The DANdelion™ Effect

What word (existing or newly coined) would you use to describe nature’s incremental opportunistic tenacity, that is to say, the tendency for life to exist wherever it can, as quickly as it can, whenever the smallest opportunity presents itself?
  1. The vegetation that sprouts up in between cracks in the sidewalk, or along the edge of the road where a small film of dirt has accumulated.
  2. Earth’s biosphere, which is teaming with life, exists in a razor-thin edge between a massive planetary ball of molten rock and the vast cold emptiness of space.
  3. Parties in the type of armed conflict where they simply seek to take hold of the next building or deliver the next blow to their enemy (eg. nomadic warfare).
  4. People who show up for work every day, despite not being sure what their long-term plan is.

sidewalk cracks may be larger than they appear - especially if you are a norway maple seed

Does the English language have a word for this, and if not, what would that word look or sound like?
Perhaps there is something in another language that English could borrow? Perhaps a botanical term with Latin roots, or more likely, an existing word in German that already captures this? After all, German is the language that brought us words like Gesamtkunstwerk, Innerer SchweinehundSäuglingsgeschrei, and Rechtschreibreform.

Initially,  I was going to tackle this exercise alone, but then, I remembered the success of a previous crowd-sourcing/online collaborative learning experiment. I said to myself, “Surely the sum of intelligence of the Facebook Peanut Gallery would outperform anything that I, a mere wannabe bon vivant blogger, could come up with?”

der Bürgersteig Unkraut-Effekt

Well, the Peanut Gallery did not disappoint.  Thanks to the creative input of AlizaR, AryehT(MiniP), AviS, BenB, ColinS, DannyS(one of the other ones), DovS, ElyS, GilY, JasonL, LevP, MattL, and NaregA we now have many candidate terms.
The first entry came from GilY, in a fine example of his Fantastically Excellent Acronymic Talents. He proposed the the following:
“It’s the L.O.O.S.E. strategy: Leveraged-Optimistic-Opportunities-Strategic-Emergence..which is much better than the T.I.G.H.T.S. strategy: Try-Imagining-Goals-Helping-Tactical-Successes.

Just be L.O.O.S.E..”

Gil’s snackable acronymous pairing nicely sums up a key element of this concept: it’s about eschewing the engineered approach of “measure twice and cut once” and instead saying, “measure never, commence cutting at once!”  Opportunism. Expediency. Que-sera-sera-ism.
Another key element of this concept is a kind of natural vitality, the ability to quickly spread, and not just spread, also to grow and develop despite of — or perhaps because of — the difficult conditions that are presented.  Here is a little crack in the pavement.  Who knows what will happen next… but who cares… let’s fill it and grow.
Joining those two elements of opportunism and vitality is the idea of self-reinforcing success:  Once the organism takes hold in the otherwise hostile environment, it begins to make that environment more hospitable for itself and other organisms.
"Let's play Rock-Scissors-Tree... Tree beats Rock!"

As suggested by the L.O.O.S.E. acronym, this is a form of “Strategic Emergence” where the short term moves accumulate to form the long term strategy.

Even “failure” is a victory, as the detritus of the earlier attempts at growth — layers of dead plant material, for example — provide fodder for the next attempt.
So, what term to use for these ideas?
Aggressively incremental organic growth?   Hyperincrementavivosity?
In English we have words for all sorts of combinations of concepts. Let’s find one for this set here, too.

Pick a Word, Any Word

Listed below are what the rest of the Facebook Peanut Gallery had to say, with the most votes (including my personal veto-vote)  going to DannyS’ proposed trademarkable term, The DANdelion™  Effect.  In the spirit of weedosity, I’ve sprinkled in a few extra terms, especially wherever there was an alphabetical gap in the Collective Wisdom:

Aggressive Marginal Advancement
DANdelion™  Effect
der Bürgersteig Unkraut-Effekt
Just Do It
L.O.O.S.E. Strategy
Luceat et Crescat
Measure Never, Cut  Nonce!
Occasionem Cognosce
Put Your Junk In The Box
Silicon Valley circa 2000
Vivat, Crescat, Floreat!
WALL-E ism
Xeriscapic Creep
Some participants in this brainstorming exercise called out the more malignant, viral/cancerous associations of this concept, which reminded me of our friend Agent Smith in the Matrix who had the following dark opinion of humanity:
Notwithstanding Agent Smith’s naively romantic views of mammalian ecology (he obviously never experienced life amongst rats in the city… or deer in the suburbs… or rabbits in Australia…) I thought that the Matrix movie writers did a nice job closing the loop of this memorable introduction of the cybernetic villain, with his “Humans-are-a-Cancer” diatribe: By the final movie, Agent Smith has himself become the worst kind of self-replicating contagion, a black tar that has spread everywhere, sticking to everything. This dandy word that we’re looking to smith is so much more than Agent Smith… but he does offer a cautionary tale of uncontrolled growth.

Coming Around Full Circle: The Backstory

Back in October, I was walking in Lower Manhattan on my way to deliver a program at a banking client. The markets had been rough lately, the Taliban was blowing up things again in Afghanistan, and the people in nearby Zuccotti Park were chanting in the face of Wall Street.
As I passed the building of a particularly noteworthy client who had been on the receiving end of disproportionately extra-large portion of populist anger, I watched a steady stream of employees arriving at work early — their suits pressed and their faces a mixture of stolid and resolute expressions — a phalanx of workers getting set to keep the markets moving, one little bit at a time, despite everything else that was going on.  Way above across the street, I could see a crane slowing pulling up materials to rebuild the World Trade Center, one little bit at a time.
I thought about how this wasn’t just the way of building things, but also the way of subverting things, too.  I had just heard the morning news with the all-too-familiar report of the Taliban’s latest misdeeds… in this case, they had killed some fellow Afghanis who were waiting outside the police recruitment center. This daily game of fighting for the next house, looking to inflict the next wound on the enemy, it was a destructive mirror image of what was happening here in Manhattan.
I thought about dandelions in the sidewalk, and how people sometimes reach a certain point in their career where it stops being about getting everything right… it becomes just about getting the next little victory… the next little bit of “win.”
I thought that’s it’s just like many other things in nature, how it’s the kind of thing that is both beautiful and tragic — at times so correct and at other times so wrong — the ideal approach in some ways, yet so limited in other ways.
Yes, it’s the kind of thing that deserves its own word.

About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on March 31, 2012, in Collaboration, Green Style, Jargon, Learning, Life, Metaphors, plants and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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