An interesting global question is, to me, raised by Ernst Ising’s work in physics – (see the arxiv pre-print on his life and work if interested. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1706.01764.pdf)
Ising’s main work in the 1920’s was deriving a mathematical explanation for ferromagnetism, the ability of atoms in certain solid metals to develop aligned spins, and exhibit permanent magnetic fields in there surroundings as a result. The part of that might be of interest from a pattern science viewpoint is how his model has been successfully applied to numerous collective phenomena, both other emergent collective atomic behaviors like magnetism as well as emergent collective macroscopic behaviors like the emergence of organization in crowds.
The math, honestly, is beyond me, but there’s an interesting assumption in the work that might be discussed from a pattern science perspective, that the math rests on treating such phenomena as arising from purely local interactions.
Ising Said: “So, if we do not assume [ ] that [ ] quite distant elements exert an inﬂuence on each other [ ] we do not succeed in explaining ferromagnetism from our assumptions. It is [thus] to be expected that this assertion also holds true for a spatial model in which only
elements in the nearby environment interact with each other.”
What I suspect is that there’s more of a wave/partical type duality present, involving both local and contextual interaction
in bringing about collective organization.
In the collective phenomena we observe there is certainly has a strong local character, whether it’s snowflake formation, ecologies, social movements or probably also the punctuated equilibria of emerging species. All such collective phenomena seem to arise in relatively small centers and then spread mysteriously. They also seem to require specially primed and fertile environments, as global conditions that are receptive to the local accumulation of collective designs.
So my question is who else is talking about this pattern of nature. Is this raised in Christopher Alexander’s “The Nature of Order” or other pattern language writings? Is it raised in the work of anyone else writing in the pattern language field? More specifically, does it need to be understood to know how to describe the contexts we work in, perhaps such that a calm and receptive and so fertile context is needed to be a good host for pattern designs to flourish?
A change in natural science is emerging along with “computing”
turning away from using theory & equations as a guide,
toward using data pattern recognition for
naturally occurring systems revealed in the data to be a guide.
Note: About 20 Years ago algorithms were developed for selectively extracting differentiable continuities from raw data, making a major step beyond “splines” for true mining of natural continuities from noisy data without regression. The result was quite successful forensic pattern recognition of discovered natural systems, their forms and behaviors. Combined with a general systems “pattern language” based only on the constraint of energy conservation, that pattern mining has provided a very productive alternative to AI for investigating naturally occurring forms and designs. The one unusual leap for applying scientific methods was to use it to capture the great richness of natural textures available from studying uniquely individual cases and forms found in nature. That is what overcomes the worst faults of studying individual cases, and so instead greatly enriches theory with directly observed phenomenology. The rudimentary tools successfully developed have been proven useful again and again with subjects such as illustrated below. 10/21/16
A long central principle of modern science, relying on defining nature with the information we can find, is considered here by way of eight examples of how important it is for science to also rely on doing the opposite, looking for patterns in the information we are missing somehow. Doing much the reverse lets us use the information we have to ask better questions about what nature is hiding from us.
It’s such an odd and obvious mistake to stubbornly treat nature as our data, as Neils Bohr and Popper insisted on and the QM community has maintained. Being limited to analysis and data creates a large blind spot for science, made unable by that limitation to learn from observation, and to see clearly how very different the “data world” (what fits in a computer) is from the “material world” (what doesn’t). The puzzles of found in natural patterns, turning up in ‘bigdata and various pattern sciences seems to be putting all of these matters into question again.
So I may take some unfair advantage, perhaps, by making a little fun of that prior arbitrary constraint on scientific inquiry, insisting that nothing we have no data for can exist. That of course is almost everything when it comes down to. It’s no joke, though, that our data is decidedly inferior for defining nature. Here and elsewhere I tend to allow that nature defines itself, as I certainly don’t do it.
The “Impacts Uncounted” article mentioned describes a simply enormous worldwide neglect in economic accounting, a huge mismeasure of lasting business environmental impacts. It’s caused by the traditional insistence on trusting the data at hand and refusal to look for what data is going uncounted, as if the fact that we can only study the data we have means nature is not being misrepresented by it, a curiously deep concern for understanding the scientific method. In reality there is more to life than the data we have. Treating “science” as whatever our data defines, then, actually means “flying blind” regarding all the kinds and scales of phenomena going unmeasured, the difference between nature and data going unseen. For accurate accounting, even older scientific principles need to apply, such as defining units of measure in relation to the whole system or “universe” for that measure, not just the part easy to measure, and so “Impacts Uncounted” is the effect of counting the global impacts of business using local measures, as is today standard around the world, a big mistake.
So these 8 examples are “data visualizations” that neatly expose where important data is very much missing, as a guide to where to go and look. Those hiding places exposed as gaps in the data turn our attention to phenomena of perhaps another kind or another scale, or on another plane with material influence perhaps. That is then what needs to be discovered and looked into. to really understand what the measures display and the systems or events they refer to. That the data available, then, always points to phenomena beyond the scope of the data to define is both the oldest and perhaps now the newest of deep scientific principles for interpreting what we see.
Is science coming full circle…? The answer seems to be YES!
Persistent patterns in data generally reflect complex natural forms of design, complex and complicated well beyond what data can define. So we present data in a way to helps show someone what’s missing.
Data from a natural source is generally biased and incomplete as a result of how it’s collected, and a “proxy” for various things other than what it is said to measure. So not really knowing what it measures, it is best studied as being another way of sampling an undefined universe, to become meaningful by discovering its boundaries
Patrick Ball’s HRDAG methods demonstrate comparing sources for death records in conflict environments, using the differences and overlaps to reveal the true totals. My own research shows environmental impacts of business are undefined, lacking a common denominator to make them comparable as shares of the same universe. Correcting the mismeasure appears to increase the impact scale of business by several orders of magnitude. In both cases characterizing the universe the original data is implicitly sampled from serves as common denominator for making the original data meaningful.
For discussing basic explanatory principles of physics used for forensic systems research
1. See where hidden connecting events shifted the flows??
Re: 18 – 21 Oct 2016 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (research ref’s at the bottom)
Fourth meeting of the IAEG-SDGs
SD indicators need one more, the World SDG
so Innovators can design their goals
in relation to the whole
My comment is as an expert on both system design and natural science indicators, on how innovative organization develops in both natural and intentional complex systems. There is a great depth of professional design practice that has yet to be consulted regarding the plan for the SDG’s
The general model of innovative transformations is that the emerging culture change, starting from some “seed pattern”, and then going through the classic phases of their own life-cycle of internal growth and changing roles in their environment (fig 1). There are of course many kinds of invasive systems and life-cycles. The type we are most often concerned with innovative transformations of human design, whether our own educations, or our society’s struggle to become “sustainable”, succeeds or not.
The earliest visible pattern is the emergence of an “inspiration” or “design”, looking for an opportunity to take hold, to have a starting organization that gets going by using environmental energy for building up the design. That energy flow for formation then tapers off as the transformation progresses, toward refining the “new capability”, or “new culture” or “new business” etc.
The natural goal is generally to stabilize the design as it begins its real work at a peak of vitality, beginning a long productive life. So in general, it’s to first grow and then make a home, to have a life. This model developed from study of natural change patterns , applying constraints of physics principles for energy use, that for designs to develop or change they need to develop new energy uses too.
I’ve been attending the UN SDG meetings for four years, first for the Institute for Planetary Synthesis, and then with CIVICUS, learning a tremendous amount, but also noticing the very distinct lack of systems thinking in the design of the SDG’s. The main reasons seem to be that systems thinking is not taught in liberal arts educations, and that the design of the SDG’s was mainly shaped by demands for change, by issue focused groups from governments and civil society, not experienced with how organization relies on designs to join differentiated parts. So ideas of how to organizing the differentiated parts when undiscussed and were mostly left out.
