Are Organizations Alive?

Are Organizations Alive?

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Are Organizations Alive?

With each passing year, organizations act more and more like living entities thanks to the evolution of technology.

The notion that organizations might be a form of life is a radical perspective. It is useful as metaphor, but through this and future articles, I hope to persuade you that an “organization as life” perspective is more than just metaphor.

These are the opening lines from the first in a new line of articles, exploring the future of technology, organizations and humanity. I shared this in a post a week and a half ago, and in return received some of the richest commentary and thinking I’ve yet experienced here on Google+. 

Are Organizations Alive? A Different Take on the Evolution of Technology

I share this again for two reasons. One, because this piece marks an important shift in the direction of my writing going forward and I am eager to gain more perspectives on it. And, two, because I encourage you to browse through the excellent commentary. These comments are easily visible at the bottom of the article because I’m using Google Comments (just be sure to click on the “View all X replies” under the first comment). Alternatively, you can go to the original post here:

#artificialintelligence   #evolutionoftechnology   #organization  

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  1. One of the reasons that I find this thought interesting is …we have all had a more than passing …understanding…with some mechanical device , a car , bicycle . Although it was just like a thousand others, it had a personality that we were in tune with.  In reality we simply understood the limitations of the design and were able to utilize the capabilities in an intuitive way …but some mornings ole Bessie was a little more fussy than others     

  2. I think it is really important that we don’t identify life and organization (in other words, that we reject Gaia theory). I’m increasingly of the opinion that “life” doesn’t represent a useful scientific category in the first place, and that the term “organization” (or better, organism) does all the work we need it to do. But insofar as the term “life” or “alive” is useful it has characteristics that simply don’t apply to organization generally. Cellular reproduction is a particularly relevant feature of life that doesn’t extend to all organizations. 

    You repeat the refrain that “organizations are a kind of life”, but this gets the relation exactly backwards. Living systems are organized, but not all organized systems are alive. Life is one kind of organization, but there are many others, the way a tiger is a kind of cat but there are many others. 

  3. Ron Serina, I know just what you’re talking about. When we sold our last car, it was actually really hard to do. Surprisingly hard. We wanted to make sure she (see, not “it”) ended up in the right hands. What I honestly can’t tell is what was really going on there. We humans are really good at seeing patterns, even where there are none. But then again, might there be some level of emergent relationship there that is just more subtle than the other ones we have in life? Might that connection we build – even with objects – contain some sort of meaning beyond that which exists in our heads? I don’t know, but I can’t eliminate the possibility somehow. 

  4. Excellent point, Daniel Estrada. I cannot argue with it, particularly the second paragraph. I have used the terms “life” and “alive” to make what I’m talking about a bit more approachable, but in reality, my view of these systems is much more aligned with the way you are describing it above. 

  5. Very interesting… coincidentally, I just read this article that makes a related argument:

  6. Thanks Forrest Thiessen, will check it out later today.

  7. Gideon Rosenblatt Some say a photon of light exists only because we observe it. …Life might exists  only when we think it does.     

  8. I like that, Ron Serina. I like that. 

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