Sunday, January 17, 2010

Complex Adaptive Systems

I need to do some more reading about about Complex Adaptive Systems, so that I can do a better job of explaining the point that I have been trying to get across in earlier posts.


I have often advocated the use of scientific techniques to improve society. I will now try to give an explanation of what I mean by that.

The scientific process is a technique for gaining knowledge about the world around us. Hypothesis are formulated, then experiments designed to test those hypothesis. The data from the experiments is analyzed, then the hypothesis modified, new experiments designed and performed. In many fields, experiments cannot be performed, but the real world is observed to see how well the hypothesis explains what is going on. This loop of thinking, experimenting, observing, analysis, and refinement is a never ending process. Over time, ideas that are contradicted by the evidences are discarded. This is my highly simplified amateur explanation.

When I advocate applying scientific techniques to social, economic, & political systems, I am talking about this never ending self improving loop of thinking, simulating, acting, observing and analysis. The exact nature of this loop will be fine tuned in each arena, so the way physics is done will not be how politics is done, but the higher level iterative process can be applied in all areas. What is needed is to entrench the concept of constant and never ending improvement in everything we do.

CANI is an acronym that I got from the book, "Awaken The Giant Within" by Anthony Robbins. I don't know how good the rest of the book is, since two readings of the book didn't help me find the Giant. CANI is an acronym for "constant and never ending improvement".

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ecological Wisdom

"... the startling fact is that ecological wisdom does not consist in understanding how to live in accord with nature; it consists in understanding how to get humans to agree on how to live in accord with nature."

- Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (p 446)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Other Side Of The Coin

I keep ranting about Science with the focus on the physical sciences. Of course there is another side to our existence not explained by the physical sciences. Branches of some fields like Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy, & History apply scientific techniques to help understand the inner aspects of our minds and culture.

Science is important because it helps reveal the physical framework that supports and constrains what is possible. Your inner world is completely created by your mind. The problem comes about when people assume that everything that seems real in their head is also real in the outside world and for others.

Your mind is constrained by its history. First there are the physical limitations which are exposed by studying physics, chemistry, biology etc. The biggest constraint that is exposed by studying biology is the legacy of natural evolution. The physical aspects of your brain are mainly determined by whatever allowed your ancestors to live long enough to produce offspring. There is also the physical aspects of what your life has done to your brain, like nutrition, drugs, & injuries.

Then comes the constraints determined by your culture, education, & personal thinking. Much of what you take as being self evident are often not self evident to others because their particular history of how they have been programed by culture, education, & personal exploration is unique. This is also where you can apply your mind to adjusting these constraints.

Our evolutionary history is important because it helps explain things like why we distrust strangers. Aspects of our culture also contribute to this distrust of strangers. The higher functions in our brain are capable of inhibiting decisions made by more primitive aspects of our brain, so our biological & cultural programming can be overcome.

My challenge to you and to myself is to understand our own inner programming and also to give others some understanding by not automatically rejecting everything that contradicts your own worldview. You do this by constantly asking yourself questions like, "why did I do that" & "why do I think that", and by talking to other people.

Use twitter, facebook, second life, & other social media to extend the reach of who you talk to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Cure For Cancer

Do you think we should find a cure for cancer? Yes you say.

Why do we not make this a priority in society? Why do we not give scientist the resources to get the job done?

This includes bright young minds coming out of university and medical school to bring new ideas into the research labs.

Maybe you daughter or son will be the one to solve the final piece of the puzzle. Make sure your children have that opportunity. It starts in elementary school. If our children finish high school without a basic understanding of Biology they will have difficulty taking Biology courses at University and going on to medical school. If you are going to do medical research you need to understand how life works.

Natural evolution is the foundation that life is built on. You must understand evolution in order to understand how our bodies got to be the way they are and how the processes within the body work.

Evolution is the accumulation of small changes over time, and it is still happening. This is why new virus keep appearing and why flu vaccines need to be re-formulated every year.

Ok, not every kid is going to become a medical researcher, but wouldn't it be nice if they could at least make some sense out of what is happening in the world, and not be sucked in be every scam artist that comes along.

The Purpose For Science

In my last post I mentioned that the purpose for Science is to add depth to the meaning of life.

This is only one aspect of Science. Science is also the best tool we have for solving problems.

Science is also an evolutionary process. The methods and tools of science are constantly being refined so as to become more effective.

A theme in some of my earlier posts has been about how to apply the problem solving techniques of Science to other domains. In other words how do we get better at observing and analyzing things like government & economics. These things should be organized around what works and not on emotion. For example, the study of complex dynamic systems would likely lead to the conclusion that Democracy & Capitalism are the most effective techniques for organizing human affairs. Lets do the Science to figure out how to keep the positives aspects while eliminating the negative aspects of these systems.

One big problem with Science is: how do we get the general public to understand the scientific method and the results of scientific investigation? It is not possible to understand all of Science, the experts only have deep understanding of narrow aspects of their own field. The idea is not to know it all, but to have a basic understanding of how Science works. How did we get from a world where life expectancy was 25 years to one where life expectancy is 80?