Preface: Blaming the 1964 SEC rules change for the radical acceleration of economic inequality in the US in 1970 is more for posing a Socratic question. It seems clearly connected, but what really happened? There’s strong evidence in figure 1 below that something abruptly changed how US business is managed, and shortly after that general reworking of the rules for the stock market. Figure 2 below also clearly shows the pattern of trading on the US stock market began to radically change in 1965 too. There’s also other evidence mentioned below on what happened. The Marketplace.org radio program 6/14/06 gave another part of the story for the evident sudden change in the relation between Wall Street and Main Street. They said it was what Milton Freedman wrote in the NY Times in 1970:
The big change began with a professor. At the University of Chicago, economist Milton Friedman (who would later win the Nobel Prize) wrote this in the New York Times Magazine in 1970:
“There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”
The coincident magazine article almost fits the data…, but when did a single comment by an economist suddenly change the world? Never of course. So I think it was some deep change in the rules of business, that may have been made possible by the SEC rules change of 1964. That the break was so sudden indicates pent up pressure for it that was suddenly released. The smoking gun is that the bottom 95% of household income levels suddenly went from growing together with the whole economy, to splitting apart. It reflects some kind of fairly sudden reprogramming of business. We were just computerizing everything, and standardizing new business and stock market accounting methods, so that would have to be somehow connected. The new definition of business value as the “bottom line” was being standardized at the time, along with maximizing “shareholder value”. Those changes would seem to have served anyone being paid in proportion to profits, shareholders, stock traders, executives… and to disadvantage everyone else. [1/1/2018]
For those less familiar with my work, I study an evolutionary development form of physics, using explanatory principles of physics to ask leading questions about how complex systems rapidly reorganize and change form, perhaps the most inexplicable thing nature does. The clue is that it is generally associated with the rapid expanding organization process of growth. Other scientific methods treat it only as a numerical shape, but there is much more going on. Much can’t be explained, but what can be firmly predicted is that any growth process produces a crescendo of change, that will upset its own process and cause it to change form. We should all learn to study that transition.
In the figure below, the economy as a whole is shown continuing to grow as before, while the various levels of household income suddenly split apart.
Whatever the change, it would clearly be catastrophic for the resilience of wage earning communities. The question remains whether what kind of culture change is exhibited in the data. Was it as I’ve suggested made possible and facilitated by the comprehensive SEC and Congressional revision of the stock exchange rules in 1964. Outwardly the SEC’s purpose was to bring the markets into the modern world, to make it more convenient, secure and efficient. Other things were happening too, seen in the trading data (2) in how suddenly after the rule changes were passed the behavior of the NY Stock market dramatically changed. There was an immediate wave of high volume trading unlike the past, seemingly ushering in the culture of fast and high volume trading for “playing the markets” we’ve seen since. It notably also included a redefinition of business value for the sake of the markets, redefined to be a single number, “the bottom line”, introducing the widespread use of the term to represent a new way of market savvy business.
If you think about how it might effect businesses, to be graded every month as succeeding or failing to make the “grade” set by market prediction of business value, it’s clear what a force it might become. For CEO’s and board rooms across America would be forced to make decisions favoring the expectations of the market. I have not found it yet, but my view is the some center of business thinking was discovering how much profit could be squeezed out of the economy if business was managed by computer for that purpose, and that was the pent up pressure that needed rules for rapid trading, ready to go as soon as they were in place. It would change business and investor decision making like school teachers required to “teach to the test”. As we know that raises grades an hollows out the student’s education. Here driving American businesses to meet the numbers, to please Wall Street set for “maximize profit at any cost” was very costly. Driving stock price increases with continual forced “efficiency” and “productivity” gains naturally drains a system’s resilience, as a real kind of enslavement. It requires endless cuts that dismantle what had previously been thought of as “good business”.
Prior study since 2010:
My first notes on the subject were in 2010. Your can find lots of examples of complexity itself being a natural limit to growth, and I initially associated this change in how the economy worked with the rapidly emerging complexities of life. We all experience life as a growing struggle, an escalating “rat race” of new complications, and a constant search for simpler answers. Clear evidence is found in the sudden rise in use of the phrase “information overload”, from the late 60’s on. At the same time there has been slowing use of the word “complex”, I think indicates the complexity of things stopped being of as much interest. Those issues are discussed in: Complexity too great to follow what’s happening… ?? Then in 2012 I realized 1970 was also when computers started being used to manage business complexity, as the first “killer app” of computing really. The global effects would include giving business management a growing information advantage over others, telling them what can be cut and remain profitable, and making business financial analysis based purely on numbers rather than judgement, and somewhat incontestable, as discussed in: Computers taking over our jobs and our pay?
