Category Archives: Mail & Comment

Personal comments and letters that seem to capture an idea well

Only Healthy Cultures make Healthy Economies

Announcing the publication of
6/28/18

Culture, Finance-for-Development & tPPPs

Jessie Henshaw*

A less technical synopsis,
7/12/18

I’ve been observing the UN SDGs as a natural systems scientist since 2013 when I saw with some surprise that the one topic both Country delegates and Civil Society groups could agree on was the wording of the ideals for global development.  Even when the Co-Chairs, Ambassadors Korosi, and Kamu, began persistently asking for the discussion to turn to means and methods it never did.  Ideals are wonderful, but the strains the SDGs are responding to are still growing, as the global disruption of human cultures by the growing intrusions of the economies of the world powers continues.  That’s a problem not yet to be studied and discussed.  Why?  Partly to be “diplomatic” and partly not having a model for human cultures as living social organisms that carry all our shared ways of knowing living.   Still we need a way to discuss the rapidly growing strains on human and ecological cultures caused by accelerating economic growth, a global cultural sickness.

As growth presses the limits of the earth and challenges the world to ever faster rates of change, the damage to nature and human society is more and more lasting.   That’s a conclusion you can reach from many directions I think.  The communities the SDGs aim to help seem mainly deeply rooted old cultures that are now “failing to thrive.”  That is a living systems problem, not a numbers problem, as the SDGs were designed to solve.  Failing to thrive is more like a “lack of meaning in life” dilemma, requiring a different approach.  It’s also a symptom that one can use to map the problem worldwide and begin to look at its real dimensions.

Our accumulated ways of knowing and living  are stored only in our cultures

Failure to thrive seems to hit both indigenous cultures worldwide and communities within economies where “creative destruction” is leaving lasting scars, like rural flight or outsourcing that hollows out a region.  One example is the deeply alienated culture giving support to Donald Trump in the US, distressed by the world changing so much around them.  There are also non-thriving local cultures in North, Central, and South Africa, as well as in the Middle East and North, Central, Southern and Eastern Asia, as well as in Oceana, Australia, North and South America.  It’s not “the same old thing,” but a truly accelerating global plight, seeming to be of all the cultures that didn’t welcome or were disrupted by the intrusive growth of the world powers.

Human cultures are truly the crown jewels of humanity, though, where most of our gifts come from and are on display.  They are the unique individual species of the human ecology.  If you think about it, there is no other place on earth for the safekeeping of all our ancient accumulated ways of knowing and living. Each culture either crafts its separate way of knowing and living or branches off from another.   They are our most important gift, evidently now absorbing a great deal of abuse.

With each culture being its own “knowledge system” it keeps people from making sense of any other culture, or even our own.   If you trace the evidence, it does check out.  We get the large part of our ways of understanding things during early childhood, by what you might call ‘osmosis’.  Some say it’s “too close for us to see,” or that our mental way of seeing is functionally like a camera and its lens, that are never visible in the pictures they take.  Cultures also have a deceptive “cellular design.”  Their ways of knowing and living are internally shared, and not experienced from the outside.   Even with extended immersion, an outsider does not develop a native feeling for another culture’s roots.

The great challenge we face today is that growth is an ever faster process of expansion and change, *doubling* its demands on the earth and humanity every 20-30 years.   That radical rate of increasing demands is what eventually overwhelms the adaptability and resilience of people and the earth.  Living things are being pushed to keep mechanically doubling numerical returns for culture-blind investors, as if the earth was unoccupied.

That’s how the English occupied North America, a hundred years after the first settlements rapid expansion began with importing slave labor then a wave of settlers swept across the rest of the continent, as if it were unoccupied.  Elsewhere the economic powers built systems for globally harvesting resources, placing overseers where needed to manage their access, as if there was no one else there.  Today it continues with how global capitalism still relates to the world, measuring its success in rates of accelerating expansion alone, as if no one is here.  What’s most surprising perhaps, is how very effective our cultural blinders are in hiding our blindness to our own and other cultures from us.  That is, hidden until you have an indicator like the glaring disruptiveness of ever more sudden change.

