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Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory, 1995. Knowledge Tools for a Sustainable Civilization. Interdisciplinary Conference., Canadian Conference on

Date 8-10 June 1995

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  • Proceedings 1995 Interdisciplinary Conference: Knowledge Tools for a Sustainable Civilization. Fourth Canadian Conference on Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory

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  • Knowledge and sustainability: can the planet survive human cognition?

    Page(s): 11 - 19
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    Earth has run a successful biosphere for about three billion years. While the Earth process has experienced both periods of stability and periods of transition the overall process has been one of growing creativity and complexification. The emergence of human consciousness and reflective thought offered a unique mode of planetary self-awareness and self-expression. Can the planet successfully integrate the consciousness to which it has given birth? Can it survive the emergence of human thinking and incorporate it into its ongoing creativity? I explore the human presence and human activity as a subset of the more comprehensive activity of the biosphere. I consider both the risks and benefits of human cognition in the short and longer term. The stability of the biosphere which is ensured by the unconscious efforts of millions of species provides a platform on which or in which the human species can explore its creative potentialities View full abstract»

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  • Understanding and achieving sustainable systems through contingency planning and education

    Page(s): 253 - 262
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    In the last decade of the 20th Century, there are indications that people who will live in the 21st Century, more than those of any previous century, may have to contend with conditions that threaten some forms of life on the planet and hence the conditions for human survival. For more than two centuries, the human population has increased exponentially and an increasing number of people have raised their levels of consumption far beyond subsistence level. These two conditions have placed colossal demands on the natural environment which has already become degraded and polluted. Concerned scientists and their supporters have begun to doubt whether sustainable systems can be designed and implemented so that future generations can survive View full abstract»

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  • Social contracts and multinational corporations: knowledge tools to promote sustainable civilization

    Page(s): 171 - 183
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    Presents the argument that materials may be found in a study of the history of political philosophy that provide a solid foundation for the establishment of standards of environmental sustainability, labour and human rights that are binding upon multinational corporations. Social contract theories of government are founded upon natural laws binding upon all rational individuals, and contracts among individuals intended for their mutual benefit. If the rational basis of government is appropriately interpreted in these terms, and if corporations can be shown to be individuals of the appropriate sort that stand to benefit from government, then corporations take their place among participants in social contracts. Consequently, the officers of national corporations ought to be compelled to act in accord with the laws of the nations in which the corporations reside (an unsurprising result), and the officers of multinationals ought also to act in accord with broader international standards that are suggested by natural law (a more surprising result). Multinational entities are rationally compelled to adhere to such standards because of their unique ability to enact the social contract multinationally. The standard of natural law applied internationally suggests that multinational corporations should be required to maintain standards that represent a regard for globally sustainable society, and not merely the standards maintained by the countries in which specific business processes occur View full abstract»

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  • Group problem solving: if we could save the Earth, how would that be done?

    Page(s): 70 - 78
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    Characterizing something as a problem commits us to coping with the problem in a problem-solving mode. Furthermore, while individuals might make a difference, a large-scale task such a saving the Earth would call for a group problem-solving configuration. Communication, cooperation, shared vision and negotiation introduce new complexity and often unanticipated emerging phenomena. If group members are selected to provide divergent views and if they respect each other and are willing to co-operate, the unanticipated emerging phenomena are likely to be extremely valuable. Groups may include not only individuals and roles, but also abstract agents such as corporations or ethnic units with their own set of cultures, values, and power interests. Environmental, political, commercial and family problems are typical of those that have to be addressed in a group context. We had a class of 14 students engaged in group problem-solving. Our main observation of this self-directed, self-organizing group was that they easily got side-tracked and they lacked the motivation to stick to the original task of problem solving. A good deal of effort went into group self-maintenance activities. This behavior parallels the state of climax communities in an ecosystem. Striking a balance between effort spent on self-maintenance and productive output is a managerial problem. Optimal solutions to this problem may not exist in a self-organizing, self-maintaining and self-managing group. The net output of the problem-solving process may not necessarily be a solution but rather a better-thinking problem-solver View full abstract»

