Monday, November 23, 2009


Tom Friedman’s typically large-minded view of the world is on good display in Sunday’s New York Times, “Advice from Grandma,” on importances of social imagination for national well-being in a global economic environment and the importance of governmental facilitation of this, which I categorize as a matter of comparative advantage through knowledge-intensiveness.

Friedman is concerned about the “sub-optimal” responsiveness of American democracy, relative to well-known aspects of political life that he lists. What interests me, though, is his allusions (common for him) to the basic, long-term importance of creativity applied to the planetary scale, i.e., “a hyperintegrated world.”

Friedman’s main idea, though implicit, is that intra-national, citizen-based leadership is the basis for international competitiveness, thus for the health of the nation engaged planetarily. Our “biggest problems — education, debt, financial regulation, health care, energy and environment”—require “good governance, which can harness creativity”—government which facilitates, attracts, and channels capability that begins with the people who make the society.
What your citizens imagine now matters more than ever because they can act on their own imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before — as individuals. In such a world, societies that can nurture people with the ability to imagine and spin off new ideas will thrive.
What are the conditions of that creativity which leads to innovation? What are the precursors in child development, education, and organizational development?

We are faced with nothing less than engineering our evolution, and that begins with individual development, no matter how complexly coordinated and organized capabilities must be to deliver on complexly distributed problems and opportunities.

Philosophy of the good society is no less than the implicit philosophy of education facilitating social development and, as a matter of innovation, social evolution. But that implicit philosophy of education results from all of the kinds of capability, all the kinds of human aspects, all epistemic domains, all modes of meaningfulness. Not to dissolve issues of systematically effective innovation into a nebulous holism, issues of conceptuality in our domains of knowledge have constitutive importance. We gain something by just keeping in mind what the important concepts and conceptual issues are.

Interest in this is not a matter of misplaced concreteness or displacement of attention away from practical importances. The integrity of progressive practice has its place in theory, just as the intent of theory is to support practices. But this implies that there is a place for theory among domains—a place for interdomainal theory and interdomainal (or interdisciplinary) theory.

A “hyperintegrated world” calls for hyperintegrated understanding. I wouldn’t (and don’t) presume that I have special facility for contributing to that. But maybe I do. In any case, an aggregate contribution to understanding begins with the engagement of individuals endeavoring to contribute to an advance of understanding. One does what one can. I hope to be useful.

But I also intend to enjoy myself doing it, which remains a matter of going my own way with things. Indulge me.