PhD and me

Learning by doing

I had to give this one a try. It came to my attention too late but I tried anyway. My first PhD proposal has now been submitted. Let the learning begin.

Written in three days is not the ideal preparation. But as a forced period of solid focus and serious questioning of what I’m trying to contribute as research and how it fits to wider academic research overall, was useful reminders of what it’s all for. My passion lives here. I just hope that shines through.

18 pages of my heart and soul. A baseline reset that serves as a useful confirmation that my research, my study, my consulting, and my life choices, all still sit well upon long-term goals.

That’s a good weekend, come what may. Learnt much by learning how much more I have yet to do.

Uncertain relations

My visibility | behaviour | trust in you

My thanks to Chris Bragg for a line of questioning that prompting these prose; Jason Hier for promoting the dialogue from which I repeat my part in here; and Dinah Turner who generated the original visual prompt. All of which started {here}, a discussion on LinkedIn. My thanks also to Bill Sherman. Another LinkedIn thread {here}, one with a challenge I accepted yesterday, and answer at the end of this blog.

Visibility of what? v | b | t in context

Visibility for my project purposes i.e., Visibility | b | t , is addressing transparency between parties. Directed towards what is known and what remains uncertain. In our projects, how much visibility are we sharing one party (project actor) to the next?

This is how visibility relates behaviour i.e., v | behaviour | t , as transparency by one party to the next. This transparency reveals or hides certain behaviour. That could be our intentions, motivations, or actions. Derived perhaps from something as simple as our hubris or belief that we are surely right. Or something more self-interested or malevolent. From these two variables we can ask if we are affording the right level of trust i.e., v | b | trust , to the exchange. Assessing all three presents an indication of collaborative nature, as it relates to all parties supporting the intended change, as project truth.

How are we safeguarding a project from what we do not know?

This sketch, from Dinah Turner, prompted the wider discussion I refer to above. If the dot was the minimal amount of necessary information, Jason Hier teased us with asking what if it was as little as 1%, then let’s respond with the question as a percentage of what? We need to have more awareness to the reality that somethings are not knowable – but that our processes need to have the adaptability to manage these later realisations.

Image used with permission from Dinah Turner

As a graphic to reflect our limited availability of information, what was prompted here was a discussion around making best use of the little information we have. From my perspective (as related to project knowledge), the diagram also presented a third area of interest. (1) the spot of what is known; (2) the assumed everything there is; (3) a challenge to the assumption we can ever bound everything there is to know – beyond the circle. This is what Gigerenzer (2014) would reflect upon when comparing risk vs. uncertainty. It is the difference between working within a closed system vs one that interrelates to more. Or Engwall‘s “no project is an island” from which we can remove ourselves from closed system thinking in any project situation. Combining these two principles, we always have some uncertainty. I suggest the circle in the above graphic houses “the question we asked”. But outside the circle is “the question we wish we knew to pose”. From here we can hope to critically appraise the manner of any decisions being made, for what purpose, and from an information perspective we can ask “based upon what?“.

Being able to seek clarity on what the 1% represents enables better questions. Anyone who knows me, will know that my most likely answer to a question, is another question. This is because a question directs our attention to a set of assumptions and constraints. Are these parameters intended to facilitate an open dialogue, or are they intended to funnel and dissuade a wider perspective? Is this reflecting behaviour of the person posing the question, that we trust to have this right?

It is at these earliest of moments – in defining both problem and constraints – that we can begin to become unstuck. And why we should all therefore be first challenging the question, to see what visibility, behaviour, and trust, is represented. See other blogs on these areas individually, including for example sensemaking and wider problem solving perspectives.

Projects as time bound intended change

This is a dynamic position, and therefore change. In the modelling idea I have in mind, this is where my attempt to define everything by a project definition comes into play: as time bound intended change. And that any change, even one of enquiry, can be captured by this project definition.

Projects within projects

This also challenges us to consider if our collaborative practices are ever actually aimed at the same project. Or are two project actors working on their own projects and attempting to direct outcomes to their own intended outcome – even if that is at the expense of the other. I have in mind here game theory models that represent zero sum outcomes (winner:loser); or those where lesser outcomes emerge because of failures to cooperate (see prisoner’s dilemma, or tragedy of the commons, as examples).

Other factors are then able to be introduced:

  • direction of influence. Interests directed into the one project, or away from the project and directed instead toward the party with most momentary influence.
  • manner of project control to support the retained inward influence of both the one project aim and protection of all project actors.

These are factors that relate to potential outcomes. The one shared outcome, if we are claiming to be in the one same project. Each factor (visibility, behaviour, trust, influence, and control) the aggregation of contributing factors. So, if a question is asked with a hidden or misguided agenda in mind, the project of enquiry is immediately more likely to fail. Failure because it fails at least one participant, and probably the project overall. Or if the intent was misdirection, there was never a single project with the two parties in mind.

At bigger scale, this is why the inevitable uncertainty that exists is eroding this collaborative endeavour if it is simply defined and offloaded in contract. This is not the same as project outcome control. It is more simply a financial risk transfer with increased likelihood of dispute. Arguably a later revelation that project truth never existed. Only the roughly aligned interests of the two separate projects and outcomes each party was interested in, influencing, and operating with suboptimal visibility, behaviour, and trust.

I would argue this is the default position in construction. As one example where hidden agenda is almost always assumed, even if not shown. Low visibility as data is filtered between commercial boundaries. Malevolent behaviours. No trust. Contracts attempting to replace trust, but therein failing to regain control.

If this observation is accepted, then it offers an rough guide to likelihood of project success. If we see a project with inadequate control of its truth (the totality of visibility, behaviour, and trust) it is a riskier project than it needs to be. It is representing a project at risk of unseen influences, permitting malevolent interests, and abuses of empowerment bestowed. Therein is the prospect of increased potential for dispute, plus missed opportunity to intervene.

Are we one project? My ongoing hypothetical

I am yet to be convinced we can ever truly be one project. It is why this entire blogsite is called Projects | Within Projects. But I do think we can seek to ensure our own projects are more closely aligned. As well as all the other project assessments we undertake, I am suggesting this v | b | t assessment of the many influences, directed at the appropriateness of controls containing them, can be one of those higher level quick indications of the human made threats to success.

This affords a simple question, “why say yes to this project?“. Why as a potential project actor agree to enter this enterprise if the divergent interests are not a central focus of control? Why insure it? Why invest in it? Why be party to it? Why approve it? If one can heuristically identify this increased chance of failure, the questions you ask can all be directed this way.

This is visibility | behaviour | trust as a rule of thumb. A heuristic tool, directed at the overall collaborative interest at a project’s core. A work in progress. One that keeps me returning to first principles, new discourse, and regular revisits to this hypothesis as I go.

Agreed or not agreed – is that my question?

And finally…to the challenge I am responding to.

Can you distil your best ideas down into a simple question?

asks Bill Sherman via LinkedIn

Bill Sherman – a writer of thought leadership, and taking ideas to scale. His post yesterday was quite different. He compared NASA mission statements to those we each set ourselves. He offered contemporary examples of the questions NASA set to define their missions. Each a single question – pithy and capturing the imagination of any five year old or older still living with a sense of wonder. His challenge, which I agreed, is to set my idea into a single question. What is the essence of what this big idea is trying to do?

Bills advises us to be guided by the following:-

What’s your big idea that you’re pursuing?

How are you staying connected to your sense of wonder?

Are you able to explain that wonder to others?

Here’s a quick way to check:

1. Write your big idea in one sentence that evokes joy/wonder.
2. Then, test it out. Ask people what they think.
3. Keep going until people say “wow.”