So the process produced 17 idealistic “goals” and 36 main “topics” discussed mostly separately, arising from a profound concern with the whole global pattern of culture change and economic development. Personally I had a wonderful time, but was also sad I never got to talk about my main expertise, i.e. on how the parts of whole systems connect. From a natural systems view the SDG’s may be spoken of as separate, but are all indicators of “holistic cultural growth”. They’re not really indicators of “economic growth”, as it’s whole culture growth that brings value to an economy not the reverse.
With the process lacking systems thinking resulted in missing systems indicators: for how differentiated parts connect, for how cultures develop unity and cohesion. The diagram below is mainly for study, a “sense making tool”, a “map of questions” to help guide innovative changes.
The challenge is our usual mental confusion, with our minds working with disconnected bits of information and but actually working in holistic organizations and trying to engage with holistic systems of our world. So our “maps” and our “worlds” show a “mismatch of variety”. So we need to constantly study and learn from new experience. To succeed with an SD partnership, the organizers first need to find a “start-up match” between its “own abilities” and “an environmental opportunity”. Usually it takes “a study of the context”, identifying “forces to make whole” with a “unifying response” ( a reference to “pattern language”) . In terms of the 8 kinds of indicators for planning change, it’s matching type IV indicators of whole system potential, one set within the organization and the other in the environment. The actual initiative might focus on one or the other…
The 4 quadrant map has “condition indicators” for “states” (how things are) and “guides” (what can change). It has “context indicators”, “local” and “global”. The four quadrants are repeated for the Organization and the Environment as a 3rd dimension for the array. This arrangement borrows a bit from David Snowden’s Cynefine “place” centered holistic complex system business design practice. It fits with the long lists of indicators of functionally different kind needed for the SDG’s
There are also other advanced holistic system design traditions to choose from. In all of them design proceeds in “stages” of team “learning”, “work” then “review”. With each cycle all the indicators being worked with are reviewed. All the indicators the organization uses to guide it are consulted in the learning phase of each cycle. The architectural, product design and performance design professions have ancient traditions of how they do their work. Newer traditions of system design where this kind of learning is studied include “action learning”, “pattern language”, “object oriented design”, and “permaculture”. None of these traditions of advanced design practice seem to have been consulted for the SDG’s for some reason.
I do hope the above is helpful
for where SDG implementations can go for advice.
My real reason for writing, …and offering this way of understanding transformational change,… is the oddly disastrous pattern of excluded indicators in the official statistics for the SDG’s. The measures of ESG impacts that businesses are told to report as measures of their responsibility, have many more exclusions than inclusions.
It is possibly unintentional but oddly very boldly “hidden in sight”, the clear exclusion of all responsibility for the disruptive impacts of business and investor money decisions. It comes from the modern continuation of the ancient practice of excluding all business responsibility for economic “externalities” of the choices for what to profit from. Some impacts of what to profit from no one in the past would have know about. Now we really do know most of them.
The very largest exclusion from business impact reporting, though, is one that anyone would always have known about. It’s all the human consumption that business revenue pays for to obtain human services, ALL of it, as if those impacts had no environmental cost. That one accounting exclusion is commonly five or ten times the impacts the rules say businesses should count. The indication is that we have not started doing any form of sustainable development yet, systematically making decisions as if 80-90% of the impacts don’t exist.
At the UN and in writing to people I’ve been finding most people understand all this fairly quickly, …but then avoid engaging in discussion, the worst of all possible responses for our world. The cover-up and avoidance is always the bigger crime.
I urge you to respond to the challenge.
There’s a simple way, too, include in SD reports one new indicator, “global share of GDP impacts” proportional to share of global GDP
It’s really important to start the discussion.
