Rubbish Theory, Michael Thompson, René Thom’s Catastrophe Theory applied to Social Sciences

I met Michael Thompson in 2007 at the London School of Economics. He intervened for a SOL – Europe organised meeting (Society for Organizational Learning), held at Complexity Group there, founded by Eve Mitleton-Kelly.

Since Michael ranks very high in my hall of Fame. I have a whole library with his and his Mentor’s and Friend’s books and articles. He became an intellectual companion, and a dear friend. On this site I often posted about his work and actions: just search for his name.

I probably read Rubbish Theory for the first time  5 or 6 Years ago. I was enthused since it applies René Thom’s non linear geometric method of modelling (Catastrophe Theory) to overcome the paradoxes, confusion and entrenched conservatism confronting the Social Sciences.

The genius of Michael lies precisely in using catastrophe theory to illuminate how something can behave in two different ways under the same constraints. This happens of course in physics. The physician is lucky however, since the phenomena he observes in his lab are very similar to those that occur outside. The social scientist has no such luck, and most of the time he resigns himself to accepting paradoxes.  Michael’s research shows the way out this predicament. Therefore we are faced with a breakthrough advance.

I know firsthand how Michael faced fierce opposition from the “establishment”. This happens to all  those who undertake to shake outdated and entrenched paradigms. It is also what brought us together and why I respect his determination and fully support  his fight to get his ideas listened and responded  to.

This reading left me way more flabbergasted than when I read it for the first time. I only now grasp the depth of his ideas. All the more remarkable that they were developed in the seventies. The book dates indeed from 1979.

In 2006 I only could buy the book second hand. I was looking to buy another copy (I love to share fundamental readings with like-minder persons, but I need to feel my precious books in my immediate vicinity).  To my amazement, I found 7 sellers only, and the unit prices started, second hand, at 250 € and reached 1300 € for a new copy.

Is this a sign that his ideas, at last, reach their public?  Future will say this.

This is important for me, after all, I am a Grandfather on a mission, deeply engaged in developing a new way of living together. Facing so many lock-ins at every institutional and decision-making level. My work consists of developed the promise of a Blue Economy.

At Zeri ( we have proven in more that 190 projects World-Wide the possibility of a new living together on this earth, without interfering with Nature’s inherent ability to sustain life,  if only we espoused new values and new ways of perceiving, thinking and doing. It allows to provide for the basic needs of everyone, with what is locally available. It requires to mobilize and develop  entrepreneurship of very small and small companies and initiatives from agriculture, industry and services. The aim is to grow an interdependent network of complementary and interdependent initiatives that forms a whole that is much bigger and more resilient that the sum of the parts. This requires a new ethic of collaboration.

Look at our cases 101 to 109 on the website

It requires also to develop new leadership and supporting role from the public sector  public to mobilize all segments of society to build a diverse, inclusive, plural, and engaged community.  I believe Michael and his fellow Socio-Cultural Viability theorists can greatly contribute to help bring this bring that about.

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Speech of Pope Francis to the European Parliament (Strasbourg, 25 November 2014)

Visit to the European Parliament (Strasbourg, 25 November 2014).   I believe every European  should read and reflect on this address, with an open mind and a empathic attitude, looking for the merits of this wise text.

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21e siècle

I was attended to this website by Stephen Downes


I was attended to this website via Stephen Downes


Let me repeat what Stephen writes


"I’ve only been able to lightly tough the surface of this website, but it is already evident that it is a significant achievement. It is in French.

I’ll let Jon Husband summarize from his Facebook post:

It looks at the history of signs, symbols, languages and images as used by humans to make sense of their environment and grow the societies in which they live, and follows the evolution of technology, economics and societal issues, notably through the past half-century, as our inventions and human population and the interrelatedness of our activities have brought us to a point of cultural mutation." The relation between this work and my talk in Pereira is evident."


Personally I have not dug into this website yet )- and I will not before the week-end – , but I found it’s first appearance, combined with Stephens comment, and the subject matter,  sufficiently intriguing to share it with you, my friends

See on Scoop.itThe future of food health and agriculture

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From Bamboo to Generative Transcontinental Cooperation and ZERI in Europe

After reading Dirk Hebel’s powerful article


Bamboo Could Turn the World’s Construction Trade On its Head

What struck me most was the observation of how the so called development aid has further

“divided the planet between those who produce goods and services, and those who are meant just to consume”

Then the analysis of how the incentive system worked in favour of this ” unprecedented transfer of products and predefined solutions – instead of capacity-building programs – from the rich countries to poor, under the rubric of “development aid”.

 It clearly denounces the “the exploitative trade system currently in place”.

This is all well known, and it is now also established that a similar “exploitative system” is also in place in the so called developed World.

But Dirk goes further, and this also is why his article is so powerful : he shows that this apparent pervasive predicament can be reversed. In particular, the article shows how

“As a raw material found predominantly in the developing world, without a pre-existing industrial infrastructure built to skew things towards the rich world, bamboo has the potential to completely shift international economic relations”

All this brings me to following reflections:

Being in charge of ZERI Europe’s development I am fully aligned with Dirk on this. We indeed believe that the condition for sustainable communities to flourish is to use what is locally available.

But we are going further: indeed, in our view no problem can be seen and understood in isolation. The problems of our time are systemic, they are all interconnected and interdependent. We believe that ultimately they are just facets of one single crisis, a crisis of perception.

I stands for: a radical shift in perception, thinking, ethics and acting. We believe this the only way that can lead to a sustainable society, one designed in such a way that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structure, institutions, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life.

