Human Flourishing Design Guide: the science of well-being in the service of technology design

@ibaldo, I truly love :heart: this topic you brought up, and the work you are doing on human flourishing!

I get what you are saying here, and I am a big proponent of going from the “human strengths”. I think this is also present in the Humane Design Guidelines of the CHT, but they are written such that this is less clearly expressed, i.e. by writing in the form of:

current problematic practice (explicitly or not exploiting human vulnerabilities) —> humane design best practices

I really like the way you set up Human Flourishing Design Guide (HFDG). I am not schooled in psychology but a tech guy and product owner. In terms of pragmatism and practicality, looking at the PDF, what immediately came to mind was a likeness to Behavior Driven Development (BDD).

In BDD a software product starts with text-based descriptions of desired behavior which are created in close cooperation with the customer upfront. Then in the subsequent development process they translated to - ultimately - code, and importantly end-to-end tests that can verify that the behavior is adequately implemented.

In agile development a software functionality is often broken down into Epics which is then later further broke down into User Stories that can be readily implemented iteratively by a multi-disciplinary software team. Key thing is that as a customer / stakeholder and with help from the product owner you want to track and verify that nothing is lost in the translation process to source code. This unfortunately frequently happens and leads to mismatches in what is delivered.

Furthermore after Epics / User Stories become part of a software release, you still want to track their functionality and features over time to ensure nothing gets lost as the software evolves. Agile development has a weakness here, where the user story gets forgotten after it moved across the development board, and its functionality is not properly (holistically) measured by tests, nor is it properly documented in most cases.

BDD can be a powerful tool to bring improvement here. And it can be very well combined with Domain Driven Design (DDD), which effectively means: “translating the language of the customer / end-user to concepts that are present in the codebase”. Because of this and to mitigate shortcomings in agile development, both BDD and DDD are undergoing a resurgence in popularity these days.

But there is still a lot to be desired in terms of “flourishment” (I like to use this word myself). For instance BDD + DDD provide a very functional approach. It is not values-driven. Take the example from the Wikipedia BDD page (written in a variation of a Gherkin BDD script):

Title: Returns and exchanges go to inventory.

As a store owner,
I want to add items back to inventory when they are returned or exchanged,
so that I can track inventory.

Scenario 1: Items returned for refund should be added to inventory.

Given that a customer previously bought a black sweater from me
and I have three black sweaters in inventory,
when they return the black sweater for a refund,
then I should have four black sweaters in inventory.

Scenario 2: Exchanged items should be returned to inventory.

Given that a customer previously bought a blue garment from me
and I have two blue garments in inventory
and three black garments in inventory,
when they exchange the blue garment for a black garment,
then I should have three blue garments in inventory
and two black garments in inventory.

This whole thing could be a User Story, or it could be an Epic where the different scenario’s are User Stories. That depends on the amount of work involved in implementing them. Note that many software shops don’t have Epics, only User Stories. Or they have Use Cases, or Use Cases and User Stories.

With BDD text could become literally part of the codebase and is parsed and executed in end-to-end (E2E) behavioral tests that fail when any of the above no longer matches —> the functionality is monitored from now in the software development lifecycle.


  • Customers / end-users have more control + insight on how their wishes and desires wrt the software are implemented.
  • Development teams and other IT stakeholders have more control to safeguard that customer’s wishes are fulfilled.
  • Customers / end-users and IT stakeholders speak the same language throughout the development process.
  • Desired behavior is automatically tracked and tested for compliance as the software evolves.

Extending to Flourishment Driven Design (FDD)

Though not mentioned in your post above, I assume you’ve given this much thought as well. Your HFDG fits really well as an extension to the BDD + DDD combined software development process.

The tracking of “Flourishment Characteristics” throughout the development process is imho vital. Hence defining the Value Proposition in terms of HFDG statements can never be enough.

I imagine Flourishment Driven Design to be an extension of BDD, such that it can become part of scripted texts that can be automated as tests in the software to ensure compliance. Now this is where it gets interesting.

