Wednesday May 20, 2009

The Edge of Technology and Systems Thinking

Last year, competitive strategy guru and Harvard business school professor Michael Porter wrote about "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy." In this brief note for BusinessWeek, Porter emphasizes the importance of infrastructure, logistics and educational upgrades in the U.S. economic system, as key success factors.

These infrastructure upgrades will demand new IT technologies deployed throughout, including upgrades related to people logistics and transportation.

These upgrades, including upgrades that will affect the way we live and work in our urban and suburban environments and those that will make public transportation much more attractive alternatives, will also have a direct impact on other ecological problems we face, including the dangerous changes such as the ones that are now affecting the ice caps. See for example, the report in The Independent, "Exclusive: Scientists warn that there may be no ice at North Pole this summer."

System-level thinking teaches us that various domains of our activity and concern are in fact very well-connected and tied up in complex dynamics. 

Tragedies occur when systems and their dynamics are not properly understood.

Relying on hasty moves, fire-fighting and denying the interplay of of dynamics and time has led to many mispercieved problems and "solutions" that only aggravate problems or create new ones.

Careful attention, deep study and addressing the root causes of these global and systemic problems may deliver a better future path to recovery.

In order to do all this, one needs to have a good understanding of complex systems and their dyamics. This is subtle art and requires a comprehensive understanding of various system components and how they interact, including a mental model for these interactions.

I'm afraid I have to bring the news that not everyone has had the experience or has accumulated the knowledge for that kind of integrative thinking.  This is why we should set aside our bias against those who refuse to be dragged into firefights. These are people who pause to pay proper attention to problems and discover real solutions. This pause doesn't imply slow thinking, rather a paced mode of thinking. These people should be cherished rather than isolated, refused and blocked from hierarchical decision systems that emphasize perpetual firefights. (Studies have shown that "firefight" mode of thinking and acting is much more prevalent in U.S. business and government institutions when compare to Japan or other countries where root solutions are the focus. So, we may need a general cultural change to lay greater value to system thinking and problem-solving that addresses root causes.)

In general, systems thinking will get us to where we want to be. In general, symptomatic and firefight solutions may solve the problem momentarily but will only get us farther from where we want to head. 

Friday Mar 30, 2007

The Fear Machine

((بزرگترین گناه ترس است.  (حضرت علی (ع

Thus, writes the national security advisor to President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.

...The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

...That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

...The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

...A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as "terrorist apologists" who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

There is more. Read the full text in the online edition of The Washington Post.

[Note: I have puzzled about the changes in Zbigniew Brzezinski's views for some time. He was seen as the hawk in Carter's administration. Among other things, he has been credited by some for inciting Saddam against Iran. Perhaps, his realism has helped him recognize the subtleties of the current conditions much faster than other strategists.]

Monday Mar 26, 2007

Open Source and Property Rights

Open Source development—whether it is OpenOffice, Apache, Open Solaris, Linux (Debian), Sun Studio, Open JDK, Apache Derby (Java DB), PostgreSQL, Glassfish or Netbeans—engages communities in production of value governed by a revolutionary model for property rights, emphasizing open distribution of software rather than the traditional "exclusive-rights" notion of property.

The new property model finds its grounding in the use of the Internet as the backbone for parallel development of relatively complex systems of value generated by (non-idyllic) communities of developers—large quantities of value being generated for little, direct financial compensation. 

In the exclusive-rights model of property ownership, the state uses force (or the threat of force) to prevent "unlawful" use, in order to "secure" those rights and encourage their development. 

In the open-source model of property ownership, the width of distribution and availability represents the only "security" that needs to be provided.

The state's role must be vastly different, and it must be focused on rights of distribution and use, and of mixing. Being a vastly different model of ownership, open source has often confronted a state which wants to apply its traditional understanding of property and its "security." We have witnessed this with property "rights" over content because general content in the digital-distribution world possesses many characteristics similar to software.

Saturday Feb 03, 2007

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up by WMO and UNEP to "assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation." The fourth assessment of the IPCC will be released under Climate Change 2007. You can also consult IPCC's February 2, 2007 Paris conference webcast for a preview.

These assessment reports do not come out haphazardly. The third assessment was called Climate Change 2001. So, 6 years of further work and data has gone into the new assessment.

David Adam of The Guardian reports from Paris, summarizing some of the highlights of the recent report releases by IPCC's Working Group I, focused on "Physical Science Basis" of climate change. 

Average temperatures could increase by as much as 6.4C by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise, with a rise of 4C most likely, according to the final report of an expert panel set up by the UN to study the problem. The forecast is higher than previous estimates, because scientists have discovered that Earth's land and oceans are becoming less able to absorb carbon dioxide.

You can also listen to Guardian's interview with its reporter, Mr. Adam.

The working group has made available The IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Page 15 of the report contains green house gas concentration measures based on examination of ice-core going back to 10,000 years.

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

Joobs of Tehran

Small water ways (joobs) have criss-crossed Tehran, from the time it was but a small village 250 years ago to the present, when it has become the indigenous metropolis of the Middle East.  Better city planning during the Pahlavi regime, when the city experienced its initial, real growth into a modern metropolis, could have made these canals a more wonderful feature of the urban fabric. These short videos were taken experimentally with a Nikon digital photo camera during the last week of November, 2007. Since Tehran Metro has been built, the air pollution has seen a real reduction, and these water ways add a very nice natural touch to the urban landscape. They flow from the portion of Alborz Mountains range just north of Tehran. (Tochal the highest mountain just north of Tehran carries snow through the summer.) It is accessible directly from Tehran by one of the world's longest telecabins, and many use it for skiing in the winter time.

 

Wednesday Sep 22, 2004

Cat Stevens, Terror Suspect

My wife (my best source of news) informs me that Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) was denied entry to the U.S. today.


Photo from: www.kyaz.com

Reports of this incident appear on Reuters, The International Herald Tribune, the BBC, The Malaysia Star, CNN, Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Australian, Gulf Daily News, NBC, U.S. Newswire, The Independent, Guardian, Culcutta Telegraph, Billboard, Houston Chronicle, Cat-Stevens.DE. . .

You may find more on this incidence on Yusuf Islam's web site: www.yusufislam.org.uk.

This should be about "Art," and I'm posting it under that category, but it belongs in its real unfolding to my "Society" category, a mismatch which simply demonstrates the limits of categorization.

When we deal with real-world events, they can only be understood in their totality and fail to fit into artificial digital divisions.

In the aftermath and in a wonderfully written essay for Asia Times Online, Maliha Masood, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University started with Yusuf Islam's story and moved onto Rumi's popularity in the U.S.

About

MortazaviBlog

Search

Archives
« July 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
  
       
Today