Using Multi-Dimensional Topologies to Benchmark Ethical Synergies

John Wood

Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

Keywords: synergy-of-synergies; four-fold self-inclusive maps; 'win-win-win-win'


In creating semantic confusion, the ethics of 'sustainability' (Wood, 2000) has also failed to inspire a change in behaviour that is sufficiently profound to reverse human-inspired climatic changes, etc. For one reason, whereas received ideas of Adam Smith's (1776) creed implicitly promises a popular and convenient 'win-win' scenario, 'sustainable consumption' offers a less accessible 'lose-win' situation. Hardin's (1978) 'Tragedy of the Commons' and and other modes of cynicism (Sloterdijk, 1988) would indicate that the psychological implications of this cost-benefit sum would render it inauspicious for our current state of evolution. Historically speaking, some of this problem can also be attributed to the atomistic and egocentric logic of western thought. Hence, western science has tended to think of 'symbiotic ' or 'game theory' in terms of independent viewpoints, rather than mapping interdependent conditions (c.f. Kvitash, 2005) as 'flavours' (Corning, 1995) of organic synergy. Here, four 'orders' of synergy (Wood, 2005) are offered as the basis for a new mode of environmentalist ethics. They might be used to compute a single performance indicator as a standard measure that reconciles highly complex patterns of reciprocal benefit.

By using a simple fractal configuration that never comprises fewer than four elements, the system enables individuals and organizations to map their own predicament within an extensible system of mutual advantage. In seeking to surpass the psychological attractiveness of the consumer system the paper calls for a new ethical discourse that offers a greater number of conspicuous advantages (however few) that are distributed across a far wider network of players. These would need to be clustered in mnemonically accessible forms such that citizens would be able to identify, say, a 'win-win-win-win' scenario (Wood, 2006) for a range of beneficiaries closely related to his/her own well being. In this case, if a 'win-win-win-win' scenario is mapped onto a 3D topology it becomes clear that it is up to six times more advantageous than a simple 'win-win' situation. Such a system could be used as a benchmark for use by United Nations, management experts, or corporate legislators. Ultimately, if the humanistic limits of 'utilitarianism' (Mill, 1861) can be extended to include non-human beneficiaries we might be able, ultimately, to conceive of a 'synergy of synergies' (Fuller, 1975).

Return to / go to ds21 Draft Papers
Return to / go to details of ds21 Members
Return to / go to Design Synergy HOME PAGE