Thursday, July 26, 2012

ISSS at San Jose

Clearly a good number of Systems folk knew the way to San Jose.   I only managed the first two and half days of the conference (Service Systems, Natural Systems) before having to return to Melbourne.

At their session on Sunday evening Humberto Maturana and Ximena Davila, with assistance from Sebastian Gaggero addressed four questions; (i) who are we? (ii) where do we come from? (iii) where do we go? and (iv) where do we want to go?

Their responses (or at least my notes) were:
  • (i) we are living in molecular autopoiesis; 
  • (ii) in our living we conserve our molecular autopoiesis (transformation implies something is conserved); Darwin had to propose a mechanism to explain evolution - they choose to explain evolution in terms of drift, as a process of sliding or conserving coherance with our circumstances i.e., while we live we drift.
  • (iii) Birds do not need theories to fly - but we humans invent theories to do what we do even though we do not need theories in our living, yet all theories change our living.  Most theories are linear, rather than systemic.  We can only stop theories through a human choice.  A theory is a system of explanations that one accepts as an explanation. Autopoiesis is an abstraction of the molecular dynamics of our living - laws of nature are abstractions about coherances.
  • (iv) Three conditions are needed for purposeful action - knowing + understanding + a means of action at hand (without the latter depression arises).  There is a need to recover the relationship between the Anthroposphere and the Biosphere - this requires harmony, not equilibrium.  Pollution, poverty etc are all products of linear thinking, but only we can stop this type of thinking and allow wellbeing to arise. 
Rafael Ramirez, a keynote presenter, suggested that the really big contribution Systems could make is to enable people to ask really, really good questions.  I like this framing but would want to add that it only works if we address at the same time the institutional settings which create contexts, or demands for what are acceptable answers.  He also suggested two ways forward (i) extending our rationality framework and (ii) developing a meta-rationality based on plausibility, conversation, multi-framing.

See immediate past president David Ing's blog for more background or try the new Facebook site 'Systems science'.

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