These preliminary studies still seem valid, but fairly incomplete. They didn’t really explain why the change occurred in 1970, or why so sharply. That is what the SEC rules change of 1964 now helps to provide. It appears that the implied “fitness function” of business was redefined to advantage the stock markets and executives, and hollow out the economy for everyone else, in effect violating all of Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics, as the first big thing we thought of doing with automation.
The Rules That Wrecked the Economy
It takes a little time to explain the evidence, here showing the long record of US GDP growing by leaps and bounds for 120 years. Overlaid are Household income levels, scaled to equal GDP at 1970 so their proportional changes are displayed. Household incomes are seen perfectly tracking GDP from the 1940’s to about 1970, and then start to dramatically fall behind. It shows the economy completely stopped “lifting all boats” in 1970, completely disproving the endlessly promoted business lobby idea that how to cure the “malaise” was to give the rich more money. Households suffered from the having to manage the ever faster growing complexity of life, but without the growing resources. It might not have been intentional, but these trends do seem to literally display 40 years of US households being increasingly devalued, cheated out of the economic value they created, even as investors were cheated too, by businesses being driven to develop unsustainably, only becoming a great public issue now.
The next figure shows the behavior of the stock market at the time when the SEC rules bringing “efficiency” to fast trading and market manipulation by traders, a 14 year record of NYSE trading frequency beginning at 1960. You can clearly see how the strongly pattered trading followed right after the rules were implemented, as a dramatic change from the sleepy manner of trading before. You might also be curious about the 40 year record, from 1960 to 2000.
When you see a genuine behavior change like how the trading volume suggests a “sleepy” market from 1960 to 1965 followed by a market of manic movements thereafter, it means people have really changed what they’re doing. I’m not completely sure how well my hypotheses about that behavior change will hold up, what it was and what effect it had. I have a rather good record on a number of other things, though, so I think they’re at least rather close.
I would love to have help going more deeply into how the culture change involved took place. The SEC annual report mentions a number of meetings that might have been involved, and getting those notes might be very valuable. The documents I found most useful so far are a 30 pg excerpt from the SEC Annual Report of 1964 and a NY Times article reporting demand for “the bottom line” . The latter interestingly reports on the woes of bankers, as if not sure of how businesses defined their values, as an argument for reducing the value of businesses to a single number in a quarterly report. I think that way of redefining the value of businesses shows a clear “spin” favoring the fast trading culture about to emerge. It quite neglected the possible effect on the lasting values of businesses, that seems to have been the mainstay of Wall Street thinking before.
Work to be done includes
updating the data from original sources
more detailed study of the 1964 SEC rules and their adoption, amendments, and “side agreements”.
studying why the rules were a pivotal “breaking point” for a rapid large scale culture change in how American businesses are managed and how the new style trading cause business practice to change
No doubt there would be grand scale malfeasance discovered, and perhaps prosecutable criminality too. As what happened is really culture-wide, I think finding criminality would depend on when the original meaning of “fiduciary duty” was lost, that would be the basis of requiring financial managers act in the interest of the people they make decisions for. The main crime seems to be self-destructive, a culture change. The ideal policy would be to guide people to understanding their own errors and learn how to follow a new path. New York City, like all the “money centers”, is directly implicated in needing to find a new way to make money, for example. For 50 years money centers have depended on maximizing the extraction of wealth, not securing the future of wealth, and so have relied on promoting disruptive innovations with no heed to what was disrupted… No fury seems adequate to express the stupidity of that, What is does indeed come down to is finding that those money centers will shortly “be out of a job” unless they become as creative at helping to put the world back together as they were at ripping it apart.
Added work to do includes:
further studying the very special problems of societal manias…. as that is what we see here. What sort of “policy” can one have for societies taking the wrong path, having wandered SO far from creating a world to live in that can last.
