Holotopia: Power structure

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H O L O T O P I A:    F I V E    I N S I G H T S

Powered by ingenuity of innovation, the Industrial Revolution revolutionized the efficiency of human work. Where could the next revolution of this kind be coming from?

System ideogram

We look at the systems in which we live and work. Imagine them as gigantic machines, comprising people and technology. Their function is to take everyone's daily work as input, and turn it into socially useful effects. If our work has become incomparably more efficient, and yet we've remained just as stressed and busy as we were—should we not see whether they might be wasting our time? And if our best efforts result in problems rather than solutions—should we not check whether they might be causing those problems?

Power structure wastes resources

A costly oversight

While the ingenuity of our innovation has been focused on small gadgets we can hold in our hand, the systems in which we live and work remained an ignored realm of creative opportunities. How much is that costing us?

On Page 4 of the article The Game-Changing Game–A Practical Way to Craft the Future we answered this question by giving a summary of our Ferguson–McCandless–Fuller thread, of which we here highlight the main points.

As always, our stories are intended to vividly illustrate rather than rigorously prove the proposed views.

Billion Dollar-o-Gram 2009.jpg
David McCandless: The Billion-Dollar-o-Gram 2009

A quick look at David McCandless' Billion-Dollar-o-Gram 2009 will show that the costs of two issues ("Worldwide cost of financial crisis" and "Iraq & Afganistan wars total eventual cost") dominate the image so dramatically, that the costs of familiar "global issues" ("to lift one billion people out of extreme poverty", "African debt", "save the amazon"...) seem insignificant in comparison.

Largest costs are systemically caused

We tell the story of Charles Ferguson's two award-winning documentaries to highlight—as he did in his films—that those two issues were systemically caused. Or in other words that they were "inside jobs", as the title of Ferguson's second film suggested.

Fuller may have been right

In the late 1960s, Buckminster Fuller predicted that by the end of the century science and technology would have advanced enough to enable us, the people on the planet, to put an end to scarcity. And that our core challenge would be to reconfigure the use and distribution of those resources—which now sapped through scarcity-based competition.

What we have just seen suggests that Fuller may have been right.

In 1969 Fuller proposed to the American Senate a computer-based solution called the World Game. Its whose purpose was to enable the global policy makers to see the world as one, and collaborate on allocating and sharing its resources, instead of competing.

Power structure causes devolution

Competition vs. collaboration

But what is really the power structure? While our understanding will gradually deepen in the course of this walk through our initial sketch of the holotopia, what's we've just seen might already suggest that power structures are the systems in which we live and work, or simply the "structures", that emerge when we are pursue egotism instead of wholeness, when we compete when we should collaborate, when we rely on "the invisible hand" and shun the awareness of purpose.

This popular myth, that competition (rather than informed co-creation) leads to the best possible world, seems to follow from Darwin's evolution theory. Isn't that the way in which the nature does her creation?

"Unfortunately, the evidence, such as it is, is against this simple-minded theory", warned Norbert Wiener.

What should we, really, learn from Darwin about cultural and social evolution? Richard Dawkins answered this question in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene". His point, which subsequently led to a variety of applications and a new research field called "memetics", was that the survival of the fittest favors the fittest or best adapted gene (or the fittest "meme", when it is cultural or social evolution we are talking about); not any sort of utility or perfection.

What systems in which we live and work is this sort of evolution likely to produce? In The Paradigm Strategy Poster (which was one of the forerunner prototypes to Holotopia) we used the Chomsky–Harari–Graeber thread to answer this question.

The "fittest" is not the best

We used the real-life history of "Alexander the Great" as a parable, as told by David Graeber, because it has all the elements we may want, to illustrate our points: The "fittest" system of its era (Alexander's army, with its corresponding "business model") was turning free people into slaves, destroying societies and cultures, homes, monasteries and palaces... and it even had "financial innovation" as one of its core elements!

The stories associated with the names of Noam Chomsky and Noah Yuval Harari allowed us to point to the dynamics that underlie the power structure devolution. We'll return to them when discussing the socialized reality insight.

Are you working for a psychopath?

We supplemented a reflection on Joel Bakan's "The Corporation", to show that while today the most powerful power structure may look different than it did twenty-five centuries ago, its essential nature has remain unchanged.