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  • The tragedy of the global commons: dynamic aspects of a knowledge ecology and sociocultural entropy

    Page(s): 20 - 31
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    Contemporary misuse of resources is repeating on a massive scale in the global village “the tragedy of the commons” that once afflicted English villages. Why is the planet vandalized by diverse ecological degradations? In this simplified overview even small scale resource depletions are included to have a significant impact on primitive cultures, impelling migration, violent conflict and cultural extinction. Environmental protection to preserve and sustain dwindling resources has emerged as a modern concern. To discern an underlying dynamic for such an ideational and ecological entropy suggests the development of a model as a synthesis and meta-analytic approach (once envisaged as a vital cybernetic objective) View full abstract»

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  • Philosophy for sustainable society??

    Page(s): 185 - 189
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    If the problem of the sustainable society and sustainable growth is to be fully incorporated into the various overall conceptions we have of ourselves and our place in the world, it is questionable whether we can afford to neglect its relation to philosophy. It is within this context that we attempt to argue two points which may or may not be obvious, depending on the angle of approach to the concept of the sustainable society. (1) While the call for new knowledge (new in both the quantitative and qualitative sense) is the most obvious requirement for any progress towards a sustainable society, we cannot expect that such knowledge will be transphilosophical or transideological (i.e. universally acceptable) in any absolute sense. (2) It is far from clear whether any conception of eco-philosophy can fit the bill for a new philosophical underpinning and focusing of our thought and action; the re-focusing and enlargement of our philosophical traditions seems to be a more viable project. Historically, the threat of nuclear conflict in the 1950s and 1960s may serve as the closest possible analogy: hardly any new philosophy was a direct product of such a threat; however, it clearly strengthened various efforts towards so-called “philosophy of man” View full abstract»

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  • The cognitive revolution and its implications for creating knowledge tools needed in achieving a sustainable society

    Page(s): 235 - 244
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    The last 30 years have witnessed a qualitative change in our conception of how people learn (usually called the “cognitive revolution”), so that we think today not only in terms of acquiring discrete facts and skills but also in far more powerful terms of acquiring new ways of thinking. Of particular importance is the process of acquiring the habits of systematic and disciplined inquiry characteristic of organized science. To the social theorist and policy maker, however, the existence of a new, more powerful view of learning is a mixed blessing. Decisions of how best to implement the lessons of the cognitive revolution require technocratic know-how as well as social and political judgment. I discuss the cognitive revolution by offering a comparison of two contrasting views of education that it has produced, which I call “institution-centred” and “person-centred” methodologies. In terms of their pedagogical effectiveness, both methodologies have been shown to be successful, when implemented in a congenial social environment by competent professionals. The essential difference is political. An institution-centered methodology has as side-effect to encourage a greater sense of commitment, loyalty and perhaps even dependence in regard to teachers, educational and social institutions and authority figures in general; in contrast, a person-centered methodology encourages a greater sense of autonomy and self-reliance. Cognitive methods can be useful for policy makers with a wide range of priorities and commitments, if correctly chosen View full abstract»

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  • Sustainability, knowledge tools and the ethos of the Internet

    Page(s): 292 - 302
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    Never before in the history of humankind have we enjoyed greater prosperity and at the same time never has the threat to human survival been greater due to environmental degradation, over population and the possibility of nuclear war. The explanation of this paradox of increasing prosperity and increasing danger lies in understanding that our knowledge tools create both service and disservice. While they are the means by which we created the great wealth and well being that we enjoy their misuse endangers human survival. The author considers a solution to the dilemma, involving the co-ordination of the use of knowledge tools especially those of computing and telecommunications View full abstract»

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  • The rational choice and systemic paradigms compared

    Page(s): 32 - 40
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    In describing and assessing the systemic approach to social phenomena, it is useful to compare it with other approaches. For the purposes of such a comparison, I have chosen the so-called `rational choice' approach, which is currently being intensively developed, particularly by some sociologists and political scientists. I chose this approach because it stands, in a way, at an opposite pole of a paradigmatic spectrum in relation to the systemic approach View full abstract»

