Tony will show why no matter how accurately we know the rules of the behaviour of the components of a complex system we can still be surprised by some things the system as a whole does. While that sense of surprise may almost disappear with systems that we are long familiar with, the potential for surprise never completely goes away and increases greatly with new and unfamiliar systems. Though the behaviour of the whole does not cause any of the parts to break their own confirmed rules of behaviour, being part of a whole can cause the part to do things that could not be conceived given only total understanding of the part in isolation.
Chaos is formally defined as extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. Thus chaotic systems are found to rapidly explore the space of possibilities at least locally. But the space of possibilities grows incomparably faster than the number that can ever be tested at even slightly larger sizes. Things get more interesting when chaotic explorations find configurations which self-organise into a pattern that generates repeatable behaviour. Tony will demonstrate some of the most spectacular examples of emergent organisation he has discovered during his current extended study of new cellular automata rule families.
We will take a look at other examples of emergent organisation in the natural world, working up from the insights into solid state physics of Nobel Laureate Robert Laughlin to today’s much more rapid and fragile exploration of technological possibilities. This will draw on mathematical models described by theoretical biologist Stu Kaufmann to help understand how natural processes can so productively but still mindlessly create and exploit new opportunities, given sufficient time and space. We will conclude by looking at what this enhanced perspective can tell us about how to act locally now.
“Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol but every human thought has its page in that vast book.”
The Human species faces some very significant challenges into the future. Many of these challenges are complex in nature and do not yield to simplistic methods of problem reduction and resolution.
We have two ways that we can respond to these challenges, we can simply take a myopic view of the forces that will impact our future and “let things happen” or we can set out to shape the outcomes we would like for the future state of our species. The history of our species has shown that whenever we set out to plan, we achieve extraordinary outcomes.
When JFK set his vision for the quest to place man on the moon, he set a bounded problem, and from what we knew we launched into what we needed to learn. Ultimately we achieved the vision that was expressed.
In similar fashion, the future should be guided by an evolving vision of who we are and who we aim to become as a species.
The discussion I would like to have is about ways of looking at complex problems, understand and expressing a vision or aspiration for the solution to those problems and then drawing on all the depth of skills and knowledge we have as a species to deliver that vision.
I am actually very positive about our future as a species. The rapid development of thinking in the management of complex problems is a great example of our ability as a species to find our way through the labyrinth of challenges that have arisen and will continue to arise for our species as we continue our journey beyond the boundaries of this planet.
Slade is a systems analyst with extensive experience in the application of systems thinking to complex problems.
He has worked as an Enterprise Architect, Business Analyst, Human Factors Analyst and Project Manager with extensive experience in the Defence, National Security, Emergency Services and secure systems environment. Slade has been in the IT industry since 1988, and is experienced in systems engineering, systems architecture, systems integration, security assessment and development of sustainment frameworks for new systems. He is also a thought leader in human factors for the design of critical incident management systems and environments.
He also, in a rather silly moment, enrolled at the University of NSW in a research PhD where he is undertaking research in complex systems, human decision making and the human journey.
His particular passion is the evolution of human capability and the process of the human collective journey and the relationship between human technology development and the evolution of the individual and society.
He has previously presented papers on subjects as diverse as soft skill development in project management through to the application of human factors in the design of systems to support decision making in response in counter terrorist operations.
Slade presented at the Singularity Summit AU 2010.
Abstract – “Complex Systems and the Human Journey”
At the start of 2001-A Space Odyssey there is a scene where a group of apes experiencing a singularity style event is represented. The scene shows an ape learning to use a bone tool to kill for food. A new technology is developed and as a result the ape species can more effectively control a constrained resource. Then the ape turns the new tool to the task of defending another limited resource in this case water. A new process is applied to an existing technology resulting in the killing of an enemy. Now a single group of apes can dominate the landscape. The game has changed.
Singularity is one of these future pivotal events. The Kuhnian paradigm shift that changes the game completely.
The human journey is, in my opinion, a set of steps where process is applied to the use of technology to shape or respond to the environment. We are good at it. We adapt technology, we change processes and we shape the environment around us. Then we store what we have learned and then teach it to each other. And so we adapt.
Rather than discuss the potentials held out by singularity or to debate the reality or otherwise of achieving singularity, I would like to take a moment to ponder the human capacity to adapt to these game changing moments. In order to understand how we will deal with the challenges of singularity (and in fact any event which changes the game) I would like to look back a little and see the human journey for the marvel that it is. That we have come so far and adapted so much is a stunning achievement. And there is a definite pattern to how we have undertaken this journey. I will present one viewpoint that sheds some light on this human journey.
From our look backward we will see, in looking forward, how we will adapt to the game changing events like singularity. The systems based viewpoint provides one lens through which we can look forward to these events and understand the human response both collectively and individually.
Slade presented at the Singularity Summit AU in 2010.