Kin and Kind – Some learning in progress?

“Kin and Kind” is an article in the Mar 5 New Yorker by Jonah Lehrer, on the remarkable career of E.O. Wilson and his quest to explain apparent “altruism” in animal behavior.  The reigning explanation for evolution is pure competition, and he’s beginning to think there must be more to it, asking “…is goodness an adaptive trait?”   I note that the very first ecologist to study complex ecological behavior, S.A. Forbes, had much the same way of raising the question, in 1887.

The question, possibly, is not how mutations affect behavior, but our having not looked squarely at what is common to the behaviors of life that are so successful.


for The Mail,

E.O. Wilson is remarkable among scientists for being willing to question his own dogma.  Where the article ends is with his next seeming breach of scientific etiquette, his now beginning to ask if “goodness is an adaptive trait”.

Very surprisingly, that is where the very first scientist to study complex organization in ecologies, S.A. Forbes actually began.    In 1887, in “The Lake as a Microcosm”, Forbes observed that somehow networks of many species evolved to respect each other enough to not make food chains highly unstable, as they would be if their competition had winners. Continue reading Kin and Kind – Some learning in progress?

Is “Sustainable Capitalism” a half step too few?

In “Beyond Firm-Level Sustainable Capitalism” John Fullerton reviews “Sustainable Capitalism” by Generation Investment Management LLP, as still not respecting our finite world.   Maximizing long term gain doesn’t make it sustainable, for example, given the difficulty people have had identifying future liabilities for currently profitable plans.   I add a graphic example, of how defining the world as what we know about it is deceiving, and results in:

simply enormous omissions from the information set we usually think of as needed for making good decisions


It’s great to see such a solid critique of Generation’s “Sustainable Capitalism”, that on the surface seems like remarkably responsive to environmental issues as an investment strategy, far more than than ANY sustainable investment plan of ten years ago.   The whole attitude toward avoiding environmental conflict, as a business strategy, may be applied inconstantly today but seems to have really swept the corporate world too.

It’s nice to see you’re thinking is still a few steps ahead, too, and seeing their approach as somewhat of a half-way measure. Continue reading Is “Sustainable Capitalism” a half step too few?

Coping with every culture having a different reality! (& what’s multiplying them)

With more and more information, and noticing that much of it travels in circles,  there’s both “information overload” and “separate information worlds”, causing the communication of ideas to lose resilience.   They’re barriers to communication, and can easily turn into “worlds of miss-information” leading everyone in them astray.

there’s both “information overload”
“separate information worlds”

CLAY JOHNSON has good links and discussion on the problem , relating to his interesting “Information Diet” book and “Information Diet Pledge“.   By self-selecting our information sources we can create a world of miss-information for ourselves, so he suggests some rules for a healthy information diet.   I wrote him the following comment on the “next steps” his “Information diet remainders“.  Below that is my comment on  his radio program on WNYC on 2/9/12.


Clay, There’s an easy step beyond noticing that no one is really the author of information that travels in circles. It’s seeing that the author is really the social network it develops in, using the information as part of a social story of one kind or another.

People speaking different languages have different realities.

The next step is noticing that such authoring social networks and cultures invent rather strongly held circles of storytelling, which are very different from each other’s. They become the “reality” the culture creates and form “silos” of thinking that people in them are then structurally separated from others by. Continue reading Coping with every culture having a different reality! (& what’s multiplying them)

Growth is Prosperity

Prosperity is Growth

… It has meant that for centuries,
but why is it now causing environmental impacts?

Why would growing prosperity also now risk our
using up everything useable on earth, as investors seek the fastest growing profits achievable?

These threats are not because of politics, except for neglecting how little time we have left to act on them.

The need to save the earth is very popular, all over
the earth. Continue reading Growth is Prosperity

What goes wrong when growth ends before its limits?

Gail Tverberg posted a very nice dicsussion of the question from her view of:

Human population overshoot–what went wrong?

My comment on her blog was:

It’s wonderful that you’re addressing this topic, long overlooked in the “alternative” as well as the mainstream scientific communities.  Gratefully there is a long trail of ecologists that bucked even their own peers in keeping the question alive.   Simple observation tells you that in nature “something goes wrong”, quite a lot!

If all the kinds of natural growth systems were to maximize their growth as a rule, they’d ALL behave like cancers.   Anyone thinking for themselves about it has to conclude something else is going on.the diversity of compact eco-systems Continue reading What goes wrong when growth ends before its limits?

Designed for a different kind of planet

on Linkedin – Global Foresight – Future of Western Civilization.

Nicholas Beecroft • I’d like to invite you to take a look at an emerging series of interviews with inspirational Leaders at the evolutionary edge of our culture

Phil Henshaw • Would you like a real discussion of how and why our economies became designed for a different kind of planet than the one we live on?

