Thickest of BRICS. And an Intelligent Solution for South Africa



It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it. 

Nelson Mandela

South Africa faces a perfect storm.  Low IQ, Low Human Capital Index and High Government Corruption 

Managing a country is a simple matter.  It is like a game of football.  The Government's job is to provide the  best possible field to play on and the Private Sector's job is to play the game, successfully and competitively.

If each player does its job effectively you end up with a competitive economy.

In South Africa the field has been neglected and ripped apart by corruption and sheer stupidity, leaving an uncompetitive system in serious decline.

The 'energy' and potential performance of every country can be measured by two critical KPI's.  National IQ and the National Human Capital Index.  Review of the graph above shows that South Africa is the 'thickest of BRICS' by a country mile.  We are hardly in the game. Rather we are sliding into a crocodile infested swamp where corruption has become the dominant player.

The Human Capital Index is a report prepared by the World Bank. The Index measures which countries are best in mobilizing the economic and professional potential of its citizens. The index measures how much capital each country loses through lack of education, health, safety and decent government.  It uses a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 reflects the optimum use of human capital. 

South Africa sits at 0.43 and is ranked at 135 of 173 countries. To be competitive it needs to be above 0,7.  

National IQ is a key dependent variable that correlates completely with the HCI.  Raise the country's HCI and you automatically raise the IQ level.  Again, to be globally competitive, National IQ needs to be in the 90's at least.  Currently it sits at 68 where the global average is 82.

In pure economic terms SA's GDP has been in steady decline over the past decade and income per capita has fallen by close to 30%.

The Goal - To become a 'Top BRIC' within a decade 

South Africa is without doubt one of the most beautiful countries in the world with the most beautiful and friendly people.  As a global system it has massive untapped potential.

Sixty million wonderful people deserve better.  Much better.

Let's be optimistic and set our system targets at a Human Capital Index of 0,7 and an IQ above 90, and a totally transmogrified Corruption Index raised from 40% to 80%.

It's worth a shot.

The Michel Serres Solution 

Professor Michel Serres (d. 2019), philosopher and genius, was decades ahead of his time.

He recognised, as did Alexander Humboldt two centuries ago, that we live on a finite planet with finite resources, and that we need to find a radically new and more intelligent economic model if we wish to survive.

In more recent times The Club of Rome published Limits to Growth, and James Lovelock published Gaia emphasising the complex connections that make up our living planet.

David Attenborough, probably the most experienced and knowledgeable person about our planet, who has ever lived, has said bluntly:

"We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist."

He also added:

"We have come as far as we have because we are the cleverest creatures to have ever lived on Earth. But if we are to continue to exist, we will require more than intelligence. We will require wisdom."

Above all South Africa needs an urgent infusion of both intelligence and wisdom.

The Serres Solution is about the requisite wisdom of managing a planetary system and avoiding the destructive madmen and economists.

The Serres Solution is the perfect model to radically transmogrify the SA system. 

Correctly spliced onto the existing low energy system it is has the power to convert South Africa into a Top BRIC.

Identifying the underlying systemic problem 

 Serres identified the underlying human affliction as the ancient 'two player game' of geopolitics and economics.  Manifesting in a never ending two player competitive game between individuals, tribes, corporations, religions and nations.  The problem with the two player game, born in the stone age, is that it does not work in our new global world of science and technology.  Built into the two player game are the seeds of our own destruction.

Serres offers a radical and intelligent solution.  A new three player game of Biogea - Science - Society.  He defines Biogea as all life and the earth itself.

(For more detail you may enjoy a Tale of Seven Geniuses.  This article provides more detail on our global systemic challenge and the three player solution of Michel Serres.)

Understanding systems to understand SA 

Before looking at how the Serres Solution can be applied successfully in SA, first some important notes on human systems and human energy.

For the past three decades we have worked extensively with large corporates and the extent to which human energy drives both success and failure.  This matters if we are to examine ways to change the SA system.

  • All human systems, including corporations and nations, are highly complex, non-linear and dynamic, changing constantly.  The key lesson here is that they are unpredictable.  Anyone who says they understand human systems does not understand human systems.
  • Every human system is driven by human energy, the 'fuel' needed to do work.
  • Human energy is a measure of the ability to think and act intelligently.
  • High energy systems are simply smarter, more competitive and more profitable than low energy systems.  This is why the highest energy corporates and nations employ the smartest and most experienced professionals available.  This is clearly reflected in the data regarding national IQ, national HCI, and economic success.
  • All human systems evolve an equilibrium energy level which is difficult to change.  Staying with our theme, you can see how difficult it is to change the levels of national IQ, HCI and corruption levels overnight.
  • The driver of all system energy, intelligence and performance, is leadership.  There are no exceptions.
  • There are only two solutions.  Change the way leaders behave or change the leaders.

