[PDF / Epub] ✓ The Systems View of Life ★ Fritjof Capra – Multi-channel.co

Over The Past Thirty Years, A New Systemic Conception Of Life Has Emerged At The Forefront Of Science New Emphasis Has Been Given To Complexity, Networks, And Patterns Of Organisation, Leading To A Novel Kind Of Systemic Thinking This Volume Integrates The Ideas, Models, And Theories Underlying The Systems View Of Life Into A Single Coherent Framework Taking A Broad Sweep Through History And Across Scientific Disciplines, The Authors Examine The Appearance Of Key Concepts Such As Autopoiesis, Dissipative Structures, Social Networks, And A Systemic Understanding Of Evolution The Implications Of The Systems View Of Life For Health Care, Management, And Our Global Ecological And Economic Crises Are Also Discussed Written Primarily For Undergraduates, It Is Also Essential Reading For Graduate Students And Researchers Interested In Understanding The New Systemic Conception Of Life And Its Implications For A Broad Range Of Professions From Economics And Politics To Medicine, Psychology And Law


10 thoughts on “The Systems View of Life

  1. says:

    This book was informative and beautiful The basic gist, using a quote from the book is that there is a fundamental unity to life Different living systems exhibit similar patterns of organization The authors explore these patterns of organizations using biology, mathematics, sociology, and Towards the end of the book, the authors demonstrate how our economic and social systems are based on ideas of infinite growth and individualism that simply do not fit with the world that we live in They argue for a greater focus on ecological literacy principles of ecology and sustainability in our education system among many proposed solutions Some things I especially liked In exploring the similar patterns of organization that all life exhibits, one starts to conclude that things are somewhat pre determined The authors give a good analogy here Evolutionary theorists use the image of water flowing down the irregular surface of a hill to illustrate the interplay between determinism and contingency The water s downward movement is determined by the law of gravity, but the irregular terrain with its rocks and crevices determine the actual pathway The term that the authors use for this interplay is that we live in a structurally coupled system Speaking of terms, the authors did a great job of explaining terms I had heard of but didn t really understand like chaos theory, epigenetics, or cybernetics, as well as introducing new terms that help to frame my thoughts, such as emergent properties, autopoiesis, strange attractors, proto self, generative economy, embodied mind, etc etc The book features essays by guest contributors throughout, which I thought was a nice touch


  2. says:

    suffice to say that this book is a total outlier in terms of number of tags I used most of my books have 2 5 tags, this one has got 14 anthropology, biology, business, cooperation, design, education, innovation, networks, philosophy, read, science, spiritual, technology, work


  3. says:

    A book that pretends to offer a global, unifying view on life and reality cannot be but very comprehensive And in this respect Fritjof Capra lives up to all expectations not only does he offer a thorough critique on classical sciences its determinism and reductionism , but he also offers an alternative a contextual, integrative and holistic approach For Capra that alternative paradigm can be found through Systems Approach, a philosophical scientific and technical current of thinking, that came to the foreground after the Second World War Capra summarizes the specific perspective of Systems View as follows The great shock of twentieth century science has been that living systems cannot be understood by analysis The properties of the parts are not intrinsic properties, but can be understood only within the context of the larger whole Thus the relationship between the parts and the whole has been reversed In the systems approach, the properties of the parts can be understood only from the organization of the whole Accordingly, systems thinking does not concentrate on basic building blocks but rather on basic principles of organization Systems thinking is contextual, which is the opposite of analytical thinking Analysis means taking something apart in order to understand it systems thinking means putting it into the context of a larger whole. In this book Capra shows us the usefulness of this approach on all scientific domains that are relevant to life, and he does so in great detail, but without becoming too technical although of course sometimes it s a tough read And I must say it s fascinating and intriguing, and it s quite convincing that this integrative and contextual approach has much to offer Capra illustrates that a lot of the tools that in the past decades have been created by the Systems Views give a better understanding of the ultracomplexity of life nonlinearity, feedback loops, self organization, emergent properties, autopoiesis, the focus on relations, patterns and processes instead of components, etc In this sense this book is really worth reading.But yes, of course there s a but , Capra does make a very extreme black and white drawing of it Throughout the entire book, in all domains that Capra raises, he underlines how classical science and the paradigm behind it fail According to him they even are responsible for the major world problems we are facing And quite frankly, that is a fairly gross and largely unjust accusation I have the impression that in his enthousiasm Capra sometimes twists and turns things to fit his view For example, in his overview of the history of science he pretends that there has always been a pendulum movement between a reductionist deterministic approach and a holistic one, and that is manifestly incorrect On top of that he is and after having read a number of books on Systems Thinking I think I can make that estimation he is very selective in what he puts under the banner of the Systems View by now I know Systems Thinking is quite a heterogenous current, and Capra manifestly left out the bits that didn t fit in his story Of course, Capra is not just an amateur he has written dozens of popular scientific works and I have the impression that he really knows the latest state of affairs in various scientific domains But his rather self assured, demonstrative and sometimes even indoctrinating tone makes me very suspicious By his critics Capra is regularly labeled as a New Age author, especially referring to one of his first and most famous works, The Tao of Physics An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism in that book he moved in a fairly straight line from the failure of the classic reductionist sciences to the holistic wisdoms of Eastern religions 40 years later, Capra takes up that line again the Dalai Lama even gets a guest article in this new book , but now he uses the Systems View as an interface And there s another shift instead of Buddhism and Taoism, Capra now sees a new doctrine of salvation in Ecology the last 100 pages of this book are entirely dedicated to that approach it gets so much emphasis that I think the title of this book should have been an ecological view of life , instead of a systems view.Now, obviously there is a lot of wisdom in the ecological view and we have to shift our current way of thinking much in that direction that s without question, and when you look around this is a process that is in full swing But, once again, my impression is that Capra is exaggerating in the other direction and is falling into the trap of eco fundamentalism, depicting a too black and white state of affairs and being almost dogmatic in his line of thought I m strongly in favor of ecologism too, but not when it turns into a anti humanism At the end this book breaths the air of a manifesto than of a reasoned analysis It is also clear that it was written in the period 2011 2012, just after the severe economic crisis, and Capra repeatedly gives the impression that the whole world finally is convinced of the paradigm shift proclaimed by him with a loud drum More than 5 years later, that eschatological looking expectation certainly still has not been fulfilled, perhaps even on the contrary.Capra is an enticing writer, that is the least you can say And his presentation of the Systems View as a better way of looking at reality is inspiring But his deviation to Eastern mysticism and radical ecology reveals that he still clings to a rather dogmatic kind of holism Now, our world needs dreamers and visionists like Capra, so let them do it, but as a reader, it does no harm to link back to reality


  4. says:

    it s been a long time since I ve been so excited about reading a non fiction book, let alone a text book But this one has captivated my interest by pulling together so many ideas and threads of scientific knowledge and wisdom In a sense, this book feels like a Rosetta stone for me, unlocking connections and roots of a panoply of different ideas and concepts It starts walking us through the history of science and how scientific models influenced most aspect of cultures This is a wonderful section that lays out the people who came up with the ideas I was reading about the history of systems thinking At one point, as the authors were about to begin giving a history and explanation of a concept I d had a loose handle on, I realized that I was suddenly feeling very excited, like I was in a movie, sitting on the edge of my seat, or becoming aroused and excited But it was a non fiction book, on scientific theory Frankly, at 70 pages into this book, at that point, I was highly aroused, with excitement and curiosity and anticipation I can t wait to get to the next parts of the book, to put the whole picture together This is what a great writer and a great book are supposed to do Now I m 270 pages into it, reading about consciousness, having just finished reading about evolution of humans Great, great book that s changing my thinking on the book I m working on Bottom up.Update I finished the book It s one of the best books I ve read in the past few years I can t recommend it highly enough I did the interview with Capra it exceeded my expectations.


  5. says:

    The Systems View of Life argues that Cartesian reductionism, which refers to attempts to describe reality by examining its constituent parts, distracts us from a true account of our world and the universe Instead, Capra argues that focusing on patterns, processes, and underlying relationships offers fertile ground for useful inferences about reality I enjoyed the book until its head snapping turn to superficial polemics on healthcare, business, and energy policy These revealed the author s tendency to draw sweeping inferences from scant data in fields he clearly does not understand well By the end, The Systems View of Life felt like a vacation that started well and then became a series of loud, high pressure sales pitches for expensive time shares in another part of the world.


  6. says:

    Best place to dive into the shallow end of autopoesis and Varela s work on biosemiotics.


  7. says:

