Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Complex Systems

I've always known that systems science (aka systems theory and cybernetics) is in a sorry state. But this was driven home to me this morning when a senior professor in the field commented that "systems mean different things to different people". Hmmm, does it, really?

Systems science is supposed to be abstract, so it doesn't matter whether the system you're talking about is biological or industrial or urban. And indeed, all three of those systems are examples of matter-value systems. Well, what other kinds of systems are there?

It turns out there are 2x2 kinds of systems. There are information systems and matter systems. And each of those can be either pure or valued. So physical systems are pure matter, software are pure information systems. And industrial systems in general are matter-value.

What do I mean by a valued system? I mean one which processes the value of its elements. Or put more baldly, a metacircular system. One that redesigns itself to suit an internalized conception of its own purpose.

An FPGA-based computer whose CPU reprogrammed itself on demand would be an example of an information-value system. But there are other, much more common, systems that fit this category: political systems.

So ignoring chimeras like health systems, we have software, political, physical and industrial systems. And that is all.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Unemployment in Europe

These were a couple of the comments in a reddit thread today about European unemployment.

Hang around playing xbox and commenting on reddit about how much the US sucks - much like everyone else in Germany. Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

I know! It's the same in Sweden (i spend some time there)...
Socialised hispeed internet is a killer of motivation!

Which got me to thinking, this is bad? I'd like to point everyone to the fact that natural resources are becoming scarce. All useful jobs have to do with the extraction, transformation and distribution of these natural resources. Which are becoming scarce.

So useful jobs are scarce. Either people must scale back their motivation or they must become destructive. Germans and Swedes have decided on the former, Americans and English on the latter.

As petrol, lumber, land, grain, wool, rubber, steel, copper, and all other commodities become increasingly scarce, we can either be satisfied with less or we can fight more energetically for what's left.

And don't anyone dare say that everyone should become a programmer / engineer or artist / designer. Most people don't have the analytical functioning for the former, or the creativity for the latter.

Mind you, I'm not a doomer. In fact, I consider doomers to be anti-civilization scum. The current scarcity of natural resources is not a permanent fact of life. It's a product of China and to a lesser extent India rapidly modernizing.

When Nautilus Minerals' venture finally comes online, massive new sources of copper, gold and other minerals will increase their supply.

When 2nd generation high temperature superconductors become available, the demand for copper for generators will be vastly reduced.

And when the world starts building nuclear power plants and mass transit systems in earnest, then demand for petrol and coal will be reduced while supply of both electricity and transportation will increase.

Scarcity of natural resources and the poverty it is associated with,, are not inevitable. They're just unavoidable right now. We might as well make the best of our situation by kicking back and taking it easy.