If you think of money as physical energy, money being what we use to release our use of it, you can think of the global economy as a rocket ship. The problem of course is our culture having settled on operating civilization that way, as a rocket ship, programmed to only accelerate and never land. Our main societal “business plan” is to multiply our energy use, investing to accelerate our fuel consumption as fast as humanly possible, forever. Of course to do that some money and energy are reserved for keeping people somewhat happy, but if the policy is for maximizing growth rates every other purpose is secondary. So here’s the question, how do we change course when changing course is nowhere in the plan? Do we shove the drivers out of the vehicle? Do we hope to explain to them the use of the gas peddle, steering and breaks? There may be equivalents in the rocket ship already, but the driver seems utterly unaware of them conceptually. It’s a lot to explain, and a lot to learn,
collecting our understanding of real scope of the problem
The ancient legal principle of “fiduciary duty” is a deep principle of professional practice requiring professionals to act in the interests of those they serve, and another example of selective redefinition for for managing money. There probably is a clear history of successive misleading revision, with a legal paper trail to follow for how it came to be turned on its head to serve mainly the self-interests of trader paid for their extraction of short term profits, not for serving the interests of the people whose money they traded. I appears that legal opinion now holds it to actually prohibited for traders to consider anything than short term financial returns as the interests of investors, even though no one is served by that except traders and CEO’s who are paid in % of short term earnings. That is the complete opposite of the original intent, of course. So the redefinition of “fiduciary” seems to have come from cultural blinders like those that produced the SEC rules of 1964 too.
Another, even clearer example I’ve noticed, I also spent a lot of time thoroughly documenting. It’s how all manner of scientific principles are being willfully ignored in managing the world survival project called “sustainability”.
One certainly can’t fault anyone stumbling through this confusing time, making sincere efforts to learn about how our very complex world can come to work again. We’re in a period of unprecedented permanent change in who we are, not planned by anyone it seems. That said there are also large systematic errors one can find in the efforts people are making, related to persistent influence of money. One very consequential case is in efforts to reduce environmental impacts that businesses are responsible for use, using widely circulated very unscientific rules for counting them. The standard for environmental accounting instruct people to measure the global impacts of their use of the economy as what is recorded locally. How that “slipped” by so many world institutions and communities is what’s shocking.
People are just told never to count the impacts of using money (even though that’s the main thing causing all our global impacts). If you’re not allowed to count the impacts of money it limits your view to your boundary local observations. So sustainable cities don’t count the resources consumed from outside the city. The same applies to national measures of sustainability, like Sweden not counting the external energy consumption for either the majority of their income and consumption. that happens to be outside its national borders. I’ve published and written on this extensively, and tying it all together in my UN proposal for scientific method for steering world sustainable development, a World SDG. It starts out very simple, learning to do the math right at least, and leads to giving people a full understanding of what our money pays for.
I’ve also studied fairly deeply how all these confusions could arise. Is there something wrong with our minds if our effort to hold onto reality is fraught with difficulty? What would allow the meanings of important words to unexpectedly change, largely unnoticed? The line between the words that are and are not prone to radical change is between definitions we get from experience and ones we get from other people. Most words directly refer to natural patterns of life and our own experience of them. They really can’t lose their root meanings as new variations on their meanings accumulate over time. The problem is with words defined conceptually, social agreements and things like the economy that we can’t really observe, and so only understand abstractly. Being unable to distinguish between those terms of conceptual thinking and words for natural experience, we tend to trust what ever usage of any kind is current in our immediate cultures. So in the money world, or in any social or professional or religious community too, people may be making up new abstract meanings for convenience that may drift widely from one group to the next, and over time, and not be noticed.
That inability to distinguish between natural and conceptual meanings seems to spill over as part of all our problems. We rely on natural and scientific language for grounding our idea in the patterns of nature, but we’re at risk if we can’t check the wandering meanings of our other languages. At present though, the scientific meanings of natural language are not being taught, and our scientific thinking is limited to the classroom, lab or office. We might try to find how to use scientific principles to check what we’re told to believe, and may wonder if conflicting interests have distorted.
That’s more or less what I’ve done, collected some things I see how to go back to nature any time to double check, to help show were work is needed to get the story straight! ;-)
Short version Voted a Top Comment on the Forbes article
“The Stock Market And Bernie Sanders Agree — Break Up The Banks” , a more full story follows.
The reality of the matter is as embarrassing as it could be. If you trace it all back to origins… it’s our very own greed causing the whole mess, our demanding that Wall Street produce ever faster growing **unearned income** for our investments.
That’s what is now backfiring on us as the serious scientists all always said it would. The earth is not an infinite honey pot… is the big problem our not so big hearts and minds have in grasping the consequences of our own choices. We simply failed to notice the consequences, or listen to those saying “beware of what you ask for”.
