2008/07/14 09:00 Gary Metcalf, "The Science and the Perspectives of Systems", ISSS Madison 2008

ISSS Madison 2008, 52nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the ISSS web site by David Ing.

Gary Metcalf, President



The Science and the Perspectives of Systems

What makes a difference?

  • The way that we see things
  • When I look the night sky, I don't see what others see
  • At one point of time, the way we see was given more accuracy
  • New way of seeing

Sciences, ways of understanding, of ways to show us the way things are:  three ways

1. Traditional science, mechanics of the universe, so the view became mechanical

  • Extracted, and incorporated it into all sorts of way
  • e.g. EPA revaluing how we value life, which impacts policy makers through cost-offset ratios
  • Taking a traditional view, gives us a closed and succinct view, and a world that we can control
  • Problem: sense of control seems to get lost

2. Evolution, as compared to traditional science

  • This throw us back into nature
  • We are a part of it, and it is a part of us
  • Baboon, Ishmael
  • Difficulty:  we're not going to take outselves back to a world before agricultural
  • We can't support how we are today, and undo how we are in the world
  • Difficulty:  decisions at the highest levels are increments
  • G8 discussions on reducing impact:  economic impacts
  • Problem:  targeting 60% reduction in our emissions in 2100; but what will the world be like in 2050
  • Systems thinking people brought this up years ago:  Jay Forrester
  • Club of Rome was written again in Wall Street Journal, this year

Have had people meeting together to think about what's next

  • Macy Conferences, 1950s
  • Expanded view of the next science
  • Had a view of information coming out, in a way that we didn't understand before

Convergences:  Nicolas Rashevsky did an analysis of everything from cell to macro society

  • Didn't do this just for the math
  • It was the way for him to see what was in the world
  • Each viewpoint changes the way we see what we see
  • Difficulty:  how do we describe what we don't understand

Most recently, how information has impacted:  Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson, "The End of Science"

  • Hypothesis - test is dated
  • Use computers
  • Assumption:  we haven't decided what it is to study
  • Limited, headed this direction in many ways
  • This is another new paradigm of understanding ourselves and the world

Where does this bring us?

  • The people who founded this society had a different view
  • They offered us a perspective, but not absolute
  • They offered a way to think about things differently

Von Bertalanffy:  a clear understanding of moving to the next level, but not settled, not the next phase of what was

  • The reason the paradigm makes a difference is that it gives us a new way to see the world, to seek information, in a different way
  • Systems thinkers do this better
  • We can step out of the way of thinking