If I lookup Value Proposition in Wikipedia, I see it is accurately defined, only applied to the field of business strategy and business plans. We need to translate to software development and apply holistically, i.e. across all disciplines and involving all stakeholders.

Value proposition: A promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged. It is also a belief from the customer about how value (benefit) will be delivered, experienced and acquired.

A very nice definition. I have italicized ‘belief’ and ‘experienced’ as they apply most to flourishing from the perception of the customer / end-user. Let’s brainstorm and construct a flourishment charactistic as an example in a BDD-like context:

Feature: The Unlimited Drawing Canvas :

Stakeholder: Designer

Value proposition: Supports the designer’s Creativity (A.3.1):

By taking away artificial boundaries (the bounding box) giving the designer a sense of freedom,
And by (B.1.3) helping designer to making satisfying decisions and minimizing choices,
So that freedom of expression is encouraged and not hampered by restrictive UI.

As a designer,
I want to draw on a canvas without boundaries,
so that I can focus fully on doing creative work without the UI getting into my way.

Scenario 1: Canvas scrolls when the tool cursor reaches the edge of the viewport.

Given that a designer performs an action with their drawing tools
when they tool cursor nearly reaches the edge of the visible canvas,
then then the canvas scrolls smoothly to accomodate the drawing action,
and the scolling speed can be adjusted by the designer to a comfortable level.

It may be a bit contrived example (I’m new to this), but note that:

  • I used a more specific ‘user-in-role’ stakeholder type: the designer of a drawing app
  • The options (the ‘by’s’) are implementation specific.
  • I’ve added a ‘so that’ because I think that e.g. B.1.3 is not yet the end goal to be fulfilled, but more a means towards that goal (i.e. Creativity).

Looking at the above I see a great opportunity of FDD + BDD + DDD!

There is one thing remaining, which you also refer to: How do we measure this consistently?

That’s where the science comes into play, I guess, and its where I am just a noob :slight_smile:

But I am very interested to know more about the metrics you can collect in this regard and how that measures to automating it in order to ensure ‘flourishment compliance’. Or not automating it of course if this is not feasible, but then instead making it part of an integrated process that offers the same assurances.

Other observations

Some other things I noticed and would like to give feedback on.

  • The options in the HFDG pdf are I assume only indicative; serve as examples. After all any positive emotion can be used here. I’d consider at least adding the word ‘Trust’ to the sheet by default, and maybe some others too.
  • Your value proposition has the term “supports users”, but that is too narrow imho. It should be "supports [stakeholders’]" because we should not only look at the software from a users’ perspective, but apply holistically.

Of course!
Here it is:

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@aschrijver, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and contributing with ideas! This really motivates me to keep working in this direction! :slightly_smiling_face:

I wasn’t familiarized with BDD, but I did keep Agile and other common approaches like Lean and Design Sprints in mind while working on it, so I’m really happy to know that you could trace this parallel. The possibility to use HFDG with your preferred methodology was intentional and a pre-requisite while designing it.

Through my own experience as a product person, I knew that the guide should be ridiculously easy and fast to use, otherwise it wouldn’t be useful. There are other positive psychology-based methods of design and tech development, but they are all dense, complicated, and non-pragmatic.

For example, Positive Computing (Calvo and Peters, 2014) actually suggests bibliographic topics as part of the process. Instead of asking technologists to read books and learn stuff, I figured I’d have to do the heavy lifting and learn all the science behind it, and than make the process as easy as answering a simple question, with pre-determined answers to choose. So it was important to me that in HFDG people wouldn’t need to read or even learn anything.

Hence, I do believe that people should have access to the science behind it to learn more if they feel compelled to. As I mentioned, I intend to make it available in the future.

I have reservations about letting users decide what they want in terms of flourishing. People rarely know how to achieve flourishment by themselves (there wouldn’t exist a science about it if this was the case), but I do think that HFDG would be a good tool to validate the flourishment potential of any user request.

Yes! The HFDG was designed to be used in cyclical methods like BDD!

