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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
@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 2 days ago 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
@Iodan, You seem to be using the word "sapience" more broadly than I am. In my writing I try to distinguish sapience as a brain function that can give rise to wisdom (knowledge). There may very well be a societal equivalent mechanism, e.g. what government should be (but isn't). I think it important to make scale distinctions and stick to them for clarity. ------------------------------------- @Don S. Symbiosis and commensulism are two examples of the nature of fuzzy boundary conditions in systems, one of the chief reasons that identifying exactly what the system of interest is is so difficult. Suggest you look at the works of Antonio Damasio re: influences of affect on decisions making (one kind of intuitional influence). ------------------------------------- @Jordan, Re: Pinker's observation. While it is true that the carrying capacity has been artificially extended, the reality is that the population has actually expanded at a much greater rate relatively speaking. This has become especially clear since the 1970s when the peak in net free energy per capita happened. The US history since those days has been mostly about trying to take over the major sources of oil in the Middle East! What we have failed to take into account is the cost of military power to make that happen exceeds the profit from the effort! Additionally, and coincidentally, the 1970s marked the peak of growth of multiple factor productivity, especially the contribution from technologies. In spite of the small blip in productivity increases due to computing and communications in the early 1990s, the general trend has been negative. The slow down in productivity growth (and hence economic growth in general) started back in the 1960s, peaked in the mid to late 1970s and has been in decline (mostly) ever since (see: Gordon, Robert J., The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War). Pinker's general conclusion is that the increase in passivity is likely due to the increasing role of government(s) in daily life. But there has to be some mental factor that makes it possible. ------------------------------------- @Davy, In the final installment I start off by suggesting that the recommendations I will make are an exercise in fantasy if not futility. The point of everything I have written is to make clear how unlikely any form of current society is to survive into the future! I have made it clear over the years that I see no chance of us getting through this in one piece. An evolutionary bottleneck is, in my opinion, a given. The question is are there representatives of higher sapience in the current population that might be able to survive and give rise to a new kind of human being at some time long into the future past the bottleneck? I have met a few individuals over the years that I suspect would be good candidates. But they are rare indeed. Especially given that they need to be young enough to have reproductive potential in front of them. Given that wisdom doesn't start showing itself in any meaningful, observable way until one is approaching elderhood, it will be a matter of chance and selection - evolution - to decide. ------------------------------------- George
Toggle Commented Oct 16, 2016 on A New Human Society - Part 4 at Question Everything
Higher Levels of Consciousness Defining Consciousness Let's start with a relatively simple definition of consciousness. Let us say that consciousness is the property of a system that allows it to be aware of its environment. Moreover, consciousness allows a system... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2016 at Question Everything
@Liodan, Let me direct readers to your blog site so they can get some background: My current blog has to be understood in the context of much of what I have written over the years. If you look at some of that work you will find that I have been paying attention to anthro-sociology over the last several decades. Not sure what you read (into) what I wrote, but I assure you I have researched the cultural evolution of humanity. ----------------------------------- @Craig M., Thanks. That quote from Mencken nails it perfectly. ------------------------------------ @Don S., I like Kahneman quite a lot. However, he partitions thinking into just the two time domain processes. In my view there is yet another time domain process - sapience - which is the basis for wisdom, not just rational thought. Kahneman's fame, along with Tversky's came from demonstrating to economists that their concept and models of rational agents in economic decisions were bunk. Many other psychologists, however, maintain that wisdom constitutes another dimension of thinking that is not included in the two system model. " By ideology, I mean that we have internalized certain rules, so that in our Fast Thinking we default to the rules rather than to immediate sensory experience." I think this is a reasonable characterization as far as it goes, but it doesn't address the so-called think-tank intellectuals who might be using slow thinking but a faulty set of premises if not faulty logic. The premises come from the ideology. The logic is usually a process of rationalizing to desired conclusions based on the emotional commitments to the ideological propositions. Something is missing from a simple two time domain model of thinking processes and I think it might be characterized as a very slow, background and largely unconscious thinking that is the basis of wisdom. ------------------------------------ George
Why We Do What is Wrong — Holding Ideologies Part 1 — asking the question: “How Can the Human Social System Survive?” Part 2 — looking at some of the things that we are doing that are wrong in this... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2016 at Question Everything
@Don, You are not hinting that I am showing signs of dementia are you? ;^) I do not fear Alzheimer's or any other form of mental impairment for a simple reason. I decided some time ago that I would use my brain to aggregate information, synthesize concepts, and write as much as I could on my conclusions as long as I could. Exercise of the brain is the key. Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia may overtake me someday. But I will do what I do until it does! Regards George
@Don, I've actually been doing that for a long time. First, the behaviors we are seeing today from the majority of people are based on the population density stresses that are affecting them. These are anomalous compared with what are thought to be normal in-group cooperative behaviors. We are social animals but not under the current social conditions. What I have written about in the past has been the hope that sapient people will find one another and form communities (e.g. around permaculture) that will survive the bottleneck and produce offspring that will be more fit for the environments they will face. George
