A Common Psychosocial Protocol for Platforms and Beyond
Driven by necessity and opportunity, tectonic changes are underway in human organisation, and platforms are already major drivers, harnessing attention and data both for self-serving and more noble reasons.
In his essay “Converging towards a Common Protocol of Organizing” co-founder of Platform Design Toolkit Simone Cicero points to modular convergence in transcontextual organisational archetypes, while in “Did you say Regenerative Platforms?” he presents a sobering view of some of the challenges and pitfalls of what regeneration may actually necessitate.
In the following brief overview (and cautionary tale), I suggest that a common psychosocial protocol enabling a similarly modular approach might be even more important for platforms interested in building at scale and speed the personal and social capital and capacities necessary to guide, inspire, and steward people and the planet away from the worst avoidable scenarios, and towards the better achievable ones.
The 60-second version:
Team human is called upon to bring about a species-level phase shift in behavioural coordination, on a sub-evolutionary timescale. Globally, tech standards are commonplace, and organisational protocols are cohering, while psychosocial protocols are more divergent than ever. Human drives for stability and change must be governed deliberately for prosocial, pro-ecological, ethical self-organisation beyond personal and group biases and differences. Proposed is a global standard for how we use our attention.
KONNEKT® is a deliberately reductionist universal psychosocial interoperating protocol — a process-based OS or “API” scaffold — upon which existing context-specific intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organisational “apps” can be adapted and shared.
“Konnekting” is a heuristic of the life process, based on a naturalistic attentional algorithm referenced through history, variously referred to as context-concept-concrete, and symbolised by three ubiquitous symbols: ⏸▶️⏩
By bringing emotionally embodied attention again and again to presence, purpose, process, and progress, konnekting automatically exercises the fundamentals of human well-being and ethical action in the world.
The non-linguistic symbolic totem and verb comprise a transcultural abstraction layer, expanding trust, belonging, and interoperability beyond positional identities and differences, while leaving local and tribal identities, silos, and wisdom intact. We can have our parochial cake, and eat it.
KONNEKT® is intended not only for platforms and stakeholder groups, but for all societal sectors and scales, as the primary human activity enabling regenerative cultures and behaviours.
As simplistic as it may sound, we are all only one shared word, process, and identity away from massively greater global consilience.
You are invited to lead the way by getting yourself, your team, your culture, and your platforms konnekted, thereby building a responsive, attuned human world one microculture at a time.
Global Coordination — nice idea. But how, bruh?
Towards team human — a self-reorganising organism
In the context of entangled systemic global challenges, optimising for the endurance of complex life and human joy strongly suggests that we’d better get good at working together coherently, at a whole new level, and fast.
In the abstract, the infinite game is this: to enable, generate, and steward syntropic order faster than entropy can generate disorder, while minimising the suffering of sentient beings. Practically, it means living in the difficult process of building personal responsibility and integrity, while expanding our circles of concern and collective influence. The big audacious goal? The survival of human joy.
Commune more, consume less
A heuristic principle for winning this game is “commune more, consume less”. Social prosperity and material austerity are not only not mutually exclusive, the former is a prerequisite of the latter.
Unless we train ourselves to meet our human needs abundantly through the deliberate building of social capital beyond our ingroups, we are unlikely to impact radically the ecocidal externalities of our rapacious use of material and energy resources.
My rules for you, no rules for me
But for an ultrasocial species which has become an apex predator through exploitative niche adaptation and exaptation as much as through standardisation and alignment, and through ruthless game-theoretical competition and domination as much as cooperation, both within and between groups (not just white Europeans, dummy), how are we supposed to coordinate coherently?
KONNEKT® OS is intended to help avoid, mitigate, or adapt to our challenges, enabling the entrainment of collaboration, coordination, and cohesion beyond evolutionary and historical differences, as we face up to the full reality of our situation.
I focus below on three vectors
- Getting real
- Getting simple
- Getting konnekted
Embrace reality and deal with it • Ray Dalio
We are called upon to self-organise for local optimisation and global coherence in a way we have never before achieved. But who, how, what, and where are “we”? (Spoiler alert: we didn’t get here by just being nice).
The various existential/catastrophic risks of the meta-crisis are widely reported, and both in scale and complexity, any of them are beyond full human comprehension. Here instead, I argue for sober appreciation of what homo sapiens actually is as a species.