Yes, after looking at your experiment, you convinced me there’s something there! You’re directing HFDG to a more sophisticated format.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s an HFDG flaw and this wasn’t clear at the instructions, or if you intentionally disrupted it, but A.3’s should be used with B.3’s only. To me, the beautiful thing is that “The Unlimited Drawing Canvas” would potentially enable flourishing by allowing the designer to enter a “flow” state of work, which is option B.3.1. - the Flow state, or Engagement, is one of the main pillars of the PERMA model of flourishing.

You could learn more about this by reading Flourish (Seligman), or Flow (Csikszentmihalyi). But the most important thing to me is that the HFDG was validated in your experiment.

So the science is behind all HFDG, from the flourishing definition, to what we know about how people achieve it, to how to measure. In science, like “happiness”, “flourishing” is a construct, which allows it’s operationalizations (measuring it, if you please). In Psychology, we call this a “psychometric”. In HFDG I used Seligman’s PERMA model. PERMA model does have it’s own operationalization method, the PERMA-P, or PERMA Profiler. However, Seligman suggests that you can measure PERMA based interventions with any kind of well-being operationalizations. Other examples are the MHC-SF and the FS.

They are actually very science-based. I only used behaviors in which well-being/flourishing inducing effectiveness is evidence based. I would discourage people to change it without any scientific basis. For the Trust request, “trust” is a manifestation of the character strength of “Integrity”. So in theory, your app could either focus on “integrity” or just write “trust” instead of integrity. These words you see on A.3.X. are Character Strengths. Because these can be manifested in different ways and expressed by different concepts among different cultures, Character Strengths were in fact defined with “alternative” words. I did suspect that the HFDG should have all different alternative concepts listed, so your comment is really valuable to me because it confirms it should.

Makes sense to me! I’d love to hear more about this holistic approach of software development. I’m not familiarized with it.

To be honest, I imagined that HFDG could be a replacement for HDG in the beginning, but given the current problematic state of contemporary technology, I’m more convinced that the HDG vulnerabilities approach is necessary. It’s a sad realization. I do believe these guides could work great together, though.

This. Super important to be KISS. I’ve found that even the slightest friction will lead to developers making shortcuts or starting to hate on the methodology as ‘overkill’.

What’s very nice with BDD is that the feature descriptions necessarily evolve with the code. In fact they are part of the version managed code repository. They are written in a human-readable plaintext format, readable by anyone and supported by the same tools developers already use. Similarly you have docs-as-code and infrastructure-as-code. I’d keep the same requirement on HFDG / FDD scripts.

Yes, I agree. It is important that people have an easy way to learn about the rationale of using HFDG. My advice would be to structure this as a pattern library where one can do gradual drilldown to more scientific background information. The patterns themselves should be comprehensive and intuitive 1-2 page descriptions that are all structured in similar ways.

The basic format should also be in plaintext, e.g. Markdown, from which they can be processed to other target formats and e.g. embedded / auto-linked in generated documentation.

I recently reference 2 pattern libraries on this forum: Humane By Design and Data Patterns Catalogue. Other example in a bit different field is Sociocracy Patterns.

Besides patterns it might be interesting to also investigate anti-patterns and dark-patterns and document those too. Especially with dark patterns it will be interesting to see how they effect the “Flourishment Experience”, the FX ( :wink: )

It is fine if the flourishment analysis is done upfront within the IT organization. But not truly involving the customer / end-user at a certain stage would be a fundamental mistake, imho.

For instance an oft-made mistake these days is that UX designers make assumptions on the things a user will like, while in fact it is mostly e.g. the customer’s project manager that likes it. An modern eye-appealing bright-colored UI with flat-pixel buttons, etc. might completely destroy the UX of users that before used an ugly-looking but highly functional dense screen layouts. Productivity and user happiness suffers.