Thanks for all your dedication and work
The next more detailed introduction, to the “mostly uncounted” SD impact indicator problem, with references.
I’m writing as a scientist, and expert on the design of natural systems and natural science indicators. I had wanted to attend the Ethiopia EAG meeting on Indicators, due to the major neglected issues I need to raise. Not having a sponsor I thought to pass on some of it to others who may get there. It’s about reliable filling the unusually large gaps in the SD impact indicators used for decision making.
As a consulting systems scientist I’ve has been attending UN meetings for four years, observing the SDG process, and noticing the big gaps in systems thinking being built into the plan. One in particular is that our impact measurement methods are not holistic, but actually quite fragmentary. Just having better information on visible impacts won’t tell us about the growing system-wide impacts, so SD decisions will still be unable to avoid traditional pitfalls of economic planning. Going ahead with just fragmentary indicators could really then make the SDG effort backfire, perhaps badly, adding to the “externalities” of the economy not reducing them.
That we are not yet doing holistic impact assessment is fairly easily documented, as whole categories left out of the accounting. There’s an amazing list of things the economists (at the direction of the OECD it seems) have arbitrarily left out of the list of things to count. The peculiar result is that the exclusions add up to nominally 90% of the real total. The biggest category of exclusions is usually the largest category of business environmental impacts. It’s the impact of paying business people for their human services, and for professional services, financing and public services. As a result SD decisions to maximize profit are being made unaware of nominally 90% of the future impact costs of those decisions. It’s surely a long standing habit we can’t change all at once, but we desperately need a recognition of it.
The economists have historically counted the business impacts as only things the business specifically directs. That then treats the “consumption for production” of human services as having zero impact, the usual largest of costs and of lasting environmental impacts of any business. The same is the case for all other supply chain impacts that are packaged as “services”, all counted as having zero environmental impact.. Having so little information on the lasting direct costs of business profits has always been a problem, and when combined with not feeling responsible defining “business as usual”. Today SD decision makers are still trying to maximize returns with a similar lack of information, though, as if just feeling responsible would compensate for the misinformation. It doesn’t.
I think most important is not to pick fights but to raise discussions of our common responsibility to address our common interests, to begin to include ones we’d been blind to. The caution is that It’s common for people whose sight is suddenly restored to be in shock, so it’s caring for them not making demands that lets them see.
If you or others would like to follow this up, you might start from watching my video comment to the UN on July 11 (1), and read the short “Impacts Uncounted” circular (2). I found it very effective for explaining the details when talking with people at the UN. There’s also a quite surprising scientific solution that makes holistic accounting possible, first reported in a peer reviewed 2011 paper (3). How to use that principle that “shares of the economy are directly responsible for shares of its impacts”, because of globalization, actually, is shown in a general 2014 proposal to the UN called the “World SDG” (4). It’s not getting discussed much yet, apparently due to the shock. Another caution, of course, is that we need the old economy to build the new one, part of why transformations are complex.
The big mental shock seems to be realizing the lasting impacts of using money are not close to “zero” at it appears. They’re actually very likely close to “average”, for being so unusually widely distributed the way an efficient economy works, that to do most anything takes everyone’s service. That “reassessment” is an almost infinite change of scale in our responsibilities, after all. It directly connects what we do innocently with money with all the disruptive things the economy increasingly does as our growth model collides with the limits of the earth, ..hurting the distressed communities the most.
So what we need is for people to keep doing what they’re doing, and begin to assume they have a real responsibility for what’s going wrong with the economy and the world, in approximate direct proportion to their share of the economy.
I hope that connects with your thinking and gives you a start with mine. Please send me anything you think is relevant.
Good luck your good work! Thanks so much for your time.
The following is written for circulation in the “data science” research communities, on some advances in scientific methods of system recognition I’d like to share. It starts with mention of the very nice 9 year old work published by Google on “Detecting Influenza Epidemics using search engine query data” taken from a letter to that paper’s authors. Take the reference to be to your own work, though, as it involves system recognition either in life or exposed by streams of incoming data.
