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“
For understanding the emergence of new forms of organization in nature, the study of theoretical models seems not to be yielding the kind of useful understanding we so critically need now. What I introduce is a”dual paradigm view”, to address the dilemma, a better technique for learning from nature directly. Computer models are fine for testing theory, but need to be used differently to help us follow the continuities of nature. There is a very big conceptual hurdle, getting mathematicians to study the patterns of nature directly… The physics based method I developed, using models of probability to help locate individual developmental continuities offers a direct way to address the problem Pines raises. It could genuinely offer complexity science a better way to study their actual subject, and couple their theories to actively occurring emergent processes and events. Among other discussions of it on RNS Journal:
Emergence is what we see from cosmic events to the flocking of birds…
David Pines makes a very intelligent assessment, saying in part “The central task of theoretical physics in our time is no longer to write down the ultimate equations, but rather to catalogue and understand emergent behavior in its many guises, including potentially life itself.”
I was one of those who figured out why that would become necessary back in the 1970’s. The behavior of complex systems of equations that permit true emergence will not be knowable from the equations. It’s not just their complexity, but that their emergent properties are emergent and dependent of histories of development rather than being formulaic.
I have also been writing papers and corresponding on the problem very widely since then, and really wondering why I was so unable to get systems thinkers, from any established research community to join me, in studying the commonalities of individual emergent systems. I started with air currents, that generally develop quite complex organization quickly with no apparent organizational input, behave very surprisingly, and seem individually unique.
I actually developed a fairly efficient scheme for studying any kind or scale of emergent system, using the simple device of starting with the question: “How did it begin”. What starting with that question does is immediately shift the focus of interest to considering systems as “energy events”, that you consider as a whole in looking for how they developed. That approach also directs you to look for the event’s naturally defined spatial and duration boundaries, which are highly useful too.
In addition to being fairly productive as research approach, it also made it easy to skirt lots of spurious questions, like “how to define the system”. With that approach your task is finding how the subject defines itself, still looking for a pattern language of structural and design elements to work with, within and around the system, confirming what you think you find.
What I finally arrived at in the 90’s was that the equations of energy conservation implied a series of special requirements as natural bounds for any emerging use of energy. I was thinking that the issue was how nature uses discontinuous parts to design continuous uses of energy, and in working with the equations noticed that the notation for the conservation laws were either integrals or derivatives of each other.
Then one afternoon I just extrapolated an infinite series of conservation laws to define a general law of continuity, and integrated it to find the polynomial expansion describing the boundary conditions for any energy use to begin. It was a regular non-convergent expression, a surprising confirmation of Robert Rosen’s interest in non-converging expressions for describing life, and became very useful as what to look for in locating emergent processes to understand how they worked. I circulated the proof for discussion many times, submitted it for publication a few times and wrote numerous introductions, the following the most recent:
…and the laws that move you from maximizing power to maximizing resilience.
Like many young college women Kepler awoke that morning with other things on her mind than the project she had planned for the day. She had been dreaming about how she loved her drawers of personal things, in colorful piles, neatly rolled, in little bags and folded, each in its own style and fit together. Maybe she would become a “collector”, she thought, they gave her such a thrill. How nature was “quite a collector” too fascinated her too, creating all the natural world’s very special arrangements, with everything having it’s own individual home, utterly improbable in such number and variety, and so highly organized and grouped with fitting parts everywhere.
She’d also been told that lots of scientists thought nature’s patterns came from a natural law of energy, that everything sought to maximize its power, which honestly, just made her wrinkle her forehead… She did not know, of course, but thought there was something hidden in the magic of how things in nature so often yielded to each other, an obvious secret to how things come to fit so closely. So she quietly thought perhaps that seemed at least or was perhaps even more important.
