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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
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 2 days ago at Question Everything
I hear you. The e-version should be considerably less. And then, also, there is this blog! George
@dmf Sadly the book has a price! There is an e-version available (soon). But the hardcover will be $76 I think, which is quite reasonable for a textbook. My thought was that the book should come out as a textbook in hopes that schools would start up systems courses. Not having a textbook of this kind seems to have been a disincentive to do so. I hope to be writing more 'popular', lay-person oriented works in the near future. George
You can view Springer's catalog page at: http://www.springer.com/physics/complexity/book/978-1-4939-1919-2 This pioneering text provides a comprehensive introduction to systems structure, function, and modeling as applied in all fields of science and engineering. Systems understanding is increasingly recognized as a key to a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2014 at Question Everything
@RE, All of those terms are not identical, and sapience is definitely not the same as intelligence. The human failing comes from the advances in both intelligence and creativity (which combined I call cleverness) getting ahead of sapience (the basis of wisdom). Many other authors have noted a similar phenomenon. Craig Dilworth's "Too Smart for our Own Good" is a good example. Yes humans have a problem with cognition. But it isn't the existence of sapience, it is the weakness of sapience. -------------------------------------- @Tony, True enough. Our strength (if it can be called that) is our considerable skills in tactical management and adaptability as omnivores. We've been very successful in exploring for new resources and exploiting them to exhaustion. Definitely not sapient behavior. George
Toggle Commented Aug 12, 2014 on Governance of an Economy at Question Everything
Instruction Not a small portion of my students complain bitterly when the fill out their student evaluations of the courses I teach. The typical complaint goes like this: He isn't organized. He frequently digresses into things that are not part... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2014 at Question Everything
@RE, "That word you are using; I do not think it means what you think it means." Perhaps a closer reading of my working papers on sapience would be in order. By this comment I suspect you are not considering the evolutionary aspects of what it means. George
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2014 on Governance of an Economy at Question Everything
@RE, Honestly, I'm not sure of the relevance of the question. Except to point out that wars are generally always about scarce resource issues (the US has to protect the oil source in Iraq) which is the antithesis of a balanced biophysical economy. Also, I am conjecturing on the notion that the decision agents in a working governance system would be far more sapient than any world or tribal leaders in our so-called real world. Ergo I don't address any notion of war fitting into a biophysical economy. George
Toggle Commented Aug 10, 2014 on Governance of an Economy at Question Everything
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An Example from Biology A living system is the basic example of an economy. For example within a single cell the metabolic machinery is a production factory to produce more biomass, either growth of the cell to a mature size,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2014 at Question Everything
The bombing has actually helped shape my life. I was born on this day in 1945 and am always reminded of the fact. But more than that, the thought that I came into this world on the very day of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2014 at Question Everything
@Don S., Thanks Don. I will try to make time to watch Hard's talk especially. I have written in the past about the Grandmother hypothesis and the grandparent contribution to family and group dynamics. I see it as a major contributor to the evolution of sapience. -------------------------------------- @Tony N., Truly! A lot of threads have been coming together in the minds of many more people. In a sense, that is why I no longer write about collapse per se. There are a growing number of people who are finally seeing the connections and picking up the themes to some degree or another. Frees me up to think about more positive things! ------------------------------------- @GaryA, I'd forgotten that I had the comments shut down after 1 month. Awhile back I was getting flooded by spammers in random old posts so the folks at Typepad recommended I close comments after a month. I've now set that back to 6 months. Don't know if anyone can comment on posts that were already closed but if you want you can give it a try. As for memory traces: some of the things I've been reading sure seem to confirm my hypothesis from the 80's! Looking for specific circuits in neocortical structures might still be daunting (though some new methods look promising to trace specific engrams) but tracing through strengthened synaptic connections in invertebrates like Aplysia (Eric Kandel) has been going on for quite a while. My Adaptrode model is based on that work. I plan to continue with the conscious machine series, interleaving this systems science/political economy series. In an upcoming post I will review my prior work on memory traces through strengthened synaptic connections ala Kandel and Daniel Alkon ("Memory Traces in the Brain"). More to come. George