As a law professor, Bakan explained how the modern corporation with time evolved to become the most powerful institution on the planet. And how—through a few centuries of legal maneuvering—it acquired the legal status of a person, but without the corresponding accountability. If the corporation is a person, then what sort of person is it? In his documentary, and the book that preceded it, Bakan showed that the corporation has all the characteristics that qualify a psychopath.

Power structure is us

"We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"

Pogo, Walt Kelly's exceedingly cute cartoon hero, said this long ago; and it stuck.

But could it be real?

What we should have learned from the Holocaust


In modernity, Zygmunt Bauman observed, cruelty and evil morphed. They became systemic; they became "an emergent property" of the systems in which we live and work. All that is needed for cruelty and evil to happen is that perfectly ordinary and well-intentioned people, folks like you and like us, "do their jobs".

Bauman is credited for observing that even the concentration camps were only an extreme case of this much more general tendency, which manifested itself in a variety of places and forms throughout the 20th century.

Bauman was not alone to see that. Historian Omer Bartov wrote:

"There is a common tendency to view the Holocaust as a well-ordered plot, in which antisemitism led to Nazism, Nazism practiced genocide, and both were destroyed in a spectacular ‘happy end‘. This is a tale most people would like to believe, university students and filmgoers, book readers and television viewers."

"Bartov would prefer that we do not believe this," A. D. Moses commented in a book review, "because it 'fails to recognize that this extreme instance of industrial killing was generated by a society, economic system, and civilization of which our contemporary society is a direct continuation'. It leads to a 'false understanding of the present', and thereby 'legitimize(s) inaction and indifference, conformity and complacency'.”

A bold new meme is ready to emerge

Toward the end of his career, nearly ninety years old Zygmunt Bauman was invited to give a high-profile lecture at the University of Oslo. He interrupted a long applause by which the overfilled university's largest auditorium greeted him, to solemnly declare that he had nothing of value to tell us. When he was a young man, Bauman explained, he believed that the grave problems the humanity was facing could be solved. But now that he's grown old, he sees the problems getting worse; and no solution in sight.

We shall see now that the things are not all that bad. The change is on the way; it only takes time. We shall see that Bauman's all-important insight is catching on. Not only in academia, as we have just seen, but also in the arts; and in the media.

The way of the artist is different from the way of the philosopher. The artist can simply see what goes on, what is "in the time". And give it a voice.

The artist also has a different way to reach out to the public. The philosopher speaks to a community of the elect; the artist can speak to everyone—by rendering ideas directly, in ways that make them palpable, visible and real.

"The Reader" is a case in point

The movie "The Reader" is a case in point.

We meet Hanna, The Reader's main character (brought to life by Kate Winslet's Academy Award winning role), when she helps Michael (the main male character), who just contracted scarlet fever, return home. A bit later we see her promoted for excellent performance in her job as a Berlin tram conductor. Who would ever in this character recognize a former concentration camp guard?

Hanna distinguishes herself also in the high-profile court trial, where she is one of the defendants. She's the one who answers truthfully, without scheming. The atmosphere in the courtroom is charged, the passions of the public having been inflamed by the image of three hundred concentration camp inmates locked up in a burning church. A World War II drama is continuing in the courtroom, where the judge asks: "Why did you not unlock the doors? Why did you not unlock the doors? I am asking all of you. And I am getting no answer. Two of the victims are in this room. They deserve the answer."

Hanna is the one who answers. And she does that in the manner of pointing to the obvious: "It is obvious why we didn't unlock the door. We were guards; our job was to guard the prisoners. We couldn't just let them escape. We were responsible for them. (...) If we'd opened the doors, there would have been chaos. How could we restore order?

"If people like you don't learn from what happened to people like me—then what the hell is the point of anything?" This was told to Michael by his law professor, who brought him to the trial—in an attempt to share the same insight that Bauman wanted to give to the world with a handful of students who signed up for his seminar. "People in our society think that they are operating by something called morality. But they are not. They operate by something called law." When the laws—or more generally, and more to the point the power structure changes, as if waking up from a dream we become aware of what we've done. And we instantly begin to look for a culprit or a scapegoat. "Justice having been done", we turn the page—and fail to learn from the past the lesson we should have learned.

