Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 00:20:53 -0500
Organization: Kurtz-Fernhout Software
|Themes: OHS / DKR vs. Design Science
I've been nudging these space things a bit lately (eg. article link on Asteroid Mining) because we to an extent have lost a bit of the second part of the UnRevII focus. The issue is what are the global problems of humanity and how should we go about resolving them? (Of course, using Augmenting systems to help us.)
My perspective on this is that there are issues and challenges facing us, but they are not what may be expected. Many are related primarily to the implications of Moore's law applied over the next four decades (i.e. computers a million to a trillion times faster than today's desktop for the same price). Moore's law is itself a product of a bootstrapping sort of process. Others are related to similar exponential growth curves in biotechnology, nanotechnology, communications technology, manufacturing technology, power technology, materials technology, robotics, and collaborative technology (IT and/or social).
Compared to those challenges, running out of oil in a century or two is a non-problem. In that sense, asking where our economy will get its power in a hundred years is a bit like demanding a five year answer in detail how they will earn a living after college. Obviously we don't want to wave all our problems into a future "deus ex machina", but the question is -- is exponential (bootstrap) growth happening, and if so, what does it mean the real problems will be (and for who and where and when)?
Or putting it another way, our technology may be in a runaway bootstrap process whether we like it or not. This runaway bootstrap process may be occurring whether or not our social knowledge or wisdom is bootstrapping at the same rate. Doug has pointed out that every day may count -- he says it is one thing that keeps him moving. So too we should think about how every day may count as we try to bootstrap our collective wisdom using still evolving Knowledge Management techniques to try to keep up with the bootstrapping (or exploding) technosphere.
Sadly, part of the problem manifests itself in lack of priority resources to try to solve the KM problem (especially in an open source way), as organizations position themselves for private gain in business as usual. This is similar to Doug's parable of the ant nest that overhangs the river and continues to expand thinking everything is fine until the branch snaps and it falls in the rushing water to be swept away. Why invest in bettering the lot of humanity when there is one more easy sale to make of a proprietary software, or one more stealth bomber to build at a profit and some campaign donations, or (more ethically challenging) one more hour that could be spent with your family? [Related reading: "Protector" sci-fi novel by Larry Niven] http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~mcelroy/review/books/lnprot.html
My personal approach to this other UnrevII theme is to focus on a subset of the problem I think a few people could solve. For me that is the design of self-reliant communities in space, because that both is an interesting long-term problem and it may have positive spinoffs for bootstrapping developing communities on Earth (one of which is developing tools like OHS/DKR). I find it a question that focuses the mind, leading one to think about technologies and economics in a way different from business as usual.
This is similar in some ways to the Buckminster Fuller mode of thinking....
...of supporting human life in the universe with minimal technology (the "Design Science" revolution). For that to succeed, one needs to focus on the basics of survival, manufacturing, and life support with an organization and cross-disciplinary focus (including building real things) that is historically lacking in most (not all) granted academic endeavors (despite what is promised, given the realities of acadmic departments and related power strucutres). And, fullfilling the design science hope will take something like Doug's Augment/OHS. So, in general terms, my interest is perhaps more towards Doug for OHS/DKR infrastucture (includign social aspects), and towards Bucky for OHS/DKR content (mainly product design and manufacturing process aspects).
This is my particular direction. I can see quite well the need for OHS/ DKR techniques to study and improve social systems as well (like Dee Hock's Chaordic....
Of course, obviously there are current issues as well (millions of starving people due to not distributing existing food supplies for political reasons...
...the continuance of ignorance and extreme poverty for similar reasons, the proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction, the continued destruction of biodiversity, misguided social policies, etc.). These all deserve to be addressed by an OHS/ DKR. Once can hope that more for everyone will mean more for the disadvantaged and less strife in general. Whether that would be true is itself another question to examine using a OHS/DKR.