Optionality versus Parallelism

Abstract: This article argues that parallelism and diversity are both forms of plurality that, due to their insistence on multiplicity, incorporate some degree of coercion. Similar to plurality, parallelism seems to reject monoism, but does not clearly reject the Government. Indeed, the big question is, does parallelism reject the singularity of the law? By contrast, optionality rejects monoism in a definitive yet practical way.

A. Who backs Parallelism?

Parallelism has not been given much attention as a concept in this magazine (Optionality, ed.), mainly because there have not been many people known to back the concept. This may change with the recent (1994, ed.) publication of the book Parallel Thinking by Edward de Bono.

In 1967, de Bono became famous with his catch-phrase lateral thinking, which could be regarded as a form of alternativism, i.e. doing something else than what you are expected to do for the sake of it or for the delight of variety. The article There must be another Way, which first appeared in the July 1991 issue of this magazine, suggested that rather than choosing between alternatives, it is better to let multiple ways co-exist. De Bono's new book Parallel Thinking suggests that he agrees with us that this is a better approach.

B. Optionality versus Plurality

Concepts such as parallelism, alternativism, diversity and plurality all oppose monoism. In the August 1991 issue of this magazine we expressed our preference for competitors to operate in parallel with each other. But we added that this is not always necessary. As long as the market is open, a single organization can operate in a market (sector) without consumers having to fear that this will lead to unfair exploitation. Optionality differs from concepts such as parallelism and pluralism in that optionality merely insists on testability of a market, i.e. the actual presence of multiple players is no absolute necessity.

Parallelism and diversity are both forms of plurality. Parallelism may insist on multiple ways that are virtually identical, while diversity regards difference as a virtue. But they all demand the co-existence of multiple ways, they insist that multiple versions of something always be present. This calls for dictatorial measures against a sole supplier in a market. Especially in the case of something new, there may not have been enough time for parallel structures to develop. Demanding plurality from the start may prevent it ever coming off the ground. Optionality is easier to achieve as there is no necessity for each option to become fully manifest. Optionality is satisfied with the possibility of alternatives or rather with the presence of options. This explains why plurality is often portrayed as essential regarding the shape of government and its socio-economic and trade policies, but is rejected in a wider context. Plurality does not reject the monopoly position of the Government as it realizes that it has to force some of its opponents (monoists) into compliance. In its full implementation, plurality becomes a rule that needs to be looked after by law enforcers. Ironically, plurality looks at the Government for help, but the Government will only allow plurality where it feels it can benefit from it, e.g. in tendering processes. Power corrupts and anybody in a position to write down the law will inevitably use that power selectively to strengthen positions and create a monopoly of power.

C. Is Parallelism different?

How does Edward de Bono deal with the paradox of forcing people to reject dictatorship? Does he reject the coercion and monopoly position of the Government? Let us quote from the book: Many developed countries ban cock-fights and dog-fights. I suggest we do the same with adversarial argument. I would Iike to see 'thinking' taught as a specific subject in all schools. At all levels of education I would like much more attention paid to the 'design' side of thinking. I would almost like to see government taking 'design' seriously enough to have a Department or Ministry for New Ideas. I would like to see the United Nations set up a formal Office of Creativity. De Bono recently wrote that he wants to be king Australia. Does he intend to force the majority of Australians to give up monotheism for parallelism? Optionality does not force people into such choices, in the confidence that when bad options are exposed for what they are, few will choose them.

Edward de Bono's Parallel Thinking was reviewed in this article;
For more reviews, go to Optionality Reviews

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