Category Archives: Popular

frequently read posts

the Heart of it “from scratch”, from two systemic views

The heart of the problem “From Scratch”
from two systemic views.

1. Yaneer Bar-Yam is president of the New England Complex Systems Institute and Highlights the scientific research supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement.

2. Marc Calabria is a researcher at the CATO Institute who emphasizes as discussed on the PBS Newshour 11/24, the importance of addressing the stubborn structural causes (being widely ignored) of the growing inequity and instability, that are no one’s fault.

I quite agree with where each starts, and then draw the picture showing how our situation displays a direct conflict with nature, and a puzzle for how to apply the universal solution for ourselves.

Recognizing the natural mechanics of growth economies that would give us leverage and choice in the outcome.

Putting it together "From Scratch" from two different starting points.

Continue reading the Heart of it “from scratch”, from two systemic views

the Story of Broke – Part II (the end of broke)

The authors of “The Story of Stuff” published a nice little update called “The Story of Broke”, about the vast sums of money the government spends on subsidizing private business….   This sequel “Part II (the end of broke)” was first posted in a comment, on how the still bigger story of broke, debt piling on top of debt, both was missing from the list of now overwhelming government costs, and has a … very natural end. Government debt provides guaranteed growing returns, whether the economy grows or not. Lenders take government interest payments and add them to what they lend back, multiplying their lending and returns.   It builds up, slowly at first then explosively, as the world’s debt burden

grows on little but the good faith and credit of government guarantees.

You’ve heard of government debt called a “safe haven”. It’s where investors put money to be “safely assured of ever multiplying returns” when they can’t find even better growing returns elsewhere. Where that debt spiral comes from and goes to has been a subject of many have tried to explain.  The view Keynes came to, that I think is the most clear headed of all, outlines the necessities for surviving a debt spiral for a market economy.  Nature would surely not shape her facts of life on earth for our approval, but most people react to the facts of life for surviving debt spirals as if to reject nature’s requirements as “socially unacceptable”, … apparently not seeing Keynes’ elegantly clear logic.   So this is written in the story telling style of Free Range Studio in their Story of Stuff. —

The End of Broke, the True Whole Story of Debt!

The BIGGER “Story of Broke” is one that starts quite small, but is designed to actually keep growing ever bigger.   As it does so it also casts its own vote in the story of business influence in government and demand for subsidies and preferential services, persuading government that’s the way to get money to pay its ever growing debt!   It’s the story of how a small amount of debt naturally grows relentlessly big, with no natural end other than either creditors spending it or both government finance and economic collapse.

the spiral of dreams
Drowning in the spiral of dreams

The whole story of debt is a very very simple little thing.   It’s that some of us earn by $units and others by $%’s… and by providing guaranteed returns to lenders, in an economy you can actually earn by $%’s till the economy collapses.  What seems like a totally innocent “little difference” in measurement, between units and ratios, makes AN INFINITE DIFFERENCE over time in life. Some people have called it “our misunderstanding of the exponential curve”, others simply call it “greed”.   The problem with this kind of greed is how very addictive it is and that it grows explosively, making a “little greed” become SO.. GREEDY, with its promise to multiply the rewards of greed forever. Continue reading the Story of Broke – Part II (the end of broke)

Can we shut down the system for repairs?

My response to George Mobus’ last reply to me, got a little long, so I only posted the first few paragraphs as a comment on his discussion of “The Goal – Episode I: The Basic Requirements”

Can we shut down the system for repairs?

The first learning steps beyond the impasse, on a new path.

Well, shutting down the world for repairs would be conceptually neat, but does not seem to use the path finding mechanisms that nature typically uses.   She offers myriad examples of how run-away growth systems can change by maturing to become stable self-managing ecologies.  That’s what we need to do, and learn how to mimic, that our culture knows little about, importantly because science has avoided studying the opportunistic learning of natural systems all but entirely.

I know this approach is problematic for someone accustomed to representing systems with equations.    Real ecosystems are niche making learning and development processes, though, largely involved in “rule making” not “rule following” .    The far better conceptual models for them are of collective learning and environmental development.   Collective learning and development systems can cling to one systematic behavior while it is useful, and the break from it to find and cling to another model, when that is opportune, because the parts are actively learning as they go. Continue reading Can we shut down the system for repairs?

Does living in social networks change how we think??

