Natural Whole Systems Thinking – philosophy & method on STW

To open a LinkedIn community discussion in “Systems Thinking World”, on the “whole systems approach” and scientific method I use, for discovering and understanding natural systems, I offered the following lead-in

Related theory pages:  1 Natural Pattern Languages,  2 ‘Big Data’ and the right to human understanding,  3 Global accounting of responsibilities for economic impacts,  4 Missing Principles of Ecological Thinking – in plans for the Earth,  5 Steering for the organizational Lagrange Point,  6 “The next big challenge” a biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons,  7 General intro: Natural Systems & Synapse9,  8 Archive of early data analysis studies.  9 & other theory posts

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Could we study systems that invent their own theories?

We might study anything identifiable, and growth curves in time­-series data seem associated with some kind of growing system, developing from scratch. The usual difficulty discovering what’s going on inside them may be strong evidence that they’re organized and changing internally, not visible to or determined by their environments. If such individual systems exist, would they also have locations, external bounds of some kind, a beginning in time and an end?

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 7/24/12

54 comments

#1Jessie Henshaw • There are a few problems I’m trying to raise with this. One is the scientific difficulty of studying things you can point to, but can’t actually define. Science does better with “data” and numerical relationships, studying that as a ‘map’ for a more complex ‘territory’. Organizational change within individual natural systems isn’t readily mapped by “data”, though.

Is that one of the reasons there appear to be so many kinds of individual events and natural systems that display periods of essentially explosive creative organizational development, from storms to personal relationships, to social movements, disease outbreaks and swarms of new technologies, but science seems not to have yet identified that as a field of study?

12 days ago

#2 • Fabian Szulanski • What about agent based modeling? Would that be a point of departure for helping understand? Then some emergence, bifurcation and disorder could eventually appear.

12 days ago

#3 • Jessie Henshaw • @Fabian ­Well, that would be studying models for mathematical rules, not natural systems, wouldn’t it? To study natural physical systems, as if they were ABM’s, is more like what I’m suggesting.

Say you assume the natural world is like the big amazing computer the physicists postulate it actually is. Well then, we’re looking right at nature’s ABM without realizing it, and just need to discover it’s way of inventing things. We don’t have access to a “de­compiler” of nature’s source code, though, do we? What we see are systems that evolve new organization by changing everywhere at once, somehow. It makes it appear that nature is doing fresh programming, on many levels at once, with nearly every process and event she creates.

ABM computer models also produce results from which you are quite unable to deduce the source code producing them, but that doesn’t demonstrate how nature produces her rater different kinds of results. For an ABM to emulate an economy, you’d need it have populations of creatively learning agents with an evolutionary history of emerging from their own environments, operating in a natural world of resources, wouldn’t you?

What about just finding a starting point, looking for kinds of evidence that point to where nature is producing things that are systematically more systematic?

12 days ago

#4 • Fabian Szulanski • @Jessie, Are you suggesting a systemic inquiry initiative focused on decoding how nature recreates itself through fresh programming? Who is the programmer? Oh my God! (pun intended). I suspect you’re going to generate diversions coming from religious, existentialists and naturalists… way too divergent for my interests. Be well, Fabian

12 days ago

#5 • Jessie Henshaw • @Fabian ­Actually I’m suggesting that these are questions that expose a new problem, and lead to a quite well founded new extension of the scientific method. It applies to the special problems of studying systems that display continually changing complex organization, exposed in how they begin and end. It just works better than either the religious or deterministic modeling methods.

The method still uses some of the basic building blocks of empirical science as well as some new ones. The most basic of them, of course, is not about what questions to ask, it’s about asking questions that have sound enough answers to be worth building on.

12 days ago

#6 • Bill Smith • Jessie; I think you are right on. Everything. we know about nature appears to be ‘systemic’ . The bias in systems Thinking lies in the word Thinking. We want to understand nature by going from what we presume is ultimate uncertainty and chaos to bring it under control. Nature seems to evolve from what IS creating both more more predictable forms and new forms with new capacities. In other words nature is two or ” n ways” going in all directions at the same time. Everything is always connected in some way ­our job in systems is to understand those systematic relations and develop common language to explain them.

12 days ago

#7 • Jessie Henshaw • @Bill ­I agree the tendency in science and in systems thinking is to portray mental systems of thinking as bringing order to nature, when it’s very clearly the reverse! ;­) I’m not actually saying that everything in nature IS systematic, though. I think it’s more that everything we learn about in nature is from it being systematic in some way, allowing us to learn about it.

I also find it a bit misleading to say “everything is always connected”. It surely may seem so statistically, but that’s a statement about our predictive modeling. In nature lots of things maintain their separations behaviorally, though, evident in how most systems are organized as ways of connecting the separate behaviors of things.

It makes it seem to me that statistics are just a descriptive device, affecting our image of nature like shadows from past images being overlaid the present. Perhaps that’s what makes it seemingly one of the more counter intuitive things I’ve noticed, that nature has quite systematic methods of developing systems of organization *individually*.

That doesn’t tell me that all systematic patterns in nature come from locally developing systems. Nor do I always find it possible to identify the local process by which evident organization develops. What I can seem to verify, and get better at from practice, is that change in systems that shows evidence of beginning or ending can be traced back to a local development process.

It seems to come down to looking for the singular local burst of accumulative organization that implicitly has to occur, to satisfy the constraints of the conservation of energy for energy uses that start from scratch. That’s my 1995 continuity theorem, that I’m hoping to find a way to show people how to use some time…

That nature seems to start off the development of individually new complex systems, a new storm or new culture, etc., with a “burst” of expanding activity, of course, makes where they might be headed often seem both undetermined and unpredictable.

11 days ago

#8 • Jack Park • I see a profound connection between Jessie’s “The most basic of them, of course, is not about what questions to ask, it’s about asking questions that have sound enough answers to be worth building on. ” and the tenets of Issue­ based information systems (IBIS)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issue­Based_Information_System

which grew out of the need to find resolution(s) to “wicked” (extremely complex) issues all of which entail the social, which means they are organismic in nature. When one does the “map reduce” on that, it’s possible to land on the notion of Relational Biology (see Robert Rosen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Rosen_%28theoretical_biologist%29 )

Encoding and Decoding the relation between Formal Systems of theory and the Natural Systems we study.

Backing up a bit: IBIS methodology frequently ends up using facilitated conversation (see http://compendium.open.ac.uk/, http://cognexus.org/ ) to find a really good question to ask since wicked issues frequently don’t yield to “obvious” questions.

 

11 days ago

#9 • Jessie Henshaw • @Jack ­Thanks for mentioning IBIS and the link to Robert Rosen. I don’t see the relationship yet, but maybe the physics of individual phenomena I’m describing might provide another tool for IBIS as well.

11 days ago

#10 • Jack Park • @Jessie ­In some sense, you’re practicing IBIS right here, right now. That you are engaging humans (complex adaptive systems) in this nearly­ IBIS conversation, could easily mean you have, as Rosen might have said, entailed complex adaptive systems. <strong claim warning> The amount of “wickedness” in this conversation could remain low to tame, or it could just as easily explode, requiring a conversation modality far more structured than is available here.

11 days ago

#11 • Jessie Henshaw • @Jack ­Thanks very much for the compliment, about my being effective in bringing out a discussable “wicked problem” (I guess you’re saying). I’m not sure that the IBIS definition of “an argumentation ­based approach to tackling wicked problems” would become “science”, though. That’s the added dimension I think is potentially possible, if a conversation about the natural succession of developmental stages for individual complex systems can be started. It would be interesting, certainly, if there are experiences from IBIS that might contribute to that.

11 days ago

#12 • Landis Lafreuge • Some thoughts,  Complex systems may as a whole or part be part of complex systems, and will form into such complex systems. And internal to any complex system, is complex systems, which form from the complex system itself. This is the nature of complex systems, what makes them different from other systems. Some random papers about this: http://www.necsi.edu/research/multiscale/MultiscaleEmergence.pdf , http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.0584 .

There is no principle of conservation of complexity in nature, in my opinion.

The scientific method can still be used to test hypotheses as­is. The scientific method is being applied to a different subject of study, causing the specifics of each step to change, not the method itself. Certainly the test of some hypotheses in this subject can change the system under test, making useless the scientific method. And of course, ethics is extremely important in (and to) this field of study.

I have worked on the application of the scientific method to systems such as these, from time to time, and have got somewhere with it. And on the many applications of the understanding of systems such as these. So to answer the initial question: yes.

11 days ago

#13 • Jessie Henshaw • @Landis ­Yes I think you’re right, “There is no principle of conservation of complexity [or organization and behavior] in nature….” What energy conservation implies that is perhaps more interesting is not a “conservation” but a “continuity” of complexity, organization and behavior in nature, a limitation of their changing discontinuously.

It comes from the implied natural limits of sudden change in energy use (the continuity theorem ­synapse9.com/drtheo.pdf) needing to correspond to natural limits of sudden change in the processes doing it. It also offers a more general explanation for why nature does not seem to produce sharp corners anywhere, but displays noticeably smooth shapes at transitions generally. We tend to find soft shapes are needed to connect surfaces as well as processes. The focus here is on the smooth shapes at transitions displayed by the ubiquitous “S” curve “take off” and “landing” shapes at the beginning and ending of individual systems.

I certainly agree that as a scientific method is applied to different subjects it need only be adaptive in fitting the subject being studied, and doesn’t itself change. That’s partly why I focus my addition to the conventional method on such an very broad generality, that the life cycles of complex systems generally display the natural sequence of developmental processes, i.e. (¸¸.•´ ‾ `•.¸¸).

The difference between the traditional NECSI view of nesting complex systems and mine is theoretical v. empirical. I’m observing that cells in a body develop by different processes at different times than the whole, have different properties of behavior and behave independently.

So the relationship properly needs to be described as each level of organization *enabling* the other rather than *determining* it. The small “tweak” in the way relationships between parts and wholes are assumed to work bears confirmation, but seems very much more strongly confirmed, as I study it, than the standing assumption.

Clearly the same applies to human societies, that family life and societies, enable each other’s quite independent development and behavior, but don’t determine them. The difference is viewing the *organization* of the whole as being what emerges as something quite new and independent of the parts.

11 days ago

#14 • Neil Warren • Here you go Jessie / All ­try getting a couple of minutes into this one to see the SCALE across which these fractal­to­universe systems might work…

…and I’ve also used the brain­cell to universe comparison a few times, just for a static image shock…

http://jumpthecurve.net/education/brain­cells­mind­maps­and­the­universe/

I also just posted the source and context of YouTube (jump to recent comments if you like for my post today), here…

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Research­Whats­that­all­about­1328087.S.130680201

…if that helps further? (Although free­ unlimited energy and with non-­terrestrial teachers does spook most not used to quite such a big system thinking! ;­)

9 days ago

#15 • Jessie Henshaw • @Neil – The networked “mind map” tool ‘Nibipedia’ seems interesting, for connecting the networks of your own questions when using the web. It also shows you something of how your own systems of thinking develop. Still, unbounded questioning won’t help people searching for patterns draw boundaries between relevant and irrelevant associations or directions of search.

To understand how systems of nature invent their own ‘theories’ (get self­-organized) really requires a way to solve that, and find some way to NOT have your mind unbounded and wandering all over for conceptual associations. For Nibipedia that filtering role, of setting boundaries of relevance, is still the user’s own subjective assumptions.

Lewis nicely pointed out on another STW thread yesterday that without natural boundaries, people looking for patterns “lose the ability to be introspectively objective…” . Part of what they overlook is how in nature events come with natural boundaries, such as “any attempt to control any system, causes the system to dynamically change and by definition telegraph the source of that change”.

That property of natural systems comes from their being limited to accumulative organizational change. Change in nature has to build up. The visibility of how organizational change accumulates is then a first rate research tool. It gives you a way to directly tell the difference between speculation and reality, letting you identify the dynamic telegraphing of organizational change, that you can then verify by tracing more of the details… That’s what NST (natural systems thinking) is ALL about.

It may start with using math to recognize where new systems of organization are dynamically accumulating. That helps you recognize where nature is locally “connecting the dots” for whole networks of relationships behaving as working units, and a way to separate overlapping effects.

That gives your mind environmentally defined boundaries, a way to limit your search to the domain of the identified individual system’s loops. That’s a huge aid in systems research. Their accumulative history can then be used to guide you to their origins and circumstances.

7 days ago

#16 • Neil Warren • I agree with that Jessie. And did you also make it as far as the demo of using electro­magnetic vortices might go…

…or have gone already, come to that?…

7 days ago

#17 • Bill Smith • Jessie; What you are describing so far fits very well with my own career long search for which I thought systems would provide an answer. So I suppose I am an example of a system creating its own theories. The challenge for me was to bridge from my experience of phenomena and intuitions about possibilities that did not fit with reigning explanations but offered tremendous potential in my area of interest organizations. Let me not try to go any further at this point except to say that the fractal basis for my theory ( i.e one that goes from the God particle to the God System( :>) begins with some cause, function or purpose that has three systemic properties openness (e.g. to new possibilities) , closedness (e.g around identity, autonomy etc.) and relatedness how openness and closedness work together. From these I am able to build a theory, model and practical applications through fractal iteration of any kind or level of social systems.

7 days ago

#18 • Jessie Henshaw • @Neil ­Yes I saw some animation of a crank growing in scale. I noticed the “free scale” design of it. I didn’t look into it exactly, but decided it seemed to be an example of unbounded thinking, as if representing nature as working by conceptual models. Nature uses energy processes, so needs a new kind of organization at every change in organizational scale. Of course, models don’t need that.

@Bill ­Glad something about my questioning looks familiar! I’d be interested in a bit more of what you came up with. In exploring how physical systems work by themselves, I’ve of course also struggled with why it’s so very hard to create theories to describe that. Still, physical systems do evidently have to develop their own organization to operate, and not defined in our heads like theory is. I think not having a good way to discuss that difference is a large part of what seems to be holding back progress on systems theory.

That your basic framework uses three “..ness” words (openness, closedness and relatedness) tells me you’re thinking at a high level of generality, that I can imagine you might find useful for raising good questions. It doesn’t tell me what you’d be raising questions about, though, a world of material processes, or one of conceptual ones, or both.

Your words seem to technically describe nature as arising from human ideals, like most modern and ancient theories are also constructed. Aristotle described nature as embodied in the “ideals” of earth, air, water and fire, for example. Modern physics as interpreted by Bohr describes nature as embodied in the workings by our equations. I found it odd how natural that view seems, to allow one’s theories to metaphorically project one’s own thoughts as being the source of all events in the universe!

Of course I noticed it also “just wasn’t so”, too, which finally led me to discover that it’s science that is using a “metaphysics” of its own design, on that only allows science to refer to “data”. Curiously it then can’t refer to the more common way of connecting mind and nature, the one we all use at the breakfast table and with our personal tasks and friends.

In our personal lives we don’t treat our tasks and the things at hand as made of theory to calculate. We just engage directly with them physically, thinking about them only as far as needed using exploration and discovery, not extrapolation. So,.. it seems whether you look at the world the one way or the other apparently most depends on the time of day… and sometimes your mood, and sometimes your gender… I think. ;­)

7 days ago

#19 • Bill Smith • Jessie: I marvel at your skill in covering so much ground with such facility, and yes that might have a lot to do with gender. And its no accident, in that light, that I should then be led to explore more the nature of ultimate openness. This must be the space, though space is such a limiting word to use to describe it, that moves through everything and so transcends the physical and perhaps even the metaphysical. It must be feminine in that it gives birth to everything, but in another sense must transcend even the feminine. This ‘space’ or ultimate openness must provide or contain the conditions for everything else to become or to be. So the inherent ability to ‘self’ organize’ must be in any of the energetic forms that come to be. The questions is where and why, as a special energetic form do we as humanity, make the boundaries that we then call physical, emotional and spiritual systems. I can provide some thoughts on this if I’m allowed to see a property deriving from the nature of space that is purposeful (i.e causal, functional etc). In this I think of the wonderful poem T. A. introduced in one of these systems’ conferences Lizard and Stone David Campbell

From: Collected Poems

A bronze lizard Is wrapped around a river stone

The lizard is half awake The stone has not yet woken

Each preserves an outward stillness

Within the stone A dance of atoms Warms the basking lizard

The warmth of the lizard

Quickens the atoms

About the stone and lizard Where they lie like lovers The cosmos dances.

7 days ago

#20 • Neil Warren • I caught up with our own Prof Stephen Hawking on the TV the other night, and he was explaining that you need three things to make a universe…

Space ­Matter ­Energy

And since friend Einstein had already pointed out that Matter is just Energy slowed down a bit, there are only two basic ingredients, Space and Energy.

That seems to tie in quite well with what else I think I grasped from M or Membrane theory…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Membrane_(M­theory)

…which is basically vast ­to ­infinite rubber sheets of energy, which are held apart at the quantum level by their vibrations, until they calm down, then they touch again and (Big Bang), off the ripples go again.

I guess they possibly have to be the “right” ripples to accommodate our 3­4 dimensions and for however long 100Billion years is, so that we can “live” and experience all this stuff, plus / minus the tricky issue of whether or not it actually happens unless consciousness witnesses it, but my brain starts to hurt a bit by then ;­)

7 days ago

#21 • Bill Smith • Jessie to continue…. ‘Your words seem to technically describe nature as arising from human ideals, like most modern and ancient theories are also constructed. ” The way I deal with this is to center ourselves in “relatedness” . From that center of relatedness we can go as far as our purpose needs or allows us to explore “openness” as possibilities not included in our current configuration of “relatedness” or “closedness” .From new possibilities we can go back into our individual and collective experience to reexamine, what has been “closed’ and re­name, re­order and re appreciate our sense of reality. We then return to a new center of more evolved ‘relatedness’. The everlasting present is our flow­ point for relatedness. So we are always oscillating between the possibility of reaching some higher resonance with a greater appreciation of the nature of “openness” (future) and checking out against and reinterpreting our experience or reality (past) This is a fractal process for the creation of self-­evolving, self-organizing systems.

6 days ago

#22 • Jessie Henshaw • @Bill ­Thanks so much for the compliment. If you think of nature as exemplifying the features of openness it’s evident that she is very open to things finding how to multiply themselves, and to systematize to do so. The contradiction is that it then throws each one a great challenge, of responding to new environments for which their system for multiplying gives them no preparation at all. So It’s truly complex in those ways that huge efforts to prepare for the future leave you totally unprepared, naturally, it seems.

There are various suspicious visible features of natural systems that may be telling about there still being a common thread in all that cognitive dissonance. One is how even the closest of “connections” between organized things tend to be maintained as “gaps”, that let other undefined connections to occur. It’s very odd that nature, seeking efficiency in so many ways, would make connections between parts that generally don’t eliminate the independence of the parts.

That’s seen in things like the connections between cells in an organism, or between employees in a business. Each part of the larger system is an independent organism able to have large numbers of individually different kinds of relationships with others parts and other systems through the open environment they connect in. Mathematical models rely on defined rather than undefined relationships, so can’t describe systems with that property, but nature organizes things like that predominantly.

You see the same thing in how neurons connect, through different kinds of “synapses”. A synapse is a tiny little environment, a “gap that connects”, used as an interface between two neurons that remains open to other more widely distributed ones. If the idea wasn’t to allow OTHER connections to occur, then nature would connect neurons like we make models, with defined and exclusive relationships rather than mostly just permitted ones.

6 days ago

#23 • Jessie Henshaw • @Neil ­ Where natural systems thinking connects with that is observing that while universes need “space, matter and energy “, they also need a method of beginning, because nature requires continuity of change. That implies they have to evolve a process of inflation, of some kind, to make their leap from zero energy use to finite energy use without discontinuity.

That was both one of the implications of the astrophysics, predicting the “big bang” before evidence of it was found. It’s also implied more generally for any system of energy use by the conservation of energy, implying that the birth of systems large and small have the same organizational emergence requirement to begin with a burst of energy use and self-­organization. http://synapse9.com/drtheo.pdf

Whether M­theory fills a gap like that, in predicting evidence needed to satisfy an implied gap in the well supported principles of theory, I don’t know. That’s been a frequent way in which breakthroughs of the past came about though. That’s roughly also how the world of partial physics was discovered, with field theory implying infinite field densities if particles didn’t exist. The continuity theorem says that to begin, a process that avoids the infinite accelerations that instantaneous starts world imply. The theory and evidence support emergent inflation processes as having a role in that.

Studying the inflation processes by which systems originate is quiet useful for tracing the origins of things. It’s also very useful identifying the natural domains of their working parts, like for businesses, economies and cultures, and things. It’s also useful as a systems steering tool for managing inflation processes, especially important to us today.

It implies that the inflation processes by which anything begins are irreversible, and as systems won’t contain information about the new environment the process will thrust them into. So it implies that a process of inflation propels itself toward an organizational impasse to end its ever inflating processes. Again both theory and observation seem to imply they have to depart from using those systems of the past, and have to go back to “book zero”, in effect, to learn from the new environment where the old system don’t work, they are thrust into. It’s a bit like graduating from school to find you know nothing at all about business�. ;­)

6 days ago

#24 • Neil Warren • I think I agree with that Jessie (but mostly feel like throwing myself on the floor, face down, in front of your Queen­Goddess understanding of it all, and word­ delivery back of same ­ like wot Bill said ;­).

Are we at Hawking’s Brief History of Time theory now, where a previously collapsing universe transitions through a super­massive black hole, and “swings into existence” out the other side?

6 days ago

#25 • Bill Smith • @Neil. I do think we are at a special point in time a “swing into existence” . We have come out since WWII from a great period that saw ‘closedness” or control as the way things need to be. Our post war experience, developing all the innovations that came form war, especially the atomic and informational, made us realize that the super complexity of it all was not subject to control. We discovered environments as essential to what we do but they could not be controlled. We learned to develop more complicated systems based o influence or “relatedness” the market, democratic organizations, strategic alliances etc. We discovered the relationship between things became more important than the things themselves. We have spent the last fifty years using this new found “relatedness” to try to control or close things down. Now we are in a period that has become blocked by the task of trying to use influence for control . There is no better example than our blocked relatedness system called politics. It is no longer open to consider possibilities that are good for the whole. We have come to that time where we really do have to center our organizing processes in “relatedness” but we have to go equally upwards to “openness” as well as downwards to “closedness”. Why even this male ­dominated STW has found itself opening to the special contributions of women like Jessie and Helene Finidori who bring their unique forms of openess.

6 days ago

#26 • Jessie Henshaw • @Bill & Neil – I do appreciate you listening, really! It’s a privilege. I tend to agree “something big” is in store for our relationship with nature, but expect it to be a kind of conceptual (rather than transcendental) event, we are likely to experience physically. It’s not uncommon that events push cultural change to a breaking point, to physiological/emotional “changes of heart” like a “collective revulsion” with what has been going on. Those result in physical processes, the viral event of their dramatic spread, and then the change of state in the behavior before and after. So, they can be somewhat anticipated and then directly observed taking place.

Transformative “sea change” moments burst into our personal lives fairly often too, concerning our accumulating efforts and relationships, breaking through or breaking down. Much of human history is a list of larger scale stories of when something triggered people’s perceptions to go through massive waves of change, for whole societies at once. One example in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another interesting similar one is the dramatic break in the US crack epidemic in1990 (which also remarkably escaped most everyone’s attention).

After the summer of 1990 when the intensity of the crack epidemic hit a peak, the general response of everyone in NYC was total disgust with it, *including* as it seems, the young kids in the groups that were the source of bodies the crack culture needed to thrive. The many long failing efforts to stop it abruptly all started to work, all at once, and the NY murder rate began a precipitous decline that never recovered. It really seems to display a relatively sudden societal revulsion, for that whole self­-destructive lifestyle, a “change of heart”. I can’t get the sociologists or criminologists to study it, though, but the data is clear enough indicating that it happened. http://synapse9.com/cw/crimewave_nys2.htm

Accumulating social strains, discrediting some established culture, and bringing about its collapse, are real world examples societal experiences of a “swing into existence”. Metaphorically one might also see them as times “where a previously collapsing universe transitions through a super­massive black hole” ;­)… You could also reflect on them as the distance from the “center of relatedness we can go as far as our purpose needs or allows us to explore “openness” as possibilities”.

From a methodological view, these phenomena are directly identifiable from the dynamics of change in the systems experiencing them. That’s what becomes a door to studying them in a new way, identifying them as natural systemic events that we happen to be in the middle of. The general method for using physics principles to help study such phenomena can be applied to ones that involve people as well as to ones that don’t.

One of the big differences is that great natural events involving people like these are seen from the view of participants, and so “from the inside”. When studying events in which people are not participants we tend to see them “from the outside” (outside the circles of feedback that identify them). The dynamics that identify them are the same, but being able to consider them from both perspectives means we can learn to study them “inside and out”. That really adds a lot.

Even if the ability to diagram and predict them as phenomena remains rather limited, if accurately identified, different views will be of the same commonly observable phenomenon, and not just everyone’s self­-defined terms. Discussion would concern change in the organization of the system(s) and their relationships. The starting points for understanding them would include looking for their functional features, such as their continuity of development, local bursts of self-­organization as processes begin, limits of stability for scales of organization and matching “variety” of connections.

6 days ago

#27 • Neil Warren • Ah well ­NOW we’re getting closer to my natural working systems world (and thank you Bill ­but I am keeping up now Jessie ­honest ;­).

I have been discussing this as the collapse of 20th Century, Push­Marketing led,  Production Line dominated “Command & Control”, being replaced by “Connect­ Communicate & Collaborate”.   The first thinker I encountered was Daniel H Pink, with “A Whole New Mind ­Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future”, backed up by a lucky charity­shop purchase of a pre­loved copy of “The World is Flat” by Pulitzer man Thomas L Friedman (they cross­endorsed each others books), published 2005. Thomas details in some 550 pages of packed examples about how such things as The Dell Peace Dividend were already in play, making China and Taiwan think twice about resorting to the famous British Gunboat Diplomacy model. Walmart, UPS, Rolls Royce, IT everything, medicine, finance, accountancy, the lot, make hundreds of detailed examples ­including a National Trade Agreement between USA and Oman, all finalised and signed off via an online virtual meeting.

I started to spread that kind of word here…

http://www.modernselling.com/news­and­events/sales­editorial­comment/connect­collaborate­books­change­your­life­selling­sales­management­20114023.aspx

…and attracted readers like Fiona Savage (she’s down the page a bit and here)…

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/fiona­savage/22/8bb/ba7

…who sent me off into Deming and live representatives of same, like Professor John Seddon. I regularly recycle him on Public Sector Mayhem here (40 mins)…

http://vimeo.com/11896519

…and Private Sector Catastrophes here (30 mins)…

http://vimeo.com/10278907

I file them under Google ­Favourites ­Modern Selling­ Command & Control, and 10 minutes with Seth Godin is just underneath those two…

http://advertising.yahoo.com/video/futurist­26379595/yahoo­futurist­seth­godin­21881548.html

I haven’t looked at “Moon Shots” in a while, but passing readers may care to…

http://moon­shots.ning.com/

…and I’ll keep Parts 1­4 of a YouTube series of Dr Russell Ackoff, for addicts who need another fix to come and beg me for a shot ;­)

In a more Panavision perspective, (time and geography), it was a delight to see that the one living British (non­sporting, non music) Hero who took centre stage at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012, was Sir Tim Berners­Lee, “inventor” of the World Wide Web.

And I like to think, accordingly, that the history books will look back reasonably kindly on this over­inflated little island and community we like to think of as a United Kingdom, for our part in the globally calming and advancing role of The Communication Revolution, which is like a kind of combined Agricultural and Industrial Revolution, all rolled into one, and lasting a piffling 100 years or so.

Sir Ken Robinson might also get a footnote, for splendid efforts to transform USA­UK­Global education systems, and I used a relevant snippet of his stuff here (11 mins) which is one those entrancing RSAnimate things…

http://www.modernselling.com/work­skills/sales­tip­of­week/what­is­degree­worth­in­selling­sales­management­20114031.aspx

…featuring anaesthetising children, en masse, on America’s east coast, to try to force them to stick with Command & Control Plan A. Dr Michio Kaku is not impressed either…

…and do we not think that the Khan Academy that I picked up in this panel…

http://www.modernselling.com/work­skills/sales­management­training/what­is­best­UK­sales­training­for­up­to­£100­Neil­Warren­discussion­offer­20124069.aspx#878

…was much more like it?

It’s not working folks, and as my favorite (British) rock band of the 70’s said…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohRbJJohv6Y

Something Better Change.

6 days ago

#28 • Landis Lafreuge • @Jesse: I think you have something there relating to non-­conservation of complexity vs. conservation of energy.

I don’t think that changes in natural systems are continuous, I think that changes are inflection points, at a local level, to the participants in such. And sometimes (most

times?) these local inflection points cause further local inflection points at many scales and locations within other related systems. In other words, I think that natural systems are discrete, perhaps infinite, but countably so. And that if these changes appear to be continuous, as is often the case, the observations of the system are not at the level they are operating on. I am exploring local fractional functional analysis, all of the work to describe what I’m trying to say may be done, already! Since I seem to be having a hard time with it.

One interesting analogy to your description of inflation processes, is economic inflation processes, which I think is why you use the term. In an economy for which credit begins to be available, credit is extended to the furtherance of utility, increasing temporarily the aggregate wealth (physical wealth and credit) divided by aggregate utility of the economy (inflation). Some of this new development will add wealth and utility to the economy, extinguishing the credit and providing a larger than unity wealth/utility bias over time (inflation). Some of this new development will go nowhere, subtracting twice from wealth (deflation). Over time, the development that goes nowhere suddenly cascades, even into the productive development, and wealth including credit declines suddenly, an inflection point. And over large periods of time, aggregate wealth divided by aggregate utility has remained constant, yet system complexity has increased by huge amounts. Maybe this has something to do with non­-conservation of complexity vs. conservation of energy.

Living systems work to practically model observations, to make their best response towards the proliferation of living systems. And living systems do this incredibly well. Living systems are always trying new things, testing results against the changing and living environment they form, and that they are a part of. Living systems are also able to make partially directed, partially random changes based upon observations. Furthermore, if it is possible to measure life of systems (one of the contributions I make towards applying the scientific method towards this field of study), I hypothesize that aggregate life over time has a significant upside bias at all scales (a hypothesis I work to validate through test). It sounds like this is your interest too?

We have the ability to make physical these models, to form them into high quality information, to communicate them directly between ourselves, and to make them closer match current observations. Many times it has been found out that models which worked in the past no longer work, due to current observations being different than past observations, since the systems we are part of, and systems we form, change over time.

Does this apply to the laws of nature, to say conservation of energy? I can’t say whether these laws of nature change over time, or from place to place in our universe, or even if they result and are artifacts of living systems, and neither could anyone else, for the observations do not exist. My feeling on this is that laws of nature can be defined exactly, and do not change over time. At the same time, I will accept with happiness those who prove me wrong! All I can say is that the assumption towards models must be that all models are not static, and change over time due to changes in the systems they model. And sometimes, models realize changes in the systems they model, at inflection points. This is an assumption built into living systems themselves, which enables them to work exceptionally well.

6 days ago

#29 • Jessie Henshaw • @Neil – The symptoms you mentioned do seem like signs of our general “disease”. I could add various other kinds of critical symptoms, like the escalation of world resource prices all at once, and the persistent government consensus that we just need inventions and stimulus to recreate the limitless growth resources of the past again, too. http://www.synapse9.com/pub/ASustInvestMoment­PH.pdf

That is could be very distracting to try to connect and trace these kinds of issues back, is one of the problems my approach helps solve. As the threads of evidence go further back and get more complex, the information on them also gets more sketchy. That’s where a very simple whole system model helps, letting you quickly sketch the whole event as a system of change over time, from beginning to end (¸¸.•´ ‾ `•.¸¸).

That says we should see our societal dysfunction in the context of how it originally developed its creative function. That means starting with the successful development of our economic society and the growth system for it we systematized, using the wealth potential of the industrial revolution accelerated by science as a policy and method.

The link below is a figure showing the history of recorded US GDP since 1880, along with the word use frequency of “complex” from 1800, scaled to fit the economic growth curve. The two curves track for most of that period, then diverge. It takes some care to interpret it, but I think it holds up in the end, that people stopped being able to keep up with the growing complexity of our lives in the 1960’s, and began losing interest in things “complex”. Again, it’s an interpretation, but it suggests people today are finding it both appealing and necessary to stop dealing with more and more of what was going on all around them.

http://synapse9.com/issues/GDPcomplexHistSM.jpg

So, my view is that how we designed economic was as way to make our lives progressively better, and then progressively more unmanageable. Whatever its driving forces, the effect was to give us multiplying scales of consumption and complexity, first making us feel rich and then threatened. I think that identifies the common cause behind the waves of dysfunction we now observe. As the system confronts natural limits and the parts are still driven to grow, people are naturally being pushed into taking more and more shortcuts, having less and less understanding of the consequences.

http://synapse9.com/issues/concept$.htm

I do agree with Dr. Michio Kaku, that “science is the engine of prosperity”. Some mistakes were made, though. Science accepted the model of “prosperity” as being a “perpetual motion machine”, for serving the multiplying needs of bankers and lenders… I think that says it quite concisely. That’s some *big error*, of course. Given how deeply it is embedded in our society, the question is whether there is *anyone* who could still find the clarity to understand it?

I also agree with John Seddon that “seeing the whole system always comes as a surprise”, that as you study them people can see how to make them work better. He’s definitely *not* looking at the economy as a whole system, though� ! Like others, his systems science is focused on making business work better to make clients happy (bankers and lenders). That becomes the central problem if everyone is doing that. Then everyone is advancing the business of the whole system, for rapidly making all our tasks unmanageable…

So if people are focused on making their part work better (in a society driven to work ever worse), we have a problem. How to get past that may have some solution hidden­ in­ sight somehow, but I have not yet seen it. So I’ve mostly retreated to just doing this kind of writing for the pleasure of it� Being playful in how one approaches wicked problems seems more likely to help than hurt, anyway. ;­)

5 days ago

#30 • Fiona Savage • I originally trained as a nurse and know that living systems are amassing and at last we are view system not through the leans of reductionism but as a whole. Scientist like Bruce Lipton the new biology, show science is catch up with what many have known for years. FMRI imaging study shows compassion meditation changes the brain.

I have read several of Margete Weatley books and recently heard her speak in may. She explores the power of working whole systems in a number of ways. One which stuck a bell with me was the system that knows itself will work together to develop a high quality way forward and will then be committed to its implementation.

Her reaches in to communise also was very refreshing, showing how much we can learn from remote communities, if I recall correctly, it was Senegal they have little material wealth but they have each other and do not suffer from anxiety, depression and have no record of suicide as everyone feels they belong.

I also saw the film choice point recently and yes I firmly believe we are at a turning point. It was there I came across Gregg Brandon and fractural time yet another internationally bridging science and spirituality.

There is so much going and gathering pace to create change.

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

5 days ago

#31 • Bill Smith • Fiona: Nicely said. I too am very familiar with Meg’s work. I ran a special interest group for 10 years on the “New Sciences”. You might also look up the works of Mae Wan Ho especially “The Rainbow and the Worm” giving this same holistic, natural, biological perspective. If you are still interested in Nursing and complexity you might like

Plexus Institute

they apply complexity theory to health and have special sections for nursing.

5 days ago

#32 • Fiona Savage • Thanks Bill for the link to Plexus Institute great to know that healthcare professionals are looking at life through the lens of complexity, rather than reductionism, Not so sure this is happing in the UK although now there is a collage of integrated medicine. However, I don’t think they are looking through the lenses of complexity. But rather not limiting patients to evidence ­based practice! Our NHS has little insight into its high Command and Control culture compared to other public sector bodies.

I am a firm believe that science is only what we know at any one point in time so by solely practicing evidence ­based practice medicine is constantly at least a decade behind of what scenes knows! The old biology is still taught in secondary education and medical schools.

Like Neil I am also interested in John Seddon work in the public and private sector. John is a psychologist and I think unlike may consultants in Organizational Learning who equate systems thinking with tools such as six sigma or Lean, John looks through the lens a complex adaptive system.

� The number of parts (and types of parts) in the system and the number of relations between the parts is non­trivial – however, there is no general rule to separate “trivial” from “non­trivial”;

� The system has memory or includes feedback;

� The system can adapt itself according to its history or feedback;

� The relations between the system and its environment are non­trivial or non­linear;

� The system can be influenced by, or can adapt itself to, its environment; and

� The system is highly sensitive to initial conditions.

In Scotland and England group like John Vanguard and our own the Unreasonable Learner in Scotland are working constantly at government leaver to change the way our respective government view and manage services and how they reduce failure demand.

Last year The Christy report showed at least 40% failure demand in the public sector by reduce this failure demand it will free up resources which can be re allocated elsewhere and improve local public services and ultimately be reflected in the economy. As John Seddon says Its all about culture change and that free!.

5 days ago

#33 • Neil Warren • I’ve totally amazed even myself now! Found an instant home for your links Jessie…

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Solution­selling­is­dead­1328087.S.128748018

…so thank you for those.

And the phone goes whilst I’m doing that, and it’s Fiona, and we’ve agreed than an hour or three with her and I doing this…

http://www.modernselling.com/work­skills/sales­management­training/what­is­best­UK­sales­training­for­up­to­£100­Neil­Warren­discussion­offer­20124069.aspx

…also now makes better sense than ever!

As I say, I’m not sure even I understand why (in detail), but the future looks ever brighter, and then some!! (Noting also that Richard Dawkins ­of Darwin ­Selfish Gene ­God

Delusion fame, was proposing that atheists be know as Brights, in future, in the same way that gay was intended to overcome negative homosexual biases. Perhaps we’re all just getting a sniff of the awesome majesty of a single ­species­ connected­ human ­brain?).

5 days ago

#34 • Jessie Henshaw • I think we all need to expand our thinking about what Fiona mentioned, that education is always teaching old science… It’s an ever more serious problem for a system that both 1) keeps changing ever faster and 2) keeps getting more easily destabilize by strategic errors.

Maybe try reading my comment on John Seddon again. It’s about when using systems thinking to help the parts of a system work better, can cause the system they’re part of to fail. “Work better” can mean “follow outdated steering policies”, that miss­define the goals of “work better” that the parts are sincerely investing all their efforts into following.

So, I’m saying I do agree with Seddon that the cure is to study “the whole system”, but it needs to be expanded to include the behavior of the whole economy as a system full of learning parts, and discover what’s going on in real time with what the parts are all learning. As an economy uses its profits to multiply its investments, and multiply its parts, the system as a whole creates a fatal self­management problem for itself. It gets explosively worse as the parts hit the physical limits of the environment, and then are essentially using their profits to multiply their conflicts…

That’s the problem. It’s quite simple to see from a whole system view, but not from the view of parts, generally following trusted rules from a distant past, on “what’s profitable”.

So, what I’m advocating is the use of systems science for “problem finding”, not “problem solving”. As Seddon points out, once people find the real problems, they tend to solve themselves.

4 days ago

#35 • Bill Smith • @ Fiona and continuing dialog on Jessie’s natural systems. Jessie, your listing of John’s lens on systems points to the importance of basic understanding of what a system and environment are and what their relationships are. I think the term Thinking in ST has hobbled a more compete and simpler view of natural systems. ST finds it difficult to deal with notions like power or to see purpose beyond the level of goal ­seeking. To see a system as a set of all the relationship (power, enabling/dis­enabling that effect the achievement of a purpose or function, gives us tremendous theoretical and practical leverage. The relationship of the system to itself is one of control (closedness). The environment is something the system does not control­ so the boundaries between stems and environments are boundaries o power. The relationship of the system to everything that affects its purpose or function but which but which it cannot control or influence is its relationship to ‘openness’ which I call appreciation. A central role of systems is to discover those relationships (relatedness) that mediate and enhance the relationships between openness and closedness. All of these relationships are power relationship ­­power being the capacity to achieve purpose. System boundaries then are degrees of power control, influence or appreciation relative to the system purpose in some space-­time frame. It then becomes eminently practical to devise systems for improving the capacity to achieve higher levels of purpose using power more effectively.

4 days ago

#36 • Bill Smith • Jessie: Yes, work better generally means get more control over, not get more understanding and capacity to deal with the whole picture. In terms of ‘problem finding’ another Englishman, Sir Geoffrey Vickers in the sixties was one of the first to point out that Simon’s decision making was fine for problem solving but we needed something of a higher order for problem finding and it was he who came up with the first use of “appreciation’ as this higher order of problem finding. This is why I use the term appreciation to describe the process for “openness”.

4 days ago

#37 • lewis campbell • @Jessie Thanks Jessie you worded that so well. In my own area over the years I’ve seen the same thing….what a friend calls “the tail wagging the dogma” bad pun, but you get my point.

All to often the build up to a formulary that defines initial data, does become the prophetic nature of what future experimentation becomes, all to often in the wrong direction, as the polarization of data sets starts to skew within the models, without the basis for the formulary being rechecked.

The adage…”we tend to think the way we talk, and act the way we think” once we speak the nature of our thoughts, it all to often becomes the dogma by which we no longer are able to think outside of. Words or formulas, it all starts to imprint the way we think…

have a nice evening..

4 days ago

#38 • Jessie Henshaw • @Bill ­You’re right that ST starts as an idea of how to represent real complex systems in a mental model. So, yes, that doesn’t entail truly open thinking. We have to open it up, but in a way that improves on its usefulness rather than dissipates or fractures it. The way Gene deals with that problem, in his first STWJ article, makes an interesting step in the right direction.

He uses a step toward openness he calls “AND?”. It implies that whatever connection you add to a diagram the task is to ask what implied connections would then emerge, that would now be missing from the diagram. I think that’s a great kind of methodology. It’s a lot like my exploratory approaches. One sometimes surprising key step in that direction is to ask if parts of your model would bring about their own end, and asking “AND then?” Nature is chock full of processes that upset their own conditions for operation.

“AND then?” is needed because a model is unaffected by its irreversible processes, but their physical corollaries are, and would implicitly overshoot their own operating limits prompting change never represented in the model. The familiar economic example is of how models of growing profit are limitless, but growing investment in a commons uses physical processes that end in destabilizing what is creating the profits. So, asking “AND then? You further open up the questions of how conceptual models rely on more complex physical realities that for their relevance.

I guess you’re intending the word “appreciation” to prompt a similar expansion upon one’s missing information to help one appreciate real world behavior? Does it go so far as “AND then?” in exposing rapidly approaching conditions for which you’re totally unprepared? That’s a very active kind of “appreciation” that the eventfulness of nature seems to require. A more classic example of an irreversible process leaving you totally unprepared for what’s next is the unpreparedness of a fetus for ejected, to become an independent being all of a sudden.

It’s not as farfetched as it might seem, to use that example to explain our current experience. We’re also having to rather abruptly end our long period of systematic compound growth, and how we used it to organize everything we did, making our sudden end of compound growth a sharp discontinuity with our experience and expectations. We’re also being thrown into a very unexpected new relationship with our planet too, also having to switch from consuming our host ever faster to making it a lasting partner.

To boot, we also have to give up our most trusted economic solution for everything, banking on having ever growing unearned income to pay for things. It really upsets our financial plans to not have that, but it was coming from our ever growing consumption of our host and we suddenly ran out of room for that. That will actually force us to rethink our 5000 year old ideas of money, in fact. We should be happy for it! We’re just not prepared for it, though, that’s all. It’s asking us for “a ­whole ­new concept”.

4 days ago

#39 • Jessie Henshaw • @Lewis ­If you see “the tail wagging the dogma” as a natural byproduct of people’s educations falling ever further behind, and making ever more dangerous mistakes to boot… is there some kind of “bleeder valve” we could turn to relieve pressure on a system that does that?

We seem to have some sort of pump of accelerating change, that we become unable to resist changing faster the faster we change, and learning how to do it is becoming something of a looming problem.

3 days ago

#40 • lewis campbell • @Jessie Henshaw Admittedly the biggest problem (as I see some of it to be) is to much information used as knowledge, and to much technology replacing the needful efforts on the part of students at an early age losing the developmental process needed to develop abstract thinking.

There does seem to be the idea that throwing technology into the room, or memorizing formulas will breed the thinker into existence. My prospective is more the thought that our children have lost out, by losing the focus on music, literature, languages, etc., with the math and the sciences. Those innate syllogistic processes that we learn in analyzing a poet’s work, the development of Broca’s area in language and music, the defining rhythms of neurological pruning that occur with systems oriented thoughts imprinted at an early age. Certainly the reading and writing skills that develop spatial reasoning and organizational precision is lost through texting, or those driving ebonics style simplifications on language skills.

The mistakes are coming, to my mind anyway, from the lack of abstract thinking skills that would prevent the recipe method of problem solving that seems to exist even; from what I’ve seen, at the doctoral and post­doctoral levels now.

The other part is the intent of scientists today. Not to be scientist of the old caliber, to

share and grow from each others work, but to horde, to cheat and push for there 15 minutes or thirty pieces of silver.

As far as the “bleeder valve” concept, we see those points in the past as always to be when the critical mass of thought coalesces into the intellectual vacuum of the day being filled by the “thinker” who comes along to catalyze our views or understanding to the next level, beyond the resident dogma:

Newton, Darwin, Einstein, etc…

I think what has stalled us out, is what I call the “Wallmart” syndrome….the domination of a way of thinking, pushing out those who challenge, but then becoming so dogmatic, and imprinted even into the nature of the average person to weigh in through the fad blogs of thought, that the social inertia is no longer driven by the experts, but by the masses who know enough to comment or argue, but not enough to know they are being lead down a false path, and collectively taking everyone with them.

I’m not sure we are so much changing as revolving in a whirlpool that like “hawking radiation” spews out the detritus of form and function in the thought processes that could solve some of the problems we have.

To not sound so negative, one of those days in the lab, where everything seems to go wrong….

I do believe that ST has the capability of solving many of the problems we face, not necessarily in finding solutions directly from the work here, but developing the mind set of those who study the work, and in so doing bring together the form and function of abstract reasoning to what it was for those rare individuals that could see a systems view in there work, even if they did not at times understand, that that was what it was.

One of the primary first steps as I see it, are to develop a series of textbooks and software that are written from the systems prospective for kindergarten up through college, reinforcing the nature of it at each step, along with going back to a more liberal arts core focus along with the required math and sciences.

My thoughts on it anyway Jessie, sorry, I can never seem to stop talking myself into a diatribe…have a nice evening.

3 days ago

#41 • Neil Warren • My American wife is catching up yesterday evening, suspending her loyal beliefs for an hour or two to see what fascinated me about what others might think and see and do regarding a global economic system…

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi751502873/

With politics (The White House and Congress) and Academia (Harvard, Columbia etc.) all being “bought” to offer their increasingly desperate support of a failing dogma.

And just now sitting in stunned disbelief that if it’s an industrial­ military complex, and the likes of $400,000,000 annual expenditure on “defense”, that you are trying to prop up (and keep 1% owning everything), then the media (CNN and Fox and all) may also need to be co­opted / coerced / or Command & Controlled…

http://septemberclues.info/

Little people (and our “systems”) are just that ­unless and until we group together more effectively, like…

http://www.ae911truth.org/en/news­section/57­news­releases­by­others/641­can­americans­escape­the­deception.html

3 days ago

#42 • Fiona Savage • Hi Neil Community is so important and the internet enables us to group together are we not in an age where we have more power than ever?

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

― Anita Roddick”

Lewis I would agree with you over the last few months i have been involved in a Scottish Government project about learning for the future. Facts are changing so fast, what we need to be taught is the principles of learning, each of us need to understand our own learning styles and how to think for oneself. Also that we need to constantly unlearn so we can move forward.

3 days ago

#43 • Neil Warren • It feels like coming out of a comfy womb of trusted social­ political ­economic life ­guarantees, and into the ravaged waste­lands of anarchy and revolution

though Fiona.

I know this is what we’ve been witnessing actually happening across the Arab world over the last few years, and I can also see the carnage across China as they try to roll Industrial and Communication Revolutions into one.

I was also hearing on the radio this morning that one possible antidote (suggested by an Indian) to more than half of India suffering total power­loss for a couple of days or more, might be to nudge the “vested interests” aside, and open up the economy to some “trustworthy” external investors. I really wouldn’t know which nations or companies I’d “trust” to be less corrupt than them though, if I were in their sandals.

Africa likewise ­is it better to be raped and pillaged by your own General, Rule Britannia, or a Chinese Infrastructure Investor?

I’m hoping that enough people, offering enough “legal, decent, honest & truthful” (and mutually beneficial) products and services to each other, can make it through this mayhem, or are already emerging, to give our Phoenix a chance ­and without having to resort to much more guillotine or cruise­ missile work.

It’s as scary as it is exciting though, from what I see ­and a touch more “unbelievable” than a good Dan Brown thriller.

3 days ago

#44 • Jessie Henshaw • @neil ­Well, there are indeed “wicked problems” in the area of “wicked misinformation” that the links you offered seem to be about, and displaying. I think what is needed are chains of reasoning and evidence most anyone can then validate themselves, not just be emotionally swayed by.

Still, there definitely are things going on that *look* like global plots and mysterious confluences of forces. I don’t find it likely they could be any better masterminded by small bands of extraordinary criminal minds than by woefully misguided popular cultures. Generally the historical record seems to display much more of the latter than the former, too.

Take my assertion that: “It’s our trying to make the parts work better that is making the system as a whole to fail.” The reason is elementally simple, and you can verify it without too much difficulty.

It’s that “work better” changed meaning naturally, from what it was when the earth was limitless. We’re still using the old meaning created for a limitless earth, that every part helps every other by contributing to productivity and growth, though. Now that “the earth is full”, growth is more crowding of space, resource consumption, confusing change, unmet demands for money, etc… *BUT* we are still treating them as “better” as it now makes our world work “worse”.

That’s also possible to study as a physical problem, of just the kind addressed by the natural systems research methods I’m introducing here. It’s not a fundamentally a theory or values problem, really, as a learning problem. Our ancient wisdom was not prepared for our environment to evidently be so eventful. So anyone can and everyone needs to, study it independently.

What we need to do is rethink our fundamental values as well as procedures, but people have generally not yet realized the need to do so. Some of our most trusted values and procedures connected to our history of growth have completely reversed. So not having changing our what we value we’re steering the ship into the tempest, not away from it.

3 days ago

#45 • Jessie Henshaw • @Lewis ­The question of how to interest kids in thinking critically is a perennial question for skilled teachers. I certainly support the general liberal arts approach. My dad, teaching physics mostly to non-­majors, was a master of giving his students half the question, as a way to get them hooked into really having to think about it. Sharing the gift of curiosity about the world also requires a teacher to have their own, and experience in other arts and subjects.

What most people don’t seem to understand is the theory is not reality, so skills in abstract thinking really become valuable only by how well they are connected to the natural world. So a teacher also needs to have diverse experience and curiosity about how the systems around them work and change, as if a separate masters degree in studying real life through the lens of their subject.

Gifted teachers are usually best loved for making both the theory clear and the reality rich with connections to other things. Systems thinking as a study of the richness of functional connections in nature is generally just not studied, though. A lack of courses on it can indeed be blamed for a lot of the general ignorance of the subject, by educators and the public, but it’s a “chicken and egg problem”. It does also explain a lot of why kids aren’t being taught it, even as being immersed in a confusingly changing world becomes of increasing importance for them. It’s a real culture ­wide deficit.

Then there’s also the long list of things that are increasingly distracting for students, interfering with their potential to enjoy and progress in their learning too. There are the

entertainments, the “technology” that has become such an important part of the economic role of kids. It’s like society wants them to live multiple lives. There is also how confusingly rapid change in how the world is working is itself confusing. Everyone is having a harder and harder time explaining it. Then there’s the sense of hopelessness of finding a way to fit in which that causes, which affects some more than others, even driving them crazy or to quit.

I think you’d find those kinds of distractions to be mostly measurable, and increasing on growth curves associated with emergent systems economic trends. As such they are likely to be found associated with economic over development, as symptoms of our “over doing it”. Profitable things that served important needs at first, end up overwhelming their environments to become big distractions if taken too far.

As to what curricula, my focus would be on the ST too, but as the missing study of change as a nature. It’s isn’t the subject of any college department I know of. Each department teaches the history of change in its own field, but without any scientific view of change as an accumulative process of self­-organization, tying a complex evolutionary history together. The subject may come up in a lecture here or there, but it doesn’t seem to be taught, as far as I know, as a course anywhere.

