# present-company

Jan Ruzicka

11/10/2022, 3:41 PM
Do you know of some computer scientists (or are you such one?) who interest themselves for systems thinking (as described by Alan Kay)?

Giskard Reventlov

11/10/2022, 5:39 PM
Can you please give a reference to that description? Thank you.

Kartik Agaram

11/10/2022, 6:35 PM
@Giskard Reventlov Good question. has some context without quite connecting the dots to software. The closest it gets is a mention of Jean Piaget. Still useful, perhaps.
This is also interesting: I tend to include everything here in "systems thinking"
Here's one where Kay refers to "algorithmic thinking":

Giskard Reventlov

11/10/2022, 9:32 PM
I see, thank you, @Kartik Agaram. Then the answer is no.

Jan Ruzicka

11/10/2022, 10:15 PM
@Giskard Reventlov To get a more complete understanding, you’d have to watch more of his talks and read some of his papers/essays, but here’s one for a start:

(love your nickname btw :))

Giskard Reventlov

11/11/2022, 5:32 AM
@Jan Ruzicka Used to be a fan but now I am quite impatient with that, realized that I am not listening after a few minutes and imitation is not my game. For me, he took half of Engelbart's disappointed team and results, ventured to the "IT for children" area ignoring clear and outspoken warnings of actual experts of that field (Postman, McLuhan) or his own colleagues (Weizenbaum, Turing), now complains about the consequences. MKay... The answer is still "not interested". (love your nickname btw :)) Really? Joining to a "mostly real named forum" with a nick is the expression of the lack of trust. The choice bears a total disappointment on this civilization and the AI community in particular. (note: the goal of systems thinking was to reach a thinking system) So today I talk robo-Twittish in public and


Jan Ruzicka

11/11/2022, 7:42 AM
@Giskard Reventlov Interesting... By the warnings, you mean e.g. Weizenbaum's observation that computers stall progress in many areas that would otherwise need a methodological overhaul (such as banks not needing to become decentralised)? What about the progress that wouldn't have been possible without computers (reaching to space)? What other warnings do you have in mind (what should I read to familiarise myself with them)? It sounds to me somewhat like what is described in Dune (albeit there the stagnancy came about without computers as well). Has it something to do with you being (presumably) a fan of Asimov's? :)

Giskard Reventlov

11/11/2022, 8:08 AM
The first reference (the foundation of informatics): Understand who, when and why wrote it. Then probably books for context: (recommended summary for tech/science overview), (the real moonshot; JCR answered the space program question probably there, not sure), (that's what "evangelists" missed). Starter pack. Unfortunately, "content creation" is easier and more popular than climbing up to those shoulders of giants. And there is the myth that a "startup" of newbies can fix something the giants messed up. Meh. Pointless trash talk, getting bored of myself again.

Jan Ruzicka

11/11/2022, 2:00 PM
@Giskard Reventlov Thanks, will read!

Riley Stewart

11/11/2022, 7:27 PM
Richard Gabriel (recently focused on by the podcast) has a similar approach to software, viewing it as a living, growing, evolving thing in his book Patterns of Software and More recently, Gordon Brander has been writing some interesting articles on the intersection of software and complexity theory like Going back before Kay, Nygaard and Dahl designed Simula for discrete event modeling and simulation. There are tons more - especially as the scope of software grows, complexity becomes inevitable, and learning how to manage it, as biological systems do, becomes paramount. One can argue that machine learning is naturally a manifestation of systems thinking, whether its practitioners are conscious of that fact. Ultimately, the tools we have for exploring and explaining systems, through modeling and simulation, are pretty lacking, especially for someone new to coding. For an introduction to systems thinking/complexity science, I would recommend the following books: • Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows (system dynamics/stocks and flows) • Complexity by Melanie Mitchell (tour of the science from Darwin to almost the present) • Worlds Hidden in Plain Sight, ed. David Krakauer (collection of essays from the Sante Fe Institute) It's a really interesting field that we are only beginning to explore. Climate change and COVID underscore how important it is to understand the world, not to mention the human systems we live in like the economy and culture.

Giskard Reventlov

11/12/2022, 6:04 AM
@Jan Ruzicka Eh, can't leave you without a warning. Be careful, your brain is not like a bookshelf, learning is a complex change in your neural network. If you start looking for the questions worth asking (instead of those you think others would praise or pay you to answer), it gets harder and harder to stop. There is no way to forget (that only cripples your relation to the past) but to get ignorant (which determines your future). This is not Hollywood or the Marvel universe,

don't expect happy ending

. That's gibberish, let's see an example:

John Oliver about nuclear weapons

, 8 years ago. You laugh because you hear the audience laughing, a technique invented and tested by the TV industry to give you a false sense of community and make you forget that you sit in an empty room staring at a glowing box. As you probably do at this very moment. You may realize that all this is true (otherwise all parties would sue HBO) so you ought to be very-very scared instead. (Then let's renew those ancient systems, so it will be agile, constant beta, move fast break things, fake until make... Mmm... feels much better.) But nobody sues. Why? Because there is a show every week on all kinds of topics (like with Ed Snowden, hahaha, epic failure). Going to the court would bring spotlight on critical issues. But if you just leave it, tomorrow it will be old news, forgotten in a week in this constant rumble created by... ourselves. IT is the infrastructure of a global brain, but the level of thinking is the global average: of a creation-drunk control-freak kid, frightened by hard work, responsibility and consequences of ignorance so focuses on daydreaming and like hunting. Systems thinking, if you do it right and use it on real problems, is a huge task with a simple, inevitable result: "

we have met the enemy and he is us

" (this version is from 1970). Like, there is no such thing as "garbage". Every single piece of it was born as "product", in chains of factories that also released waste while burned energy and people's time. Is this a joke? No, it's the "global economy"... Btw, isn't it pathetic, me ranting here against a Fermi limit? Bittersweet memories of a few years after 2008 when I though it was worth fighting. There is nothing welcoming in

the desert of the real

. Think twice before trying to unplug. It is hard and will not make you happy or "likable". ...

Lorand Kedves

11/13/2022, 6:19 AM
@Jan Ruzicka You can find tons of books and years of lectures about system thinking or listen to Douglas Engelbart because this is system thinking.

He talks from direct experience of leading successful groundbreaking projects as a researcher, inventor, engineer, ... He was old back in 1991 but hungry and sharp. One of my heroes. 🪄