We talk about making connections…
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but what is it that actually “connects”?
Making Connections in life mysteriously needs to start and finish, and then perhaps establish a long sustained or a short relationship. Often we don’t see quite what’s happening till it’s either all over, or has really begun to noticeably develop and notice the rapid rates of change.
Sometimes we have an ‘inkling’ that something is changing at the very beginning, before anything really observable is apparent, as if becoming aware of the ‘germination’ of the whole event with an initially very slow building of a “new pattern”. It may be that intuiting “something changed” is experienced a bit like “feeling a change in the force” . We may imagine foresight for things that don’t develop, of course, and learn to just be watchful and not jump to conclusions, but wait till a real pattern of proportional scales of accumulation are evident. That’s ‘the pattern’ of systemic transformation.
What is perhaps the best indicator is always the “building process”, that as the illustration indicates is very much the same accelerating then decelerating accumulation of working parts. It’s *not* a numerical process, but if you notice the scales of change changing scale it can help you locate what is really working.
The illustration is of course also about the connections between the natural system processes of building, and the learning processes of building, and the holistic design processes of building, that I hope to get to see emerging as a “connection”! The PURPLSOC meeting “Elements” and PLoP meeting “Mining Living Quality” papers on “Guiding patterns of Naturally Occurring Design“, are full of these stories, maybe too much to enjoy all at once till you get a feel for this unusual way of approaching the study of “how things work”.
You might try a novel way of reading, other than beginning to end. One I often use with new books on unfamiliar topics is just “picking a few sentences at random” to see if they go anywhere for me, or trying the discussion topics at the end of sections or the whole work. Today I’m writing this post to take a break from the long task of doing the final edit of the main papers, seeing a need to have ‘something’ new on RNS, having noticed some scratch notes for the illustration made a couple weeks ago I thought would be fun to work on.
Individual organizations, Complex natural designs, Emergent forms of naturally occurring design,
Evolving organization & behavior of complex whole systems,
Discovering more and more of the hidden interior designs of lively whole systems…
One way of introducing the “what” and “how” comes from a “pattern language approach” to the science of “naturally occurring systems”, presented in a paper for PURPLSOC:
Guiding Patterns of Naturally Occurring Design: Elements
that I presented at the July 3-5 PURPLSOC pattern language research meeting in Krems Austria. It was in a group of papers on pattern language as a general science; with papers by Helene Finidori, Helmut Leitner,Takashi Iba Et. All.; Christian Aspalter & Reinhard Bauer. (links to follow)
As an approach to working with natural systems “Guiding Patterns of Naturally Occurring Design: Elements” seems unprecedented in using a fully scientific method for focusing on the “objects of nature”, using a pattern language approach to identify working complex relationships of natural designs, in their natural contexts, with nothing “held equal” or represented with models, a practical way to relate to the “things themselves”, as “known unknowns”.
The key is not to avoid data and models. It’s not to rely to heavily on them. It’s to just never use them to represent natural systems, but only to help you discover why naturally occurring systems and their complex designs are of real interest, and doing things quite different from theory. It turns out that Christopher Alexander’s pattern language, as a structured language for discussing holistic solutions, as designs for recurrent problems, has now evolved to let it jump from one profession to another. So, if the branches remain connected to the root… it seems to make a good foundation for building a new language of science, one that doesn’t replace nature with the abstractions of boundless theory.
The paper is a “sampler” of explorations of the topic, including an advanced “starter kit” of methods, terminology and examples, for how to use the patterns of natural design to guide efforts at intentional design and integrate with our world of natural systems. It introduces a way of recognizing natural designs as ‘objects’ in nature, with their own individual boundaries, allowing separate discussion about what goes on inside and outside, and using pattern language (not abstract models) to make verifiable sense of it. Identifying a boundary is what permits considering what goes in and out, and open up the use a traditional use of terms of physics and economics, for understanding the thermodynamics and the coupling between energy budgets and financial budgets, etc. for natural systems. Based on that, it would appear to make a true “object oriented science” a practical possibility.
The original paper introducing this from a traditional biophysical scientific point of view, as “Whole Systems Energy Assessment” (5). That paper can perhaps now be understood if interpreted from a pattern language viewpoint, as showing that shares of GDP measure shares of global impacts of delivering GDP… The economic system does appear to work as a whole, and the effort to validate that seems to successfully result in a far more accurate, and far more actionable, measure the impacts of our choices than efforts to directly trace economic impacts can produce.