We did not learn what we should have learned from the concentration camps, The Reader warns us. This warning is issued in its closing scene.

Pollack's movie, just as Bernhard Schlink's novel on which it was based, was criticized for presenting the culprits in an unjustifiably positive light. Bauman's point was entirely missed.

Antisemitism must be ruled out; Sidney Pollack who co-produced The Reader, just as Bauman, had Eastern European Jewish roots. If you are in doubt whether the power structure was Pollack's real interest, take a look at this scene from his first directorial success, his 1969 "They Shoot Horses, Don't They"—where the condition the power structure has condemned us to is so vividly portrayed. In The Reader, hislast Academy Award nominated project, Pollack's aim was a deeper understanding of causes.

So yes, Bauman's meme is emerging. But it did not emerge yet. It is still an issue without a name; a cause without citizenship rights.

We must see the world differently

Tangled up in yesterday's issues and rights and wrongs, looking at the world through the TV screen, we are accomplices in a completely new and historically largest kind of crime. Not a genocide—but of a biocide; and a geocide!

Power structure in popular culture

I am not happy, Bob!

From Newton we adopted the keyword giants, and use it to denote the visionary thinkers, on whose 'shoulders we need to stand' to 'see further' (and see the holotopia). What happens to giants and their messages, in a society that has evolved as a large power structure, which gives "competitive advantage" to those of us who comply and fit in, and can function as a "well-lubricated cogs of a big machinery"? And to those of us who are genuinely willing to engage and help us "change course"?

In the animated film "The Incredibles", the superheroes are forced to go underground and hide their powers. To support his family, Bob Incredible must work in an insurance agency, where he is secretly helping the clients find loopholes in the bureaucracy and get the money they are entitled to. But his boss is not happy with Bob's performance.

This two-minute scene vividly portrays the social condition where those among us whose talent is to be cogs in a machinery of an institution have power over the ones who have the will to make a difference.

The solution

Erich Jantsch saw what needed to be done

In our collection of parabolic stories, Erich Jantsch represents a 20th century thinker who, having become familiar with The Club of Rome's timely mission in 1968, clearly saw what needed to be done to bring it to fulfillment.

Alex King, who with Aurelio Peccei co-founded The Club of Rome, was the scientific leader of the OECD in Paris. He had good reasons to invite Jantsch to deliver the keynote speech at The Club of Rome's opening. One of them was that, for the OECD, Jantsch had just completed an extensive study of the ways in which different countries directed technological innovation.

Or in other words—of the ways in which different countries tried to steer the metaphorical 'bus'.


Jantsch observed that our society needs a new capability. We must become capable of recreating the systems in which we live and work. Jantsch called this new capability "systemic innovation", and we adopted systemic innovation as one of our keywords.

Following The Club of Rome's inaugural meeting, Jantsch conducted a series of practical, tactical steps, toward that all-important strategic goal. But (for interesting reasons, which are beyond this brief summary) already on its second and much larger meeting, in 1970 in Bern, The Club of Rome took a different course than what Jantsch and his immediate collaborators recommended.

Design for evolution

The holotopia must give credit to Jantsch also for another insight, which was the theme of the last decade of his life and work. Jantsch understood, namely, that the best or perhaps the only practical way to intervene in large socio-technical systems was by intervening in their evolution. Or as he suggested in the title of one of his books, by designing for evolution.

This evolutionary approach requires an entirely new way of being creative. Jantsch explained it by using the metaphor of a boat (representing a human system or the human system) in a river (representing evolution). The traditional scientists would tend to position themselves above the boat and the river, and observe their behavior "objectively". Systems scientists or cyberneticians would position themselves on the boat, and seek ways to steer it and keep it afloat. But when we practice the evolutionary approach, we see ourselves as drops of water of which the river is composed. We are evolution! Our task is to act and to be present in the 'river' in such a way that it may carry the 'boat' effortlessly and safely further along its course.

Power Structure.jpg Power Structure ideogram

The Power Structure ideogram depicts the power structure as an entity of a completely new kind.

The dollars in the ideogram represent the instruments of power as we are accustomed to perceive them: money, weapons, censorship, dictatorship...

The stethoscope represents health or wholeness in general. Our own, to begin with—which is in the holotopia's order of things inseparable from the wholeness of our institutions and other systems in which we live and work; and from the wholeness of our bio-physical life-support systems.

