It is amazing to realize that we can optimize the impact of Integral City frameworks in the world simply because adult development is possible.

Integral City Map 3: The Scalar Fractal Relationship of Micro, Meso and Macro Human Systems

Integral City Map 3: The Scalar Fractal Relationship of Micro, Meso and Macro Human Systems

As a pioneering transpersonal psychologist, Roger Walsh emphasized this point at IEC,  he explored how to optimize the impacts of the integral paradigm everywhere.

While integral thinkers not only belong to the school that adult development is a natural phenomenon, many of them are leaders in explaining, developing and promoting capacity development in bio-psycho-cultural-social dimensions. (Ken Wilber, in Integral Psychology, charted the developmental stages named by more than 70 psychologists, psychotherapists, deveopmentalists and researchers). Some of the stage paths have more granularity than others, but all of them identify three developmental levels that are active in cities. Walsh called them: pre-conventional or mythic (also known as pre-modern); conventional or rational (also known as modern); and post-conventional or worldcentric (also known as post-modern).

Integral City is a meta-paradigm – it organizes and aligns the paradigms of human systems within the city, so that the patterns of the “human hive” – the natural living system of the city — can be recognized. As a meta-paradigm for the meso-scale of human systems, it serves the macro-scale of national and planetary systems, but it also depends on the micro-scales of human systems that make it up – the holarchy of social groups to which we all belong (as symbolized in Integral City Map 2).

Interestingly our manifestation of adult development can vary depending on which group we are interacting with – the most advanced worldcentric thinker can devolve to pre-modern sports fan at the World Cup; the most accomplished integral practitioner can happily enjoy the trappings of modernism that make possible all the “mod cons” of the city from flashy car to smart phone; and the most devout integral spiritual leader can appreciate the shamanic practices of Amazonian tribes.

But what distinguishes the adult who practices an integral way of life is the capacity to see all of these experiences as choices that allow and demand the adult to be aware of both their objective qualities and subjective states, and thereby support the facility to make different choices when appropriate.

The capacities to think, act, relate and create along a spectrum of personal conduct, that can be consciously linked to adult development, is in distinct contrast to the majority of people in cities. Most people have not yet discovered that adult psychological development does not cease with the biological maturity of the body. Adult psychological development for many people atrophies when they leave their school and/or their faith teachers and is “normalized” by regular association with peers who live within similar constraints – thus reinforcing the beliefs and behaviors of tribes, clans and cultures.

Moreover, in today’s cities tribes, clans and cultures have converged from the many geographies of the world, each believing that they have the “one right way” and prepared to challenge, fight and even kill others who do not comply with it. In terms of adult development we could say that too many people are arrested at a pre-conventional or conventional stages of development. And the melting pot of the city ensures that the encounter of people at different stages of development will guarantee conflicts and clashes because of their differing worldviews, values and psychological capacities. So there appears to be an optimizing logic that one of the essential weapons to address and vanquish these clashes is through creating the conditions of ongoing adult development. (Core evidence for this argument, might come from the research the “simple” act of educating women in the developing-world, which has improved quality of life measurable in economic, cultural and social terms.)

Some people have misinterpreted the Integral City’s paradigm to be a vision of the city at a steady state and stage of the post-conventional level of development. However, I do not believe that is likely or possible. Firstly, each person in the city traverses the stages of development (as far as they choose and/or are supported). Secondly they do this amidst the ecology of continuously dynamic demographics of the multitude of human lifecycles in cities. Therefore, it seems that these two co-existing conditions will ensure that all stages of human development will always be with us in the Integral City. The dynamics of human systems in cities is precisely what makes them ever-complex and adaptive.

Which brings us back to the proposition that optimizing the impact of Integral City rests on the discovery that adult human development is possible. The development of the city as a complex human system, depends on the assumption that each individual has the possibility of a lifelong learning journey. This is a basic premise that underlies any expectation that the quality of life in the city can be optimized through living with Integral principles.

As Clare Graves reminded us, adult development is a “never-ending quest”. Perhaps creating habitats that optimize the opportunities for adult development is one of the greatest values that Integral City design has to offer the world? Through individual adult development we can then create the conditions to support the intelligences of “WE-space” that has always seemed to me to be the eventual natural legacy of optimizing the impact of the Integral City.