As you suggest there is definitely some direct economic conflict of interest in how science is being taught. If there were courses in how growth affects culture, for example, there would be a place to carefully study how it is that the sciences, led by physics, came to have a central role in promoting our society’s economic dependence multiplying perpetual motion machines (of ever growing reorganization and resource consumption). If there were academic courses on change it could be studied.

The real problem with introducing new courses is competing for attention, and the serious economic battles between publishers. So, winning the public recognition battle, to raise the subject’s “cachet” is the route I’d see for how to “develop a series of textbooks and software that are written from the systems prospective for kindergarten up through college,” ;­)

3 days ago

#46 • Barry Clemson • I have to confess … I about half understand what is being said on this thread … Nevertheless, I have a very strong “feeling” that this is really important … feels to me like a new frontier for ST … I hope we can continue to explore / hammer at this until a) yours truly understands better and b) we make some breakthru’s in answering Jessie’s questions.

2 days ago

#47 • Jessie Henshaw • Thanks a lot Barry. It does take mulling over new ideas for research methods, to discover one’s own way of using them. Like trying to explain what a magnifying glass is for, to someone who never considered what “scale” means in nature. It can’t be “explained” really, but needs to occur to them.

Here that “magnifying glass”, that I’m trying to pass around examples of using, is the universal “thread” of continuity in how complex systems develop. Simple pattern recognition lets you follow the thread, most easily identified as regular proportional change over time, growth or decay. It lets you locate where in your environment nature is building or dismantling individual complex systems, using self-organization processes to “connect the dots” of their changing networks and systems of relationships.

It may be a surprise that this recognition of what growth and decay mean in nature comes from a curiously simple implication of the conservation of energy, that nature really must use developmental processes for any energy using system to begin or end. It’s also becomes a surprise how prolific the evidence of it is, and how local bursts of self-organization then appear very involved in the eventfulness of natural events in general. It seems to point to some kind of general bias in the questions of science, too, that it has somehow been left largely unstudied and remains hard to communicate.

http://www.synapse9.com/drtheo.pdfhttp://www.synapse9.com/chapters.htmhttp://www.sy napse9.com/signals

2 days ago

#48 • Neil Warren • Try this 44 minutes Jessie / All, for written evidence going back thousands of years of advanced mathematics, and what Plato, as one small and recent example, knew about things like GPS (Geo­Positioning­Satellites)…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHmZjl4ByYs

All “carved in tablets of stone”, as they say ­and lots and lots of dots connected.

2 days ago

#49 • Jessie Henshaw • Hmm… Looking for aliens seems not worth 44 minutes, unless you can suggest how it helps us look for systems that design themselves. Thales, the Ionian, the first Greek scientist, apparently proved his work by making a killing in the olive market, using his mathematical ability (combining Phoenician, Babylonian and Egyptian methods) and applying them to his observations of mathematical behavior in nature that others couldn’t see. He also seems to have had interesting ideas about science becoming a study of how nature works by itself.

That might also seem to have been the original common meaning of the Greek word for “physics”, which was then lost to physics over the centuries. The focus of physics and the sciences that copied its methods turned completely to defining nature with theories of equations for controlled relationships, with no room for uncontrolled or self-organizing behaviors except as accumulations of “entropy” and “noise”.

Was that early “bifurcation” in the subjects of science because of bias, or could it have been because equations can only be defined for controlled relationships and it was just an accident that no one noticed? I’ve also wondered whether it was the inquisitions of the Roman Catholic church, and the threats of death that forced the early modern scientists to develop methods that in no competed with God’s total control of life.

The Greeks following Thales also didn’t followed his example, and didn’t continue to study how systems of nature sometimes behaved mathematically by themselves. Had they, though, would they have noticed that if taken too far using equations to concentrate wealth would naturally cause the collapse of the environments being profited from? That’s of course impossible to say.

Certainly there are gaps in the story. It’s also certain that the physics of today shed no light at all on the question, even though is has long been an ever more common and ever more devastatingly destructive natural phenomenon.

It really should have long had our attention, and urgently needs to be given attention.

1 day ago

#50 Neil Warren • “It really should have long had our attention, and urgently needs to be given attention.”

Did you not give the 44 minutes then Jessie?

Whether the maths and actual fact of using the planet’s electromagnetic core were invented by “aliens” or homo­sapiens some time prior to 10,500BC, they are recorded there. A few enlightened Greeks can only have been passing on what they found, there was no “invention” or “discovery” that can be attributed to them.

The only “weird” thing I perceive is that ONE carbon­based life form on ONE speck of dust, amongst trillions of possibilities, thinks that it might be the only intelligent enquirer, in space or time.

A copy / paste of an email to another correspondent of mine, might illuminate further…

I have just come across John Adams, writing to Thomas Jefferson, who was spending some of his autumn years hiring professors for the University of Virginia, in 1825.

Here are 20 of today’s baffled ape­men, struggling to understand that…

http://americancreation.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/john­adams­and­awful­blasphemy­quote.html

Noting that tiresome electro­magnetic feature again…

In 1820 the Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted (1777–1851) discovered electro­magnetic force. In line with Schelling, Ørsted believed that the spiritual forces of attraction and repulsion are more basic than material particles, and their laws were claimed to reign in nature as well as in society.

…which I’m beginning to suspect might have these kinds of Type A “Advantages” (Marketing Gobbledegook stops at 1:50 – EVIDENCE starts there)…

http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=3EEW44onpHc&list=UU5juZNuzbjbVUIvBg8pGJZQ&index=2&feature=plcp

…but which would have to be a Type B Benefit, if the punter wants to build a Pyramid, say, or more recent (can’t really call it “Modern” as in improved) castle like this…

I also have The Age of Reason (1793) open, regarding Brit Thomas Paine being rejected / accepted by the Americans, with recent “insights” into that…

http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/thomas_paine/age_of_reason/intro.html

And I got both Adams and Paine from this 10­minute Mad­Men­meanderings (e.g. Michael J Crowe PhD – Cavanaugh Professor – Emeritus – University of Notre Dame)…

http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=0t0nYU7S54A&feature=BFa&list=PLEEA4CE4963C56873

…who I have to say I find strangely compelling and attractive, when he boils it down to a quick web­cam thing.

Just thought I ought to let you see that, in case we do get anything going, but I still seem weirdly “alien” or anti­religious in any “challenging” sort of way ;­)

1 day ago

#51 • David R. Weinbaum (Weaver) • I am new to this discussion group and to this discussion of course. The issue here is one of the threads of my research which is on its beginning phase. Anyway, I think that approaches such has complexity theory and self­organization in particular are definitely a step in the right direction but are still missing a lot. System thinking is still bound by an object based ontology and therefor it often fails to capture those phenomena that do not give themselves to object based descriptions and object based kind of thinking. A primary example is of course biological developmental processes where the organism is in a continuous process of redefining its own physical identity.

Systems that are capable to invent their own theories are in fact systems that are dynamically redefine their own identity as it is brought forth by their interactions with their environment. The reason is that theories about ‘oneself’ or ‘other’ or the relation between ‘self’ and ‘other’ are those that direct and regulate what I would call the identity process.

My point of departure to further investigate the problem is to approach it both philosophically and scientifically. I find Gille Deleuze’s work Difference and Repetition particularly enlightening in this respect as he connects the ontological level, where he suggest a difference based ontology, with the problem of thought and the thinking subject. He shows how we can think about thinking without necessarily positing a thinker with an a priori given identity. Thinking itself is a process of becoming ­a continuous reformulation of identity. Following his steps I am investigating the application of this approach to system theory. You can find further details in my paper: <a href=”http://clea.academia.edu/DavidWeinbaum/Papers/792904/Complexity_and_the_philosophy_of_becoming” target=”_blank”>Complexity and the Philosophy of Becoming</a>

17 hours ago

#52 • Landis Lafreuge • @Jessie, @David:  If there is no method to test hypotheses in the study of such systems, then the scientific method cannot be applied. And as I earlier posted, certainly the test of some hypotheses in this subject can change the system under test, making useless the scientific method. And of course, ethics is extremely important in (and to) this field of study.

This is probably why, as Jessie said, “the physics of today shed no light at all on the question.” Physics split from other studies into an engineering­focused discipline. And for good reason, as we can all see, just by observing that we can read this discussion. Again, like I earlier posted, and replacing nature with physics, I can’t say whether the laws of physics change over time, or from place to place in our universe, or even if they result and are artifacts of living systems, and neither could anyone else, for the observations do not exist. My feeling on this is that laws of physics can be defined exactly, and do not change over time. At the same time, I will accept with happiness those who prove me wrong!

I am happy that the subject of physics exists, separate from all other subjects, a powerful tool which can be used to design stuff that works the first time. And practical tests of our understanding of physics pan out, making physics useful.

As I am happy that this new subject of study to be developed, is being considered by at least a few other people. For this new field of study to be as practical as, say mechanics of materials, it must be possible to test.

One cannot gain utility by proposing that which cannot be used, even though this is an interesting topic for sure. An idea becomes useful when it applies more often than not. To see if an idea applies more often than not, observations must be made.

So what kinds of observations are necessary just to get started?

6 hours ago

#53 • Jessie Henshaw • @David ­The observations to make are of where nature is building new ways of “connecting the dots”, so you locate where to look for how it’s done. The mathematical signature to look for is “smooth developmental change”, or said more simply, growth and decay curves. It’s the failure of science to study organization in nature that has kept people from recognizing that growth is a process of organization. The focus is on growth and decay periods because they’re easy to spot mathematically and show when all the parts of the system are working together as one, being good places to look for how nature is “connecting the dots”.

Nature doesn’t use logic for connecting remote facts. That’s what people do. So when looking at how people explain things, one needs to anticipate the use of disconnected facts to make a logical whole in their minds. That’s not what nature does. She’s nothing if not transparent and without bias, taking each step from the last strictly as it comes. Her deception is to hide from the outside what’s happening inside the loops that define the interior organizations of things.

So you look for construction processes, with each step building on the last. It always starts with the “universal pattern of start­ups”, which is a burst of energy uses and emerging relationships, from which bigger things develop, growth. The details frequently involve alternating steps. When building a building you need to floors and walls to alternate, for example. You can’t just stack up the floors, then cover them with piles of walls and call it “a house”. That’s not arranged to work. A house needs alternating floors and walls and then to be finished off with a roof. The roof is just preparatory for the finish work that has to be done too. The pattern of start­ups, bursts of new energy use and organization, is visible for both the whole construction process and for each part of it.

