Re: [pcp-discuss:] Re: Fwd: Comments on _One Half Of A Manifesto_by Jaron Lanier

From: John J Kineman (
Date: Tue Nov 21 2000 - 22:03:03 GMT

  • Next message: Norman K. McPhail: "Re: [pcp-discuss:] Re: Fwd: Comments on _One Half Of A Manifesto_by Jaron Lanier"


    I share your typology to some degree, and I think I can relate somewhat
    to the generalist orientation you're "comming from."

    But that's why I'm a bit confused by your rejection of the term
    "complexity." The broader human understanding is precisely where the
    notion of "complexity" has greatest appeal. Its a mysterious concept
    that intuitively people feel is both deep and yet new and important.
    There are community development/management consulting groups that
    advertise their approach in terms of managing and understanding
    complexity, with lots of systems diagrams indicating closed causal
    loops. That's a change from the linear causal thinking that has
    dominated most management systems. There is lots of work in the business
    community describing how modern institutions need to introduce concepts
    of complexity into their management models, like iterative design,
    consideration of context, etc. Motivational speakers apply complexity
    ideas to human resources, equal opportunity, diversity management,
    productivity, job satisfaction, etc. Most people in these applied fields
    don't know or care about the difference between computability and
    non-computability -- the differences between Rosen's complexity and more
    deterministic complexity of others, like Bar-Yam, Cognitive Science,
    etc. To the applied world, much of these internal disagreements go

    I would expect certain academics to reject the term "complexity" out of
    frustration with the many flavors it can take within the scientific
    community. But in applied areas it is much more common to generalize.
    Here's an example in my field. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries has
    historically managed fisheries with single-species models that predict
    population numbers. They now realize the whole program is failing
    because there are 11 species of pacific salmon on the endangered species
    list. Why hasn't their management approach worked? The concept of
    complexity is perfect for bridging into new research and management
    ideas. They were'nt "wrong" about their models, but that paradigm failed
    to include the complexities of the system; meaning in this case multiple
    causes that affect the habitat, migration, health, learning,
    development, breading, etc. in the life history of salmon. Watershed
    processes, hydrology, and the needs of power generation all have
    influences on salmon sustainability. Do we care about the fine
    distinction of "non-physical" realities? No. That is taken for graned in
    the obvious influences of humans, and perhaps implied in a fuzzy notion
    of the ecosystem. But just beginning to consider more components is a
    big first step for some. My personal interest in complexity focuses on
    the unique approach Rosen takes, but even that is less important at this
    stage than introducing the ideas of context, multiple simultaneous and
    unpredictable causes, multiple players with choice, energy and money
    drivers, the role of information in the system, etc. I think Rosen's
    model brings excellent clarity to the picture, but first we sell
    complexity, which packages all these things and more. I am gratified to
    hear that the world is poised on the dawn of a new human understanding
    of reality that will lift us above our meager existence; but in most of
    my work I still see the brink of stupidity, not the dawn of the new age
    I so fervently believe in. The notion of "complexity" is one small step
    out of stupidity, in my view. Even of after that step we can graduate to
    more advanced concepts, we don't have to burn the bridge that others may
    yet cross.

    Does this make any sense from your experience?

    "Norman K. McPhail" wrote:
    > Don Mikulecky wrote:
    > >
    > > Norm,
    > > In the spirit of what we seem to agree about, there *should* be more than one way to
    > > present the case. Many of us are extremely comfortable with this way. others clearly
    > > are not. The reasons for that are many and we are clearly not dealing with absolutes
    > > here. See below for the rest.
    > >
    > > > > You are right about the nested circularity of using the modeling relation to
    > > > > capture itself. That's a start. When we see our new approaches tackling
    > > > > self-reference head on we can know we have broken free from old restrictions and
    > > > > are beginning to see *more* of what reality is all about.
    > > >
    > > > I agree again. I'll only add once more that for me, the use of simple
    > > > and complex as modifiers to the models and those phenomena we are
    > > > attempting to model, causes unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding.
    > >
    > > I question what the cause of the confusion and misunderstanding is here. Many of us can
    > > communicate in a clearer way with better understanding as a result of this. It probably
    > > revolves around where your real interests lie.
    > > Don
    > Don:
    > I think that your point about where our interests lie is the key to our
    > differences here. In the area of your and Rosen's expertise, I am a
    > quintessential outsider. In fact, even though I have a number of
    > friends that are part of the academic and scientific communities, I have
    > no ties to academia as such and I am certainly outside the scientific
    > community.
    > Perhaps you know that vocationally I'm a public finance investment
    > banker. Nevertheless, I have a deep and burning interest in a very
    > broad range of subjects. I consider myself a generalist. I've also been
    > fortunate to have the luxury to have spent a lifetime exploring all
    > these interests.
    > As you'd expect, most people that know me usually aren't able to find a
    > neat way to classify my all diverse interests. A few conclude that
    > since they can't pigeon hole me, I must be a philosopher. I find that
    > "a jack of all trades and master of none" has a nice ring and a fair
    > amount of truth in it.
    > As you noted, we do have much in common when it comes to the ideas we've
    > been talking about. But from what you said, you seem to be focused on
    > the academic and scientific community. On the other hand, I'm primarily
    > interested in finding ways of communicating these ideas to the broadest
    > possible audience.
    > As perhaps you know, I spent over five years writing a 33 part treatment
    > for a documentary television series I call "The Dawn of Human
    > Understanding." The purpose of this TV series was simply to provide the
    > general public with a cohesive blend of the emerging understanding we
    > humans are gaining with respect to our selves, each other and the
    > universe we are a part of. I think you also know that since I failed
    > raise the $30 million to produce the series, I did the next best thing
    > and simply put it on the web:
    > I suppose that this is a long way of saying that I'm trying to tell this
    > story to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the human
    > condition. In this endeavor, I have worked very hard to include as many
    > views or models as possible. I've also paid particular attention to the
    > difficulty of integrating these multiple views into a better human
    > understanding.
    > In this effort to integrate multiple views, I found that most of the
    > academic and scientific specialists actually make an effort, whether
    > conscious or otherwise, to isolate their field of expertise. I also
    > discovered that they have a strong tendency to interpret other areas of
    > inquiry using the thought modes and criteria from their own field of
    > expertise. The net result is that the average person finds it almost
    > impossible to make much sense out of all these apparently conflicting
    > and confusing views.
    > But taken as a whole, our human understanding is expanding at an almost
    > incomprehensible pace. What's more, as we survey the components and
    > then work through all the apparent conflicts, we find some truly
    > profound implications coming out of the fog.
    > I am of the opinion that self governing peoples need to be able to sift
    > through the ever increasing deluge of information that is inundating
    > us. We need to understand for ourselves what the benefits and risks of
    > our individual and collective democratic choices are. My goal is to
    > improve this understanding and hopefully improve our individual and
    > collective choices.
    > This is where I'm coming from. And this is the context within which I
    > recently posted my thoughts and comments on some of the ideas we
    > enthusiastically share.
    > Norm
    Posting to from "John J Kineman" <>

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