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Jason Lord - Thinking in Systems - Z-Day 2013

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Zeitgeist Day 2013 - 'Thinking in Systems' - Jason Lord [Applause] My name is Jason Lord. I coordinate chapters (which are just awareness activism groups in the state of California) of which we have 15 right now; and there are eight Z-Day events going on in California this weekend. So, to continue this emerging train of thought, my presentation today is on the topic of 'Thinking in Systems, a Worldview for a Natural Law-Based Economy.' I find there are two angles when communicating these ideas: one is the dominant value program of the culture, where the goal of our awareness activism is to essentially update the cultural mindset and hence the culture's values; the other angle is understanding the actual structure of social operation, in regards to the model that we express and how it works. By now, you've heard much on the topic of social values, which also include your personal value set, which is the lens through which you see and interpret the world around you. My hope today is that you'll take with you an alternate lens with which to view the world: this lens being the foundation for the very attainable and currently doable social system the Movement advocates. The goal here is to put systems into context when discussing a Natural Law/ Resource-Based Economy. I'm going to shorten that down to Natural Law model. I've divided this presentation into four parts, and they're short parts: 'Defining Systems in Language', 'Seeing How Systems Have Behavior' (now that will be interesting), 'A Quick Look at Three Broad Economic Components and What Life Need Means' and 'Governance', the sticky topic. Part one: 'Defining Systems' The topics I want to cover pose a challenge on two levels: language and relationships. I'm using old language, which is our everyday language, in order to express non-linear relationships. It's easy to understand linear relationships with old language, since two elements can be drawn on a graph, showing the simple relationship with constant proportions; whereas, nonlinear relationships do not produce a proportional effect and can only be drawn in curves and wiggles. The world is full of non-linear relationships, which can surprise our linear-thinking minds. Where we may have learned that a small push produces a small response, it would follow in linear thinking that a larger push, twice as big, would produce twice as big a response. But in a non-linear system, twice as big a push could produce a fraction of the response, a response magnitudes larger, or no response at all. So, with that in mind, for the next four hours we will look at hundreds of graphs, lots of mathematical formula and enough of that crap. A system is not just a collection of random things; it is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something, consisting of component parts, interconnections, function or purpose. For now, it will suffice to see systems as a set of components, interconnected in such a way that their relationship is greater than the sum of the parts. Central to understanding systems, especially in understanding symbiotic relationships, is the concept of feedback. Complex systems have feedback loops that allow for self-renewal and self-organization, such as when you heal from a cut or recover from being sick or observe the self-organizing complexity of insects and plants or the cycle of bird migrations around the planet. Feedback is a loop where information of some kind is fed back into the system itself, whether it's data in a computer, consensus from a population or a change in the temperature, it is the way a system responds to its environment. So systems-thinking is the process of understanding how component parts relate to each other within the whole. Now, in nature, systems-thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, plants, animals, interact to achieve equilibrium with the environment, hence achieving stasis within the Earth system itself. Systems are not just physical, they can also be comprised of beliefs and political ideologies or modes of social organization, such as monetary structures, systems within systems, both physical and intellectual, all interacting with each other, all at the same time. By taking this view, we can study the behavior of systems to know if the outcomes are desired or harmful, which brings us to Part two: 'Systems Behavior' Let's take a look at an example. Here's something I think most of you are familiar with: that wonderful toy that we call a Slinky. Yes, the Slinky holds the understanding to a complex and elegant system we call a Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy. If you hold the Slinky in the palm of your hand, nothing happens. If you hold the slinky by one end, it starts to bounce up and down; this is a great example of systems behavior. And whether you move the Slinky from one hand to the other, or throw it back at your friend in frustration, the question to pose is this "What made the Slinky bounce up and down, or walk down steps?" Or said another way "What causes the resulting behavior?" Now, some of you may be figuring out answers like "The person's hands did" or "Gravity". Whereas those answers may seem logical on the surface, the answer is actually much more simple. The answer lies within the system that we call a Slinky itself; the hands that manipulate it suppress or release some behavior