As we converge on the understanding of a problem, we can jump too quickly to solutions. This is how my mind works and I suspect it might be how societies work too. Cognitive bias has a field day – we are moved to Tweet our allegiance; decision makers feel better about engaging consultants-who-know-less-than-they-do – because the answer looks increasingly obvious.
Except that it isn’t.
What we need to do is incontrovertibly and mind-bogglingly difficult. We are required to “pass through the eye of the needle”, as my mentor likes to say.
Regenerative bypassing happens when we mistake the clarity of the way forward for our ability to enact it.
The Solution, we decide, is Biomimicry. Or Indigenous Knowledge. Or Shared Value. Or AI. We have The Answer and social media indulges our delusion by validating and amplifying our conviction. Long range correlations appear to reinforce our rightness and we start to feel At One with the World. We quit our job. Our inner activist finds time to pressurise our pension fund manager to rethink the shares in our portfolio. We sign up for that Ayahuasca experience.
And it’s all good. And yet, as we crash the limits of a few more planetary boundaries, we are also at risk of the regenerative bypass.
I can’t remember where I heard it (I think it was Joscha Bach), but someone recently said: If you can’t sort out your own life, your relationship and your family, don’t try and save the world. This reflection serves to keep us on our toes and might help decision-makers delay a little longer before signing up that consultant.
Of course, if we wait till everyone sorts out their lives before we get going on the higher level problems, we are royally screwed.
The meta-challenge is that our conviction is not the only thing moving into the phase shift that prefaces the Regenerative Era. The shift underway is impacting everything, everywhere, all at once. Which is why my mentor follows his earlier guidance with an even wiser saying: “Don’t do what I do; do what I say”. In other words, if we are going to try and save the world before we are perfect, we should spare some attention for a few serious incongruities.
If we don’t, the Trickster will oblige and we will find our present structures torn asunder.
Dave Snowden suggests that we are starting to see a divergence in approaches to complexity: we can respond by going with the flow (which he associates with the stoics) or by trying to manipulate it (the cynics).
If we are into manipulation – which I see as the most rational response to our present reality – we must work on calling ourselves out faster and with deeper compassion.
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash