In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Economic Patterns on May 1, 2014 at 7:02 am
Every wondered what the patterns of a social movement look like? Check this out. I created a graph for the number of Google keyword searches for the phrases Anonymous (the hacker group), Occupy Wall Street, and NSA to see how they change in time. Each one has a different structure — which reveals important things about how ideas spread in society to produce cultural change.
Note how Anonymous (the red line) has a series of increasing peaks, each representing a new media event where they gained more exposure. Each new event brought them more prominence and notoriety. This is the process of becoming a recognizable and persistent part of the cultural zeitgeist. Contrast this with the large single peak of Occupy Wall Street, which is the classic shape for a viral media event. Occupy arose quickly, spread far and wide, then dissipated and largely went away.
This is different from the seeking of information about the NSA (National Security Agency), which was mostly non-existent until the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden. This event is structured as a plateau with descending peaks to reveal how it rose to prominence and remained in the spot light as new batches of files were periodically released to the public.
All three events have different time signatures that reveal something important about how they (1) came into being; (2) influenced public awareness; and (3) left their mark (or not) on society.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Design Science, Human Behavior on July 9, 2013 at 10:18 am
Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phones and digital infrastructure, it is now possible to achieve direct democracy at the global scale. We are already seeing inklings of its emergence in the rise of Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and more recent activities in Egypt, Brazil, and Turkey. Yet there is a cultural force at play that may keep us from breaking away from centralized political power — the surveillance meme and its capacity to evoke fear and paranoia about open data systems.
The rise of global democracy is at risk of being thwarted by a toxic meme! Continue reading “Will the Surveillance Meme Keep Us From Global Democracy?” »
In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Design Science on March 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm
There sure seems to be a lot of confusion — even among technologists — about what technology actually is. I recently had the experience of hearing an investor who funds clean tech startups say that he is “focusing on creating technology, not researching culture” as a way to dismiss the role that cultural evolution might play in getting ideas to market. This was especially surprising considering that all technology arises from culture, each with its own unique history of blended concepts, domains of knowledge, standard practices, sociological models, mythic narratives, and demonstrated solutions.
Continue reading “Why All Technology Arises Through Cultural Evolution” »
In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Global Integration, Human Behavior on March 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Addressing global challenges in the 21st Century will require a fundamental rethinking of what it means to be human. We can no longer embrace the false doctrine of human separateness from the natural world. And nowhere is this more powerful than the intersections between biological and cultural evolution. Continue reading “Toward a Rigorous Science of Cultural Evolution” »
In Complex Systems, Design Science, Global Integration on February 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm
One of the great challenges looming over the climate debate is the sheer complexity of planetary change. As our education systems continually fail to instill robust critical thinking skills in the populace — and a vast PR system confuses and obfuscates to stall significant action — we are left with a confused population of lost souls whose ideological filters do more to shape attitudes and beliefs than the basic observations about what is unfolding all around us. Continue reading “Seeing the Complexity of Planetary Change” »
In Complex Systems, Design Science, Human Behavior on February 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm
Many people reach out to me because they want to learn about the science of complexity. They ask what it is, how it works, and — most importantly — how they can apply it to global challenges confronting humanity. In those conversations I share what I have learned as a complexity researcher who specializes in the evolution of human systems. Realizing how useful this is for them, I thought I’d share some of it with all of you here. Continue reading “Applying Complexity Science to Social Systems” »
In Complex Systems, Economic Patterns, Global Integration on October 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm
If I had to pick a single word to describe the global economy today, it would be fragile. Policy makers and business leaders have actively built a system that destroys the environment in order to produce profits in the short term — by distributing goods and services across a global supply chain that is designed to minimize costs and maximize financial returns — while relying on structures that are profoundly susceptible to disruption. Continue reading “Towards a Resilient Global Economy” »
In Complex Systems, Design Science, Global Integration, Human Behavior on June 10, 2012 at 11:35 am
Years ago, I took the road less traveled and set out to build an integrated approach to global change. I realized early on that the only way to address global climate change was to focus jointly on the complexities of the human condition and the coupled dynamics of Earth Systems. It was a telling observation that no academic institutions were equipped to support the broad transdisciplinary approach I sought to take, which is why I remain outside the university setting in pursuit of this goal to this day.
I am pleased to share that after 15 years of formal academic training and independent study, a clear set of guidelines has appeared that brings this ambitious goal within reach. A rigorous design science for building the pathway to sustainability is now available for use. Continue reading “An Integrated Approach to Global Change” »
In Complex Systems, Global Integration on February 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm
In the last few months, I have been honored to work with the International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES) in Geneva, Switzerland, which has the ambitious goal of creating a new set of capabilities for simulating and visualizing the dynamic Earth in a fully integrated manner. My primary responsibility so far has been to assist in the creation of an overview document that conveys the scope and vision for this inspiring effort. And now I am excited to announce that it is available to the public. Click the image to download it as a PDF.
(Note: It’s a large 9 MB file!)
The ICES Foundation was founded by Bob Bishop, with whom I worked closely to co-create this important piece of work. Feel free to inquire with me directly about our progress in bringing ICES closer to reality. This is absolutely the most ambitious endeavor I’ve ever been a part of. It is appropriately at a global scale grand enough to match the level of highly complex challenges we must all face together in the coming decades.
In Complex Systems, Global Integration on January 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm
At the heart of the ecological crisis is an unhealthy relationship between humanity and the natural world. Western philosophical traditions, in particular, are wrought with a history of unbreachable chasms — between mind and body, truth and fact, life and death, etc. We have lived out a troubled existence with metaphors of competition, battles, and outright war on the natural systems we depend on for our survival.
Human settlements now leave a massive footprint on the water supplies, forests, mineral deposits, and food stocks offered forth by the planet we live on. We are severely out of balance. This begs the question How will humanity survive and thrive indefinitely into the future? To answer this question, which cuts to the very core of human struggle on earth in the 21st Century, we must consider the design criteria that enabled life to spring forth in our cosmological past. Only when we understand the governing dynamics of life can we thoughtfully and strategically design community structures that generate and support urban landscapes and social processes that promote a thriving existence. Continue reading “Want to Build Sustainable Communities? Study Living Systems!” »