I expect a lot of new work has followed your seminal paper on detecting epidemics as natural systems.
But are there people starting to focus on more general “system recognition”,
studying “shapes of data” that expose “design patterns” for the systems producing it?
Any individual “epidemic” is a bit like a fire running it’s course, and sometimes innovating the way it spreads. That change in focus directs attention to how epidemics operate as emergent growth systems, with sometimes shifting designs that may be important and discoverable, if you ask the right questions. You sometimes hear doctors talking about them that way. In most fields there may be no one thinking like doctors, even though in a changing world it really would apply to any kind of naturally changing system.
Turning the focus to the systems helps one discover transformations taking place, exposed in data of all sorts. One technique allows data curves to be made differentiable, without distortion. That lets you display evidence of underlying systems perhaps entering periods of convergence, divergence or oscillation, for example, prompting questions about what evidence would confirm it or hint at how and why.
Focusing on “the system” uses “data” as a “proxy” for the systems producing it, like using a differentiable “data equation” to closely examine a system’s natural behavior. In the past we would have substituted a statistic or an equation instead. By prompting better questions that way it makes data more meaningful, whether you find answers right away or not. I think over the years I’ve made quite a lot of progress, with new methods and recognized data signatures for recurrent patterns, and would like to find how to share it with IT, and collaborate on some research.
Where it came from is very briefly summarized with a few links below. Another quick overview is in 16 recent Tweets that got a lot of attention this past weekend, collected as an overview of concepts for reading living systems with bigdata.
I hope to find research groups I can contribute to. If you’re interested you might look at my consulting resume too. If you have questions and want to talk by phone or Skype please just email a suggested time.
Individual organizations, Complex natural designs, Emergent forms of naturally occurring design,
Evolving organization & behavior of complex whole systems,
Discovering more and more of the hidden interior designs of lively whole systems…
One way of introducing the “what” and “how” comes from a “pattern language approach” to the science of “naturally occurring systems”, presented in a paper for PURPLSOC:
Guiding Patterns of Naturally Occurring Design: Elements
that I presented at the July 3-5 PURPLSOC pattern language research meeting in Krems Austria. It was in a group of papers on pattern language as a general science; with papers by Helene Finidori, Helmut Leitner,Takashi Iba Et. All.; Christian Aspalter & Reinhard Bauer. (links to follow)
As an approach to working with natural systems “Guiding Patterns of Naturally Occurring Design: Elements” seems unprecedented in using a fully scientific method for focusing on the “objects of nature”, using a pattern language approach to identify working complex relationships of natural designs, in their natural contexts, with nothing “held equal” or represented with models, a practical way to relate to the “things themselves”, as “known unknowns”.
The key is not to avoid data and models. It’s not to rely to heavily on them. It’s to just never use them to represent natural systems, but only to help you discover why naturally occurring systems and their complex designs are of real interest, and doing things quite different from theory. It turns out that Christopher Alexander’s pattern language, as a structured language for discussing holistic solutions, as designs for recurrent problems, has now evolved to let it jump from one profession to another. So, if the branches remain connected to the root… it seems to make a good foundation for building a new language of science, one that doesn’t replace nature with the abstractions of boundless theory.
The paper is a “sampler” of explorations of the topic, including an advanced “starter kit” of methods, terminology and examples, for how to use the patterns of natural design to guide efforts at intentional design and integrate with our world of natural systems. It introduces a way of recognizing natural designs as ‘objects’ in nature, with their own individual boundaries, allowing separate discussion about what goes on inside and outside, and using pattern language (not abstract models) to make verifiable sense of it. Identifying a boundary is what permits considering what goes in and out, and open up the use a traditional use of terms of physics and economics, for understanding the thermodynamics and the coupling between energy budgets and financial budgets, etc. for natural systems. Based on that, it would appear to make a true “object oriented science” a practical possibility.
