Ming the Mechanic:
The start of NCN

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The start of NCN2002-02-13 03:59
12 comments
pictureby Flemming Funch

It might be useful to look again at some of the elements that came together to make NCN happen in the first place, almost 6 years ago. Maybe because a note was struck then that we've somehow stopped hearing, or maybe because we need to learn from past mistakes, I'm not sure. Below I include my own brief rendition of what happened, written way back then as well. In retrospect, those were very hopeful, excited times. It seemed like something big and very promising was put into motion. Note that at the time I wrote this, NCN wasn't much of a website. Just a couple of pages with people's projects on. No member area like this. The discussions were all taking place over e-mail.



Starting the New Civilization Network
30 May 95

I started NCN March 13th, 1995. Well, all I did really was that I sent out a message on the Whole Systems mailing list.

I had for a long time been wanting to do something more actively in the direction of making a better form of society, creating a future where all of our needs are met, working on global issues, as well as on local communities.

Probably my biggest inspiration in that direction was the New Civilization Game, written in 1982 by my friend Bill Robertson. It provided me with a really large scale perspective, such as in "OK, here is a planet, what do we need to run it, let's start organizing it."

Before getting around to NCN, I had earlier started the Whole Systems list, in part to form a foundation for positive work in making our planet work better. It had grown nicely to about 500 members, if we include its companion Whole Info list, and had very inspiring people and dialogue.

But I was also looking for ways of getting more action to take place. I mean, more than theoretical discussions and electronic networking. So, my idea was that people could get together and work on projects of their own choosing, but with tangible deliverables that they could present to others. Also, that very simple networking principles would make it work. My inspiration there was the TeamNet principles that Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps are talking about it their books.

Another set of principles that I thought fit in nicely with an emerging new civilization are the learning organization concept. See, I don't think anybody can claim in advance to now exactly how a new civilization should work. It is something we have to discover along the way, and doing so requires that we learn to work together and have a meaningful dialogue. And also that we each discover and transcend our own limiting mental models.

An emerging new civilization is also an example of infinite game playing. One of my favorite books is "Finite and Infinite Games" by James Carse. A new civilization is not something with a finite end, it is not a game where there are winners and losers. It is an ongoing development of a culture, something we are discovering and playing with as we go along, and to that degree we are all winners.

Also, what in part told me that it was time to take action was that I ran into Leon Vickman and New Civilizaiton Model One. This was based on that several people on the whole systems list had mentioned my name to Leon, and since he had just recently gotten e-mail access he sent me a message. We met a few weeks later, as I found that he lives just a few miles from me in Encino in the San Fernando Valley.

New Civilization Model One had existed for more than 10 years as a group. Mostly it is a loose collection of people who wanted to do a better kind of community. They have been having an ongoing dialogue in the paper equivalent of a mailing list. They have a piece of land and some efforts in the direction of organic farming and a new time-based exchange system.

The New Civ Encino thing inspired me, but also I felt it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted something more free-form, self-organizing, including many different projects. But I was keen on using the term "New Civilization", so I had to think a little bit about how to both support and align with Leon's New Civilization endeavour, but also making something bigger and more general without stepping on it. So, I ended up with the name "New Civilization Network", and the model of a loose network of self-organizing teams. The sub-divisions of New Civilization Model One could be regarded as teams within NCN, or as the crews that make up the Model One project, and we have an all-around synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas.

I had been struggling with the idea of writing a New Civilization Manifesto of some sort, to be a key inspirational document. However, as often happens when I deliberately sit down to try and write something Big and Important, inspiration doesn't really come. It tends to come when one is looking the other way.

So, I eventually decided just to send out a note off the top of my head with the ideas for a new civilization network. And that is what I posted to to the whole systems list.

I hadn't really expected such an overwhelming response. Lots of people started signing up and some, Gene Bellinger in particular, circulated the message on other mailing lists, such as the learning org list, and more people joined up.

So, within about 4 weeks there were about 100 people who had signed up.

I was also quite surprised and impressed with the quality of people who signed up. It was a somewhat more intellectual crowd than I had expected, but that probably in part comes from the mailing lists on which the initial message was circulated. Somehow I hadn't really envisioned the amount of management consultants and educators that would be interested in such an endeavour. Overall, a very resourceful group of people.