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  • Prolegomena to problemology (definition of social problematics)

    Page(s): 190 - 201
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    Initiates a rigorous definition of complex problems as the first step in the emerging science of problematics. This is a prerequisite to any scientific treatment of problems, because it lays down the foundations for further systematic and systemic work by outlining the concept, structure and process of problems and, by doing so, answers questions related to the nature, meaning, type, location, time and solution of the world's most critical issues. Thus, although this study does not go into any depth, it does cover the field of problem analysis exhaustively and sets the basis for more detailed and specialized research View full abstract»

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  • Using communications technology for cross cultural training and development: the participatory developmental education model

    Page(s): 263 - 273
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    The increasing accessibility of basic video production and modem-linked computers creates new possibilities for exchanging information and ideas, yet it is still rare for communications technology to be used for a genuine dialogue in problem solving. The problems of the world seem to be compounding as increasing pressures of population growth, resource depletion and tension between the `haves' and `have-nots' become more apparent through the spread of information by the very media which is under-utilized to address these problems. This paper proposes that communications technology can be used to develop the capacity of the people in the world seeking empowerment and quality-of-life improvements. One means by which this can be approached is through participatory developmental education, a model designed for using communications technology to establish a dialogue for learning and development between people separated by geography or culture View full abstract»

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  • The citizen, the expert and wisdom in the virtual workspace

    Page(s): 303 - 312
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    Society's first encounter with computer networks and information technology (NETS&IT) has been crystallized in the metaphor of the information highway with its emphasis on the movement of digital packets, the economic impact of the technology, and its use by the individual producer and consumer. This paper extends the metaphor to encompass a vision of a sustained electronic (virtual) workspace as an integral part of future society, and focuses on its use as a venue for group social process in civil society's pursuit of a sustainable niche for the human species. This virtual workspace provides a venue for asynchronous social process across time and space, with an impact just as real as that of activity in the literal world. As such it will play an important role in our ability to fashion a civilization which is sustainable View full abstract»

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  • A Christian response to the world scientists' warning to humanity

    Page(s): 112 - 113
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    The paper considers how Christianity recognizes its role in the ecological crisis and responds to this awareness: rethinking theology, articulating ethical principles, education of church members, and advocacy with government, industry and international agencies. It discusses the importance of inter-disciplinary dialogue and considers the future View full abstract»

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  • Institutions for a sustainable civilization: negotiating change in a technological culture

    Page(s): 90 - 99
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    We have come to think of technology as a tool-as an extension of our grasp into the environing world. The metaphor of the tool is pervasive; it affects the way we think about virtually all of contemporary culture. I communicate a view of technology which is not anchored in the metaphor of the tool as instrument but sees technology as a way of life, an expression of cultural form, and an embodiment of knowledge. I argue that institutions are best understood as technologies themselves, and that as such they are the artifacts of human creativity most urgently in need of serious critical (re)design. In doing so, I sketch a view of institutions as engineered systems which arise within our critical cultural practices; I do not argue that institutions are instruments of administrative control. On the contrary, institutions are the embodiment of our best understanding of how we learn as a species and how we arrive at judgment. Effective institutions, like the institution of English common law, are those which embody our best understanding of the processes of public judgment. Ineffective institutions are those which, like those regulating nuclear technology in Canada, embody in statute singular judgments of value, thus rendering those judgments immune to public criticism. From this picture of institutions as contexts of public judgment emerges a theory negotiation-literally the processes of negotiation which give rise within our cultural practices to the formation of meaning, the formation of concepts, and the formation of modes of understanding which are necessary preconditions for the creation of a sustainable culture View full abstract»

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  • Modern money-information, a sustainable civilization and systems pedagogy