Thinking different — the Gravesian view
Humans have evolved across multiple spectra of difference: personality, developmental complexity, intelligences, behaviours, culture, language, belief systems, identity, physiology, heritage, sexuality, political bias. These differences potentiate a vast range of behaviours, with generally under-considered first, second, and third order consequences.
A fundamental spectrum of difference is described in Clare W. Graves’s theory of Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence, further developed as Spiral Dynamics®. Graves summarised an open-ended range of coping systems and associated codes for living, generated by increasingly complex neurology and, to cope with increasingly complex life conditions:
animalistic: express self automatically and instinctively so as to meet the basic physiological needs for survival — food, warmth, sex
animistic: sacrifice-self to the wishes of the elders and according to the ways of the ancestors to gain safety and security
egocentric: express self guiltlessly — to hell with others — so as to find immediate pleasure and glory and avoid shame in a world of domination, threats, and ego
absolutistic: sacrifice self now so as to obtain reward later in a world driven by a fear of disorder, a quest for meaning, and purpose, in a universe controlled by a single higher power
multiplistic: express self calculatedly so as not to arouse the ire of others in a world full of opportunities to compete, win, and make things continuously better and better
relativistic: sacrifice self now to obtain now for self and other in a world where love and belonging are paramount, where everything is relative, and “truth” is a matter of context and the group’s needs
systemic: express self, but never at the expense of others or the earth, so that all life (not just my life) may continue in the most natural, sustainable, and fitting ways
holistic: sacrifice self to existential realities experienced through mind and spirit, for the good of the whole.
At each level of existence, yesterday’s solutions have generated today’s problems, in an ongoing arms race of organisational complexity. And as these codes become popularised, they have also become instrumentalised (as usually happens with human differentiation) by those aspiring towards and self-identifying as being at the sexy systemic/holistic thinking layer, otherwise variously represented under terms such as “integral”, “teal”, or “metamodern”. The truth is closer to syncretic symphonic layers of systems of heuristics in each of us — a dynamic homeostatic dance across different states of complexity, with all systems potentially active.
This “spiral bypassing” overlooks the fact that, in the 21st century, an unprecedented range of these conceptualizing systems co-exists entangled dynamically within our selves, communities, and societies. As a passionate developmentalist, I design environments and interventions which support better coping, which includes vertical stage development. But we don’t have time to all become “metamodern” or reach some omega point — it’s not an achievable outcome anyway. Instead, we must solve for all the systems in our social, ecological, and ontological design considerations, while building in constraints that emulate ever more congruent ways of being, including systemic.
The satisfaction of the often-conflicting directives of these systems is driven by even more fundamental evolutionary instinctive hormonal and emotional forces, exhorting us to stabilise or change, to conform or to rebel, to belong or to separate, according to our dominant individualistic/collectivistic bias. Unconstrained, the reliable outcomes of each respective bias are ecocide and genocide at the extreme, with the self-other compete-cooperate dynamic played out at all scales, both physically and abstractly, across military, economic, and social domains.
Meanwhile, human personality needs for certainty, variety, significance, and connection must be managed consciously if they are to serve our fulfilment needs of growth and contribution ecologically.
All of these dynamics, systems and drivers serve the master function of generating syntropy — self-organisation tempered by the disordering of entropy — and each of these forces must be weighed in the balance against their likely long-term entropic impact.
Human natures — the good, the bad, and the bestial
“Never underestimate the power of the dark side” Darth Vader
In addition to the myriad human cognitive biases, the importance of which — because of bias — we generally underestimate, it behoves us to include in our consideration those less pleasant and more machiavellian mechanisms which are common to all humans, given the appropriate conditions:
Cliodynamics: In Ultrasociety, and War and Peace and War, Peter Turchin describes how war and internecine violence has been an essential and integral driver of societal complexity and survival.
Mimetic desire: René Girard describes how humans copy each others’ desires as well as other memetic content. His essential work surfaces powerful competition drives which are inhibited only with difficulty, and are subject to a degree of social order and structure. Summary here.
Scapegoating: Girard’s extensive study of scapegoating describes its social value in reducing anxiety and building cohesion in the group. Just not for the victims.
Out-group reification: Natan Sharansky describes the “three D’s” of antisemitism, which can apply between any groups: Delegitimization, Demonising, and Double standards — a form of scapegoating at scale.
Self-deception by design: In The Elephant in the Brain, Simler and Hanson describe how our brains are built to act in our self-interest while trying hard not to appear selfish in front of other people. We are happy to signal our virtue among our peers while playing “suck-up, kick-down”.