Applying system energy principles to SA 

The graph at the top of this blog shows SA as a very low energy system, with a dangerously low system energy equilibrium level.  This is revealed every day as we face low system energy symptoms such as electricity blackouts, high crime, high unemployment, corrupt police, corrupt and incompetent politicians, low levels of education, a poor health system, a crumbling infrastructure and a general collapse of common decency, respect and integrity.

It is important to stress this key element of understanding complex, non-linear systems.  All performance (and I mean all performance) is a direct function of the available energy and intelligence in the system. 

No human system can perform outside of its 'energy envelope'.  Worded more colourfully, you cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

Human systems are blind to politics, race, religion, gender and all the other two player games we have evolved over thousands of years.  Every action has a systemic consequence.  Every act of corruption, every decision to place the tribe or party above the country, every decision to use a paint colour to classify another human being - all will destroy system energy.  Every act of omission such as not educating children properly, not maintaining the power grid, removing highly intelligent and experienced engineers for political expediency - all will destroy system energy and system intelligence.

And all this will happen because we cannot violate the laws of physics.  Every action has a reaction.  And this can be a gain or a loss of system energy. 

A New 'Brain of the Firm' for SA 

The country has a general election in 2024.  Many people are hoping the current government will become a minority, allowing more intelligent and less corrupt leaders to emerge.  The question however remains.  Will this be enough to lift the country from the current crocodile invested swamp into a high-flying and competitive nation?  Unlikely.  The requisite knowledge, skill and experience needed to achieve a radical social and economic transformation remains absent in the system.  There is no genetic history of such evolutionary capability.

The only way to change a complex human system is to change the structure and change the rules.  The Serres Solution does both of these.

And there are sound systemic reasons for this.  Complex human systems are like leopards.  They don't like changing their spots.  Thus all the will in the world will be insufficient to change the SA system without a radically new method and structure.  Let's call this Serres method 'The New Brain of the Firm.'


The Structure 

The proposed game changing structure is a new, intelligent and independent organisation, for which there is no existing blueprint.  Its goal will be simple.  To contribute directly and practically to the radical transformation of the SA economy, making SA a Top BRIC within a decade.

Key KPI's will include raising the Human Capital Index to 0.7, the national IQ to above 90, and the Corruption Index to a minimum of 70%.

The new Brain of the Firm will need to be placed firmly between government and the private sector.  Its core responsibilities will be the following.

  • Continuous review, measurement and publication of all government performance through simple and accessible social media.  Every citizen has a right to good government and the right to know how their government is performing.
  • Continuous design of new practical strategies to enhance the energy, intelligence and performance of all key performance areas that are most relevant to all citizens.  These will include education, health, jobs, housing, safety and crime free environments, building an innovative and competitive workforce, reducing unemployment, and above all eliminating corruption in both the public and private sectors.
  • Close independent interaction with the two key players in our game of football - Government and the Private Sector.  Think of this new Brain of the Firm as the game's finest coach.
  • The new Brain of the Firm will employ the world's most intelligent, skilled, experienced, creative and ethical individuals.  Bar none.  
  • The new Brain of the Firm will be based on the three player Serres structure that will move the system from the destructive and ancient two player game to the new three player game of Biogea - Science - Society.  Successfully applied this model can become a world first for other nations to follow.  Thus meeting the global challenge of generating a leadership model capable of managing a planetary system.  South Africa has a golden opportunity to both catapult itself  into a high energy, high intelligence orbit, at the same time pioneering a new and sustainable model that protects both the environment and society.

Who will drive the new Brain of the Firm? 

Michel Serres was clear and adamant on this issue.  Scholars.

Scholars need to take the lead to create the vision, strategy, structure and execution steps to create the new high energy, high intelligence and corruption free economy on a sustainable planet.

This will demand game changing mavericks who are smart enough to see a new future and courageous enough to make this new future happen.  They need to be high energy activists in body, mind and soul.

Business Schools and Universities need their own transmogrification.  They need to step out of their compromising and appeasing sponsorship shadows, buried in the cottonwool comfort of self serving and theoretical irrelevance.

They need to take on the Joan of Arc mantle of courage and conviction and become the pioneers that lead us out of the dark ages thinking of the two player game of kill or be killed, funded by the 'priests, warriors and wealth creators' into a new Serres inspired three player game that best integrates our society with both science and the planet.

Carl Sagan showed us that we live on a 'mote of dust on a sunbeam'.  No gods, aliens, priests or politicians are going to save us if we decide to destroy our living planet.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman).  It is time for the scholars to step up and become the new warriors.

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