The book in the ideogram represents the culture in a most general sense, which includes our ideas about the world, ethical principles, laws and ways of handling information.

The point made by the Power Structure ideogram is that those three entities are so closely related, that they need to be perceived as a single entity. This point may already be anticipated by reflecting on stories we have just shared; compliance with the power structure does not, as a rule, involve a violation of ethical and legal norms, but on the contrary, our compliance with those norms.

Since the relationships between the three identifiable entities are not visible by the naked eye, they need to be illuminated by suitable information. When discussing the socialized reality insight, with the help of results from sociology and cognitive science we shall be able to illuminate those subtle relationships, and understand how exactly the power influences our ideas, and our social and cultural order of things.

A bit simpler and still correct interpretation of the Power Structure ideogram would be to consider the dollar sign as representing simply the power; and to consider the stethoscope and the book as representing the 'hardware' and the 'software' of our society-and-culture. The message of the ideogram will then be that in subtle ways, which need to be carefully understood or 'illuminated', the power is capable co-opting and corrupting the systems in which we live and work; of tailoring them to its own needs—at the detriment of our own, human interests.

Power structure

Who holds Galilei in house arrest?

The power structure issue is central to holotopia, and it will permeate this presentation. A good way to approach it is to ask "Who holds Galilei in house arrest?" By which we mean—What holds us from doing what obviously needs to be done, from using what we already "know" or should know to continue our evolution? And here, in particular—What keeps us from updating the systems in which we live and work, and to begin with our institutions and professions, to serve us incomparably better than they do now?

We shall see that the reason is that they serve for us a whole other purpose—they organize us in our power struggles against each other. And ultimately and ironically—against ourselves!

By studying the power structure issue, we'll come to understand how exactly our creativity, our knowledge, our good sense... are kept from doing what they must do in this decisive moment of our civilization's history. And what holds us from doing what we must do to make a difference, in this dedcisive moment of our evolution.

We need to see the world differently

Every genuine revolution—and the holotopia, as an evolution in awareness and knowledge, is not an exception—includes a new way in which the perennial issues of power, freedom and justice are perceived. Here even nuances can make a difference. Just think, for instance, of the consequences of interpreting the meaning of the word "men" a bit differently, in its motto "All men are created equal" of the world's oldest living democracy, to include black men, and also women.

Here, however, we are not talking about any small change—but about changing the very idea of the "power holder"; and of the "enemy" toward which our precaution, and political action, need to be directed. From such a change, a change of the very nature of political action instantly follows.

Power structures can be professions

George Bernard-Shaw's dictum is familiar:

“All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”

"The conspiracies refer to the methods used by professions to acquire prestige, power and wealth", explains Wikipedia.

The power structure keyword allows us to extend his insight, by observing that the professions can be, and surprisingly often also are, conspiracies against the professionals themselves as well! They make the professionals busy and stressed competing with one another—and still leave the society's purpose ill-served. Our society remains non-whole, and all of us with it.

Power structure as an invisible enemy

To create a whole new entity, which is not a visible object but a construction, and to make it the lead theme of the age-old human quest for justice freedom—may at first seem implausible; even preposterous. It might take a moment of thought, and the evidence shared in connection with all five insights, to fully comprehend why this is not only possible, and not only legitimate, but also necessary.

A signature theme in knowledge federation is to combine the most basic insights emanating from distinct academic fields and other traditions, and create an even more basic insight. The power structure construction combined the most basic insights from artificial intelligence, artificial life and stochastic optimization, to show why spontaneously emerging structures can evolve to have characteristics which we normally ascribe only to living beings, endowed with intelligence and purpose. Those details are explained in Chapter Four of the book manuscript Information Must Be Designed (the password for opening the chapters is "Dubrovnik"), and we won't talk about them here.

Here we shall only talk about the phenomenology of the power structure, by sharing two metaphorical images.

Power structure as 'magnet'

Imagine us people as small magnets. Think of the magnetic field of the Earth as signifying our "natural" orientation—the way we need to be aligned, to support the wholeness of our planetary and other systems, and of our society, culture and ourselves.