The narcissism of minor differences: as identified by Freud, this paradoxical tendency describes how the closer people are in their ideas and thinking, the more fiercely they compete against each other.
Self-justification: the human capacity for deceiving self and others is pervasive, and has evolutionary benefit. Psychologist Gregg Henriques has formulated a justification hypothesis, in which he posits justification as a major function of the neocortex.
Hierarchies are here to stay: only under certain temporary conditions can an illusion of no hierarchies be sustained. Hierarchies of dominance, competence, status, reputation, and evidence are ubiquitous and must be governed — by yet another hierarchy.
“Emotivated” reasoning: Confirmation bias and motivated reasoning are universal pitfalls in sensemaking. As Yuval Noah Harari stresses in Homo Deus, the ease with which our senses and sensibilities can be manipulated by ourselves, others, and algorithms is impressive.
Ego-involvement with brand: In a hyper-real multiplistic world, signalling of uniqueness is often done with branding. So long as we are striving to attract attention through semantic and symbolic differentiation, we are trapped in game theoretical competition.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
The factors above are part of who we are and how we got here, and so far, all have evolutionary advantage. But unmediated, they’re unlikely to generate spontaneously the effects that we want more of. It is for us to govern, direct, inhibit or liberate those forces — the form of their expression is not inevitable, and not beyond our influence. Against the evolutionary juggernauts of denial, deception, self-aggrandisement, and self-justification, consilient sensemaking requires a culture of returning again and again to empirical subjective and objective data, with a hard-won commitment to intellectual honesty and humility. As I emphasised in an earlier essay, governance of attention is key.
The Dance of the Demon and the Daemon
Intentional platforms are just as vulnerable to infiltration, memetic possession, ideological colonisation, and exploitation as every other human social forum — in fact, the blind spots of aspirational thinking in intentional communities can make them more vulnerable to these arts of war.
It is hard enough to implement transformative change even in a relatively cohesive group that has a clear purpose and constraints — anyone who has tried an agile or “teal” transformation can attest to this. But building and balancing cohesion between nominally unrelated groups is a different ball game. That is the dance we must now learn.
I have illuminated a gloomy series of human obstacles. The point is to face head-on the wide range of normal human variables and behaviours, and accept that they must be designed for. This means however, that we must also embrace the astonishing good that humans also do. Galvanised and inspired into purposeful ethical action, we are also capable of astonishing ultrasocial collaboration, creativity, and courage—admittedly, usually in the face of a credible common enemy, or intense competition. The common enemy we now face is the combined entropic effects of our own behaviour.
To face this enemy together, we’re going to have to get real simple, real fast.
Welcome to the age of konnekted humility, heroism, and hard work.
It’s Triage Time
The scale and urgency of the current challenges put us in a triage situation — we have to decide what is most important to focus on immediately and make difficult decisions about what must be deferred or abandoned in order to navigate the bottlenecks ahead. Konnekting is strategic emulation of systemic thinking. Right now, that means tightening our belts, getting creative, and getting to work. We don’t have time for petty bickering or virtue-signalling.
Training For Life
If we want different outputs, we need different inputs. We have only a short time to transform our operation as a species. Whatever skills and capacities we are called to develop, we need to begin training them consciously now — they won’t spontaneously arise without also invoking the worst of the human tendencies described above.
Any common psychosocial protocol needs to be simple, flexible, and readily trainable for adoption at speed and scale. Additionally, it should possess or enable a range of properties:
- Optimises for ecology
- Transcends collective-individual bias
- Leads to congruent changes in behaviour
- Increases well-being
- Builds trust, empathy, and connection
- Erodes prejudice
- Builds meaning
- Exercises character
- Generates insight
- Low overhead
- Useful to children, lay people, experts, and novices
- Bias-surfacing and correcting
- Immediate and emergent
- Meets human needs prosocially
- Tends towards reality, parsimony, and ecology
- Feels good (overall!), is good for self, others, and the greater good
- Builds resilience
That’s a long list for a short process. Nevertheless, KONNEKT® is my proposal for approaching these qualities - a deliberately simple personal and social governance system for managing the inhibition and expression of human drives towards regenerative purposes. Repeated and frequent shared training of attention on presence/purpose, process, and progress creates microcultures of commitment, accountability, and integrity, which automatically tend human beings towards prosocial and pro-ecological behaviours. Research evidence is modest but growing, while efficacy is a demonstrated fact.
