Initiative

10 Jun

This is an interesting concept, and a bit of dabbling in chess helped me to elaborate the idea.  Philosophy as it is traditionally presented in undergrad programs has not handled the concept particularly well, but if one begins with Sun Tzu instead of moralists and pure analytic types, then a new world opens up.  Plus, in considering the nature of life it is impossible to even begin without this concept or something like it in hand.

A player in a game can react to situations as they appear, but it’s also possible to form strategies which allot the player some measure of initiative.  The player then begins to inject advantage into their own expectations rather than simply waiting to be served the next turn.  The potential for complex strategies flourishes as various moves align in service of a single end.

Yeah, it sounds painfully obvious.  But how many people actually have much initiative in life?  It’s easy to be reactive and passive, and many environments encourage just this sort of behavior.

The concept can be so elusive that most people have a hard time even speaking about it.  Isn’t this part of what is really meant by the elusive ‘confidence’ or by strange terms like ‘be yourself’?  Such words play in the space between the implicit and the explicit.

Questions about the role of initiative at multiple scales come to mind.  In evolution there must be spontaneity and initiative, but there may also be hierarchies of initiative.  It’s not nearly as simple as blanket references to spontaneity, and it’s certainly not as simple as expecting wild networks to magically police themselves even as they project higher orders of sustainable initiative.  Somehow someway it all works out, and everyone gets a cupcake with a candle?

One thing is clear: planned initiatives are necessary conditions of certain advances of higher orders.  Some things can only happen with a plan and significant self-present complexity.  Obvious examples: chess strategies, complex inventions, public infrastructure, etc.  The fitness landscape experiences momentous changes which would never have happened by oblivious chance.

There is still emergence and spontaneity, but these processes become constrained by giant amalgamated orders.  The center of gravity shifts.  The ‘selector’ changes.  Ideally, one seeks plans of great extent and minimum baggage. Stable initiative.  Green sprouts easily branch off from the initial thrust.  In clanky and draggy plans, it becomes an all or nothing scenario with precarious opportunities for future evolution and health.

Motifs of viability may aid in reducing the risk of surprise once artificially-tested plans are set into practice.  How viable are dramatic transfers of predetermined stability?  How viable is future self-governance?  I don’t know.  But it is interesting.

 

 

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