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George Mobus
Associate Professor, Computer Science & Systems, Institute of Technology, University of Washington Tacoma, author: Principles of Systems Science, Springer, ISBN: 978-1-4939-1919-2
Interests: Systems Science: systems science is the science of understanding how the world works. it is at the core of every other science. Given our energy and material consumption, and governance of our systems will we be able to sustain all life for the long-run. The Human Condition: the human brain has evolved , our capacity to share abstract/conceptual information, and our ability to cooperate in complex ways have advanced us to dominate the Ecos. but, should we confiscate nature to our selfish purposes? Do we have the wisdom to find a balance between our own desires, and the good for the whole earth?
Recent Activity
@Christian, Glad to hear from you. In my systems approach wealth is the aggregate of material goods and knowledge that allow us to maintain some semblance of organization if not happiness. Big parts of wealth are arable land, seeds, and tools. Profit is just the excess wealth (above what you need to keep the system going) that gets stored for a bad season. And in the agrarian sense you don't operate to maximize profit, too much of what is really important wealth (like food) could rot or decay. Those terms have been warped by neoliberal capitalism. Wealth now seems to include any material good no matter how superfluous it might be. Just the act of owning some new movie or computer game is counted as acquiring wealth. And profit is absolutely required in every operating quarter because it has become the goal, not the having of useful wealth itself. I don't think you will find a reasonably complex economic system that doesn't have a tokenized exchange subsystem. Money as a means of accounts, etc. is just too useful an invention to toss it out. Of course the monitary value has to be based on something legitimate such as the amount of energy available to do useful work (and/or its embodiment in physical goods and services). As it turns out I am starting on my next book project, which will be the systems science approach to "governance" of society. It will analyze various cybernetic mechanisms that we employ to manage (govern) our societies. Markets in the economy are one such mechanism but not the only or best one. Nor is our current representative democracy a particularly successful approach. But the study of hierarchical cybernetic systems holds the key to proposing more sapient forms of governance. Unfortunately this book may take another three to four years! Hope I live that long! George
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2015 on How to Save the Human Genus at Question Everything
@RE, You are certainly entitled to your opinion. It surprises me that from this one blog (and apparently discounting everything else I've written over the years) you conclude that my thinking is "linear and conventional". But to each their own.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2015 on Spring is Springing at Question Everything
@Philip B., thanks for the edit spot. I've made that mistake before for some reason. Don't know why. -------------------------------------- @RE, I hold us all responsible, citizens, politicians, business leaders, educators, everyone. We are all part of a dysfunctional system. The citizens are not helpless. They are simply lazy and, I hate to say it, stupid. The politicians and political string pullers are just doing whatever they can to advantage themselves. No one gets a pass in my book! ------------------------------------- @H Luce, As I responded to RE above, we are not in a situation where you can point a finger of blame to a single source and claim it is all their fault. What we witness is just the most clever (and selfish) people taking advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the lazy and uneducated. Neither they or the masses they take advantage of are doing the right thing if what you want is real egalitarian society. The bottom line is that we humans simply lack the kind of global systemic vision and strategic thinking, as well as the moral sentiments, needed to be fully sapient. If we were sapient (sufficiently) neither the tredders nor the trodden on would exist. And you, RE, and me would not be railing against the 1%! George
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2015 on Spring is Springing at Question Everything
@BC, I certainly agree with your conclusion insofar as the modern version of higher education is concerned. But a more sapient version of education will be needed so long as humans persist. George
Happy Vernal Equinox At my age, every spring I get to witness is a happy event! Would that I could say as much for the state of our world. The evidence for the accelerating advance of global warming and the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2015 at Question Everything
