Category Archives: Transformation

on the transformation of our experience of nature as we recognize our part in it

It’s the student that creates the education

Posts to the UN NGO Thematic Consultation on Education on how to measure and improve education for the Post2015 UN development goals.   My series of three comments focus on the tools a student needs to create their own educations… NOT on measuring the productive value of their educations for business.  We did that already, and overdid it.   It would do both students and society a great deal more good to look at the basic competencies offered, to see if students are getting the tools they need for exploring the world, like having competence in math, reading, and understanding ‘relationships’.

Productivity is often the assumed purpose of education, but has produced an unsustainable spoiling and depletion of the earth’s resources, now straining all its human and natural ecological systems.   So it’s our students who need the tools for guiding their own educations, to take us out of that dilemma created by the poor learning of their parents.

Schools and teachers should mainly be judged by their own peer and served communities, only measuring achievement in core competencies, and create a new core competency in “relationships“. Understanding relationships is a new essential competency for living in a world thrown into disarray by rapidly changing relationships of all kinds, caused by our prior vast misunderstanding the relationships between ourselves and the earth.


What he needs is the tools not the answers...

World We Want 2015 – Thematic Consultation – Education

Quality of Learning – Week 2 Questions

1.       1. How should learning outcomes be measured and how can measurement of learning improve education quality?

2. What would be your recommendations to address and improve the quality of education in the post MDG framework?


I. E-Discussion TWO: Week 2 – Quality of Learning
JLH Tue, January 15, 2013 at 06:11 pm

1. Based on my understanding of quality of learning, the indicators used to measure learning outcomes should be:

  1. … kept simple.  We should only use unambiguous measures giving confidence in what is being measured, like “numeracy”, “literacy”,  “understanding relationships”, “understanding design”, i.e. rudimentary life skills. Continue reading It’s the student that creates the education

The root conflict – in our own ideals

There’s unquestionably something wrong with a world society expecting to push the talents of its people and the resources of the earth, our cultural resilience and her ecological resilience, to absorb regularly multiplying scales of new challenge and change. It naturally gets out of scale with reality.

It gets out if scale by being a continuation of the path we’ve been on, but now pushing everyone and everything to create and adapt to ever greater change even as it becomes unmanageable. So it now increasingly pushes people and cultures to acts of desperation. It’s part of our whole culture, though, and is driven relentlessly by compound investing, the financial principle followed for seeking prosperity everywhere in the world, now escalating the challenges and risks.

For a fairly simple reason it becomes a trap, because the people leading society don’t discover the illogic of it, because they don’t feel the illogic of it. Increasing productivity by leaps and bounds had always been our ideal of “good”. It is perhaps the most unquestioned belief of modern man.

To have THAT become a serious threat is deeply unexpected. So only the people who can feel the counter-intuitive changes in the realities, (feel intuitively that the “logic” of the system has become “illogical”), are able to then maintain a motivation to search for the evidence to discover the real root of our emerging conflict with our own ideals.

the root of our emerging conflict … with our own ideals.

jlh 12/15/12

Search “Reading Nature’s Signals” for “feeling” to find essays on how we need to feel our way along, such as Emotionally proof reading your logical models.



Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

There are a great variety of reasons to organize people

Sometimes it’s to discover something or to accomplish something
Sometimes it’s to connect people who share their views
Sometimes for people who share a common world from different views…
(but have remarkably different talents and views)

If you know of good examples or methods not mentioned here,
please post comments

It’s Collaborative Work between groups of stakeholders that often “don’t speak the same language”.  It takes art, patience and a sound method to get them to immerse themselves in the environment of the problem or opportunity that they need each other to respond to as partners.

They find there’s more to the reality than they thought, and to each other. Continue reading Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

“Spooky theory” helps with wicked problems

A way to respond to experience we’re unable to articulate.

There are lots of cases when what attracts us to a theory is its sort of “spooky” truth. “Urban myths” often contain them, and science can often be the source of them, as well as cultural sayings and religion too, of course.   The value is that they give you, a way to respond to experience we’re unable to articulate.

For applying them to real world problems, however, it’s rather important to “do the work” of finding real examples you can study and articulate. What’s NOT needed is “spooky action” for real problems… ;-)  So here are a couple notes on how to find  real examples to help you apply curiously attractive metaphors and “spooky theories” to decision making about the real problems, such as our groping with finding our place on earth.    jlh

“spooky theory” then becomes a metaphor for something real you understand well enough to use as a guide.

