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News ::
01 Oct 2001
The civilizations of opportunism advanced by irresponsible government and big business, bring catastrophic destruction and dispair. Democratic power alone can make government and business responsible institutions. These words explore the terrible barriers and pragmatic possibilities for achiving a wise democracy in a technological civilization.

Civilizations of opportunism

Civilizations of opportunism

Introduction and summary

The civilizations of opportunism
advanced by irresponsible government and big business, bring catastrophic
destruction and dispair to the Planet Earth. Democratic powers alone can make governments
and business responsible institutions. These words hope to explore the terrible barriers
and pragmatic possibilities for achiving a wise democracy in a technological

Exercising democratic powers

It is
now widely recognized that the institution of democratic values
and distribution of power that control such matters are crucial
to relations between government, management, professional, and
those who are governed, managed, or represented. [See e.g.,
Ackoff, 2000; Christakis, 1996; Drucker, 1993; Flexner, 1989;
Follett, 1918]. There is great tension in these political
relationships derived from various democratic values and
theories-of-action such as: "consent of the governed"
"Representative government" "ballot-box democracy" or "direct
government," as explained by Mary
Parker Follett, the early 20th-century philosopher of
democracy. The preferred alternative is based on political
democracy conceived as a "genuine union of true individuals" --
an expression of the will
of the whole.

is the
Prophet of Management whose work was celebrated in the late
1990s by leading scholars of the management profession. She
anticipated that her democratic ideal required a "technique of
democracy." During the closing decades of the 20th-century, just
such a "technique" was developed by design science to facilitate
dialogue that can support true democracy. A number of
barriers that distort the purposes and context for the
application of this "technique," now bring that goal into
question. I describe here how this "technique" works, how its
unique promise is now being severely undermined, and how it may yet
fulfill that promise.

contrast with group encounters where an initial euphoria is
drained away in linguistic Babel "meaningful dialogue" can
advance further dialogue that clarifies, surfaces values, and
generates enhancement patterns. The results of this process,
produced through a technology supported discipline of focused and
open dialogue described as "technologue" [Christakis and Bausch,
2001], are these: "emancipation of the stakeholders, individual
and collective learning, integration of diverse viewpoints,
discernment of salient priorities of design, and the emergence of
a situation-specific consensual linguistic domain that enables
understanding and meaningful action."

Real-world applications of this technology in a large
variety of designs in many diverse fields, particularly during
the past 15-years, have confirmed the reliability of those
claims. This includes, for example:

Jeffrey, Disarmament and Demobilization,
(Interactive Management Workshop hosted by the European
Commission, Monrovia, Liberia 1996) (design of a plan of
disarmament and demobilization by the "Warlords and Warriors"
engaged in a civil war in Liberia).

Alberts, Redesigning the Defense Acquisition
System (Interactive Management process applied by the Defense
Systems Management College 1986-91, to design a functional
defense acquisition process).

for Interactive Management, George Mason University, Report on
the Issues Identification and Structuring Session of the Alliance
for Nursing Organizations (1986) (Interactive Management
seminar to identify significant issues in Nursing in Virginia in
the next 5 years, organize these issues for appropriate action,
and develop preliminary strategies for the Alliance in addressing
these issues).

Christakis, The National Forum on Nonindustrial
Private Forest Lands, 2 SYSTEMS RESEARCH 189 (1985)
(Interactive Management forum sponsored by the US Department of
Agriculture 1984, examining national issues, options, and
responsibilities faced by representative national assembly of

consequence of these events is that a scientific revolution in
the process of dialogue has occurred, one that could compel a
paradigm shift away from pursuit of the "power of the people"
toward pursuit of the "wisdom of the people." This shift was
premised on the discovery that the wisdom of the people obtained
through "meaningful dialogue" is necessary to enable the people
to exercise their sovereign democratic powers.

new democratic process grounds its legitimacy on an ethic
supporting participation by individuals in decisions of public or
private organizations that affect their lives. The democratic
ethic is consistent with an expression of the "will of the whole"
anticipated by Follett. In the most important issues of our time,
wise policies can be found in the "will of the whole" and not in
the technical cleverness of the few [Yankelovich & Harman,
Starting With The People 8, 13 (1988)]. These conclusions
are also consistent with the current view of science, the "third
phase science," as articulated by Professor de Zeeuw (1996),
followed in the "technologue" of Christakis and Bausch, in which
stakeholders are engaged as "expert observers" of the situation
in which they are embedded. "They are the ones who should decide
how to take action in their situation, since they are those most
affected by the existing situation and its evolution."

Individuals do not need
to engage in political revolution in order to realize this new ethical process.
Instead, one can build on the recognized origin of all political power, which is
derived not from any dominant sector of society (e.g., government or private
industry) but from the people-at-large, which is the sine qua
non of the "republican" form of government guaranteed by the
Constitution of the United States [US CONST art. IV, § 4;
City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc., 426 US
668, 672 (1976), citing The Federalist No. 39 (J.