The original paper introducing this from a traditional biophysical scientific point of view, as “Whole Systems Energy Assessment” (5). That paper can perhaps now be understood if interpreted from a pattern language viewpoint, as showing that shares of GDP measure shares of global impacts of delivering GDP… The economic system does appear to work as a whole, and the effort to validate that seems to successfully result in a far more accurate, and far more actionable, measure the impacts of our choices than efforts to directly trace economic impacts can produce.
For the translation of these and related natural system principles to the language of Alexander’s “pattern language” for defining “object oriented” principles of holistic design see the 2015 “Guiding patterns of naturally occurring design” papers for PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Language for Societal Change) (Jul 5 2015) (1) and PLoP (Pattern Language of Programming)(Oct 23 2015) (2) and related slides and supplementary materials (3). Also in the directory is a YouTube video link to the first 15 minutes of the slide narration, for the July 5 presentation of ‘Elements’, salvaged from a cell phone recording (4).
Need to update & add notes and discussion on both conferences….
It was reallyexciting to be part of, and to watch this new way of thinking emerge, PL as a whole system language for “designs of services” to balance and support
the traditional view of science as a whole system language for “defined controls“
The traditional scientific method doesn’t fit our new information world very well, with the rapid emergence of so many new forms of knowledge communities, computational science and commerce, seeming to take over. They are also being built on a foundation of science with major problems unsolved, like an understanding of how complex systems emerge and become unstable. The Edge asked What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement?, and got 174 responses, one of which was Melanie Swan’s answer: “The Scientific Method”. She points persuasively to the differences between the emerging computational approaches to knowledge and the traditional practices of science, and hopes a “multiplicity of future science methods can pull us into a new era of enlightenment just as surely as the traditional scientific method pulled us into modernity.”
There’s a flaw in that, though I generally agree with the hope. Science is still unable to study nature except in abstraction, representing nature as a theory of deterministic calculations. It’s been unable to use them to study 1) our own or nature’s great creativity, or 2) any individual thing or event, in its own natural form. It matters because our old habits of multiplying new forms until they caused trouble is now the foundation on which we’re adding an uncontrolled “Cambrian explosion” of new forms of computational (and often disruptive) knowledge. We also appear to be trusting the future of civilization to them, even as the radiation of old forms further depletes and disrupts the natural world. It’s seems we’re “missing something”.
So, my counter proposal is to open the eyes of science to the study individual natural systems as subjects, not just as abstractions, but to learn directly from them, to create an “object oriented science”. My years of work on that, creating a form of physics for studying individual natural systems, works by raising particularly good questions. For example, all natural systems that develop from a common origin as individuals are found to face a common pattern of life challenges, in part:
There are reasons to worry when the foundation for a radiation of new sciences is an “old science” for radiating new forms that make us quite unable to “fit in” on the earth. It makes it likely that the new forms of knowledge instead of correcting that, actually contain the same flaw as the old one. I think a very big part of that comes from science relying on representing nature with equations, that have radically different properties from the subjects that are meant to represent.
A counter proposal…
[first posted to IEET article] Certainly the recent discovery that “the world is complicated” (and both people and nature unusually *inventive*) does expose a deep flaw in the idea that nature follows simple scientific rules and models. That seemed plausible only because some of the simple rules of physics are also so amazingly reliable. Those still exist, and others are to be found most likely, but the question is: “What then do we think of them?”
I think we probably should not throw out the scientific method… particularly just because we’ve been misusing it. The common flaw in our use of science as I see it, and studied since the 1970’s actually, is its “misrepresentation problem”. The world is not a model, and we’ve been treating it that way.
