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Re: [ontology-summit] Large-scale engineered systems vs. large-scale soc

To: Ontology Summit 2011 discussion <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali Hashemi <ali@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2012 17:34:44 -0500
Message-id: <CADr70E200d5R7hp2=XRO8T2hkJRwv7cY-wbMFy=U_rb_wTDDgA@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Gary,

On Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 5:07 PM, Gary Berg-Cross <gbergcross@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

It would be nice to have such an ontology, but we don’t have to wait for one to have a discussion and see what conceptualization makes sense. Science has been helping us undestand the world for quite a while.


You later used a caterpillar example, which would involve an evolved object that is part of nature.  I could pursue that example but since I think of many aspects of nature as systemic I used Wetlands as an example.  Here are some of the ways that I think that it qualifies as an class or instance of system looking at the share common characteristics I used:

There are some criticisms of the systems perspective as applied to the environment because it suggests that humans are somehow separate or distinct from the environment. It's gained the most salience in asking how we respond to global crises of environmental degradation, resource depletion, etc.? I'll quote here from a discussion with a friend as his account is apt:

[AK] There's a classic environmentalist position, that humans are mistreating or perturbing some originally sound ecological system. We humans are out of the picture in this concept of 'nature.' Having lost our oneness with it, we must now take care to act as protectors of nature, not just miners and loggers, plunderers... This is the environmentalist story. It is echoed in many forms, from hippies to the EPA to greenwashing frauds.

Paths to global material & ecological sustainability have more to do with how we live as humans, than with how we live as beings-apart-from-nature or beings-one-with-nature. 

We should take all possible approaches to that visionary goal (sustainability). Environmentalism has a role, but will continue to fail if it only puts the focus on 'nature.' [For example, we need to consider: whether to embed into our children consumerist/industrialist values; to continue externalizing ecological costs onto each other; to keep substituting political thought with entertainment, etc... ]

I read a book called "Dharma Gaia," a collection of essays linking together Buddhist non-dualism, sort of indigenous earth-holism, and 'deep ecology' (all of which can be described as "interconnectedness")... all more or less with the same message that "our conceptual separation from nature is the root of all ecological problems." And the root of our separation from nature is the very concept of self (of course, thank you Buddha). I found it mostly interesting, some of it inspiring, but ultimately did not believe it contributed very much to the solution space.

Not that I wholly agree with the above, but I think it successfully captures some of the critiques of systems thinking as applied to these 'systems'. It's also recapped quite nicely in this song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK0XqBknTms

All this isn't to say that systems thinking isn't useful - there's obviously a lot it can contribute to our understanding of these topics - but there are also serious limitations that should also be explicated in terms of what it brings to the table. Especially in the context of these broader systems that many might describe as wicked problems. It sort of implies -- how to incorporate systems theory as one perspective amongst other perspectives in characterizing a problem space and suggesting potential solution approaches.


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