2018/10/09 Dan Stokols, |Social Ecology, Systems Thinking, & Psychology | How to Save the World (web video + audio)

Social ecology and environmental psychology described @dstokols @Social_Ecology , interviewed by @katiepatrick . References #WilliamsJames on attention. Book on Social Ecology in the Digital Age released in 2018.

[01:02 Katie Patrick] Can you explain what social ecology is, and also what environmental psychology is, and how they’re different and how they fit together.

[01:11 Dan Stokols] Well, social ecology grew out of the field of ecology which started in biology back in the 1800s and it’s basically looking at the interrelationships between organisms and their environments — their living environments, other species as well as abiotic features of the environment, climate topography, and that kind of thing.

[01:29]And those biological principles were applied to human communities in the early 1900’s. And that field became known as human ecology. But it was almost a literal translation of Darwinian assumptions about how different kinds of organisms adapt to their environments, only applied to human communities.

[01:46] So, the economic system was seen as the engine of adaptation, and social ecology has provided a broader view based not just on biological principles and economic principles, but also law, ethics, sociological views, how people react to their physical environments, architecture.

[02:05] So it’s a really a transdisciplinary view of how people interact with their everyday large scale and smaller scale environments.

[02:13] And now environmental psychology is a part of that. It looks more at individuals and small groups, they perceive the environment, how they learn to behave in certain ways toward the environment, how they’re influenced by communication and persuasive efforts to get them to change their behavior, how they’re affected by exposure to nature natural environment.

[02:32] So it’s very much at the kind of personal and small group level. Social ecology extends from that individual level all the way up to the global sphere.

[02:41] So how is global climate change affecting the quality of our natural environment? How is it affecting public health? Those kinds of issues.

An ecological perspective relates to attention.

[35:52 Dan Stokol] There’s research suggesting that ocean shorelines and seascapes are particularly restorative to people they help people kind of recover their attentional energy.

[36:00] William James, a famous psychologist in the late 1800s, posited this difference between voluntary attention and involuntary attention.

[36:09] So, voluntary attention is where you rivet your attention on some tasks. You’re studying for an exam, you don’t want to be distracted, you’re screening out distractions, and you engage in that kind of behavior long enough, you start to get mentally fatigued. Your attention gets fragmented you get tired mentally.

[36:24] What James suggested is, if you can give people opportunities to engage in spontaneous attention — put them in an environment where their attention is drawn to whatever is interesting to them — And the more you have that opportunity for spontaneous attention, the more you can recharge your batteries and resume more of a focused attention

[36:41] So, what nature does, according to Steve and Rachel Kaplan — they’ve developed this theory they call it attention restoration theory of nature — when you put people in natural settings, it gives them a lot of these opportunities to be fascinated by the waves of the ocean, or the sound of birds, when you go on a nature hike. It allows you to get away from your usual routines. If you’re living in the city core or if you’re engaging and very mentally taxing work throughout the week, it gives you a break from that. So that’s one of the ways in which nature seems to work in terms of restoring our attentional faculties. But there are also several studies suggesting that it has direct physiological benefits. It calms us down. It’s associated with better physical health outcome,s as well as psychological.

Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World (2018)

Source: Dan Stokols, “Social Ecology, Systems Thinking, & Psychology” | October 9, 2018 | How to Save the World Podcast, web video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0OX2eqA8XE ; MP3 audio at https://podtail.com/en/podcast/how-to-save-the-world-1/social-ecology-systems-thinking-psychology-with-pr/

Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World (2018), at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780128141885 and https://www.elsevier.com/books/social-ecology-in-the-digital-age/stokols/978-0-12-803113-1

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2019/04/01 Philip Sheldrake | Interpersonal data, identity, and relationships | Self-Sovereign Identity Meetup (web video)

Concerns on #personaldata should be reframed as interpersonal, says @sheldrake , less the nodes and more the edge connections. “I want to take back control” superficial, @hartzog says control doesn’t scale. Agency is about negotiation in the world, more rhizomatic than Newtonian.

[25:07] Personal data ends up being node-centric. This is where we get personal data vaults from, and data wallets. It’s like the data’s got to be at the node.

[25:12] Actually, interpersonal data describes the relationship between people. It sits between us. It’s on the edge that connects the nodes.

