Saturday, March 10, 2018

Systems Science

Harder House

Thanks to a grapevine stretching to John "the Architect" Driscoll, the Systems Science PhD program, headquartered in the Harder House (PSU campus) invited me to give a brown bag lunch presentation, an almost weekly event when school is in session, this past Friday (March 9).  Dr. Wayne Wakeland introduced me.  Some people lurked from remote locations.

My topic:  the concept of "dimension" in Synergetics.

"Dimension" is a slippery concept in some ways, as mass, temperature, time, pressure are dimensions, relative to standard units of each, while space is commonly given three dimensions to establish location, named X, Y and Z dimensions.

Conceptually, we may need only an XY grid to establish which piece goes where on a chessboard (King to (r3, c2)), so we say chessboards are 2D, whereas rulers might be 1D.  However a chessboard is more obviously spatial and we simply choose to neglect the board's thickness.  Does "neglect" of a dimension make it go away entirely?  Out of sight, out of mind.

The dimension concept is even more complicated than that though, and we got into that in the midst of making some elbow room for Fuller's meaning, which starts pretty much where Kant starts:  space is a priori, a given of experience.  Adding time the way Einstein does, is different from adding more dimensions of space the way Coxeter does.  Different language games arise, each making use of "4D".

Fuller's paradigm volume, in terms of shape, is neither a cube nor a sphere, but a tetrahedron, of four corners, four faces.  The language games he builds around his core space concept somewhat diverge from those we learn in school, so much of this was new information to those present.  I'm aiming to share some of the same info with summer school students, as part of their literary heritage.

I also learned quite a bit, as one of the students mentioned being led to the writings of Donella H. "Dana" Meadows through Fuller's. I wasn't sure who that was, and as it turned out, my friend Patrick, with whom I went walking that same Friday afternoon, had been in her courses at Dartmouth.  He filled me in.  Dana Meadows, and her husband Dennis, have a lot to do with Systems Science as we know it today.

My overlap with Systems Science is General Systems Theory (GST).  I see these as quasi-synonymous, in terms of opening a large umbrella, under which we'll find many approaches to modeling and data representation.  There's a cybernetic flavor, meaning we're equipped with all the tools of Cyberia, our Global U.  The so-called Noosphere is a temporal-energetic phenomenon these days.

I talked about the Fuller Projection for data sharing as another invention, relating to his "geoscope" or "macroscope" (the "concentric hierarchy" having been my main focus), and how after the World Game chapter, it mostly stays back burner and on the shelf because of its apolitical nature (no political boundaries mar its surface).

"Talk about quixotic!" quipped the same student who mentioned Meadows.  I raise the question of Fuller's "quixoticness" with reference to his daring naively to critique XYZ thinking at the "three dimensionality" of space, conventions we mostly never revisit in later life.

As children we may have our doubts, about the sustainability of "nation-states" included, but in the press of events we usually come to abandon our both our skepticism and idealism, along with our teddy bears.  We stop pooh poohing zero dimensional points creating infinitely long lines, and settle in to take them seriously, for the duration.