It seems extraordinary that given 50 years of rapidly rising signs of deep trouble for humanity’s assumptions about life, we seem to be reinforcing our efforts to make them work, when they are clearly not. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.
Einstein is often quoted saying “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” That means in whatever situation we are facing, we need to rise up to a new consciousness. A new way of thinking.
But how do you do that? Well looking for exceptions to the rule for example, not just affirmations; for the growth rule, for example. If we **look around** do we find any living systems that lead healthy and successful lives that only start with growth?? Here’s a list of some of the things happening to us, at the cost of clinging to growth despite it all.
A baseline list of our existential threats we face: Top 100+ (existential) World Crises Growing with Growth Please suggest ones to add, either not seen before this list was written a few years ago, or not seen from my perspective if you have ones that really would become existential for what matters please suggest them
SOME CRITICAL INSIGHTS INTO THE CRISIS
Most of the world crisis comes from grand self-deceptions; things that seemed to work for centuries (or longer) now becoming mortal threats. Literally anything multiplied enough will have that effect. well known for centuries and probably longer. Overshoot wrecks everything!
Of course, words and ideas can deceive. So it’s critical that we learn to describe our problems, threats, and efforts to resolve them in GROUNDED NATURAL LANGUAGE. Common language is understood much more widely, and is often well grounded in ancient understandings of **life’s systems in context.** That potentially makes grounded natural language highly **scientific.** Concepts and words depicting reality “out of context,” not so much.
So **incorporating grounded root meanings** connects us to reality and by linking our thinking to genuine ancient insight into reality. Humanity evolved to have multiple cultural languages some rooted some flamboyant or purely imaginary, using abstract concepts; simplified images of natural design often turned into rules for success detached from their contexts. They may be very attractive, profitable, or empowering, but detached from reality they blind us to the drift or their validity and to certain disaster when multiplied without limit.
Of course, there are other kinds of personal, social, and professional entrapment in false thinking, but the ones that most blind us to their fatal consequences; leading good moms and dads to destroying their planet, for example, are the most wicked of them all it seems. They’re true cognitive detachments and fixations. Humanity’s separation from reality has many mentions in poetry, social experience, professional study, every since the oldest story of Adam and Eve. So now it seems to be why we’re destroying a whole living planet! Today corporate growth uses it religiously to multiply their remote controls of context globally — not working so well now — but still stuck to it like glue.
See also 1) my many LinkedIn posts & comments on it, one nice pair from yesterday is at: https://bit.ly/3ZrRaNo 2) my site and research https://synapse9.com/signals, a history of research notes and papers on it. 3) An excellent talk on how language shows clear evidence of having been built to connect us to reality: http://bit.ly/3lgdA6d Indicating another major urgent focus of work, on how our meaningful words refer to repeatable observations and experiences. 4) My favorite https://Etymonline.com root word meaning resource used a lot for writing the material for #3
READING NATURE’S SIGNALS
This site’s name, “Reading Nature’s Signals,” is what you’ll find here is all about. I noticed very early in my study of it, in the 70s, that ALL systems emerge by growing whole working energy systems. Growth is not studied much in science though, as science can find no good rules for it, one reason we weren’t warned about the need to use common sense when running planet much earlier.
I also noticed is that successful growth is an organizational process, that build the way a system works. Part of that is always for a system, as if reading the internal and external signals of its development’s success, and responding as a whole. We do that all the time, naturally, gauging the signals we respond to for “how we doing” and then acting accordingly. They’re mostly non-verbal and discovered and not taught. So, where do we learn that. It seems to be part of the job of life, to be actively learning and inquiring about life.
It’s a kind of very primitive but successful survival instinct, sometimes working great, and … totally missing at other times. The economy is doing both, beautifully, it’s survival instinct for sustaining growth is working fabulously, trained by people fixated on limitless growth,, taking the initiative to fill every gap they can to make the global growth curves as smooth as possible. That it’s destroying humanity’s hope for the future too, doesn’t stop it from very miraculously and and creatively multiplying its now fatal design.
World growth factors, once thought to be the “pluses” and the “minus.”
Some will say “gee when do I get mine, if we stop growth now” even knowing it’s needed to save the planet. They’re overlooking that SUCCESSFUL GROWTH INVARIABLY HAS A SECOND PHASE. One may call it “maturation,” “growing up,” “care taking,” “preparation” or other terms, but i’s about every new system needing to change plans to have time find how to really work. We do that with our personal lives, and find growing up not unpleasant at all, if cared for of course. We also make that switch from forming the new system (in relative isolation) to making it really work (in context). Literally every successful project and effort we make has that design change in the middle.
So… a good place to focus one’s work is to learn to recognize nature’s signals for when to turn, from innovating to coordinating, for example
Gee, I should have saved the draft and I don’t have time to redo the two or three concluding pp’s that were lost somehow, never happened before, either. But… What can I say, make it up as you go ! ;-)
Nature’s path for thriving new lives starts with a long burst of extractive growth, but then changes to become self-healing. Our economic growth started that way all growth processes do, but then we overdid it, a fatal pattern advanced human economies since the late Bronze Age, that has now become a mortal threat to us. So we did PART 1, and have now avoided PART 2 of the natural self-healing process till there may be close to no chance to fit it in before our societies collapse as the late Bronze Age and Roman ones did. We urgently need that stage of repurposing the growth resources to maturing and healing our new way of life to make it fit for living in peace and in harmony with our unfamiliar new environment.
Linked below is a talk given to the Bioregional Regeneration Summit by Jessie Henshaw on her natural systems design science on the opportunities for growth system transformation… something a little like birth actually… Self-healing growth systems reach their lasting climaxes by responding to their resources first used to multiply their scale to instead be used for healing what grew into its new world. As new lives, they change from growing to caring for themselves and learning about surviving the their new world and making their new place in it .
Our global economy’s problem is that we imagined exponential growth, we knew the math, could be perpetual. We didn’t know the experience would slap us with so many existential catastrophes all at once. That appears to be the big surprise the economies that discovered how to sustain growth before ours also faced, and failed to respond to. Now most of our ‘sustainability efforts’ are for delaying the change to self-healing growth, causing ever growing harm and waste of resources we’d use for much better purposes once we study how narture’s growth systems, as well as many that we more personally manage, take her and our systems to a peak of perfection in design, vitality, and longevity; caring for each other and our world, to enjoy what nature prepared for us, despite our earlier and continuing missteps….
In nature… the MIDPOINT TURN at the end of growth toward real life very often works quite smoothly, with the new life being of ONE DESIGN and fabric, having grown from A WHOLE INSPIRATION of some kind and remaining whole as it grows. As a result, it is also able to make a whole respond with its internal connections to signals from the environment of when and how to turn.
We follow the very same plan with whatever we create and care for to last. A – Start something, then B – make it work. Humanity has not yet turned to making the world work, our next big job, while carrying on with our lives too.
The most normally successful rule of new system growth is “create things to care for,” whether by nature or people. What gets it going is some small way of accessing energy and resources for accessing more. It’s an emergent “expanding spiral” process that, for people, we’d often call an “in-spir-ation” or, in nature, a “germ-in-ation”. Many other names, like “startup,” refer to it too.
As what is growing is a system organized to build with captured resources, it is more of a “find & connect” process than a “cause and effect” process. Of course, there are cascades of cause and effect, but they’re mostly organizational breakdown processes (entropic), not organizational build-up processes (syntropic). Mainly studying cause and effect ideas seems to be why physics did not find how to do advanced growth studies, despite the name first meaning “the productivity of nature” in Greek and then changing in use.
As a practical matter, one can often observe the little burst of energy with which growth starts or see some remnant of it. That aspect is fairly universal, whether for how new relationships start or projects at work. The same kind of inspired startup begins the work on a home, a new community change, organizations, and even making dinner and gardening. The success comes from following the burst of creation with a more careful process of coordinated care for the new design and fitting it, at its new scale, to its new world.
Also part of the path of discovery of where our cultures came from and the foundation we still need to learn from: The apparent Bronze Age roles of Hestia and Hermes
In terms of the ancient Greek history of our split consciousness marked by the emergence of modern science, between family order and societal order, I’m suggesting the one could come to the rescue of the other. The foundations of close-knit family and group life are still strong and seem to be, in turn, the foundations of all human societies too. So they’d be a healthy source of unified environmental rules that might communicate with societal institutions, and teach them how to see, by feeling their effects on their environments, reviving their instincts of wellness and survival. In Greek terms, it would be home life created in the early Aegean hearth home, the “Oikos” coming to the rescue of the “Polus.”
An opening came from distinguished Lehman College home science professor Pat Thompson. She found a way to reconstruct revisionist histories from what they disparage and what they are replacing, exposing the enduring Aegean Bronze Age culture,
One of the great turning points was the dawn of Greek science, with Thales, the first modern scientist, an Ionian trader who showed how to use math to make a fortune, set the new model. The idea of nature controlled by abstract rules of concepts and rules of control flourished and floundered again and again ever after.
At the same time, the new science culture proudly banished the earlier 2500 yr Aegean science of hearth and home, that our own family lives as centers with connection come from, associated with Hestia and Hermes, the first and only humble Greek gods.
The research leading to this came from Pat Thompson’s discovery of how to reconstruct revisionist histories and retracing the highly distinctive archeology of the Bronze Age Aegean hearth-home’s need for columns, leading to Greek architecture!
As a postscript — the problem with the great “centers with connections” of modern societies, commerce, and business is their losing touch with their contexts due to modeling decisions not on the common good like families do, but on abstract principles for ever-growing control of their contexts, human and natural. With the centers of power hoarding the profits of the societies being built, distributing enough to keep the peace but with no interest in distributing enough to care for our societies or the natural world all depended on, our ways of life were blinded to what became the “mysterious externalities” of global destruction directly caused by seeking limitless power! Who would have known? How did that get so confused?