[25:23] Personal data is very much about control, control, control. If there’s one thing that’s mentioned almost as as frequently as data markets, and data as property it’s: “I want to take back control”. But control does not scale.

[25:41] If you want to understand that a little bit more clearly, Woody Hartzog — there’s a great YouTube video to explain how, when you think about the real time huge quantities of data, 4 billion connected people are kicking off, this isn’t about control. That just doesn’t scale

[25:58] This is about agency. This is more about the negotiation in the world. This is more natural. This is more how the world works, than how we might think in Newtonian ways it might.

[26:08] And unlike the tree-like nature of personal data — which informs our sciences and the way we structure our databases — and it’s all very neat, and then this is two subcategories of a category — it doesn’t work like that. Data is just … I guess if you want to think about it … I think about the data flowing on a coral reef or in a rainforest or just in human culture without bringing digital in it. And you can see it’s not tree-like.

[26:33] It’s it’s what might be called a rhizomatic, which is a different kind of root structure which is … well, chaotic! Right. This is nature that we’re grappling with here.

[26:45] So, let’s not try and constrain it. Let’s not be Newtonian about it.

Source: Philip Sheldrake, “Interpersonal data, identity, and relationships — in pursuit of collective minds” | April 1, 2019 | SSI (Self Sovereign Identity) Meetup, at https://ssimeetup.org/interpersonal-data-identity-relationships-pursuit-collective-minds-philip-sheldrake-webinar-24/ , web video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXkcswvYn2I

Philip Sheldrake, “Webinar on Identity, Interpersonal Data and Collective Minds for SSI Meetup” | April 5, 2019 at https://www.philipsheldrake.com/2019/04/webinar-on-identity-interpersonal-data-and-collective-minds-for-ssi-meetup/

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2017/11/29 Tim Ingold | “The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research Conference (web video)

Doing science should be wayfinding (pathfinding), says #TimIngold , gaining grounding in the art of paying attention, towards research as the pursuit of truth. Truth is more than objective facts, where science and art are embraced with materials, so that we can see the quality inside the natural world as it forms, rather than as the artifacts after it’s dead.

Tim Ingold, The Art of Research Conference, 2017/11/29

[42:00] So this it is the fundamental problem with science, that it is founded on a dilemma, that it tells us that we are parts of the world, and yet it can only have the knowledge it has by saying that as scientists, we stand outside the world.

[42:23] So we need to be able to show how knowledge can grow from the inside of being, from the crucible of our participatory and observational of involvement with the world around us, that is, within the give-and-take of life.

[42:37] And of course that takes us right back to the issue of data, from which I began. And it takes us also to the idea of research which is a central topic for this conference.

[42:53] Research again is one of those words that has become used and abused to the point that no one any longer knows exactly what it means.

[43:01] Or, it’s lost its grounding. And I want to insist that research is, and must be, the pursuit of truth. If we live …. If we lose that — if we say “oh truth, that’s too hot to handle, I don’t know what truth is” — then we we lose any grounding for research as a legitimate and ethical activity.

[43:23] Now, of course, there are all sorts of ways of defining truth, but here is mine: Truth, I argue, is the unison of imagination and experience in a world to which we are alive and that is alive to us.

[43:45] That means that truth depends on our full and unqualified participation in the world, from which it follows to, that truth is absolutely not the same as objectivity These are very different things.

[44:01] And I think at the moment we are in grave danger of conflating truth and objectivity because of the current panic about post-truth. Nobody wants post truth but most of the people, most of the commentators, who are warning us of the dangers of a post truth era, in which sort of anything goes, in which using the data one can invent any kind of story, is that they’re assuming that truth means pure and simple objective fact.