@Don S., Thanks for the reference. Nate Hagens, of the former Oil Drum site, used to write a good deal about dopamine, etc. He is writing at "The Monkey Trap" and I believe you can still find his writings archived at the Oil Drum site. As for the need for sapience - spoiler alert - I will be writing about how the only way a well functioning hierarchical cybernetic can work is if the decision agents are sapient enough. The good news is that the evolutionary evidence points to pre-agricultural humans were on the path in that direction. The bad news is it has been strongly selected against since agriculture and technology. -------------------------------------- @Brian, Good questions all. As for costs, you are right that strategic thinking is very costly. The prefrontal cortex expanded greatly over the last 2 million years and Brodmann area 10 doubled in size over the last 200k years. The brain is already the most expensive tissue in the body, energy-wise. So my guess is that the further increases in brain tissues supporting expanded tactical and strategic thinking must have been a selective advantage. One possible theory is that strategic thinking is more important in more complex and highly variable environments. The African continent went through some pretty wide ranging climate shifts that were thought to have a major impact on human evolution. The expansion of the brain size and especially of the PFC may have shifted the job of forming strategies from evolutionary selection of massively copied substrate to the capabilities of individuals to formulate long-term strategies in their memory systems. That would be my guess anyway! -------------------------------------- @Aboc Thanks for the alert. Must have been thinking of Thanksgiving or something when I wrote that. Fixed now! George
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The Fundamentals of Economics I'd like to examine the political economy from the perspective of systems science. Specifically I want to put biophysical economics together with the theory of hierarchical cybernetic systems to see if we can't find some guidance... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at Question Everything
Prior Postings in the Series Exploring Consciousness Who is “I” Talking to Myself, Who is Listening? The Epitome of Consciousness Toward Self-Aware Robots What would it even mean that a robot could be self-aware? In my last several posts I... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2014 at Question Everything
... For another year. It's the Solstice, one of my five days of reflective observation, so a happy holiday to all. What I tend to reflect on with the Summer Solstice is peaks. It seems we are seeing a lot... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2014 at Question Everything
@UniverseWeAre, Acknowledge the fact that the "unit" of survival is the whole social system. However, all the external things that you say are as much a part of us seems to me to be overstating the relations. In systems science we deal with explicit external relations as flows into and out of the system of interest's boundary. An individual communicates with the external world and those communications do indeed alter both, but the strength of interconnection between the external and between components on the internal are quite different. We are loosely coupled with the entities in our environment but strongly coupled with respect to our own insides. The sense of self started long before humans or even mammals evolved. In my first posting on this subject I show how a very simple brain can monitor self vs. other. Your statement that consciousness emerged from the whole system must certainly be true in the evolutionary sense. However, it also emerges in individuals with brains competent to support it in the development sense. It takes both individual consciousness and the interactions between individuals to push it further evolutionarily. Not sure about the flowers! George
Toggle Commented May 24, 2014 on The Epitome of Consciousness at Question Everything
@Aboc, ... appears to be disagreeing with you. And this is why we will never agree on anything and eventually the whole will shrink bottom-up. Honestly I can't tell (see below). But you are right about the kind of discourse that we see in the world. Our own congress is an excellent example of the worst kind. ---------------------------------------- @Tom R., Thanks. I will do my best! ---------------------------------------- @Robin, I am having great difficulty understanding what you are trying to convey. Take for example: That concept, like all concepts, lacks awareness. If you and I are using the words 'concept' and 'awareness' with the same meanings then I am puzzled as to what this could possibly mean. I don't think I or anyone has said something like "concepts have awareness." It might be inferred that since concepts are instantiated in neural assemblages and since those neurons are themselves responsive to the messages that arrive at their synapses (i.e. have a kind of awareness perhaps) and become activated, bringing the concept to mind or conscious awareness, then the whole concept possesses some biological level of awareness. However, I suspect your definition of awareness precludes this kind of inference. Any effort to intellectually manipulate the concept called "consciousness" will miss it altogether. Perhaps Aboc is right. You seem to be disagreeing with my "intellectual" exercise as being a fools errand. And your link to a Vedic scholar's web site confirms