    Page(s): 84 - 89
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    Money-information is a powerful form of communication in modern societies. Its evolution parallels that of civilization itself. In fact, modern market-based societies could not exist at the level of complexity they exhibit without the simplifications provided by money-information. The sustainability of modern civilization, consequently, depends in no small degree upon the continuing evolution of money-information and upon an understanding of it by an increasingly greater portion of the human population. This paper discusses money-information in the context of its evolution as it contributed to advancing human cognition and to introducing higher-level human systems. The paper asserts that money-information-based market societies offer the best chance of sustainability because they are relatively recent emergents that simplify human perceptions of the evermore complex interactions within and among modern societies. Modern money-based societies are the result of a long evolution away from top-down toward bottom-up control of societal decider subsystems. For that evolution to continue, individual humans composing societies must comprehend more societal complexity in order to make decisions that, in fact, sustain civilization instead of those that destroy it. Systems concepts and the knowledge tools developed in the systems framework offer the best hope of educating individual humans to comprehend the complexity needed to sustain rather than destroy modern civilization View full abstract»

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  • Is the UN-organisation a lost case? The vulnerability of devotional and the invulnerability of aggressive relationships

    Page(s): 52 - 61
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    The United Nations charter was signed by 51 nations in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Its intention is to maintain world peace and to promote cooperation among nations. It consists of 159 countries all around the globe. The preceding organisation, the League of Nations (1919), which pursued the same goal, failed drastically due to unability to prevent the 2nd World War. If the main purpose of the UN is to maintain peace on Earth, then it has also already failed-and also as drastically as the League of Nations. This paper demonstrates in social-mathematical quantified terms that it is an irrefutable natural law that aggressive relationships will dominate over peaceful behaviour and that aggression has the following advantages over devotion. Aggression (a) provides more will-power in action, (b) acts faster, (c) has a much wider range of stable existence than devotion, and (d) is practically invulnerable to external influences compared to the utmost vulnerable devotion View full abstract»

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  • Preservation and conservation: separate disciplines, common goals

    Page(s): 212 - 219
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    The conservation of the natural environment and the preservation of the built environment are fields often distinguished from one another both in application and in theory. At academic institutions, courses in preservation and conservation are usually offered in different departments and faculty members concerned with either of the two disciplines are tenured into different departments. Special interest groups usually target either preservation or conservation, reinforcing the notion of separate disciplines and separate causes. In the USA, the distinctions between the fields of preservation and conservation is further exaggerated by other concerns, in the competition to acquire Federal funding. Ironically, both preservationists and conservationists rely heavily on funds funneled through the National Park Service. Despite the dualism presented by the two environmental movements, they in fact have a number of common goals. To reduce the impact and harm of humans on nature, conservationists advocate ways to reduce the amount of solid waste and to conserve energy. Conservation programs, often including recycling campaigns, have gained popular appeal, and yet approximately 30% of landfill in the USA is comprised of previously used and discarded building materials, a fact often marginalized by the popular press and a facet arguably overlooked by conservation groups as well. By bringing preservation and conservation under one environmental banner, a more complete vision of the environment might be possible and the goals of both preservation and conservation might well be achieved View full abstract»

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  • The influence of scale [in sustainable human activity]

    Page(s): 245 - 252
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    Tomorrow, forward thinkers postulate, will be dominated by the knowledge sector of a global, more socially-oriented civilization, where information, rather than pig iron or pork bellies will be the primary commodity. To chart a sustainable course will require far more than knowledge, and yet far less than we might imagine. The scale of activity will take on critical importance as ecological laws increasingly dictate human activity. Schumacher's (1973) “Small is Beautiful” slogan will take on new meaning as scale influences technologies, economies and ultimately civilizations. For meaningful decisions, the scale of human activities will require contextual assessment through application of transdisciplinary thinking. Whether ruling bodies are willing to realize optimal scales of sustainable human activity, is at present uncertain. However, human ability to adapt to changes in scale will likely prove crucial to human survival View full abstract»

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  • The politics of sustainability

