This is a release of the 90% draft of my new paper, due to the substantial content, and wanting not to rush the ending. Some of the figures and captions are below
Jessie Henshaw email@example.com
ow living systems develop their complex organizational designs by rapidly evolving self-guided growth processes has fascinated scientific observers for millennia. Natural growth also still resists scientific definition though. Perhaps the delay comes from scientists asking the wrong questions, looking for deterministic rules for nature’s creative processes, rather than generative patterns of natural design.
Here we start from the broadest patterns, like how growth processes are evident throughout nature, even in every kind of work people do. Growth generally displays a three-part development cycle of beginning, middle, and end, but like a tree expands on opportunistic rather than deterministic pathways. Our problem with understanding it, then, might come from having so singularly studied nature for the deterministic patterns we can rely on, pushing aside the study of nature’s indeterminate building processes.
Another commonality is that whether it’s the growth of a mammal, a business, or a snowflake, the ultimate end is a state of complex perfection of design. On close inspection, that highly organized end-state seems to come from having alternating periods of diverging then converging (positive and negative) development feedback, first getting growth to start-up to then turn to perfect the design as growth finishes-up, as if generating a framework then filling it in.
Every economy is also an ecology, both a self-organizing system of mutual benefits which also relies on having positive net resource flows; both beneficial design and net material profits. Together these two faces of natural systems make a complex whole one can study from many points of view, but rely critically on all its parts.
Networks of mutual benefits are mostly composed of organizational, design, and qualitative relations, like that a cup holds water, or that a fish swims, or whether someone knows how to work with you, or whether a shop serves its local culture. Those aspects of design, organization, and qualities have no numerical definition but create the systems of mutual relations on which the designs of life rely, Some may be products of nature and others of fine arts and crafts: a fine meal, a delightful garment, or a meaningful film as inherent benefits of life.
Those benefits of life are also needed for the systems that deliver the physical resource flows that market price and investment returns determine the investment in, letting one calculate the budgets by which our world economy is managed. So to understand any particular living system, one needs a clear-headed understanding of how those two sides work together.
A tour of the evidence, from the 1780 origin of the greenhouse effect through its the major post-WWII acceleration
A preprint of a pending journal article of the same name is here. It’s a fairly short but thorough study, a data story, using the climate science we all know, to trace how humans have long organized our use of the earth to maximize the growth rate of our economic intervention in the climate. That exposes the fatal flaw of nearly all promoted solutions, the boundless plan for doubling our total energy use about every 33 years. Every kind of energy use for replacing fossil fuels would still then need to repeatedly double its disruption of earth systems, overshooting all planetary limits. That was actually the problem with fossil fuels, that if we had stabilized our energy use by about 1960 we would not have exceeded the earth’s long term buffering capacity and there would have been no climate crisis.
In the following figure you can see it quite directly from the long periods of constant compound growth in atmospheric CO2, before WWII and after. The ancient CO2 data comes from from ice-core air samples, until 1958, and the modern data from mountain top air sampling after that. WWII is seen as halting the accumulation of CO2, and the period after when we globally reorganized the economy using advanced science, technology, institutional and government cooperation to maximize the economy’s exponential rate of expansion.
What this implies is that climate change is not really caused by CO2.
Rather the climate crisis is being driven by our constant haste to reorganize the economy again and again to expand its conversion of resources into dollars as fast as possible. That we are not changing that organizational design of the economy would then seem to be the reason we are unsuccessful in getting agreement on how to reduce the quantitative reductions in CO2.
What is needed is to include in the economy’s equation for profits the value of the material, ecological, environmental, and cultural resources of the earth. The trick is to start with what you can measure, make the units “shares of the total,” and work to measure more. That would lead to a fuzzy but holistic and complete map of where we are really going economically. For reference, a model for that was proposed for inclusion in the UN’s SDGs in 2014, called “the World SDG.”
Blurb: The leading sciences offer a pattern language for nature in the form of interrelated mathematical equations. Scientifically undefined natural language remains needed for referring to and discussing the rich self-defined patterns of organization found in nature and discovering their roles in our lives. Those include general multi-scale patterns of ‘cellular organization,’ ‘mediums,’ ‘homes,’ ‘growth,’ and ‘cultures,’ and are among the guiding patterns of naturally occurring design this pair of revised 2015 papers explore.
The author’s effort is to bring together her long studied natural science pattern language of emergent organizational growth and climax transformations with Christopher Alexander’s pattern language of holistic architectural design, to be a resource for a combined design-science point of view. The discussion does not rely on a detailed study of either precedent. It relies instead on the reader’s own experience with and ability to recognize naturally occurring patterns of design. The text is arranged as a series of short essays, combining introductory and advanced issues, that one may read through or pick up to read and reread a piece at a time.
