bit harder to understand and explain, but it’s worth a try since I think it tells us a bit of how we function as meaning-making creatures according to what Robert Kegan refers to as developmental constructivism. And let’s do it by comparing with how scientific research works.

Most of us have probably done some experiment in physics class such as examining the elasticity of a spring. You take a spring and load it with various weights and observe the spring’s elongation (increase in length). Let’s assume that we do five measurements like this and we might end up with the following diagram:

Here we have five data points where each point tells us that for a certain weight (e.g. 1 N) you get a certain elongation (0,11 m). There seems to be some sort of pattern here and what we typically do next is to draw a straight line which is the best fit we can make. From this line we can make a prediction of what elongation we should expect to get for any arbitrary load. The scientist’s task here is firstly to gather data (blue dots), the method of this is to measure the weight and measure the spring’s corresponding elongation, and secondly from that data draw a conclusion (red line). The scientist should also have some discussion about whether the errors are small enough to be regarded as measurement errors, but let’s not dig into that.

From a constructivist perspective some might say that we construct reality, but that is not an accurate description. Rather, we construct patterns from the gathered measurement data. The pattern, or the line in the case of our spring’s elongation, does not exist in reality “out there”. All we can find out there are various events – stuff that happens. And then we construct patterns the same way we look at stars and construct the constallations. There are no giants, serpents or lions in space, that is only our projection of the images and associations in our mind from the cues we get from the stars. The patterns, or meaning, are how we organize our experience in our mind.

So scientific theories, such as Hooke’s law (that describes weight vs elongation) or the standard model for particle physics, are only constructs, although the best constructs or patterns that we have come up with up to this date. They are not true, they are stories, but they are good and useful stories if they help us understand events and can predict the future accurately. The same way the wolf constructs patterns from the observations of where his pray usually can be found, how to successfully track it and hunt it down. Constructing these patterns is a learning process.

In a similar way that the scientist gathers data, although not as thoroughly and systematically, we gather sensory data from our daily life. And from these observations we construct patterns which are generalizations such as “when I drop things they fall” or “when I hit people they get mad”. We see things happen and construct concepts and traits such as good and evil, hot and cold, suffering and bliss, blonds and redheads. From a developmental perspective our ability to construct these patterns evolves as we gather more information, can differentiate and access new domains of experience, and even further as we start to find patterns from the constructs we have made from observations etc. The constructs we make becomes increasingly complex.

So far we have only touched on single phenomena. But how do all fit together? Let’s go back to the scientific world and exemplify with Higgs boson. Why are the scientists at Cern so happy right now? According to the latest results from the LHC experiments a new particle called Higgs boson has been detected. The existence of the particle was postulated by (among others) Peter Higgs as a consequence if the standard model of particle physics were to be accurate and coherent. Scientists don’t only want different models for different phenomena, they also want all models to cohere with each other.

Why? Well, if we have a situation where two possible things can happen depending on which theory we use, only one of them can be correct. This was the case for small particles close to black holes where the standard model gave one result and Einstein’s general theory of relativity gave another. In order to close this gap string theory was developed. The theorists wanted coherence and paid the price in higher complexity

Therefore a “Theory of everything” has been the Holy Grail that the scientific community has been striving for for a long time. We want our models to be as simple as possible (Occham’s razor), they should accurately describe reality and we also want them to be coherent with other models – when they are compatible with each other and fit together seamlessly. Showing the existence of Higgs boson was a huge step in that direction, therefore the cheering at Cern. We want coherence rather than fragmentation.

This search for coherence was also an expression Jane Loevinger used to describe what meaning-making or ego was (or did) for individuals. Not only do we make generalizations and construct patterns to organize our experiences. We also want these various constructs to fit together into a coherent worldview which can be seen as our frame of interpreting reality and our place in it, or at least we seem to strive for it. In her dissertation Susanne Cook-Greuter described it as a fundamental trait and characteristic of a human being of being a meaning-maker.

Thus, meaning-making can be said to be the activity of finding patterns and meaning in our experiences by relating them to other experiences and to ourselves. Meaning-making is the construction of the stories of the world and our place in it. They tell us who we are, what we know and how we should live. They can evolve to increasingly complex forms and they can also be acknowledged as – just stories.

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