[44:37] it was a pure and simple objective fact that there were more people at Obama’s inauguration than a Trump’s. Okay. And it was post truth to pretend otherwise but if that is all we mean by truth — how many people were at the inauguration, was it this number or that number — then that is a very very reduced a very impoverished sense of what truth is. And I think it’s a real challenge — and this is a challenge for art as much as anything — to insist upon what truth means, beyond the mere facts of objectivity. […]

[45:14] At the end of the 19th century, the chemist Friedrich August Kekulé …

[45:48] … He said to the to the aspiring scientist: Note every footprint, every bent twig, every fallen leaf, and there you will see where next to place your feet. So. An then he called this way of doing science — and, so, you’re going walking very delicately through through the woods, and noting every twig, every every fallen leaf, and then deciding, yes, that’s the next place to put your feet — he called that pathfinding. And he thought of science as a pathfinding — or I would call it wayfaring. And the thing is, that the path finder corresponds with things in their formation rather than being informed by what is already precipitated out.

[46:34] The pathfinder doesn’t just collect, but accepts, what the world has to offer because he is paying acute attention to everything. And I think it’s here rather than [rather than] in arrogating to itself the authority to represent a given reality, it is here that science can join with art as a way of knowing in being. That is that in practice the hands and minds of scientists, just like the hands and minds of artists, absorb into their ways of working a perceptual acuity attuned to the materials that have captured their attention.

[47:18] And so as these materials vary, so does experience. And what that suggests is that in practice scientists are differentiated by their actual experience of working with stuff. That a glaciologist, really having spent so much time with ice, really appreciates — and in a tactile haptic way — the qualities of ice. It’s almost looking at ice with icy eyes and … and a botanist, or a mycologist, as my dad was, would … look at fungi with … eyes that already have a sort of fungal quality inside them. And that was the science that I grew up with as the son of a mycologist.

[48:02] In my childhood, in which we were — I and like my peers were — felt a sort of wonder in the beauty of the natural world. It was a it was a science founded in care, in attentiveness, and in gratitude, for what we owe the world, for our existence

[48:27] What concerns me now is that science, as it is presented to schoolchildren today, has turned Wonder and gratitude into commodities. They no longer guide its practices. They no longer guide the practices of science. but are used … to advertise its results, so that more and more science has listed art in order to promote its hard sell. To offer images that beautify its results, that soften its impact, and mask often its collusions with corporations whose only interest in research is that it should drive innovation. Because in a neoliberal economy of knowledge, only what is new, sells.

Source: Tim Ingold, “”The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research VI Conference: Catalyses, Interventions, Transformations | November 29, 2017, Espoo, Finland at http://artofresearch2017.aalto.fi/programme.html . Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mytf4ZSqQs

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2019/01/31 Mariana Mazzucato, “The value of everything: rediscovering purpose in the economy”, Blavatnik School of Government (web video)

We should be more vigourous, says @MazzucatoM , in debating differences between value extraction and value creation, and between profits and rents.

Mariana Mazzucato, “The Value of Everything: Rediscovering Purpose in the Economy“, Blavatnik School of Government

[20:55] What I tried to do in the book was to bring these problems back to some fundamental debates that occurred in economics, which weren’t just lost over time, but kind of moved over thinking “oh that’s just kind of old style”, you know, “it’s just the classical economist who talked about value”.

[21:15] ” Now let’s actually just kind of confront more interesting questions” But literally the word “value” kind of went missing from economics departments. You don’t have textbooks as we used to have, even in the mainstream economics tradition, that even had that word kind of “value”. What is value, and then big debates about that.

[21:34] What I argue is that when we kind of allowed this concept of value to leave economics departments, and simply to go to business schools where the word is everywhere — think of it — shareholder value, shared value, Michael Porter’s very important work “value chains”. When that concept left economics departments and went to business schools, it — I don’t know how many business school people are here — it kind of became more flakey and fuzzy.

[22:02] And let me just say that in a kind of facetious way, but also in the process, made it less contested, less debated, within sort of the heart of economic reasoning and economic debates, and in the process made it much easier to extract value in the name of value creation because, what is valued?

[22:21] Right. So when you’re taught to Micro 101 and you’re taught you know things around the production function and marginal productivity and marginal utility, you’re not told “this is one particular theory of value and then we’ll learn other ones”. It’s just taught as Micro 101.

[22:37] So, when it’s not contested, it becomes much harder to do things which, in the past, were done like debating: well, what’s the difference between profits and rents? What is the difference between value extraction and value creation ? What happens when we reward value extraction over value creation?

[22:54] Do we get value destruction? But even just really simply, what is the difference between profits and rents?

