Future Search/Search Conf. LO6981

Marion Brady (mbrady@digital.net)
Thu, 25 Apr 1996 15:05:08 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO6939 --

I try to hang in there on most of the threads on the LO list, but
some are just too far up the wall for me. Others I _think_ I'm following,
but a missing concept or two--concepts which are probably elementary to
others--just haven't appeared in my pursuit of the things in which I'm
interested, so I don't know whether I'm following the action or not.
I am, for example, not clear about the meaning of "object
orientation"-- which is pretty embarrassing considering that, in a
discussion of it, my postings have been referenced. (That, of course, is
another thread. However, having mentioned it, I'd appreciate any offer of
help). I offer, not as an excuse for my ignorance but as perhaps
explanation, that I come at these LO threads from a direction almost
certainly unlike that of any of the other nearly 2,000 list
participants--an attempt to change in fundamental ways what young kids are
taught. I've spent a near-lifetime trying to convince the educational
establishment worldwide that, as useful as specialized courses such as
biology, geography, mathematics, economics, etc. are, there's absolutely
no way they can be meshed to give kids a comprehensive, holistic,
systemically integrated general education. A "supradisciplinary" approach
is necessary.)
What interests me in the "Future Search" thread is the following
from Steven Cabana's post:

>(1) The Shifts and Changes in the Environment. So first, we look outside
>the organization at the changes in the world which surrounds the system we
>are in (i.e. the trends and discontinuities impacting us). Then we
>identify the most desirable and probable futures of the world around us.

As those who follow this list know, one of my "things" is the
contention that, when "we look outside the organization at the changes in
the world which surrounds the system we are in," we're only going to see
what we think is there to be seen. This isn't, of course, a new idea. (I
like Pirsig's succinct way of putting it in his LISA: "Seeing isn't
believing; believing is seeing.") But if it's true that we only see what
we're prepared to see, then without a really _comprehensive_ model of
reality--a model encompassing everything known (all aspects of the _total_
culture) we don't really have an adequate tool for seeing "the trends and
discontinuities impacting us."
And, without a _comprehensive_ model of reality, we don't have in
consciousness (I hope this is understandable) all the "bits and pieces" of
reality which, when combined in new and novel ways, make possible fresh
thinking about either the "trends and discontinuities impacting us," or
"the most desirable and probable futures of the world around us."
Pasting on something I wrote yesterday for a local paper may help
me make at least part of my point more concretely:

A few weeks ago I attended a meeting designed to encourage local
citizens to become more active shapers of the county's future. It started
me thinking about some of the reasons why our downtowns have died, why so
few neighbors actually neighbor, why so many of our residential areas look
cooky-cutter sterile, why we must spend so much time in our cars.
Some of the reasons are obvious: Malls killed downtowns. Central
heat and air and attached garages isolated us from our neighbors. Rigid
zoning eliminated the clutter that creates visual interest, character, and
warmth. Planning put miles between important places, requiring us to get
in our cars and go off in one direction to work, another direction to
shop, another to play, another to go to school, another to find
professional services. =09
None of this is likely soon to change. The new school of urban
design that sees in the 19th century village a model for the future will
have a hard time putting its stamp on towns and cities already in place.
And local bureaucracies won't be easily convinced that many familiar
policies and procedures are counterproductive
We're pretty much stuck with the status quo. There is, however,
one appalling product of modern planning that it might be possible to
eliminate: the deserted mall. In every part of the county (indeed, all
across America) these dead monuments stand, depressing nearby land values,
attracting vandals and vagrants, forcing ugliness on every passerby. If
the situation were temporary, it might be tolerable. But some of our
malls have stood empty, or nearly so, for decades.
What might happen if policies were adopted to encourage the sale
or lease of the airspace over mall parking lots for the building of
residential facilities? Consider the possibilities:

=95 Town populations could expand with far less sprawl and without
the accompanying costly demand for new streets, sewers, and other
municipal services.
=95 Malls would enjoy built-in customer bases, stabilizing
businesses and making abandonment far less likely.
=95 The elderly and the handicapped would have a residential option
that lessened or even eliminated their dependence on driving or public
=95 The tax base would be vastly expanded.
=95 Mall patrons would enjoy covered parking, a major asset in
Florida's heat and driving rains.
=95 Shading acres of asphalt would lower urban temperatures and
decrease air conditioning costs.
=95 Automobile use would decline, with attendant environmental and
infrastructure benefits.
=95 The compactness of these new living-shopping areas would foster
a sense of community so lacking in much of modern America. =20
=95 Mall owners could realize major profit on space that now
produces no direct income at all.
=95 Densely populated areas where people recognize each other are

While they were playing with planning and zoning policies,
officials could do something else likely to have significant positive
consequences. There are all kinds of potential entrepreneurs among
us--craftspeople, semi-professionals, artists, cooks, technicians,
candymakers--who can produce valuable goods and provide useful services.
Unfortunately, margins of profit in many such businesses aren't sufficient
to support both a house and a shop. Identifying appropriate areas and
rezoning them to encourage the combining of living and working space could
go a long way toward recapturing the vitality that made 19th century towns
so successful. It isn't difficult to imagine such places practically
exploding with enterprise
. . .

Now these may or may not be good ideas. My point is that they're
a little off the beaten track--which, given the dynamic nature of reality,
most ideas must be if they're going to be useful--and they originated from
"mixing and matching" old ideas--juxtaposing elements of a formal,
comprehensive model of reality. The elements of such a model say, "Hey,
if you're trying to look at this matter from every possible angle, don't
forget about me!" (If anyone's interested, the model I use for just this
purpose, a model created and refined with the help of a lot of
adolescents--is at <http://ddi.digital.net/~mbrady> Click on "There's
More," and scroll down to "A Conceptual Framework.")
With a comprehensive model of _total_ reality (an organized list
of old ideas) in hand, this juxtaposing and realigning of the elements of
reality--aspects or subsets of environment, actors, ideas, action,
time--can be systematized, thereby opening up a vast (perhaps
near-infinite) range of alternative ideas.
Once again (at least for me) it comes down to: "You can't do a
really good job of what you're trying to do unless you first know _this_.
"This," for most of us, lies deeply buried in implicitly held, largely
unexamined cultural premises which, with a proper school curriculum, can
be made explicit and begin to work for us.=20
Sorry for the length.

Marion Brady


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