I will confess to writing this entire blog with this question in mind. So here goes, attempt number one.

Can our modelling of projects be linked, to better guide all scales of intended change?

Version one

Can success or failure be gauged by a simple assessment of external influences and resulting appropriateness of project controls?

Version two

Projects are jeopardised if rogue influence gains control: can we avoid the invitations to fail?

Version three

Excuse my ignorance

Einstein’s curse

My meditative practice this morning turned into a lingering abstraction over breakfast. A trap of thought I needed to write down in order to unwind. As a release of tension, or as indigestion. Both may suit. Consider this a musing. A diary entry or placeholder. A journal entry that escaped.

That he was almost right. Almost complete. But his schema fails at the boundary cases of his paradigm. Space and time, or more correctly spacetime.

The Big Bang sits as a beginning. A paradigm that sits within itself. From which spacetime emerges and is contained. It is the beginning of change and of matter. Dynamics. The temporary. The paradigm of the transitional.

Physics now wrestling with the remainder. The parts of the indivisible whole that remained when we categorised what is beyond categorical. The whole. Or the hole. The subset of a meta physics, that which has relative place in time.

Infinities of possibility. Itself an analogy of the paradigm within which we are trapped. A hint at the boundary case we cannot escape. But within which we are thereby condemned to have or to be.

To even ask what is beyond is to fall back into the trap. To not ask is to be blind to possibility. To ask what sits amidst us in the dark. Or what pulls our light in. Or what is parallel to all universal norms. All notional paradigms each informed by the limitations of our constraints. Of course we fall with Newton. A course outlined by Galileo. Our relativity necessarily coordinate and squared. Why would subatomic reality care for our boundary case of space and time? Revealing one or other but never both. The coordinate translation is our prison. And ours alone.

But that is fine to work with. I’m not sure I understand the fundamentals of anything at these extremes. Nor is it my place in space or time to download all preexisting code and add a few lines of my own. I’ve tried, and failed – so far. I’m asking much more limited sets of questions. Contained within a prison of one mind, amidst a sea of others. Each translating one to another our singular experience in shared space but across a human expansion beyond one experiential time. A unique gift to one repeating closed system that connects to others. By memory and abstraction. Change is our construct. Whether intended or not. I’m just asking the simple questions within that one paradigm.

And with that thought I feel ready to spend a day or two with Heidegger, Vygotsky, Popper, and Jasper. Starting with Being and Time. And the pollution of all these musings I have uttered, which I now need to unwind.

It’s all just one big analogy

Can analogy help describe a project?

Responding to the question of how analogies can help explain projects. A delightful question posed tonight, on Opiner. (A brilliant app idea).

I wrote these notes in preparation for my 3 minute cameo.

The Greek word analogy means ‘proportion’, e.g., 2 is to 4 as 4 is to 8. Electrons and nucleus of an atom are related much as the planets are related to the sun. The analogy of analogy I offered is that it is like a zip-file of code passing from one closed system of consciousness to the next.

That is what we humans do. We symbolise and abstractly recreate what our senses have offered. We perceive.  We reformulate. We connect these abstractions. Approximate reality. This is how we think. How we communicate. And by both, we can collectively intend change.

Analogies do not help us explain projects. The notion of a project is an analogy. Analogous to the very fabric of what our projects are. Intended change. We approximate the complexity of nature, in attempt to understand change. We want to understand change because we can then influence it. We intend change, and by our shared approximations of reality attempt to control the change as we intend it.

This presents limitations. We cannot hope to receive and comprehend all by this summary. And we can only hope to summarise what we comprehend. Erroneous misunderstanding sits at every level of such conversion.

Analogy, metaphor, model, and theory each work well in describing intended change. Each is proportionally relative, limited by the range of our senses, perspectival and therefore compromised by the context of those observing it.

The notion of organisations being served by projects is also I think the wrong way around. Organisations are convenient and efficient means of putting ordered resource to work on bigger change. We can define smaller projects to reorganise that temporary organisational structure. Organisations are objectively bound. A legal convenience. They enable external processes, itself a transition state or change. Much as we can become the agent to change, biologically bound, and singularly legally culpable. Organisations are therefore the servant, not the masters of change.

I propose we change the narrative accordingly. The stories we tell enable us to be. They best approximate the processes of change we intend. Which is to the core of what it is to become the ever better contributor to the human project.

Tomorrow morning I attend a podcast with Project Chatter to discuss philosophy and if/how it applies to projects. This warms me up nicely for the dialogue to come. (Paul Goodge and Dale Fung).

Greek ‘proportion’2 is to 4 as 4 is to 8.electrons nucleus atom as planets are to the sun.
perceive symbolise reformulate connect extract vs abstractions abstractly recreateCommunication is abstract
EncodingModelling creating schemaAnalogy as zip-file of code
IN: We only receive and comprehend a summary of reality
OUT: We can only hope to summarise what we comprehend
a project analogy Intended changeAnalogy Metaphor Model theoryproportionally relative sensorially bound perspectival
the organisation an analogy legal convenienceordered resource process facilitatorsProcess Analogy of steps or change
Organisations are therefore the servant not the masters of change
change the narrative intended change at all scales core of what we are
Presentation crib notes

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Earth history, our future

We have choice, we have self-control

A blog addressing self-control. The piece of the environmental puzzle we each own. A contribution to the whole, if we so choose.

As CoP26 gets moving past the administrative tasks of state, I find myself wondering on what it is we all do that makes changes for the common good so hard to follow through.

The piece I think we all lose sight of, is self-control. Behavioural control in its most personal form. There is contemporary debate as to what consciousness is, and whether it is even a thing at all. Whether free will or biology, given the magnitude of the dilemma we all now face together, I am minded to think that the answer to that matters little. This is our moment to make action our goal. That starts at home. With a little reorientation of our self-control

Success requires clarity of purpose and self-control

For every self-made success these two factors seem to me present. There is clarity of purpose. And intent on keeping to this task, and thereby enacting self-control. When people talk in admirable terms of ambition, effectiveness, or being on the ball. When addressing ourselves as being present. In the moment. As one person, as a team, or collaborators in a project. We purposefully take to action and all distraction is kept under control.

v | b | t

The achievement accomplished is appraised based upon what was before, compared to what is now. Or what is now possible, that was not possible before. This achievement required a visibility, a clear directed change by the actor(s). It then took behaviours directed towards this goal. A determination to overcome unforeseen event. And a personal and/or shared trust that this could be seen through.

Managing behaviour is what we do

What makes consciousness interesting here is what is going on within. We are permanently being distracted. Distraction is at the heart of what our competing systems within us do. They present us with choice, or bring to our awareness wider issues, opportunity, or threat, to give option to reprioritise some more.

The privilege of the human condition is the extent to which we have put ourselves at the fulcrum of this distraction. We can act upon distraction with additional strategic inference. We can move our inference to higher levels of perspective. We can move our enquiry to lower levels of insight but higher levels of detail. We can seek more detail or bigger picture or put time to both. We can communicate this enquiry or we can do this from within. We can place ourselves in externally different, better, more challenging, less certain, or more exciting, places to be distracted over and over again.


That is what I take choice to mean today. These days of global need. We have basic needs as individuals. Our brain and body collude to make us ever aware of that fact. Our social instincts enable that need to be embraced as family concern. Tribal influence. National pride. And now, if we choose, global unity to inform a global act.


What this also reflects is the fundamentals of our biology. Fundamentals of our chemistry before life was even a thing. There is finite resource and more demand than supply. Nature and chaos find their own delicate equilibrium. We are gifted with the means to make something of that equilibrium. By our action we do some nudging of our own.

