Saturday, October 29, 2011

Release of Insight Maker

Systems Thinking World has just advised of the first general release, on Friday, October 21, 2011, of  Insight Maker -  a FREE web based drawing and simulation package.

Insight Maker was designed as a modeling and simulation environment but it also does Rich Pictures, Mind Maps, Dialogue Maps and Causal Loop Diagrams with ease.

Please refer to the overview at  this site for further insights as well as a list of the new features in the general release.

Feedback from users is welcome.
New Book from Bernard Scott

Second-order cybernetician, Bernard Scott has  had a collection of his papers published recently. Bernard is well know as a scholar of 'conversation theory' as developed by Gordon Pask.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The geoplitics of water and dams

This article provides valuable insights into the current status of the geopolitics of water, particularly the China, Laos, Burma 'triangle':

"The Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers, though unconnected and hundreds of miles apart, are both integral to life in Southeast Asia, supporting millions of people and more than 1,200 species of animals, including freshwater dolphins and-in the Mekong-giant catfish.

Now, in an energy-hungry age on the continent, the rivers share another distinction, as wellsprings of financial temptation for the struggling countries that rely on their flow, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). Both countries are grappling with decisions on whether to build massive hydropower dams on the two significant rivers. The projects could put fragile ecology and associated livelihoods at risk, but the dams could help the two countries reap billions of dollars by exporting the megawatts to China and Thailand, two neighbors with rapidly growing energy demand......."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thinking clearly about China?

The achievements of China within the paradigm they have pursued have been so impressive that it is sometimes easy to be seduced by the numbers.   In his recent thought provoking talk at the LSE, Malcolm Turnbull made the following observations about China:
  • 'Population – 22 to 20 per cent
  • Poverty (< $US1.25/day) – 38 to 15 per cent
  • Manufacturing value added – 5 to 11 per cent
  • Steel production – 12 to 39 per cent
  • Foreign reserves – 3 to 22 per cent
  • Resident-owned patent filings – 1 to 15 per cent
  • Telephone lines – 1 to 29 per cent
  • Internet users – 0 to 15 per cent
  • Carbon emissions – 11 to 20 per cen'
Acknowledging the great achievements of the last 30 years, Turnbull goes on to say:

'Finally, consider the environment. Over millennia floods and famines have seen off many an Emperor – tangible evidence that he had lost the mandate of heaven. China faces some of the most severe environmental challenges in the world. Some are direct consequence of global warming; as the Himalayan glaciers melt more water becomes available when it is not wanted, in winter, and less when it is, in summer.

At the same time, industrial pollution of the air and water is so severe that it’s a political issue – what good is it to have a television or a car if you cannot breathe the air or drink the water?

And China’s ability to feed itself is threatened by diminishing water availability.  Agriculture on the northern plain is largely irrigated using groundwater which has been unsustainably extracted to a point where wells are running dry.  Water can be desalinated or pumped from the south for cities, but that is too expensive for farming.'

Following an excellent analysis Turnbull asks: what is to be done?   Amongst his many suggestions none question the current development trajectory, nor suggest how China, Australia (as a major suppier of environmentally damaging resources) and other resources intensive countries might address the fundamental environmental conundrum that the current trajectory delivers.

So it is hard to get one's thinking straight.  Much, for example, has been said about the BRIC countries. Yet asthey are unlikey to rescue the world from meltdown:

'So with Japan still reeling from its two "lost decades" (drenched in QE), the only hope seems to be the emerging economies, such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Yet can they save us from worldwide economic stagnation? The answer is a definite no. Even with three decades of growth and 1.3 billion people, China's economy is still just over 8.5% of the world's (as of 2009), so whatever it does pales in significance compared to what goes on in the rich world. Moreover, it faces the challenges of deflating its huge property bubble without creating a financial crisis and managing its intensifying social conflicts – it experiences thousands of riots and strikes every year. And its dependence on exports makes it vulnerable to crises in the rich world.'

What will emerge?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Insensitive heavy-handedness only increases alienation

I wonder to what extent the Mayor of Melbourne and the Premiers of Victoria and NSW did their homework to fully appreciate why there has been a wave of protest around the globe, before insensitively sending in the police to close protest camps down in Sydney and Melbourne?  A useful place to start would have been with the US situation.  Central to the US protests is  the extreme inequality that has developed in the US economy over the past 30 years.

According to todays Age, Australia now has a three speed economy.  Alienation, inequality  and disillusionment with our governance institutions prevail in several of these 'economies'.  Under such circumstances protest seems a legitimate form of social action.
Excellent systemic account of the Euro crisis

My thanks to Bruce Legay for drawing my attention to this New York Times piece entitled: It’s All Connected: An Overview of the Euro Crisis.  The question becomes how to act on such systemic understandings.  My own experience suggests interventions that move damaging positive feedback processes in to virtuous negative feedback processes - but what these might be is beyond my experience.  The latter could involve some institutional innovations within the Eurozone designed to provide more resilience in future - the current arrangements have clearly failed.  Many commentators are comparing the Greek situation with that of Argentina.  On the surface these arguments seem to make sense, although in this posting the author refutes this claim, going on to say:

"There is no clear answer to what will happen or what should happen. There is a big mess out there. Once is certain though. The similarities between Argentina and Greece point to another worrying development. The citizens won’t be able to suffer the burdens of austerity any longer more (especially when they are made to pay for the bloated public servants). When that happens the situation will be beyond saving by the IMF, the EU and the ECB."

I wonder if allowing Greece to default within an institutionalised firewall is not a good strategy, whilst maintaining transfer payments from the rest of the EU, much as has happened over the last 30 years?  One thing is clear that without transformation of Greek institutions the situation is likely to reoccur.