that is latent within the structure of the spring. This is a central insight into systems theory and understanding our world through this system's lens. Now, we tend not to see in this way; instead, we focus on the resulting behavior, such as crime, as the problem itself: fighting crime, fighting the whole list of causes, (we can go down the list for quite a while), rather than understanding such outcomes as latent behavior inherent in system structure. When it comes to Slinkys, system behavior is easy enough to understand, but when it comes to economics, class, nations or other established systems, it's not so simple. But once we see that there is relationship between structure and behavior, we can begin to understand how systems work, how some work well and how others do not work well at all, manifesting latent behaviors inherent to those systems, each producing different outcomes in the social landscape. So, let's look at some parts of our current social structure, using the lens of systems-thinking. Some things that come to light when taking on this worldview are: political leaders do not cause recessions or economic booms; ups and downs are inherent in the structure of the market-economy itself. Competitors rarely cause a company to lose market share; the losing company creates its losses through its own business policies, while the competitor is there to scoop up the advantage. Oil-exporting nations are not solely responsible for oil-price increases; price spikes and economic chaos are results from oil-importing nations building economies that are vulnerable to supply interruptions. The flu virus does not attack you; rather, you set up the conditions for it to flourish within you. And as a final example, criminal behavior: locking people up who are deemed criminal only swells prison populations; it does not address what is causing the behavior in the first place. Statements like these can seem unsettling, for they start to shift the focus from the resulting behavior to the system structure itself, and you're going to come up against this when you talk about the Movement to people. Now, there are many ways to see the world. So much of what we think about along the lines uses language that only lives in the abstract, without having a referent back to the physical life system, whereas our ability to observe, test, collect feedback and try again has brought us out of the dark ages to where we are today. And this is why The Zeitgeist Movement is interested in the scientific method, as applied to our sustainability as a species. When you look through the lens of a systems worldview, the method of science is not restricted in its application to the physical world; it can also be applied to our social systems, to our economics, to our educational system, and as a method of understanding human behavior. And in turn, there is a natural feedback system built into the physical reality which allows this method to adjust, adapt and change as needed, and this is what we mean by emergent. Now, I want to distinguish between the scientific method and the science industry. Some people have trust issues with science, and when you look into what people don't trust, it's not really science, as in the scientific method they don't trust, but rather the existing science industry. Our science industry has certainly been corrupted through the mechanism of profit incentive, where a corporation might need to force results that enhance the selling of their product. In a 2012 publication from the UCS entitled 'Heads They Win, Tails We Lose', it outlines how corporations corrupt science through the use of financial pressure, through downplaying evidence and exaggerating uncertainty, corrupting advisory panels and through their lobbying. In contrast, a resource-based model simply values data that is proven, before implementing solutions based on that data. This sets up scientists to truly be able to value the scientific method and embrace information that might make their hypothesis wrong, because it serves a greater purpose, allowing us a more accurate understanding of our world. What starts to develop, as we follow this train of thought, is that our relationship to the world that sustains us is a technical relationship. You will see the term technical used as synonymous with scientific in our materials; this is better to express the causal nature of existing phenomena and how things are interrelated. You could look at this as spiritual since the notion of being in harmony with nature or in balance is fundamental to many of the world's religions. And the point is that there is a real technical relationship between us and all the other sub-systems nested within each other as part of the full Earth system. Part three: 'Economics and Life Need' With the lens of a systems worldview starting to take shape, we can now consider some economic variables, starting with life need. What is human need or life need? The best way I've heard life need expressed is 'that without which life capacity is reduced'. I like this definition, since it cuts out a lot of the cultural distortions about what our life needs are. Need is expressed here as distinct from human wants, which relate to the conditioning of your cultural environment, but not directly related to life need. From a technical or scientific standpoint, there is a spectrum of life need common to all living human systems on the planet, regardless of race, creed, nation, religion or social class. These needs are noted