The world is not made of numbers, not made of quantitative relationships. It’s made of organizations of separate things, often found in “improper sets” with the parts of one thing also often taking independent part in others too. It makes things in nature *highly individualistic*, and held together by some kind of “organizational glue” we’ve hardly begun to study. That presents not only a wonderfully interesting “mismatch in VARIETY”, but also several wonderfully interesting “mismatches in KIND” as well. It may not be ‘neat’ but it’s very ‘lifelike’, and opens all sorts of new doors!
So what I think we need to retire is not so much “science” as “the representation of scientific models as nature”. The article points to a number of the big discrepancies that have become too big to ignore, but where does that take us?? One place it takes us back to the age old “million dollar question” of how science is to refer to nature at all. What is it we CAN define that DOES NOT misrepresent what we are studying?? I think a quite simple place to start (and obvious solution once you recover from the shock, I guess) it to treat models not AS nature, but AS “our limits of measurable uncertainty about nature”. Yes, Popper and Bohr with turn in their graves… but models understood as representing upper and lower bounds within which we expect nature to operate, independently, will also be found to be much more useful.
If you actually look closely at natural behaviors you readily see that, that the paths nature takes are always individualized, and we can understand them much better having some information from past events to suggest what to expect. It gives you a straight and clear view of the all-important “discrepancies”. To make use of relieving science of its century (or more) of seriously false thinking, about nature being theory, what you then need are ways for science to refer to nature as “individual phenomena & organizations” to identify the stuff of nature that science studies. In our century or more of trusting abstraction by itself, that’s what I think science has been missing, having a natural object of study.
So, in a fairly direct way I’m calling for an “object oriented science” to correspond to the “object oriented programming” that has become such a big help for giving order to computer coding and the web. My main two tools for that are what I call a “dual paradigm” view (alternating between attention to ‘theory’ and ‘things’), and a “pattern language” view (the emerging scientific method of describing natural organization based on Christopher Alexander’s work).
Alexander’s pattern language is evolving to become a versatile general method for working with ‘recurrent patterns of design’ as ‘whole sets of working relationships’ found in ‘problems’, ‘solutions’ & ‘environments’. My new work describing how these fit together is being presented at the PURPLSOC and PLoP meetings this year, presents a broad picture of the fundamentals, and very worth using to begin the process of recognizing natural design as a working environment. If interested, do searchs for “dual paradigm”, “pattern language” & “Christopher Alexander” both on the web and in this journal.
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.
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 ‘designpatterns‘ 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. “realmagic“! 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
versatile solutions for common problems
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.
Creating a Commons takes thought leadership, and
Thought Leadership takes midcourse corrections
One thing “thought leaders” need to be aware of is that “leading” always requires mid-course corrections. Any start-up organization that sticks with growth as its plan and doesn’t switch to a goal for fulfillment has a default plan for destabilizing excesses in what it does, just for not having a goal that is attainable. The two strategies are both essential but involve different leadership, for a shift from building internal to external relationships!
The natural strategy for building organizations starts with establishing self-identity and expansion by using its resources for capturing more resources. That serves to grow its internal organization. If successful it needs to be followed by a change to defining its independence and fulfilling roles in the new environment it finds itself in. Having defined itself first, is then turns to setting out its own niche within and in harmony with communities of others, having made its identity first to then make its home.
Today the need is for leadership in a world that as a whole acts as if fully committed to destabilizing excess, clearly lacking even the language to talk about anything else. Changing that seems like the first step then, toward our eventually being able to conceive of and bring about our own fulfillment.
The Initial Image of the Commons
A vital hive of activity, a self-sufficient family or network structure, in which every part connects directly with every other, an internal world of complementary roles for an economy of cooperation,
a thriving whole and sum greater than the parts.