More on the research is in my old notes on the Hestia connection called Hestia’s New World.
The imbalance of information about the costs and rewards of money; the intensely felt rewards and zero information on the environmental costs, has fooled humanity for ages. Even in our effort to stop climate change today, we aim to pay for reorganizing all our energy uses to continue the compound growth of using them that has now become so destructive.
It’s the irony thatprovides traceable links to the causes.
ALL our impacts on the earth are from using energy to mine, disrupt, and degrade the natural world we so depend on. When the effect was very small it was of course not significant. Now that the damage is truly threatening our future most people, and the professions leading it, are still quite blind to the ever-faster rising threats. So our “prime societal directive” is still to keep using our power to multiply our power.
The proof is relatively simple. The major impacts of the economy on the earth are all growing in constant proportion to world GDP! That means they are directly connected.
Oh boy, should we ever pay attention now!
The question is just how long have we been deceived by the imbalance between our information on the costs and benefits of money and its powers?
I trace it back to all the boom and bust civilizations of the ancient Middle East, then Greece and then Rome, perfecting the delusion of financial power being cost-free with every grand failure. This time we’re caught, though, having seemingly exhausted the quick fixes for delaying the final loss of the earth as a good home, that so far we have not earned.
The rewards of money are keenly felt and the costs are quite invisible. So everyone who truly cares about civilization surviving in some healthy form has a role in shifting our consciousness. We should all start improving our sources of information on what the economy really does to life on earth. Here’s a rough guide, called:
It’s an experimental but well-informed list of the many kinds so systemic crises for the world’s ecological and social systems, like how ever-increasing congestion pushes everyone and everything into more and more conflict!
We see that all over, right? Now study how growth regardless of limits causes it.
Think of who most needs to develop a feeling for what we’re all doing to ourselves?
Well, it’s all of us of course.
Those in most direct control of it are the investors, businesspeople, financiers, and governments actively working to maximize the growth rate of our power as it corrupts all of life on earth!
People with talents for reaching out to others are then especially needed, to reach out to the blind finance and governing communities, in effect now aggressively committing suicide for all of us.
Showered with rewards and blind to the costs it is very hard for them to feel emotionally threatened by destroying the earth.
Feeling the costs, though, as we do in overreaching personal relationships, is the cognitive steering that seems to give all of life its survival instincts, and so needed now to trigger our change culture.
I added to the comments: The article certainly lives up to its promise, detailing how more and more exceptions are being made to the Brundtland Report’s holistic definition of sustainability. Few people noticed where the perversion of the original meaning all started, though. It was with the VERY FIRST RULES FOR IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABILITY; HOLDING FINANCE HARMLESS FOR ITS IMPACTS
As a result, 30 years of policies, and efforts to reverse climate change, among other things, were designed around sustaining maximum economic growth, the most direct and fastest-accelerating cause of climate change. How in the world did we do that, with no one seeming to notice?
In a nutshell,
Allowing finance to hold itself harmless for our dramatic overshoot of the Earth, which it guided, paid for developing, and profiting from, misdefining all of sustainability as BAU from the start.
As a natural systems research scientist with long involvement in the UN’s development of its SDGs, I observed how it repeatedly happens. Financial advisors, such as from the OECD, have oversight of the regulation writing processes. The Brundtland definition of sustainability was then changed in the regulations, converted to reducing the impacts of businesses that they *seemed* to control. However, finance actually selects and pays for developing and promoting consumptive and polluting business operations, following a rule to maximize profits. What then does the greatest harm is the use of the profits to maximize the growth of more businesses based only on maximizing profits too. It is a case of power adding to its power, holding itself harmless, for the ever faster mounting harm being done.
Then of course, once everyone seemed fooled by that perverse ruse, it opened the door to do it everywhere else too. The next big one was how maximizing growth was promoted by defining sustainability around improving efficiency! Networks of scientists saw the gross error in that, but officialdom everywhere was fooled by that too. Why? Apparently fooled by it being so profitable.
Efficiency is indeed good for lots of things, at least till it undermines resilience; HOWEVER, when it is used to grow profits to satisfy investors, it grows business consumption and pollution too, another way to negate sustainability and redefine it as BAU!
More important seems to be understanding part of the cure. It is learning to feel the great changes going on around us as if they were personal relationships, that really have been but we often didn’t notice. My research success it is the key to our survival instincts, feeling how one’s relationships are changing. It works great for guiding us in personal relationships, and now the global changes have intruded and have become personal. Why finance is so blind to the threats to itself and us can then be understood as being so detached from its environment that it feels the profits but not the destruction, and sp seems to have quite lost its own survival instinct, having nothing but remote control profits, leading them and us all astray!
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.
New systems science, how to care for natural uncontrolled systems in context