The initial flurry of activity is when the owner has an idea to do something, arranges to set aside the money, chooses a builder and directs him to get permits and assemble the crew. You can call that the “germination” event in the sequence of building the house. Ascending scales of energy use follow, first small amounts for staking out the land, hiring the sub­contractors and breaking ground. Then more and more energy for building foundations and the frame, doing the “big” work. That’s a process that creates more and more places for people to work, and culminates in swarms of people all over the building as the roof is put on and the many lesser parts of the shell are installed. That is also the turning point in the scale of energy use, as the increasing number of places to do things get smaller and smaller, leading to all the finishing tasks. Then the key to the building is handed to the new owner and contractor leaves the site, the “confirmation” event at the end of the process.

The same general thing happens in nature, with things building from a starting point, with a system emerging by parts building on precedent, like new “species” emerging to fill out environmental successions after a forest fire. An economic example is emerging technology, how whole complex systems of interrelated technologies emerge all at once. Each innovation relies on the network of past one. It’s also what’s happening with climate, as new forms of storm systems emerge to exploit new temperature gradients in the atmosphere.

The map to how the parts work together is the universal sequence of development and decay. It provides landmarks for six distinct events of changing direction and five systematic developmental periods in the life­cycle of self-organizing systems. It’s all what’s needed to maintain continuity of change for emerging systems. http://synapse9.com/chapters.htm or http://synapse9.com/drtheo.pdf

#54Jessie Henshaw • David ­I looked at your paper on Complexity and Philosophy and briefly scanned things on the web for Gille Deleuze’s ontology. I find one commonality with my physical science approach in focusing on systems as individual things. I couldn’t really follow what I was reading, but there may be other similarities. I also saw him mentioned in connection with DeLanda in your paper and elsewhere, who I have tried to correspond with for finding other similarities of approach.

I’m a physical scientist of a somewhat unusual kind, who uses philosophy as a tool, wherever it seems to offer a practical way to help me learn from observation. That approach to philosophy began when I was looking for something new to do with physics, and was introduced to phenomenology. It prompted me to look for ways to let the phenomena of nature simply speak directly for themselves, and an idea that the goal of theory might be being faithful to the things of the world in their own form, a kind of ontology of yielding to nature in that way.

Most scientists, as well as philosophers tend to define the things of nature as being how they explain them, rather than embodied in the objects, organization and behavior of the things we observe. So, I’ll browse in your paper further. Are there things you could suggest about how it might be used as an “observation aid” for discovering ways to reveal the natural forms of things. If so I’d be very interested.

#55 • David R. Weinbaum (Weaver) • Jessie – Indeed Delanda who is cited in my paper has a lot to say on the issue in the way he interprets Deleuze. I would particularly recommend his book Intensive Science, Virtual Philosophy. “Phenomena that speaks for itself” is highly resonant with Deleuze’s kind of realism. Deleuze’s criticizes the so called transcendental nature of ideas and theories. He instead shows how these can be understood as individuations that arise from a field of intensities. Physical events do not partake in the identities we impose on them as observers. Translated into systems thinking, it is the understanding that there is always more to the parts than what they seem to perform as the components of a larger system. There are always connections relations and new behaviors that cannot be predicted by our representations.

As to your last question about “observations aids”, well this is very interesting because I believe that at least philosophically speaking Deleuze suggests a complementary counter part to the empiricism of the actual that he calls an empiricism of the virtual. I relate to it in my paper which is only introductory. But I find this direction very interesting because I believe that it can be formalized into a method. The empiricism of the virtual is about observing not actual systems but their fields of becoming. to get some feel for it, it is best to use the analogy of embryonic development but from the standpoint of the intensities (in this case chemical gradients) and not from the standpoint of final or intermediate products. To observe the actual dimension of a system means to observe its dynamic behavior. To observe the virtual dimension of a system is to observe the space of possibilities in which the actual system is only an instance. For Deleuze these possibility spaces have a structure that can be investigated. This structure also relates closely to his new concept of idea.

I am not sure that this is what you are after but in view of the initial question of this thread it is definitely relevant and one of my major research interests.

#56 • Jessie Henshaw • @David – That’s so nice to hear, that focus on “ways to let the phenomena of nature simply speak directly for themselves” is “highly resonant with Deleuze’s kind of realism”, and that: “Deleuze’s [work]criticizes the so called transcendental nature of ideas and theories. He instead shows how these can be understood as individuations that arise from a field of intensities.”

To directly study “individuations that arise from a field of intensities”, I think people trying to understand Deleuze could both achieve that as well as expand on both his approach and mine at the same time, by directly studying natural phenomena that *do that*. I have lots of technique to offer for that exercise, though seemingly scattered about my site. The basic model I follow is kind of universal, that it’s just studying them that causes you to understanding them better. My usual starting point for any study is a bit different, finding a way to recognize their natural successions from beginning to end. That just helps you focus in on exactly what you’re studying, to find an individually fruitful way to let them speak for themselves (http://synapse9.com/chapters).

How I interpret what I find differes a little from what you describe as his way, studying: “the intensities (in this case chemical gradients) and not from the standpoint of final or intermediate products.” I do also look closely at the intensities of change, adding on special attention to their natural successions from first increasing to decreasing intensity during the beginning and then ending any phenomenon (i.e. = ¸¸¸.•´ ¯ `•.¸¸¸), *but* I only see the “intensities” as *my mental guide* to where and when the organizational processes I’m actually more interested in are taking place.

The associated “gradients” in the environment, thermal or chemical or other kinds, will exhibit the intensities of change, as they swell and subside, and those changes in gradients do often match the phases of change in the organizational processes of the system. However, I see the quite high degree of variety in the working features of the organizational processes and how they build on complementary fits, as seeming to not match at all the limited variety of the gradients they exploit. I think that indicating the direction of causation.

So, what I’m doing is also as you describe his approach, as: “To observe the actual dimension of a system means to observe its dynamic behavior.” I then, however, discuss the observed system as most closely embodied by its organizational progressions. That lets me separately discuss the virtual system those observations prompt in my mind, that becomes my steadily expanding idea of it, informed by observation. Those observations include recognizing the gradients and their intensities of change, plus other properties associated with the dynamics. I also attach to my virtual image my observations of how the system’s working parts accumulate and fit together, as reminders of the system’s construction process. It’s the thread of continuity in the whole that then serves to tie all that information of different kinds together, both in my mind, and apparently somehow in nature.

So for me, your saying: “To observe the virtual dimension of a system is to observe the space of possibilities in which the actual system is only an instance.” is much like how I see it, except that I see the space of possibilities as truly virtual. That would be one more layer in my composite image, of my many kinds of observations associated by the systems dynamics. I would consider the actual system, which evidently exists independent of my image, as being the common reality others might also form their own images of. That then allows different people to be referring to the same identical thing, when discussing the systems of nature.

#57 • Fabian Szulanski •

@Jack, I was thinking of this paper http://bit.ly/RxMYqE and how it might be analog to nature, in @Jessie ‘s perspective

re: Improv and innovation: http://www.parc.com/event/1691/innovation.html

#58 • Jessie Henshaw •

@Jack & Fabian – It might sound a bit odd, but I don’t see why someone couldn’t develop a connection between jazz and my research approach. For a start, jazz is certainly a highly exploratory approach, being applied to learning about real forms of organization, that lots of people find recognizable if not explicable. My approach in a general sense is that too. What I’m constantly thinking about is more the “AND?” followed by “and THEN?” questions, as I think through what I know about the stage of development of a system. The “AND?” question is about the emergent properties you’d get if you add or subtract something, and then the “and THEN?” question is about what transient processes that requires or inspires, that as transient processes develop and upset themselves.

A jazz musician might have similar kinds of questions about the musical forms they experience. It’s not just jazz, as a discipline, to which that applies of course. It’s all of music that explores the “story lines” of “crescendo” and “variation” and “what can happen here”. There are also lots of other fields that are built around other kinds of play or study of some particular kind of natural recognition of systems if relationships, and some art of what we can know about or do with them. So I think generally any kind of study that pushes the mind to understand one kind of system can also be used to inform one’s exploration of other kinds, allowing a person to discover both similarities and differences.

#59 • Neil Warren •

And what do you therefore make of the use of words (linear, logical, mechanical?) to even describe such systems, thoughts, conceptions, big pictures and so on Jesse?

#60 • Bill Smith • Jessie, I’m continuing to enjoy and learn from your approach and am taking the time to absorb and relate to its fullness before making further comments. So if you don’t hear from me in a bit it’ certainly not lack of interest.

#61 • Jessie Henshaw •

@Bill – Thanks so much for your interest. I too have time demands and meetings to prepare for and recover from, so will probably need to take longer breaks some times.

@Neil – My word use is indeed a little unusual, but fairly simple to describe. I distinguish between words defined by referring to nature and those defined by referring to concepts. Words defined by their subjects in nature more faithfully reflect their subjects, but their features may not be connected logically. Words defined as concepts will be logically self-consistent and generally interconnected with other word meanings, in at least someone’s mind, but they’ll be disconnected from their subjects in nature, and almost surely inconsistent with them.

It curiously also has a gender divide aspect, as “female definitions” referring things as they are experienced and “male definitions” referring to theories and explanations as rational constructs. I don’t think that’s universal, but when pressed to say where their definitions come from, women seem to fall back on referring to what they physically experience, and men fall back on referring to the rules they use to rationalize their mental models. It’s also one of the other “right brain / left brain” differences, that why ‘intuitive’ word definitions need to be much more complex is often because they refer to physical systems, while ‘rational’ definitions are so much simpler because they’ve been reduced to logic.

So, even though theoreticians generally just hate this approach… I find one gets further in understanding nature if you use both. I find it helps discover what to talk about in nature to start with words that you allow to be defined by referring to physical things, natural phenomena and relationships experienced in nature. Then finding aspects of them to reduce to logic and use in theories and explanations becomes a tremendous help. Logical meanings are easier to work with because they strip away references to highly complex or unstable aspects of their subjects, which is of course both “good and bad”.

Logical explanations are stable, and nice for some things, but they’re not faithful to an environment that isn’t. They strip away all the “eventfulness” of things, omitting the complexity of shifting and unresolved relationships, for example… Still, they do at least “make sense” of them for some brief moment. Because of the natural “perishablility” of “making sense” of unresolved and changing things, the logical models need to be adjusted to change with their subjects. If logical models then fail to maintain good connections with their changing natural subjects, they lose their connection to reality… and so can’t be updated as emergent properties of unexpected kinds appear.

That’s basically our economic problem, top to bottom. Our male culture defined the earth as a theory and became so dependent on working within that theory they became unable to check it. Working exclusively within their idealized logic of how the unresolved dynamic processes of the economy worked a couple hundred years ago, they just projected to infinity, failing to notice the massive discrepancies emerging from that as “externalities”.