Competing towards collaborative ends

But now we compete not for ourselves. Instead we compete for the future versions of us. As our biology today reflects from all before. Whatever happens at CoP26, that all begins right here. In each home. With our manner of self-control. Making choice toward future generations we will not know. Or taking more for ourselves, eating more seeds than we sow.

We are each a project | within this project. This is our project of correction. Of planned redirection. To find the ultimate equilibrium. The platform that can sustain us all. This place on earth remains our ultimate system. We can choose it. Or it can consume us all.


Supplemental note: Earth History as observed in terms of behaviour

Intended change by us as humans vs the behaviours of chemistry or biology – a reflection on which is which. The latter requires none of the choice decisions we can make, but for all our talking is this road we passively take.

Archean Era to now

~3.5 Billion years of earth history. A few basics of what behaviours came before.

Settled chemistry

Any dynamic system can be said to behave. Predictably, or not. Well, or not. Living, or not. Nor is there anything in life that holds a privileged place in playing a part in change. In geology you can study what happens when the same chemistry plays out in different arenas with different agents of change. Deep within the Earth’s crust, in magma chambers, minerals and crystals can emerge differently from the chemical grabs that are made for the same finite resource. Time, heat, and gravity playing roles in what ingredients sit where. The conditions of what is left, dictating what is next. Some ingredients becoming heavy, others relatively light. Gravity settling occurring through relative viscosity. More pressure from above, or more heat from below can change the rates and settled nature within. There is only temporary stability and rates of change. Add more pressure or more heat, some of the solid masses return to liquid form, and what chemistry had been claimed becomes free to be reclaimed by new crystallising processes once again.

Change is inevitable

There was therefore behaviour before there was life. Chemical reaction and physical change well studied in timespans we humans have geologically categorised. At global scale this reflected atmospheric conditions where greenhouse effects were a positive influence. A young sun with heat held within a primitive atmosphere enabling temperatures that support liquid water to prevail. Pillow lava flows from 3.5 billion years ago evidence of this early water. Spewing into this water, were volcanic vents depositing chemical mixtures with energy and ingredients for life all mixing and settling within. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) settling amidst amino acids and other key components that would eventually make biological cells (cf. Science Direct).

Acting not settling

We are not rocks. Bacteria and archaea made the early headway there. How we define the precise moment that there was life is still not completely clear. At its most basic level however, the sentiment of passive chemical action makes way for biologically active intent. Perhaps. Settling into the chemical glue still brings about reactions, but the objective action may have some process its form is additionally enabling it to do.

Passive to active as regulated behaviour

An autopoiesis is what is now termed to describe these, and all subsequent, emerging first choices made. A regulation of the first defended boundary. A containment within the first cell. An inner influence to the outside chemical glue. Early life. Mobility in water. Gathering, collecting, interacting. Then finding new heat from the sun. Converting wider bandwidths of energy in the form of light.

Therein presenting a growing need for biologically active regulations.

Definition of autopoiesis

…the property of a living system (such as a bacterial cell or a multicellular organism) that allows it to maintain and renew itself by regulating its composition and conserving its boundaries… the mechanisms of self-production are the key to understand both the diversity and the uniqueness of the living.— Francisco J. Varela, in Self-Organizing Systems: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 1981

…the ancient common ancestor which evolved autopoiesis and thus became the first living cell.— Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, What is Life?, 2000


Still several billion years ago, amidst the trillions of chance events, an archaea and a bacteria were conjoined – rather than the one consumed – a Union. A first inkling into the power upgrade available if cooperation can resume. A repeatable fact that ballooned. This is mitochondrial symbiosis, that is still evidencing that chance happening today. Adding advantage of symbiosis, to the advancement and specialisms of two cells not dividing but instead remaining together and acting as one, and diversity of chance exponentially grows.

This is more than just selfish genes. This is life and 2 billion years of it as competing in rates of growth, not rates of evolution to hunt or avoid being the prey.

The predator age is much more recent. The Cambrian period. It begins in earnest 550 million years ago. With such predation the fashion of the age, competition steps up another gear.

Here is where a split of opinion in contemporary science exists. Whether the nature of us all is as savage as some would hold. Or whether a collaborative realism exists borne of that bacterial age. As explained by biochemist Dr. Nick Lane.

This discrepancy is partly responsible for the schism that has opened between Margulis and neo-darwinists like Dawkins. Dawkins’ ideas about selfish genes are equivocal when applied to bacteria (which he does not try to do). For Margulis, however, the whole tapestry of evolution is woven by the collaborations of bacteria, which form not just colonies but the very fabric of individual bodies and minds, responsible even for our consciousness, via the threadlike networks of microtubules in the brain. Indeed, Margulis pictures the entire biosphere as the construct of collaborating bacteria – Gaia, the concept that she pioneered with James Lovelock

Dr. Nick Lane pp10

Not that Dawkins deems the selfish gene to be opposing others.

My first book, The Selfish Gene, could equally have been called The Cooperative Gene without a word of the book itself needing to be changed… Selfishness and cooperation are two sides of a Darwinian coin. Each gene promotes its own selfish welfare, by cooperating with other genes in the sexually stirred gene pool which is the gene’s environment, to build shared bodies

Richard Dawkins “The ancestors tale” cited by Lane pp11-12

From a behavioural perspective, the underlying point is the active role now played. The finite resources now in chemical soups that may be ingested, breathed, absorbed, or converted within, becoming increasingly complexed, and biology finding new ways to play. The passive competition of process of chemical reactions now a regulated phenomena. All now biological actions as determined by a need.

Complex enough to choose

It is only very recently – once the rarity of a brain cortex became sufficiently engorged that chemistry, biology, and the increasing complexity of organisation of process – that the divisions and specialisms of more and complex multi-cellular organisms became a means of influence with an awareness of their all. The mammalian brain, surrounding an emotionally reactive middle, but still influenced by the compulsions of a reptilian spinal column and stem. It is with this growing complexity that the external world, offering a momentary window of stability, that symbology and learning had a chance to stay.

Even now we debate what is real. Not only of this account of a history, but also of what is real by the perceptions of own minds. What the brain translates – from messages as smells, recoding from light-sensitive retinas, vibrations of sound, and an array of felt messaging from our boundary edges coated in skin – are the best guessed of a collective system of cells in the brain (only 10% of which are neurons) is a translation of sensed experience. From this space inside a skull shaped prison, a dark and silent space between our ears and behind our eyes, our brain perceives what is real. Who are we to be so bold as to think what each brain holds true? We can but presume and suppose. Only we.

Even our close cousins see through different eyes. Pay different attention to smell. And as for other possible consciousness such as our octopus cousins – of shared simple worm like grandparents from 350 million years ago – they skulk alone. One per 5 million or so offspring making it to their version of adulthood. Their wits tested in the extreme with plenty of interest in decision-making. Neuronal connections but in a very different home.

Each system of systems we each represents by the boundary layer of our skin, is in competition within. As it is with all complexity of life. Our distractions of our systems are just more complete in their means to make all feel as one.

How do we all win and compete?

Against this shared history of everything, this is the challenge of our time. Our whole chemical-biological-history has been about taking what our own internal systems need. Reward of survival via our selfishness, our greed. Social instinct a more recent win bonus for the biology that is able to collaborate and become more and with greater speed. That is the lesson I think we now all need to take heed.

Socially mobile, individually doomed

That it is our social skills that make us more adaptive to environments than all other living beings we oppose. Our shared ability to abstractly take constraints and limitations, add new perspective, introduce outside chemistry with our mathematics and our physics, our metallurgy, and technology, and become more. Yes, we compete. Neanderthals once vouched for how good we are at that. But we compete best together.

