Peak Daylight Hours
The spring has gone by so fast. I've been keeping busy. Wish I could say I was having fun but that would not be the reason time has gone by so quickly. This has been rough spring quarter, as readers may have ascertained from my last post. Speaking of which, not only have there been a number of comments basically confirming my sentiments, but I have gotten a small flood of e-mails doing the same. I've heard from quite a few more teachers, K-12 and college-level, who are experiencing exactly the same kind of major shift in every aspect of the education field. The hit count for QE hit an all time high for one day at well over 1,000 in one 24 hour period and several days on both sides of over 700. I think I hit a nerve!
Today we start the slide down the daylight hours. Still lots of sunlight ahead until we pass the fall equinox, but I always get a little sad that the long days can't last, well, longer.
Still, the Universe is built on cycles. What goes around and all that. Or, as it is turning out some cycles are actually spirals. Our cycle of economic activity is turning out to be a downward spiral as the per capita wealth production declines with the rich taking more than their fair share of the shrinking pie leaving the declining scraps to the rest of us. The climate, too, is spiralling out of control. It is looking like 2015 will be one of the hottest years on record. The climate consequences are becoming so obvious that even the Pope has chimed in on the issues. Meanwhile Shell Oil is racing to put oil drilling rigs into the newly accessible Arctic Ocean to see if we can't recover more of the fluid that is causing the ice to melt in the first place. We are such a clever species.
As I indicated in my last post, next academic year will be my last. My reasons have nothing to do with a desire to “retire” per se. They have to do with the recent rapid decline in the environment here (and apparently at many other institutions as well). But that just means I will have more time to devote to my passions for using systems science to understand the phenomenon of man.
In August I will be giving a paper at the 59th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences to be held in Berlin, Germany, August 2 - 7, 2015. The theme of the conference is: Governing the Anthropocene: the greatest challenge for systems thinking in practice, and the paper is titled: A SYSTEMS SCIENCE FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF GOVERNANCE. The basic idea is to show a framework approach to using systems science to understand what social governance really means in light of governance subsystems in nature (e.g. how the brain governs our bodies and behaviors). My observations have been that the forms of governments in the world today are poor approximations of the kind of hierarchical cybernetic systems that nature employs to manage complexity and sustainability.
This paper is extracted from the next book project that I've started dealing with social governance. The basic ideas were developed in my governance working papers (under the title of “Sapient Governance”).
I have been playing around with systems analysis applied to human society in an attempt to understand many things, but especially why we keep messing up so badly. Of course I've already convinced myself that the root cause of that is our lack of sufficient sapience as a species. We're just really bad decision makers when it comes to long-term, systemic consequences. But, on the other hand, we've been evolving some kind of overall system, mostly by trial-and-error. If we can just grasp what that system looks like and how it works we might just be able to see where things could be put right. Of course, I don't mean put right for our current generations of humans. My general assessment is that the species is going to have to effectively start over from a greatly reduced population in the not-too-distant future. I hold out hope that this knowledge might come in handy for some more sapient peoples in the distant future. Perhaps they will have greater competence in systems thinking and be able to use a starter model to build their own societies. Of course it will likely be a society that has had to adapt to a hotter world and one with far less biodiversity!
Here is a teaser from that analysis. This is my current thought about the organization of subsystems in the human social system, how I parsed the first level of decomposition. I will be explaining my choices of subsystems and boundaries in the future. I just wanted to give you a little taste of what it might look like.
Figure 1. Human society can be decomposed into a set of process subsystems that interact with one another to produce the impacts of culture and consumption upon the Ecos. Society is an open complex adaptive and evolvable system (CAES) that takes resource inputs from the Ecos and produces waste outputs (heat and material). Currently the system is in open-loop mode of control with a very weak to non-existent internal governance subsystem in place.
The book on sapience will examine some of the “Humans” process oval from the standpoint of human cognition and consciousness. Another book, however, will start with this diagram and explain the social structures and functions shown here. I plan to delve into more aspects of the “Humans” process in terms of eusociality and reproductive biology that has been operating in a regime where natural checks have been removed by our capacity for technology. I will be taking a closer look at overpopulation and its consequences. I will also be looking at our somewhat negative cognitive aspects such as greed and selfishness that have come to their epitome in our current neoliberal, growth and progress oriented, capitalism that has swept the global mindset. Inside that oval resides the “values” model that motivates (or seems to justify) human behaviors without sapience.
Then I plan, if I live long enough, to tackle each of the other ovals and continue the functional/structural decomposition in each until I find the patterns of dynamics that reveal why we are in our predicament, but moreover, what will need to happen differently to avoid such a predicament in the future.
So you see, I have to retire from teaching in the school environment, both for the sake of my sanity and in order to devote much more time to getting a good start on this project — the systems analysis of the Ecos and human society as a subsystem within.
OK. Here is another teaser figure. This is the starting point for the analysis.
Figure 2. Human society is situated in the larger Ecos system, the planet Earth receiving energy from the Sun and evolving life and complex ecosystems within.
The other physical sciences have done a great job of analyzing the Ecos sans humanity so I won't have to worry about that. I will be using what is already known about the physical and biotic world to discuss inputs and outputs for society, but not doing any additional analysis on these subjects. The social sciences have been tasked with doing so for everything in Figure 1. My contribution, such as it might be, will be to frame it all in systems science to develop a much more holistic vision of the human condition.
Well, that should keep me busy in retirement!