The WNYC radio program On The Media, with Brook Gladstone and Bob Garfield is always insightful, and this week addressed The Personal Impact of the Web, and how the internet is changing human culture & society.   There has been some question whether the dramatic changes in how people think and behave are good or bad, or just “change” that older generations feel left out of…

Of course it’s “all of the above”, and I added the following as a comment regarding how in an information age, social networks naturally tend to create their own realities to live in, with the consequence of becoming detached from the changes in the natural world occurring around them…


"Cyberboy" learning that nature is now the network?

Bob & Brooke, Your ideas about how the internet is changing us are insightful and entertaining as always, but honestly, you’re missing the physics of it. The “internet generation” somewhat corresponds to the “productivity people”, the driving force of economic activity and growth around the world, and the internet is a major productivity tool, allowing us to control more and more with less and less awareness of it.
Continue reading Does living in social networks change how we think??

It’s the leeches that make us strong!!

I say it in that ironic way to emphasize the changing role of putting money into the economy to take more out.   It does make the economy grow stronger at first.   Standing outside the struggle of its creative struggle, letting your idle money milk it for more money, first has a stimulus effect on growth, but in real terms is always being being a leech on the system too.

While the system is discovering ever more opportunity to expand the more it expands, then “being a leech” at first does indeed make it bigger and stronger.   That corresponded to the period roughly from 1600 to 1950.

From then on it has successively weakened and foreshortened the future for economic system as a whole.    It’s the continuing use of money to demand ever growing earnings from one’s idle savings from the past, past the point in time when it starts accelerating the depletion of economic resources and opportunity, is the

“Mr Hyde” that automatically follows the “Dr Jekyll”

of magic productivity that being a financial leech begins with.

Continue reading It’s the leeches that make us strong!!

Urges, arousal, and Keynes’ “animal spirits”

This is a comment on  The Concept of “Animal Spirits” is a Red Herring, a June 27, 2011 blog post, by the blogger “Lord Keynes”, on exploring what Keynes really meant by people needing the urge to act, as well as a rational expectation…


Thanks for helping clarify the original meaning of “animal spirits” and helping bring out “the real J.M. Keynes”.    I agree:

Keynes uses “animal spirits” in the sense of “a spontaneous [human] urge to action rather than inaction.”

The sense in which his use and Descartes’, as

“the fiery particles of the blood”

are consistent is seen when observing that both would be referring to how people need to be aroused and have inspiration to act, i.e. to make emotional leaps in decision making, and not just form rational expectations.

That is indeed quite different from our having to be subjective in forming expectations with uncertainties.   As you say “The concept of “animal spirits” as used by Keynes is not even necessary to the modern subjective expectations theory. “   But then that is the subject you discuss, and seem to drop the question of what Keynes really thought was important about the need for “animal spirits” to allow people to act.

A related puzzle for understanding “the real J.M. Keynes” is his mysterious Chapter 16 of The General Theory.  It’s his concluding chapter to his grand theory of how to stabilize growth.  He oddly spends the whole chapter on the natural limits of his own model, however.    Continue reading Urges, arousal, and Keynes’ “animal spirits”

My most disturbing finding

The origin of this post, fyi, was a truly exciting insight, in the 1970’s as I started developing my new scientific methods for studying the organization of natural of systems.   I discovered how to recognize the eruption of new forms of organization in nature.   It’s a locally distributed process of contagious development, that people tend not to notice at all, or to call “growth” for the superficial changes in scale it is also associated with.  

It was quite exciting, to find that one could identify individual instances of nature’s general process of invention, from the self-patterned erupting changes identifying its internal and external relationships producing transformative changes in design.   You need to look for where there’s a distributed “falling together”, not a “pushing together”.  I had some training in improvisation that gave me a window of insight on how to open my perceptions up to observing it in the world around me.  

As it became easier and easier to identify, I began finding strong evidence of these “bursts of self-organization” seeming to be the “glue” of all transient organization and design in nature!   Then the question switched, to wondering: “Why in the world don’t other people see it??”.   Our modern world happens to be organized around sustaining its own ever more expansive self-organization… seen in our minds, as being a “constant”.    For more on the story, fyi, also see “a World SDG“, a proposed whole system balancing plan, using the first true scientific measure of sustainability  4/14/14  jlh   :-)


How to escape the mental traps causing mankind to destroy its own future and much of our living planet, is not so hard…

…but takes exceptional willingness to discover how nature works that you might have been missing.   It takes learning to observe nature making new sense of things by herself, i.e. real change .

