The concept of Parallel Process is much like what you think it is—the idea that one idea, thing or event mirrors another reflecting back and forth making their concepts similarly obvious and relatable. This is how I’ve come to view the physical “heating up” of the earth’s atmosphere parallel to so many political and societal systems that are doing much the same.
WHAT ALL FALLS APART
From Russia and the Putin problem fraying at the edges (the natives are getting restless) to France’s new retirement rules setting off demonstrations along with other grievances, to America’s rebellious adolescent behaviors of Trump and the “righteous indignation of the Rightists” as well as the disparity of writers and actors striking in the entertainment industry for decent pay, it seems like so many systems in our world are coming apart at the seams.
What’s an old, gray-haired lady to make of things such as this, let alone do anything about them? I swear, I thought things were rough in the 70’s but now? Somehow this feels so very different. I have to say, I’m glad I’m old at times like these. I can’t imagine much good will come out of all this chaos (because that’s what it feels like: chaos) at least not any time soon. I hope I’m off base with my outlook but sadly and warily, my natural optimism has waned of late. Yes, yes, history is littered with systems and civilizations morphing into something unrecognizable, seemingly falling apart, but I’d rather not have to watch in person!
I remember years ago reading a book—Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe—a story about his disorientation as his African village’s system and traditions are turned upside down and inside out when British rule gradually but insidiously dramatically shifts village life and traditions he has benefited from and relied upon his whole life. He denies these changes right in front of him, thinking they surely won’t last. He denies them until of course he can’t. And the result is death—his—as change marches on.
This dynamic feels to be operational in our national and even global systems to one degree or another. All around us systems, institutions and certainly technology prod us to rethink how things function and what they’re worth. Added to this dynamic is human populations displaced for various reasons, economies turbocharged at times, sluggish at others with institutions struggling to keep up. No wonder too many people want simplified solutions. And while simplicity has its place, it is rare indeed when complexity is managed by simplicity.
NOT A PANACEA
Take AI for example. There may be a way to manage and shepherd this incredible technology with a certain degree of forthright and responsiveness to its functional speed. Unfortunately, the technological “horses” have already stampeded out of the gate with no one really addressing how to corral them responsibly. With little to no oversight on its massive power how will management even happen? We need wise men and women to take the reins—ethicists wedded to highly sophisticated thinking in this science. Where do we even find them? And what structure is to do it? In the absence of a formal jurisdiction, we seem to remain stuck with this genius tool minus mature genius systems performing guardrails. It’s the “Oppenheimer syndrome” all over again! And this is just one of our many challenges facing us today!
As I say, history is littered with such inventions which often precede responsible management or use of same! And this is just one such problem facing us. In too many other realms the tension or growing pains precede—and too often, severely—predictable adjustments. It reminds me of when my son had pain in his legs as an adolescent suffering from Osgood-Schlatter where bone growth outpaces muscle and tendon growth in the knee.
A childhood repetitive use injury that causes a painful lump typically below the kneecap that affects children’s untimely paced and incompatible changes within the leg system itself. Children who play sports in which they regularly run and jump are most at risk as the incompatibility clashes with usage pressure. That’s the crude definition and though it is very time limited, once all body parts catch up with one another proportionally, the syndrome still causes temporary pain and havoc. So too, social, cultural, scientific and political systems undergoing different rates of change in seemingly uncontrolled fashion.
Anyway, here we are in a quandary throughout the world. As luck would have it, it’s this very dynamic that is occurring with America trying to massage relationships with Putin’s Russia while supporting politically modernized Ukraine. Is Putin mature enough to manage this growth spurt? Is he capable of evolving himself? No evidence of it so far. He’s still thinking he can take whatever he wants (i.e. Ukraine) while the rest of the world is way ahead of his intellectually stunted perception of things. He’s proverbially stuck in an outdated mindset similar to Achebe’s main character in Things Fall Apart.
OUR OWN BACKYARD
Back here at home in the US of A, the Republican Party suffers from the same inability to see a more diverse and sophisticated electorate with the R’s stuck in a previous era much like the lead character in Achebe’s African village blind spot. Sadly, the same Republican Party digs in because instead of “leading” their constituents, they’re following, ultimately becoming caught in an outdated political and maturational mindset.
Sadly, we’re stuck with only one functioning political party at this moment in America with no real replacement mechanism. Ditto, the ethical challenges confronting AI with our use and responsibility unpredictable. How this dilemma resolves itself in either case, no one knows. One thing’s for sure, new pathways and innovative solutions are required for most of the challenges above. But no one seems to have a clue. And if we compare it to evolution Darwin-style in which something better, more functional grows out of it, will society’s component parts have time to catch up?
The threads within each system, be they cultural, political, economic or societal, seem randomly at the mercy of different forces with outsized ability to evolve such things since power and force can be incongruous with one another. Power is integrous and authentic. Force is well, force, and typically not! So while things may operate as parallel processes with some invisible capacity to develop proportional management and functionality as they evolve, will they be beneficial, responsible? And so we wait, with an unknown resolution and unpredictable future like all pivot points for humankind. And yet I read somewhere we’re supposed to have dominion over all this stuff, right??