Vita: – BS in physics – St. Lawrence Univ., post-graduate math courses – Stony Brook & Columbia, architecture & landscape design MFA – Univ. of PA. A mix of rich experience and field study of energetic patterns of organization in emergent microclimate & other growth systems, showing how after growth the vitality of systems is sustained to make life so lively.
…. One of the more curious things about nature is how obvious it is that every natural design develops by its own individual growth process, building up from an initial design pattern and emerging as a whole as it runs its course. That applies to a storm, a volcanic eruption, a lightning strike. It also applies to smaller scale life systems, such as for personal relationships or conversations, human or other plant or animal lives, civilizations, ecologies, and of course businesses and economies. The living systems for which growth is a holistic building process, preparing them for long lives after growth, all start by organizing and expanding faster and faster at first, and then shift gears to develop slower and slower, refining and coordinating their designs to climax when ready to begin their long lives ahead. It’s a switch from scaling up the starting patterns to then take a sustaining role their environment.
… If that understanding, of how to succeed in life after growth, were to spread around the world, it could dramatically change our now doubtful future. Today our chances are compromised by our global inability to stop our ever growing our consumption, disruption, and confusion of life on earth, not knowing how to smoothly switch from the red to the blue curve, to get ready for a long life.
from a conversation on FB group Global Challenges Collaboration link to FB post
No we shouldn’t condemn humankind for being out of control
Sam Hahn April 23 at 11:05am
We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are exploited for false and destructive purposes. – Albert Einstein
Sam, No we shouldn’t condemn humankind for being out of control, not even for betraying ourselves in failing to study it carefully. It’s sort of “over the top,” in all dimensions. What most matters may be just moving people to recognize that we truly need to gain some control of our future, that we have a future worth protecting, that if we study we can discover the error.
I’ve noticed a curiously deep problem with our remarkable talent for conceptual thinking. Our great talent for recognizing patterns of control also comes with great ignorance of what we’re trying to control, as nature’s designs are actually beyond our understanding. So we regularly fail to see how our efforts to control things cause disruptions too, also leaving us relatively helpless in trying to heal them as well. That our minds so often falsely label our opportunities this way is a serious handicap, making it dangerous to rush into what seem to be our greatest doors to success. Recognizing that hazard is a useful pattern though, one I think you can see reflected in the great disaster prone themes of our culture, which seem associated with the bias of seeing the world through rules for control enabled by our talent for conceptual thinking.
There’s also a glowing opportunity to study it that people seem to shy away from, by looking closely at the natural creative processes by which things begin, the growth periods that bring about the transformation of natural systems in our everyday experience. How visible they are has been hidden from us, by how our whole society became organized around thinking about patterns of control, creating an economy using them to multiplying our control of anything profitable. Perhaps the most consequential problem with that way of life is just not having any second act.
Nature and our own experience are full of creative second acts for growth systems. Finding a second act for our economy is also rather necessary for our survival. It would also go a long way to absolving us of our feelings of helplessness and guilt about it. That nature is full of second acts for growth, of course, means there are innumerable examples of natural systems that began much like our fateful world economy behaves.
From the view of a fertilized cell in the womb, the world seems like a limitless resource at first, as it multiplies furiously,
From the view of a fertilized cell in the womb, the world seems like a limitless resource at first, as it multiplies furiously, going from one cell to a trillion in the nine months. That is the work of a systematic process of a growing system taking ever greater control of its environment. It has a surprise ending, though, that despite all the pain and danger involved often turns out magically well. That all successful lives seem to begin this general way, with a limited but highly creative burst of self-organization, followed by a period of developing successful roles in the world, is the general pattern, of successful growth in nature having a first and second act.
Our world economy seems to have gone through its great burst of self-organization, its first act. It remains designed to multiply ever further its control of human and natural resources, though. I see that as a clear symptom of our blindness for what could come next. That’s where the close study of nature’s way of creating second acts, transforming initial growth processes into final ones to create new forms of life, could help.
Where it would start is with subjects we know very intimately, such as how good personal relationships begin. New relationships seem to always start with a period of contagious development. If they’re to succeed that spontaneous wave of new connection is also graceful enough to hesitate, as it enters unfamiliar territory. That relaxation of the contagion permits a change from fitting together bigger and bigger changes in the relationship to fitting together smaller details at a finer level of attention. It’s a way to bring the design to completion by making it whole. So in short, for the world economy, we need a “relaxation of the contagion” to allow it to turn toward becoming whole, permitting our second act of growth.
