A Few Notes from ISSS San Jose 2012

This week, I was at ISSS San Jose 2012, the annual meeting for the International Society for the System Sciences. I would try to explain what System Science is, but I actually understand very little, and this conference was my shot at trying to understand what is going on. At a high level, it’s the interdisciplinary study of systems, from businesses to ecosystems, to get at some of the aspects that they share.

A lot of it went over my head, but I wrote down a few things that I found particularly thought-provoking. I was inconsistent in taking notes, so this is not meant to be a summary. So, here they are, split up by the speaker

David Ing

  • resilience isn’t always good
  • profit is a buffer against downturn, and it stops you from changing
  • when you’re down and in crisis, change will happen
  • innovation is sometimes doing less of things
  • with only so much time in the day, you need to figure out what you can cut

Rafael Ramirez

  • we shouldn’t always think of value-added; think about value-created together
  • in most domains, technology reduces cost
  • in healthcare, technology increase costs
  • hire people on attitude, not skills

Jim Spohrer

  • our models can themselves change a system
  • local optimizations don’t necessarily lead to global optimizations
  • if that’s not the case, we should change the system to be more like that
  • one of the biggest threats to systems can be further innovation
  • “improve the weakest link” is a strategy for equity
  • “winner takes all” is boring

Garry Peterson

  • it’s easy to define something in a model
  • it’s hard to identify the same in reality

Judith Rosen

  • meaning only exists in anticipatory frameworks
  • meaning is a prediction about what a percept refers to
  • anticipatory systems and models are the same thing
  • our body is anticipatory; our mind is a model builder on top of that

John Kineman

  • the world is not fundamentally mechanical; it is complex
  • “mechanisms” are just models with reduced complexity
  • probability is often treated as fundamental states
  • this conflates natural law & error and is a dead end for causal explanations
  • Hawking pointed out that we need infinite, unobservable universes to explain what we see
  • we should be working towards explanations that we can observe

2 replies on “A Few Notes from ISSS San Jose 2012”

Hi Kevin,

One small but important correction: Anticipatory Systems are not the same thing as models; they are systems which can build and use models of self and environment (and the relations between) to predict next phase based on current phase. They are model-based in their guidance and control strategy, and the capacity for model building and interpretation, etc, comes from within the system’s own organization. All living organisms represent naturally occurring anticipatory systems. So what I said in my talk that you are referencing, here, was that the models used by living organisms (and, therefore, the models generated by the human mind) are fundamentally the same as the models of science. It’s all connected. Hopefully that makes more sense, now!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *