Does the Integral OS need a bug tracking system?

Hi folks,

Recently I posted an article on my blog called “The Integral Operating System Needs a Bug Tracking System”. I’d love to hear feedback and thoughts on this from any of you (and the Integral Life team too, hint hint).

Here’s the heart of it:

If Integral Theory is a sort of superhuman operating system, then it needs a bug tracking database. At Microsoft, they call their primary tool RAID (get it, like the brand of pesticide?). Everyone enters problems into the database and then they are triaged by program managers and acted upon by the original person who logged it. Duplicate bugs are identified and removed. And ultimately the most serious issues get escalated higher and higher up the food chain. But they are all commented on. They are all given attention. Even the ones that are dismissed are shown the respect of a careful process.

What’s more, not every “Ken Wilber is a selfish asshole” comment is considered a legitimate bug to be tracked. There are standards and protocols for entering bugs into the system. You have to document its reproducibility. You have to show that it has a serious impact on the product’s usability. You even have to rank its priority level. The very process of trying to document a bug for inclusion in the database requires one to engage with the product, its specifications and design intent, and to investigate all related prior bugs to see if a similar one has been entered and determine how it was acted upon.

Sometimes something that looks like a bug from one perspective is really a product feature when more perspectives are taken into consideration. That case of mistaken identity usually gets resolved satisfactorily by the person who enters the bug into the system once they have been educated about why the feature exists in the first place.

Sometimes something that looks like a bug really is a bug, but it can’t be solved without breaking the system, at least not until the system goes through a major new product release. Then it can be entered into a list of potential new features to add when the system is redesigned. Nobody is really happy about this sort of resolution, but at least the issue is being tracked and might get fixed down the road.

Altogether, regardless of what happens with the bug, the very process of entering bugs into the system transforms a disgruntled source of potential mischief and anarchy into a constructive, contributing member of a cohesive team working together on a common purpose. Is there a reason why this coudn’t work that I don’t see? It seems like a perfectly sound idea to me. If this idea gets support, count me in as someone willilng to help execute it.


I love this idea. I’ve thought some about a similar idea I call “Philosophical Version Control”. Bug tracking would of course also need a version control system, so this idea goes with it well.

Donald Knuth, the author of the famed ART OF COMPUTER PROGRAMMING series, offers a small cash reward for any verified corrections. It would be an interesting prize to own a small check from Ken Wilber, or whoever the validating party might be.

“The offer of a so-called Knuth reward check worth “one hexadecimal dollar” (100HEX base 16 cents, in decimal, is $2.56) for any errors found, and the correction of these errors in subsequent printings, has contributed to the highly polished and still-authoritative nature of the work, long after its first publication.”

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Hey Joe, I think this is a cute metaphor, but I think I would need to hear what specifically would register as a “bug” in your view. I can think of a few possible scenarios:

  • There is some wrinkle in, for example, Ken Wilber’s formulation of Integral theory, which needs to be ironed out. I am thinking, for example, of when Ken used to stack states on top of stages before he and Alan arrived at the “Wilber-Combs Lattice”.

  • There is some dissociated and un-integrated piece of our self-system that is wreaking havoc upon the rest of the self-system. In which case, AQAL actually has its own “debugging software” programmed into the OS, in this case called “shadow work”.

  • There is some unseen influence that is bending our personal and collective integral intentions toward decidedly non-integral expressions, some “false consciousness” produced by the culture or technologies we are immersed in, and can be difficult to identify, as it is the water we are all swimming in.

I am sure there are plenty of others, perhaps you can provide some of your own examples.

Either way, I think that this sort of “bug tracking system” could be a very cool idea — though it would necessarily require incredible courage, vulnerability, honesty, and humility on behalf of all participants. Which is something I think this community should be more than capable of, don’t you?

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The bug tracking database is more than a metaphor; it’s a proposal for a structured process to be put in place to track criticisms of Integral Theory and responses to those criticisms. A database modelled after software developent best practices is how I would do it, but it could be done in other ways as well.

The key concern it is to address is to allow critics of IT to feel their concerns are being heard, addressed when appropriate, deferred when appropriate, or rejected (and given a reason for rejection). Among other things, this would make it impossible for them to claim that Ken refuses to listen to them and therefore IT is bunk. At the same time, I would suggest handling the database in a way that is segregated from other sorts of community discussion so that it’s clearly the domain of folks with special interest in IT.

I had hoped, after the Earpy’s blog post, that Ken’s students would respond regularly to the constant stream of attacks on IT posted on Frank Visser’s website primarily. For whatever reason, there weren’t a lot of responses. Consequently, Frank and his posse continue to make a lot of noise and heat. Why not, for the sake of “good interpersonal hygiene”, create a systemic approach to critical responses to IT?


P.S.: I would consider a “bug” anything that someone wants to enter into the database because they think it’s a problem for them. Many “bugs” so entered can be quickly marked as Duplicate and pointed to a FAQ-like document.