Brainstorming an example:

Intuitive task-oriented UI supports users’ (A.1) positive emotions (B1.3) by helping to making satisfying decisions and minimizing choices

Is that true, if users are comfortable with a UI that implicitly supported:

All-in-one keyboard-accessible overview screens supports users’ (A.1) positive emotions (B1.3) by helping to making satisfying decisions and minimizing choices

The new functionality could lead to a more point-and-click interaction and hidden UI sections where before just pressing Tab-key would really quickly follow the desired user flow.

Note that this is again a contrived example, because in current practice many of these choices are part of other disciplines of IT development (interaction design, usability studies, etc). But if you want FDD to be a seamlessly integrated part of product development flow, then these integrations should be considered.

No, I did not disrupt intentionally. It was an oversight on my part. But I think seeking disruptions like that is a valuable exercise.

I would certainly have chosen ‘Flow’ if that was part of the HFDG sheet. I absolutely adore “flow” as a state of mind, have had it many times. But the description of B.3.1 of “through their engagement in [objective activity/practice]” did not lead me to think it was related to flow. I interpreted more like involvement, embracing/acceptance of the software.

This just means in the broadest sense 'elaborate, weigh and consider the needs of anyone that is affected by the software in any way.

It is an investigation that leads to finding additional requirements that were not immediately clear. Requirements that you can then subsequently prioritize in terms of relationship of the various stakeholders to the delivered product or service.

So while the Designers might love the Diagramming & Drawing product, the Admin might hate it because of the added maintenance burden. The Marketing department might want to know most fitting terminology and avoid selling ‘hot air’. The Board of Directors might want accurate insights of all the costs incurred by offering the service. Etcetera.

The stakeholders could also include people from the IT company that develops the service. How are updates and security patches rolled out. If the product has a built-in Marketplace for 3rd-parties to offer plugins, then a whole host of new stakeholder needs must be taken into account.

A think an interesting challenge for me is to bring the various new disciplines that are evolving around the theme of humane technology together in a comprehensive framework. The opportunity is certainly there.

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congratulations! please let me know when you release the english version. i’m keen to read through it.

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Thank you, @benjasanta! Will do!

I love the idea of this and have some knowledge of positive psychology. I’m really interested to look into the PERMA model as I don’t have specific knowledge of it. What I have read is piecemeal and in the context of children and learning and including working through a lot of the ‘how to’ of CPS (Ross Greene) and the SCARF model (Rock & Cox). I’m interested to learn more about the history and development of psychology, yay wikipedia for a great summary on PERMA. I can see info on CPS in the ‘sister projects’ side panel but nothing about the SCARF model so I’ll share the link where I first heard about it. I was quite impressed with the general tone and accessible language of it as a guide for people looking after or caring for kids with ADHD. I particularly like the mention of fairness as I see it as a major cause for the emotional dysregulation which is quite often a much bigger part of executive function than most people realise.

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A great link you posted @Birdie. I forwarded to a good friend of mine. Thanks.

The concept of ‘Flourishing’ is getting more and more attention. Everyone gives their own twist to this idea. For innercircles - a side-project I am working on - we have adopted a tagline of “Creating Solutions For Human Flourishing”. So what does that mean, and how do we approach that?

First of all in innercircles we are mainly interested in practical solutions. That means:

  1. Applied methodologies
  2. Supportive technologies

Obviously we need lots of help to materialize both of these. Improving methods and technology will be a continual process of innercircles. To shape this effort we’ll create a program or activity track, called: The Flourishment Initiative.


Objective: Make Flourishing actionable and readily applicable in practical solutions.

The initiative will involve three main activities:

1. Teaming up, partnering, forging collaborations

Create a multi-disciplinary group of open-minded creatives that do not shy away from radical new ideas.

2. Research and elaboration of the field

Evolve a holistic knowledge base that investigates all the angles and approaches to Flourishing.

3. Building a comprehensive framework

Design for applicability targeting both non-technical methodology as well as adoption in tech solutions.

I am looking at this together with @ibaldo. Anyone else interested to join can respond to this thread and briefly explain their interest and background related to the initiative.


Very valuable to have product offerings’ articulated in a simple, yet positive quantification. Will definitely use this.


