From Reduction to Synergy | Apr 2013

FMBR Editorial: Apr, 2013

From Reduction to Synergy

As we are all aware, we are living in astonishing times. The pace of change, for better or worse, seems to be ever increasing. Advances and the potential for advances seem to be presenting themselves daily, as do disasters and the potential for disasters.  One of the glaring hallmarks of recent ecological and economic disasters is the failure to recognize that our actions, either individual or collective, do not occur in a vacuum. It is impossible to isolate actions from the systems within which they are undertaken. As Chief Seattle is credited with saying "All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." As we have seen, a relative handful of people making bad trades of credit default swaps has disastrous consequences to the economic systems of the whole world. The blowout of a single regulator valve on a drilling platform can cause ecologic disasters that last generations. We are constantly seeing proof -- large and small, local and global -- that all of our planetary systems are intertwined. The worldview based on separation has reached the limits of workability.

Nicholas A. Christakis, social scientist and physician, points out "for the last few centuries, the Cartesian project in science has been attempting to break matter down into ever smaller bits, in the pursuit of understanding. And this works, to some extent... but putting things back together in order to understand them is harder, and typically comes later in the development of a scientist or in the development of science." The universe, however, is holistic -- that is, it is a whole, and its functioning cannot be fully understood just in terms of its component parts.  Human systems -- biological, technological, economic, environmental, social -- must be understood to be relational. Holding a collective worldview of relatedness, of holism, presents the increased need for synergy as we strive to resolve the challenges that face the world today. When a worldview of relatedness is held, that change provides the fertile soil from which synergy arises. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia meaning working together to create something greater than the sum of the parts.  It is time to focus upon thinking and asking questions in a more synergetic mode.

For example, let us explore the problem of planetary sustainability in the future using a synergetic approach. We will view three key elements of that problem involving energy, the environment, and economics. These elements tend to be addressed separately. However, as Einstein famously said, "problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created." Observe these two drawings.


One represents the present and the other a more desirable future. First we must be able to close the materials cycle, that is, we must be able to move completely from use to reuse. This is possible by using fusion grade (very high temperature) plasmas to return all molecules in materials back to one of the 92 basic elements of Nature. This will permit our current open cycle economics to convert to a closed system economics that models the way Nature operates.


That change will remove the current pressure that is promoting over-consumption, the drain on resources, and environmental deterioration and set the foundation for the new paradigm. A clean energy source is needed. The one proposed is based upon the hydrogen/boron (p-B11) fusion fuel cycle with inertial electrostatic confinement. Controlled fusion is the energy source that powers our sun and the other stars. There are no physics laws that would prevent the achievement of this entire synergetic objective. An R&D path to this objective is outlined in articles and scientific papers. A link to a general write-up on sustainability with artwork and references that addresses this interrelationship and interdependency is:

Society really requires a new narrative for these times.  A narrative of sustainability for planet earth must be a narrative of interrelatedness and synergy.  We need to approach the dire challenges that we are facing within a narrative that states: All of creation, visible and invisible, is connected. And it is possible to create systems that allow all of life to thrive, in balance, on the Earth. Such a narrative creates a context larger than we have had in the past.  It allows for more creativity to emerge.  The concept of connection removes the constraints to thinking that have come along with the reductionist worldview.  Thinking in terms of synergy allows for the possibility of something completely new and unexpected to emerge.

The promise of these times is enormous, as are the dangers.  The objectives we set for ourselves may appear difficult or impossible. Yet, once the interrelationship is accepted and goals outlined, the innovative capability of humanity will be released.  It will be like a snowball rolling down a hill. This is the way that sustainability on planet earth can be achieved. Once the people are given a sense of unity and purpose and optimism the innovative spirit will awaken and new options will appear.

Judy Kitt, President, FMBR
William C. Gough, FMBR CoFounder and CEO Emeritus
Robert Bourdeaux, Illustrator