I’ve written several short “what this site is about” essays, you’ll find in various places elsewhere. They all attempt to introduce a way to begin studying the eventful lives of the individually organized and behaving systems of nature, our many kinds of animated companions with which we share the environment . It’s naturally quite hard to understand what’s happening inside a visibly eventful social group, for example, though we may be intensely aware of its presence. That also applies to much of the eventfulness of history in general, that life is a place where “things happen” and often for relatively invisible and apparently local causes. Any natural system is defined by its own internal loops of relationships, is a way to state that as a problem, so for an observer, the working parts of any animated system start off being largely invisible.
One very powerful technique for probing the organization of eventful and self-organizing cultural or economic systems is one I’ve rarely mentioned. Maybe it’s the one I should lead with, though. It’s a way of using your two natural modes of thought, intuitive and rational, to “proof read” each other’s work. It allows your feelings to read and inform your reasoning and vis-a-vis.
The effect of learning how to do that is to create “theories with feelings”, and “feelings that make sense”, something that is some individuals achieve on their own, but is rarely if ever taught as a practical technique. It’s very valuable for connecting your naturally “reductionist” explanatory thinking with your “holistic” intuitive and experiential thinking.
It helps overcome the problem that explanations are powerful tools but completely lack the responsiveness to their environments that intuitive feelings about things bring out. Similarly, emotional realizations maybe responsive to vastly complex sets of relationships, but it’s rare that people can derive their more practically useful logical elements, what I sometimes call “cybernetic body parts” that I look for to use in explanatory models of self-organizing systems.
1. Struggling to get scientists to discuss natural self-organizing systems: 6/24/12
Jessie Henshaw @L – It could help to notice how you restated my saying “They [scientists] tend to go direct from data to models without studying [the] complex working processes the subject came from or operates with.” To me, your response displays the basic problem I’m describing.
I’ve spent years with large and small scientific communities trying to get them to let me demonstrate a way to study the instrumental processes of individual complex systems, helping expose how they develop and change. After 30 years of that, making steady advances all along myself… I still feel about as stumped as before about how to share them.
A sign of the problem is in how you restate my complaint, changing the subject. Your restatement of it was “her generalization that scientists in general leap from data to models without regard to systems”, saying that has not been your experience.
You changed the phrase “without studying [the] complex working processes the subject came from or operates with” to the phrase “without regard to systems”. That rephrasing shifts the subject from phenomena of nature (in their own form), to system models (as concepts for nature) defined within the researcher’s own framework of explanations. That’s my complaint!
A great insight was mentioned on On The Media this week, on a language algorithm that detects anachronisms in Mad Men, exposing how modern terms and phrases that evolved since the time period slip in unnoticed. It exposes how change in the world that people are not watching as it occurs, seem to completely escape our awareness. So new things keep popping up in what we think is “normal”, becoming part of the “ever present” reality we wake up with every morning.
There’s a wonderful, still deeper truth, to your story, “about an algorithm that detects anachronisms in Mad Men and Downtown Abbey.”
Yes, modern TV scripts intended to be accurate about historical speech do contain “tell tale signs” of our real ignorance of the history, particularly for the histories of change we don’t pay attention to. We don’t, though, misplace the history of changing ideas for subjects that we keep track of, as they change.
The larger general problem that points to is partly that it is not just TV that is affected, for course. What’s affected is actually all of “reality” that simply appears in our brains a fixed “ever-present” state of things, glossing over most all of the things in our lives that that are constantly changing. Without the real data on the flows of change, we seem just unaware of the flow of time at all, is where I arrived at.
I’ve studied it as the quite important question of physics. It’s just hard to catch your brain making the little sequential steps of change in your own perception of “the ever-present reality” every night during sleep. It helps explain why science so strongly tends to represent nature as having fixed equations, but always a new changeless set of them each time someone tries to describe things. I think the root of it is that consciousness seems to include a kind of stop motion image making function, that updates its whole “software package” for the next day, as we sleep each night.
One of the more testable illusions that seems to give us is how the “ever-present” of our consciousness deceives each of us so completely, into thinking that the world we see in our minds is the one everyone else also lives in. That just isn’t so, of course, and so the data of the continuity of change shows clearly too (that I study). The strong illusion that our minds perceive “reality” persists anyway! Cool, no?