Piercing the Veil: Markovich. Painting In Oil On Wood, 2006
    1. Spooky “biomimicry”   Sep 2012
    2. Spooky “Q.M.”               Sep 2012
    3. Spooky “chaos”            Sep 2012
    4. Steering for the organizational Lagrange Point Jul 2012
    5. Now real steering at the tipping points…! Jun 2009


1. for Greenleap 9/23/12 – “Spooky biomimicry” as “what to do”

Richard –  Ultimately “what to do” is a communal process somehow, as we’re in communal trouble.   Lots of people are seeking new directions of learning, but I can tell are often still using the blinders of the past to guide them… and not wanting to hear about it at all.    All you can offer them a more authentic way to search for new learning, hoping they’ll see it as fun.

Natural systems are the complexly organized and behaving “creatures of nature” that by definition operate without our thinking about them, or knowing anything about them, or doing anything, and are largely invisible to us.   That’s by definition “spooky nature”.   It’s also the source of all our mysterious stories about unanswered questions, and all our mysterious experiences.   What we can do with “spooky ideas” that situations suggest to us is then find an example that isn’t spooky, that we can then use as a real guide to how complex systems work and how to interact with them. – ed jlh

Continue reading “Spooky theory” helps with wicked problems

the commons, the milieu, the space of connection

Helene has a nice short inquiry into “Configuring yourself for the transformation” the nature of “the milieu itself”.   We’d been exploring ideas for how to define “the commons” as both a place and a trust, and a new paradigm for organizing people to make the world work as a whole.  I responded with what I feel is a nice concise statement of how self-organizing systems physically work.

8/27/12 Helene then also linked to this in her lovely elaboration of “the commons” approach and the systems thinking needed, as “Commons Sense for a Sustainable World”

Configuring Oneself for Transformation –

Our system of systems is made of parts that we could consider as coexisting in a milieu, an environment that is not just a container with properties greater than the sum of the parts, but that has a substance, a density, a richness. Something exists “in between” the parts, from which the parts get some “nutrients”. Many metaphors can be used, call it a field of possibilities and potentiality, a collection of intangibles that would precipitate serendipity, attraction, connection, exchange, osmosis… the Noosphere… and that would finally lead to a metamorphosis. Continue reading the commons, the milieu, the space of connection

Steering for the organizational Lagrange Point

A discussion comment from a LinkedIn conversation on Systems Thinking World to clarify what “steering” means for complex systems and in response to a question (paraphrased).

So can you describe how “small changes at a location in a system alters the direction of the whole,” discussing the theory, certainly, but also examples because this dense country boy sometimes has trouble wrapping his mind around abstractions.


Yes, it would help to think of “steering point” as referring to a potential for controlling the direction of something, unless also speaking of someone or thing using it to steer something. They might also be like Lagrange Points in space, where due to a balance of forces it’s easier to turn.

For natural systems there’s a particularly large variety of situations where “small change” has “big influence”.  It would include all the temporary positive “feedbacks”.  You might as well just start listing them at the beginning.  There was the “big bang”.  We didn’t directly observe it but from all appearances it was produced by a process that multiplied from small beginnings, and really really blew up.  That original chain of events was very small and had big results!

That ANY event in nature implicitly starts with its own “big bang” of a sort is one of the curious direct implications of the continuity principle.   The proof is that it would violate energy conservation for energy uses to start without developing, requiring an individual burst of energy uses and the development of the processes doing it for every event.

True, you often don’t notice them, but with a little experience you can find them most places, like in a keystroke.  Any keystroke begins with a brief multiplying cascade of focused energy releases to move your finger, “kaboom” is how it would sound if you stretch out the time scale and have a volume control on the energy surge moving your finger.   It’s the attack of the “ka…” sound at the beginning of that word (same use of “attack” as in music), that refers to the explosive growth period if the local self-organizing system that releases the directed energy. Continue reading Steering for the organizational Lagrange Point

Emotionally proof reading your logical models…

Excerpted from intro to JLH website homepage. JLH 6/29/12

I’ve written several short “what this site is about” essays, you’ll find in various places elsewhere. They all attempt to introduce a way to begin studying the eventful lives of the individually organized and behaving systems of nature, our many kinds of animated companions with which we share the environment .    It’s naturally quite hard to understand what’s happening inside a visibly eventful social group, for example, though we may be intensely aware of its presence. That also applies to much of the eventfulness of history in general, that life is a place where “things happen” and often for relatively invisible and apparently local causes.   Any natural system is defined by its own internal loops of relationships, is a way to state that as a problem, so for an observer, the working parts of any animated system start off being largely invisible.

One very powerful technique for probing the organization of eventful and self-organizing cultural or economic systems is one I’ve rarely mentioned.   Maybe it’s the one I should lead with, though.  It’s a way of using your two natural modes of thought, intuitive and rational, to “proof read” each other’s work.  It allows your feelings to read and inform your reasoning and vis-a-vis.

The effect of learning how to do that is to create “theories with feelings”, and “feelings that make sense”,  something that is some individuals achieve on their own, but is rarely if ever taught as a practical technique.  It’s very valuable for connecting your naturally “reductionist” explanatory thinking with your “holistic” intuitive and experiential thinking.

