How Can We Manifest God-like Technologies within 600-year Old Institutions, Making Primitive Daily Choices?

While Homo lumens is constituted to manifest potential, most live within value-creating institutions, unconsciously accepting scarcity-based agreements (2014 Ecosynomics).  Why?  Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson suggests, “We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology” (2012 The Social Conquest of Earth, 7).

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What do you think?


Do You Extract Value, Create It, or Release Its Potential? — Part 2 — Levels of Reality Included

If you prefer higher vibrancy, energy-enhancing experiences to lower vibrancy, energy-depleting experiences, then our survey research in 93 countries and field research in 9 countries suggests that you also prefer agreements that include the possibility, development, and outcomes levels of reality.

In a previous blogpost, historians showed us that there are two types of political and economic institutions, to which we added a third, based on our field research with positive deviants.  Political and economic institutions tend to be based on value extracting, value creating, or value potential-releasing agreements, three different theories of value.

Now I suggest how the value you experience connects with these theories of value.

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Value-extracting agreements.  The focus is on extracting value from another party in the moment of the exchange.  These agreements and institutions see how much resource there is and try to appropriate as much of it as possible.  To determine the value of a specific resource, as it is exchanged at a specific moment in time, economists like Alfred Marshall created an extraordinary tool, the supply-demand curves, which allow you to estimate the value (the price) at which two parties are willing to exchange a given quantity of the resource.  This insight on price now lies at the foundation of market-based economic theories of value exchange, according to Nobel laureate in economics Paul Samuelson.  To find the value in the moment of exchange, the supply-demand curve looks at the exchange right now right here.  This formulation embraces the outcomes-noun level of reality, what is available now here.  This limits the analysis, not allowing for realities that change over time and space or over possibilities.

Value-creating agreements.  The focus is on creating value by leveraging the dynamics of value amongst multiple parties with multiple, interrelated resources.  These agreements and institutions look over space and time at the net effect of the resource’s inflows and outflows, which are connected to the ebbs and flows of other resources.  By seeing these dynamics, they are able to look over time to leverage the creation of value in resources, and thus be able to assess the net value for each party of any given resource at a specific moment.  Tools like Jay Forrester‘s system dynamics mapping of resource dynamics assesses each resource, its inflows and outflows, the connections amongst the resources, and the overall dynamics influencing them.  To this tool, my colleagues and I added tools for qualitative and quantitative strategic analysis of the dynamics.  This formulation embraces both the development-verb and outcomes-noun levels of perceived reality.  This dynamic structure limits the analysis, not allowing for seeing the potential in new possibilities.

Value-possibility-catalyzing agreements.  The focus is on the latent value potential that is available, that can be seen.  These agreements and institutions look at the potential available in the people and resources around them.  What is possible?  What can we say yes to?  They are able to see the potential, as well as the pathways for developing that potential over time, and the outcomes that will result along that pathway.  This focus embraces the possibility, development, and outcomes levels of perceived reality.  To work with the dozens of groups we have identified who work with these value-possibility-catalyzing agreements, we developed the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool, which maps the agreements that explicitly work with each of the three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, outcomes).

Coming back to where we started, in this post, if people seem to prefer higher vibrancy experiences to lower vibrancy experiences, they also seem to prefer agreements that embrace more of the perceived levels of reality than less.  Connecting this with the historical observation about political institutions that support value extraction, value creation, or value possibility catalysis, it seems that people would prefer value-possibility-catalyzing agreements to value-extraction agreements, as they go hand in hand.  Yet, we still live mostly in value-extraction systems.  Why?  What do you see?

Do You Extract Value, Create It, or Release Its Potential? — Part 1 — A Historical Evolutionary Perspective

When you look at the resources around you, whether they are food, friends, or colleagues, do you want to extract all of the value you can out of them, work with them to create more value in them, or see how to release and catalyze the potential within them?

It might depend on the agreements you are in.  (Sociologists refer to these “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior,” or structures of social order, as “institutions” [Huntington, Samuel P. (1965). “Political Development and Political Decay”, World Politics 17 (3): 386–430].

Political institutions come in two phases, evolving from limited access, centralization of value extracting institutions to open access, inclusive, pluralistic, decentralization of value creating institutions, suggests Harvard historian Niall Ferguson (The Great Degeneration Penguin 2013), citing Douglass North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast (Violence and Social Orders Cambridge 2009).

Professor Ferguson finds consensus amongst historians and cultural anthropologists that where you find the political power in the hands of a few elites, you find value-extraction political institutions.  Where you find inclusive participation, you find value-creation political institutions.  From an ecosynomics perspective, we take this one step further (based on our survey research in 93 countries and our field research in 9 countries) to suggest that where you find collaboration, you find value-release political institutions.

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Value-extraction institutions focus on how to appropriate the most value from a given amount of resource. There is only so much sweat in our workforce. How do we get the most we can out of it?  Once the resource is mined, it is done, thus requiring the institution to find another resource to deplete. This focus is preferred historically by groups that centralize power by…, such as the Spanish colonial empire.

Value-creation institutions focus on how to create more resource by managing the net effect of the inflows and outflows of connected resources. People create more resource value by finding more efficient ways to transform them, and more ways to use them, such as through continuous training, where people can continuously develop new capacities. This focus is preferred historically by groups that decentralize power to multiple perspectives in inclusive, pluralistic structures and processes, such as democracies and markets.

Value-release institutions focus on generating new resources and new ways of sustaining existing resources by seeing new possibilities and pathways for manifesting them over time.  Since we invite you to contribute your unique gifts to our community, we are continuously in the process of seeing your future possibilities and choosing with you how to develop them and the contribution they will make.  This focus is preferred historically by groups of people uniting their unique contributions to a shared higher purpose, such as value networks and social entrepreneurs.

If this observation amongst historians and cultural anthropologists holds, then there is a strong correlation between who holds the power to decide (type of nomics) and the relationship with resources (type of political institution).  Which relationship do you want to the resources around you?  Extractive, creative, or potential-releasing?  Do you prefer centralized control, inclusive and pluralist process, or collaborative contributions of unique gifts?  Maybe one comes with the other, and maybe you can choose.