Journal: Spinney, Boyd, Green, Kuhn on “Can America Be Salvaged?–Public Intelligence Aspects”

Collaboration Zones, Communities of Practice, Ethics, Policies, Reform, Threats
Idiocy in America
Idiocy in America

This lengthy piece is organized as follows:

1)  Chuck Spinney on how our partisan “leaders” are disconnected from reality and leading us over a cliff, with reference to John Boyd.

2.  An extract and link to the always brilliant CounterPunch where David Michael Green discusses the core issue: Can America be salvaged?

3.  A Phi Beta Iota editorial commentary on Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), Robert Steele (Paradigms of Failure, Data Pathologies), and Howard Zinn (A Power Governments Cannot Repress).

CHUCK SPINNEY: The article in Counterpunch by David Michael Green, “Can America be Salvaged?” is an brilliant expository argument describing  what are in effect the destructive outcomes of self-referencing/incestuously amplifying OODA loops that are becoming ever more disconnected from reality.

If these effects continue to multiply, the interaction of chance with necessity will inevitably produce in some kind of evolutionary pathway toward even more confusion and disorder, which will amplify itself into even more doubt, fear and chaos, and will eventually culminate in self destruction,  death, or extinction.  Indeed, if read in the context of the Colonel John Boyd’s theory of the Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action (OODA) Loop, together with the related idea of incestuous amplification, which I explained in my 10 Sep 2008 essay in Counterpunch, Green’s question answers itself … and that answer is not pretty.

Boyd’s theory explains why and how this ruin is likely to occur; why the key to dodging this fate is to change our collective Orientation, and why changing Orientation is both psychologically painful and very difficult.  Changing one’s Orientation involves (1) destroying utterly cherished belief systems and ideologies flowing out of one’s previous experiences and cultural heritage — which is akin to changing the lens thru which people observe, interpret, make sense of, and act on events in the real world — and then (2) creating new more relevant ways of looking at that world out of the chaotic rubble of past preconceptions and biases.

Of course, the rub is that uncertainty and fear is magnified by the fact that no one can say what the new frame of reference will look like before the existing one is destroyed.  This is what happened until Isaac Newton finally destroyed forever the Ptolemaic view of the Universe, the culmination of a destructive process that was not easy and took hundreds of years.  That is what is still happening in the post-Darwininan science of evolution. The intensity of that struggle is obvious for all to see, notwithstanding the overwhelming persuasive power of a growing mountain of scientific evidence in favor of the neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.

In politics and governance, where ideology and interests play an even larger role than in science, changing the collective Orientation is far more difficult. The bottom line: It is much easier for a group psychology that increasingly feels threatened by adverse selection pressure, and is in a state of growing confusion, apprehension, and fear, to cling to what it is comfortable and familiar with, while it rides down the slippery slope to ruin as the selection pressure works its grimly ineluctable magic.  Only a thoroughly mobilized citizenry can change this outcome, and that is why every thinking American should read Green’s essay.

Niso Lipsi, Greece

Note to readers unfamiliar with Boyd or his theory of the  OODA Loop: A brief introduction can be found in my essays Genghis John.   More comprehensive but accessible descriptions can be found in the books by Robert Coram and  James Fallows, and Chet Richards, among many others.  For those readers who are interested in heavy intellectually lifting, see Franz Ozinga‘s analysis of Boyd’s strategic thought or even better, they could study Boyd’s original papers, which can be found in the in the form of his original briefings and can be downloaded in various formats from Chet Richards’ website (

DAVID MICHAEL GREEN: Politics in the Past Tense: Can America be Salvaged?“, CounterPunch, September 18-20, 2009

Ireally don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which proposing a new and better version of corporate-plunder masquerading as national healthcare gets you burned in effigy for being a socialist stooge by gun-toting angry mobs.

. . . . . . .

I could go on and on, but what would be the point?  The positions of so many Americans on so many policy questions are truly inane – yes, for sure.  I wish that was all that concerned me.  But it all goes so much deeper than that.

The entire premise of a self-ruling democracy rests on some reasonable degree of rationality and some reasonable degree of an ability to discriminate between real information and falsehoods.  Today’s American democracy seems to lack these qualities in increasingly abundant amounts.

THOMAS KUHN: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions makes two points:

1.  Paradigms, or “world views” are very sticky–they are held to tenatiously by their stakeholders, and those who question the prevailing paradigm are inevitably denied, denigrated, dismissed, and otherwise marginalized.

2.  It is only when the paradigm fails completely, when it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination (or lack of imagination) account for all that is being tangibly seen, heard, and felt, that it collapses, and a new paradigm emerges.

Included in the preface of ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig, is an essay by Robert Steele, “Paradigms of Failure,” that is increasingly validated by an entire literature, the most recent being Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle-a book reinforced by such titles as Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free; Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter; and The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead .

What is happening now in America, we believe, is the collaps of the top-down elite ubber alles model of “faux democracy” and “junk politics,” and the emergence, powered by the Internet, of the bottom-up Epoch B model of self-governance in which all human minds are connected to all facts and all observations in real time….what we call the World Brain (H. G. Wells) with embedded EarthGame (Buckminster Fuller and Medard Gabal).

It could get messy, but the predatory immoral capitalists and their corrupt political servants have one thing going for them: all the ill-gotten gains in the world, if confiscated, would be insufficient to meet the needs of the world.  Only a new paradagm, a Wealth of Networks paradigm (Yochai Benkler) as also discussed by Alvin Toffler in Revolutionary Wealth, Barry Carter in Infinite Wealth, Thomas Stewart in Wealth of Knowledge–only this new paradigm can meet our needs.  What the corrupt need to do is get out of the way.

Phi Beta Iota believes in the common sense and common decency of the Average AmericanAll Rise, the Tao of Democracy, Society’s Breakthrough, every signal we see suggests the decline of evil and the re-emergence of a commonwealth of goodness.