as atmospheric, physiological, shelter, environmental, social and vocational. Now these are broad distinctions, which contain the life-ground attributes of clean air, nutrition, water, social interaction and education. This is the empirical life-ground that is shared by every human being. When it comes to what we believe about meeting needs, what is generally accepted today is that monetary economics and the free market are the pinnacle of social organization, for bringing prosperity to the masses. Well, in order to claim that title from a system's view, you have to account for the whole system. If we assess what is happening in the current structure, almost half the world, which is over three billion people, live on less than $2.50 a day as total purchasing power for their life need. And if we climb up the ladder just a little ways, we find that 80% of the world's population lives on less than $10 a day. So, I think we can cut the crap about market economics being the pinnacle; it's nothing more than an assumption at this point. The question we need to ask is "What outcome do we want from our socioeconomic system if the goal is to meet our life needs in the most sustainable way?" Well, let's look at this word socioeconomic a little closer, since I keep using it to refer to a type of system. Now, remember I'm using old language to express non-linear relationships. So, if we look at the main component of this word, let's define it from a technical perspective, which is, economics derives from Greek to mean 'management of a household', with the aim of an economy to actually economize. To economize is to conserve; to conserve is to create efficiency. And what is efficiency? Efficiency is absence of waste. Keep that in mind as I describe attributes of this structure. What is referred to as the efficiency mechanism is inherent throughout a systems approach to social organization. When we consider our relationship to the larger environment, the economic organization of interdependent, living systems (us), is through a physical referent to the largest order, closed system that contains our life need. In this regard, we refer to the Earth as an essentially closed system, since it contains life capacity within its biosphere. This is why we refer to the Earth so much; it's not just a pretty unifying symbol, it is a physical starting point; and from this logic, we see how a very different economic system would result. We are living systems, in constant exchange with life resource from an essentially finite Earth. This is the fundamental connection of the human species, and our place in the physical world confirms that we are not separate entities in any respect. We must arrive at a working social model based on this logic, if we expect to survive. Now, there are many economic components of a Natural Law model, that I don't have time for today, so I'm only going to touch on three broad components which become self-evident in regards to responsible decision-making. And these are: 'Resource Accounting', 'Dynamic Equilibrium' and 'Strategic Design'. We have to account for what there is, while taking into account renewal attributes of our resources that we consume and then being strategic in our designs to maximize efficiency. Again, the efficiency mechanism is a core attribute to these components; remember, it's not a separate thing, which can be confusing if you're looking at this from a linear perspective. In regards to accounting, our natural resources and ecosystems are spread throughout the globe, and they work together as a whole Earth system. Each resource and species has a function in preservation, recycling and in regeneration of life and are accounted for as system components in a Natural Law model. We must organize and account for what we have available, and this can be done through scanning and surveying our habitat. Proper economic resource allocation can't really be made unless we have a clear understanding of what we have and where it is. It might seem fanciful to have a survey of the world's resources as part of a global resource-management system, and in the current economic climate, I agree with you. But the reality is that we're doing much of this right now. Now, it's not integrated, for there's no reason to do so; we live in a world of patents and secrets and market-shares and copyrights. The cooperation needed to create this kind of global system would undermine the need for a monetary system altogether, and it's partly why it's not done. The point here is our ability to measure and survey our world is a current technical reality, happening right now. With a quick Internet search, it's easy to find other organizations that collect data about our physical world. These groups are not integrated, but they're still examples of the systems model when it comes to surveying, accounting and analysis. Once we collect data from our survey mechanism, we need to rate each source based on its renewability, the pollution output and everything that factors in, in order to weigh the degree of sustainability. This compiling would be done through advanced computer systems, since the amount of data to deal with is just far too immense and can only be managed through AI systems. Accounting is only a first step; we need to track the rates of change and regeneration, where they apply. This is a simplified example of equilibrium: showing water level in a container, if the inflow equals the outflow, the water level remains consistent and is in a state