[23:01] And I thought it was very interesting — and going back into the literature, it’s also to be reminded that Plato himself — smart guy — kind of often said in different ways, that story tellers ruled the world.

[23:11] And what I want to argue is that many of those four problems, that I talked about in the beginning, have in some ways been — how do you say — nurtured by the fact that the stories that are being told about where wealth creation comes from and where value creation comes from has been — if you want, captured — because it is not again in the active discourse of how we think about the economy

Source: Mariana Mazzucato | “The value of everything: rediscovering purpose in the economy” | January 31, 2019 |Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCLSvojyJoI

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2016/11/07 David Gelenter, “Consciousness, Computers, and the Tides of Mind”, Econtalk (MP3 audio)

The most destructive analogy in the last 100 years, says @DavidGelernter with @econtalker : “Post-Turing thinkers decided that brains were organic computers, that computation was a perfect model of what minds do, that minds can be built out of software, and that mind relates to brain as software relates to computer”. Interview states position that consciousness won’t be found in a computer.

The cited source is visible on a page on Google Books:

In his famous 1950 paper about artificial intelligence, Alan Turing mentions consciousness, in passing, as a phenomenon associated with minds, in some ways mysterious. But he treats it as irrelevant. If you define the purpose of mind as rational thought, then consciousness certainly seems irrelevant. And for Turing, rational thought was indeed the purpose of mind.

Turing’s favorite word in this connection is “intelligence”: he saw the goal of technology not as an artificial mind (with all its unnecessary emotions, reminiscences, fascinating sensations, and upsetting nightmares), but as artificial intelligence, which is why the field has the name it does.

In no sense did this focus reflect narrowness or lack of imagination on Turing’s part. Few more imaginative men have ever lived. But he needed digital computers for practical purposes. Post-Turing thinkers decided that brains were organic computers, that computation was a perfect model of what minds do, that minds can be built out of software, and that mind relates to brain as software relates to computer—the most important, most influential and (intellectually) most destructive analogy in the last hundred years (the last hundred at least). [emphasis added]

Turing writes in his 1950 paper that, with time and thought, one might well be able to build a digital computer that could “enjoy” strawberries and cream. But, he adds, don’t hold your breadth. Such a project would be “idiotic’—so why should science bother? In practical terms, he has a point.

To understand the mind, we must go over the ground beyond logic as carefully as we study logic and reasoning. That’s not to say that rational thought does not underlie man’s greatest intellectual achievements. Cynthia Ozick reminds us, furthermore, of a rational person’s surprise at “how feeling could be so improbably distant from knowing” (Foreign Bodies). It’s much easier to feel something is right than to prove it. And when you do try to prove it, you might easily discover that despite your perfectly decided, rock-solid feeling of certainty, your feelings are total nonsense.

We have taken this particular walk, from the front door to the far end of Rationality Park, every day for the last two thousand years. Why not go a little farther this time, and venture beyond the merely rational?

David Gelernter, The Tides of Mind (2016), Chapter 5

The idea is further explored in the interview.

42:44 Russ Roberts:  [….] So, you are a skeptic about the ability of artificial intelligence to eventually mimic or emulate a brain. So, talk about why. And then why you feel that that analogy is so destructive: because it is extremely popular and accepted by many, many people. Not by me, but by many people, smarter than I am, actually. So, what’s wrong with that analogy, and why is it destructive?

David Gelernter: Well, I think you have to be careful in saying what exactly the analogy is.

On the one hand, I think AI (Artificial Intelligence) has enormous potential in terms of imitating or faking it, when it comes to intelligence. I think we’ll be able to build software that certainly gives you the impression of solving problems in a human-like or in an intelligent way. I think there’s a tremendous amount to be done that we haven’t done yet.

On the other hand, if by emulating the mind you mean achieving consciousness–having feelings, awareness–I think as a matter of fact that computers will never achieve that.

Any program, any software that you deal with, any robot that you deal with will always be a zombie in the sense that–in the Hollywood and philosophers’ sense of zombie–zombie a very powerful word in philosophy. In the sense that it’s behavior might be very impressive–I mean, you might give it a typical mathematics problem to solve or read it something from a newspaper and ask it to comment or give it all sorts of tests you think of, and it might pass with flying colors. You might walk away saying, ‘This guy is smarter than my best friend,’ and, you know, ‘I look forward to chatting with him again.’ But when you open up the robot’s head, there’s nothing in there. There’s nothing inside. There’s no consciousness.