The truth is WE became “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”* and now we are dealing with having turned the planet into our Fantasia. The truth is that if we “Break Up the Banks” the financial system we designed to grow unearned income will just keep multiplying the disruptions the scientists always pointed to it causing! Are there options?? Well find someone honest who studies it perhaps…
Sorcerer’s Apprentice http://goo.gl/Zu69yD
(If this YouTube copy is inaccessible sometimes you may need to find another copy or just recall the heroic tragedy of it all, from the last time you saw it.)
Day after the NY Primary 2016:
In New York State yesterday there seemed to be a lot of answers, but we can all see more questions too. Neither Trump nor Sanders are offering practical ways of doing it, but clearly raised a huge chorus of “throw the bums out”, without actually identifying “who the bums are” as part of the questions left hanging. To the surprise of many Trump’s win was so persuasive it seems to almost legitimize his candidacy. To the surprise of many as well, Sanders overall persuasively lost to Hillary Clinton, and only had persuasive wins in conservative upstate areas. In ultra-liberal New York City, his claim to ultra-liberal leadership found really very few neighborhoods persuaded. New York is the kind of place that needs no persuasion at all on the legitimacy of his issues, but found his manner and inability to say what he’d actually do, and relying on a constant stream what had to be called rather misogynist digs.. caused him to lose legitimacy.
So nearly all agree the bums need to be thrown out, but “who the bums are” remains unanswered, and largely undiscussed too, The Trump campaign colorfully claims the intention to disregard all the rules to “get the raccoons out of the basement”, and with no strategy but public outrage, sweep away the broken Republican party and Washington DC political establishments. Sanders imagines that some executive order breaking up the banks and popular demand for relieving very real and widespread despair will remove all the barriers to doing that.
I’ve studies these problems in great detail for many years, and have in fact been expecting to have to somehow claim to have predicted this kind of grand societal collision with itself from the first time I caught a glimpse of the real problem. My observations are only a little more detailed and focused on locating who has a choice, who actually is “at fault” in that sense, as the natural disaster at the end of capitalism has been has been long predicted for what I see as all the wrong reasons for centuries.
That real problem is that “Wall Street” is the name given to the practices of the financial traders who trade everyone’s investment funds, and so… “Wall Street” actually already works for us, and doing precisely what we ask it to do. There’s just something profoundly confused about what we ask it to do. We ask it to manage the use of our idle savings to produce profits to add to our savings, and so multiply in scale without end except for letting the trader take a share of the spoils, Of course the bargain is that multiplying your profit taking from your world with no exception eventually destroys your world, invisible only if you don’t look.
I don’t know quite why Goethe did not sharply identify that ultimately seductive bargain with the Devil when writing Faust. That play is apparently his morality tale about what happens when making that bargain. He was, though, enough more clear in depicting it in his balladic poem Der Zauberlehrling, that Walt Disney used as the basis of his ever popular animated film Fantasia, and very pointed fable “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.
Our hero, Mickey Mouse, steals a look at the sorcerer’s book of secrets and immaturely calls upon its magic to command his broom to carry the heavy water of his chores, so he can sleep all day. As he awakes he finds the magical broom can’t be stopped, as Micky doesn’t know what spell to cast for that, and is flooding the whole house and castle, and so MUST be stopped. Then like people feel today, Micky picks up his ax to do in the boom for good…, but finds in chopping up the one it only multiplies magical brooms and the rising flood turns into a great torrent.
The failure of Mickey’s strategy would, of course, be repeated if Sanders’ grand gesture calling for “breaking up the banks” were to actually be applied. The various banks that have now grown overwhelmingly big, magically carrying our water so we can accomplish ever more without work, will all just continue expand, as long as we ask them to use our savings as before. You would just get more banks accumulating more disparity in the wealth of the world. Whether the phrase “break up the banks” refers to dividing up the banks into smaller ones, or separating their savings and investing functions, it wouldn’t alter a bit the basic service they are being asked to provide us as investors. They’d still be using our idle money to multiply, in some magical way, so we can be showered with fruits without labor, and left with the puzzle of why that can’t keep working.
Investors may or may not feel “wet”, but if you look around the world, everyone else does look rather soaked! It’s a quandary that we’ll have to resolve, why the secrets of creating wealth were apparently not shared by our process of enjoying wealth. So what’s clear, at least, is we now have a new job. It’s not one that Wall Street asked for, perhaps, but that they can’t refuse as they work for us. It’s to break with the Faustian bargain we made with ourselves, and perhaps stumbling some also stumble without regrets so much as anticipation, get about the work of showing the world another side of what we can do with our genius.