@Grant, The assertion comes from my modeling studies of stock-limited energy flows. Data is hard to come by since we don't keep accounts in things like free energy. The term, "global per captia energy production", etc. is not the same thing as free energy. Let's be clear that I use the term free energy in the strictly thermodynamic sense of energy available to do useful work. Free energy had been increasing in part because gross energy (barrels of oil for example) had been increasing more rapidly than population from the early 1900rds, due mostly to oil production. But the other factor is increases in free energy (even if the actual available gross energy did not increase) due to increases in efficiency (your second post point). Modeling is about the only way to tackle this question. My main motivation has been to "alert" people to the problem in hopes that someone would start collecting the necessary data. I'm too old to start a major project myself! Reports on my models can be found in this blog under the biophysical economics topic. George
Toggle Commented Mar 7, 2015 on How to Save the Human Genus at Question Everything
@RE, I agree that universities in their current form are going to be useless, as are most degrees. But I hold out hope that the notion of higher learning will not go away entirely. Not because my job is associated with higher ed (I am beginning to plan for retirement). We will always need some form of bastion for more abstract concepts and understanding. Perhaps only a few will ever participate (as it used to be), but there should be a light of knowledge shining somewhere. That is, unless we go extinct! ----------------------------------------- @D, There is a lot of lowered expectations and low achievement to be sure, but I still meet a number of students who are sincerely interested in the world and how it works. My own view is that these are the students who belong in higher education in the first place. Instead, higher ed has become the new "high school" because society has decided everyone needs to know calculus! Amazingly, year after year a new study comes out showing that college graduates who do get living-wage jobs rarely use much if any of the knowledge and skills they supposedly learned in college. George
Several readers have sent me e-mails telling me the Captcha (or whatever it is called) bot-filter is not working properly and preventing them from posting comments. If you are having difficulty and want to e-mail me your comment I will post them to the blog here. And I will let Typepad service know. -------------------------------- Here is a comment from Ruben A. John Michael Greer mentions the diminishing returns of knowledge in his post this week, honouring William Catton. I have come to think diminishing returns is one of the great nonunderstoods, like the exponential function. Basic literacy and numeracy makes life and work a whole lot better, but beyond that the utility drops off sharply for most people. Now, my mother always said, "Get an education, so you have something to think about while you are digging ditches. " I like higher education, but that mental stimulus used to be met by speakers and radio shows and books, not extraordinarily expensive degrees. The same diminishment occurs in the research programs you mentioned. There are no more discoveries of aspirin or penicillin, things that make every human life better. We are left with the hope we might help find a drug that encourages hair growth 5% of the time. So the fact is, universities are not worth public funding. -----------------------------------
Probably Administrators around here are frantic. The mood of faculty is black; morale is as low as I have ever seen it. The problem is that my university campus is not at all unique. I hear this from many colleagues... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2015 at Question Everything
@Grant, Sorry for the delay. My other job and writing work has been keeping me particularly busy of late. A lot depends on what you use as the definition of wealth. In my past writings I have stuck to the idea that wealth is physical goods and an ability to provide services based on the free energy available to a society, regardless of what any society considers to be something of worth. The amount of work (free energy considered) is going to be limited by the availability of total energy which is given irrespective of the society's definitions. I have addressed this issue of using GDP as any kind of evidence for "wealth" being specious. Since the calculation of GDP is heavily dependent on many possibly false assumptions and "tricks" used by different governments to make their numbers look good, I dismiss their use entirely. Instead I base this claim on the net free energy per capita which has been in decline (globally) since the mid 70s. You can't do more real work than there is free energy available so it is a better indication of what is going on in the economies relative to well being. AFA predictions of time scales, etc. I am particularly skittish on making any. The sense I get from observing the rates of change in a number of factors (e.g. the increasing rate of climate disturbances) and the "mood" of people around the world suggest to me that we have already entered the collapse phase. Moreover, I am guessing that we, in the US, will begin experiencing serious collapse symptoms (e.g. no food on the store shelves) in the next decade or so. Can't (or won't) be more specific than that. Please note that the proposals are more of a Reductio ad absurdum. I actually intended to point out how "impossible" the salvation of humanity in its current form and population size is. That I hold out hope for the genus is just that, hope. The elimination of capitalism and profit motive is a non-starter for every society that retains hope for greater wealth in the future - which means just about everyone. Even though people like Naomi Klein and I call for this as the only logical and physically feasible solution I have every reason to believe that societies will stubbornly cling to the model to the bitter end. George
