On Diversity, Resilience and the Growth of Anxiety
Society can become more resilient from environmental changes if its elements can respond better to its perturbations. The ability to listen to those changes increase if there is a more diverse group of listeners and more active subsystems in society.
This diversity implies a more responsive and therefore more resilient society.
Diversity is often used as a way to differentiate elements of a system by identifying (naming) a contrast. Contrasts are born as a result of agreements in how we make this differentiation and they are recognized as truth (or wise) when they bring light into a “difference that makes a difference”.
”Wisdom is the sense of fitness of things. It’s how they fit together nicely at this time and context.” In conversation with David Reis in Sweden
People being able to reach new agreements and name different contrasts are the basis of diversity in communication.
But diversity is not only here in the sense of having a number of different elements. It is also how society communicates the events it produces or its interpretations of environmental changes. Diversity relates to the choices of differences we choose to pay attention to, but more importantly it relates to the possibilities of multiple differentiations of the same event.
The increase of diversity also increases the level of complexity in a system. Exploring social systems as systems of meaning, diversity is in communications rather than related to characteristics of elements. A more diverse social society contains multiple stories and multiple languages being expressed simultaneously.
Limiting Diversity, Anxiety Reduction and Trust
From the perspective of the system, it is not clear if diversity and complexity are limited to the point of ‘workable’ complexity or if people are only able to identify differences until a certain extent.
For the individual, higher complexity implies dealing with more uncertainty and is an invitation for anxiety.
Higher diversity is suppressed, both by individuals and society, in order to reduce anxiety, to reduce complexity at human workable levels. So it is not correct to say that the growth of diversity is always desirable, but it is clear that lack of diversity transforms both living and meaning systems in more fragile ones.
Trust and faith may be the elements used to sit with complexity, including coping with certain anxiety, in a way that diversity is not overly suppressed. Both are, in a way, securing a more positive prediction of the future.
In Hosting Learning, we should allow spaces where trust can be built and where anxiety can sit in the room.
Elsewhere in the Blogosphere about Diversity and Resilience
- Is diversity the key to resilience in complex social-ecological systems? by Ben Ramalingam commenting on the book Complexity Theory for a Sustainable Future
- Social Innovation, and the Challenge of Diversity by Nathan Ball