Posts Tagged ‘Alan Turing’

Yin And Yang

August 19, 2012 1 comment

In Bill Livingston’s current incarnation of the D4P, the author distinguishes between two mutually exclusive types of orgs. For convenience of understanding, Bill arbitrarily labels them as Yin (short for “Yinstitution“) and Yang (short for “Yang Gang“):

The critical number of “four” in Livingston’s thesis is called “the Starkermann bright line“. It’s based on decades of modeling and simulation of Starkermann’s control-theory-based approach to social unit behavior. According to the results, a group with greater than 4 members, when in a “mismatch” situation where Business As Usual (BAU) doesn’t apply to a novel problem that threatens the viability of the institution, is not so “bright” – despite what the patriarchs in the head shed espouse. Yinstitutions, in order to retain their identities, must, as dictated by natural laws (control theory, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, etc), be structured hierarchically and obey an ideology of “infallibility” over “intelligence” as their ideological MoA (Mechanism of Action).

According to Mr. Livingston, there is no such thing as a “mismatch” situation for a group of  <= 4 capable members because they are unencumbered by a hierarchical class system. Yang Gangs don’t care about “impeccable identities” and thus, they expend no energy promoting or defending themselves as “infallible“. A Yang Gang’s  structure is flat and its MoA is “intelligence rules, infallibility be damned“.

The accrual of intelligence, defined by Ross Ashby as simply “appropriate selection“, requires knowledge-building through modeling and rapid run-break-learn-fix simulation (RBLF). Yinstitutions don’t do RBLF because it requires humility, and the “L” part of the process is forbidden. After all, if one is infallible, there is no need to learn.

D4P Has Been Hatched

April 25, 2010 6 comments

Friend and long time mentor Bill Livingston has finished his latest book, “Design For Prevention” (D4P). I mildly helped Bill in his endeavor by providing feedback over the last year or so in the form of idiotic commentary, and mostly, typo exposure.

Bill, being a staunch promoter of SCRBF feedback and its natural power of convergence to excellence, continuously asked for feedback and contributory ideas throughout the book writing process. Being a blabbermouth and having great respect for the man because of the profound influence he’s had on my worldview for 20+ years, I truly wanted to contribute some ideas of substance. However, I struggled mightily to try and conjure up some worthy input because even though I understood the essence of this original work and it resonated deeply with me, I couldn’t quite form (and still can’t) a decent and coherent picture of the whole work in my mind.

D4P is a socio-technical process for designing a solution to a big hairy problem (in the face of powerful institutional resistance) that dissolves the problem without causing massive downstream stakeholder damage. Paradoxically, the book is a loosely connected, but also dense, artistic tapestry of seemingly unrelated topics and concepts such as:

Bill does a masterful and unprecedented  job at connecting the dots. The book will set you back, uh, $250 beaners on, but wait….. there’s a reason for that astronomical price. He doesn’t really care if he sells it.  He wants to give it away to people who are seriously interested in “Designing For Prevention”. Posers need not apply. If you’re intrigued and interested in trying to coerce Bill into sending you a copy, you can introduce yourself and make your case at vitalith “at” att “dot” net.

Update 12/29/12:

The D4P book is available for free download at The second edition is on its way shortly.

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