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2015 on How to Save the Human Genus at Question Everything
@sari, I've also been thinking that perhaps a free market is the best way to raise the costs of living for most people... I'd like to know how you imagine this happening. How would there be a truly "free" market established? What would be traded? How would externalities be made visible and real? Markets are not really solutions to problems, they are mechanisms for limited-scope trading of value. ---------------------------------------- @Peakaustria, Thanks. ------------------------------------- @JR, I find it laughably interesting that so many people love to wrangle over the "details" of our forthcoming demise and discuss how it will unfold. This couch-surfing of the future has ZERO to do with the reality that will occur. Well in one paragraph you deride those who would think about what might happen in the future and in the second paragraph state that you know what will happen. What is your secret vision into the future? ------------------------------------- @Molly, Yes a recurring theme because it seems no matter how many time it is pointed out to the masses it doesn't sink in. I think one definition of insanity says that you keep trying the same thing again and again expecting a different outcome each time. By that definition I must be insane! Well, I can hardly be blamed can I? George
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2015 on How to Save the Human Genus at Question Everything
@Don S. The book was actually my way of aggregating and organizing what I think is the core body of knowledge about systems science. The latter is, in my view, the most basic knowledge that any society should have. So I guess it works both ways. I put it together and published it in the current environment to hopefully get more people thinking systemically. But it also acts as a repository for the future when these tribes are trying to maintain an understanding of their world. I don't see it as relevant to an expanding society because one of the key findings of systems thinking is that growth must come to an end and negative feedbacks will ensue. Anyone who studies the subject seriously is going to come to that conclusion (I hope)! ------------------------------------ @laodan, ...the tribal model of governance was not autocratic nor hierarchical. You may be correct in this but I was not talking about the past (except for noting the natural way that humans formed tribes). I was referring to the future under the stresses almost certainly coming our way due to climate changes. As you described, when under tension, tribes turned to their best qualified decision makers (presumbably the wisest) for guidance. I'm surprised that you characterize my work on sapience as not incorporating the societal view. Many of my writings in this blog emphasize the importance of societies in the coevolution of the human mind. I am working on a new book specifically about sapience - sort of the systems perspective on the human mind - that should make this even clearer. I think that salvaging or not the homo genus will be taken care of by nature. It may not have been clear enough in this post, but in prior blogs I have said as much. The point of this blog was more to show that it will in fact be nature that "takes care of" things. By stating what needs to be done by societies, I had intended to show that the likelihood is that the human salvage will not be due to societal intervention since the vast majority of humans would never go along with this program. Again I have written about this many times before. But I also view the human psyche as a part of nature, so cannot be excluded in thinking about how nature might take care of things. That a few more sapient people consciously take actions to assist there being a preservation of the genus is not outside of nature at all. The parameters you listed are in agreement with what I wrote. ------------------------------------- @RE Theory and practice should be mutually reinforcing! Thanks -------------------------------------- @Paul R-B, Thanks for the promulgation! I will visit to see how it is received. George
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2015 on How to Save the Human Genus at Question Everything
What Can be Saved? I am on record as saying I doubted that humanity as a global population could be saved from certain destruction. I have also stated that the species, Homo sapiens is probably not salvageable in its current... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at Question Everything
The shortest day of the year is here and I am celebrating. The sun has come out after a few days of really bleak winter-like weather. Lots of rain and wind. Happy Solstice to All This has certainly been an... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2014 at Question Everything
@anima, Yes. It is called the panspermia theory. It has a major flaw logically, however. Even if life did not emerge on Earth, it had to start somewhere at some time.
@Abena, Teaching includes instruction.
