What is Optionality?

In this article, Edwin Thor discusses what the concept optionality, as has been expressed in a number of ways in the WEBzine Optionality, is about. Edwin explains that non-violence is an important principle in the Editors' interpretation of Optionality.

What is Optionality?

As Editors of the WEBzine Optionality, we are often asked to define what optionality is. Our standard reply is that a concept such as optionality by nature defies definition. Instead, we advise people to glance through this WEBzine, listen to Don Paragon's music or seek a consult with Quintessence, each of which options will at least give them some impression of what optionality is about.

Many of the articles that have appeared in the magazine Optionality over the years have described violence, dictatorship, coercion and oppression as opposites of optionality. Also, optionality has been compared with more similar concepts in many articles.

Is such comparison a good method to explain what optionality is about? One problem is that it is hard to define something by what it is not. This problem has been worked out in more detail in the article Beyond Criticism. In short, this article argues that optionality has a positive approach when suggesting additional options as a solution and when asking questions such as: When there is one, why not more? Isn't having a number of options better than being locked into one standard answer?

Multiple Interpretations

The position fo the Editors of this WEBzine is that we do not present a single definition of optionality; instead, we discuss multiple interpretations of the concept, often overlapping each other in many respects, yet each being separate interpretations that may differ in one or more fundamental respects.

At Quintessence's November 1995 presentation called Optionality, Vision of the Future, Ben Mettes, Quintessence's Managing Director, discussed two interpretations of optionality: Don Paragon's Vision of the Future and Ben's own use of optionality as his preferred perspective in his consultancy work (see the article Optionality in Practice).

There are further implementations of optionality. The December 1995 issue of the magazine Optionality discussed an initiative (see the article The Sun rises in New Zealand) that has been referred to as the Action Man approach in earlier articles. This approach suggested to create a State with minimal government in New Zealand. In the Action Man approach, less government means more optionality.

Of course there is also the approach of this magazine itself, discussing various interpretations of optionality and often adding editorial views and stimulating debate and reflection, but never choosing one interpretation as the definite, final answer.

Limiting Optionality?

This magazine takes the view that violence as inflicted by people on others is in virtually all cases a deliberate, considered and conscious act. We regard the argument that people can act in an impulse of rage or in a mood of temporary insanity as a poor excuse for such behaviour. Even for outright lunatics there often is a well-developed line of reasoning behind their behaviour, however far-fetched such a delusion may be.

We focus on the 'logic' behind violent acts, rather than on 'law and order' solutions that concentrate on the acts of violence themselves. The philosophy of law and order in today's society is that violence first must be countered by government violence, i.e. police forces and, if deemed necessary, military forces. This government violence may present itself as minimal, yet it wants to be powerful enough to be effective in suppressing any other violence; on top of that, there are penalties and imprisonment to punish convicted criminals and to act as a deterrent against further crimes. These are further acts and threats of government violence. After all, a convicted criminal who does not co-operate, will be forced to do so. But all such practices do not reject violence: they preach violence!

We reject all such violence. We suggest to cope with problems not by outlawing specific situations, but by making additional conditions possible that will solve such problems. Some argue that this is an interpretation of optionality that is utopian and that limits the very concept of optionality; in contrast with our rejection of solutions that incorporate violence, they argue that it is possible to come up with interpretations of optionality that allow or temporarily accommodate some form of violence, as a step towards further improvement.

We reject all government control, as such control is ultimately based on applying violence against those who do not co-operate. We prefer interpretations of optionality that similarly reject government control. Consequently, we prefer Don Paragon's Vision of the Future over Action Man's often political and legalistic initiatives.

We encourage readers to comment or otherwise make contributions that give further meaning to the concept optionality. We do accept that there are other interpretations of optionality and we do welcome such interpretations in this magazine for discussion. As said before, keeping the door open for other solutions, new viewpoints and alternative interpretations is an essential element in this magazine's interpretation of optionality.

We may, however, disagree as to what is most suitable to be included in this magazine. Yes, we reserve some editorial rights, as well as the right to deny others use of content of this magazine as if it is their's; but we do not intend to discourage others to participate in such debates, we just like some clarity as to what are who's views. The very idea of this magazine is to see such issues debated. For the time being, Don Paragon's Vision of the Future is what we identify ourselves with most closely, but perhaps future interpretations will appear that are even more superior.

To protect Optionality?

One reader once questioned if the concept optionality can cope with, yes survive, violent aggression. Our reply is that we are confident that, as optionality gains in profile, there will be less and less violence. As Don Paragon says: "Ownership over physical assets, so often fought about in the past, is becoming less and less relevant Information can be used by two or more different parties, without one party's use compromising the others in their use as happens so often with physical objects. Information can easily be encrypted, duplicated and held at several places; so, if vandals or accidents take or destroy the information someone is using, there is little to worry about. If there is sufficient back-up, one can be up and running again in a matter of seconds. Communications will expose unfair practices, all of which will lead to the demise of government."

So, is it necessary to seek legal or military protection for the concept optionality? Our reply is no! One individual supporter of optionality may be silenced, perhaps even a lot of them. Even if aggression could be successful in silencing every single supporter of optionality, this would only be temporary. Optionality has been out of the question, censored, outlawed and otherwise suppressed in history, yet it has emerged as the logical conclusion of personal experience by giving the most sensible explanation of what happened in the past and why. We are confident that anyone using violence will self-destruct without having any effect on the concept optionality; we are confident that there is only ignorance, stupidity and wickedness behind such violent acts and that all their 'logic' will pale into oblivion when confronted with the superiority of optionality. We only expose, evil destroys itself!

Are some Issues ignored?

Any exploration by a magazine such as this has its limitations. Don Paragon's view that the predominant use of the written word is in itself a limiting factor, has been worked out in various articles in the past.

We have been told that, since logic and reason are central elements in our approach, we by implication neglect issues in which feelings, emotions, etc, play a large role. We have been told that our articles mimic the sterile style of a technical or scientific analysis. One reader remarked: "Your non-violent logic is fake! If there is no room for violence in your interpretation of optionality, how do you eat (which is essentially an act of violence) and sleep at night?"

We agree that an issue such as food, in all its complexity, is overwhelming due to the huge amount of highly emotional issues so closely associated with it. It is hard to write an article about food without discussing issues such as water, farming, environmental impacts, health aspects, food additives, drugs, pharmacies, testing in laboratories, animal rights, genetic engineering, etc. So what approach should we take on food? We do not prescribe any single behavior as the only rightful one, as can be read in the article Is eating an Act of Violence? We just believe that it makes most sense to approach such issues from the perspective of optionality.

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