For the translation of these and related natural system principles to the language of Alexander’s “pattern language” for defining “object oriented” principles of holistic design see the 2015 “Guiding patterns of naturally occurring design” papers for PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Language for Societal Change) (Jul 5 2015) (1) and PLoP (Pattern Language of Programming)(Oct 23 2015) (2) and related slides and supplementary materials (3). Also in the directory is a YouTube video link to the first 15 minutes of the slide narration, for the July 5 presentation of ‘Elements’, salvaged from a cell phone recording (4).
Need to update & add notes and discussion on both conferences….
It was reallyexciting to be part of, and to watch this new way of thinking emerge, PL as a whole system language for “designs of services” to balance and support
the traditional view of science as a whole system language for “defined controls“
The traditional scientific method doesn’t fit our new information world very well, with the rapid emergence of so many new forms of knowledge communities, computational science and commerce, seeming to take over. They are also being built on a foundation of science with major problems unsolved, like an understanding of how complex systems emerge and become unstable. The Edge asked What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement?, and got 174 responses, one of which was Melanie Swan’s answer: “The Scientific Method”. She points persuasively to the differences between the emerging computational approaches to knowledge and the traditional practices of science, and hopes a “multiplicity of future science methods can pull us into a new era of enlightenment just as surely as the traditional scientific method pulled us into modernity.”
There’s a flaw in that, though I generally agree with the hope. Science is still unable to study nature except in abstraction, representing nature as a theory of deterministic calculations. It’s been unable to use them to study 1) our own or nature’s great creativity, or 2) any individual thing or event, in its own natural form. It matters because our old habits of multiplying new forms until they caused trouble is now the foundation on which we’re adding an uncontrolled “Cambrian explosion” of new forms of computational (and often disruptive) knowledge. We also appear to be trusting the future of civilization to them, even as the radiation of old forms further depletes and disrupts the natural world. It’s seems we’re “missing something”.
So, my counter proposal is to open the eyes of science to the study individual natural systems as subjects, not just as abstractions, but to learn directly from them, to create an “object oriented science”. My years of work on that, creating a form of physics for studying individual natural systems, works by raising particularly good questions. For example, all natural systems that develop from a common origin as individuals are found to face a common pattern of life challenges, in part:
There are reasons to worry when the foundation for a radiation of new sciences is an “old science” for radiating new forms that make us quite unable to “fit in” on the earth. It makes it likely that the new forms of knowledge instead of correcting that, actually contain the same flaw as the old one. I think a very big part of that comes from science relying on representing nature with equations, that have radically different properties from the subjects that are meant to represent.
A counter proposal…
[first posted to IEET article] Certainly the recent discovery that “the world is complicated” (and both people and nature unusually *inventive*) does expose a deep flaw in the idea that nature follows simple scientific rules and models. That seemed plausible only because some of the simple rules of physics are also so amazingly reliable. Those still exist, and others are to be found most likely, but the question is: “What then do we think of them?”
I think we probably should not throw out the scientific method… particularly just because we’ve been misusing it. The common flaw in our use of science as I see it, and studied since the 1970’s actually, is its “misrepresentation problem”. The world is not a model, and we’ve been treating it that way.
The world is not made of numbers, not made of quantitative relationships. It’s made of organizations of separate things, often found in “improper sets” with the parts of one thing also often taking independent part in others too. It makes things in nature *highly individualistic*, and held together by some kind of “organizational glue” we’ve hardly begun to study. That presents not only a wonderfully interesting “mismatch in VARIETY”, but also several wonderfully interesting “mismatches in KIND” as well. It may not be ‘neat’ but it’s very ‘lifelike’, and opens all sorts of new doors!
So what I think we need to retire is not so much “science” as “the representation of scientific models as nature”. The article points to a number of the big discrepancies that have become too big to ignore, but where does that take us?? One place it takes us back to the age old “million dollar question” of how science is to refer to nature at all. What is it we CAN define that DOES NOT misrepresent what we are studying?? I think a quite simple place to start (and obvious solution once you recover from the shock, I guess) it to treat models not AS nature, but AS “our limits of measurable uncertainty about nature”. Yes, Popper and Bohr with turn in their graves… but models understood as representing upper and lower bounds within which we expect nature to operate, independently, will also be found to be much more useful.
If you actually look closely at natural behaviors you readily see that, that the paths nature takes are always individualized, and we can understand them much better having some information from past events to suggest what to expect. It gives you a straight and clear view of the all-important “discrepancies”. To make use of relieving science of its century (or more) of seriously false thinking, about nature being theory, what you then need are ways for science to refer to nature as “individual phenomena & organizations” to identify the stuff of nature that science studies. In our century or more of trusting abstraction by itself, that’s what I think science has been missing, having a natural object of study.
