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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
Dennis, My basic arguments against libertarian thinking comes down to some questions about "what kind of animal are we?" and issues of scale and density. The former issue relates to the question of hyper-cooperativity in human beings. We are not merely eusocial animals. We are hyper-social and everything we have ever accomplished has been through cooperative behaviors. That means humans are always faced with sacrificing some of their own self-interests in order to promote the collective interests. Liberty, from a systems perspective, is a matter of how dense and interconnected the system of agents is. If people lived on intervals of one square mile, they can build any damn kind of house they want to, anywhere they want to. Their decisions are not going to subject their neighbors to hazards like fire spreading. When they live right next to each other it is a different matter. You need building codes in order to help prevent disaster spreading through the community. Now I will be the first to admit that governments, occupied with human beings, are not likely to find optimal solutions to coordination problems. They may very well over-step their responsibilities and impose rules and regulations that, to them, seem like good ideas, but, in fact, stifle freedom unnecessarily. The problem is not that we should not be trying to determine reasonable and helpful governance structures. It is that the decision agents that have to do so are incompetent at doing so. So they over-react. Is the question "big government" or "stupid government"? Our society, even out in the boonies, is dense, and complex. Too many different desires competing for too few resources. What you are observing is a system's natural tendency to seek an optimal steady state. Unfortunately the human agents who have to carry out the work of governance are simply incompetent to do so, in most cases. Libertarianism assumes that humans can make rational decisions, or that even if they don't their actions need not harm others. The former is clearly not the case (lots of recent psychology backs this up). The latter is also not the case since societies are so dense. I'm pretty sure sapience means that people are willing to accept that they are not unboundedly free to choose whatever path they think is best for them. Truly sapient beings are willing to cooperate for the good of the social group. That doesn't mean they bend over and accept every decision without appeal. But a society of sapient beings should be able to discuss issues and find resolutions Good luck with the transportation argument. I get your reference to the capitalist overlords, and I am no fan of capitalism, but don't forget that the maximizing of profits is also a libertarian belief. George
Tom S. I'll have to ask Gail about that graph. The units of energy are kilograms which makes no sense. I saw Gail at the last biophysical econ meeting in Montana and we talked about society's diminishing ability to do work. She looks at it from a financial-debt production perspective, but the long and short is that the lagging global economy is evidence that less real wealth is not being produced at rates previously had. There are several things to think about in considering energy per capita. First is that you are actually measuring the 'free' energy or that which is available to do useful work. Total energy production as conventionally reported by those agencies you mention, is in things like raw barrels of oil or energy content of a raw barrel of oil. The net energy available to do real wealth-producing work is quite different, and growing substantially less with diminishing EROI. Another issue is the simple fact of using monetary units in the analysis. This also got some press at the BPE meeting. Data for things like energy intensity, for example, are extremely suspect due to the government's penchant for jiggering GDP, inflation, and other relevant calculations. No one can agree on a $ equivalent to free energy measures, say in joules. Our cost accounting systems use monetary units to measure stuff with, not free energy units. That is what makes the analysis so hard. My model uses only energy measures (work actually). Finally there has been an increasing general malaise in the global economy (in spite of the so-called Chinese miracle, which looks now to be running dry). Growth in real GDP and productivity have not been keeping up with growth in population since the mid 1970s. Read Gordon's "The Rise and Fall of American Growth". He attributes the increasing malaise to the idea that new technologies have not provided the kinds of boosts to productivity that the invention of the radio, trains, airplanes, etc. provided to the early 20th century. I somewhat agree that technology (its kind) is an important element, but it can't explain the whole malaise as well as a decline in net free energy per capita can. That's my $0.02 on that. RE: the Flynn effect you should read what Flynn himself has to say about the epiphenomenon. "What Is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect", Mar 23, 2009 by James R. Flynn. IQ has always been controversial as a measure of something we call intelligence. There are now studies showing that people are loosing critical thinking capacity because of modern electronic technology (from calculators to TV to iPhones and GPS). In biological systems you use it or you lose it. And by the Baldwin Effect ( the possibility of future humans being even less intelligent because they are supported by advanced technology is a real possibility. You are correct that 30 years ago voters were just as uninformed and just as stupid. Not because of the so-called Flynn effect but because they have never been adequately sapient to become educated. Education isn't something school does to you, it is something you do to yourself, through work! What has changed is that the modern voter can feel informed because they read something in Facebook! I don't know about 'ever.' I think there have been rare moments in history when a handful of 'citizens' discussed issues intelligently, using reasoning faculties that our current population seems incapable of mustering. George
Toggle Commented Sep 24, 2017 on Anticipating the End at Question Everything
The comments have me perplexed and puzzled. What did I say??? How, Craig, from this brief post do you get that I believe the "official version of history". May I remind you that this blog is called "Question Everything" for a reason! Apneaman, you are welcome but I haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. By the way your response seems like you are particularly sensitive to certain issues. You seem to have read some intent into my comment that was not in evidence as far as I can see.