Bravo! Not sure if I’ve mentioned it already in another thread but the Business Roundtable’s ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation’ was amended last year. It went from shareholder primacy to a similar holistic statement which specifically mentions stakeholders. It is a very insightful point of purposeful language to make that choice.

It seems worth mentioning this simple but beautiful book it taught me a concept which I share with others as a great conceptual source of emotional empowerment. Essentially you imagine circles radiating out. You are in the inner circle and those you trust most in the next one out and so on. Where personal boundaries are about respect these circles are about trust.
The beauty of this concept is that this is all ‘inside work’. It isn’t about physical or familial proximity. Who goes in which circle is entirely up to you and you don’t have to tell anyone about it. It is just a simple way to acknowledge your own feelings of trust and closeness.
There is no obligation to place family members in a specific circle and you can move people closer or further away as feels right to you. In a world where kids so often have their choices predetermined by someone else explaining this concept is a wonderful gift to them.


HI @ibaldo,

I just saw your update of the original post with your website:

It is a great looking site, congratulations! Yet I have some points of improvements that I will list here:

  • The opengraph tags have the wrong quote character, so they are not picked up.
  • The sheet animation is resource intensive (pushes my CPU to 30-50% activity in Firefox). Might make it a SVG with simple JS anim.
  • Ai, the cookies, the cookies. Five google trackers. Are they needed? Would be great if this was a zero-tracker page.
  • Recaptcha is loaded 3 times. You have it for the email form? Wonder if its needed. There are alternatives, less unobtrusive maybe.
  • I’d serve all the JS from the site, avoid the 3rd-party calls. They may be trackers too. Might do with less JS overall or even CSS-only.
  • Images can be further optimized, like guide.png. I think it could be ~90kb as jpeg and still look the same.
  • If you have a mailing list you should have a privacy policy. It can be simple if you just use have the list (think of GDPR though)
  • I’d rotate the text on right-hand side 180 degrees for readability.
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Hi @Birdie! Thank you for your careful review and great feedback! Your comment is really important to me because indeed I felt like the guide could have other applications rather than technology design only. You just gave me the incentive to investigate this along with clinical and social psychologists. So thank you again. I do not have credentials or even the knowledge to work on solutions for medical and therapeutic applications of Positive Psychology, but I’ll try to partner with someone who can.

I can see how you could come across with PP in the education field, there’s been a lot of exciting studies and evidence-based information on it from the last two decades. I’ll recommend the book Flourishing, by Martin Seligman. It’s a very accessible introduction to PERMA, and it is actually where the term was introduced to the world.

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Hey @SirCoughlin WELCOME to the community!

I’m happy to hear you found the guide valuable and are willing to use it. I would love to hear more about your experience with it. Let’s connect!

My dude @aschrijver always with the invaluable feedback!
Thank you so much, I’ll implement it all.
BTW, any tips on how to solve the privacy policy pragmatically? I’ve never done this before.
I’ll get rid of the trackers, even though I’m not sure why I should do that? These are probably because of google analytics. I know little to nothing of both web security and metrics… so I’ll just remove it all.
Yes, the Recaptcha is from the email form. What would you recommend as an alternative? And why is it an issue?
I seriously need to get myself educated in these technical aspects. No idea where to start.

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Glad to be of help, @ibaldo :slight_smile:

Privacy policies is always a bit tricky and… boring. You could adapt from a similar site with only a mailing list, or find a checklist site. There’s also PP generators, like the one mentioned here How humane privacy policies should be written (and in compliance with GDPR).

Regarding trackers. The web has become an unbelievable shitshow (pardon my French) in terms of data aggregation and privacy violation. You probably heard of the term surveillance capitalism and if you watched The Social Dilemma you know more or less how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Google, whom you should not see as a tech company, but as an advertisement oligopoly, is by far the biggest data aggregator. None of their products are free. Almost everything you do on the internet ends up in a Google datacenter to be processed for unknown purposes (not merely advertising). Among others it is fed their AI systems for future tech that will be hugely disruptive to society. Their practices are just as bad as FB’s and they are guilty of reshaping the web in their image, with the purpose of collecting ever more data. They are just as unethical, though that is not immediately apparent to casual users.