Now we need to compete as nothing has ever competed before. We compete beyond our inner need, and greed. Define better our tasks and our goals. Seek solutions to global problems we all now own.

Whether free will or not our biology gives us choice. What we now choose is with intent. We actively direct our next actions. We find new motivations for shared self-control. Or like rocks, we all passively sink. Let’s not leave it to nature to decide.

Are we the CoP out?

Conference of Parties #26

A blog linking infinite discussion and lines. Iterations of recurring themes that can get bigger or smaller, but will they always look the same?

Mandelbrot Sets

Netflix managed to have 55 minutes of my time tonight. Rare indeed these days. “The colours of infinity,” a 1995 film hosted by Arthur C Clarke. Explaining the discovery of a particular fractal geometry that surrounds us. Needing the computations of machines to help us observe what we have always blindly seen.

26 years of the same

It is a fantastic documentary from last century. Reflecting upon what is perhaps ever nearing us in this century, or the next. The mathematics that shows us how in nature there need be no straight lines. Not even necessarily any beginnings or ends. But that at whatever level we look, the patterns and basic formulas that can go to infinities all the same.

Filmed 26 years ago. By coincidence COP26, Conference of the Parties #26, is the same age. Perhaps also a coincidence that fractal symmetry seems the agenda mainstay of this event. The Kyoto Protocol was COP3, December 1997 but not ratified until 2005. Is it to be the “Glasgow Protocol” that our grandchildren’s children look upon with global pride – will this be the start of the change? I have dug out the two agendas and placed them side by side below. Fractal symmetry perhaps, but I am just not sure if we travel to infinitely bigger or infinitely smaller upon this path.

Projects | within Projects

Projects | Within Projects sits here as little more than an idea. But what it does reflect is one person’s attempt to redefine problems we all share. On scales that we can all compare. We are in the same project. We are each a project. And each moment another aggregation of projects our planet actor must wear.

To my mind and my perspective on management, this is just a question of scale. There is fractal symmetry in nature. We follow it everywhere. From the truncations of the tiniest capillaries in our brains and the neural networks that make us think we have a say. To the near infinite networks of galaxies beyond the milky-way. There is a pattern within the chaos, or a chaos within the pattern. Either way, we sit as a pin point in our abstract notions of time and space. One species on one world. Perhaps uniquely, perhaps too discretely, we are different. Different because we have some semblance of intent in what we change. In our momentary time frame, we get to direct, to learn, to grow. Choose to play. Choose to give our chance away. In the heat of this day we now choose to help, or we choose to fade away.

v | b | t

A project of change of behaviour. That is what our leaders speak of next week. Compared to the talk a generation before – what has changed in this rhetoric of change? But perhaps that is not just their question to answer. Perhaps it is not their visibility, and behaviour, or trust we need to ponder.

I am cynical. I am a hypocrite. But I am silent no more. The merry-go-round is easy to step off of when all privilege has fallen ones way. I am not gluing myself to a road. Or finding politics, or charitable ends to compensate for my guilt. My squandered inheritance is time. I am not alone. So the time I have left is aimed at asking better questions. Finding the better questions others in our history have asked. And hoping I get lucky in leaving a few better questions for others to help direct their future-generational task.

If we, the human project, are truly made to intend change. Perhaps it is this visibility we awaken. This goal to the future versions of ourselves we turn our behaviour toward. And from this, our present day, we present ourselves better. Turn ourselves to the service of this future. Rebuild this trust owed as future ancestors. Otherwise – what is this all really for?

Here is the CoP26 2021 agenda, alongside that of 1997. Regardless of its outcomes, maybe it is the personal agendas of us all, that are better answers to nature’s call.

COP3 Kyoto 1997

  • The Climate Change Convention seeks to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference with the climate system”. There are three requirements: (1) this “ultimate objective” should be achieved early enough to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change; (2) food production should not be threatened; and (3) efforts to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be consistent with sustainable economic development.
  • There is no agreed definition of what is meant by “dangerous”. Individuals and cultures differ in their understanding of what is safe and what is dangerous. In addition, some people and countries are more vulnerable to the expected consequences of climate change than are others. While science can provide a useful basis for decision-making, determining how much climate change is “safe” or how much risk is “acceptable” is essentially a political judgment. The judgment of the international community is expressed through the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
  • The faster the climate changes, the greater the danger is likely to be. While human beings are extremely flexible and can cope with many different climates and conditions, human institutions and natural ecosystems tend to adapt more slowly. This is why the Convention specifically highlights the need to protect food production and ecosystems.
  • Certain ecological thresholds may be important indicators of the risks of rapid climate change. Such thresholds could be used to set policies for limiting the risk of irreversible damage. For example, paleoclimatic records of forest growth suggest that trees have migrated in the past by as much as four to 200 km in 100 years. But with scientists predicting that a global warming of 1–3.5oC over the next 100 years would shift climate zones poleward by 150–550 km, many tree populations may fail to adapt fast enough. Thus even if policymakers cannot agree on what constitutes a dangerous climate change for people, they may be able to identify dangerous thresholds for ecosystems that are vital to human well-being.
  • Food production may suffer in some regions. Changes in crop yields are expected to vary greatly by region and locality. Therefore, while global agricultural production may be maintained at or near the present level, the food security of some countries may worsen as a result of climate change. To the people affected this may well seem to be “dangerous”.
  • The overall implications of climate change for sustainable development are not well understood. While the net effect is expected to be negative, global warming is likely to have both positive and negative impacts on human societies, national economies, and natural ecosystems. A warmer climate could extend growing seasons in one region while increasing the risk of droughts in another. Similarly, new energy taxes and other policy responses may hurt some countries while energy-efficiency innovations may help others by reducing production costs and opening up new markets.
  • The Convention sets out a number of principles that should guide action to achieve the objective. They include equity between countries; concern for both present and future generations; the specific needs and special circumstances of developing countries; and the importance of cost-effectiveness, sustainable development, and a supportive and open international economic system. In addition, the precautionary principle states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing action.
  • The Convention requires policymakers to decide on concrete actions. The Parties to the Convention must come to some consensus on the changes that could be considered dangerous. They must choose the level at which they want to stabilize atmospheric concentrations, a schedule for limiting greenhouse gas emissions over time, and appropriate technologies and policies for meeting this schedule.
  • Fortunately, a wealth of knowledge and information is available to decision-makers. The scientific, technical, and socio-economic literature describes possible future scenarios and the likely consequences of various stabilization levels and emissions trends. It explores Ano regrets and other cost-effective measures for cutting emissions and enhancing “sinks”. The literature also describes options for adapting to climate change impacts and indicates promising avenues of scientific and technological research. By choosing amongst these policies and measures, and by carefully weighing costs and benefits, uncertainties and risks, and the various principles that should guide action, the international community can move towards achieving the Convention’s objective.