So what would relieve our fast growing societal distress?    There’s a new business model expressly for responding to it, to use biomimicry for how nature builds thriving ecologies.   If interested there’s a longer discussion article on how healthy cultures are the foundations of healthy economies and the business model for nourishing our cultures, that I refer to as “True Public-Private Partnerships” (tPPPs) discussed more in the essay  Culture, Financing for Development and tPPPs.

The new business model begins like any business, organism, or culture does, with a period of innovating and vigorous growth, making profits to expand its systems.  When the environment responds with increasing resistance or stiffening competition, the new strategy is to choose when and how to switch from maximizing profits for growth to maximizing long-term profitability to pay it forward.  That’s done by refining systems to operate in smooth harmony with each other and their world.  It’s a more gradual process but would produce more integrated development and be more profitable in the end, to combine human ingenuity and natural design.

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Do comment if this gives you questions or ideas!

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[*] Jessie Henshaw consults as HDS natural systems design science, sy@synapse9.com, offering insight into nature’s processes of negotiating change.  She uses natural systems thinking strategies (NST) with “action research” (AR) and architectural “pattern language” (PL) methods of collaborative developmental design.  The start is from recognizing that organizational processes in nature follow a familiar arc, beginning with bursts of innovation, and then refinement, leading to a final release (IRR).  That is not unlike how we all do home or office projects, in stages of immature then maturing growth then release, also seen in reproduction.  The system produced is first “framed out” with innovations then “filled in” with refinements and “delivered” as the release when ready.  Her current related research article is on how our Systems Thinking co-evolvolves with our Systems Making.

 

JLH

Evidence of Decoupling Still Zero.

The Growing Effort to Decouple GDP from Energy use and CO2,
is having no apparent effect,
raising serious questions about the nature of our plan.

The graph below (Figure 1) shows the 46-year record of world GDP PPP, Energy, and CO2, during which their growth rates have been in constant proportion to each other, called their “coupling.” The things to read are 1) the lack of accumulative departure from the steady trends, and 2) how closely the exponential trend lines (dotted) follow the data.

It shows that the long trend still holds despite both big efforts and bigger promises that accelerating growth using more efficient processes would separate the expanding economy from its impacts.  Focusing so much on the “positive” completely disguised the big picture, though, that in 46 years there has been no accumulative effect at all.  So there’s a lot to explain, yes, but the graphs below show persistent regular behaviors of the economy as a whole resilient system, a problem not yet faced at all.

Figure 1. Coupled Growth Trends of World GDP, Energy & CO2, showing how the three move together at proportional growth rates, as parts of a whole system.

That energy use and CO2 emissions are now still growing at the same rate as 40 years ago is strong evidence that none of the sustainability measures such as exceptional efficiency gains said to decouple the economy from its impacts, have had any effect at all.

The irregularly fluctuating curves below (Figure 2) show the annual rates of coupling if world Energy and CO2 growth rates to World GDP (PPP).  The scale at the left shows their locally averaged growth rates as a fraction of the locally averaged GDP growth rates (to somewhat smooth the curves) going below zero once.  The important thing is to notice is that the fluctuations vary around nearly horizontal trendlines.

It’s as if the economy is guided by an “invisible hand” keeping the fluctuations symmetric to the near constant trend.  It says the fluctuations have been adding up to no effect.  The likely cause of this is how a competitive economy naturally works.  Technology and resources are supposed to be treated as being fungible assets, to be constantly reallocated to maximize profits.  In the data, that functional coupling between the physical and financial systems of the economy is shown working rather smoothly, replacing less with more profitable assets to maximize the growth of profits for the whole.  That stable coupling of managed assets to growth is then an apparent natural emergent property of the system as a whole, as a partnership between human cultures and the financial world’s effort to maximize growing profits.

