The problem with forecasting the future is that living systems are not exemplars of ideal types or slaves to linear forces but are messy, historical phenomena. The “caprices” of history are not simply quirks, anomalies or blips; they are not temporary road-blocks that can be got around. They are major causal variables, an integral part of the causal dynamics.
Although I will save my serious speech-making for next year’s World Congress/ISSS meeting in Toronto, I do want to say a few words about where we are going — about the vision and the “strategic plan” that we are pursuing — and how our plans for the Toronto conference fit into that vision.
Our everyday lives are subject to tidal influences…This year’s fad is often next year’s “remainder” or “close-out” sale item. Although we like to think that science is free from such “extraneous” influences, of course this is not so. Thomas Kuhn, in his celebrated volume on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1972) argued that science is very much influenced by the tidal effects associated with different “paradigms”.
In his latest book, Full House, (1996), Stephen Jay Gould posits what he characterizes as a “drunkard’s walk” model to account for the evolution of complexity. This is a rather surprising argument, coming from such a sophisticated and articulate student of evolution.
What is complexity, asks author-journalist George Johnson in a recent “Science Times,” the science section of The New York Times (May 5, 1997)? Below the headline, “Researchers on Complexity Ponder What It’s All About,” Johnson reports that there is still no agreed-upon definition…
The current headlong rush into managed care provides yet another example of the pitfalls associated with introducing radical changes into a complex system when you don’t really understand either the system or what you are doing to it.
Although its role is often unappreciated, synergy can be considered one of the core concepts of the systems sciences. Indeed, synergy is a ubiquitous phenomenon in nature and human societies alike. Here I will briefly discuss one aspect of the relationship between the two.
In the end, what salvages the “case” that this volume seeks to advance is the final chapter by editor Niels Gregersen. By tacitly adopting a more sophisticated and balanced understanding of evolutionary biology, Gregersen deftly transcends the shortcomings and misconceptions (and even some internal contradictions) that might otherwise have undermined the organizers’ basic objective.
Somit and Peterson’s “predictably unpopular thesis” is that humankind has a predisposition, “a genetic bias” for hierarchically structured social and political systems. The book is significant both for what it says and fails to say about both human nature and democracy.
To our preliterate ancestors, untutored in academic economics but well-attuned to the vicissitudes of living in the late Pleistocene, the basic problem that they confronted — along with all other living things — was survival and reproduction. Earning a living in the “economy of nature” was a relentless, inescapable and somewhat unpredictable imperative.