Will our civilization survive and thrive or collapse and descend into chaos? That is the essence of a number of e-mails I have gotten over the last few months. The number seems to have picked up with the election of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2017 at Question Everything
I'm sitting in Newberg,OR at my sister-in-law's house, just ten miles from the edge of totality. It is nearly 8:30 am and as soon as breakfast is over we will, perhaps, drive a little further south so as to catch... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2017 at Question Everything
Thanks all for comments. I won't be able to respond individually due to severe time constraints. I am preparing some comments on the interpretation of the Charlottesville, debacle. I see it in the context of a much bigger, global perspective. George
Toggle Commented Aug 15, 2017 on Anticipating the End at Question Everything
A democracy works only if the electorate are 1) intelligent1, 2) knowledgeable2, and 3) informed3. None of these criteria are true of the United States of America today (or actually of any country). It should be no surprise that the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2017 at Question Everything
@Don S. I am familiar with Sapolsky's work but not the other author. Thanks for the heads up. I will look into them. *Context is everything *Anything you can measure in the nervous system can be changed by experience I tend to steer clear of absolutes if I can. I agree context is very important, but it is not everything. That would be tantamount to returning to the concept of the 'blank slate,' something we gave up a long time ago. Similarly, there are any number of parameters in the nervous system that you will find to be stable under most nominal conditions. And things like synaptic strength do not modify linearly in any case. ----------------------------------------- @Godofredo, ... I find that most of the books around are just half way opinions To this judgement you must consider that you have or know the other half. Or are you just expressing deep disappointment in what has been written (and promised perhaps) vs. how things have continued to decline. I certainly share that sentiment. However, I still find there are new things to think about every day. And I appreciate the authors who provide me with information or challenges to consider more than what I already have. I agree with your final conclusion. "Big corrections" may be required but then the system is corrected to what? ------------------------------------- George
Toggle Commented Jul 22, 2017 on Summer reading list at Question Everything
I thought I would share some of the books I have been reading lately. All relate to the theme of watching the world fall apart. The End of Normal, by James K. Galbraith (son of John Kenneth Galbraith), the Lloyd... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2017 at Question Everything
@GaryA, Thanks for that link. I started reading the manifesto and it does look interesting. --------------------------------------- @EnkiAnuna, Thanks. What else is there to do. I hope my work on systems science and working with the global systems science community will come to something. At least it keeps me busy and out of trouble! -------------------------------------- @Godofredo Aravena, That is a worthy sentiment to be sure. I take your point re: witnessing vs. being part of. In some of my writings about the nature of sapience I point out that one of the unique things about our brand of consciousness is an ability to both be in the system and mentally project ourselves outside of the system - as if to see is from a distance. I think this is the basis of transcendence in many forms. For example, mentally witnessing a system of which we are a part is a necessary condition for self-awareness, e.g., seeing ourselves in the system acting on the other subsystems. Ergo, both perspectives can be true at once. ------------------------------------ George
First the MENA collapse. Now the EU collapse. What is next? The Trump administration provides clues. Depletion of fossil fuels. Climate chaos. Leadership failures. You are witnessing the end. Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2017 at Question Everything
@craig, we are definitely in a world of trouble. This world is coming to an end soon. What will replace it? ------------------------------------- @garyA, Colorful and apt. All those who are eusapient should be looking for their escape plans. --------------------------------- @Godofredo, Look back to my writings on sapience and eusapience. The selection criteria for the latter is at hand. ____________________________________ @Michael, It no longer matters how the "world works." It doesn't work. We are way beyond explanation of how the world works. We are in chaos. Nothing else matters. _____________________________________ George
Hamburg Germany is just a taste. The G-20 is the remnant of a failed economic ideology that more people are recognizing as the destruction of our world. You can hardly call them leaders. Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2017 at Question Everything
@Enki, It does, doesn't it. _________________________________________ @Molly, Glad you indicated "first" husband!!! If you get to Tacoma again, let me know. _________________________________________ @Tom, The ISBPE organization is still not very organized! At the meeting we had a business session in which it was revealed that there are still a number of unfilled "positions", including web guru! This meeting was a work shop so the presentations were not really "papers" as such. I don't think there will be a submission of papers, even though some of us have tried to prepare such. If I get a chance, I will try to post what I wrote. The main topic was EROI, but there was a considerable amount of dissension as to what that should mean. One significant problem in expanding the boundaries of EROI analysis is that most of the data are reported in dollar amounts and the analysts are forced to convert dollars into joules for consistency. The problem is that dollars are incredibly lousy measures of anything anymore. Financialization of the economy has distorted the value of dollars so much that nothing really meaningful can be said about energy costs converted from dollar measures. This will continue to be a major problem in BPE for some time to come, I'm afraid. ________________________________________ @Godofredo, Got your email, but will need time to digest - long! Not sure that one can answer the question about how the collapse will unfold. Too many variables, I think. Re: (in your email) the nature of evolution, and my "faith" in it, it seems to me you may be working from an incorrect consideration of evolution. It is not based on pure random events (and magic), as you suggested, though random events do play a role (i.e. mutations). Rather, it follows a pattern of unfoldment (covered in my book - Principles of Systems Science). That is why I asked the question about trajectories! ____________________________________________ George