Imagine that some of the magnets detached themselves from this field, and having perceived "their own interests" differently, created a different field of their own, by alining themselves together. As now more and more magnets align themselves to this new field, the field becomes stronger, so that ultimately the original "natural" orientation can no longer be felt.

This metaphor suggests several things, one of which is that the power structure does not need any visible means of coercion; that it is capable of subtly orienting our seemingly random or "free" behavior—even without us noticing. We call this 'aligning oneself to the magnet' socialization. This will be a theme that permeates this introduction to holotopia, and we'll be learning more about it as we go along.

When we surrender our power to the power structure—then our own power appears to be vastly increased. Suddenly our ascent to our "career goals" can accelerate to a meteoric speed. But this acquired power is merely an illusion: the "career goals" can be arbitrarily distant from our "real" goals (i.e. the goals we would have if our orientation were not declined by the 'field'); and this new power will instantly vanish, if we try to use it in ways that are contrary to the power structure's 'interests'.

This metaphor can also helps us understand why Erich Jantsch, and so many other 20th century's new paradigm thinkers, were ignored: Not only were they aligned with another 'magnetic field'—but they indeed also struggled to realign us others with it.

Power structure as 'cancer'

The power structure does not need to be a recognizable entity; as a rule, it is a deformation of a recognizable entity, or technically a pattern.

The power structure is then also a way of looking at the issues of power and justice, which allows us to see more than we saw before; and to "see the enemy", in a way in which we need to do that, in this era.

So imagine the power structure as a social-systemic cancer; imagine it as a deformity in a social organism's healthy tissues and organs. This deformity can grow beyond bounds and sap the organism's vitality, because the organism's immune system fails to recognize it as a threat. Because the organism considers it and treats it as its own healthy tissues and organs.

This metaphor can help us realign our self-identity and our ethical priorities.

Politics without conflict

The power structure view turns the conventional idea of power and politics on its head. When we see ourselves as "the enemy"—who is there to blame? Who is there to fight against?

According to the conventional idea, in every political power struggle there is "our side" and "the other side". At the end of the struggle some will be winners, others will be losers. But in the power structure view, politics is transformed into all of us against the power structure. Collaboration, and self-organization, are our way to victory. And if we lose—all of us will be losers!

Systemic innovation

The most basic principle

Imagine a world where human action and striving are not directed by power-laden myths or whims of desire, but by evidence-based principles. Imagine, further, that those principles are coherently structured, so that those more specific or practical ones reflect a handful of more general or basic ones. In such a world—what principle would be the most basic?

As we have seen, the holotopia is the vision of such a world. In this initial prototype, we've adopted the principle "to make things whole" as the most general or generic one. This principle demands that we see ourselves, and the job or profession we are practicing in, as parts in a larger whole or wholes; and to act as it may suit their wholeness.

But seek first systemic wholeness, in all things and on all levels of detail; and all these things will be added unto you.

"Wholeness" is such a wonderfully simple yet inclusive value! It subsumes both "health" and "holiness".

A remedy to power structure devolution

During the evolution of our project, we have given this principles different names. Sometimes we called it design, and defined it as "alternative to tradition". The idea was to say that in a modernity, where the inherited solutions, ideas and ways of looking at the world can no longer be relied on, we must act as a designer would—and take responsibility for the wholeness of the world we are creating.

Here, however, we have chosen to use systemic innovation, as a less ambiguous keyword. It has the added advantage that it directly directs innovation (interpreted here most generally as using our creative abilities to induce change)—the power that drives our 'bus' forward.

From what has been said, it should be clear that systemic innovation is a natural remedy for degenerate or 'malignant' power structures.

That it's a natural way to "change course".

A knowledge-based approach to ethics

The holotopia's "rule of thumb" can liberate us from the ethical allegiances that bind us to <power structure.

When we follow egotism, the ethics that the modernity teaches us follow, we necessarily co-create power structures. We become part of our "enemy". It's like having dirty hands—you soil everything you touch!

The ethics of transcending egotism, of seeing ourselves as parts of something larger than ourselves and adapting what we do to its needs, is of course ethics as it has always been. "The invisible hand" of free competition, that ethical perpetuum mobile we still tend to believe in, is readily seen as just a ploy of the power structure, which it devised to bind us to it.

