In a prior post I showed that Bloom’s taxonomy, an ok tool for scaffolding student learning, was fundamentally limited to the legalistic-performance shift occurring in society when the taxonomy was developed. I then presented a follow up taxonomy for the performance-communitarian shift that identified important learning ideas that Bloom’s taxonomy doesn’t address, and helps to match our current societal memetic shift. The next step is the community-systemic shift that is already happening in societal niches, areas like Silicon Valley and Boston, for example. But before we lay out the next taxonomy, we’ve got to first get into the heads of community and systemic minded folks.

When I try to get into the community meme/phase, I ask myself what the Moscow Food Co-Op would do. This local treasure embodies the traditional Food Co-Op values of local resources that are sustainably produced from small/family owned farms. You shop here for quality, not quantity- it’s a law of thermodynamics that entropy (waste) is directly correlated to the number of options/ways something can be done. There’s only 1 way to deliver fruit without a wrapper, and no-surprise, it has the least waste. Where our Co-Op goes one step further than the others though is in the food-court/deli. Natural food has a shelf life. If you monitor carefully, you know when the time has come to make lemonade. You’ve eliminated waste, turned lemons into lemonade, and grown a larger supporting community in the region. What else is there?

Sadly, the community meme also has limitations. I had a friend who was in the military and wore his uniform into the Co-Op, boy did he get nasty stares… elitism is one of the problems. Not vaccinating (it’s not natural, how could it be good for you?) is also a major problem with the community minded phase. Sadly many (people and communities) don’t have the resources (monetary, integrated social networks, empathy, etc) to fully embrace the community meme/phase.

Hence the need for systemic minded individuals: the game preserve managers, the master educators, the quiet service minded shepherds of humanity. We are and live in a multi-faceted, highly interconnected, and rapidly evolving system- the complexities of which should be incredibly humbling. The reality is that no single thing, statement, or approach is absolutely correct (barring a law of nature) and the same goes for memetic levels of society. A tenuous balance with anticipated change is reality (a.k.a. a self-organized state of criticality), and severe imbalances (Nazism anyone?) needs averted to prevent systemic collapse.

Here’s an example taxonomy for the community-systemic shift:

Community Systemic Taxonomy


We build from the performance-communitarian shift by adding holistic/global empathy to the mix. Rather than seeking to minimize waste, accept that waste occurs and apply/generate uses and synergies. Individual awareness of the necessity of systemic complexity/diversity occurs and systemic minded individuals promote this to engineer the system to morph for the benefit of it’s users. Only then, will a deliberately stochastic, user generated, self-sustaining and propagating system survive. Great examples in society are emerging: the Internet itself, WordPress, Wikipedia, Dean Kamen’s Lego First, and many more. It’s no coincidence that most of the examples are software based, it’s one of the most recent societal paradigms and the first truly global technology with the world-wide-web. Moving bits is easy, moving mass and energy is harder but they will come with time.

The engineering program that best prepares it’s students to lead in this coming systems paradigm will, indeed, ensure it’s place in the future.