Category Archives: Natural patterns

So What’s Pattern Language? Mining design patterns from nature.

This is a good introductory description, excerpted from an email, w/ a little edit.  The abstract and link are for a paper on “Guiding Patterns of Natural Design:Mining Living Quality” for an upcoming Pattern Language of Programming conference.  

Alexander’s 15 Principle Elements of Wholeness – adaptation by TKWA archt.

Oh, it’s sort of magic..

the hope of course:

is that this emergence of a sound new way to communicate “wholeness in design”
leads to the world ‘transformation to living design’ everyone is so eagerly awaiting…

Pattern language is a new way of communicating design concepts, created by Christopher Alexander, an architect whose ideas came out of the same 60’s/70’s architecture community as mine did, only starting a decade earlier, and he became a wonderful architectural design teacher.    Anyway, his idea for how to ‘encode’ principles of ‘wholeness’ for architectural design elements was fairly successful, resulting in a series of books beginning with “A Pattern Language” in 1977, and experiments in urban design as recorded in “A New Theory of Urban Design” 1987, and in attracting a significant following.Then his methodology for defining ‘design patterns‘ did the magical thing… of being picked up and translated for use in other fields, a real technology transfer, actually representing the encoding of a set of rather ancient and wonderful architectural design principles, for other uses, i.e. “real magic“!  Where it had an amazing impact was on computer programming, becoming the basis of “object oriented design“, as a way of letting programmers communicate and understand their own design objectives, for both the wholes and parts of their programs.   Till the late 80’s when this new approach to defining design purposes took hold, programmers really had no good way to define the ‘parts‘ of computer programs, or how they needed to work together to make a ‘whole‘.

So having a way to define “working units of design” seems to me at least to be a big part of why modern programming became so successful, like maybe the other real secret behind the communication power of the internet other than micro-chips.  Pattern language lets programmers break computer programs into intelligible workable parts, representing real whole purposes and intentions.   It was Alexander’s loving way of describing the pieces of designs that did that, understanding and portraying design as a search for “living quality“.   And it caught on.  It provides a model for describing

  1. versatile solutions for common problems
  2. as a balance of the forces they resolve

Of course, one of the “forces” is whether we are creating a “living world” or an “inhuman world“, and whether the designs we make can become at home in our environment, to bring us and the earth living quality, or not.  That was the issue he was obsessed with from the start.  So, like I said, a sign of magic.

What’s more of course, is that his method of defining “design patterns” and my pattern science for understanding “natural systems” are awfully close cousins.  You might say they’re much the same thing in several ways, except his focus was on the patterns of wholeness for purposeful design and my focus was on patterns of wholeness in naturally occurring designs.  His “search model” for design patterns was “living quality” and mine was for “what makes life lively”, asked as a physicist who happened to have an education in design too.    So when I was introduced to his work as it had later matured (I really wasn’t “in the loop” or didn’t “get it” before) and I saw how it was being used by non-architects, I finally recognized the connection and now have lots to do!   It’s such a pleasure.

The work is to begin translating between the pattern language I developed for myself for naturally occurring designs, and the one that is becoming the common approach of many professions and communities based on Alexander’s approach, and do what I can to contribute to adding to the versatility of that common approach. Continue reading So What’s Pattern Language? Mining design patterns from nature.

The option called Circular Jubilee

Most of my economic writing revolves around what we inherited, an economic system design for changing faster and faster, exponentially.   It’s a dangerous design for which we now have no exit plan at all.

Lots of people mistakenly blame the use of fiat currency for the persistent instability and inequity of the economy.   The problem isn’t technically with fiat money at all though… It’s with the deeper compulsion of users of money to use wealth and power as a weapon (we call “investing”), to pay for professional help in taking more wealth and power. It’s the core behavior in question in “the tragedy of the commons” too, that one farmer uses his cattle capital to multiply till the community suffers. Fiat money (basing credit on the value of investments) would actually not be a problem if investors didn’t compound their investments… It’s of course also a broader cultural issue of ignorance about our place in the web of life… but I think the compounding of returns is from what the economy’s growing inequity and disruptions actually originate. I think if investors took care to spend their profits to relieve their demands on the commons when needed then an economic system with fiat money would level out and stabilize.

We need a mid-course correction for the evolution of our economy

What a surprise it will be if to avoid the crises we see coming today, the economy needs a “Circular Jubilee”?  It would be a massive effort to give away a great deal of money, very carefully, with the aim of slowing down the economy’s unstable acceleration.   Done correctly it would relieve the rapidly building strains we all see, letting us escape from racing the economy ever faster till it fails.

It would be like learning to take our foot off the economic accelerator, to relieve strains and coast a little at the same time.   We really need the relief.    That really does seem necessary to relieve the economy’s building strains in a lasting way.   It would restore society’s resilience and allow us to become more self-healing again too!    The design is fairly simple, …to do just the opposite with financial profits as we do now.   People would be persuaded to join together and turn away from collecting profits to reinvest in collecting more and more profits.   It’s that very widely practiced way of managing money for ever faster growing returns that also sets the course of the economy for changing at exponential rates of acceleration.   It has the globally destabilizing results we now see all around.

That traditional way of managing money we inherited is quite untenable in the long term.  The one truly sustainable alternative is for investors to learn to spend their profits rather than continually reinvest them! It’s simple math.   That’s the the Jubilee part, investors choosing to “release” their profits back to freely circulate in the exchange economy again.  The “circular” part is that those profits then freely circulate in the economy  again, and return to the investors as sustainable profits.   That is the opposite of how we manage our money today.

Today the profits concentrate in the hands of investors at ever faster rates, to only circulate in the economy with promises of being repaid multiplied.   It seems to investors that they are becoming more and more wealthy as their world and all its strains increase faster and faster.   That’s the fatal path, pushing us toward society’s many possible breaking points.    We can do better.

 

Compounding profits may sound good,
but driving economic change faster and faster
till we are pushed to disruptive and unstable change… is a real problem

 

((in the diagram, the choice is shown as the alternative between
“$Divested for Care” and “$Invested for Profit”. ))

How the finance economy gives way to the love economy, spending financial profits to earn them back

JLH

(note: first published in 2017 but back dated to 2014, as more consistent with proposals of that time. Using collective profits to care for the commons (rather than for abusing the commons) has been the natural general solution to the tragedy of the commons first recognized by Keynes, and that I’ve proposed in various ways since I first noticed it’s simple necessity around 1979.   For more of my writing on it search for my discussions of Keynes.)