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Sustainable Technology and the Entropy Argument | Mohammed Badrah, Kelly Okamura, David Hawk | Systems Thinking Ontario 2023-09-11

In a return to original Systems Thinking Ontario format, we reviewed an (old) systems thinking paper from 1998. Mohammed Badrah served as reviewer. Kelly Okamura was the discussant. The author, David Hawk, was available during the discussion period for extended knowledge.

As compared to prior Systems Thinking Ontario sessions with the word “entropy” in the title, the discussion was not on the scientific interpretations of the second law of thermodynamics, but instead on behaviours of human beings related to their social environments.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube, as well as on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
September 11
(1h34m)
[20230911_ST-ON SustainableTechEntropyArgument Badrah_Okamura_Hawk 1920×1030.m4v]
(FHD 1920×1080 1162kbps 876MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was also created during the meeting.

Audio
September 11
(1h34m)
[20230911_ST-ON SustainableTechEntropyArgument Badrah_Okamura_Hawk.m4a]
(87 MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Here is the original abstract sent in advance.


— begin abstract —

Humans beings have significant problems in being human. The difficulties are manifest in many ways but generally begin with the way in which humans relate to their environment. The potentials for improvements in these relations are great but so too are the difficulties. This is in part because of serious shortcomings in how the resources essential to human existence are conceptualized and managed. These shortcomings are similar to those raised by General Systems Theorists fifty years ago. Noteworthy successes were limited, therefore the problems continue.… Read more (in a new tab)

In a return to original Systems Thinking Ontario format, we reviewed an (old) systems thinking paper from 1998. Mohammed Badrah served as reviewer. Kelly Okamura was the discussant. The author, David Hawk, was available during the discussion period for extended knowledge.

As compared to prior Systems Thinking Ontario sessions with the word “entropy” in the title, the discussion was not on the scientific interpretations of the second law of thermodynamics, but instead on behaviours of human beings related to their social environments.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube, as well as on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
September 11
(1h34m)
[20230911_ST-ON SustainableTechEntropyArgument Badrah_Okamura_Hawk 1920×1030.m4v]
(FHD 1920×1080 1162kbps 876MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was also created during the meeting.

Audio
September 11
(1h34m)
[20230911_ST-ON SustainableTechEntropyArgument Badrah_Okamura_Hawk.m4a]
(87 MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Here is the original abstract sent in advance.


— begin abstract —

Humans beings have significant problems in being human. The difficulties are manifest in many ways but generally begin with the way in which humans relate to their environment. The potentials for improvements in these relations are great but so too are the difficulties. This is in part because of serious shortcomings in how the resources essential to human existence are conceptualized and managed. These shortcomings are similar to those raised by General Systems Theorists fifty years ago. Noteworthy successes were limited, therefore the problems continue.… Read more (in a new tab)

Sustainability from ecological anthropology: the second life of trees

What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

Read more (in a new tab)

What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

Read more (in a new tab)

Is that affordance essential? (HSSE)

For the 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Innovation, I had been asked  by Kelly Lyons to contribute an article for a session on Frameworks for Service Systems.  I had worked on the article in fall 2011, but leading a 6-day conference in San Jose immediately before the start of the HSSE meeting in San Francisco made completion improbable.  Having prepared an abstract and outline for “Is That Affordance Essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability”, I couldn’t squeeze in an article by the winter publication deadline. I was, however, prepared to share a presentation on research-in-progress.  I expect that I’ll be able to finish this research paper over the next year, (and hope that I’ll get a longer time slot to present than the 15 minutes allotted at HSSE).

The original abstract for my presentation reads:

A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.

As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.

Read more (in a new tab)

For the 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Innovation, I had been asked  by Kelly Lyons to contribute an article for a session on Frameworks for Service Systems.  I had worked on the article in fall 2011, but leading a 6-day conference in San Jose immediately before the start of the HSSE meeting in San Francisco made completion improbable.  Having prepared an abstract and outline for “Is That Affordance Essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability”, I couldn’t squeeze in an article by the winter publication deadline. I was, however, prepared to share a presentation on research-in-progress.  I expect that I’ll be able to finish this research paper over the next year, (and hope that I’ll get a longer time slot to present than the 15 minutes allotted at HSSE).

The original abstract for my presentation reads:

A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.

As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.

Read more (in a new tab)

Digests on Resilience 2011, March 12-16, 2011, Arizona State University

I’m not an ecologist.  However, my interests in the systems sciences has connected me to the research originating with the Resilience Alliance.  I decided to make time to educate myself in the current research presented at Resilience 2011: The Second International Science and Policy Conference, at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The conference program is available online — including video, slides, and abstracts.

As an additional contribution to learning, I’ve posted digests of the talks that I’ve attended on the Coevolving Commons.  I habitually type notes into my laptop during meetings.  Some people find these digests helpful, to gain a high-level appreciation of content before committing more time to watching a video, or reading an article.  (On the digest pages for plenary talks, I’ve provided links back to speakers’ videos and slides).