COP26 Glasgow 2021

The supplementary provisional agenda for COP 26, proposed after consultation with
the President of COP 25, is as follows:

  1. Opening of the session.
  2. Organizational matters:
    (a) Election of the President of the Conference of the Parties at its twenty-sixth session;
    (b) Adoption of the rules of procedure;
    (c) Adoption of the agenda;
    (d) Election of officers other than the President;
    (e) Admission of organizations as observers; (f) Organization of work, including for the sessions of the subsidiary bodies; (g) Dates and venues of future sessions; (h) Adoption of the report on credentials.
  1. Reports of the subsidiary bodies:
    (a) Report of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice;
    (b) Report of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation.
  2. Reporting from and review of Parties included in Annex I to the Convention.
  3. Reporting from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention.
  4. Report of the Adaptation Committee (for 2019, 2020 and 2021).
  5. Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with
    Climate Change Impacts.2
  6. Matters relating to finance:
    (a) Long-term climate finance;
    (b) Matters relating to the Standing Committee on Finance:
    (i) Report of the Standing Committee on Finance – Convention
    (ii) First report on the determination of the needs of developing
    country Parties related to implementing the Convention and the
    Paris Agreement;
    (iii) Fourth (2020) Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate
    Finance Flows;
    (iv) Review of the functions of the Standing Committee on Finance;
    (c) Report of the Green Climate Fund to the Conference of the Parties and
    guidance to the Green Climate Fund (for 2020 and 2021);
    (d) Report of the Global Environment Facility to the Conference of the
    Parties and guidance to the Global Environment Facility (for 2020 and
    (e) Seventh review of the Financial Mechanism;
    (f) Compilation and synthesis of, and summary report on the in-session
    workshop on, biennial communications of information related to
    Article 9, paragraph 5, of the Paris Agreement.
  7. Development and transfer of technologies:
    (a) Joint annual report of the Technology Executive Committee and the
    Climate Technology Centre and Network (for 2020 and 2021);
    (b) Linkages between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial
    Mechanism of the Convention;
    (c) Review of the constitution of the Advisory Board of the Climate
    Technology Centre and Network;
    (d) Second review of the Climate Technology Centre and Network.
  8. Capacity-building under the Convention.
  9. Matters relating to the least developed countries.
  10. Report of the forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures.
  1. Gender and climate change.
  2. Consideration of proposals by Parties for amendments to the Convention under
    Article 15:
    (a) Proposal from the Russian Federation to amend Article 4, paragraph
    2(f), of the Convention;
    (b) Proposal from Papua New Guinea and Mexico to amend Articles 7 and
    18 of the Convention;
    (c) Proposal from Turkey to delete the name of Turkey from the list in
    Annex I to the Convention.
  3. Second review of the adequacy of Article 4, paragraph 2(a–b), of the
  4. Equitable, fair, ambitious and urgent real emission reductions now consistent
    with a trajectory to reduce the temperature below 1.5 °C.
  5. All matters of adaptation.
  6. Achieving equitable geographic representation in the composition of
    constituted bodies under the Convention.
  7. Administrative, financial and institutional matters:
    (a) Audit report and financial statements for 2019 and 2020;
    (b) Budget performance for the bienniums 2018–2019 and 2020–2021;
    (c) Programme budget for the biennium 2022–2023;
    (d) Decision-making in the UNFCCC process.
  8. High-level segment:
    (a) Statements by Parties;
    (b) Statements by observer organizations.
  9. Other matters.
  10. Conclusion of the session:
    (a) Adoption of the draft report of the Conference of the Parties on its
    twenty-sixth session;
    (b) Closure of the session.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Living without free will

Biology, behaviourism, control

v | b | t

This is a completely different argument of how behaviour can be addressed. It sits in conflict to the ordering of cause and effect I have reflected upon elsewhere. Visibility of this difference an important part of future assessment needs. As an address of behaviour however, it has the same central premise of control at its core.

Whether we trust in free will, society, the individual or the collective, we will have more trust in each other if we share visibility and control regimes of our behaviour that are intended to protect us all.

I have visited two purveyors of alternative perspective on this over the last few days. One I will now be visiting regularly. The other, not so much. Here are my working notes on both. I conclude with some additional observations, which set up additional research intentions and connect these ideas to wider sentiments I have introduced in other blogs.


Professor Robert M Sapolsky

Professor of Biology, Neurology & Neurosurgery at Stanford University. In reporting upon Robert Sapolsky’s award for Distinguished Scientific contribution, American Psychologist wrote:

For connecting behavior with the neurobiology of stress through pioneering studies on baboons in Kenya and rats in the laboratory, which has opened the way for understanding how the cumulative burden of stress over the life course can accelerate brain aging and predispose an organism to systemic disease. Robert M. Sapolsky’s work has also revealed the synergy among glucocorticoid hormones, excitatory amino acids in the brain, and glucose availability in causing neuronal damage after stroke and seizures. A remarkably lucid and entertaining writer and speaker, in his essays and lectures Sapolsky reminds us of human foibles and illuminates how the social environment and individual personality influence physiology and brain function

America Psychologist November 2013, pp613

This same piece concludes with an outline of his commitment to communicating about neuroscience and its social implications to the lay public (ibid pp615). A quick check on YouTube will confirm his following is significant and his viewership consistently over 500,000 views.

A compelling argument towards the complexity of behaviour is presented in “The biology of humans at our best and worst“. The example scenario used in several lectures, TEDtalks, and podcast interviews is that of a male firing a weapon at a perpetrator who was possibly wielding a firearm but which turns out to be a ‘phone. He asks why did that behaviour occur? And presents the following multi-modal reasoning of contributing factors. The point being all of these modal perspective offer biologically relatable cause in time frames that become evolutionarily long.

1. one second before : what went on in his brain. Amydala activity indicates negative response or action potential is emergent.

2. minutes before : what environmental stimuli influenced his brain. Factors such as smell are considered influencing upon action.

3. hours before : what hormone sensitised him to those stimuli? Testosterone levels can increase the challenge defence response.

4. weeks before : what experiences (e.g. sustained stress) had reshaped his brain to determine how the more immediate forces would be received? Trauma will encourage the physical expansion of the amygdala months prior.

5. from adolescence : how did life experiences (pre-25 year old) impact the immature frontal cortex and shape the adult he became? Numerous external factors contribute to relative maturity and development of the frontal cortex (which is what determines our socialisation abilities)

6. from fetal life and childhood : how did early life experiences cause lifelong change in brain function and influence dormant gene expression? Prenatal stress hormone level have a determining factor from mother to fetal development.

7. from moment of conception : what genes were coded to determine hormone and neurotransmitter response? What variant MAO-alpha gene was inherited.

8. decades to millennia before : how did cultural and social environment come to define life norms, and by what ecological factors did this become the case? Is the cultural norm one of honour and revenge?

9. Millenia : Through gene selections and wider specie development, how did these behaviours evolve? Highly sexually dimorphic behaviours.

Robert Sapolsky “the biology of humans at our best and worst

At best therefore, Sapolsky argues the causation of behaviour is complex. Across these multi-facetted and time relative perspectives it is this collective of contributions that become the causal factors.

No free will

In a 2020 interview he again refers to these layers of influence toward a behavioural response. They all become one factor. We can be changed by circumstance. We cannot change ourselves. There is no free will. There is no first neurone firing that begins an action, there is always preceding event.

But that does not deny the potential for change

In a very recent interview on the Huberman Lab podcast, 30th August 2021, Sapolsky talks at length about stress, dispels some myths about hormone interactions, and then addresses free will. We can know to know, he says deep into the interview (01:21:08). Change is possible of our mechanical systems, and finding means to build on this framework change, so responses are different. We remain our biology but striving to be better by knowing more means to mechanical change and it’s possibility. Learning that learning changes the brain, that in itself is the knowledge of knowledge becomes the tool of change. Just as protocols or pills are.

No free will, but still reason to seek exposures to externalities that effective change. What I conclude from this is that even if it is only the manner of natural environment that regulates such response – this is still reason enough to be focused upon the betterment of controls.

Before I evaluate this further, I digested one other book this week in search of how behaviour can be measured or controlled. The idea of contingency as cause, sits in this same agentless view of our interactions with the world.

Professor Stephen L Ledoux

“What causes human behavior – stars, self, or contingency” 2018

This recent book is an uncompromising argument as to why behaviourism, or more correctly behaviorology, should be preferred to psychology. The premise being that star sign and psychological addressing of behaviour by any form of agency of self are both little more than mysticism.