Figure 2. Regular fluctuations of Energy and CO2 coupling with GDP, have repeatedly been claimed to be evidence of rapid decoupling… ignoring how very regularly the periods of apparent decline were followed promptly by reversals, as if irregular waves of water seeking the average level. 

 How the world community came to say that “sustainable development” would reverse this stable natural relationship between the economy and its resource uses is described in more detail in April 2014 in The Decoupling Puzzle. Small fluctuations do keep causing excitement for both devoted climate deniers and sustainability advocates, though, each picking out brief trends seeming to affirm their hopes, like the five periods of apparent rapid decline in CO2 to GDP coupling shown here.  The real evidence is that the local fluctuations never seem to result in a change in the direction of the whole, like ripples on a pond that always level out.  The latest dip in the CO2 coupling trend has been claimed as a sign of turning the corner by the IEA, clearly unaware of the consistent pattern of that metric repeatedly fluctuating around a near-zero trend.

Added perspective on the global data is gained by plotting the ratio of GDP to Economic Energy energy, the amount of wealth produced with a unit of energy.  We call that variable “Economic Energy Efficiency,” the amount of economic wealth generated per unit of energy.  Having its growth rate = 1/3 the GDP rate implying that improving efficiency contributes 1/3 of the value of energy to the world economy, growing Energy use contributing 2/3 if the value.  That ratio demonstrates a general case of Jevons famous observation that in a growth economy efficiency results in growing rather than declining resource use and impacts.  Any way one reasons it, what is crystal clear is that in the last 46 years strenuous effort to use efficiency for sustainability have had the opposite of the intended effect, recreating the original problem rather than solving it.

Figure 3 The share of GDP growth contributed by Economic Energy Efficiency proves Jevons principle that in a growth economy efficiency multiplies energy use and all its accumulative earth impacts.


So we need to be suspicious of the world policy to maximize growth at any cost.  The costs are rapidly swelling not shrinking.  The other coupled impacts of growth also causing how people live being forced to change ever faster creating major disruptions and dissension all over the world is one of the biggest, though even the NGOs are very slow in recognizing.  In nature, growth is how all kinds of natural systems begin, but those we admire for their perfection turn to refining their designs before they climax rather than, driving their growth to the point of being torn apart of being exhausted.

That’s the trick.  Maximizing growth might seem logical as a way for societies to keep up with social distress and debts, but now it’s accelerating them.  So now we need to balance the attraction of short-term profits and connect them all the unbalanced disruptive changes that now surround us.  We talk lightly about replacing people with robots, for example, overlooking that the robots only work for the banks.  That’ll make people and governments ever more indebted and incapable of responding to climate change, for one problem.  And that chain of consequences goes on and on, that is as long as we keep ignoring how natural growth systems that avoid the problem work.  More disruption is not the solution, only moderation.

There’s an alternative business model that could serve as a general design for growth without disruption, one that switches to paying the profits forward once any debts have been paid back.  Once understood, that is what would achieve truly integrated, thriving and self-limiting development, as biomimicry of ecosystem designs.  It is discussed in more detail in the article linked from my next post, Culture, Finance-for-Development, and tPPPs.

Use biomimicry for how nature uses growth to build thriving and enduring systems.

It would be a way for businesses large or small to begin to experiment with how nature succeeds in creating beautiful, thriving, and purposeful systems.  It’s a fairly simple formula.  It’s also a practice we all know well for how to successfully relate to other people and how to successfully complete business or home projects.  It starts with building up innovations to then select what to refine for making the result resilient and purposeful in its environment.  If we approached every new relation or project by piling on new experiments with no turn toward refining something to last in the end, all the effort would go to waste in the end.

To start you study the similarity between nature’s way of building things to perfection and how we do our own home or office projects! They all take place in “three acts.” The first act is for “innovating, the second for “refining, and the third act the “release” of the finished product into its waiting environment (IRR).  You see the same three acts in the birth cycle, and in the start-up of new businesses too, as well as the formation of new cultures and most every other kind of individual development.  The trick is really to pay attention to the inspiration that starts it off, as something to fulfill.  That lets you anticipate and move smoothly between the stages of emerging development, first adding up more innovations, then refining the ones worth keeping to the end.  It’s what comes most naturally when we can see the whole effect.