Source

“David Gelernter on Consciousness, Computers, and the Tides of Mind” | Russ Roberts | Nov. 7, 2016 | Econtalk at http://www.econtalk.org/david-gelernter-on-consciousness-computers-and-the-tides-of-mind , MP3 audio downloadable at http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2016/Gelernterconsciousness.mp3

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2018/04/23 Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”

Before judging democratic systems over authoritarian, examine the functioning of governments through its diplomats, where plutocracy has an alternative in meritocracy, says @mahbubani_k @longnow @asiasocietysfx.

Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani 

[1:19:30] … when people compare the American government with the Chinese government, they say: “This is a comparison between a democratic system and an authoritarian system”. And a democratic system is, of course, better than an authoritarian system. And I agree. A democratic system is better than an authoritarian system.

[1:29:55] But if you go … if you dig one level down, and you look at the functioning of the government, and how it makes its decisions and you analyze it, you may see that the democratic system may be performing as a plutocratic system serving the interests of the people of the tiny elite and leaving the … creating a situation where I think half of your [American] population hasn’t seen an increase in its median income for forty years. That’s what plutocracy is.

[1:20:30] The Chinese system is a meritocracy. The Chinese Communist Party, by the way, has got one of the most amazing meritocratic selection systems. [….] When I had a research assistant in Columbia University a few weeks ago she told me — and she was obviously one of the brightest students — she said she was very disappointed when she left high school, because you say when you graduate from high school in China, the top student — one student — is selected to join the Communist Party. And you want to be that one student selected to join the Communist Party. And then, in the first year in university, she says, five students are selected to join the Communist Party. Again, the top students. So, can you imagine the system which tries to select the best brains to run the country

[1:21:35] Now, the Chinese Communist Party is not perfect. It has a lot of flaws. It is making a lot of mistakes. But in terms of harvesting the brain power of China, it has done an amazing job. And I tell the story — and I was in diplomacy for thirty three years.

[1:21:55] When I started my career in 1971, if you had asked me: “Do you want to talk to an American diplomat or Chinese diplomat?”, I would say of course I’ll talk to the American diplomat. This graduate of Princeton, Yale, Harvard. Brilliant. Reads the New Yorker every week. Knows what’s going on the world. A Chinese diplomat 1971 would walk around with the Mao’s Little Red Book in his pocket. And when I talk to him, he’ll produce Mao’s Red Book and read to me Mao’s Read Book. Why should I waste my time. That’s Chinese 1971.

[1:22:30] You fast-forward to 2018, and you asked me to fly to a capital somewhere, and you say: “You want to talk to the American ambassador or the Chinese ambassador?” The likelihood is: that the Chinese ambassador would speak the language of the country; would have been posted there several times; would have a very nuanced and sophisticated view of the country. And the American ambassador would be one was demoralized, knowing that his budget is being cut; knowing his chances of becoming an ambassador in the top capital is practically zero, because they are political appointees. So you have a demoralized deployed American diplomatic service and an incredibly dynamic Chinese foreign service. That’s what the big change that has happened since 1971, and that’s a result of a meritocracy. And I can tell you, you’ll be quite amazed how good some of these Chinese diplomats are today.

Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”, Longnow Foundation and the Asian Society Northern California, April 23, 2018, MP3 audio at http://podcast.longnow.org/salt/redirect/salt-020180423-mahbubani-podcast.mp3

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2008/12/15 Simon Winchester, “The Man Who Loved China” (web video)

The story of #JosephNeedham by @simonwwriter, about the scholar behind the 27-volume Science and Civilisation in China starting in 1954 and continuing after his death in 1995. Arriving in China in 1942, Needham discovered gunpowder, printing and the magnetic compass had been invented in China centuries before the West. In this presentation, some audience questions were taken, and Simon Winchester provided more colour commentary.

Simon Winchester, “The Man Who Loved China”, Talks at Google, Dec. 15, 2008 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xqvi7AxqfcM

Simon Winchester: "The Man Who Loved China" | Talks at Google
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