By example:-

mysticism – as in untestable or unmeasurable – behaviour – directing agents

Stephen L Ledoux “what causes human behaviour – stars, selves, or contingency?” 2018 pp xvii

In seeking the most contemporary examples of behaviouristic method, this book offers some assistance in this regard and helps contextualise behaviourism more broadly.

Historical context of behaviourism :-

John Watson 1913 denying any private experience is real. BF Skinner from 1930s to 1980s and bringing along “radical” behaviourism and his 1963 paper – celebrating 50 years of behaviourism. To which Professor Ledoux sought fit to compliment with a 100 year version in 2013. It is Skinner inspired Operant Behaviorism (i.e. stimulus evoked response) which is the basis of method presented at some leisure in this book.

There is also some comment on preceding “inadequate” behaviourism dealt with from pp15. Noting early behaviourist denying private (meaning inner) experience completely. To which it is argued Skinner solved in 1963 by arguing we need not preside over the skin as an interface to the evaluative process. Page 16 has physiology claimed as an ally of behaviourism. Emotions nothing more than chemical changes in the body to which in turn result in a feeling in response. Psychology by comparison is not afforded any such ally, I was a little disappointed therefore that the significant interface it now shares with neuroscience was not offered, even passing observation. My own MSc course is closely aligned with both.

The key notes I have taken from this book, I summarise below. There is reason to return to it, and these notes will prompt any such return.

  • pp30 and pp50 Parsimony – the simplest explanation is generally the most likely true
  • Pp37 in essence the argument is simply A to B to C. Antecedent to behaviour to consequence.
  • Pp38 antecedents as IV and most often one of multiple stimuli of which one or several may have contingent cause as the antecedent(s)
  • Pp39 behaviour is termed response in specific circumstances
  • Pp40 consequence being the varied operant effect becoming chapter addresses of the later book.
  • Pp41 C can also be reinforcing stimuli (SR)
  • Pp43 1987 TAEB The experimental analysis of behaviour
  • Pp63 what is NOT behaviour. Growth or decay; traits;
  • Pp76 bodily functions as stimuli; Pp77 emotional arousal as physiological stimuli
  • Pp85 controls as part of the environment. Behaviour control environment
  • Pp85 law of cumulative complexity
  • Pp86 responses are put in to classes (response class) where the regulatory of a response class may be measured her time e.g. dishwashing x times in 7 days.
  • Pp87. Behaviour classes are : motor behaviour (movements)
  • Pp88 emotional behaviour as glands stimuli for example
  • Pp89 functional classification – respondent behaviour (Pavlov); operant behaviour (Skinner)
  • Pp92 natural law controls ALL behaviour
  • Pp120 diagram of multiple contingent for reflexive; Pp121 non-reflexive; Pp123 generalisation – in conditioning; pp124 stimulus generalising; Pp126 evocation – evocation training – SR feeds energy back to nervous system and evokes us to respond differently
  • Pp129 function altering stimuli; Pp133 covert neural behaviour cf Fraley 2008; Pp141 positive or negative same as reinforcing or punishing postcedents; Pp151 types of reinforcer; Pp153 extinction of respondent when no longer able to elicits response; Pp169 shaping; Pp179 chaining; Pp191 fading procedure; Pp199 schedules of reinforcement; Pp217 assertive controls and 8 coercion traps; Pp273 overt and covert; Pp279 passivity

I now want to briefly reflect upon a confrontational tone of argument in this book. One hard to reconcile as coming from the academic class.

These next notes are prepared to support discussion within my MSc tutorials. We are mid-debate regarding the place of disciplinary dialogue and range of arguments that must be understood if the various arms of psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, biology, neuroscience, and wider behavioural sciences are to be understood. The sustained attack by this author is thereby captured below for representation with my fellow students. Here are some quotes reflecting the uncompromising dismissive attitude directed at psychology.

we consider Skinner’s radical behaviorism, the philosophy that extends naturalism to inform the natural science of behavior that today we call behaviorology, after its separation from the non-natural, fundamentally mystical discipline that defines itself as studying “behavior and the mind”, (pp7)

the relation between behaviorology and psychology approximates the relation between biology and creationism (pp9)

but if natural scientists instead compromise by allowing claims that behavior in general … results from the spontaneous, willful act of some putative inner agent, then they lose the whole subject matter of human behavior – a subject matter whose application is likely vital for human survival – to purveyors of non-science (pp10)

with these processes, or sub parts, like id, ego, motive, choice, or trait, we cannot trace the behaviorological, physiological, chemical, or physical links of a natural functional history chain; we can only trace the causal chain back to the supposed spontaneous wilful act of the self agent. This breaks the chain of events in the natural functional history and so further excludes psychological analysis from natural science (pp11)

no capricious inner agent makes responses occur (pp17)

with much scientific activity involving methods, anyone using scientific procedures, even mystical people, can objectively collect data on any real phenomenon (pp19)

the general result of this development [1987 split of behaviorolgy as a separate discipline] is a foundation natural science related to all other natural sciences, not at the discredited level of body-directing self-agents, but at the level of a body’s physics based interactions with the external and internal environments (pp19)

some disciplines studying behaviour fall for overly complex accounts (e.g. minds, psyche, selves, souls, or many other types of putative behavior-initiating self-agents), (pp32)

[of agentialism] as a result psychology began as a non-natural discipline, and remains so today, (pp43)

it [psychology] even defined itself as “the study of behavior and the mind”, as it stuck to its secular (i.e., non-theological) version of mysticism. (pp43)

…”the demon-haunted world” Carl Sagan (1995) referred to science as “a candle in the dark”. We must turn that candle into a floodlight exposing the whole variety of unhelpful accounts for behavior while illuminating the helpful accounts for natural behavior science, and thereby support the tole of this science in helping solve local and global problems.. (pp50)

as science expanded, the fictional accounts for most phenomena have retreated. Today, fictional accounts generally still thrive only with respect to human nature and human behavior (pp51)

many scientific and other authors would welcome linguistic changes that allow them to write without automatically implying inner agents (pp52)

Stephen L Ledoux “what causes human behaviour – stars, selves, or contingency?” 2018

The most telling lesson in behaviour I take from this book is to retain a level of respect and dignity in academic writing, and at least have the good grace to keep current with arguments opposed to ones own. My reading of the likes of Robert Sapolsky suggest this more constructive dialogue approach to advancing subject matter still sits alive and well.


Additional observations to build upon in due course

Two quite separate sets of thought are racing since Robert Sapolsky reframed the more biological-neuroscientist perspective on human decision-making.

Firstly that we have little if anything to do with the immediate decision-making process beyond having ownership of the biology we contain;

Second, that what do have is ability, and perhaps therein a responsibility, to be putting ourselves into the path of passing circumstance that offers better versions of those parts in us that effect wider event.

By Robert Sapolsky’s own admissions it is hard to reconcile with the second part. The second part being how we live without free will. How are we to remain morally governed or even inclined if we have no directive part in the play? How can we remain accountable for our actions and inactions. Why bother to give thought to anything at all? That is, however, to assume there is also pre-destiny. And of that I remain unconvinced. Nor is it, in my opinion, where Sapolsky’s account is directed.

How is this related to projects | within projects?

Modelling of complexity

Robert Sapolsky is presenting the challenges of addressing numerous levels of systems. Biological systems with huge complexity. Therein the realities of influence that relate to distance. The more layers one must pass through, the less influence we can expect to have. In the Limbic System he argues (lecture 14 of his 2010-2011 Human Behavioural Biology series), that this is measured in the number of synapse a message must cross through. In the world of construction projects I equate this to the commercial contracts across a supply chain. The more layers there are, the less influence the employer has over the lowest sitting links. The solution in both cases is creating extra pathways to override, intercept, or simply have visibility of interventions from elsewhere.