Attending a 5-day meeting in person enables a rich immersion of ideas in a domain.  I got to see, up close, some people whose work is worth knowing about, including …

… plus many other talks over the four days.  … Read more (in a new tab)

I’m not an ecologist.  However, my interests in the systems sciences has connected me to the research originating with the Resilience Alliance.  I decided to make time to educate myself in the current research presented at Resilience 2011: The Second International Science and Policy Conference, at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The conference program is available online — including video, slides, and abstracts.

As an additional contribution to learning, I’ve posted digests of the talks that I’ve attended on the Coevolving Commons.  I habitually type notes into my laptop during meetings.  Some people find these digests helpful, to gain a high-level appreciation of content before committing more time to watching a video, or reading an article.  (On the digest pages for plenary talks, I’ve provided links back to speakers’ videos and slides).

Attending a 5-day meeting in person enables a rich immersion of ideas in a domain.  I got to see, up close, some people whose work is worth knowing about, including …

… plus many other talks over the four days.  … Read more (in a new tab)

Learning about teaching: systems thinking and sustainability course in Finland

[Frank] Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that …

the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.  (Delacote, 1998)

At the beginning of October, I had blogged about starting the first of two courses in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I’ve been maintaining the content online as open courseware, and have now added an index page.  The context map and the course outline have evolved, and should now have mostly stabilized with the conclusion of the lectures.

The course isn’t quite done yet, as the students have to write research papers.  I took responsibility for the course content, and Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen have taken responsibility for guiding the students through the university practicalities and evaluating their learning.

While I have previously instructed at the master’s and doctoral level before, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher.  I see myself as a researcher who can share content with students, whom may have more or less interest in the topics.  Teaching this first class on Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (with a follow on of Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers scheduled five months later) has led me to some of my own learning, with overall conclusions that include:

  • 01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences
  • 02.
Read more (in a new tab)

[Frank] Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that …

the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.  (Delacote, 1998)

At the beginning of October, I had blogged about starting the first of two courses in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I’ve been maintaining the content online as open courseware, and have now added an index page.  The context map and the course outline have evolved, and should now have mostly stabilized with the conclusion of the lectures.

The course isn’t quite done yet, as the students have to write research papers.  I took responsibility for the course content, and Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen have taken responsibility for guiding the students through the university practicalities and evaluating their learning.

While I have previously instructed at the master’s and doctoral level before, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher.  I see myself as a researcher who can share content with students, whom may have more or less interest in the topics.  Teaching this first class on Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (with a follow on of Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers scheduled five months later) has led me to some of my own learning, with overall conclusions that include:

  • 01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences
  • 02.
Read more (in a new tab)

Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities, Aalto University, Finland

At Aalto University — the institution resulting from the merger of the former Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and University of Art and Design Helsinki — there’s a new master’s program in Creative Sustainability.  I’m here to launch a pair of new courses:  Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (CS0004) in October 2010, and Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005) scheduled for February 2011.

The design and delivery of this course has been in the agile Finnish style.  I’ve been working with Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen in transforming the reading list into a learning style suitable for a class of 24 to 30 students.

As an alternative to creating content in the traditional Powerpoint style, I’ve been putting content directly on the web.  Visual maps help to reduce confusion.  Here’s a map outlining the course.

http://coevolving.com/aalto/201010-cs0004/201010-cs0004-map00-context.png

The details are available in a course outline in long form text.  (This continues to evolve over the duration of the class).

The first lecture is on Foundations for a systems approach.

The second lecture is on Perspectives and diversity.

The students will be encouraged to join the Systems Community of Inquiry, where access and visibility will be extended from this classroom in Helsinki to the larger world of systems thinkers.  The style of education is open and fluid, appropriate for bringing new people into the systems movement.

At Aalto University — the institution resulting from the merger of the former Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and University of Art and Design Helsinki — there’s a new master’s program in Creative Sustainability.  I’m here to launch a pair of new courses:  Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (CS0004) in October 2010, and Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005) scheduled for February 2011.

The design and delivery of this course has been in the agile Finnish style.  I’ve been working with Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen in transforming the reading list into a learning style suitable for a class of 24 to 30 students.

As an alternative to creating content in the traditional Powerpoint style, I’ve been putting content directly on the web.  Visual maps help to reduce confusion.  Here’s a map outlining the course.

http://coevolving.com/aalto/201010-cs0004/201010-cs0004-map00-context.png

The details are available in a course outline in long form text.  (This continues to evolve over the duration of the class).

The first lecture is on Foundations for a systems approach.

The second lecture is on Perspectives and diversity.

The students will be encouraged to join the Systems Community of Inquiry, where access and visibility will be extended from this classroom in Helsinki to the larger world of systems thinkers.  The style of education is open and fluid, appropriate for bringing new people into the systems movement.

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