ReCaptcha has many issues. As described above one of them is privacy-related. ReCaptcha is yet another tool to suck up personal data from you. You can read about it for the version you are using in the FastCompany article related to this Hacker News comment thread (note: fastcompany has 15 trackers on their page!). There’s numerous other discussions about ReCaptcha on Hacker News (the Silicon Valley social network, a great resource).

I tooted on the Fediverse to ask people what they use. For both analytics alternatives (if you want the metrics) and DeGoogle advisory sites you should check our Awesome Humane Tech project.

Edit: I just got pointed by @fedifollows to this article (and see also Bye Google reCAPTCHA):


Thank you again for the awesome resources, @aschrijver :pray:
I’ll even review the use of recaptcha for the email service I’m using since I work with them and have some influence on the product development.

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@ibaldo this PERMA Model is really interesting. I’ll post some more info about it below:

A scientific work by Martin Seligman PERMA deals with Positive Psychology and Wellbeing. Based on this model he wrote the book Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being (emphasis mine):

This book presents M. Seligman’s new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition. Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations. Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about. While certainly a part of well-being, happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. Seligman now asks. What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. Thought-provoking in its implications for education, economics, therapy, medicine, and public policy—the very fabric of society […]


So taken from another source, here are the PERMA building blocks…

The PERMA model

(Definitions below copied from: Gaming well: Links between videogames and flourishing mental health, pdf)

Positive emotion

The ability, opportunity, and experience of feeling positive emotions such as happiness, satisfaction, joy, and the many other descriptors of good feelings.


The opportunity to be fully engaged and completely immersed inactivities. To be engaged is to be so immersed in an activity that you lose your sense of time and feel boundless energy.


The nature of a person’s relationships strongly correlate to their happiness, health, and overall well-being. Improving relationships can bring greater happiness.


Having meaningful activities brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment to daily life. A sense of purpose often accompanies activities which contribute to something larger than self.


Having goals and objectives to accomplish brings a sense of achievement and satisfaction to life, contributing to the feeling of wellbeing. This is the sense of satisfaction experienced when checking off tasks from a daily to-do list.

Thank you for the references, @aschrijver.
And yes, PERMA is currently the flourishing and well-being model with the most empirical evidence of reliability. As well as it’s tool of measurement, the PERMA-Profiler, has good reliability and acceptable levels of validity.

Fascinating to read through this conversation having taken a few days on other things. It is so reassuring to read about people talking about the things of most interest to me.
I’ve just signed up to study psychological science next year because I would love to be involved in ethical design of tech and AI but do so from an informed perspective.

I often communicate to kids in terms of “the trick is…” for all those useful things someone can show you in a second which make things easier but in response to this comment the issue of who is trustworthy is a vexed one and I’m in pretty much the same boat as you.

My sense of urgency about building ethics into data collection, tech and AI stems from an urge to be part of the social change needed to respond to what I see as deliberately engineered conflict on a global scale.

If you aren’t already aware of how this has been happening recommended watching from my pov is:
BBC expose of Cambridge Analytica
Address to the Oxford Union by Brittany Kaiser
Alexander Nix (then CEO of CA) presentation at Concordia in Sept 2016 (on the Concordia youtube channel they describe the video as: “In a presentation at the 2016 Concordia Annual Summit in New York, Mr. Alexander Nix discusses the power of big data in global elections. Cambridge Analytica’s revolutionary approach to audience targeting, data modeling, and psychographic profiling has made them a leader in behavioral microtargeting for election processes around the world.”)

There are also opportunists using the ecosystem that has been created but focusing on that feels a lot like sweeping the yard while there is a sewerage leak in the corner. There are fundamentals that our social systems have failed to address and on a philosophical level for me the response is best from a decentralised, self determination model.
Thus finding this community and learning about the enormous amount of work already done has been heartening. I am currently working my way through to build a better understanding of matrix and element.