[unrev-II] Themes: OHS / DKR vs. Design Science

From: Paul Fernhout (pdfernhout@kurtz-fernhout.com)
Date: Wed Nov 22 2000 - 21:20:53 PST

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    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

    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]

    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
    http://www.bfi.org/ 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 http://www.chaordic.org/ approach). 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.

    -Paul Fernhout
    Kurtz-Fernhout Software
    Developers of custom software and educational simulations
    Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

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