Watching organized change develop in ways that clearly can’t be following human rules or theories, and so intricate they could never be fully explained, frees a mind to drop its assumptions and attempts explain.  It lets you just study and marvel at what you find, giving you fresh ideas unpolluted with the self-serving social conventions people mostly live by, that are the problem.

Watching nature work, beyond the limits of theory, builds fresh awareness, letting us put our own perception in perspective, to see and correct our misconceptions. Continue reading My most disturbing finding

Organic thinking and making things whole

Walter Hosack AIA posted on the AIA Environment forum to which I replied, about organic thinking as something architects could advance as a key to the survival of our place on earth, noting that design is always two things: “…The first is a gift. The second is a responsibility”, and suggesting architects have a broader responsibility to learn how to think and design organically, and help bring about a Symbiotic Period of life on earth.


In principle I couldn’t agree with you more, but to escape long standing habits of linear thinking in our culture we would need lots of true examples of organic thinking, and develop an awareness, motivation and technique.   The surprise answer I come to is that architects are already quite good at it, but have not quite understood how their approach to design could widely apply. Continue reading Organic thinking and making things whole

Transition to New Blog Site

Posts on this site preceding this one were transferred from my oldest blog, I called “Alongshot“, from its site.   My main archive of blog posts is still at my original “Reading Nature’s Signals” blog, perhaps to be transferred at some point, and quite worth site searching for key words like this one for mentions of Keynes.

The move is really from one directory to another, on, needed to upgrad the format to WordPress 3.1.3.  The old blog site just got to be a problem.

My original systems physics research is still at The physics of happening, and scattered around, along with my collections of images, reference libraries, introductions and writing .

My subjects and writing style, of course, will remain just as “primitive” (whether you saw that as a liability or benefit I leave to you) so the software upgrade won’t really change anything but the look and feel.   ;-)

Complexity too great to follow what’s happening… ??

I’ve been discussing since the 70’d how and why growth creates growing complexity and so growing difficulty of problem solving, as a natural physical limit of growth for systems with physical working parts of any kind.  A a discussion of the signs to look)  It’s both a real concern as a threat to the health of an economic growth system, and good proof that the natural world functions very differently than a conceptual model.  It led to my proposing a whole new set of scientific methods for how science can study natural systems in their own form, as forms of natural organization not concepts.

1970 marked the sudden end of steadily growing  US wages, and the start of ever growing wealth inequity. “Information overload” as a threat to societal resilience was becoming a key topic of discussion as computers emerged as our premiere business tools

Was that how the economy changed behavior, as humans began to be replaced by technology as things got too complex?

Below this discussion of the general problem is the blog comment from 9/3/2012 observing the strangely logical connection of the emergence of computers as a (false) solution for the ever more numbing complexity of our lives.

A follow-up Sept 7 2012 post Computers taking over our jobs and our pay? explores a fairly reasonable cause for the systemic decline in demand for the products people produce, that the computers making them don’t buy them…


Here’s a graph of the use of the word “complex“, as found in books scanned by Google. It seems to show a distinct end to the long historic growth of interest in complexity, apparently in pace with the increasing complexity of the economy.   The complexity of all our life issues, as well as demands of education, etc. have similarly increased with the growth of the economy, but only up to ~1963.

growing complexity, then shrinking interest

Google’s Ngram tool shows steady exponential growth in the use “complex” beginning in ~1840 and continuing to ~1963, where there’s a distinct growth “inflection point” (curvature reversal) in the trend.  The clear end of increasing use of the word is a little mysterious.

The 1960’s, of course, coincided with the actual time when the complexity of the economy’s environmental conflicts, the emergence of computer use, and the rise of true globalization were noticeably exploding the complexity of things…  That is also directly implied by the continuing explosive growth in real GDP, as shown in the combined graph below.

That divergence between the two trends would seem to imply that a very large gap, between the real complexity of our experience and our cultural awareness of it, began for some reason to grow faster and faster at that time.  It seems to have starting in the early 1960’s and to continue!

Is that really “the mark” of information overload?

The combined data implies a subculture developed increasingly intense awareness of what was going on, as the rest of the culture stopped being able to focus on it. Continue reading Complexity too great to follow what’s happening… ??