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Re: <nettime> Nobel laureate in economics aged 102 endorses the human ec
Newmedia on Wed, 23 Jan 2013 10:42:31 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Nobel laureate in economics aged 102 endorses the human economy...


John:
 
> The submersion (perversion!) of much general systems
> thinking into the cybernetic/military-industrial was an
> unfortunate result of crossovers between all these people
> (and others) at the time.
 
As I emphasized to Brian, when you look at any of this with "perversion" and "unfortunate" in mind, you will have a MUCH more difficult time sorting out what was useful and what was BULLDADA in this material.  You need to check your "morals" at the door, if you want to understand what was going on.
 
The context for all this was the COLD WAR -- as you know from your family history.  Very few could resist the *temptation* of getting involved and even fewer had a "principled" stance they could maintain in the face of what was a very effective and all-encompassing "propaganda" onslaught. 
 
It seemed that there were two "rival" global SYSTEMS fighting for the future of humanity and the "systems" people were deeply committed to winning.  Telling yourself that you were the "good guys" and that the Soviets were the "bad guys" was exactly what happens when you insist on "moralizing" the situation . . . and when you insist on viewing everything as a "complex system" in which "progress" (i.e. the good vs. the bad) is easy to choose.
 
Those who could resist -- which includes Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan and (to some degree) Kenneth Boulding -- seem to have been able to do this because they had *religious* reference that superceded the apparently earth-shattering conflicts of the day.  Wiener was a "Tolstoyian," McLuhan a Catholic and Boulding a Quaker.  Take this away from them and you wind up with people who have no "image" of man -- which was Boulding's primary concern.
 
> But certainly some of the ideas are extremely powerful
> (as illustrated by the fact that our social system as it is
> rests largely on a technocracy constructed from that
> worldview!).
 
This is exactly what we need to sort out -- NOW.  Were these ideas really powerful?  Did they "succeed"?  Is there an important "technocracy" that somehow emerged with this world view?  Indeed, is there even something that can be meaningfully be called a "social system"?
 
I have my doubts.  My guess is that these ideas "failed" -- which makes them even more important to understand today, because, as far as I can tell, the "systems approach" is the ONLY "new" way of thinking about society that developed in the past 50+ years. 
 
The reason for this failure is the same one that pointed Coase/Wang to issue their "Man and the Economy" challenge -- humans are NOT systems!
 
As historian of science George Dyson puts it in the Preface to his 1997 "Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence," "In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature and machines."
 
Trying to apply "machine" or "nature" thinking to the HUMANS might work as an "approximation" for a limited time and for a limited purpose but it cannot sustain itself -- or so I suspect.  It's time that we figured it out!
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
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