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Bryan O'DohertyBryan O'Doherty is an entrepreneur, writer/blogger, husband and father of three. He grew up in Portland Oregon (US) and graduated from Portland State University with degrees in Architecture and Japanese. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. You can read more from him on his blog at


Reposted from (January 8th, 2018) with permission of the author

Panarchy: The Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century

Bryan O'Doherty

What NOW conference
“In short, we’ll have to progress from network governance models to holarchical governance models such as panarchy.”
—Robb Smith

Robb Smith’s keynote address at the recent What NOW conference; Never Been Better, Never Felt Worse: Inside the Rise of an Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century was a very good follow up to his Webinar (and essay) The Great Release, which I talked about in my last post. I recommend checking both of them out. I won’t touch on the latter part of his presentation regarding the rise of (BLUE/Amber) populism. My take on that is a bit different than his. But in his keynote he addressed the question of Integral Politics—the manifestation of the YELLOW(Teal) Wave in the LR quadrant of the AQAL model. Those in the Integral Establishment do not often weigh in on the specifics of Integral Politics, but Robb seems to have much interest in the topic. However his presentation gave us a wide 100,000 foot orbital view and continued the Boulder tradition of remaining somewhat vague as to the details, perhaps so as not to make predictions or prognostications that turn out in the future to have been false.

Robb Smith
Robb Smith

Integral Politics (the LR quadrant of AQAL) and Panarchy as it’s most functionally fit operating system, has been the focus of my writing for the last 6 years. So I was frankly astonished, excited and gratified to see him recognize Panarchy in his presentation as the appropriate operating system for a society centered in the YELLOW(Teal) wave of development and I agree with his assessment that we are seeing this transition toward more and more panarchic social infrastructures right now.

I think Robb and I agree that the transformation to a panarchic social operating paradigm will be driven by technology. As he put it in his presentation “Technology simply is the greatest driver of human evolution in all four quadrants that there is.” Integral technologies will undermine the hold of the old dominant paradigm, eroding its influence over the direction of society. I don’t think this will manifest as a knock-down drag-out fight of ideologies as has been the norm in 1st Tier. Rather I think it will come about organically, through the global spread of seemingly innocuous technology. States will be powerless to stop it, not even North Korea can stop it. and our global society will have to come up with an operating system that makes sense in a world where communication and information is free, instantaneous, and ubiquitous. To quote Robb:

As I argued in The Great Release, I believe that governance will need to significantly evolve to Teal, meta-systematic intelligence that includes whole systems thinking, polarities, and whole-part dynamics. In short, we’ll have to progress from network governance models to holarchical governance models such as panarchy.

evolution of operating systems

In such a society, nations and borders can no longer represent fenced enclosures where citizen-livestock are kept and milked by a political/bureaucratic elite. New more efficient panarchic infrastructures will begin (are beginning) to serve the functions that were considered the sole monopoly of the Estates of the Realm. Our governments will increasingly find themselves in competition with non-estate entities for provision of more and more essential services, until they fall into obsolescence. From correspondence to currency and exchange, to mass-media and education, new technologies have eroded the primacy of First Tier estate systems in favor of new Second Tier panarchic systems. New technologies will continue to circumvent the need for “public” services as the services themselves are made unnecessary, or are provided for more efficiently through panarchic means.

Eventually, nations will come to represent cultural boundaries more than physical ones. As more and more people expand their uchi-soto boundaries to include global and kosmic centered concerns, panarchic systems work to systematically declaw the nation-state system and force it to take on the softer tone of a cultural identity project, much like Modernism’s effect on the power of religion. Thus, like one’s religion, one’s nation will continue on as a cultural unit, an identifier that ultimately will be adopted or discarded at the will of the individual.

That may sound like a future right out of a Neal Stephenson novel and our course may indeed take on some of those aspects. Evolution is a messy thing. I gave another vision for what such a course might look like, but importantly, I acknowledge that I cannot see the form these transcendent technologies will take and therefore any vision I or anyone else casts is but wistful daydreaming of a future that is as impenetrable as it is inevitable. What is important to remember, and history bears this out, is as Robb put it, “that we bear in mind the long view of evolution, that we keep in our hearts the gratitude that life has never been better.” And I’d add they will continue to get better as our society evolves.

Gradually our society will wade into panarchic waters. Right now we’re only ankle deep, and already the impact on our daily lives has been huge. This is a time of tremendous change, and it will be difficult for many people to find a new balance. But this is the obligation of the leading edge. As Robb said, “This rebalancing must include preparing society for a Teal, post-dash world: post-energy, post-automation, post-work, post-money, post-singularity, post-truth, post-orthodox, post-AI, and perhaps most importantly, post-certainty.” This is our cross to bear, whether we’re “Integrally informed” or not. There are also many extraordinary voices out there doing good Integral level work that are driving society forward, yet who do not speak integralese—and that’s fine too. We need to add our voices to theirs, and work with them to foster this evolution in a healthy direction.

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