Sapolsky also reflects upon prior history as effecting current action potential. This is much the same as the history of our supply routes, cultural ties, beliefs, laws, customs, and propensity to revisit old wars. Much the same as within one organisation it is only in understanding the history of takeovers, mergers, successful relationships with clients and suppliers, shared relationships or long-standing feuds, that one can begin to better understand why the infrastructure of that business works in suboptimal or counter-intuitive ways. Furthermore, just as evolution is quick to punish outdated modes of being, so too does economics and cash-flow quickly reward those frameworks of processes finding work arounds to past solutions that are now in the way.

v | Behaviour | t

Firstly, returning to the challenge to free will. For purposes of my projects research free will or not seems less of a concern than to acknowledge behaviour is still a subject of potential control. It matters only that we know there is potential for change. This is Robert Sapolsky’s key point in arguing there is still reason to seek better ways.

Second, the point at which Robert Sapolsky seems less sure of how we then set ourselves up to live. My work around is taking the position that the resulting actions are not predetermined even if we are not directly acting with agency or otherwise. We can get to know the appropriateness of the controls. Influence the manner of the control. As Sapolsky says repeatedly, “we can know to know”. I would add that we can know why to know. We can seek to know what better control is and why, and let the process of converting action potentials within neurones worry about themselves. Our project controls at all levels need to account for such unpredictability regardless how the actions come to pass.

Modal confusion

There is also modal confusion addressed here. Robert Sapolsky makes a fabulous case for the multi-layered influences of our behaviour. That all of these factors can have impact, and that to look upon one mode alone is to miss the complexity that unfolds.

By example of this modal flexing, Robert Sapolsky talks of the amplification of actions where elevated testosterone plays a part. That it is society that rewards action and therein the challenge defence that testosterone helps reinforce. But this is not aggression. It is society that rewards the selfish, assertive, dominating types. Testosterone is defending challenge to status. But it is society determining what factors status is derived. Sapolsky’s observations are that it is therefore at a societal level we can hope to have some control. If we reward more kindness with more status, challenges to status will have testosterone fuelled kindness as the follow on. These become nudges toward a direction of travel. My question here is simply do we collectively think our direction of travel could be better, and if so what control of our meta-systems better reflects that goal?

My point here is that this is precisely the observation of our interactions themselves. That our own conflicting intentions become nuanced by our interactions with others, and [the illusion of] ourselves. But that in all cases there is potential for change. Not needing to be born of free will, but nor relevant if not. Change, born out of influence of the control environments we create. The modal level of risk we are addressing becomes critical to this assessment.

Accountability and responsibility

Victims one and all?

Next is the issue of whether free will is the only means by which we can give justification to holding an individual accountable, or least responsible for their actions. Robert Sapolsky argues that our justice systems are a leading edge of reform need. Not arguing that we let danger to society loose upon the streets, more that we have a little more empathy to the reason they the criminal actors are so broken at all. Controversial, emotive, and itself a position to polarise the lay persons he is reaching toward. A worthwhile debate but for my part, I sit opposed.

Responsibility without blame

Whether we become radical behaviourists like Skinner, hold out for the idealism of mind over matter, or allow a dualism of mind and body in any order of influence or prioritised proof of anything at all, there is a level of amalgamations of systems of interaction that we identify with as a whole.

Here again I see projects and organisational thinking troubled by the same modal confusion. I have previously written about how accountability can be retained whilst responsibility shifts between layers of engagement. I think this same principle can be applied in downward layers of attention without necessitating a reductionism towards subatomic physics. Not that Robert Sapolsky would disagree with that, at least as a pro or con towards free will. He argues that the necessary “bubbling up” from quantum mechanics to synaptic levels of biology are not feasible; they offer nothing positive toward a less random decision ability if free will is argued for; or offer a uniform influence across the trillions of synaptic messages that would therein have to all conform.

My point is that regardless of whether we think an individual wills an action or not, society functions at this higher level of control. We are all individuals by that metric. Regardless of whether that is an amalgamation of systems. Or whether consciousness or self determined agency are illusory. Both still reflect a contained system and with it one scale of control. Accordingly, we legally and in personal judgements hold these levels of a whole as stand alone. We are each that collection of systems, that illusion of self. And the human version of collaboration which our frontal cortex helps us navigate better than other animal systems, becomes the beginnings of wider human derived societal controls.

We can address accountability and responsibility in these same terms. The key point is to be clear in the modal level of engagement we are working from. It is these social laws that we deem consent to be age related. Or what constitutes acceptable exchange of chattel. Or what organisational complexity and what hierarchical order we attach and seek reward. This is the what. The containment of a social system we should know to know.

Concluding remarks

Free will or otherwise, we are all responsible for the societal, organisational, or moral controls past down to us. We are personally responsible to ensure we agree they are right, or make peace with how we reconcile that they are wrong. We also each retain responsibility for what we have been handed down, and accountability for what we pass on further therein. This is the burden of management of others. And the stewardship and duty in leadership that most attempt to evade.

I am therefore encouraged by the congruent conclusions all theory and science across these disciplines seems to land upon – at least from what I have found so far. To my mind (or the illusion therein), this still becomes a question of behaviour, and the manner of control.

This remains immensely complex, but perhaps able yet to be bettered by the nature of control.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Updating your software

Do we get old, or just out of date? Failing to keep up with the pace of change.

This is a reflection upon a month of projects | within projects of my own. My preparations for more learning and sharing. Conclusions reaffirmed that the plan is how to adapt, not how to optimise my time. All such reflection leaving me to ponder what it is to be part of the intended change.

First day of work – this is how quickly I witnessed change

My first day of work – city work – was in 1995. I recall computers were an optional mystery box, monitors claiming the biggest corner of a desk. Snopake or Tippex sat in everyone’s top drawer – paint applied to handwritten mistakes. Fax machines had replaced the telex, but only just. Financial reports ran from special printers, via a C:Prompt instruction in WANG. Is it nearly home time? No need to stop reading these green coloured pages of chopped trees. 5pm was announced by the smell of freshly lit cigarettes at one desk in three.

I remember my early PFI deals even into 2002 being managed by the fax. An endless churn of drafts of contracts. Often just the pages with handwritten notes, comments, edits, or rejections from your counterpart. The next formal edition of the draft then couriered – contracts by the box load – fresh from the lawyer’s print room. Meetings could last for days. Bankers, government, investors interests or contractors, for each the strategic walk out was a thing. Eventually, when bluff was called, the piles of papers in a boardroom on the day of financial close was a sight to behold. Thousands of pages, hundreds of documents. Each one ticking a box, as a condition precedent to the loan.

Then the Nokia 3310 was everywhere. As a better ‘phone. But business cards still had landline numbers first. You rang them and expected someone to say hello. I was junior enough to then inherit my first blackberry from my boss. It was not assumed you had a mobile phone. If a financial close was late, it was a moral dilemma as to whether to wait at your desk, a single spotlight in the dark. Is it to be another round of faxes, or dare I hope everyone else was going home.

First day of school – this is how quickly I now witnessed change

All of these thoughts passed me by this afternoon. Contemplating how much has changed in the two years since registering for my last MSc. A process today more automated and remote. No queues. No presence needed. Not like two years before – which I suppose was the last registration year before Covid19. In just two years much more is now assumed in student understanding of interfaces between apps and servers – and access to inboxes – once passwords have been retrieved. I found myself comparing these to little rewards for reaching the next level, the next download, the next stage gate. Mario or Zelda would be proud. New access to new instructions on video. The next mission. To then upload a photo or fill a form. Submitted to then trigger another email in an inbox, both of which are new. To then finally be linked back to the same login screens as before. But now returned triumphant. Transformed by the new identification tag, new passwords, and onward to new screens.