That same kind of succession seems present in the origins of other things, as part of a universal story of “how things begin.” The turning point in the middle often involves a crisis, but is often as smooth as can be too. Either way it involves a new way of thinking, from beginning to completing a grand design, having the potential for a wonderful outcome if the emerging life is both careful enough and perhaps lucky.
a way to bring the design to completion by making it whole
Apr 10 2018 a Springer journal, Systems Practice and Action Research, published:
Systems Thinking for Systems Making: Joining systems of thought and action
J L Henshaw [Springer PDF here or Author’s here]
An exploration of what appears to be a new dimension and understanding of systems thinking; the stepwise learning and improvisation that evolves our thinking in the individual and collaborative processes of discovering how to make and do things in nature. The paper provides an overview covering basics, some history, and advanced subjects.
A review of the new systems sciences that developed since 1940 displays both tremendously creative effort to better understand reality and some current stumbling blocks. Variations on older tried and true techniques, like using models to help us study nature rather than represent nature, are suggested as perhaps pointing to a productive path forward.
Jessie Lydia Henshaw
Henshaw, J. L. (2018). Systems Thinking for Systems Making: Joining Systems of Thought and Action. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-018-9450-2
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.
Short version Voted a Top Comment on the Forbes article
“The Stock Market And Bernie Sanders Agree — Break Up The Banks” , a more full story follows.
The reality of the matter is as embarrassing as it could be. If you trace it all back to origins… it’s our very own greed causing the whole mess, our demanding that Wall Street produce ever faster growing **unearned income** for our investments.
That’s what is now backfiring on us as the serious scientists all always said it would. The earth is not an infinite honey pot… is the big problem our not so big hearts and minds have in grasping the consequences of our own choices. We simply failed to notice the consequences, or listen to those saying “beware of what you ask for”.
The truth is WE became “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”* and now we are dealing with having turned the planet into our Fantasia. The truth is that if we “Break Up the Banks” the financial system we designed to grow unearned income will just keep multiplying the disruptions the scientists always pointed to it causing! Are there options?? Well find someone honest who studies it perhaps…
Sorcerer’s Apprentice http://goo.gl/Zu69yD
(If this YouTube copy is inaccessible sometimes you may need to find another copy or just recall the heroic tragedy of it all, from the last time you saw it.)
Day after the NY Primary 2016:
In New York State yesterday there seemed to be a lot of answers, but we can all see more questions too. Neither Trump nor Sanders are offering practical ways of doing it, but clearly raised a huge chorus of “throw the bums out”, without actually identifying “who the bums are” as part of the questions left hanging. To the surprise of many Trump’s win was so persuasive it seems to almost legitimize his candidacy. To the surprise of many as well, Sanders overall persuasively lost to Hillary Clinton, and only had persuasive wins in conservative upstate areas. In ultra-liberal New York City, his claim to ultra-liberal leadership found really very few neighborhoods persuaded. New York is the kind of place that needs no persuasion at all on the legitimacy of his issues, but found his manner and inability to say what he’d actually do, and relying on a constant stream what had to be called rather misogynist digs.. caused him to lose legitimacy.
So nearly all agree the bums need to be thrown out, but “who the bums are” remains unanswered, and largely undiscussed too, The Trump campaign colorfully claims the intention to disregard all the rules to “get the raccoons out of the basement”, and with no strategy but public outrage, sweep away the broken Republican party and Washington DC political establishments. Sanders imagines that some executive order breaking up the banks and popular demand for relieving very real and widespread despair will remove all the barriers to doing that.
I’ve studies these problems in great detail for many years, and have in fact been expecting to have to somehow claim to have predicted this kind of grand societal collision with itself from the first time I caught a glimpse of the real problem. My observations are only a little more detailed and focused on locating who has a choice, who actually is “at fault” in that sense, as the natural disaster at the end of capitalism has been has been long predicted for what I see as all the wrong reasons for centuries.
That real problem is that “Wall Street” is the name given to the practices of the financial traders who trade everyone’s investment funds, and so… “Wall Street” actually already works for us, and doing precisely what we ask it to do. There’s just something profoundly confused about what we ask it to do. We ask it to manage the use of our idle savings to produce profits to add to our savings, and so multiply in scale without end except for letting the trader take a share of the spoils, Of course the bargain is that multiplying your profit taking from your world with no exception eventually destroys your world, invisible only if you don’t look.
I don’t know quite why Goethe did not sharply identify that ultimately seductive bargain with the Devil when writing Faust. That play is apparently his morality tale about what happens when making that bargain. He was, though, enough more clear in depicting it in his balladic poem Der Zauberlehrling, that Walt Disney used as the basis of his ever popular animated film Fantasia, and very pointed fable “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.