Finding the emotional content in a logic driven world

It helps overcome the problem that explanations are powerful tools but completely lack the responsiveness to their environments that intuitive feelings about things bring out.  Similarly, emotional realizations maybe responsive to vastly complex sets of relationships, but it’s rare that people can derive their more practically useful logical elements, what I sometimes call “cybernetic body parts” that I look for to use in explanatory models of self-organizing systems.

Continue reading Emotionally proof reading your logical models…

The mind’s “little friend” behind the scenes.

A great insight was mentioned on On The Media this week, on a language algorithm that detects anachronisms in Mad Men, exposing how modern terms and phrases that evolved since the time period slip in unnoticed.   It exposes how change in the world that people are not watching as it occurs, seem to completely escape our awareness. So new things keep popping up in what we think is “normal”, becoming part of the “ever present” reality we wake up with every morning.


There’s a wonderful, still deeper truth, to your story, “about an algorithm that detects anachronisms in Mad Men and Downtown Abbey.”

Yes, modern TV scripts intended to be accurate about historical speech do contain “tell tale signs” of our real ignorance of the history, particularly for the histories of change we don’t pay attention to.   We don’t, though, misplace the history of changing ideas for subjects that we keep track of, as they change.

The larger general problem that points to is partly that it is not just TV that is affected, for course.    What’s affected is actually all of “reality” that simply appears in our brains a fixed “ever-present” state of things, glossing over most all of the things in our lives that that are constantly changing.   Without the real data on the flows of change, we seem just unaware of the flow of time at all, is where I arrived at.

I’ve studied it as the quite important question of physics.  It’s just hard to catch your brain making the little sequential steps of change in your own perception of “the ever-present reality” every night during sleep.  It helps explain why science so strongly tends to represent nature as having fixed equations, but always a new changeless set of them each time someone tries to describe things.    I think the root of it is that consciousness seems to include a kind of stop motion image making function, that updates its whole “software package” for the next day, as we sleep each night.

One of the more testable illusions that seems to give us is how the “ever-present” of our consciousness deceives each of us so completely, into thinking that the world we see in our minds is the one everyone else also lives in.  That just isn’t so, of course, and so the data of the continuity of change shows clearly too (that I study).  The strong illusion that our minds perceive “reality” persists anyway!   Cool, no?

a Female, and a Male form of physics?

Peter Heffron had liked my idea for how our economy could imitate the natural means for a growth system to transform to become stable, in explaining my comment that “I think removing the growth orientation from “sustainability” might be a lot easier than adding its “getting the parts to work together” aspect into “degrowth” (further discussed fyi).  I then showed him the very simple world model demonstrating the biomimicry for how a profit seeking economy (rather than growth obsessed one) could smoothly change strategies in mid-stream to achieve it.

He suggested I show it in a full scale world model, a big task, and I asked if he knew anyone with who might be interested in inserting my biomimicry concept into their model. He replied in a surprising way, as if I might not have heard of my own field of science essentially, so I felt I needed to go back to basics in my reply.    I think it ends up being a nice statement, of what’s going on here, as a struggle to reconnect our theories with the natural world humans are struggling to find how to become part of again.

Women mostly don’t lose the basic ability to connect with nature, easily using words as being defined by the things of nature they refer to.   It’s men who get frustrated by that, and rely, to a point of complete preoccupation sometimes, on defining words as abstractions made from other abstractions, struggling to rationalize an abstract world in their heads. That difference is a large part too, of what distinguishes my new form of physics for studying the forms of nature in their own terms, going back and forth with the traditional physics for representing nature as abstract theories, connecting the two ways of thinking that all my work has been about for the last ~35 years…

Continue reading a Female, and a Male form of physics?

What sustainability & degrowth plans tend to skip…!

I’ve been working for 30+ years actually, on the mysteriously omitted features of sustainability and “no-growth” economic models.  It’s remarkably easy to demonstrate that the way markets work, multiplying money involves about equally expanding all the economy’s physical impacts on the earth.

So one is the perennial great omissions from the discussion has been how to end the endless “making of money” and so make investment growth responsive to natural finite limits.   Another is to deal with the problem misbehaving free markets, which just record popular choices, is direct evidence of popular misconceptions…  These are two very serious cognitive gaps in nearly all the “advanced” plans being discussed in Rio, is the problem.

I propose corrections for these in my two proposals, doing necessities first as a strategy, to avoid omitting them as the expedient popular plans keep doing:

1) and []

2) and []

They propose new institutions for adopting “commons based economic models” to make creating an sustainable world commons rather than development to solve the of world economic crisis, as proposed by Helene Finidori

3) and


Continue reading What sustainability & degrowth plans tend to skip…!