In retrospect it seems like it was the exact right time to start a new civilization project. It just seemed to be in the stars or in the air in various ways.

Just a few weeks later I walked into a bookstore and noticed that Alvin Toffler just had written a book called "Creating a New Civilization". A little annoying that he has to go and steal such a good title, I would like to have written a book with that name. But anyway, it is just another thing that shows that new civilizations are in the air.

Bob Gebelein popped up and had also written a book on new civilization years ago, called "Re-educating myself". That is new civilization in the sense of the civilization of a person, becoming civilized in a new way.

Anyway, the New Civilization Network now being in existence, the question is what to do with it and how to get it to work.

- Flemming Funch


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12 comments

13 Feb 2002 @ 04:18 by jstarrs : Début
Good to read about the beginnings of NCN, Ming, thank you. I'm wondering about your constant doubt/questioning as to 'how' and 'what' the NCN can evolve into. It seems you have a yearning for something (what?) that never seems to be acheived. Is this some kind of inherent thing we have to always search for what we think is missing? Lately, the rooms have been very productive,inviting, contributative with many new people dropping by in an atmosphere of confidence. I think there's a progression here and that, given time, a pattern will naturally evolve. Anyway, I can't help but thank you again for your efforts and good work towards a better world of understanding & love between the beings that inhabit it....and, er...what, exactly, is that note that we're not hearing?  


13 Feb 2002 @ 04:38 by ming : Yearning
.. plink! ... plonk! ... hmmm, I can't get it. Yeah, I actually think the most fruitful space for growing something great is when there's a constant yearning for something more .... A continuously unfolding mystery that we can keep exploring. Doesn't mean we have to go around being lost all the time. And, for me, it is definitely related to searching for the triggers or the patterns that make our global brain crystalize into resonant action. Doesn't mean we all have to be focused on that. But for me, that's what keeps me awake at night. Or what keeps me dreaming. And if I can just do both at the same time a little more often, I just might hear that note again.  


13 Feb 2002 @ 08:24 by barryc : New Civilization idea in the Air
Yes, New Civilization was in the air. In 1995 when Flemming was sending out his email I had just completed an 800 manuscript and was searching for a title. We considered Building a New Civilization but thought it would be too bold. However we did end up with “The Rise of a New Civilization” in the subtitle. When we finally found a publisher who would publish it the title was changed to Infinite Wealth – A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era. So yes the idea of the creation of a new civilization was definitely in the air in the mid 90’s and is even stronger today. Barry Carter  


13 Feb 2002 @ 11:35 by mmmark : Yearning
Well Ming – This is a good post and might well remain as one of the best indoctrinations for new members & members. Yearning is certainly one of those things quite human and the type of incentive that seems insatiable, which can be a very good thing, but then the quality of our yearning will bring the expected result. I think lots of experimentation goes a long way to finding new things that work and I will do my best to participate in this virtual community.  


13 Feb 2002 @ 13:22 by shawa : Hi, Ming
I´m right behind you when you express this... mmm ... what? I can almost - but not quite - grasp what you are saying in between the lines. Must be irritating not to be able to put your finger just right, on the spot. I think it has something to do with feedback loops; I´m very surprised at the amount of talent that is expressed in, let´s say the small group of the Newslogs - which is where I currently circulate. Not mentioning more than 2000 websites! Of course, I can´t see the "big picture" the way you do, but my hunch is that "what is lacking" is somehow linked to a quantum jump, when suddenly a whole system of separate parts vibrates in a synchronic, coherent way. Are you looking for a laser effect for NCN? I don´t know, I´m interested and observing. I also have my idea about *levels" of communication; being a psychotherapist trained in psychosynthesis, I can see that if you don´t take into account the different packages/levels of understanding, you´ll get nowhere; the whole thing will just go growing indefinitely, until it tires itself and dribbles out.Like dinosaurs, small head, big body.Perhaps you already have what you need, but you have to re-arrange it to see the next step. Do you have a workgroup on that ? (You must be awfully tired to receive advice).  


13 Feb 2002 @ 13:44 by jazzolog : The Answer
I think Lady Moonshadow is on to something here, and perhaps it is not unlike what we all are yearning for. We have our different words and energies and sometimes it sounds like a bunch of jabber I suppose. I live on a meadow and in the forest and I hear the different sounds and songs and it all makes beautiful sense to me. I think what Lady is saying is that we can sound like that, as we tune in to each other and as we harmonize with the sound of us. We are not tuning to anyone's pitch pipe. We are making a sound together, and as we hear our own sound let us hear the others and become attuned. I think we can trust our sound. Trust is the leap.  