@MM, Thanks very much for the link. I will investigate further and perhaps resurface my Sapience book! I can't necessarily address the probability/plausibility at present, but will dig deeper. Thanks again. George
I'm at the 8th almost annual Biophysical Economics meeting, this year in Montana (Flathead Lake Bio Station). The subject of discussions continues to be the energy issues that are an ever growing threat to humanity. There is such an incredible... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2017 at Question Everything
AP, Dateline: Saturday, April 1. Seattle Washington Computer Scientists Discover a New Realm of Information, An Alternate Reality In a news release today from the University of Washington, the Institute of Technology located on the Tacoma, Wa. campus, announced the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2017 at Question Everything
Hi Don. I am sorry for delays in response. I retired only to take on a number of publication duties and now am a slave to publication deadlines worse than when I was in academia! I will take a look at Nora's work. I met her and her mother at ISSS 2016 but I missed her talk. Get back to you as soon as I can! George
The elections are over. The new president is installed and has already brought chaos to the world, not just the US. History may not repeat itself exactly, but it does prove we humans have gotten into cycles of the same... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at Question Everything
@Don, Got your e-mail. Will follow up via that route. -------------------------------------- @Steve, Good to hear from you again. It probably won't surprise you to learn that the issue of population overshoot comes up rarely among systems scientists, probably owing to the dangerous political territory it enters. At least one wing of SS actually thinks that SS can solve the problem by increasing the carrying capacity of the Earth. I've had a few discussions with several of them (the techno-optimists) and I don't think their world-views are going to be changed easily. For the last four years I've been part of a four-way meeting with David Pimentel, Jack Alpert, and Ken Smails over the issue of how to convince the world of the magnitude and causes of the problems we face. Every year we look at different strategies and tactics and every year we conclude that given the prevailing delusions (e.g. the American Dream is still feasible) and momentum our efforts are not likely to make a difference in the majority attitudes. I suppose we will meet again as long as we're all alive (we're getting up there in age!) Part of what we discuss is getting a handle on characterizing the optimal population size given certain assumptions about energy and other resources that could be available for such a population. Even this exercise is problematic. My own perspective is that, of course, we need to continue to try, hope for the best, but I expect the worst. In my new role, I do expect to help guide the book series along paths that make systems science understood as the best way for us to fully understand our situation and develop some kind of solution. Wish me luck. George
Thanks all for your comments. The funny thing about retiring from full time teaching is that my so-called spare time has evaporated with these new duties. It is getting hard to spend the time needed to read these comments and provide an adequate response. May I suggest that if you have a thesis you want to share with the other readers, then feel free to use the commenting facilities here. If you would like me to read something please send me an e-mail with a summary of points you think I should take a look at and I will respond either to the e-mail or to the comment if I have any substantive things to say. For readers who have started reading lately I would recommend taking a look at the archives for older articles that might contain some useful morsels re: what I have already covered - topics that occasionally show up in comments. For those interested in the background on Sapience you could look at the working papers that are available through this blog site. If you are really interested in the topic you can e-mail me with a request for access to the whole book draft, available on-line in pdf format. There is a lot of information in that book re: explanations of mind, consciousness, language, and much more re: the evolution of human beings. Thanks to all. George
@Don, Thanks. I'd be interested in whether Siegel explains how the emergence comes about. I am always a bit hesitant about claims of emergence that don't include explication of the auto-organizing processes that produce the emergence. And it is also important to examine the interactions that the emergent process (e.g. mind) has with its environment to see how such interactions arise from the emergence. I see too many authors claim emergence as an explanation in its own right as if that is a sufficient explanation. My co-author and I covered this in our book - chapters on auto-organization, emergence and on evolution. George
Opening on a Hopeful Note I have been named Editor in Chief for the International Federation for Systems Research (Vienna Austria) book series, published by Springer, “Systems Science & Engineering”, previously managed by George Klir. I am deeply honoured to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at Question Everything
Dear Readers (those still reading!), My deepest apologies for not responding to prior post comments for a while now. I appreciate the many thoughtful comments and regret that I haven't had the time to go through them carefully and responded... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2016 at Question Everything
Humanity Needs a New Social Arrangement and New Understanding of Reality What follows is an exercise in fantasy or at least futility. Note that while all of the below are conceivable in principle, give some thought to what it would... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2016 at Question Everything