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When you can see the whole it’s easy to recognize the point when adding more innovations begins to work against getting something finished, called a “point of diminishing marginal returns.” Of course on a home or office project what tells you it’s time to shift to finishing what you started is just sensing what can you finish while you have time and resources.  For anything measurable, like wealth, the point of diminishing marginal returns is when it becomes more profitable to put efforts into getting things to market rather than try more experiments.  To apply it to the world all you do is ask: “What is our real plan here?” and look around for how to perfect what we started, and at the right time stop taking on more and more that we probably won’t be able to finish.  It’s a matter of shifting to pursuing achievable goals rather than hanging on to thinking ever bigger with no end in sight.  Reaching for the right goal doesn’t necessarily make the work easy, of course, particularly for big personal, community or business projects.  It just makes the work a lot better, and the end something fulfilling and rewarding.

I discuss that as a way to measure truly lasting success for the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, instead of just “more, faster” the ways the UN’s goals are like the goals of business-as-usual, discussed in more detail in Culture, Finance-for-Development and PPPs.

JLH


Analysis Notes:

  • The global GDP PPP curves show IEA data from 1971 to 2008 spliced to overlapping World Bank Data from 1990 to 2016.  The curves for global Energy are from BP statistics, and the Global CO2 curves show data from WRI.
  • The Energy and CO2 curves were each scaled to the GDP curves in proportion to their average growth rates for a graphically clear and honest comparison.
  • dy/Y is the ratio of the change in a measure over the total, like an interest rate or growth rate measures.  I get smoother curves by blending a bit, using a center-weighted 5 point bracket.

Data Sources:

  1. The world bank was my source for GDP PPP and for from 1990 to 2016
    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.PP.CD?end=2016&start=1990
  2. World Meat Production – 1961-2016 Rosner – OurWorldInData: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption
  3. World Food Production – 1961-2016 FAO: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI
  4. WRI has a very nice set of data on CO2 “Total GHG Emissions Including Land-Use Change and Forestry – 1990-2014” from the CAIT Climate Data Explorer – http://cait.wri.org/historical.
    – Because the latest economic CO2 emissions data is 2014 not 2016 as for other data, the trend of atmospheric CO2 from CO2.earth was used to project the economic emissions data for the last two missing data points, showing no anomalous direction. https://www.co2.earth/annual-co2
  5. Atmospheric CO2 PPM 1501-2015                    
    OurWorldInData.org:
    https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions
    From Scripps source directly: (Scripps, 1958 to present)(Macfarling Meur 2006)
     http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/data/atmospheric_co2/icecore_merged_products
    Record based on ice core data before 1958, and yearly averages of direct observations from Mauna Loa and the South Pole after and including 1958.”
  6. BP offered energy data in MtOe in its “Statistical Review of World Energy – all data 1965-2017”
    https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/downloads.html
  7. The IEA news item statement that CO2 flattened for 2016 and 2017 was used, just to show how little effect it would have if true
    https://www.iea.org/newsroom/energysnapshots/global-carbon-dioxide-emissions-1980-2016.html

The duality required for collective organization.

An interesting global question is, to me, raised by Ernst Ising’s work in physics – (see the arxiv pre-print on his life and work if interested. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1706.01764.pdf)

Ising’s main work in the 1920’s was deriving a mathematical explanation for ferromagnetism, the ability of atoms in certain solid metals to develop aligned spins, and exhibit permanent magnetic fields in there surroundings as a result.   The part of that might be of interest from a pattern science viewpoint is how his model has been successfully applied to numerous collective phenomena, both other emergent collective atomic behaviors like magnetism as well as emergent collective macroscopic behaviors like the emergence of organization in crowds.

