Category Archives: Mail & Comment

Personal comments and letters that seem to capture an idea well

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

___________________________________________

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 

____________

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

 

_____________

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?

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

________________
jlh

But how can physics study behaviors, not the theory?

On @SFIScience David Pines, Co-Founder of the Santa Fe Research Institute wrote Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science, describing a critical need for physics to develop a way to study “emergence” directly, as a natural phenomenon, not just a theoretical models.  This article reposts my reply to him on Medium: But how can physics study behaviors, not the theory?

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:

a”Dual paradigm view” Can ecosystems be stable?,
 Finding Organization in Natural Systems – “Quick Start”
– 
Can science learn to read “pattern language”…?
 In two words… what defines “science”?

– ‘Big Data’ and the right to human understanding.
– What is a “rights agenda”, with ever increasing inequity?
 Sustainability = growing profit then steady profit

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:

Continue reading But how can physics study behaviors, not the theory?

Simple realty – Income Inequality is caused by environmental drag..

This is as simple a story of this amazing change in our economy.  What happened is that the economy ran into increasing resistance from the environment.   The inequity came from how that slowed down wage growth more than the investment income growth.    Below are two simple ways to understand the natural cause of the problem, that were posted to the discussion on NPR.org today.

A challenge to the new congress: Fix Stagnant Wages

Without a major rethinking of our growth strategy it really can’t be fixed, not by this congress or any other, as it’s “natural”.   The problem is our growth strategy is running into ever increasing natural “drag” and “resistance”, that affects labor more than investment earnings.    

 

See also my recent articles:
Kepler”     –  a great story of student discovering how to understand the big picture
a Whole Systems view – Piketty’s “r > g” – Relating it to Thomas Piketty’s book on global inequity


  •  Comment 1

You never seem to be allowed to talk with the people who know why wages began stagnating in about 1970. There are very specific natural reasons.

Keynes predicted it. I’ve detailed it to the Nth degree. It’s a perfectly common problem in many ways. The simple word to call it is just “drag”. The economy is meeting ‘drag’.

You experience drag as a kind of resistance to what you were doing before. There are millions of kinds. The evidence of very numerous kinds of resistance increasing at accelerating rates more or less all together at once, for the whole system… goes back about a century.

You should talk to people who know.
https://synapse9.com/signals/20…


  • Comment 2

None of you seem to understand that economies are designed to run themselves. Nobody mentions that in the media either, or even the smart pundits. I guess it’s because the people you hear talking about it are really just competing for attention or promoting their ‘angle’ or don’t know any better.

The real situation is that economic growth is stimulated by the money earned by investors being added to the pool of money for creating more businesses. So with growing investment you get a growing economy,… and it’s markets expand, using more and more of every resource they can find on earth…, till something goes wrong.

When things are going right, like in growth periods up to 1970, the incomes of the rich grow faster than anyone else’s, *but* there’s enough left over to “trickle down”, so the incomes of everyone else keep growing too, just a little slower than for the rich.   After ~1970 the relative rates started spreading apart further and further, till most people don’t even increase their incomes as fast as inflation…

One of the things going wrong is the economy is running into natural resistance, from its growth having changed the world, to make it less bountiful.   The economy is slowed down by needing to use more costly resources, from increasing complications of regulation, increasingly complex designs and teamworks needed to get anything done, increasing costs of global competition and conflicts between industries demanding growing shares of diminishing resources.

What’s most obvious if you look at the data is that after 1970 growth continued for the richest and not for the rest of the wage scales. I think there were all the above problems creating drag for the whole system, effecting the productive economy and lower incomes the most, and the people at the top the least.  People of course saw that was where to make the money, and those that could went in to investing to use money to may money that grows without actual work.   Investing is a kind of ‘work’ where the more money you have the more you earn, without any actual “labor”.  So, that kind of earning really took over.

There’s lots more interesting to say, looking at the economy as I do as self-guided system driven by people’s choices and the capacities of the earth the find to use and use up that way.   The bottom line, though, is that there’s too much unproductive investment.