So, in a fairly direct way I’m calling for an “object oriented science” to correspond to the “object oriented programming” that has become such a big help for giving order to computer coding and the web. My main two tools for that are what I call a “dual paradigm” view (alternating between attention to ‘theory’ and ‘things’), and a “pattern language” view (the emerging scientific method of describing natural organization based on Christopher Alexander’s work).
Alexander’s pattern language is evolving to become a versatile general method for working with ‘recurrent patterns of design’ as ‘whole sets of working relationships’ found in ‘problems’, ‘solutions’ & ‘environments’. My new work describing how these fit together is being presented at the PURPLSOC and PLoP meetings this year, presents a broad picture of the fundamentals, and very worth using to begin the process of recognizing natural design as a working environment. If interested, do searchs for “dual paradigm”, “pattern language” & “Christopher Alexander” both on the web and in this journal.
This is a good introductory description, excerpted from an email, w/ a little edit. The abstract and link are for a paper on “Guiding Patterns of Natural Design:Mining Living Quality” for an upcoming Pattern Language of Programming conference.
Oh, it’s sort of magic..
the hope of course:
is that this emergence of a sound new way to communicate “wholeness in design”
leads to the world ‘transformation to living design’ everyone is so eagerly awaiting…
Pattern language is a new way of communicating design concepts, created by Christopher Alexander, an architect whose ideas came out of the same 60’s/70’s architecture community as mine did, only starting a decade earlier, and he became a wonderful architectural design teacher. Anyway, his idea for how to ‘encode’ principles of ‘wholeness’ for architectural design elements was fairly successful, resulting in a series of books beginning with “A Pattern Language” in 1977, and experiments in urban design as recorded in “A New Theory of Urban Design” 1987, and in attracting a significant following.Then his methodology for defining ‘designpatterns‘ did the magical thing… of being picked up and translated for use in other fields, a real technology transfer, actually representing the encoding of a set of rather ancient and wonderful architectural design principles, for other uses, i.e. “realmagic“! Where it had an amazing impact was on computer programming, becoming the basis of “object oriented design“, as a way of letting programmers communicate and understand their own design objectives, for both the wholes and parts of their programs. Till the late 80’s when this new approach to defining design purposes took hold, programmers really had no good way to define the ‘parts‘ of computer programs, or how they needed to work together to make a ‘whole‘.
So having a way to define “working units of design” seems to me at least to be a big part of why modern programming became so successful, like maybe the other real secret behind the communication power of the internet other than micro-chips. Pattern language lets programmers break computer programs into intelligible workable parts, representing real whole purposes and intentions. It was Alexander’s loving way of describing the pieces of designs that did that, understanding and portraying design as a search for “living quality“. And it caught on. It provides a model for describing
versatile solutions for common problems
as a balance of the forces they resolve
Of course, one of the “forces” is whether we are creating a “living world” or an “inhuman world“, and whether the designs we make can become at home in our environment, to bring us and the earth living quality, or not. That was the issue he was obsessed with from the start. So, like I said, a sign of magic.
What’s more of course, is that his method of defining “design patterns” and my pattern science for understanding “natural systems” are awfully close cousins. You might say they’re much the same thing in several ways, except his focus was on the patterns of wholeness for purposeful design and my focus was on patterns of wholeness in naturally occurring designs. His “search model” for design patterns was “living quality” and mine was for “what makes life lively”, asked as a physicist who happened to have an education in design too. So when I was introduced to his work as it had later matured (I really wasn’t “in the loop” or didn’t “get it” before) and I saw how it was being used by non-architects, I finally recognized the connection and now have lots to do! It’s such a pleasure.
Creating a Commons takes thought leadership, and
Thought Leadership takes midcourse corrections
One thing “thought leaders” need to be aware of is that “leading” always requires mid-course corrections. Any start-up organization that sticks with growth as its plan and doesn’t switch to a goal for fulfillment has a default plan for destabilizing excesses in what it does, just for not having a goal that is attainable. The two strategies are both essential but involve different leadership, for a shift from building internal to external relationships!
The natural strategy for building organizations starts with establishing self-identity and expansion by using its resources for capturing more resources. That serves to grow its internal organization. If successful it needs to be followed by a change to defining its independence and fulfilling roles in the new environment it finds itself in. Having defined itself first, is then turns to setting out its own niche within and in harmony with communities of others, having made its identity first to then make its home.
