Category Archives: Mail & Comment

Personal comments and letters that seem to capture an idea well

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/

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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!   :-)
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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.
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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

 ____________

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

 

New dialogs needed – on “steering in heavy seas”

I write lots of very carefully crafted letters to people deeply engaged in the UN’s work on

Steering the Earth Toward Sustainability

…, its Open Working Group is drafting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).   Each letter is crafted to convey to leading thinkers some piece of my sophisticated natural systems view, of how to recognize the organized working parts of our economic environment and how they are changing.   To steer the ship to calmer seas we need new kinds of responses to calm the waters, as our “stimulus” has been producing new hazards everywhere we look.   Attempting  to force the economies to grow while pressing ever harder on the planetary boundaries, has been driving it into ever more desperate quandaries of what to do instead.  

Here are two letters from this week.    I’d really like to know if you understand, or if you have any questions about the subjects raised, or how I arrive at my conclusions or choose how to present them.   It could help me do this work a lot.    JLH

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Going where everything seems to be a trap..

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Tweet’s this AM:

J.L. Henshaw ‏@shoudaknownWhy not #finance #sustainability, for more stable markets and greater total #returns, giving up only our #ignorance?https://synapse9.com/signals/2013/12/08/ideal-model-new-architecture-capitalism-witha-puropse/ …

@umairh You’d learn from what I found, building new science using the same lead. Sustainability is more profitable. https://synapse9.com/signals/2013/12/08/ideal-model-new-architecture-capitalism-witha-puropse/ …

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Good Letters for comment,… on relieving our world’s economic panic:

  • to a World Bank expert on development,
  • to a group of NGO’s studying how to measure the SDG Targets and Indicators

Continue reading New dialogs needed – on “steering in heavy seas”

Getting the incentives right requires redefining the units of measure

This is a post for the UN’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals “Informal meeting on measuring progress” on the new science needed for achieving the SDG’s, “getting the incentives right” as many observers have noted as essential.   In part, it requires “New Units of Measure”   because there is “Something Very Wrong with our way of measuring impacts”

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The Need to redefine our Units for Measure and how to begin

Getting the incentives right:

To be effective in getting the results we want, we need to get the incentives right, a matter of understanding both how people make decisions and how the economic system works and would respond.   That involves knowing how to measure what decision makers want to know about.  For investment decisions, for changing how we use the earth one thing they’d want to know is their possible future liabilities for making the wrong decisions. That illusive goal is now much  closer to being solved, with this major improvement in the measure of the impacts of businesses.  The traditional way to measure impacts was to count up what you could trace, and this study showed that what we can trace is most often only a small part, basically because what was being left out was the impacts on the environment caused by the resource demands resulting from the revenue businesses generate as their main purpose, having to date only been counting the impacts of intended operations.   This discusses a comprehensive approach to quantifying them.    JLH

Statement to OWG 6:

Prepared statement For 9:00 AM Major Group Meeting of 12/12/13 on Means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building)  —  “The mismatch between measured impacts and responsibilities”.    Also delivered from the floor at OWG-6.1 the Informal Meeting on Measuring Progress” on Tuesday 12/17/13

Statement: Because sustainability metrics for businesses are just for the impacts of business operating technology, the environmental impacts of the people who operate the business, their employees and those of all the kinds of service providers businesses use to operate, don’t get counted.   Businesses and economists, thinking of money systems not environmental ones, may not see a reason to treat businesses as physical systems and count all their impacts, but you know for sure nature does.   So it’s very common for businesses and consumers to actually be directly responsible for much larger scale environmental impacts than they are told.    Of course the reason we’re measuring impact is for steering a redesign of our economy for the future of the earth, and it would actually be better to get it right.   Using metrics very often in error by 80% or more is really unacceptable as it voids the purpose of measurement in general, but you talk to people and they don’t want to change, sometimes mentioning the inconvenience.    Don’t you think we’d do better to think of the “inconvenience” to the investors who have been trusting us, who we are presently giving false guidance to for what to invest in? Continue reading Getting the incentives right requires redefining the units of measure

UN OWG-5 statements – SDG’s missing some signals

Last week was unusually successful for me at the UN, or felt that way.   The increasing openness of the process, and my good luck in finding socially acceptable ways to stay it, both helped me.  So I was able to bring small flashes of light to the deeper kinds of issues about “What to Do with the Earth” that the UN is continuing to expand it’s discussion of,..

toward defining the world’s “Sustainable Development Goals”  

It’s really an amazingly broad discussion of every aspect of how the “world we want” should work, a truly impressive effort, well, of course still leaving out the things that we are culturally blind to and at the same time feverishly looking for to save our necks in a terrible situation     Here are three of my statements for OWG-5, and capsule assessment of the UN’s Technical Support Team briefs for OWG-6 for framing everyones terms of discussion for the issues.

Yes, but can we REALLY now have energy and equity for all?
  1. Macroeconomics – of ever increasing inequity
  2. More Energy – for ever growing demand
  3. Mismatched measure – impacts missing from responsibilities
  4. Using the economy’s own steering not mentioned

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1.  OWG5 Scheduled 11/25 intervention Macroeconomic Policy  (circulated) 

Promoting growth at the limits creates severe increasing, not decreasing, inequities

The great variety of urgent SDG’s being discussed are truly desirable, but can only be somehow addresses together.

Monday morning Bernbadette Fischler offered a model that seems consistent with cost estimates for doing all this, that the SDG’s might for a period cost 2% of the income of the over developed economies to kick start the growth of the underdeveloped economies.

Say that worked. We’d then have 100% of world population using modern technology, adding their earnings to their investments to drive more growth, and so ever increasing competition over the earth’s shrinking resources too, adding even more strain on both people and planetary boundaries. Continue reading UN OWG-5 statements – SDG’s missing some signals

Natural Systems.. meet many worlds of Cultural Reality

I got a strong “like” from Mark Stahlman to my comment on Real-World Economic Review issue no. 65that led to A great longer discussion on the Cultural Anthropology of Knowledge on Open Anthropology .   We start a series of excerpts, mostly my writings, with my comment to the economics review journal.    J.L. Henshaw (@shoudaknown) commented in response to Edward Fullbrook’s “New Paradigm Economics” :

Culture was always what defined our realities, till we had to deal with multiple cultures, and found our selves confused.

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1. JLH Comment to Ed Fullerbrook 10/6/13: – 

A Solution that leaves out much of the problem

Edward, Regarding your new paradigm. I’m a natural systems scientist who has spent a lot of time on the puzzle of how economics became so detached…

I certainly applaud your effort to describe a new paradigm for economics, and see your approach as having the right intent and to be quite elegant in how you construct it. It still overlooks why natural systems will invariably depart from even the most faithful effort to describe them mathematically.

It’s that 1) natural systems change how they’re organized, and so how they behave, ALL the time, 2) all natural systems originate from a growth process in which they change how they work ever faster, to then change form, and 3) by ignoring #2 the present paradigm is to manage a world of systems that all expand and become ever more unmanageable over time.   It’s “impractical”.

What I think this exposes is a very basic flaw in our conception of nature. It seem to be coming directly from our attempts to define nature conceptually (treating nature as rules that we control), rather than using the rules we find to help us learn about it. What we have is an ever changing world, full of complex living natural and cultural systems we need to interact with, that are inventing new behavior all the time and fundamentally out of our control. From there I’m not sure what would help you understand my approach, as my terminology is likely to ‘sound funny’.

Continue reading Natural Systems.. meet many worlds of Cultural Reality