Barriers to democratic design strategies

bands and tribes were able to obtain "meaningful dialogue" by an

egalitarian leadership organization but this does not arise
in a centralized technological civilization either by natural
conditions, custom, or culture. On the contrary interactive
strategies are essential to human and organizational competence
in an age of increasing complexity and uncertainty. The danger is
now threatened, however, that only the elite will be positioned
to master these strategies, thereby, blocking the democratic
participation of an estimated population
of 7.6 billion individuals who are expected to inhabit the
Planet Earth by the year 2020, who are likely to be robbed of
their minds and their lives by the elite unless they are allowed
to participate fairly if not perfectly in the structures of
decisions that affect their lives.

than a decade ago Nolan Bowie called attention to the gap that
existed between the information rich and the information poor
[Bowie, Equity and Access to Information Technology , in
1990]. Despite the ethical basis on which facilitated dialogue
claims legitimacy, the "values gap" between "the information rich
and the information poor" is now paradoxically widening by
limitations that curb the use of the new technology and treat it
as a luxury for privileged users. Invited to comment upon the Dialgue Game that helps potential
users understand the laws of design used in this
technique, CC has called for enlarging the dialogue through an
ethical design and management strategy that would broaden
participation in the dialogue via Internet. However, a
nasty limitation has been placed on CCs call.

Following an online exchange of comments between myself
and Dr. Alexander N. Christakis, a world renown practitioner of
the "Dialogue Game" [President-elect, 2002-2003
International Society for the System Sciences], a collaborative
venture was undertaken for development of a new version of the
"Dialogue Game" for broad public participation via Internet.
Subsequently, various requests were made to Dr. Christakis by
email Sept. 9, 2001, for "a simplified version of the dialogue
game" in order to "close the values gap that has been disclosed."
Dr. Christakis previously expressed his agreement with my
critique of the situation: "I am in full agreement with
everything you say. Your observations are indeed very profound."
But in response to my request for action to simplify the process,
Dr. Christakis was unable or unwilling to relate to the need for
any change in his game plan.

continuing to espouse the role of democrat as he has for the past
quarter century, which this writer can personally confirm, Dr.
Christakis responded to my requests Sept. 9, 2001, with this
email flame:

seem to challenge my intentions to offer the opportunity to
everybody to participate through meaningful dialogue. I am
totally committed to this endeavor for all my life, and have
never accumulated any wealth as a facilitator, ...

I do
not know what revisions you are talking about in order to close
the "values gap." If you know what is required, please go ahead
and do it with the help of your friends. I am supportive of your
efforts, but unable to understand your presumed "value

Christakis explains his ethical choice with the same mask of the
truth as the often quoted Anatole France (Jacques Anatole
François Thibault, 1844-1924), one of the major figures of
French literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who
was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921,

law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to
sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, or to steal bread."
[From The Red Lily, 1894].

offering "the opportunity to everybody to participate" only the
elite can afford the professional fees charged for facilitated
dialogue, which costs tens of thousands of dollars per session, a
million or more for education of an organization in the process.
A simplified version available via Internet could greatly
broaden access to the process, without diminishing and, perhaps,
greatly enlarging the commercial market.

facilitation of dialogue limited to the elite in a process
designed to realize democratic dialogue, manages the dialogue so
as to release the greatest potential of the participating group
membership. The flaw in this structure comes from the inherent
limited perspective of any one specific group, itself, which avoids
any adjustments of the social order, which might otherwise upset the
power of the dominant class structure. This strategy is also
congruent with the anti-dialogical cultural reality of
liberal Western societies, particularly the United States
[Hernán López-Garay, Dialogue Among
2001): pp.15, 24]. Political pluralism, moral relativism have
taken hold of modern humanity. Without a rational standard to
discriminate between competing moral conceptions, "then morality,
the conduct of life, becomes just a matter of

result is a society made up of individuals who have nothing
transcendental (i.e. a common history, a common life project, a
meta-narrative) to share except an interest in exploiting each
other in the most effective and efficient way possible. Id., at

compounding the manifest lack of moral and ethical sensitivity of
the economic market and liberal culture, there exists a set of
inherent human barriers to sociotechnical design activities,
which resist strategies to facilitate competent dialogue
[Christakis, Keever, Warfield, Development of Generalized
Design Theory and Methodology 41-48, in 1987 PROCEEDINGS OF
following barriers (among others) have been identified by
investigators from a study of the following human

limited human perspective within complex, multidimensional
systems [Ashby, 1958]:
Individuals bring to each problem situation they encounter
(regardless of their educational level), a set of personal
perspectives and a generally limited understanding of the
problems. Without adequate consideration of all of the dimensions
of the problems they encounter, short cuts will be taken that
ignore important aspects of the problems and alternative
possibilities. Effective solutions will not, therefore, be

limited human capacity for short-term processing of
information [Miller, 1956]:
In direct contrast with the multidimensional nature of the
problem situation, individuals have only a limited short-term
ability in processing information. Attempts to deal
simultaneously with more than between five and nine observations
at one time are met with cognitive overload, imposed by
physiological and psychological limits that preclude sound

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