The one and only way to reverse that (other than “resetting” the game with gigantic financial collapses) is for the wealthy to *spend* their earnings rather than *accumulate* more unproductive investments. JM Keynes actually proposed that would be necessary, as the solution for this very problem, that he saw as likely to come up in what he saw as the relatively near future, from the 1930’s.

I’ve written lots on it myself, but it’s “unpopular” because you need to look at the financial implications of our having been running into increasingly resistance to growth as approaching limits, for 50+ years….   That subject was made socially “taboo” in discussion groups not unlike this one all over the world in the 70’s, in case you don’t know about that.   And the whole world went to sleep in total denial of there being limits to growth or anything eles, population too.

https://synapse9.com/signals/

 _______________

jlh

a Whole Systems view – Piketty’s “r > g”

A wide and welcome discussion of our economy’s tendency to produce increasing “inequity” has followed the US publication of Thomas Piketty’s book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, and offered me many chances to comment for general readers with interest in the deeper scientific questions.   I think my best so far were my most recent two, for the special issue of the AAAS journal Science on “The Science of Inequality.  It’s really great to now have this chance to discuss the core dilemmas involved.

I hope not, but more or less expect, this opportunity to “come and go” without much consequence.   That’s happened over and over, for a very long time.   I’ve been watching it come up again and again for the past 40 years, and seen how each discussion fails to get to the heart of the issue, and have looked into the long history of “great debates” around it going far into the past.   There are just clearly very deep conflicts between “how we think our money should work” and “how our world apparently works”, that are still with us.  Science should be our tool for solving such problems, but hasn’t.    So it seems we won’t get to the bottom of it until we find the right language to discuss it in.    I think the language of natural systems is what will do the trick eventually, starting with “growth” being nature’s “start-up” plan and design for the invention and development of new types of systems, so the subject of what’s happening to our growth system is a good place to start.   Let’s see!   :-)
_______

Comments on Piketty’s inequality, “r > g”   

For: – Science,  the Financial Times, the Economist, New Yorker, Capital Institute, the Guardian, Salon, Piketty in ‘The Bully Pulpit”

 >>   Returns on investment seem to outpace the Growth of the economy   <<
(..    so incomes from wealth and work ..   d i v e r g e    ..)

The true reason seems to be our long habit of maximizing growth ** measured as ** maximizing returns for re-investing  …particularly now… when growth is pressing natural limits, and meeting natural resistance and complications that increase faster the harder we press them.    What we need is to understand that turn of events.    JLH

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Comments to the press:

I. on Inequality in the long run by Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez; in the Special Issue on the Science of Inequality, Science magazine – Comment 5/28 link

As with the “Occupy Movement” the diagnosis of the problem here is really wonderful.  And for me it is VERY satisfying that someone finally found a way to raise an actually serious discussion on it.  I’ve also been studying this phenomenon, as a natural systems scientist, for 30+ years though.  So as much as I am really delighted to again hear  the complaint being well expressed, as  “Occupy” also did, I don’t yet see a move toward the level of understanding needed to point to feasible (win win) solutions for it.

One step in that direction would be a discussion of how investors change what they invest in.  This is a “system” after all, and we need to look at how it works. Buy using the profits from a “good bet” to multiply good bets you change the odds, by physically changing the environment being bet on.  That also naturally concentrates unequal wealth, in the hands of investors using that leverage to multiply investments.

Historically that seems at the very heart of all financial manias, like the kinds that develop before great panics and crashes.  The rub is “multiplying sure bets” does almost nothing more certainly than “create bad bets”. That prefer to believe in the manias, though, instead of the obvious is part of the emotional struggle and problem. So… we have contradictions here. We’re still talking as the economists long have, of “ever faster accelerating increases in scale and complexity” as a “steady state”.

OK, in a theoretical world that’s OK.  But here the discussion of “inequity” poses a problem of unfairness, regarding having “unequal shares” of what we now also see is “ever increasing instability”. That’s not ‘OK’.  ;-)

II. on Physicists say it’s simple by Adrian Cho; in the Special Issue on the Science of Inequality, Science magazine – Comment 5/27  link 

Physics is certainly the right tool for this, but you need a technique of getting the universe to slow down tremendously, to let you see how the seeds of swelling inequities emerge and what they lead to. I did that on the way to developing a new physics theorem, that I hope will soon to be widely studied.