Simplexity Wins The Day
Throughout history, many theorists, authors, philosophers, models, and frameworks have pointed to three fundamental domains common to all forms of life which can be thought of as a reductionist model of the life process. These can be referred to as context-concept-concrete.
CONTEXT I define as the state of tension between what is and what needs to be. This is accessed in the domain of empirical experience, listening to and accepting what is, and what needs to be — accessed through present moment awareness, feeling, and sensing. This is the realm of mindfulness, the now, where intuition, conscience, purpose, connection with self/others/existence, and all emotional states are accessed.
CONCEPT is the domain of conceptual abstraction — planning, mapping, measuring, meaning, and values — accessed through logic and reasoning.
CONCRETE is the domain of objective form, the body, and physicality — accessed through movement, touch, action, and production.
Until now, we haven’t had an explicit word to describe this algorithm. “KONNEKTING” is the verb for the global process of bringing conscious attention to each of these three domains in turn. Where I am/we are now, where I/we want to be, and why; how I/ we should move towards that purpose; and what actions I/we will take to get there.
The ⏸ ▶ ⏩ IKON is a heuristic symbolic representation of these three domains, using pause as the injunction to access context, play as the injunction to creatively conceptualise, and forward as the injunction to move into action. These domains are referred to in many different ways with different words and perspectives (see chart below for a small selection, and here for a longer list), often essentially duplicating the same concepts with different language. The KONNEKT taxonomy groups and combines them in a life-sustaining order: feel, think, act.
Are you seriously suggesting I actually use something so, well… facile?
One of the biggest challenges in communicating how and why to use this algorithm is its simplicity of form and function — especially difficult for domain experts who are invested in nuance and distinction. Expertise is needed more than ever, but KONNEKT® is pointing at something more fundamental. Human coordination requires felt commonality, common cultural forms, and standard operating procedures which operate subverbally. Konnekting automatically achieves much of what is needed to connect human beings beyond identity — experiential repetition is the key to culture-shaping, while the context determines the depth and nature of elicitation, questions, and complexity required in each case. If you use the framework, you can be reasonably confident that you’ll align your heart, head, and hands better both with reality and with other konnektors. Think emergent properties of many coherent iterative inputs in a complex adaptive system.
Konnekting and the ⏸▶️⏩ IKON act as shared attractors, while representing different things for different levels of existence:
- A basic field kit for survival in complexity
- A totemic ritual linking us to the wisdom of our elders and ancestors
- A tool for using power honourably
- Religious communion in the service of Gaia.
- An effective scaffold for leveraging innovation and individual
- An empathic equal community-builder creating safe listening and feeling spaces
- A universal vehicle for building team human.
- A “trojan horse” delivery vehicle for more involved processes and frameworks.
The simplest way to help build a konnekted world is to begin using the ⏸▶️⏩ IKON instructions of konnekting — pause, play, and forward — linking them to the modalities you already use. (it’s all licenced under a flexible Creative Commons licence). We are all “running” this fractal algorithm anyway — konnekting just makes it conscious.
At the KONNEKTWORK coworking and peer-coaching platform, we konnekt hourly through the day, with peer-coaching team series also based on the ⏸▶️⏩ framework. You are also invited to get your platform culture konnekted, and enjoy the immediate benefits of a naturalistic process, while joining a growing number of konnekted organisations who are together building collective interoperability.
Repetition and simplicity are key for keeping attention and nervous systems focused on generating more of what we want and need, and less of what we don’t want and need.
Here’s to Love, Logic, and Labour
I hope I’ve laboured the point sufficiently that neither aspiration nor technology nor action is sufficient or interchangeable with the equally important human relational dynamics.
Hard skills are easy, soft skills are hard (actually, they’re both hard to do well). Full-spectrum coherent civil participation in regeneration will not be achieved purely by incentivisation, tokenisation, blockchains, or likes and emojis, even if these things together can powerfully shape human motivation and behaviour. Nor does it matter what platform or technology is used (other than possibly pavlovian electric shock collars) — human natures and nervous systems must also be galvanised towards konnekted purposes.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and “structure trumps culture” are partially true, but I suggest that the pysychosocial, structural, cultural, and technological elements need to work together towards regenerative action as distributed load-bearing elements of an adaptively homeostatic whole. And I suggest it starts with people consciously living the life process together, beyond positional identity — in a word: konnekting.
The ⏸▶️⏩ IKON and KONNEKT® are registered EU trademarks, (USA pending), under Creative Commons 4.0 (use-adapt-monetise-attribute) Licence.