Having both kinds of definitions would be some help for opening up our historically closed world view, perhaps letting us somewhat gracefully internalize the experience of what we’ve been excluding, and respond.

@Bill – Thanks so much for your interest. I too have time demands and meetings to prepare for and recover from, so will probably need to take longer breaks some times.

@Neil – My word use is indeed a little unusual, but fairly simple to describe anyway. I distinguish between words defined by referring to nature and those defined by referring to mental concepts. Words defined by their subjects in nature more faithfully reflect their subjects, but their features may not be connected logically. Words defined as concepts will be logically self-consistent and generally interconnected with other word meanings, in at least someone’s mind, but they may lose their connections with their subjects in nature and ungrounded.

It curiously also has a gender divide aspect, as “female definitions” referring things as they are experienced and “male definitions” referring to theories and explanations as rational constructs. I don’t think that’s universal, but when pressed to say where their definitions come from, women seem to fall back on referring to what they physically experience, and men fall back on referring to the rules they use to rationalize their mental models. It’s also one of the other “right brain / left brain” differences, that ‘intuitive’ word definitions need to be much more complex to refer to physical systems, while ‘rational’ definitions are so much simpler because they’ve been reduced to logic.

So, even though theoreticians generally just hate this approach… I find one gets further in understanding any subject if you use both. It seem to help you discover what to talk about in nature to start with words that you allow to be defined by referring to physical things, natural phenomena and relationships actually experienced in nature. Then finding aspects of them to reduce to logic and use in theories and explanations becomes a tremendous help. Logical meanings are easier to work with because they strip away references to highly complex or unstable aspects of their subjects, which is of course both “good and bad”.

Logical explanations are stable, and nice for some things. They’re then not faithful to environment full of stable and shifting relationships, like every one on earth. They strip away all the “eventfulness” of things, excluding the complexity of shifting and unresolved relationships, for example… They do “make sense” of them for some brief moment, is all.

Because of that natural “perishablility” of “making sense” of unresolved and changing things, logical models need to be adjusted to change along with their subjects. If logical models then fail to maintain good connections with their changing natural subjects, they’re divorced from reality… so they then can’t be updated as emergent properties of unexpected kinds appear.

That’s basically our economic problem, top to bottom. Our male culture defined the earth as a theory of ever multiplying wealth, built all our institutions around it, and so became so dependent on working within that theory they became unable to check it. Working exclusively within their idealized logic of how the unresolved dynamic processes of the economy worked (a couple hundred years ago) they just projected to infinity, and then failed to notice the massive discrepancies emerging from it as “externalities”.

Having both kinds of word definitions would be some help for opening up our historically closed world view, then, perhaps letting us somewhat gracefully internalize and respond to the experience of our changing world we’ve been excluding.

#62 • David R. Weinbaum (Weaver) •

@Jessie: I was not sure from your reply whether our understanding of the virtual dimension is convergent. So to clarify my point I would add that all phenomena have their virtual dimension (the plane of immanence as Deleuze calls it though very far from an image of a geometrical plane). This virtual dimension is as real as the actual and is independent from any image or observation. This is why Deleuze uses a concept such as empiricism of the virtual.

Our images, descriptions and theories are all actual effects arising from the virtual dimension of the observing systems and theory forming systems that we are. The interaction observer-observed which seems so distinct in actuality is itself an effect arising from a process of individuation which begins with virtual multiplicities and where this distinction of observer-observed is initially non existent. The process of becoming taking place from virtual entities to actual identities is orthogonal to any cause-effect relation which is already a product of individuation. In simple words, we form our own identities while we form our descriptions and theories. This is not to be confused with a constructivist philosophy. The becoming of any phenomenon depends on the structure of the virtual space that underlies it and is in principle observer independent. The becoming of the observer in conjunction to any observed phenomenon is again only partly dependent on that phenomena. At a certain depth of the virtual space there are connecting intensities that give rise in their progressive determination to representations and theories.

I will look into your website…

#63 • Jessie Henshaw •

@David – I would interpret your saying that “this virtual dimension is as real as the actual”, to mean just as real in the mind, as virtual dimensions are mental not material, and so are not “actual”. The problem I see is that it will be hard to discuss and compare our widely differing ideas of what is real about virtual dimensions.

I don’t object to saying there a things knowable beyond what is observed about some actual situation, say with various unresolved and changing relationships evident. I also don’t object to observing that natural systems do seem to display their own ability to anticipate some of what is happening to them, as if their experience of their environment is richer than what we can observe. Both of those bear some demonstration, but I just draw the line at saying that “potentials” are “actualities” when I don’t see why the language would require that, and most people would seem likely to be confused or to misunderstand.

So I have the same caution about saying “Our images, descriptions and theories are all actual effects arising from the virtual dimension of the observing systems and theory forming systems that we are.” I prefer to say those mental constructs are what we make in response to our observations. I would then add that our mental constructs are especially deceptive, in that they are built in our mental environment, as reflections of our individual values, and so are very dissimilar to the subjects of our images built by entirely different processes unaffected by social values in the natural world.

I do like how Deleuze and your interpretation push the envelope, as in observing that relationships rely on prior individuation of the things related. That’s great. I’m not sure it helps to say it “begins with virtual multiplicities and where this distinction of observer-observed is initially non-existent. The process of becoming taking place from virtual entities to actual identities is orthogonal to any cause-effect relation which is already a product of individuation.” I think it’s not needed, and does not seem possible to substantiate either, to say a virtual space exists in some immaterial form, and is what actual things develop from.

That’s fairly clearly saying that theory precedes reality, isn’t it? That’s an easy image since it’s in our minds, granted, and the virtual space is then all our immaterial ideas. Just that individuation does occur and we don’t see quite how wouldn’t seem to require or help nature work with immaterial causation though. We do indeed see that unprecedented individuation, both in our minds and in nature, both occurs and is a precondition for individuals entering into relationships. Why not just say it is readily observable as a process of development?

#64 • Duane Sharrock • Jumping in but need to catch up with the discussion.

Jessie, based on your original topic for discussion and your immediate comment just below it, are you looking to track the propagation, expansion, spreading and evolution of memes? Are they defined in terms of systems thinking? Is there a science for them?

In the social sciences, your ideas are explored in various ways. Anthropology asks some of the same questions you ask, especially in terms of when an event begins and ends, the language of cultural events, rituals, the creation of families and familial units, ets. The history and litarary explorations of the concepts of love, evil, death, family, clan, marriage, and war are a few examples. Recently, oxytocin entered the discussion of community, and there is a math model including it in acts of violence against another community. This research has implications for the forming of communities: why some are close-knit and others are loosely-connected.

#65 • Jessie Henshaw • @Duane – Yes, the progression of memes is one of the fascinating things I’ve found some ways of studying, when they’re reflected in good markers of cultural change, anyway. It’s still important to recognize that the emergence of new meanings in a culture is part of a larger change in organization, and that it’s that larger process one is really studying.

I’ve used historical records of word use to discover periods of emerging thinking, like the frequency of use for the word “sustainability” in the NY Times, that grew rapidly in 90’s and 00’s. Another brief study I did showed the use of the word “complex” grew in step with the increasing complexity of the economy until ~1965 and then fell off as the use of the phrase “information overload” related to our loss of resilience came out of no where and has continued to rapidly rise…

* http://www.synapse9.com/SustainabilityNYT.htm

* http://www.synapse9.com/signals/2010/12/24/complexity-too-great-to-follow-what%E2%80%99s-happening/

What memes were you thinking of studying the spread or development of? What would you use to help track them over time and identify the network involved in doing it?

#66 • John Coghlan •

Theories are a system with elements that model a phenomena in reality. These elements are based on certain presuppositions – they are like Euclid’s axioms. So the answer is that as mathematicians can use computers to create virtual images using reiteration, one can create theories by such reiteration of presuppositions changing one presupposition at a time so building virtual theories.

To go beyond this subject for a moment, Thomas Kuhn believed that new theories were built to explain things that the older theory in this domain couldn’t. Paul Thagart works with computer programs that can measure the coherence of theories with experimental results. Meanwhile Stephen Wolfram believes one can answer scientific questions to have computer programs to come out with theories. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/stephen_wolfram_computing_a_theory_of_everything.html

#67 • Jessie Henshaw •

@John – There’s a another way to avoid the main problems with: “Theories are a system with elements that model a phenomena in reality. These elements are based on certain presuppositions”. If theory is not treated as “an answer” but as “a question” and “thought experiment”, as it actually is, the error of treating your own thoughts as the universe is avoided.

You just treat your presuppositions as questions. It turns theory into an effort to improve on our subjective ideas (i.e. theories in our minds) to better fit the things of nature not in our minds. It would change science from being largely a “problem solving” exercise (for our subjective metaphysical assumptions) into a “problem finding” exercise. To think of theory as in the domain of thought, rather than embedded in the universe, it would also save us a lot of time being stuck with outmoded thinking. History and Kuhn seem to offer quite good evidence of how very easy it is for science to become functionally fixated by projecting our minds on the universe, and getting stuck.

#68 • Jessie Henshaw • All – On the “ST v. Complexity & Chaos” thread I just made a response to Neil that I liked on that question, who had mentioned that if you believe you understand QM “you’re wrong” as being an explanatory principle. I think you’re also wrong if you think QM is the universe, as standard explanations for QM do, and so defining the minds of scientist’s as being at its center!

Reposted from the “ST v. Complexity & Chaos” thread:

@Neil – That’s essentially the same point I’ve been trying to make for some time, applied to the overreach of science and QM. Scientists have not always represented nature as being their equations, but have done so more and more consistently since the emergence of QM. So I take the same statement about trying to understand QM you suggested, “If you think you understand this now – you’re wrong “,to apply to QM, also meaning:

“If you think your theory is how nature works… all you’ve done is put your mind at the center of the universe!”

The effect in physics was something my Dad pointed out to me. It was causing his students and colleagues to lose interest in his skillful demonstrations of physical principles, the whole discipline tending to more and more see the whole universe as an equation, as “theory”, and so equating the universe with their own fashion of understanding it. It forced him to change the way he was allowed to teach physics, that he found very disappointing.

At root it seems to be a rather common error of perception, seen in how people once thought the earth was the center of the universe, and every culture tends to think of its worldview as being the natural one. If you trace where that comes from it seems to be automatic common perspective of consciousness, that what we see in our mind’s eye is the world everyone else lives in too, treating the observer’s mind as the center of the universe.

It is partly corrected by a way of studying the instrumental processes of change in a way that forces you to understand them by discovering ever more about them you don’t understand… Some people approach learning that way naturally. I think all would benefit by some genuine methodology. It would better train their minds to acknowledge its own subjective view, as well as prompt lots of unexpectedly useful original discoveries.

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