Ming the Mechanic:
Individual and Social Holons

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Individual and Social Holons2004-05-29 18:08
picture by Flemming Funch

On Blog of Collective Intelligence Jean-Francois Noubel mentioned an interview with Ken Wilber where he talks about the distinction between individual and social holons:
Briefly: individual holons are holons with a subjective interior (prehension, awareness, consciousness); they have a defining pattern (code, agency, regime) that emerges spontaneously from within (autopoietic); and they have four drives (agency, communion, eros, agape). Examples of individual holons (or compound individuals) include quarks, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms....

Social holons emerge when individual holons commune; they also have a defining pattern (agency or regime), but they do not have a subjective consciousness; instead, they have distributed or intersubjective consciousness. Examples include galaxies, planets, crystals, ecosystems, families, tribes, communities.... Both individual and social are holons, and they both follow the twenty tenets. Actually, individual and social holons are not different entities, but different aspects of all holons, since all holons have an interior and an exterior in singular and plural forms (the four quadrants), but they are indeed different aspects that cannot be merely equated.
And as he points out, when you confuse these with each other, it becomes a mess. Example: when you decide to lift your arm, and you lift it, all the cells in your arm go along. None of them decide to disagree and go somewhere else. They are parts of your arm, and subject to your centralized will. But a society works very differently. People are not parts, but members, with their own individual wills. Rulers with fascistic tendencies will often try to make society work as if its members are parts that simply are cogwheels that have to go along with the program, and that never really works.

The idea is that an individual holon has a coherent sentience, whereas a social holon is some kind of collaborative negotiation between its members.

Of course all holons have both aspects at the same time. The point is to not confuse the roles with each other, or it becomes apples and oranges.

Now, he's right of course, and it is as usual a brilliant way of putting it. But it also makes me think.

In a society, yes, it obviously isn't just a top-down hierarchy, no matter what kind of fascist police state dictator is trying to run it. But groups still act in many ways as individual holons. Just not in that predictable one-dimensional manner.

If a thousand people decide to do the same thing at the same time. Like go to a concert, or do some kind of smart mob happening. All the people who showed up are the people who showed up. 100%. To act as a unit, there's really no requirement that the component parts have been ordered in advance to do so by one of the units. When you lift you arm, most of the time it would be impossible to pinpoint exactly where that order came from, and what or who exactly made it. You lift you arm, because it somehow seems right at the time. Millions of cells getting in sync is what happens and various other faculties being in sync with that, including some kind of mental meaning and maybe idea of causality. Likewise, a thousand people find themselves in the same place at the same time, because it somehow seemed right and they were in-sync. Thus any concerted group action carries aspects of being an individual holon. It is just a matter of a different kind of continuity and more dimensions to it. Next week some of the same people might show up as part of another group of thousand people, or some other number. And that in itself might be very coherent. The people who show up, show up. The people who don't, don't. That in itself is not subject to a lot of negotation or disagreement.

The atoms and the cells in your arm aren't the same as they were yesterday, so that analogy breaks down quickly as well.

The model that a mental unit makes a decision and then some sort of body or body part carries it out - that's just too simple. For practical purposes, when I lift my arm, it might seem to work like that, and be practical to think of it that way. But it is really a lot more complicated than that. Or simple in a different way. For social systems, it doesn't work like that, so trying to make it so is a failed political ideology to start with.

Some kind of multi-dimensional swarm model might turn out more useful. The atoms in my body happen to be swarming in that format right now. But yesterday and tomorrow they're different. A hundred years ago, or a hundred years from now, those same atoms will be part of all sorts of different things in different places. At a sub-sub-atomic level it is even more wild. Particles zipping around between multiple universes and through different times. Nothing ever stays one unit, individual or social, for any meaningful length of time, if we look at it at that level.

Anyway, I think they're still useful distinctions. And part of the point of Jean-Francois's post was whether and how individual qualities scale up to social qualities.
For instance I recently asked myself whether a group of wise individual would emerge and act as a wise group. Or to put it in a more general frame, can a group benefit from the individual "social qualities" of its participants? My first reply was « yes », since we naturally advocate that if we want a group to have such or such quality, individuals need to get these qualities first. Then the second reply that came to my mind was: "maybe not"...
A group of smart people doesn't necessarily become smart. A group of people with the best of qualities, well-intentioned, experienced, might or might not become useful. Often, what the group is, and how functional or successful it is, doesn't relate directly to the qualities of its members. Or, rather, we often can't guess at the relationship between the individuals and the group.
On a more practical perspective, is it possible to envision emerging properties as the result of the mastering of these properties at an individual level? Do these properties have to be value-oriented? Will a group of wise individuals turn into a wise group or can it turn in a global mess with umpredictable side effects?
Maybe there could be ways of individually mastering certain qualities, which then translate into emergent properties of a very well functioning group. It probably just isn't the kind of qualities we normally would cultivate individually. A different kind of qualities.