Our hero, Mickey Mouse, steals a look at the sorcerer’s book of secrets and immaturely calls upon its magic to command his broom to carry the heavy water of his chores, so he can sleep all day. As he awakes he finds the magical broom can’t be stopped, as Micky doesn’t know what spell to cast for that, and is flooding the whole house and castle, and so MUST be stopped. Then like people feel today, Micky picks up his ax to do in the boom for good…, but finds in chopping up the one it only multiplies magical brooms and the rising flood turns into a great torrent.
The failure of Mickey’s strategy would, of course, be repeated if Sanders’ grand gesture calling for “breaking up the banks” were to actually be applied. The various banks that have now grown overwhelmingly big, magically carrying our water so we can accomplish ever more without work, will all just continue expand, as long as we ask them to use our savings as before. You would just get more banks accumulating more disparity in the wealth of the world. Whether the phrase “break up the banks” refers to dividing up the banks into smaller ones, or separating their savings and investing functions, it wouldn’t alter a bit the basic service they are being asked to provide us as investors. They’d still be using our idle money to multiply, in some magical way, so we can be showered with fruits without labor, and left with the puzzle of why that can’t keep working.
Investors may or may not feel “wet”, but if you look around the world, everyone else does look rather soaked! It’s a quandary that we’ll have to resolve, why the secrets of creating wealth were apparently not shared by our process of enjoying wealth. So what’s clear, at least, is we now have a new job. It’s not one that Wall Street asked for, perhaps, but that they can’t refuse as they work for us. It’s to break with the Faustian bargain we made with ourselves, and perhaps stumbling some also stumble without regrets so much as anticipation, get about the work of showing the world another side of what we can do with our genius.
Here we don’t find ourselves without a plan of action, is what’s different from the many calls to protest, though the plan may need repeated adjustment and improvement in various ways. It’s ironically not like Bernie’s plan to “not take Wall Street’s money” either. It’s indeed to “take Wall Street’s money” we belatedly realize, because Wall Street is in fact just managing our money for us, and we just need to as for the right thing. That’s the real way to break our bargain with the Devil, that we do seem to be at a great historical point of rejecting. We can take our knowledge of wealth with us too, but only if we learn the other tricks needed to leave the earth whole and to share.
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.
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.
…and the laws that move you from maximizing power to maximizing resilience.
Like many young college women Kepler awoke that morning with other things on her mind than the project she had planned for the day. She had been dreaming about how she loved her drawers of personal things, in colorful piles, neatly rolled, in little bags and folded, each in its own style and fit together. Maybe she would become a “collector”, she thought, they gave her such a thrill. How nature was “quite a collector” too fascinated her too, creating all the natural world’s very special arrangements, with everything having it’s own individual home, utterly improbable in such number and variety, and so highly organized and grouped with fitting parts everywhere.
She’d also been told that lots of scientists thought nature’s patterns came from a natural law of energy, that everything sought to maximize its power, which honestly, just made her wrinkle her forehead… She did not know, of course, but thought there was something hidden in the magic of how things in nature so often yielded to each other, an obvious secret to how things come to fit so closely. So she quietly thought perhaps that seemed at least or was perhaps even more important.
What she had planned to do that day was use her old graphic calculator from high school, to do an experiment in rewriting the history of the economy, laughing as she said it that way. Could you show an economy as being responsive, seeking to get along, rather than just getting more and more aggressive in looking for, in the end, how to get in ever bigger trouble? What would it be like, she wondered, if people could be responsive as a rule. The idea had come up in reading that the climate change scientists, the IPCC, had said we needed to reduce world CO2 production to half what it was in 2010. It was only recently in fact that the world economy had been below that, and now everyone was saying we had to go back but probably couldn’t. She felt she had all the facts, though.
So she had the idea to just…
– totally redraw the history of ever growing CO2 – to show mankind as being responsive to the approach of climate change
She didn’t get it to work till quite late that night, but it worked! What she had of course been thinking about, and felt that anyone who mattered constantly worried about behind every other subject, was the strange continual way the human society was so energetically trying to destroy its own future. The evidence could not be more clear, with the ever faster consumption of everything useful on earth, that an economy maximizing its growth unavoidably does. Anyone can plainly see that happening, as climate change keeps accelerating faster than expected. Everyone hears about the ever increasing loss of natural species from disrupting ever more natural habitats too, and the impossible debts nations have accumulated making their decision making impossible, and so many other disturbing things.
It wasn’t a “debate” to her. It also wasn’t her “cause” either. She also did not really see it as her job to change other people’s minds. It was just something she personally needed to know, about her own life, and whether it could be meaningful. Continue reading Kepler→
New object oriented natural science for working with natural systems.