my suspicion that your claims are based on teachings rather than scientific investigations. Well that is fine. I remind you that I have had a dip in the Vedic literature myself and found it unsatisfying (nor did the mere practice of meditation satisfy my insatiable curiosity about what was going on in the mind). We read, for example, the Rig Veda, Mandala Nine, over and over. We were told not to try to interpret the meanings of the verses but to simply let the images "play" in our minds - that the deeper meanings would emerge in our consciousness. I guess I was a failure at that exercise. I kept on wondering what those deeper meanings might be and never really found out. So I prefer the scientific route to understanding. The knower that you claim cannot be known becomes an article of faith (if it cannot be known). The route I pursue has actually done quite well in coming to understanding of what this "knower" is and how it operates. Not by introspection alone, but by scientific exploration combined with introspection. I'll leave the Vedic understanding to the Vedic scholars. George
Toggle Commented May 21, 2014 on The Epitome of Consciousness at Question Everything
@Robin, Don't you think you should explain this claim? What exactly do you mean by invoking a "thing" called consciousness in the "functions" of the brain? What do you mean by an "abstraction" of mind? Recognized by whom? What evidence? As you can see by this meager bibliography the scientific study of consciousness is well advanced and none of these authors have made any similar claim to my knowledge. The prevailing scientific theory is that the brain, in its normal functioning, produces a phenomenal experience of being aware of the world and the self and the interactions that transpire between. Lower animals have lower degrees of consciousness and humans have some unique higher degrees of consciousness. Please cite the science that backs up your proclamation. George
Toggle Commented May 18, 2014 on The Epitome of Consciousness at Question Everything
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The Origin of Self In the prior three postings on the subject: Exploration of Consciousness Part 1 - Exploring Consciousness Part 2 - Who is I? Part 3 - Talking to Myself: Who is Listening? I have been developing a... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2014 at Question Everything
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@Bruce P., Good question! For the moment I will just point to Damasio's theory that mirror neurons are involved in what he describes as the brain's capacity to build models of self and others. He posits that mirror neurons (among other facilities) are involved in what he originally described as an "as-if loop" in which the brain processes somatic milieu images (and their changes) as if they were really happening in the body but actually aren't. That is the brain is simulating a body state change that would happen if the organism had actually been affected by an external event (e.g. an emotional evocation). His explanation is that this is an efficient form of anticipation that can prime the motor circuits but not actually activate them. The basis is, presumably, that the neocortex's model of the world is predicting an impending state change and rather than wait for the actual event before reacting the as-if loop preps the circuits to respond more quickly when confirmation arrives via, say, the limbic inputs. How this relates to the development of language, etc. is an interesting domain to explore. In future postings I intend to start exploring actual brain structures and functions. I am doing this in preparation for developing my simulated brain-based robot system. I have explored the role of mirror neurons in empathy in my working papers on sapience, but perhaps a more explicit exploration in line with your question would be fruitful. Meanwhile, if you have any ideas please feel free to post. George
The Story of Me We are a chatty lot! Is there a point to all of this verbiage? Why do we talk to others and to ourselves? We can do something that other animals can't do, or can't do nearly... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2014 at Question Everything
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The Semantic Trap It seems nearly impossible for a writer tackling the consciousness problem to avoid a linguistic trap. Ultimately, when we describe consciousness as an act of ‘observing’ ourselves in the act of observing the environment and our physical... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2014 at Question Everything
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The Multiple Threads of My Interests The last several months have been really exciting for me. The book project is wrapping up and we should be getting the final manuscript draft to the publisher in early June. But several other... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2014 at Question Everything
Scientists Find a 'Hole' in Most Human Brains I thought I would share this with readers. I have been busy working with some neuroscientists to test a hypothesis regarding the lack of sapience in the majority of human beings. This... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2014 at Question Everything
It's good to be alive! Spring is my absolutely favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to bud on most of the understory bushes, the cherry blossoms are bursting out, the days are generally warmer... What isn't to love... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2014 at Question Everything