of equilibrium. Similarly, we have resource inflows into our economic system. There is a stock of materials and goods, and there are outputs to the production and distribution of those goods and is hence a core component of a Natural Law economy. A classic example of disregard for dynamic equilibrium today is deforestation. Trees have a natural life cycle, and if our use of wood exceeds the rates of regeneration, which is of course what we have today, we have a problem, for it is unsustainable. This logic applies to all systems and not just our forests; it applies to how we organize our agriculture, food production, traffic systems and going in for the reduction of pollution outputs and fuel consumption, not to mention the utter waste of human life sitting here in LA traffic, and also applies to the use of our oceans and sustaining our habitats. You can even use this principle when you track groundwater. Observing the dynamic equilibrium of all systems is inherent in a Natural Law economy. Remember, the current monetary model requires as much consumption as possible to keep the growing population employed and the market economy operational. When accounting for life capacity and systems that produce life need, what we're doing now is complete ecocide. If efficiency is absence of waste, then inefficiency could not be more fully realized than what we have today. And this leads us to strategic design. As we move away from market inefficiency, things will be designed to last. The multiplicity of goods, the stratification of quality, the planned or intrinsic obsolescence would no longer be necessary, since consumption would no longer be the driver of economic activity. It is optimum efficiency, conservation, preservation through designing everything to be the best that it can be and last as long as it can, producing what is the most technically correct for any given application or need. The waste reduction alone, from producing only the best that is needed, without multiplicity, without stratification or the breakdown of goods, would be immense, along with recycling, updating and the longevity designed into the products that we use. This would be part of the ongoing efficiency mechanism. In the time I have left, I want to touch on one more often misunderstood aspect of this model: governance. If there was ever a sticky topic, this would be it. Fortunately, it's not that complicated, and here's why: governance is not to be confused with what we call 'government'. Politics, opinion, private-interest, lobbying and popular vote are used in the process of making policy, enforcing laws through penal action or imposed restriction, such as imprisonment. Today, we control human behavior through the enactment of laws, without considering the physical or social conditions responsible for producing that aberrant behavior in the first place. Usually, we project a right or wrong value-judgement onto the offending party, whether a political leader, a corporation, or another country, and we call that the source of the corruption. A systems approach to governance has nothing to do with centralized power, or some mystery group of evil men behind a curtain, while the rest of us are enslaved. Such statements are better suited as an accurate metaphor for the system that we live in today. Rather, governance refers to processes that ensure the effective management of a project, organization or system. Which processes? Those that are relevant to life need. And what is life need? That without which life capacity is reduced, which brings us back to the spectrum of human needs, which all have a physical referent back to the environment. Next, to ensure effective management, that is, to achieve our goals in the most efficient manner possible, using the best methods we have, which is currently the method of science. What projects? Those systems that produce the goods and services that we need. What organization? That would be our social organization. And which system? That is the socioeconomic system that encompasses all of these attributes. Of course whatever path unfolds between a monetary system and a Natural Law economy will, most likely, involve the need for government and law as we know it. But, as new systems are implemented and the production of goods are automated, and as we start meeting the needs of the human population, you will see a drastic reduction in violence and hence the need for government and laws and enforcement will diminish over time. There is a hierarchy in natural systems, which is quite different from the idea the word conjures up for most of us, where one person or group has power over another. My goal here is to put the concept of hierarchy into context. Here's a simple example, starting with a photo of a tree; or better said, it's a representation of a system that we refer to as tree. There is diversity in the branches, which are a subsystems to the tree, and the subsystem of the roots also has multiple functions for nutrients and moisture needs: all working together as interdependent and interconnected systems: no voting, no hiring, no firing, no warfare, all components getting what they need, but none with power over the other. This is taken from the National Park Service here in the United States. Here we have a model of systems that make up the Mojave Desert here in California. And to take hierarchy to the next level of complexity, to break this down so it's a little easier to understand: you start at the top, and you start with