Peter Heffron had liked my idea for how our economy could imitate the natural means for a growth system to transform to become stable, in explaining my comment that“I think removing the growth orientation from “sustainability” might be a lot easier than adding its “getting the parts to work together” aspect into “degrowth” (further discussed fyi). I then showed him thevery simple world model demonstrating the biomimicry for how a profit seeking economy (rather than growth obsessed one) could smoothly change strategies in mid-stream to achieve it.
He suggested I show it in a full scale world model, a big task, and I asked if he knew anyone with who might be interested in inserting my biomimicry concept into their model. He replied in a surprising way, as if I might not have heard of my own field of science essentially, so I felt I needed to go back to basics in my reply. I think it ends up being a nice statement, of what’s going on here, as a struggle to reconnect our theories with the natural world humans are struggling to find how to become part of again.
Women mostly don’t lose the basic ability to connect with nature, easily using words as being defined by the things of nature they refer to. It’s men who get frustrated by that, and rely, to a point of complete preoccupation sometimes, on defining words as abstractions made from other abstractions, struggling to rationalize an abstract world in their heads. That difference is a large part too, of what distinguishes my new form of physics for studying the forms of nature in their own terms, going back and forth with the traditional physics for representing nature as abstract theories, connecting the two ways of thinking that all my work has been about for the last ~35 years…
I’ve been working for 30+ years actually, on the mysteriously omitted features of sustainability and “no-growth” economic models. It’s remarkably easy to demonstrate that the way markets work, multiplying money involves about equally expanding all the economy’s physical impacts on the earth.
So one is the perennial great omissions from the discussion has been how to end the endless “making of money” and so make investment growth responsive to natural finite limits. Another is to deal with the problem misbehaving free markets, which just record popular choices, is direct evidence of popular misconceptions… These are two very serious cognitive gaps in nearly all the “advanced” plans being discussed in Rio, is the problem.
I propose corrections for these in my two RioDialogues.org proposals, doing necessities first as a strategy, to avoid omitting them as the expedient popular plans keep doing:
They propose new institutions for adopting “commons based economic models” to make creating an sustainable world commons rather than development to solve the of world economic crisis, as proposed by Helene Finidori
The BIG news is that “the commons“ got a lot of fresh attention in the 2012 RioDialogues, from the UN Commons Action Group site and its Facebook page, supporting proposals that Helene Finidori (1) and I submitted (2,3) for:
“New institutions.. for commons-based economic models”
Helene’s proposal (1) won the voting for the“Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises” topic in the RioDialogues vote, and good recognition!
The idea is to NOT use development, as the solution to the world economic crisis, but to create new institutions allowing develoment efforts to work together, to serve the whole. It would create a sustainable world using “commons-based economic models”. The idea originates from the examples advocated by the Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrum, as the collaborative framework that competitive interests need so the whole can thrive.
Helene’s proposal is found on the next page, or by following the links (1). Her new (Aug 2012) collected thinking on it is in,
A comprehensive method guiding investors to compete for profiting the commons
It would not just count profits but also liabilities, in financial terms, using monetized business ESG balance sheets (eco-balance sheets), in combination with normal financial balance sheets.
Then everyone will see the real societal financial costs of making money today, that present or even past investors might well be held responsible for.
The full application of this principle is “A World SDG“, to provide TRUE MEASURES of sustainability for business, consumer and policy choices, and applying the basic science research for ‘Scope 4’ accounting and the 2011 Systems Energy Assessment (SEA)paper. It is still “new science” though, and so demands fresh questions too. It takes investigating the actual organization of the working systems of our world, looking for regular patters of in the system as a whole, what causes them and how they are change, more than theory. It’s surprising both how little we notice going on around us, and how much we see but don’t notice what is implies. A workshop method for opening people’s eyes to what’s really happening all around them can be found in the 3Step Method of Learning to Work with Nature.
The original version of this proposal was submitted to the Rio+20 Dialogues for comment and voting as: “Budgeting for “the commons” needs business “ecobalance” sheets, to compare environmental liabilities and benefits”. See “News of the Commons” for introductions to the vision and the systems thinking needed for a commons based approach to sustainability. It’s part of my “reality math” series.