13 Feb 2002 @ 13:53 by ming : Coherency
Yes, all of the above. I'm looking for a coherency, an emergence of synergy, a 100th monkey thing. And I have intuitions about necessary parts that might come together into a bigger whole. .... And, hmm, I guess I've always sort of missed a team to work with on this. There has never been a lack of people who would join the whole thing, and who thought it was a great thing, or people who were willing to talk about it and participate ... and many wonderful people at at that ... but somehow I've always missed the people who're *building* it with me. It this were a playground, there's never been a lack of kids who show up and say "Hey, we love your playground Mister. The slides and the swings are really cool, and we love your vision with this whole thing. We're with you, and we're gonna bring all our friends. We'll try to keep the place clean. And maybe, could we have some monkey bars, too?" I find that very rewarding and makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing, but I'm missing some designers and some welders to come along, who both know how to build playground equipment with their hands and have a sense where it organically is going.  


13 Feb 2002 @ 14:39 by simpleman : BUILDERS
Ming, Ive only been a member of NCN for a month or so. The timing could not have been better for I had been in a state of commercialism for a couple of years. NCN has opened my mind again. I find myself thinking all the time about ways of making our visions a reality. I have had a couple of obstacles lately. I'm generally a very trusting person, but become very nervous when considering inviting a co-worker, an acquantance, or just a stranger to visit NCN. The last thing I want to do is corrupt of minds with rotten apples. I also feel that there is a group of people without access to the WWW who share our visions and contribute in many ways. Perhaps you know of a way to reach potential members without jeopardizing NCN. I want to be a builder, but may need a little direction. I myself THANK YOU for this site, which I hope is not just a playground.  


14 Feb 2002 @ 05:36 by shawa : AhA!
Hundredth monkey thing... Now you´ve got the finger on the pulse. I think I am a "welder", and right behind ya. Love, -  


16 Feb 2002 @ 16:43 by maxtobin : Ditto
I'd guess i would be a welder also, I put things/people together. What sort of designers do you want ming? I am working with a very clever designer architect programmer from Shanghai China here in NZ (permanent resident)at the moment i want to get him involved with the NCN group, he could translate to Chinese!! He has taken a local company to Microsoft gold partner status in the last two years (only three years in the MS environment) he is an expert in mobile internet (2.5 million customers on a pageing network UNIX/LINUX server side) and now works with motorolla's java phone as well as all the PDA's in terms of delivering mobile content. latest project is a content management tool in visual studio.net/ C#. Hes very busy, but I think I may be able to get him interested in the technology if not the whole philosophy (we make small steps accross the cultural zones). I'm not a programmer or systems person but these are the folk I work with. We all do what we are moved to do! Good to see this historic stuff it helps us new comers to see the depth of your commitment to our cause. Thanks again for the wonderful space. What sort of sytem are you running this on?  


18 Feb 2002 @ 04:37 by ming : This System
This server is running Linux, and the programming is mostly in the PHP language and using MySQL for database engine. Well, I could certainly use people who are proficient in PHP. But, also, there's a lot that could be done in terms of working out how to connect with a number of standard protocols for transferring stuff between diverse platforms on different servers. E.g. XML based standards that might make it possible to share a knowledge base between many different sites. It was always my vision that NCN would consist of many different autonomous nodes that just agree on how they talk with each other.  


2 Aug 2004 @ 19:21 by ov : Where I came in
Interesting to go back through the older stories. I like the category listing that you have going here Ming, it allows these old stories to come to the surface.

I got my first NCN news update a couple of days ago. I thought that was cool. Says that I joined Feb 27, 2002. That was shortly after this article was written. So has anything changed in the last two and a half years? I've talked to some and they say all I missed was a conflict and a bunch of good people that have left. But then in that same NCN newsletter it also said that in the last month I had 1894 accesses by 443 unique visitors to my blog, so maybe they didn't leave, they just stopped talking. That's the nice thing about cyberspace is you can go back in time and pretend that everything is still happening, unlike real life where people disapear and you never see them again.  



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