your overall system, your overall framework. Then things break down and are separated out into the main components of the system, each one broken down into its component parts. And then, detailed models consisting of the elements are drawn up, and this forms a hierarchy. This is looking at a more complex version of hierarchy, but it's hierarchy nonetheless, in a natural system. And for a modern-day example of a hierarchical structure that works as an extraordinary system, look no further than the Internet. Every computer that is connected to the Internet is part of a network, and while it's useful to have simple diagrams like this showing the relationships, rest assured when you look at the totality of the Internet system, it is a dynamic, complex and resilient system. Of course, we need to put this into context, as to how people would relate to each other, since that's the big fear about all this is, right? Who's going to be telling you what to do? This fear shows the social aberrancy that gets reinforced in a system where it's hard to trust anyone. The good news is that you get to decide what interests you. This may come as a surprise, because many of us are not prepared for the liberating responsibility, since we've been robbed of our ability to contribute by being dumbed-down to workers and consumers and saddled by the burdens of debt and stresses of economic inequality. The social structure of a Natural Law economy is a collaborative one, where people contribute based on their interests and are given the skills to do so through the learning process, where the sharing of ideas and information is not restricted through monetary exchange. This is happening right now through the Internet revolution: open source projects, along with countless hours of volunteering done by people worldwide who are not in it for themselves. There is plenty of research that shows how higher levels of happiness and innovation relate to economic equality, and how natural it is for humans to cooperate and contribute outside of the narrow self-interest that we call the profit incentive. Things get done through a cooperative structure known as interdisciplinary teams. Such teams are a collaboration between different disciplines, areas of study, to achieve innovative solutions during the creation process. New tools allow large groups to collaborate in innovative ways by taking advantage of non-financial motivations and by allowing for differing levels of contribution, based on the state of technology, skill-sets and knowledge. The connection of these teams and the sharing of knowledge create a unifying data set, where the component innovations of everyone add to the quality of life for everyone. In this model, the market is not the exchange of multiplication of money; the real market becomes the market of ideas, built upon through coordinated teams and skills, each adding to the body of knowledge of the whole and by cooperating with each other rather than competing from self-interest. Remember, behavior is related to the structure when looking at systems. And lastly, there is no more "Who makes the decisions?" Decisions are arrived at through feedback, which we covered earlier, based upon current knowledge, the introduction of newer technologies, the Earth's carrying capacity. A systems approach to problem-solving makes use of interdisciplinary teams, aided by computer technology, which provide feedback from the environment, in order to arrive at the best possible decisions and solutions at that time. To quote Jacque Fresco of The Venus Project, "The design must be based on the carrying capacity of the planet, its resources, and the needs of its inhabitants. To sustain our civilization, we must coordinate advanced technology and available resources with a humane systems approach." In the broad view, our public health is the final measure, along with the intelligent management of the Earth, which provides the core resources that we need, coupled with social conditions necessary for a healthy society, a society based on concerns, designs, in an access abundance and healthy environment, thereby encouraging a new social value, where human needs are met, the mechanism of differential advantage removed, and incentive is created out of the knowing that the integrity of the social system is directly related to your own personal integrity. Our world has become more complex. Our traditional methods of problem-solving through politics and monetary economics are obsolete, and due to the increasing complexity of our world needs and the problems our lifestyles generate, it is necessary that we strive for a holistic approach to managing our environment. Systems-thinking makes it possible for us to update, change and adapt and ultimately, be an emergent society. Through this lens, we have a wider range of choices before us for what it means to be sustainable and allowing us to seek new opportunities to problem resolution for all humankind. Please join the Movement, and I thank you for your time. [Applause] The Zeitgeist Movement - www.thezeitgeistmovement. com

Video Details

Duration: 26 minutes
Year: 2013
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: The Zeitgeist Movement
Director: The Zeitgeist Movement
Views: 227
Posted by: ltiofficial on Mar 29, 2013

This is the seventh talk of eleven, from The Zeitgeist Movement's flagship, 5th Annual "Zeitgeist Day", 2013 Main Event, held in Los Angeles CA on March 17th.

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