Some people typically do very well in being catalysts or collaborators in groups. But usually only in certain kinds of groups. If a person has well cultivated qualities and skills that match what fits with the other members and the group itself, then it works. But not in groups with very different kinds of members. Few people have any clue how to be part of the success of ANY group. And maybe the attempt of cultivating that would be the wrong way of looking at it. Oxygen and Hydrogen form water, and they can form certain other things too. But there are many more things they certainly can't form. There's no point in a Hydrogen atom trying to be a Uranium atom.

So, it might be more about how one finds who and what one fits with - the people and circumstances one will resonate with, and where collective intelligence will emerge - rather than trying to become a perfect component in everything possible.

And what fits might change from moment to moment. So it is about being able to find it right now. Right now there are some things you can do, some ways of doing it, some people to do it with, that would produce absolutely marvelous results, rather easily. The Flow. And there are lots more constellations that just wouldn't lead anywhere great. If you have pre-conceived over-simplified ideas about those having to work, it makes it worse. If you are flexible and multi-dimensional enough to be open to something different than you know, and your perceptions are keen enough to notice where the energetic point of leverage is right now, it might be very different. That's very different from what both individual and social holons were supposed to be about. It's neither. It's an ad-hoc holon willing to re-invent itself anytime. Being part of something bigger than itself, where there's the most synergy, action, excitement. And conscious enough to catch a different a better wave when it appears.

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21 Aug 2005 @ 16:30 by anon @ : no social holons
there are NO social holons. every holon is fundamentally individual and social, and thus there is just holons, and no distinction between individual/social holons  

23 Nov 2005 @ 15:01 by jonah @ : syn-ergo
linkining you two together with synergy and conscious enough is not catching yet ming has wonderous obsevations and for me new insite than anon mearly dismiss what is very clear distinction,soon becomes as missing in some omnes pocket thus im proud to be a hollon called hoorn of holland ,..dutch we with one foot in the water of the salt and the other in a wood shoe cluttered with mud and fresh water can and do here by state that the sign of jonahs anger lies in the lie of the tree of rev22 note the tree of life is an official unit of exchange for product and fruit of the tree,by sovreign right and duty
the claim was established and denied in three cross duristictional law levels in act and qld ...take due notice of this declaration the tree belongs to every one,over seen by the national level of sovreign indigenant covenant..no nation has yetblaid claim..at the rate of one pound of the tree per nation Alfa Beta nation, tribe family etc member exchange rate is set by law courts one pound at the monent @ 3000 $.au this gives an average tribe full and equal share,any where in the world ,it goes direct to your tribal members and can be spent at any ab.origonal tent embassy as soon as some one asks..trials continue
do i appeal to the country that declared war upon me since 1984 by legal lie ..the tree the most they could prove was that i possesed the tree satan knows frees those bound of debt,there is infact no reason fo the law other than to fullfilla replay of the earlier lie ,but we are grown ups now god is real and you wont have to use the bird flue like wwi ..fatimas warning is still valid
the rhyme is devine... my people from whom i was stolen .my dutch brothers do we need to go to the world court ..or can we just say to you the least ,who yet is greater than the baptiser ,satan this is your world ,you test this unworthy creation yet for fear of your wrath many do right by man yet wrong to ,upon the servant of even the least oh satan the me that create thee ,push up the flame they all yet sleep..,thats not a bad idea ..good thing no one reads this stuffup  

30 Nov 2005 @ 05:59 by johan @ : pattern of the heavens crotons
know there are the seven heavens
here ..celesta..priritas..
times 2 as the arms of the root reveal
the arms cut as of the string roun the mark
give the 6 pills of mans obligato
re the 3 hells and 3 heavens they
emdodt..it is part of the fatima revelation
in referance to these times of gods
test ..that men face the truth of their act
befor the accuser who must proove
man can not ////
befor god be orded to plead.../
case must be proven
this a test that
we shall see  