The More General Pattern of the Commons
Each silo of culture is the home for
a different way of living, a hive of commune-ication a self-identity pulsing with life,
none of which are nearly as alone in the universe and their internal images of completeness make it seem.
key organizational elements for the working relationships of complex systems
ideas of complex relationships that fit the reality
We care because of the new bridge it creates between human ideas and the working organization of complex working systems we make, use and need to respond to of all kinds, an emerging broad advance in understanding complex system organization design. The idea of pattern language, invented by Christopher Alexander for architectural design in the 70’s, actually started blossoming some time ago, it a most surprising place, in the creation of complex design concepts for computer programming known as “object oriented design”.
As it continues to expand and mature it is becoming a wonderfully versatile method for sharing and recording expert understandings of “how relationships work”, with application to almost any fields. It became the basis of modern computer programming, as “object oriented design“, with each object fulfilling a “pattern of relationships” that connects with others. For me… its a language I can begin to use to translate my research on natural system designs into, into “JPL” (aka Jessie’s Pattern Language), for subjects such as how natural systems transition from “type-r” to “type-K” behaviors (a subject underlying much of the discussion on RNS of complex system successions,life stages and cycles,”dual paradigm views”, “organizational stage models”, as observable patterns of organized change in relationships).
The reason it works for “object oriented” programming and “natural systems science” and in other areas too, appear to be the same. Pattern languages let people use their considerable natural understanding of complex relationships, like “home” “friends” “communication” “trust” “patience” etc. to open our eyes to similarly complex working relationships and meanings of complex systems elsewhere too, as “designs”. The standard “design pattern” of pattern languages connects human relationship concepts to working organizational relationships of behavioral systems of ANY kind. That seems to be why the design model that Alexander invented turns out to be so adaptable to our needs in our now overwhelmingly complex new world…! ;-) I can see it readily becoming applied to breaking down the silos of separation between knowledge disciplines, too, the so called “blind men and the elephant problem”, something just completely unimaginable in reality today.
Pattern Languages are for
1. identifying key organizational elements in systems of complex relationships, found in nature or in design practice,
2. communicating design elements for complexly organized systems or illuminating them in existing natural or manmade ones.
3. using the design pattern to refer back to the original natural forms and contexts from which it originated or is used to represent.
Two natural system design patterns, (for example):
Moving with the Flow
Sometimes you watch the people, sometimes their flows. The flows are roles in larger scale systems of group motion, forming as people avoid interference, but can confine them till they find an opening too. Markets flows form paths and break from them as new paths are found, often flocking in chase of a wave of anticipation, or uncertainty moving leaderless floods. Those are puzzling, since there may be no news the contagious change in direction, but systemic change generally usually has a real cause. Flocks of birds appear to do it just for fun though.
Alternating roles that Fit
Both natural and human designed complex organizations have independent parts that create emergent properties by fitting multiple roles. Day and night, male and female, work and relaxation, pencil and paper, cup and liquid, all the amazing polarities that produce reliable results because of how they fit their multiple roles, quite unlike any set of fixed rules could ever do. The trick is only physical parts and their relationships can do that, and a pattern language those relationships provide a way to develop concepts for understanding the working parts.
There are many types of Natural Pattern Languages, generally depending on the organizational medium (material and environment)
Social organization pattern languages
Natural system pattern languages
Architectural and Urban design pattern languages
Cultural pattern languages
Abstract Scientific pattern languages
Educational pattern languages
Computer knowledge design pattern languages
Commons & community design pattern languages
Economic pattern languages
Movie making pattern languages
Organizing pattern languages
There are three uses of the term “pattern language”,
1. As the collection of design elements and patterns used to design or describe working complex systems
2. As an the organizational language of an individual design project describing its working relationships as a whole
3. As a property of an individual complex system, consisting of the working relationships between its parts and its environment, that might be view from various perspectives to recognize different elements.
So they’re simple conceptual models designed as versatile tools for engaging our minds with the actual working organization and relationships of natural and designed complexly organized parts of our world. So they come in those two basic forms, as Design Patterns one uses to guide the implementation of some plan or as Natural Patterns used to help people understand how designs can fit in with natural organizations.