The theorem unifies the conservation laws to offer a general “law of continuity in change”. It doesn’t say theories can’t have discontinuities, only that uses of energy can’t, while pointing quite directly to nature’s marvelous “approximation to discontinuities”, her way of multiplying inequities on the way to precipitating dramatic changes in form in the organization in her complex systems.

Unifying the conservation laws shows its important to understand them as an infinite series of conservation laws, for all the derivative rates of change for energy use in physical processes. So as a whole it offers “a law of continuity”. http://www.synapse9.com/drafts/LawOfContinuity.pdf You can simplify the idea of it to saying “it takes a process to change a process”.

To see it happen you watch transitions intently enough to slow down the universe for your eyes, closely examining the steps nature takes to get things started, a fire, an eye blink, a plant, or any other “event”. What you find are little bursts of self-organization, following a non-linear trend most people would call “growth”, a process just full of things happening with a bang.

Growth is a distributed process of multiplying inequalities, is the relevance here. It’s a process of continually swelling inequities throughout a system, an explosion of increasing energy use, complex organization and change, that invariably triggers its own change in form. Where I first got the idea was by training my eyes to slow down the flowing changes of natural air currents, so I could watch “what made them so lively”, letting me discover how stable convection cells form from the instability of growing ones.http://www.synapse9.com/airwork_.htm

So, inequity is a natural byproduct of growth, essential to the systems growth builds, and as a process naturally leading to a change in form.  In economics one common way for it to first cause growing inequity and then result in stability is by people realizing they’ve built as much as they can manage.  Then they devote their resources to caring for what they built instead of continuing to build till that destabilizes it.

Is that possible for us?? I don’t know, but I think the physics implies we’re sure to find out.

Continue reading a Whole Systems view – Piketty’s “r > g”

Easy Intro, “scope 4” use & interpretation

Here’s the whole problem:

Scope-4 impact measures add up the total environmental inputs resulting from business, personal, or policy choices. That’s so we can compare different choices, and make the better one.   Sounds like what sustainability metrics should do!

Standard sustainability metrics, however, collect impact information by where they occur,
not by what choices cause them…

So our whole metric system needs to be rethought.    Today if a business decision involves employing six new machines and six new people, all that is counted are the impacts of the machines.   The impacts of hiring the people or paying the investors or the government… aren’t counted.   Nature sees all the kinds of impacts incurred by business decisions exactly the same way, though!    It was our accounting community, going back centuries it actually seems, that decided to count one and not the other.      

The omitted impacts are actually not hard to scientifically estimate for scale.   That’s what Scope-4 accounting does.   As you work with it you find more and more ways having the numbers right results in big changes the terms of discussion.     The core scientific issue then, is having a metric that does not associate environmental impacts of business with the choices that cause them, but with the locations where the information is collected.   That inconsistency may be as fundamental to economic accounting as to have originated in how business records were kept in ancient times on clay tablets.

 

The [ e = mc^2 ] LAW OF SUSTAINABILITY

ln(e) / ln($)  =  c

It says our growing earth impacts and growing earth economy are directly coupled.

The natural constant observed, [c], is the coupling of GDP and Energy use, as a measure of everything physical the economy does.   It’s expressed as a ratio of their growth rates (here as a ratio of their natural logs). That coupling has been a constant [0.6] for a long time. You see it clearly in the figure below, showing a 40 year official world record for the economy’s growing Energy use and GDP.

It says that our increasing use of energy for altering the planet to make money grows only a little slower than GDP, at 0.6 times the growth rate of GDP, AND that this direct coupling has not shown any tendency to change over time!   People imagine that ‘efficiency’ changes the coupling, but even with growing efficiency the ratio has actually quite constant. You’d need global efficiency in energy use to double every ~20 years like GDP generally has to really make a difference, so having growing value in a steady GDP is far more possible.