Nicholas Beecroft • Yes, go on, Phil……

Phil Henshaw • Well, it presses the credulity of intellectuals more than informal thinkers. There’s a very interesting property of informal language, that the same words readily refer to either the objects of nature that are their subjects, or to the cultural meanings people have for them, that the words raise in their minds. For example “apple” is easily considered the “thing in your hand you might eat” and the “idea in your mind of giving one to the teacher this morning”.

Normal language is about real things, the economy about abstract $’s

Continue reading Designed for a different kind of planet

Could “reality math” help the AAAS??

The theme of the AAAS meetings next week in Vancouver is “Flattening the World: Building the Global Knowledge Society”.

Reality math combines the information we do have, with what definably remains missing from our view.

There’s a method of “reality math” that allows “whole system accounting“, to combine both what we know and what we can know is missing. That’s possible for systems defined by energy conservation.  Failing to include what’s visibly missing from our data, often how energy is being used by systems that act as wholes, seems responsible for much of why our global solutions are not working, but create even more problems.

With all our information, “new math” is still needed for
what goes on within natural systems still remaining in the dark.

The following is a comment on society president Nina Fedoroff’s editoral in Science about it: The Global Knowledge Society.   I certainly agree that global networking potentially allows global problem solving, but… There are “very large holes” in our information.  The general “Natural Systems Theory” behind this view is a versatile scientific method, based on using the implications of the conservation of energy to locate and help study the wealth of complex natural organization hidden within the eventful systems by which our world works.

Continue reading Could “reality math” help the AAAS??

Are the holes in your map helping you read the territory?

This is an exchange with Frits Smeets on Azimuth, John Baez’s wide ranging mathematical physics blog.   The original topic is the 12/13/11 “What’s up with the solar transition“, and why isn’t it happening when seeming so “logical” to so many.

See Also:

SEA Energy Accounting: far more holes than cheese 3/9/12

– Self-organization as “niche making” 3/25/12

Principles for detecting and responding to system overload 9/4/12

How mismeasures steer us wrong 10/26/12

The basic problem is that systems that are highly organized as cells of complex relationships and work by themselves, like the great proliferation of systems that develop by growth, the working relationships between their internal parts is untraceable.  So other parts of the universe “out of the loop”.


In a world of systems leaving us “out of the loop”
an observer’s view is riddled with holes,
like Swiss Cheese!

The exchange starts on that topic, and in the last two entries turns to the deeper problem of why the natural holes in our information about nature are missing from the physicists notion of a world describable by equations, or “phase space”.     fyi, you might browse at the start and read carefully toward the end.

Holes in our information for things built from the inside. (Oh gee, never thought of organization as something different from enumeration.... )

Continue reading Are the holes in your map helping you read the territory?

Did we turn “Big Media” into “Big Brother” ?

A response to today’s On The Media program (WNYC 2/4/11) on how social media is taking over our lives, pushed by perpetual growth driven giants like Google and Facebook, not to mention Apple.

Great program today, important subject.

Your conclusion that social media will now always be a global presence in our lives needs a major general exception.    If you ask whether Google’s and Facebook’s goal of ultimate power over our choices might lead to ultimate corruption, the instability of succeeding at it becomes clear.   Things that grow till their host dies, like cancer, don’t survive, as their “success” is killing their host.

Everything we admire in nature, though, actually starts its existence as a “little cancer”.

Every kind of new culture or organism starts life with a process of compound  growth, starting with a temporary process of seeking ultimate power.   That universal start-up processes works by using products from its first tiny bit of control of its environment to continually expand its control of its environment, exponentially. Continue reading Did we turn “Big Media” into “Big Brother” ?

“Organizational Rigidity” as a natural limit of growth

From a Pharaoh hardening his heart to confused children refusing to budge… complexly organized systems pushed to their limits often display emergent rigidity.

Things that develop their organization by new parts being added  to existing ones, develop accumulative designs that become harder to change over time.   It leads to organizational rigidity, that can either be seen as inhibiting change or enabling structure.   These are aspects of the systems physics of self-organization.

Accumulative designs become harder to change over time

Crystallization works by replicating a pattern from a starting pattern, that remains the origin of the pattern throughout the process, like the process that creates snow flakes of a single design.   It’s similar with road systems, that as you add connecting roads it becomes both unnecessary to add more and harder to change the established network.

Even with advanced computers the world financial system gets built around trusted expectations, leaving a rigid imprint of past thinking in our models for the future. If it becomes unmanageable and overwhelmed by floods of new kinds of information the models don’t contain, the system is not designed to make any response.

At the limits of Lucy’s organizational abilities, confusion reigned

Organizational rigidity is natural, and develops in any system built by accumulation.   A bureaucracy may be built to be very efficient and resourceful, for example, in responding to the original scale and kinds of demands.  It’s initial designs may have been highly versatile for the variety of problems it started with.  It naturally becomes mired in inefficiency at some natural point of piling on ever increasing demands of new kinds.

Continue reading “Organizational Rigidity” as a natural limit of growth