This new paradigm (understood according to Kuhn), which is a radically new conception of life, has allowed us to initiate, catalyse, support the emergence of flourishing local communities for 20 years now, communities where everyone has its basic needs met, where everyone can freely grow towards its highest potential, and autonomously auto-determine its life.

In fact we’ve demonstrated, and in our 183 cases to date, that everywhere on this World abundance can be created with what is locally available, by turning the waste of one system as a valuable input for another system, using what is locally available, without interfering with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life!.

The technologies, both material and institutional, are made available, open source, for responsible application.

I often quote Machiavelli, who wrote in “The Prince”:

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

My task at ZERI Europe is particularly difficult to take in hand , perilous to conduct, especially in Europe, where I am in charge. But not so much “uncertain” anymore.

Recently we’ve had some very significant support from major breakthroughs from what Dirk Hegel calls “developing nations”.

Developing Nations? Is this very concept not also stemming from old thinking and perceiving? Indeed, I do see the breakthroughs appearing mostly outside of the old colonial and industrialized countries, who are much more stuck in their “Technological/Institutional Lock-Ins” and old paradigms.

Is it not time to look at things differently? I see the possibility of building a new living together, beyond any divide, and certainly between what Dirk Hebel quotes as “Those who produce goods and services, and those who are meant just to consume”.

New thinking does go beyond the old dualism inherent in the Cartesian/Newtonian scientific paradigm.

Let’s Follow Aristotle again, and his famous quote:

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts”

That’s precisely what I am undertaking at ZERI in Europe.

“How can mutually beneficial learning, support, interactions, interconnections, interdependencies, collaboration, beyond divides, but uncompromisingly, ensure the charting of a new course, to alter and dissolve the one we are still following, leading us to the yet still invisible and inconceivable Metamorphosis.”

paraphrased and translated from Edgar Morin in La Voie

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Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?

Teacher and PBL consultant Shelley Wright offers her first draft of a Slow Education manifesto and urges other educators to join in the effort.


Education is perhaps one of the most fundamental changes that has to be undertaken…

Let’s let it emerge autopoïetically…,This does not mean we should not lead on it…


"One must constantly rest on an acting “avant garde” (vanguard). There’s never preliminary consensus with respect to innovation. One doesn’t progress on the foundation of average opinion, which is not democratic; but “mediocratic”. One progresses on the foundation of creative passion. All and every transformational innovation is first and foremost deviance. It diffuses when becoming a trend before becoming a historic power."

Edgar Morin : Freely translated from French

See on Scoop.itThe future of food health and agriculture

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We Did It!

Our first Mayday reform candidate, Ruben Gallego, declared victory last night in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District.


You did it, Larry and companions in arms…


It always seems impossible, until it’s done (Nelson Mandela)

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ID and Other Reflections: Learning Vs. Performance — The Dichotomy


We enter the era of Self-determination.

Deci and Ryan’s Theory is still considered by many Heresis.


It is however self-evident for those who have seen how people can grow to their highest potential when they are "Intrinsically Motivated"


In this article also Carol Dweck is mentioned. Carol figures in my hall of fame. Her lifework has been to discover why some people are successful in all circumstances.. It is dead simple: She distinguishes two mindsets. One she calls Growing Mindset, the other Fixed mindset. Her book Mindset is a MUST READ, for everyone, bacause you can change your mindset, and you can help your kids acquire a growing mindset… I offered this book to all my children, with apologies for the education mistakes I made.


Go and see


So read this article..

Life and learning is the same thing.

So these aspects are part and parcel of the paradigm change we need to go through for our societies to move towards much more GOOD, and no BAD.


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Student Debt Threatens the Safety Net for Elderly Americans

A growing number of people 60 and older owe old student loans


Student debt, any debt imposed on consumes, is fine for the 0.01%…


It makes people dependent, compliant, agents for them earning more money,

And it grows the economy, by growing the money supply so that they can divert ever larger chunks of it to the casino..




The perverse effects/: So many


But what’s the problem?

Après moi, le déluge — after me (comes) the flood — are attributed, as a premonition of the French Revolution, to King Louis XV of France (1710-74),

It was not him, but his son Louis XVI who was beheaded at the French revolution…


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JetBlue CEO Fires Back at Wall Street Analysts

Wall Street analysts are no fans of Dave Barger, but JetBlue’s chief executive officer says the airline’s customer-friendly business model is still young—and effective


This is a story of a disaster foretold

There are many like this, and the intermediaries on the strock market strive on them


They are the casino, They feel when what they say will become reality, will turn out in their favor: Liquidity, reputation, transaction fees, bets on gains and losses, with no consideration on underlying value of the stocks..


In such a system outliers will always one day, when it suits analysts, be crucified…Its a game of cat and mouse.


I’ve been in these games as CEO, you have to experience it to understand…


Poor David Berger. He thinks as follows:

"No enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others; or failing therein, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist."


His problem, that’s not where the market intermediaries earn their bonuses.

Follow the money, follow the power, follow the sheep…


The solution: Change the rules of the game in favor of the whole, not partisan interests

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Read the emails in the hilarious Monsanto/Mo Rocca/Condé Nast meltdown

Marion Nestle declined an offer for $5,000 to participate in a Condé Nast video series funded by Monsanto. James McWilliams turned down an amount “conseridably north” of that.


After my scoop-it an hour ago about Vandana Shiva’s response to Spencer’s New Yorker article, I cannot resist relay this flabbergasting piece.  I must say, also to my relief.


Indeed it shows how far the dishonest PR tactics of Monsanto can go, to defend their partisan interests. Do they really belief they can go on forever fooling the World?


An occasion to remind some of Gandhi’s wide words:

"Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth."


That being said, how many will continue to endure hardship in the meantime?

It would be hilarious, if it were not so dramatic

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