The rest, however, is a re-creation of the traditional ethics. It no longer automatically follows that "our job" or "our duty" is to earn money to our corporation's stockholders; or to publish more articles in our discipline's journals of choice. Duty, performance, and excellence, can now be seen in completely different light than how we saw them before.

Authentic Travel

Traveling is no longer authentic

Under the name Authentic Travel we are presenting a collection of prototypes we've developed in tourism or travel—an economic activity on which the survival of endangered cultural species and human communities often has to depend.

Since as far back in time as our collective memory can reach, people have traveled to get to know other cultures, and also their own culture and themselves. But the modernity's "economies of scale" favored "mass tourism". To get a glimpse the variety of issues that our Authentic Travel prototypes are addressing, imagine bulldozers leveling to the ground a fishing village on some exotic island, to make room for a new vacation resort. Imagine the local people serving drinks, if they happen to speak English, otherwise selling cheap souvenirs on the beach, trying to make a living. Let's also not forget the ubiquitous tanned couple on the beach advertising, which is changing the very idea of what travel is about for the rest of us back home.

Restoring authenticity

Let us open a parenthesis to explain the deeper meaning of the word "authenticity", as it is used in this project.

Have you noticed that we no longer expect our politicians or "leaders" to tell us in full sincerity what they "really believe in"? We don't expect them to know that either. Of course we expect them to say what we want to hear, so that we may vote for them. This "instrumental thinking" is what binds us to power structure; it is also the meaning of Bauman's keyword "adiaphorised". What is here called "authenticity" is exactly what we give up when we align ourselves with the power structure. The good old Marxist keyword for this type of "alignment", which together with Marxism became rather unpopular in recent decades, is "alienation".

The core "authentic travel" meme was developed in practice by Karina Fürst and her company Authenticore in Norway. Through her work, Karina proved that a successful business in the characteristically high-budget and high demand for performance and quality incentive travels (where the travelers are companies and their clients), can be consistently conceived as staging authentic meetings between the travelers and the locals. A salient characteristic of her approach is to bring the travelers in contact with the persons who are in Norway called "ildsjel", which literally means "burning soul". They are the people who "burn" for something, who authentically pursue their dream. Often, they've created a small world of their own. Karina's discovery—which is "the secret ingredient" or 'spice' in her projects—is that those "burning souls" are capable of re-kindling a similar passion in others. And that meeting them and sharing their world, by engaging with them in co-creative activities, can work better in incentive travels that the more common 'champaign and caviar' approach.

Recreating tourism

In the Dagali 2006 prototype, an entire 250-people Dutch company were guests of a village called Dagali "in the middle of Norway". Many of the visitors slept in local people's houses. During the day, through activities staged by the locals, they were experiencing what living in the middle of Norway feels like. On the evening of the arrival, the locals made a memorable party for the visitors in a large barn. On the second evening, the guests made a dinner party for the locals. When on the third day a boat tour through the spectacular scenery of the Samnanger Fjord brought us to the exclusively authentic Solstrand Hotel—the guests asked "Why didn't we stay one more day in Dagali?

Recreating the power structure

As you may have understood, the power structure is not necessarily a bad thing. It is what organizes us together into something that has power—and hence also gives us power, to jointly make a difference. The key question is whether the power structures evolve by the "survival of the fittest" (which, as we have seen, tends to favor those most aggressive and destructive ones), or we've found a way to tailor them to their various systemic purposes (which is what systemic innovation is about). Our prototypes are conceived as means to that end.

In the UTEA Franchise prototype, the challenge was to recreate the conventional tourism business model, to support the authentic travel meme as Karina Fürst and the Authenticore developed it; and by doing that help reverse various negative trends we've pointed to above. We showed how conventional business memes including franchising, value chains, value-based marketing and new information technology could be combined to serve that end. We had a McKenzie expert advisor helping us create a business plan for a venture cup competition. We proposed a method called [https://folk.uio.no/dino/ID/Articles/ME.pdf memetic engineering—for empowering endangered or remedial cultural memes by combining them with business memes that have proven their agility in practice. This idea is, of course, a straight-forward adaptation of genetic engineering idea adapted to business and culture.

Unraveling a cultural genocide

The recent civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina had all the characteristic elements of a genocide, with concentration camps and all. At its core, however, was an attempted cultural genocide. How does one restore a culture which received a fatal blow—once the architectural objects have been rebuilt? We developed the Authentic Hercegovina prototype to serve as both a situated intervention, and a template.