Ising’s general equation

The math, honestly, is beyond me, but there’s an interesting assumption in the work that might be discussed from a pattern science perspective, that the math rests on treating such phenomena as arising from purely local interactions.

Ising Said: “So, if we do not assume [ ] that [ ] quite distant elements exert an influence on each other [ ] we do not succeed in explaining ferromagnetism from our assumptions.  It is [thus] to be expected that this assertion also holds true for a spatial model in which only
elements in the nearby environment interact with each other.”

What I suspect is that there’s more of a wave/partical type duality present, involving both local and contextual interaction
in bringing about collective organization.

In the collective phenomena we observe there is certainly has a strong local character, whether it’s snowflake formation, ecologies, social movements or probably also the punctuated equilibria of emerging species.  All such collective phenomena seem to arise in relatively small centers and then spread mysteriously.  They also seem to require specially primed and fertile environments, as global conditions that are receptive to the local accumulation of collective designs.

So my question is who else is talking about this pattern of nature.    Is this raised in Christopher Alexander’s “The Nature of Order” or other pattern language writings?   Is it raised in the work of anyone else writing in the pattern language field?  More specifically, does it need to be understood to know how to describe the contexts we work in, perhaps such that a calm and receptive and so fertile context is needed to be a good host for pattern designs to flourish?

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jlh

Scientific Community on Natural Limits

Post event note:

UN meetings on the first year of SDG implementation are over now, were very intense, and in the end quite successful for finding a new way to discuss the neglected issue of natural limits.   The scientific community that understands the connection between our natural limits and economic growth has been totally shut out of the UN discussion for years.   I didn’t get to speak to the main body on that directly, but I finally found a way to talk about the problem, that the SDG’s don’t in any real way count the global impacts of our decisions:

S D   M e t r i c s   L e a v e   M o s t   S o c i e t a l   I m p a c t s   U n c o u n t e d  

It’s to say:

The ISO’s world environmental accounting standards
fail to honor its fiduciary duty to our interests and human right to honest data,
only counting local impacts, leaving all global impacts of financial decisions uncounted and unaccountable.
SD decision makers are the most hurt, kept from knowing most of what they are deciding.

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The 17 Goals

It had seemed I would have a chance to speak at the UN, officially representing the long neglected interests  of the scientific community that understands the coupling of the economy and natural limits.  Below is the email I sent a number of scientists and other experts who understanding is not being represented:

Friends,

I found a way for scientists who have long understood natural limits, to get official representation at the UN, in the UN’s community of CSO’s (Civil Society Organizations), as a member of its “Major Groups and Other Stakeholders” (MGoS).    The present work is the review and guidance of the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals project (SDG’s), and the High Level Political Forum’s (HLPF) oversight of it.   https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf

Please circulate widely.  Non-expert members welcome too.   There is no organization at this time, just me seeing an opportunity to have our long neglected interests given official recognition.  I might start a Google Group with the names or something…  Any statement would be in the interests of the group rather than as if representing a group position

The draft text for representing the group’s interest to the UN is is here.

Time was too short for it to get around, and response was slow, except for the two  great ones I really appreciate getting, so I turned off the Google invitation form .   It still seems to be something that community really should find a way to do though!

Jessie

 

Count your money in Kilowatt Hours

“Shoudaknown” tweets 
Principles of Natural Systems Science & Design, Social & Professional Commentary, Ideas,
May 27  to June 25

Organic Impressions Jun 6 1,172,   6.2K impressions over this 28 day period
221 impressions per day.

J.L. Henshaw ‏@shoudaknown  Jun 5
The strangeness of “reality math” is seen in the *global average* energy
to make $1 in 2016 = a thousand watt light bulb for 1.65 hours

jlh

Next thing to “make it in NY”?

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.

As Mickey sleeps his magic brooms multiply, and his effort to chop them up has the opposite effect, not knowing the magic to make them stop.

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.

A pitch for introducing bigdata “system recognition”

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.

empirical evidence of systemization

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.