1 Dec 2005 @ 02:51 by jonah @ : lasst try
evolving means things work

1 Dec 2005 @ 07:06 by jonah @ : second seal
that man calls science has science proofs
that man call religion has spiritual proofs
we of the jinn begot the celeste
religion begins with Alpha
science in numbers
of the numberrs the ones following the first using the a
alfa...a appears in sciences numbers
all numbers before that claimed of the alfa
belong to the ginn,the hart .the deer. the horn,the hoorn
thats me rebut
me is what i am calls himself  

19 Dec 2014 @ 16:03 by Faiq @ : WGVgwYeeKpeOFMsWRIE
To me this story represents way too much snceod-guessing on both sides and not enough frank communications. First of all, I don't understand why didn't you simply ask the sales rep directly to explain how come she wasn't able to meet her sales target while the rest of her colleagues in the sales team were able to meet theirs? That would have been the beginning of a far more productive dialogue to pinpoint precisely what was causing her to under-perform over the last six months, rather than you as a boss simply presuming that it was all down to her relationship troubles and that she was just using excuses to hide that "fact". By not giving her the chance to confront the reality of the sales figures of the whole team you are denying her an opportunity for growth as well as being rather misogynistic in assuming that the reason a female sales rep may underperform must be due to boyfriend problems. If you don't accept her rationale that her underwhelming performance was due to a downturn in the market, etc., why didn't you say that to her face and explain your own reasons for why her excuses didn't wash with you. That way she would have been forced to confront her own shortcomings - after all, problem recognition is the first step to problem resolution. Or maybe you would find out that there was still a legitimate reason why she underperformed whilst the rest of her colleagues met their sales targets. And if you really have grounds to suspect that boyfriend troubles may be the root cause of all this, you or your right-hand-woman Kelly could have asked her tactfully but directly about it to see if she herself considered that to be the reason. Simply assuming that personal issues might have been the reason without giving the employee a chance to confirm or disconfirm the assumption herself is NOT the way to helping the emplooyee even if personal issues were indeed the problem. And why did you have to hide the fact that you had been trying to help her by rescheduling the call rota? Explaining to her beforehand that this was what you were going to do in an effort to help her increase her sales leads would have given her fair warning about the changes she was going to face, because otherwise it would have been simply seen as disruptive to the sales team who had no clue why the call rota was changed (which was perhaps partly the basis to her claim that the sales team felt they were being messed about by you as the boss).Also, even if you don't buy the story that her underperformance was to do with the market or the product, it would still have been helpful to really listen to her arguments rather than dismiss them out of hand. After all, she is a member of the frontline sales reps dealing directly with clients and competitors, and learning about the arguments being put forward by clients in declining your offerings would only be useful to the company ultimately. And perhaps if you have given her a chance and help her talk through the problems constructively, maybe you would discover that perhaps there is indeed a perception issue in some clients and maybe you need to change the sales propositions for some of your clients even though there's nothing wrong with the product itself, that the sales pitch that she had been using previously no longer worked and so the problem is not that she underperformed because of her boyfriend troubles but simply that she needed to change her sales tactics. What has transpired instead seems like a lost opportunity and you seemed to have just taken the path of least resistence by just getting rid of an underperforming sals rep who was formerly a star on the team. I'm not saying that you've necessarily made a bad decision by getting rid of her - she is underperforming, after all - but it looks like it could have been a much more INFORMED decision if a frank and serious dialogue has taken place.  

23 Dec 2014 @ 16:03 by Thiago @ : WWkISdWniFWKBvWZP
I suspect you're right. In geranel I held my tongue, as I was coming along to listen and learn, not to be a snooty Catholic, but this pretty much caused me to throw my hands up in despair.Leaving aside theology, it seemed to contradict all I'd been told about their care in preaching.I'm pretty sure, given that we're in more or less the same neck of the woods, that you could make an educated stab at which church this was in, but I'll be nice and decline to say. ;)  

Other stories in
2014-11-07 23:12: Welcome to the 5th dimension
2011-11-07 17:22: Notice the incidental
2010-07-14 13:35: Consciousness of Pattern
2010-06-28 00:03: Pump up the synchronicity
2009-10-29 14:03: Convergent or Divergent
2007-08-05 23:45: Perverse incentives
2007-06-22 22:18: Elementary magic
2007-03-21 14:20: Cymatics and group formation
2007-03-15 01:06: Structural holes
2007-02-27 23:50: Leverage

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