What she had planned to do that day was use her old graphic calculator from high school, to do an experiment in rewriting the history of the economy, laughing as she said it that way. Could you show an economy as being responsive, seeking to get along, rather than just getting more and more aggressive in looking for, in the end, how to get in ever bigger trouble? What would it be like, she wondered, if people could be responsive as a rule. The idea had come up in reading that the climate change scientists, the IPCC, had said we needed to reduce world CO2 production to half what it was in 2010. It was only recently in fact that the world economy had been below that, and now everyone was saying we had to go back but probably couldn’t. She felt she had all the facts, though.
So she had the idea to just…
– totally redraw the history of ever growing CO2 – to show mankind as being responsive to the approach of climate change
She didn’t get it to work till quite late that night, but it worked! What she had of course been thinking about, and felt that anyone who mattered constantly worried about behind every other subject, was the strange continual way the human society was so energetically trying to destroy its own future. The evidence could not be more clear, with the ever faster consumption of everything useful on earth, that an economy maximizing its growth unavoidably does. Anyone can plainly see that happening, as climate change keeps accelerating faster than expected. Everyone hears about the ever increasing loss of natural species from disrupting ever more natural habitats too, and the impossible debts nations have accumulated making their decision making impossible, and so many other disturbing things.
It wasn’t a “debate” to her. It also wasn’t her “cause” either. She also did not really see it as her job to change other people’s minds. It was just something she personally needed to know, about her own life, and whether it could be meaningful. Continue reading Kepler→
One of the fascinating scientific subjects I research is how human understanding comes from narrative. Without getting too technical, narratives about relationships, environments and culture change issues come from people “observing the flows” of the natural processes, the flows by which those changes in our world take place. The basic starting point, then, is having some way to observe those flows. No awareness of the flows, *no story*!
This is such an important thing for combating our alienation from the breakdown of traditional cultures, really all around the whole. It’s quite an unfortunate side effect of the great eruption of wealth in modern times, and the ever more intense global competition fostered by the world economy doing it. A small part of how it disturbs our ability to tell stories about what’s happening to us in yesterdays post What is a “rights” agenda, with ever increasing inequity?
Mining live stories from big data is way to build human understanding
I ran across five wonderful examples this week alone, of ways to bridge the enormous cultural and intellectual divides the keep us from arriving at a common understanding of what to do with the earth. My topic yesterday saw how an economy structured to produce both ever increasing complexity, inequity results in the breakdown of traditional cultures and ways of knowing, a loss of stories for giving our lives meaning. Learning to see the problems can also be used to find solutions too, of course, the main one here perhaps just learning to see what we’er doing to ourselves. The thought process leads to seeing what strategies are failing us is not so different from that used for discovering promising new ones.
One identifies where the cultures that guide us lose track of what’s happening to them. The other discovers exposes the flows of events in a way allowing us to create the new stories that will matter in our lives. It’s how all human rights are achieved, by recognizing them as the clear story that beings order to a disruptively changing world, recognizing how nature connects the dots, letting us frame not just “good stories” but also “true stories” about finding a sound new path.
The practicalities of recognizing “what’s really happening” so we can use our values to fashion the stories telling us what to do will mostly not need a lot of big words and shiny promises. You can do it with “big data”, even if today its main use seems to be for controlling personal data to make growing amounts of money from deny people their individuality. You can also us it to mine the data world to pick up clear signs of whole new cultures emerging you’d otherwise never be aware of, for example. Having ways of visualizing the eventfulness of change globally, on many dimensions, would be a very *different* kind of “news feed”, a true globally holistic “news feed”.
Every community could study the eventful flows of changing relationships, personal, cultural, economic, ecological, that matter to it, rather than just listen to media largely composed of chattering entertainers and politicians after money and power. If a way of mining data for signs of events could show people what’s really happening to their world, and that became the the talk of the community, everyone could participate in shaping the news and the new stories about our human rights tell us to do. It would give the media a real story to cover too. The practical job to make that possible, though, is more like science than philosophy. It’s to learn to recognize that eventful change comes from the emergence of new forms of organization, that generally begin with a viral burst of development, that energize whole systems, altering the balance and roles withing their environments, like organisms that growth from a seed to build new natural capital or flame out.
