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A Thought on the Speech by Robb Smith

A friend of mine recently participated in an event hosted by Integral Life called What NOW conference (https://integrallife.com/events/what-now/). Soon after the event, the key note speech by the CEO Robb Smith was made available online, and I was recommended to take a look at it.


Never Been Better, Never Felt Worse: Inside the Rise of an Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century

By Robb Smith

January 4, 2018


Over the past decade, I have been following the presentation by those associated with Integral Institute (Integral Life) on the topic of politics, and I have been consistently disappointed by the poor quality of those presentations. One of the key problems that characterize them is the adamant refusal of those presenters to pay attention to the shadow aspect of politicsnamely what is commonly called deep politics. Instead, they consistently confine their thinking with the realms of the conventional thinking. When even the main stream media is forced to address the reality of deep politics, partially because they have lost credibility so profoundly under the threat of the alternative media, this state of discourse in the Integral Community characterized by serious ineptitude made me conclude that the community basically degenerated into a mere ideology movement rather than a community of open inquiry.

However, of those pundits associated with Integral Institute, I find some of the presentations by Robb Smith rather interestingso much so that I find them to be worth criticizing as Elliot Aronson would say.


So here is my thought on the presentation:


Probably the most serious problem is that Robb tends to reify the stage or color too much. I hear phrases such as Stage X thinks this way or Stage Y behaves that way or Stage Z values that... However, in reality, it is extremely difficult to simplistically claim that individuals at a certain stage act in certain ways this definitively.

Furthermore, any value or ideology can be held from multiple stages (for example, both conservative and liberal stance can be held by individuals at stage 3 or 4 or 5 or higher; or even integral ideology can be believed from a wide range of stages), so describing a certain ideological stance as well developed or not well developed is deeply troublesome way of utilizing developmental theory. My impression is that Robb does not really distinguishing between the structure of consciousness and the content of consciousness.

To be honest, it is simply not possible to take anything the person with this level of understanding says seriously.


Also, it would appear that there is an underlying conviction that more developed individuals are in terms of cognitive development, more successful they become by necessity. However, the researches do not seem to support that it is actually the case. In reality, highly developed cognitive capacity can lead to greater success only when certain conditions are metfor example, the nature of the position or role he or she occupies and the tasks at hand need to be complex enough to require that level of cognitive functioning. Furthermore, other conditions such as domain specific skills and cultural and system support for that complex cognitive functioning is necessary. Also, when individuals apply complex cognitive functioning to situations that do not call for it can end up doing disservice to the situation (or the person will be simply considered incapable). So, simplistic celebration of complexity is the last thing we want to do.

By the way, developing the cognitive capability at the post-conventional stages such as Turquoise (Construct Aware) and Indigo (Ego Aware) means that individuals begin to deconstruct the fundamental beliefs and values that they have held throughout their lives. That is, at this point, they begin to see the concepts such as development or evolution or maturity as a kind of fiction that we utilize to make sense of reality. Or more fundamentally, they come to realize that those conceptual products is construct or manufactured outcome of human psychological processthus potentially lack reality in the fundamental sense. Clearly, this kind of awareness can be highly disruptive and can easily lead to deep existential crisis. Higher development does not mean greater psychological ease or equilibrium or happiness.

So, to me, what appears to be the lack of attention to the intrinsic risks that lie in the process of development in the presentation is too disturbing. In other words, it would appear that developmental theory is here used as some kind of an ideology based on pseudo-science.


With regards to Robbs overall view of the collective world affairs, I think that it is essentially a narrative typically held by those who lives enveloped in the conventional world in the US. From a perspective that is a little removed from the US domestic politics, for example, people are generally aware that it does not really matter who the president is (Bush, Clinton, Obama, Trump...) as the deep structures of the national security community and policies remain pretty much the same. Whatever the contents of speech a president reads out loud on front of the public, more and more people now realize that it does not really matter much in the context of the big picture. A while ago, Jeff Saltzman and others at Integral Institute proclaimed Barak Obama as integrally informed president, and it shocked many of us as such a proclamation only attested their naiveté.

Basically, we need to pay attention not to what words (e.g., speeches and presentations) are being spoken by the famous political figures but the overarching context and system within which such words are spoken and consumed (and what kind of status is preserved by means of that cycle) in the political discourse.

Frankly, in this sense, despite all the remarks on the radical changes that are taking place in the world, I do not think that I have heard anything that is truly insightful in Robbs speech.


Overall, despite the assertion by those who are associated with Integral Institute that they are thinking from high developmental stages, my sense is that the community is struggling to produce anything that can qualify as integral or turquoise or indigo or whatever color that is in vogue today in reality. And in my opinion, this is one of the reasons why the community is failing to be provocatively relevant in society at this point.

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