Knowledge Federation transdiscipline

Who will develop and practice systemic innovation? And in what way?

The Knowledge Federation transdiscipline is a prototype of exactly what Erich Jantsch was calling for—an academic institution that is capable of federating information into systems.

The method we use is straightforward: We create a systemic prototype, and organize a transdiscipline around it to update it continuously, by weaving together relevant disciplinary insights. The Knowledge Federation initiates or bootstraps this approach by creating itself as a prototype of the transdiscipline (a brief illustration of our systemic innovation-related network building and collaboration is presented here).

This self-organization was initiated at Knowledge Federation's second biennial workshop in Dubrovnik in 2010, and announced publicly at our first international workshop, within the Triple Helix IX International Conference at Stanford University, in 2011. See the blog report with link to article. See also our concise summary titled " Enabling Social-Systemic Transformations", contributed to the "Transformation in a Changing Climate" conference.

The Game-Changing Game

Here is what we, as a human generation, need to make our priority: To empower the coming generation to update the systems in which we live and work. And in that way become capable of crafting their future.

The Game-Changing Game is a prototype of a real-life game-like environment, in which elders in power positions, called "Z-players", empower the younger (in life and career phase) "A-players" to "play their life and career games" by changing systems, instead of conforming to the existing ones. The Game-Changing Game is a generic system for changing systems. See this brief outline with links.

The Game-Changing Game was one of the experiments that led to holotopia.

The Club of Zagreb

As we have seen, an irony of the power structure is that the people in power positions don't, as as a rule, have the power to change the system that gives them power. But they can empower others to do that!

The Club of Zagreb prototype is our update of The Club of Rome, based on the insights outlined above, and The Game-Changing Game.


Education, as our society's "reproduction system", is of course a natural way to intervene in society's evolution.

The Collaborology is one our educational prototype where a number of design patterns are introduced. The design patterns are problem-solution pairs, which are woven together to compose a coherently functioning system or prototype.

Education redesign

The conventional university course model is thoroughly redesigned. This alone delivers a strong empowering message to the students.

But in addition, each generation of students is invited to re-create the course model at the beginning of the term, based on the recommendations of the previous-generation students; and to give their recommendations to the generation that follows.

Self-directed learning

To empower the students to follow their own needs and interests is a cause in itself. But this cause becomes especially important if our goal is to create a society where the systems are allowed to change freely.

That means that the people whose profession has become obsolete have a way to re-educate themselves.

Learning how to change systems

The subject of Collaborology is, of course, taken so that the students can learn exactly what they need to successfully take part in the power structure re-evolution. Much of the material is focused on the IT-based tools for creative collaboration, which we'll talk about in connection with the collective mind insight.

Learning to collaborate

Needless to say, collaborology is also an opportunity to practice collaboration.

The course is conceived partly as a design project, whose task is to create the learning resources for the next-generation students; and of course whatever else may help knowledge federation reach its objectives. The students organize themselves into small teams, and each team chooses for itself a challenge. The students' ability to grasp the needs of the system they are in, and to respond to them co-creatively, is one of the criteria on which the grades are based.

Co-creating knowledge

Collaborology is also a prototype solution to an interesting challenge: While we have lots of knowledge in the fields covered by traditional disciplines, knowledge is lacking in the areas where also the holotopia finds its niche—the questions of often urgent contemporary interest. The Collaborology provides an institutional template, including a "business model", by which a new trandisciplinary body of knowledge on any theme can be developed.

Unlike the conventional MOOC, Collaborology is taught by a network of experts—so that everyone has a chance to contribute a piece in the large puzzle. In this way, a large body of transdisciplinary knowledge is created, and kept up to date. The students have the role of 'bacteria' in a knowledge-work ecosystem—their learning being exploratory and active, they extract 'nutrients' from otherwise 'dead bodies' of documents.

The economies of scale

The Collaborology prototype provides an indication how the power structure or the "economies of scale" can be recreated to radically save time and effort, and support creativity. When an instructor's "job" is to create and maintain a single lecture in a larger body of knowledge, the amount of labor is drastically reduced. By including also media designers, game designers and other creative actors, education can become entirely something else than it is today.