What is a better name for hierarchical control?
I am wrapping up my involvement in a conference called "Science, Wisdom, and the Future" (you can imagine why I would be here if you've read these blogs for a while!) I haven't had a lot of time to think about writing while I've been here, but one thing came up that I thought I'd get out quickly to see if any of you out there could help me with.
As some of you know I have proposed the application of hierarchical control theory in understanding the natural forms of governance of complex, adaptive systems that evolves quite naturally. I have suggested that understanding the theory will help us intentionally develop a more sapient form of governance for our societies and economies. And from comments and e-mails I've gotten a number of readers have found the ideas palatable if not compelling.
But during the course of discussions at this conference it has become clear that most people are repelled by the terms 'hierarchical' and 'control'! It evokes an image of a top-down command-and-control system, essentially a dictatorship or some kind of authoritarian bureaucracy. Those of you who have read my other writing, I hope, realize that I mean anything but such an organization. But once the phrase 'hierarchical control' is out there, too many people throw up barriers to further communications. Perhaps some who have discovered my blog and read these words have had a similar reaction.
As I have attempted to further explain my meaning of the terms here, people generally do finally come around to realizing that their semantics and mine are from two very different perspectives. Once we get past the terminology differences we've had very successful discussions. In fact I've been invited to give several talks as a result of people seeing the broader application of the theory as I've explained it.
But it set me to ponder if I shouldn't be using some different terminology to call this theory. I still want to convey in the name that the architecture is layered (strategic decisions at the upper layer, operational decisions at the lowest layer) and that it does involve cybernetic principles (control theory). But it also needs to emphasize that the components of decision making are distributed and semi-autonomous within the framework of their decision domains (e.g. tactical decision makers have responsibility and authority to make tactical decisions without a strategic layer micro-managing them). Actually it would be nice to somehow incorporate the idea that the distributed architecture is essential to the health of the system by providing resilience and backup capabilities if lines of communication are temporarily lost (like that in the design of the Internet).
So I am contemplating a new name for hierarchical control theory that avoids the old implications of those two terms while preserving the integrity of the theory. I don't want to put people off by using terms they have a preconceived bad feeling about. Since I have seen people who reacted to my original terms change their attitudes once I explained the concepts more fully, I am thinking that people don't have any deep objections to the notions of layered decisions systems (after all we are all part of such organizations and accept the division of decision-making labor all of the time) as long as they realize I am not suggesting that the world be governed by dictatorship.
I could use a little help with this. I will be contemplating it over the next few days of travel. But I thought I would throw the challenge out there to see if any of you have some insights to contribute. I'd love to hear your ideas.
I will be getting back home in a few days. But unfortunately I will almost immediately turn around and travel again. So for the next month, my postings will be spotty. I do check my e-mail more regularly so if you have some ideas comment or e-mail me.