Requisite 20-fold Articulation of Operative Insights?


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Checklist of Web Resources on 20 Strategies, Rules, Methods and Insights

22 Oct 2018 – Produced on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Club of Rome


It is somewhat surprising to note the range of articulations of insights and methods specifically identified as numbering twenty. A loosely clustered checklist is provided below.

The interest follows from the presentation of a preceding exploration (Checklist of 12-fold Principles, Plans, Symbols and Concepts: web resources, 2011). This was produced as an annex to a separate discussion (Eliciting a 12-fold Pattern of Generic Operational Insights: recognition of memory constraints on collective strategic comprehension, 2011), presented in the following sections:.

Constraints on comprehension and communication of sets of principles
Collective comprehension and communication of a 12-fold set
Sets of symbols adequate to the distinction of complementarity within a 12-fold set
Engaging with the symmetry of “bloodless categories”
Embodiment as key to effective understanding — the role of musical harmony
Adapting psychosocial insights from learning/action cycles
Imagining a dynamic configuration of relevant “psychopter technologies”
Experimental clues to a memorable 12-fold systemic pattern (Annexes)
Interlocking cycles enabling psychopter operation

As noted in the first section, the argument here follows from earlier initiatives (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978). This had resulted in analysis of a wide range of examples (Examples of Integrated, Multi-set Concept Schemes, 1984; Patterns of N-foldness: Comparison of integrated multi-set concept schemes as forms of presentation, 1980). These initiatives were themselves presented within a set of related papers (Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984). This included an exercise in generalizing the qualitative distinctions between insights in sets of a given number — in sets of size from 1 to 20 elements (Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980).

A major consideration was the importance to be attached to the much-cited study of George Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, Psychological Review, 1956) — and subsequent research on human working memory capacity. A related concern was the challenge of the erosion of collective memory (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory: a critique of the Club of Rome Report: No Limits to Learning, 1980; Pointers to the Pathology of Collective Memory, 1980). The argument was then developed in relation to new ways of articulating collective principles and the quest for mnemonic facilitation (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts — for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007; Structuring Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs, 2001; Structure of Declarations Challenging Traditional Patterns, 1993).

The question here is then “why 20” — in contrast to “why not 7” or “why not 12”? Is it purely a rhetorical convenience or a coincidence of no significance? However, given that 12 is already a stretch, when 7 (plus or minus 2) has proven to be so convenient, why the greater challenge to memory of 20? On the other hand is there any significant difference from 21 “plus or minus 2”)? Or is it a convenient doubling of the many uses of 10 — most notably the 10 Commandments as perhaps the ultimate articulation of human operacy? This is suggested by debate regarding 20 Commandments (Troy Lacey, Are There 20 Commandments? Answers in Genesis, 2 March 2015; The Other Ten Commandments, h2g2, 18 March 2008; Wallace Wenn, The Other Ten Commandments).

More intriguing is the possibility that 20 constitutes a subtle recognition of a form of completeness — as with the coherence implied by 20 Questions. The number 20 has particular properties which may contribute to this sense of completeness, notably with respect to the integrative pattern offered by the dodecahedron (20 vertices) and its dual the icosahedron (20 faces). It is also the number of proteinogenic amino acids that are encoded by the standard genetic code.

Potentially more intriguing still is its relationship to the vigesimal number systems. In many European languages, 20 is used as a base, at least with respect to the linguistic structure of the names of certain numbers. Vigesimal systems are common in Africa; twenty was a base in the Maya and Aztec number systems.

A related question has been raised with respect to the seemingly arbitrary articulation of a recent strategic report to the Club of Rome into 40 segments (Ernst von Weizsaecker and Anders Wijkman, Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet, 2018), as separately reviewed (Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018). The latter includes a range of images and animations to emphasize the need for more complex articulations of strategic approaches — especially those of global relevance. Why 40? Is there some unexplored sense in which a 20-fold understanding of operational insights is reflected in that 40-fold strategic proposal?

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