Today the need is for leadership in a world that as a whole acts as if fully committed to destabilizing excess, clearly lacking even the language to talk about anything else. Changing that seems like the first step then, toward our eventually being able to conceive of and bring about our own fulfillment.
The Initial Image of the Commons
A vital hive of activity, a self-sufficient family or network structure, in which every part connects directly with every other, an internal world of complementary roles for an economy of cooperation,
a thriving whole and sum greater than the parts.
The More General Pattern of the Commons
Each silo of culture is the home for
a different way of living, a hive of commune-ication a self-identity pulsing with life,
none of which are nearly as alone in the universe and their internal images of completeness make it seem.
key organizational elements for the working relationships of complex systems
ideas of complex relationships that fit the reality
We care because of the new bridge it creates between human ideas and the working organization of complex working systems we make, use and need to respond to of all kinds, an emerging broad advance in understanding complex system organization design. The idea of pattern language, invented by Christopher Alexander for architectural design in the 70’s, actually started blossoming some time ago, it a most surprising place, in the creation of complex design concepts for computer programming known as “object oriented design”.
As it continues to expand and mature it is becoming a wonderfully versatile method for sharing and recording expert understandings of “how relationships work”, with application to almost any fields. It became the basis of modern computer programming, as “object oriented design“, with each object fulfilling a “pattern of relationships” that connects with others. For me… its a language I can begin to use to translate my research on natural system designs into, into “JPL” (aka Jessie’s Pattern Language), for subjects such as how natural systems transition from “type-r” to “type-K” behaviors (a subject underlying much of the discussion on RNS of complex system successions,life stages and cycles,”dual paradigm views”, “organizational stage models”, as observable patterns of organized change in relationships).
The reason it works for “object oriented” programming and “natural systems science” and in other areas too, appear to be the same. Pattern languages let people use their considerable natural understanding of complex relationships, like “home” “friends” “communication” “trust” “patience” etc. to open our eyes to similarly complex working relationships and meanings of complex systems elsewhere too, as “designs”. The standard “design pattern” of pattern languages connects human relationship concepts to working organizational relationships of behavioral systems of ANY kind. That seems to be why the design model that Alexander invented turns out to be so adaptable to our needs in our now overwhelmingly complex new world…! ;-) I can see it readily becoming applied to breaking down the silos of separation between knowledge disciplines, too, the so called “blind men and the elephant problem”, something just completely unimaginable in reality today.
Pattern Languages are for
1. identifying key organizational elements in systems of complex relationships, found in nature or in design practice,
2. communicating design elements for complexly organized systems or illuminating them in existing natural or manmade ones.
3. using the design pattern to refer back to the original natural forms and contexts from which it originated or is used to represent.
Two natural system design patterns, (for example):
Moving with the Flow
Sometimes you watch the people, sometimes their flows. The flows are roles in larger scale systems of group motion, forming as people avoid interference, but can confine them till they find an opening too. Markets flows form paths and break from them as new paths are found, often flocking in chase of a wave of anticipation, or uncertainty moving leaderless floods. Those are puzzling, since there may be no news the contagious change in direction, but systemic change generally usually has a real cause. Flocks of birds appear to do it just for fun though.
Alternating roles that Fit
Both natural and human designed complex organizations have independent parts that create emergent properties by fitting multiple roles. Day and night, male and female, work and relaxation, pencil and paper, cup and liquid, all the amazing polarities that produce reliable results because of how they fit their multiple roles, quite unlike any set of fixed rules could ever do. The trick is only physical parts and their relationships can do that, and a pattern language those relationships provide a way to develop concepts for understanding the working parts.
There are many types of Natural Pattern Languages, generally depending on the organizational medium (material and environment)
Social organization pattern languages
Natural system pattern languages
Architectural and Urban design pattern languages
Cultural pattern languages
Abstract Scientific pattern languages
Educational pattern languages
Computer knowledge design pattern languages
Commons & community design pattern languages
Economic pattern languages
Movie making pattern languages
Organizing pattern languages
There are three uses of the term “pattern language”,
1. As the collection of design elements and patterns used to design or describe working complex systems
2. As an the organizational language of an individual design project describing its working relationships as a whole
3. As a property of an individual complex system, consisting of the working relationships between its parts and its environment, that might be view from various perspectives to recognize different elements.
So they’re simple conceptual models designed as versatile tools for engaging our minds with the actual working organization and relationships of natural and designed complexly organized parts of our world. So they come in those two basic forms, as Design Patterns one uses to guide the implementation of some plan or as Natural Patterns used to help people understand how designs can fit in with natural organizations.