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Posts Tagged ‘Stewart Brand

“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope”*…

After this post, your correspondent is heading into his customary Holiday Hiatus; regular service will resume in early 2021. In the meantime, a piece to ponder…

“Civilizations with long nows look after things better,” says Brian Eno.  “In those places you feel a very strong but flexible structure which is built to absorb shocks and in fact incorporate them.”undefined  You can imagine how such a process could evolve—all civilizations suffer shocks; only the ones that absorb the shocks survive.  That still doesn’t explain the mechanism.

In recent years a few scientists (such as R. V. O’Neill and C. S. Holling) have been probing the same issue in ecological systems: how do they manage change, how do they absorb and incorporate shocks?  The answer appears to lie in the relationship between components in a system that have different change-rates and different scales of size.  Instead of breaking under stress like something brittle, these systems yield as if they were soft.  Some parts respond quickly to the shock, allowing slower parts to ignore the shock and maintain their steady duties of system continuity.

Consider the differently paced components to be layers.  Each layer is functionally different from the others and operates somewhat independently, but each layer influences and responds to the layers closest to it in a way that makes the whole system resilient.

From the fastest layers to the slowest layers in the system, the relationship can be described as follows:

All durable dynamic systems have this sort of structure.  It is what makes them adaptable and robust…

Stewart Brand (@stewartbrand) unpacks a concept that he popularized in his remarkable book How Buildings Learn and that animates the work of The Long Now Foundation, which he co-founded– pace layers, which provide many-leveled corrective, stabilizing feedback throughout the system.  It is in the contradictions between these layers that civilization finds its surest health: “Pace Layering: How Complex Systems Learn and Keep Learning.” Do click through and read in full…

* Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 1872 that HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth. Modified for scientific exploration, its activities over the next four years, known as The Challenger Expedition, laid the foundation for the entire academic and research discipline of oceanography.

The Challenger

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And information wants to be expensive*…

Finally it’s here!

Eager enthusiasts dressed as “tops” waited anxiously at bookstores  until midnight, January 12, to grab their copies of Jean Demaison’s and Jürgen Vogt’s Asymmetric Top Molecules, Part 2 (Landolt-Börnstein: Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology – New Series / Molecules and Radicals) (English/English Edition).

But readers needn’t brave the crush; the volume is available at Amazon… for $4,719.00.  And of course, it’s eligible for free shipping with Amazon Prime.

* While many quote Stewart Brand’s observation that “information wants to be free,” most have either forgotten or never known that what Stewart actually said was that “information wants to be free and information wants to be very expensive.”

As we take advantage of one-click, we might remember that not all valuable information is pricey, as we recall that it was on this date in 1970 that National Public Radio was founded (replacing the National Educational Radio Network).  Its signature show, All Things Considered, premiered the following year.

Your correspondent will, as it happens, be attending an NPR Board meeting today, where a central topic is bound to be the current assault on federal support for public broadcasting.  Readers who share the sense that public broadcasting– NPR, PRI, PBS, PRX, APM, and the local stations that carry them– return much more to our country than they consume (or readers who would like better to understand why so many of us feel that way) should visit 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.

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