1. – Changes in Word Use – I am not an expert in semantic analysis, fundamental changes in word use, particularly if following a clear developmental pattern generally do indicate a change in the world of people and their way of speaking about it. Developmental changes in word usage expose important cultural experiences of the people writing the text. I’ve used comparisons of the Google histories of word frequencies obtained from scanned libraries of books, their “Ngram” tool. I’ve also used the histories of word use in magazines, newspapers and even Google Scholar, such as to identify
Learning to read the eventfulness of our world – People who have some personal experience with the environments in which these explosive changes took place, as eruptions of new organization for those worlds, these documented records of the shapes of their stages of growth provide rich reminders and new challenges to imaging what was really going on to produce the new environments the created.
Today one might also use Twitter and other social media, and also collect data on product and book sales and lots of other sources. Of course, the sources would vary considerably from country to country, but the method would be the same. What’s important is for the text or numeric data being scanned for “natural coupling” be “neutral” and not influenced by the subject being explored.
What might be possible, putting it all together, is to identify natural cells of social relationships and their interests, cultural “silos” of relationships identified by their ways of using language, in real time. There are security questions whenever new kinds of information are made available, so such maps should be abstract. The most valuable feature of such a “map” of connections, though, is the ability to then see who’s NOT connecting, the isolated constituencies.
You’d see what conversations are intense in one group and missing from another, say between Twitter and the local newspaper as one possible divide., defining two communities with differing values and interests. That would be a great tool for understanding a society, and a great tool for social activist groups, letting them see how to stop “preaching to the choir”, for one example. It wold also give them insight into the words and interests of the groups they need to connect with, but hadn’t known how. Seen that way it’s a “partnership tool”, allowing people to see through the silo walls just enough to make some connections.
There’s been a long debate and mystery caused by economic accounting for the world’s energy use not being able to trace the trade in economic energy services, the amount of China’s energy embedded in our TV’s and the amount of of France’s energy embedded in Soviet block heavy industry… etc.
A country’s Share of the World’s GDP per Share of World Energy, measures
“Relative Economic Energy Dependence” ‘NEED’
a strong indicator of how much of its economy is fed by off-shore, mostly ‘fossil’, energy services, most oftennot being counted in national energy accounts. Countries do have different energy productivities, but World competition actively selects competitive energy uses wherever they are found. So like waves on a pond… the national accounts vary in relation to each other, and the global accounts are smooth and reflect the gradual changes of the system as a whole.
We see in Figure A strong diverging trends in GDP and Energy use for OECD and Non-OECD groups, along with converging steady trends for the ratio Energy/$GDP, over the past 40 years.
As the less developed remain smaller, but grow faster, the more developed are giving them development space.
The Energy/$GDP (intensity) is continuing it’s long historic path of quite steadily decline, NOT diverging, showing how smoothly the interlocked productivities of the world economy “level the playing field” for energy services, delivered to where they are most valued..
Figure B shows the NEED of the major 8 World Sectors shows much more variation, and you can see some of he fitting shapes that cause the total to be a straight line.
The US & Canada are close to the 1/1 average, but steadily rising
The EU, Japan and Australia are ~1.5/1 rather dependent on Off-Shore energy services, lacking abundant sources.
So the ridh “Energy Poor” economies need to purchase more and more of their energy in the form of energy services from their neighbors, as “how economies work”.
It causes a likely mistaken impression the EU is more “sustainable”, greatly outperforming the US & Canada.
National Energy Accounts don’t trace trade in energy services, only trade in energy materials, needing a “Shares of GDP” proxy measure as here to find it.
The National Energy Accounts are not set up to trace trade in energy services, only in materials, requiring a “Shares of GDP” proxy measure to find it.
It shows a very good reason why we all need to learn, as in Scope-4 impact accounting for the World SDG, the use of GDP as a proxy measure of average economic energy use, and also why it works so well. The “global economy” and it’s highly competitive use of world information on the most profitable uses of energy. It makes energy use a universal “currency” naturally, as a useful measure of GDP for many purposes, and the use of GDP as a proxy for energy use and environmental “externalities” resulting from our obtaining and using energy to alter the earth for our purposes.
