Home > business, technical > The Commencement Of Husbandry

The Commencement Of Husbandry

The figure below was copied over from yesterday’s post. Derived from Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies”, it simply illustrates that as the complexity of a social organizational structure necessarily grows to support the group’s own growth and survival needs, the adaptability of the structure decreases. The flat and loosely coupled institutional structures originally created by the group’s elites (with the willing consent of the commoners) start hierarchically rising and coalescing into a rigid, gridlocked monolith incapable of change. At the unknown future point in time where an external unwanted disturbance exceeds the group’s ability to handle it with its existing complex problem solving structures and intellectual wizardry, the whole tower of Babel comes tumbling down since the monolith is incapable of the alternative – adapting to the disturbance via change. Poof!

According to Tainter, once the process has started, it is irreversible. But is it? Check out the figure below. In this example, the group leadership not only awakens to the dooms day scenario, it commences the process of husbandry to reverse the process by:

  • Re-structuring (not just tinkering and rearranging the chairs) for increased adaptability – by simplifying.
  • Scouring the system for, and delicately removing  useless, appendix-like substructures.
  • Discovering the pockets of fat that keep the system immobile and trimming them away.
  • Loosening dependencies between substructures and streamlining the interactions between those substructures by jettisoning bogus processes and procedures.
  • Installing effective, low lag time, internal feedback loops and external sensors that allow the system to keep moving forward and probing for harmful external disturbances.

If the execution of husbandry is boldly done right (and it’s a big IF for humongous institutions with a voracious appetite for resources), an effectively self-controlled and adaptable production system will emerge. Over time, and with sustained periodic acts of husbandry to reduce complexity, the system can prosper for the long haul as shown in the figure below.

  1. Ray
    April 28, 2010 at 7:42 am

    This assumes that every one will be acting in the best interests of the group. Which in a small group can be accomplished. But a large group which is made up of many smaller groups. It is organizing the smaller groups to act in the best interest of the larger group. As you expand this concept up, the organizing becomes harder and harder until its like turning a large ship with a Popsicle stick. Then the only thing that will get everybody acting is the “Instantaneous Collapse”. Sad but as more and more people are put in the equation I believe this is the only out come.

  2. April 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I think the technique may be (but also may not be) recursive/nestable. The leaders at every level would have to communicate across/between levels and agree on what each of them have to do to temporarily “suspend” the escalating complexity of the “whole”. As you point out, not likely, but “what if”?

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