Of course, like e=mc^2, it’s not possible to tell quite where the natural constant observed comes from.  That’s a big part of the scientific interest.   Natural constants are emergent properties of the system, seemingly here a natural rate of societal innovation and adaptation, like a “natural learning speed”.   The benefit of the constant is giving us a better way to measure inclusive sustainability, using the mathematical implication that:

—  average shares of GDP pay for and are responsible for causing
average shares of GDP earth impacts  —

World GDP, Energy & Efficiency
The world economy grows as a whole, nob acting at all like the parts…

The power of this rule the direct coupling between responsibility for shares of Earth Impacts and shares of Earth GDP.    It’s a measure that combines all the impacts of extracting energy and all the impacts caused by using energy, i.e. everything the economy does, with financial earnings from the economy.   When the data is aggregated correctly, it allows a complete accounting of the GDP impacts, and “closed accounting” for shares of responsibility for them.  So that for whole supply chains, one can measure their share of exhausting all our resources, forest and species loss, paving over productive land, etc.   Delivering goods for an average dollar of GDP causes an average share of the whole economy’s impacts.
.

Scope 4 CO2 assessment

The science for applying this constant natural coupling of money and GDP impacts was published in 2011 in a research paper “Systems Energy Assessment” found at the SEA resource site.  More detailed research notes are in the article What’s “Scope 4″.    The physics is sufficiently general and inclusive that the same technique can be comfortably use globally, to assign responsibility for all impacts of GDP on the earth, and have a way to “internalize all externalities” that can start and remain valid as it is incrementally improved, as in “A World SDG“.

The SEA research study pie chart, 5 time the true impact causation found compared with standard method.

 Discussion:

The real tragedy is that this bias in our business impact metrics assigns TOTAL responsibility for environmental impacts to the people who are paid to do them, who would not do them unless they were requested and paid for by someone else.

So then ZERO responsibility is assigned to the people choosing to request and pay for the impacts, communicating their requests for them by the transfer of money.

In criminal law, as when paying to have a crime committed, requesting and paying for it is considered the principle direct cause of the crime.  The person paid to do it may be penalized equally or not.    As far as physically causing economic externalities, in the court of environmental responsibility, it really should be decided the same sophisticated way.

What Scope-4 accounting does, then, is start from the complete list of things a decision pays for.   It could become a tremendously long list, with lots of things only known from the money spent rather than from exactly how the service was provided.   So for those you need to do research on what default assumption to make in case in case more detailed information does not become available.    I’m still waiting for people to study it themselves and compare results, but I think the proof is completely convincing that absent other information the necessary default assumption is not “zero” but “average”.

Elementary technique:

  • If you get stuck in deciding what to count, just remember, businesses don’t pay for things except for business reasons, so you need to count *everything*.
  • You then think about the different categories of spending, and what their “direct” (material) and “indirect” (economic demand) impacts are.
  • The initial rough estimate rule for economic impacts is to count them at 90% of the world average per $GDP, like around 7000BTU/$.
  • Make sure you use inflation adjusted $’s and state the index year.
  • That’s easy to do, and lets you reserve your time for estimating the direct impacts, according to the added information you can collect.

So for the energy content of purchased fuels, for example, you’d count BOTH the direct energy content of the fuel, AND the economic energy impact of the spending, at 90% the world average.   The reason is that the fuels come from nature, and the spending goes to people, paying them for the consumption they do to bring you the fuel.

If done correctly, the bottom line is a unique pie slice share of the world’s impacts
for delivering your share of GDP.

Another one to think through is how to estimate the impacts of retained earnings, used for either financial or business expansion investment.   The economic impacts of that spending needs to be estimated with a multiplier over time…  The whole purpose is to truthfully estimate the types and scale of consequences for our economic decisions.

More discussions can be found searching the journal or the web for “Scope-4” or “SEA-LCA” as interchangeable names for the same group of accounting methods.

jlh 11/8/14

_______________ Continue reading Easy Intro, “scope 4” use & interpretation

What’s “Scope 4”, and… Why all the tiers??

The problem that Scope 4 corrects:    

Today our measures of business environmental impacts address the size and efficiency of business technology use, traceable from local business records.   We’re not even trying to measure what’s traceable from what a business pays for throughout the whole economy.   So in effect, the global impact is counted within a narrow local boundary, making the measures scientifically undefined, and highly misleading.  Why it matters is that business, investor and policy decision makers then don’t know what impacts their decisions really have, and the research says most of any business’s real impacts are global.   So we need to understand why the world economy seems to work so smoothly.