This exploration of a pivotal world issue, on which the success or grand failure of our present global development strategy rests… is an example of the wide range of penetrating treatments of important topics covered in the Research Journal “Reading Nature’s Signals“. It document’s Jessie Henshaw’s current application of the the natural systems identification and organizational exploration methods that originated with a discovery in the 1970’s of how transitions in the continuity of natural processes expose the design of the systems and how they are changing, introduced in: The Physics of Continuity = ladders of change
We have a responsibility to use both the words of science and also the methods, when choosing methods of “Sustainable Development” to rely on for our effort to save the earth. It’s often not easy to do. Ask any scientist. It’s often as hard as sitting down to write a great poem, a different kind of creativity but just as demanding. This article discusses the correct scientific method for defining measures of “decoupling” our growing economy from its growing impacts on the earth.
That’s the part of the “Decoupling Puzzle” I can actually answer, offering a way to scientifically define an SDG for Post 2015 “economic decoupling”, and the measure of compliance. See also to the PDF file and XLS file to see the details of the model. It’s a bit different from the approach shown in the UNEP report on decoupling . What I define is an evidence based scientific measure of a growth economy departing form its reliance on growing resource use. It could be used in regulating the economy’s approach of our best understanding of the natural limits of sustainable development:
“A world Decoupling Rate that would assure, within planetary boundaries, adequate development space and “carrying capacity” to fulfill the intent of the SDG’s.”
How to transform the economy to create growing wealth without growing resource use is left to the reader or other discussions, though I give a hint to what that “entirely new kind of wealth” might be at the end.
We start with the historic records that display the past “growth constants“ of the world economy. Figure 1. shows GDP, Energy use, CO2 and the GDP energy efficiency of the economy all growing together, with growth rates that are in constant relation to one another. That is the “coupling” of GDP and resource use that needs to be “decoupled”.
That evident constant growth rates and their proportionality (i.e. the “coupling”) is called “natural” because throughout history people have noticed it, tried to explain it, and also tried to change it, all to no avail. This coupling of these measures of the whole economy has continued as if measures of a growing person’s “height and weight”, growing at different rates, but still growing together. It has seemed to be just how the economy works.
As a systems ecologist, myself, I see them as displaying humanity’s natural rate of whole system learning, limited by coordinating all parts of human innovation and development efforts, while struggling to expand at the fastest accelerating rate possible. Systems ecology, then, does not consider economic growth as a “monetary progression” but as an “organizational progression”, a process of “whole society” building on its past to create a new future. This historical record is “how we’ve been doing it” so far, and now that we’ve found it unsustainable we need to change to something different.
…”growth” is a process of our learning how to coordinate doing what we want.
To measure a departure from that we start with the “Economic Growth Constants”:
GDP (3.13 %/yr), Energy use (1.89 %/yr), and Energy Efficiency (1.24 %/yr) . The linkage between the GDP and Energy curves, is the “EnergyCoupling Rate” (60.4 %/yr the ratio 1.89/3.13), how fast energy use grows relative to wealth.
The idea and fallacy of “Decoupling”
is to weaken that linkage between earth and economy to zero, changing what has long been a constant coupling rate of 60% by successive reductions to 0.0%, just by continuing to dramatically improve the efficiency of resources use as before. Many people believe new technologies should revolutionize development to do that, other’s think innovation will create products people prefer that just don’t consume energy to produce or to use. What both would agree is that 60% needs to decline toward 0.0%
We could define that transition as a “Decoupling Rate”, the rate at which the Coupling Constant of the past declines toward ‘0.0’. That would allow continued growth in wealth without adding to what we now see are globally unsustainable scales of energy use impacts on the earth. Defined for energy use alone would serve to define it not just for the impacts of fuel extraction and consumption, but also ALL the impacts of a material kind we cause by using the energy we extract for creating economic products.
So.. that would be generally inclusive of all economic impacts
that needed energy to be produced.