@Don, Almost anything that is said about behaviors today must be qualified by recognition that all of our overcrowded societies show signs of non-fit (in the biological sense) anomalies. This has been observed in a number of colony and herd-based species when the population densities and extent of territories get too high. All kinds of weird behaviors start to emerge. As far as this two-clock theme you bring up, i.e. approach-vs-avoid behavior, this is exactly what my robot experiments in the 1990s were about (see: for a sample of my work in artificial brains - MAVRIC). As for your final set of questions, you are, in effect, asking me to write a book! But, also asking me to repeat a great deal of what I have written over the years in these blogs. Put simply, human beings are extremely adaptable and are capable of any of multiple strategies, both biologically ingrained and mentally learned. I have no idea how the story plays out for groups or the whole population. What I do know is that humans are constrained by the architecture of their brains to have limits on the scales in time and space of what they can perceive and hence understand. My thesis has been that there are human beings who are less constrained than most and that I expect them to be able to best adapt to the coming bottleneck situation. ----------------------------------- George
@Davy, It sounds like you are a follower or fan of Lee Smolin. Tying the cycles of dynamics on the Earth to the cycles of the cosmos is something he has been interested in. -------------------------------------- @Bev, I know David from years ago when he was putting together a software system for problem solving. I can probably find the essay. However the concept that the universe will always find a way to diminish a gradient is just the 2nd Law of Thermo writ large. The very same phenomenon is at the base of why stars burn their fuels through nucleosynthesis. They eventually burn it all up and die. Within the dynamics of a star the outward pressure of energy flow competes with the inward pull of gravity to find accommodating balance at various stages of star life. Until the end. That balance helps keep the star from burning out too quickly (except for really massive stars of course). But in you second to last paragraph you hit the nail on the head. Why do we have to burn fossil fuels so quickly? Whereas in a star the balance is maintained by negative feedback, for us there has not been any such feedback. Fossil fuels have simply been dirt cheap and technologies like the internal combustion engine have simply enabled the quickness of burning. What has been missing is the negative feedback from nature OR, and this is the important point, human intelligence and wisdom being able to self regulate so as to not burn things up so quickly. The normal state of affairs for a planet like Earth is to NOT have an oxygen-rich atmosphere and sequestered carbon. That is why I said inevitable (meaning over the long haul). It's a long story about how life has been working at sequestering carbon and why human's burning it is restoring a kind of balance (just not at this rate perhaps). So I won't even attempt it here. A good reference is "Into the Cool" by Schneider and Sagan. ----------------------------------- @Cassandra, Thanks. My thoughts re: the human condition are mostly about how where we are, what we are, and how we are behaving is still a matter of evolution. I do not have animosity toward humanity for being what they are (I think I did once when I was still confused about why we lack wisdom). Rather I see what we are as part of the natural progression of evolution toward higher levels of consciousness (as I talk about in an upcoming post). I think natural selection (e.g. climate change, etc.) is about to select for humans who are closer to that higher level of sapience than the average person is today. Thus evolution will continue to push toward improved intelligence and wisdom. ----------------------------------- @Don, Thanks for the cross-post. Did Ugo answer your query. I guess what I don't understand in your characterization is the emphasis on, may I call them, dueling clocks. The idea that various dynamics are at odds yet interact is very old and at the heart of cybernetic governance theory (the answer to your last point). So I would argue that many people have looked at the notions of coordination of inherently diverse dynamical systems. How is what you are considering new and different from that work? ------------------------------------ George
What We are Doing Wrong Part 1 — asking the question: “How Can the Human Social System Survive?” Here is a set of short descriptions of some of the major factors that are involved in driving humanity to the brink... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at Question Everything
@Craig, What I was addressing is the fact that these desires have their roots in biological mandates. It isn't a matter of nature OR nurture, but rather recognizing that our natural (genetically endowed) propensity to acquire excesses, for example, is part of what motivates our behavior (profit taking and maximizing). You are quite correct to see that the culture provides a specific shaping influence on how these fundamental desires end up as behaviors. You have correctly, I think, named one of the great shaping powers of modern life, advertising. However, I don't think advertising would work the way it does unless humans are already programmed to respond to its messages. The brain is not a tabla rasa after all. Culture can affect how we think but we are pre-sensitized to respond in biologically meaningful ways. As far as the fact that there is a small percentage of the population that does not get overwhelmed by these shaping forces, that is a reflection of my theory of sapience. The distribution of sapience in the population means that there is a skinny tail of people who are wiser than the ordinary person. George
Part 1. How Can the Human Social System Survive? Toward a Human Social System in the Ecos This is the first of a five-part series to essentially wrap up a theme I have written about often. These posts will summarize... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2016 at Question Everything
This is just a note to alert readers that this Equinox posting will be the first of a five-part series that will (I hope) signal the end of the set of questions I have struggled with regarding the human condition.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2016 at Question Everything
This summer solstice sees the political season in high drama. We are finally seeing the failures of modern American politics in its naked glory. Republicans are about to implode and Democrats are forced to hold their noses and feel OK... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2016 at Question Everything
@Jerry Mc. I'm not sure if you are only referring to the way we (Ugo or me) use phrases in these blogs or not. In my textbook and my papers I assure you I try to be very rigorous in the use of terminology. George
Toggle Commented May 15, 2016 on Systems Science Ascending at Question Everything