    Page(s): 41 - 51
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    Humankind's survival is threatened less by the “big bang” of nuclear warfare than by the banal but equally fatal “whimper” accompanying the destruction of our natural environment. Who is responsible for this war against nature? Why are we destroying the very basis of existence on this planet? In nearly every instance, we are all at fault. In part, the problem can be traced to the nature of our socioeconomic system. We are suffering from what might be termed a “global lifestyle disease”. We have developed a rapacious economy that values little its effects on the natural environment. Until very recently, these effects were omitted from our economic measures and equations. Nature was an “externality” whose abundance and infinite resilience were taken for granted. We stand at an important juncture in our political development. We must appreciate and understand the significance of political changes if we are going to be successful in achieving progress in the three areas of sustainable development: economy, environment and social equity. The politics of sustainability is the politics of survival in the 21st Century View full abstract»

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  • Priorities for a sustainable civilization

    Page(s): 1 - 10
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    What are the vital issues facing humankind? It appears that many of today's relevant issues are too big to be understood by knowledge from a single discipline, that they reach beyond the boundaries of individual nations, and that they last for many generations. Who can address these issues? Most political systems have a 5 year time horizon, and focus on national concerns. Our traditionally specialized, discipline oriented education is narrow, and fails us in coping with `wide' problems. Can we find universal knowledge tools that match today's complex problems? Can we develop a wide-angle scientific world view to see the whole? An inventory of some of the Earth's essential resources is presented on a per capita basis. The processes of change are analyzed with respect to long-term sustainability. The major problems facing humankind are listed, and ordered according to priority. Several scenarios are sketched. Goals and means of action are suggested. Ethical and educational issues arising from the need for solutions are discussed View full abstract»

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  • Knowledge tools supporting the concept of industrial ecology

    Page(s): 149 - 158
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    Industrial ecology, by emulating the ecology of nature, is production with zero waste. Whatever is left over as a result of any particular transforming action or process is consumed in some other activity. Zero industrial waste seems near impossible. But left over materials can be recycled or reused. Waste water can be purified; air discharges rendered harmless. Knowledge is coming to the fore to reduce waste and mitigate damaging effects. Life cycle analysis is a methodology to evaluate all environmental impacts including acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, product use and final disposition. Design for environment is a discipline to achieve improvement. Design for disassembly at the end of a product's life makes reclamation practical. An industrial ecology conceptual framework useful in generating additional needed knowledge is presented View full abstract»

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  • The cultural synergy model: a knowledge tool for the 21st Century

    Page(s): 225 - 234
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    The cultural synergy model is process-oriented in order to expand consciousness and capacities for problem-solving at various human system levels. This paper briefly (1) addresses how the model is developed from “patterns that connect” in major living systems, (2) describes the model, and (3) discusses two large international experiments with the model at the developing Center for Cultural Synergy at the California Institute of Integral Studies View full abstract»

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  • Multiple-perspective co-channel communications as a knowledge and attitude reform tool for a sustainable civilization

    Page(s): 274 - 281
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    The sustainability challenge is to help people learn how to reform their habits of learning so that civilization can be indefinitely sustainable. This implies finding out how to alter attitudes and predilections so as to promote symbioses between nature and cultures, and also to promote symbioses among our various cultures (linguistic, religious, ethnic etc.). It is posited here that by enabling persons to find and exhibit pathological and paradoxical aspects of public communications for each other, that a better understanding of needed changes, and commitment to making them can be cultivated. The multiple-perspective approach taken is partly a modern extension of Karl Kraus' (1974) collage technique whereby he juxtaposed published statements in order to exhibit the falseness and folly of those statements and the hidden vested interests behind them, and partly some practical ways to add graffiti to mass media messages. Our global concern is to do something using philosophical and cyber-systemic insights and computer-communication tools to mitigate the wanton destruction of the non-renewable variety of living and cultural forms of our planet View full abstract»

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  • Uniting people through language and mind cultivation: a Buddhist response to the world scientists' warning to humanity

    Page(s): 114 - 119
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    The author refers to the world scientists' warning to humanity which concerns caring for the environment. He considers how language has a significant bearing on our everyday living. His critique of the scientists is that by not bringing their scientific outlook to the use of language, it perpetuates, though unintentionally, the divisions that already exist in society View full abstract»

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