World GDP, Energy & Efficiency
The world economy grows as a whole, as if all parts worked smoothly together, and has for 150 years it seems, hard to imagine but competition seems to assure it, at least for energy use.

 What’s counter intuitive for solving it is that the world economy not only LOOKS like a whole system, it also WORKS as a whole system.  What you know is 1) all parts of the economy are supposed to be and 2) seem to act as if 3) they are competitively efficient.   Otherwise 4) they lose their access to energy use, and the energy goes to someone else.   Smooth working competition like that is 5) needed for a world system to work as smoothly as global data shows, and 6) making there no better assumption than that differences from global average efficiency are temporary.    So unless someone can say why not, I think we have to treat energy use as being predictably proportional to GDP.   That’s been peer reviewed as a general principle, that one can rely on the range of local or international variations being likely to be relatively small (maybe +/- 10%) for any globally connected part.   

so…. there’s  a LARGE miss-match

between the effects we see and the ones our money really causes

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Introduction –

the scientific basis for the SEA-LCA “SCOPE 4” accounting principle,

That: Every dollar spent can be shown likely to pay for such widely distributed services throughout the world economy, that at least as a first assumption, it also pays for an equal share per dollar of the whole world’s economic activity and impacts.
In principle, shares of GDP seem to carry equal shares of responsibility for what the economy does to produce GDP

Continue reading What’s “Scope 4”, and… Why all the tiers??

Sustainable Cities: Caring for the Greater Commons

“Sustainable Cities” is the topic to being the upcoming Open Working Group 7 on SDG’s, Jan 6-10 2014, in the UN’s marathon effort to decide “what we should do with the earth”.   Our cities, as brilliant as places of creativity as they are, find themselves “in a fishy stream…”  See also the final World SDG proposal on the global application of the general principle, that we all are responsible for our shares of the abuses of the economy as a whole in proportion to our owning, investing in and using it

The World SDG uses a method of calculation for any person’s or business’s share of world GDP, for estimating their total share of  responsibility for world economic impacts as “users” called “Scope-4 Accounting“.  The legal view of responsibility is different from “cause and effect” in that, legally, both the people paying for, benefiting from or authorizing a tort harm may all be held as equally responsible as the person actually doing the harm, as familiar for hiring others to commit a crime. 

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Fishing in a fishy stream…

 “Sustainable Cities” started with Caring for our Cities as Commons
Neglecting The upstream burden of their wealth and the World as Their Greater Commons

Statement:

A scientifically better way to measure the true scale of economic footprints is as fractions of the whole.  It’s easy and accurate for scale, treating fractions of world GDP as shares of world resource use and impacts too(1).  Cities thrive as hubs of creativity and growing concentrations of wealth, cells within a greater whole. Without self-restraint, growing parts can become cancers on the whole, profiting by conquering others, not by caring for their world.  A city’s limit is then exhausting their world, as done by ancient Rome, the Mayans and others.

New York City with ~1/10th of one percent of the world’s population has a $1,350 billion/yr GDP, ~2% share of world GDP, so causing ~2% of world economic resource demands and impacts, with its plan for real repeated doubling of all three. Wealth earned on New York’s 13 sq mi uses the products of ~380,000 mi2 of farm land around the world, ~2% of the world’s, with resource pressure causing ~2% of the world’s 1,460 mi2 of deforestation. Its services produce~2% of the world’s CO2, ~141,750 million lbs/yr, ~170,000 lbs. per NYC resident.

The question is, what would make New York and other cities turn from consuming to caring for the world they generate their wealth from(2)?   Now each World Capital, as islands of high GDP, is growing its impacts on the world by growing amounts each year, as if as innocently as living by a lazy stream grabbing floating bags of money going by now and then..                Jessie Henshaw

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Jessie is an environmental and human systems scientist quite familiar with defining units of measure. She’s been doing advanced research on emergent organization in nature and economic systems for over 30 years. The scientific basis for this measurement method is a peer reviewed research paper

1)“Getting the incentives right requires redefining the units of measure”.

2) “Ideal Model: Steering money to what matters