Thanks for listening!    –     Jessie Henshaw

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fyi – 350 words Continue reading A pitch for introducing bigdata “system recognition”

Did Keynes & Boulding both really say that?

  • 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 

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The intensification of work for concentrating wealth and profits.  – Click – to see QuarksDaily article on how this process drains our world.

 

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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?
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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?
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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?

A nice way to Link Math & Nature

A pattern language nugget, prompted by a  tweet about a World Mysteries Blog post onNature, Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Ratio”:

The mysterious geometry of Nautilus Shells

Tweet by Brittney Wagner  :

Who liked my Tweeted replies @shoudaknown

  • Nature seems to wander near the path the equation idealizes,
    within a tolerance for finding the living systems’s continuity
    .

  • I think it takes a “pattern language” to discuss designs that develop
    by accumulation from a seed. 

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jlh

“Dual paradigm view” Can ecosystems be stable?

Reposting a November 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm comment to Quanta on the Tracy-Widom New Universal Law article

This is a simple way to demonstrate the “dual paradigm view” as a bridge between the abstract complex systems theory and direct study of individual complex systems, to advance our understanding to of the mysterious phenomenon of “emergence”.  The article suggested that as statistical systems ecologies generally could never be structurally stable, but did not compare that to systems that rely of “accumulative organizational design” particularly those with “learning parts” as ecosystems systems so often to have rather than “correlated random variables”.   The moderator clearly liked this better than my first response not published.  

The “dual paradigm view” addresses the dilemma of complexity science that computer models are fine for theory, but don’t really let you study nature.  That’s what a way to connect mathematical systems theory with individual systems study addresses.   Much of my work of the past 35 years has been on that subject, now recently raised by David Pines’ in a founder’s article for SFRI Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science, saying that physics and complex systems science now need a way to study the physical phenomenon of emergence and actual complex systems to progress.   My reply to his article  Can Physics Study Behavior not Theory, was first posted on Medium.

It’s interesting that with such a number of cross connecting areas of physics being discussed, the ultimate finding technically didn’t answer the initial question posed. That was Robert May’s “question about whether a complex ecosystem can ever be stable, or whether interactions between species inevitably lead some to wipe out others”.

The mathematical analysis of that question and others was limited to “kinds of random growth” and “systems of correlated random variables”. There are also lots of non-randomly behaving systems too is worth considering, and may have been overlooked in answering the basic question. The variety of organizational growth systems that are familiar everywhere in nature display many kinds of growth curves and outcomes, often having an overall appearance of being 1) quite lopsided, 2) quite symmetric, or 3) reaching extended stable states.

note: How the meaning of probability distribution curve shapes (as discussed in the article) differs from the meaning of these individual development curve shapes was skipped in this short comment on the article.  Please do bring it up of course if needed.   The question posed was about the development of individual ecosystems, and their potential structural stability.

 Generic common curve shapes
for the development of organizational systems.

We probably know of lots familiar examples of these from personal experience, where the systems involved are going through progressive organizational change during their periods of acceleration or deceleration. Reversals in curvature don’t always reflect systemic changes in direction for organizational development, but often do though (shown as gaps in the diagram for raising those questions).

The one looking like a TW distribution curve is familiar to all economics and other matters, as a “meteoric rise” followed by “immediate decline”, like many a seemingly fine business plans might experience. The quite unusual thing is this same shape turns up in Gamma Ray burst records too (see image of BATSE 551 #1 below). It raises the question of whether that system (presumably of radiation from black hole collapse) reflects the organizational stages of a system that experiences a “blows out” (like some of our best business plans do) or that of a statistical distribution for correlated variables, or something else?

In any case, just asking that raises the possibility of a bridge between TW correlations and the fates of natural system organization designs, and perhaps a need to consider whether the other kinds of system are available to change the outcome for May’s ecosystems, depending on their design.

Gamma Ray Burst “BATSE 551 #1”  – Raw data dynamically smoothed.

( reposted from the Pattern Language Debategraph

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jlh