I don’t think I have ever been so grateful to finally land in a virtual space. Close enough to my new department to find a folder marked “instructions for postgraduates”. And from there I was just three clicks from a 65 page PDF. “Welcome!”, it begins, “All you need is here”.

First day – since yesterday

Covid19 has moved us all on at a pace. I think perhaps the pace of change in the last two years reflects as much as my last twenty. At least when I consider change in what is now normal in conducting trade. If only because of the enforced acceptance by many who would otherwise resist. University, just like all institutions, have found new ways. Adversity breeds invention. History tells us a good war can advance what is already on its way. But this time perhaps the adversity and societal shifts came in a fragile peace. Or maybe a bio-war – a viral enemy. Are we all now opened up to more change to come? And the more we change the more we support the next. How primed must we all now be to the potential for more.

First day – this is how I see the game has changed

Here is the kicker. How quickly has more change now arrived? Carrying under its arm nothing but new risks we each now face. To become obsolete or be ready for the next. Press continue, and to level-up.

Is this what now happens if you ever want to stop playing? Five years ago I would have insisted that that is the point of the pension and the plan. But with so much change, I think the moment I stop renewing my software and keep current via each new patch, is the last day. The final day. The full stop. Is this why life seems to speed up with age? If change is indeed all we do. To have counted too many days resisting, and feel too tired to then catch up. Maybe that is what it is to be old. Ignoring the body-craft and the face lifts. Maybe this is what it is to be old in mind.

First day – every day

Each of us a personal project as “time-bound intended change”

Change. It does not stop. It is intended only by our human needs. Impacted by our actions, and the merit of our deeds. Each of us as a project. A time-bound intended change. All of us one project – aligned – or as many projects as we may choose to disagree.

Within each of us, the less we intend to change, the more bound we feel to time. External to all of us, the less we account for the impact of our intended change, the less time left we may be bound.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

1,000 year project?

WARNING! This is a poem…

Immortality, immorality, our collective totality

Living to 1000 years. We are nearly there I’m told. The first already walks among us.  But it will all end in tears.  The target is 1 year prolonged per year. And we are already at 3 months. This is seemingly now science fact, but who deemed this a good idea?

Individual mortality is the key to our collective future. Nature’s way of keeping our firmware up to date, our DNA shelf life intact.  Still able to download the latest life apps, model updates, our iClone contract

By three our boundaries are discovered, challenged and reset. From five our persona is shining through or cruelly being offset. We are taught what is expected in the playground and class.  By our teens we push, rebel, rejoice, disregard, make anew, reflect and into adulthood pass.

By our twenties our views are solidified, we know what we hold dear. Our values, our futures, our priorities smear. Our persona and challenge now soiled and caked. Optimism or realism well mixed but partially baked. New doors open, but others firmly shut. Maybe the beginnings of getting stuck in a rut.

And so it goes, our opinions funnel, our outlooks narrow, life knocks and jostles. Gives but mostly takes. Our patience grows thin, realities set in.  Expectations and standards becoming ever clearer and absolute. Our defence of what’s right, steadfast, resolute

Until one day, we’re not so fresh faced. Momentum and change look more like challenge, and an unrelenting pace.  Excitement replaced with fear, distrust, scorn. A worry that this is someone else’s dawn.  Ahead a stark reality, that boundaries being tested now are the ones we built anew.  Our stores of hope and dreams now others plunder, it’s now our ideals that are askew.

This is everybody’s story, our shared indignity. But to hold tight an ideal, is to preserve our anchor in history.  It is forever the next generation that is unbound from yesterday.  As they prepare for life’s journey, we should relieve them of our luggage. Simply share your moral compass to help them find their own way.

And let the teacher be taught. Gift your experience but accept the gift of experience anew. Be open, be accepting, embrace change as privilege. Like bearing witness the dawning of a new day.  Be reverent not irrelevant. Transpose, translate, transform. The day you stop learning is the day you punch your ticket home.

Live in the moment, think in the future, remember the past. And if you want a different outlook, put on a different mask. If you climb a single mountain, your journey ends with a single view. Keep climbing new mountains, find new challenge, face your fears, and seek not to live forever in the cocoon of your bygone years.

But dear science, let’s not outstay our time. Let nature be, allow others time upon the throne. When our candles are many, roots deep, we become overgrown. Our aim is to leave a legacy, not extend our loan.  Advance us not to our third production stage, our diminishing return. Retire us gracefully, allow us a little oil to burn. When our work complete, a few years in the sun, when our software is obsolete.

To live beyond our means, is to extend our credit endlessly. Our overdraft looks hard to pay when interest is calculated continuously. Our negative return rate, our -2.71828, the cost of our outstayed welcome now increasing exponentially.

In our disposable world, what parts will be left at the end for our first 1000-year gene? The reboots, the upgrades, the contracts renewed. Fixed then dropped, broken, or cracked, our proteins hacked, batteries replaced, search history rephrased, old data erased.

Imagine William the Conqueror, 1000 years on. Staring, calculating, a returning gaze like Tolkien’s Sauron.  Having lived through so much, forgotten more than we know. What message would he offer, what imparting knowledge bestow?  A living history, a walking lament of past deeds, twenty lifetimes of sorrow. The death of so many seeds. An immortalised shell.  Eye now transfixed on the time we squander or sell.  Born in a time of the first paper as cash, Knut’s fight with the tide, crusades, religious genocide.  Allegiances changed in the blink of Harold’s eye. Towers built, countless blood spilt. Then rule of law signed, sciences uncovered, abstract thought, mathematics, continents and planets discovered.  Diseases tamed, civilisations maimed, powerhouses built, fought, elevated and shamed.

The 1000-year man. Who could live through so much, so many histories repeated. Technology advancing, human endeavour undefeated.  Lesson unlearned, a planet spurned. A 1000 years to plot and scheme. Or just chill on the sofa, lol at a meme, mindless viewing on Netflix, face stuffed with ice cream.  Only one Amazon is growing as our forests pack our greed.  Space adventure paid by courier, greatness measured in likes, not deed.

Lowering IQ to have common denominator.  Our own Will I am the conqueror, technology our subjugator.  Our internet of things, the knowledge of the world.  A flower for humanity, knowledge on every petal unfurled.  Our library of Alexandria, present in every palm and family homestead.  Packed to the rafters, an infinity of learning, yet nine in ten hits taken from the top shelf instead.

Technology advancing rapidly, but Moore’s law seemingly on the wane.  Lives set on comfort, popularity our polarity, our ambition merely fame.  With such time to waste, and yet in constant haste, science declared natures timeline is too soon.  We will defy you with our biological boon. Swept aside, cleaned up, parts anew, our genetic nod to Trigger’s broom

So is longevity humanities gift, or just our final curse? An immortal soul aboard an ungodly hearse.  And in his old age, 1000-year-old man will be stuck in his unfathomable cage. Perhaps travelling to some distant place, body re-engineered for outer space.  There is time yet. We have a whole universe to explore, claim and deface.

A 1000 years, it’s not for me.  Someone else can transcend the approaching singularity.  No upgrades to my firmware, or artificial reboots to my health, to accompany a constant recalibration of self.  The endless wonder of what life’s really for. I’ll be content with my 3 score years and ten, well maybe then just a couple more…

Warren 18th December 2019

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

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