Here we don’t find ourselves without a plan of action, is what’s different from the many calls to protest, though the plan may need repeated adjustment and improvement in various ways. It’s ironically not like Bernie’s plan to “not take Wall Street’s money” either. It’s indeed to “take Wall Street’s money” we belatedly realize, because Wall Street is in fact just managing our money for us, and we just need to as for the right thing. That’s the real way to break our bargain with the Devil, that we do seem to be at a great historical point of rejecting. We can take our knowledge of wealth with us too, but only if we learn the other tricks needed to leave the earth whole and to share.
The following is written for circulation in the “data science” research communities, on some advances in scientific methods of system recognition I’d like to share. It starts with mention of the very nice 9 year old work published by Google on “Detecting Influenza Epidemics using search engine query data” taken from a letter to that paper’s authors. Take the reference to be to your own work, though, as it involves system recognition either in life or exposed by streams of incoming data.
I expect a lot of new work has followed your seminal paper on detecting epidemics as natural systems.
But are there people starting to focus on more general “system recognition”,
studying “shapes of data” that expose “design patterns” for the systems producing it?
Any individual “epidemic” is a bit like a fire running it’s course, and sometimes innovating the way it spreads. That change in focus directs attention to how epidemics operate as emergent growth systems, with sometimes shifting designs that may be important and discoverable, if you ask the right questions. You sometimes hear doctors talking about them that way. In most fields there may be no one thinking like doctors, even though in a changing world it really would apply to any kind of naturally changing system.
Turning the focus to the systems helps one discover transformations taking place, exposed in data of all sorts. One technique allows data curves to be made differentiable, without distortion. That lets you display evidence of underlying systems perhaps entering periods of convergence, divergence or oscillation, for example, prompting questions about what evidence would confirm it or hint at how and why.
Focusing on “the system” uses “data” as a “proxy” for the systems producing it, like using a differentiable “data equation” to closely examine a system’s natural behavior. In the past we would have substituted a statistic or an equation instead. By prompting better questions that way it makes data more meaningful, whether you find answers right away or not. I think over the years I’ve made quite a lot of progress, with new methods and recognized data signatures for recurrent patterns, and would like to find how to share it with IT, and collaborate on some research.
Where it came from is very briefly summarized with a few links below. Another quick overview is in 16 recent Tweets that got a lot of attention this past weekend, collected as an overview of concepts for reading living systems with bigdata.
I hope to find research groups I can contribute to. If you’re interested you might look at my consulting resume too. If you have questions and want to talk by phone or Skype please just email a suggested time.
Working with BigData, especially learning how to read the designs and behavioral patterns of the earth’s natural systems, its living cultures of all kinds, and to sense our roles in them, opens up a tremendous new field of understanding. It of course also opens up very new kinds of perspectives to puzzle over, both offering to show us new paths and making it clear various reasons to question what we’ve been doing.
This series of Tweets came out in a group somehow, mostly in this sequence today, seeming to build a framework of interconnecting points, like tent stakes and poles maybe, a design for hosting ways to do it. ……Jessie
What we talk about becomes society’s reality, so we can read #BigData for what’s happening #following_all_cultures and #resources_on_earth.
And what may matter most in #BigData is going from reading abstract patterns to reading naturally occurring ones. http://synapse9.com/jlhCRes.pdf
Then add the magic of learning to read the patterns #BigData reveals, as exposing the designs of the natural systems producing it.
Reading #BigData for natural patterns shows you even the best data doesn’t show what systems are producing it.
No degree in #data_science will neglect pattern recognition for understanding the natural systems creating the data.http://www.synapse9.com/pub/2015_PURPLSOC-JLHfinalpub.pdf
If our world #economy is causing trouble for the #earth, why do we think it helps to speed it up? #Get_real_people!
Are @google, @IBM or other #BigData #research teams learning how to read design patterns of natural systems?? http://synapse9.com/jlhCRes.pdf
To start reading natural systems in #bigdata look for cultures made individually, clustering or growing from seeds.
Then follow recognizing nature’s cultures with learning from them, going back and forth between models
When reading #bigdata for behaviors of cultures also note contradictions in the news, like #jobs_going_to_Mexico and #refugees_escaping_too.
#BigData exposes surprising whole system views too, #professionals managing systems of growing inequity, disruptive change and impacts too.