It’s proposed as part of the foundation of collaborative free market institutions needed for the health of the competitive free markets, as an element of Helene Finidori’s “Commons-Sense” and the “commons based economic models” she proposed. Their intent is to solve the global economic crisis by making the commons work for the whole, as a replacement for the paradigm of “prosperity” with ever expanding development.
The proposal would accelerate how the business community is responding to their environmental liabilities. They’re hiring teams of sustainabilty experts, using comprehensive sustainabilty reporting (CSR) to track Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) factors, following both private and public standards, such as for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The reason business has a new interest in environmental liabilities is that they are driving corporate assessed values, as economic liabilities.
To protect natural resources local stakeholders would still need a say in the use of local resources. To protect global resources for the future an equitable way to restrain growing economic demand is needed. World standards for Comprehensive Sustainability Reporting (CSR) wold accurately assess the impacts of business products. Then Economic Liability Assessments (ELA) of their economic costs to our future, would allow the world to act as a resource commons. It would provide equitable market constraints on high impacts would, to suppress demand, and fund investment in alternatives. ELA reports would be the basis of the “Eco-balance sheets” called for below, to be reported in business annual reports and factored into Pigovian taxes/tariffs on their products and services.
The basic scientific methods of doing accurate CSR and ELA assessments are what are discussed below. The current statistical methods of environmental and economic accounting contain a major systematic inaccuracy. Simply said the error is in relying on tracing individual records rather than assessing whole system requirements,
an inaccuracy caused by not asking who sliced up the pie, to check the accuracy of trying to trace all the crumbs.
a scientific method difference
between economic accounting and systems accounting
Our Economic Liabilities for Environmental Damage
are direct costs of prior profits for business
that went unaccounted for.
New systems physics (3) would now allow the development of model “eco-balance sheets” to be placed along side normal “financial balance sheets” in annual business reports. That would provide a clear and quicker way than others for using market forces to correct our systemic problem of unaccountable impacts on our future.
Businesses have long accumulated unaccountable impacts by investing in growing irreversible exploitation, and now accelerating depletion, of what once seemed limitless capacities of people and the earth. It’s enormously costly for our future.
Investors and business managers can make better investing decisions if ESG measures capture the whole impact.
To transform the economy to become self-regulating will require our learning how to make accurate physical measurements of our environmental impacts, and associate them with the dollars spent that paid for them. That’s not yet being done, far from it.
Nature builds economies with whole working parts: people, businesses, independent service providers, etc.,. They only deliver their products if all their parts work together, like machines and operators making a working unit. Our traditional measurement methods have just ignored that arrangement of the natural world. Understand our impacts we need our units of measure to match nature’s units of organization, otherwise our errors of measurement become extreme.
The following short article was submitted for the June 1 “Energy” issue of the UNCSD Rio Outreach Forum, but too technical for those discussions.
It would seem odd, wouldn’t it,… to not count the charcoal used for a family barbeque in its energy use, because a neighbor brought the grilled burgers and vegetables over from their yard…? That’s almost exactly what happens when businesses don’t count the energy used by their outsourced services.
They’re treated as having no demand on nature, according to the ISO 14000 and LCA rules. The real error is evident comparing estimates by the normal rules with the global average and finding nearly all of them far below average, a sign of missing data.
The true totals show dramatically higher levels of real impacts for business
compared with estimates using the standard method people are using
My recent scientifically recognized paper, Systems Energy Assessment (SEA) (1) shows a corrected method, but making sense of such a big error is still a problem. It’s evidently exposing some enormous blind spot(s). The new method used my work on how economies naturally work, with businesses and their services working as individual self- organized units. That’s the critical insight that allowed making a closed account with the parts adding up to the total. Continue reading Our curious missmeasure of impacts (and silver linings)→
Using a new paradigm of biomimicry
to create a global self-regulating financial commons.
This proposal was submitted to the Rio+20 Dialogues for comment and voting. See “News of the Commons” for introductions to the vision and the systems thinking needed. It’s part of the foundation of collaborative free markets needed for the health of the competitive free markets, as an element of Helene Finidori’s “Commons-Sense“. In this case to recognize that the profitability of the whole is threatened by a continued common investment strategy for growth, and needs a way to change to a common investment strategy for well being.
Nature systems initially develop using a “bootstrap” mechanism, growth, that continually expands their control of their environment. For any system’s own internal as well as external needs that self-investment strategy needs to become responsive instead ever more controlling to survive.