Toggle Commented Nov 23, 2014 on What is Teaching? at Question Everything
My new textbook, Principles of Systems Science, along with co-author Mike Kalton, is now shipping. I have no idea what it means but Amazon ran out in just a few days of starting to sell their batch! Of course it... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2014 at Question Everything
Thanks RE. Since I have written a lot about the nature, creation, and uses of money in the past and mentioned it in one or more of the blogs in this series I didn't want to clutter the main theme with it. Take a look at the past Biophysical Econ blogs and you will see how I have treated money. George
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2014 on The Evolution of Governance at Question Everything
Previous posts in this series: How Does Nature Manage Complexity? Systems Science and the Political Economy Governance of an Economy A Sapient Political Economic System A Brief History of Evolving Social-Economic Governance In the blog post, Systems Science and the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2014 at Question Everything
Is the day half full (of light) or half empty? They say it depends on your disposition. Do you tend to see the positive or the negative? The realist will pay only scant attention to the state of the situation,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Question Everything
@Steve H., ...managed to free ourselves from natural selection pressures through technological innovation to a great extent... Steve, this is a common conception that turns out not to be the case. It is true we have freed ourselves from the kinds of pressures that might have been active before we developed weapons, etc. but that doesn't mean we have completely eliminated all selection pressures. In fact we may be under more and more diverse pressures mostly of our own making. Humans have been continuing to evolve all along. The often used example is the evolution of lactose tolerance into adulthood gained by peoples who drank the milk of dairy animals. There are numerous other documented examples of more recent evolutionary changes as a result of selection pressures. Today the pressures we are creating are primarily social and even results of our technologies. For example due to so many electronic-induced distractions there are pressures on teenagers to have shorter attention spans. If this were to persist and an inability to switch tasks rapidly led to differential reproductive success (faster switchers produced more offspring) then evolution might proceed by the Baldwin effect to produce a race of people who were really twitchy! Of course that won't come to fruition because the culture that would drive such an effect will implode before enough time could elapse. Too bad. Might make for a very comical lot! ----------------------------------- @Aboc Z. The primary examples are the great cooperative socialization events in life history, such as the symbiogenesis that led to eukaryotic cells. The symbionts found that through cooperation they could continue to function. Synergy allowed for great efficiencies to emerge. Of course then biological (Darwinian) mechanisms took over and the new symbiont-multiplex evolved into multiple forms. Similarly, when cells entered into symbiotic relations. Either single cell types stopped separating after cell division or different cell types found working together benefited both (e.g. lichens) from the synergies made possible by cooperation. The energies needed to sustain individuated species were reduced or changed. At the level of organizations in society consider the typical consolidation and reorganization that occurs when a company, for example, finds its market share declining. If it is nimble and acts quickly it can reduce its work force and continue operations. Similarly, when two companies merge to gain synergy they can (at least they hope) reduce their separate resource requirements and realize savings of effort to accomplish the same job. Whenever you see an example of a successful restructuring or synergistic symbiosis you are seeing a system reorganize in response to external forces. Of course, more often systems fail to do this and succumb to destruction. George
[NOTE: I wrote this blog post a while back intending to put it up before the last several posts re: applying hierarchical cybernetics to political economics. Can't say why I forgot to post it, but perhaps it will help resolve... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2014 at Question Everything
@Don S., Spot on! I heartily agree. Sometime back I wrote several pieces linking education and permaculture in a sapient society following a Noetic hierarchy. For example: A Dream of Education for the Future (links to other musings inside). Thanks. -------------------------------------- @Sari, WRT: ISIS (or whatever name it goes by now). I largely view much of what is going on in the world today as the mental illness produced by living in our stressed-out world. ISIS is just one extreme, but the same mental problems are showing everywhere (e.g. Ferguson MO. where I happened to go to my first year of high school!) Homo sapiens is not yet sapient enough to have strong mental capacities to deal with the kinds of stress that we have created in our world. The West's mucking about in parts of the world that could barely sustain a population just to keep the oil flowing is an example of the lack of wisdom creating situations that lead to madness. AFA: democracy and different weights go, I'm afraid the distribution function of sapience is skewed too far to the low end (I am predicting based on evolutionary theory) so that it would eventually work out that still only a minority of people would have effective voting. The problem is how would society assess the competency of individuals. And with such an overwhelming part of the population suffering from low sapience wouldn't the majority rebel anyway. As sorry as I am to say it, I think the only solution is an evolutionary bottleneck and that will happen pretty much automatically. And for arts: Given that the economy I sketched is an ideal and only feasible if all the citizens possessed sufficient sapience, the existence and pursuit of fine arts would automatically follow from people being able to achieve self-actualization. And most would engage I suspect. With all hands helping to meet the basic energy needs of the society and that society not based on them mega-energy model of today's industrial culture, there should be plenty of time and resources for people to engage in creative endeavors. As for intellectual property, the whole idea of property ownership for the benefit of profit making simply goes away. I sometimes think that the most sapient people I suspect are also those who share without thought of personal gain. Perhaps I am just a dreamer though. George
Prior Posts in this Series Systems Science and the Political Economy Describes the basic nature of economics rooted in the physiology and psychology of the economic agents, in this case us. Examines the nature of markets of agents in which... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at Question Everything
I hear you. The e-version should be considerably less. And then, also, there is this blog! George