#BigData reveals living cultures: business, economic, social, biological or ecological, etc. all either: homeless, home seeking or enjoying.
As you see their forms you realize two things:1) our world is very #alive and 2) most #bigdata is too “big”, making you look for other views
To read #bigdata as views of shifting cultures, alone or together, pushes a #whole_system_view for units of measure. https://synapse9.com/signals/2014/02/26/whats-scope-4-and-why-all-the-tiers/
A #whole_system_view, like #studying_the_camera not what’s in its view, is how to start seeing ourselves in the data!http://www.synapse9.com/jlhpub.htm#ns
Sixteen Tweets on reading our world in #BigData, it’s many moving parts, units of measure & big recognitions required.
ed note: One tweet, that became #11, was rephrased and put in a more logical location a few hours after the first posting.
ed note: The current discussion of the core dilemma of capitalism, as a limitless system for creating growing wealth, is in terms of the crises we now face caused by it, producing socially disruptive innovation and growing financial inequity. Those include 1) threats of rapidly growing social inequity, 2) unsustainable national and private debt, 3) disruptive scales of job loss from globalization and automation, 4) demands for unachievable ever faster and ever more complex learning and change , 5) the rapid depletion of earth’s resources, 6) disruption of the climate and earth’s ecologies, and of course 7) increasing international conflicts between conflicting economic interests, and of course, 8) growing risks of grand scale financial collapses due to failing promises, as a kind of general list. It’s quite a list. There’s been a very long debate but mostly scattered in pieces and hidden from view. That’s both because the primary culprit is our whole way of life, naturally hard to talk about, and what to do with “money” .
The design of our economic system that defines “capitalism” is very simple. It’s “the use of investment profits to build up investments”. That’s it. Why such a simple practice has a hold on us is that it promises both society and individuals ever faster growing profits without growing work. Of course that tends to end up badly, having been much too good to be true from the start. The equally simple design of all natural systems is that “any system needs to build up to get started, and then stop building up to continue”. The two definitions conflict. Keynes and Boulding foresaw that the two would come to blows, once the economic system had built up and needed to stop building up to continue. They saw capitalism could become like a natural system and can change only if investors spend their profits. The sense of it is that investors would “pay it forward” so their profits would take care of the future rather that keep “paying it back” so old money could take ever more from the future. It would let our economic system first build up, and then stop building up, to be able to continue, with no guarantees but as a possible path forward. It’s all too simple as a design problem, as how all enduring natural systems develop and needs the social principle to make sense. The dilemma is completely unsolvable as a financial problem within capitalism, though, challenging our whole way of life as a rather immediate concern. jlh 3/14/16
from a 21st century view……
Your question is, do we all use our profits to extract increasing pay back from others,
building up an ever growing drain on what makes our world profitable?
Or do we pay our profits forward to assure our world remains healthy
to grow our own ideals, our families, our communities and our world,
treating profits as a gift to what matters?
J.M. Keynes and Ken Boulding were early and mid 20th century “whole system thinkers”. They were true geniuses, struggling for words to convey how complex systems with all independent parts work as a whole somehow. It’s truly the profound puzzle of nature, how illogical it is that all the independent parts of systems would act as if they were all coordinated. They didn’t stop at just looking for simple rules of prediction having no idea where they came from or when they might change. They also looked for and found elementally simple organizing principles of design, for how the parts of market economies coordinated with each other as whole systems and what drove them, central principles they weren’t able to communicate and that have yet to be appreciated at all. From their views they did each say that:
the world economy would soon bankrupt itself by over-investment,
as a natural limit to unlimited financial growth,
due to the central driving financial practice of compound investment
Each was also a expansive thinker with their own ways of speaking about broad principles, so they are hard to read too. It’s only by learning to think about the economy as a whole system, with all its parts working together, and distributing its surpluses and shortages throughout all its connections, that you can piece together from their writings the common finger prints for the above simple principle as what they were clearly saying.
I had some extra help with it, though. I learned of Keynes’ work on the natural limits of finance from speaking with Ken, having gotten a chance to ask him in person, if he knew of any economists who had studied the limits of compound investment as a natural limit to growth. I had asked Ken about it in 1983, and was able to understand what he said on the subject, because I had been searching for a few years already for anyone else who had discovered the principle, that growth systems, if not interfered with, would naturally upset their own conditions for growth. It’s a completely invariant natural principle. Continue reading Did Keynes & Boulding both really say that?→
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.