    The Systems View of Life A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi is an interdisciplinary book which presents a unified systemic vision that includes and integrates life s different dimensions p.xii All living systems are highly nonlinear networks where there are countless interconnections p.xii Here is a summary of the book together with some conclusions.Introduction pp.1 16 The systems view of life is a change from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network p.4 Greek philosophy, in the sixth century BC, understood the order of the cosmos to be that of a living organism p.5 The shift from an organic to a mechanistic worldview was initiated by Ren Descartes 1596 1650 who is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy p.8.A living system is an integrated whole whose properties cannot be reduced to its parts p.10 These properties arise from the interactions and relationships between the parts p.10 Outlines of a coherent theory of living systems are now emerging p.12 This is the subject of the book.We need to question the old paradigm p.12 The paradigm shift also involves changes of values p.13 There is a striking connection between changes of thinking and of values p.13 The connection between an ecological perception of the world and corresponding behavior is not a logical but a psychological connection p.14 Logic does not lead us from the fact that we are an integral part of the web of life to certain norms of how we should live p.14 However, if we have a deep ecological experience of being part of the web of life, then we will be inclined to care for all living nature p.15 The paradigm shift at its deepest level, involves a perceptual shift p.15.The mechanistic worldview pp.17 60 As the organic view of nature was replaced by the metaphor of the world as a machine, the goal of science became to dominate and control nature p.21 All scientific theories are reductionist in the sense that they need to reduce the phenomena described to a number of characteristics p.24 Scientists in treating living organisms as machines, tended to believe that they are nothing but machines p.26 The adverse consequences of this have become especially apparent in medicine p.26 Economists also generally fail to recognize that the economy is merely one aspect of the whole ecological and social fabric p.56 Unlimited growth on a finite planet can only lead to disaster p.56.As the metaphor of organizations as machines has taking hold, it has generated mechanistic theories of management with clearly defined lines of command and communication p.58 During the Industrial Revolution efficient operation of the new machines required major changes in the organization of the workforce p.58 The workforce was disciplined to accept the rigorous routines required by factory production p.58.Interestingly, Max Weber 1864 1920 was very critical of the development of mechanistic forms of organization p.58 Weber observed the parallels between the machination of industry and bureaucratic forms of organization p.58 He was concerned about the mechanization of human life, the erosion of human spirit, and the undermining of democracy p.58 Weber s contemporary, Frederick Taylor 1856 1915 , perfected the engineering approach to management p.58 The organization s structure and goals are designed by management and are imposed on the organization with top down control p.59 The design of formal structures, linked by clear lines of communication, coordination, and control, has become almost second nature p.59.Transcending the mechanistic conceptions of health, the economy, or biotechnology and the mechanistic view of organizations is critical for the survival of or human civilization p.59.The rise of systems thinking pp.61 126 Throughout the living world, we find living systems nesting within other living systems p.65 Living systems act both as parts and wholes p.65 There is both an integrative and a self assertive tendency p.65 The essential properties of living systems are properties of the whole p.65 The great chock of twentieth century science has been that living systems cannot be understood by analysis p.66.There are three kinds of living systems organisms, parts of organisms, and communities of organisms p.67 Living systems at all levels are networks and consists of networks within networks p.68 Whenever we look at life, we look at networks p.95 Nature shows us a complex web of relationships between parts of a unified whole p.68 There is stability, but this stability is one of dynamic balance p.75 All living systems are open systems which need a continual flux of matter and energy p.86.Norbert Wiener 1894 1964 introduced the term cybernetics, from the Greek kybernetes steersman , in the 1940s Wiener defined cybernetics as the science of control and communication in the animal and the machine p.87 All major achievements of cybernetics originated in mechanistic models of living systems p.89 Interestingly, Norbert Wiener made a clear distinction between a mechanistic model and the non mechanistic living system it represents p.93 Ross Ashby 1903 1972 , who was the leading theorist of the cybernetics movement in the 1950s and 1960s, had, on the other hand, a strictly mechanistic outlook p.93 For Ashby, there was no creativity, no development, no evolution p.97.Even the simplest living system is a highly complex network p.98 Nonlinear dynamics represents a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach to complexity and systems thinking p.99 The systems view is a shift of perspective from objects to relationships, from measuring to mapping, from quantity to quality p.99 Nonlinear phenomena are an essential aspect of the network patterns of living systems p.105 Nonlinearity has brought about a shift of emphasis from quantitative to qualitative analysis p.105.The spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability is one of the hallmarks of life p.116 The understanding of pattern s is crucial to understand the living world p.126.A new conception of life pp 127 339 Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela coined the term autopoiesis , which means self making , in the 1970s p.129 The main characteristic of life is self maintenance p.129 A living organism does not need any information from the outside to be what it is, but it is dependent on outside materials in order to survive p.134 Life can be seen as a system of interlocked autopoietic systems p.135 Autopoiesis is the particular self organization of life p.135.There is a clear difference between the ways living and nonliving systems interact with their environments p.136 If you kick a stone, it will react p.136 If you kick a dog, it will respond p.136 The interaction with the environment is determined by the internal organization of the living organism p.141 A living organism is capable of cognition the process of knowing p.142 The living organism and the environment become one through cognitive interactions p.143 A particular combination of self organization and emergence gives rise to self reproduction p.145.Dynamic systems generally operate far from equilibrium, and yet are stable, self organizing structures p.158 In static systems, self organization and the resulting emergent properties are relatively simple concepts p.180 In dynamic systems, however, self organization and emergence are subtle and complex p.180 New structures and forms of organization may arise in situations of instability, chaos, or crisis p.180.The appropriate way of approaching nature is not through domination and control but through respect, cooperation, and dialogue p.180 In the living world, history plays an important role and the future is uncertain p.180 Life cannot be explained in reductionistic terms p.181 All living forms are linked together to each other by a network of parenthood p.182 Cooperation is clearly visible at many levels of living organisms p.202 The planetary network of bacteria, for example, has been the main source of evolutionary creativity p.192 Another example is symbiosis, the tendency of different organisms to live in close association with one another p.202.In living organisms, there is no easy way to separate instructions from the way they are carried out, to distinguish plan from execution p.206 The principle of structural determinism, implies that only those changes can be accepted that are consistent with the existing inner structure and organization of the living organism p.214 The change must also be consistent with the organism s self maintenance p.214 Evolution is complex, highly ordered, and ultimately cognitive p.215 It is an integral part of life s self organization p.215.One important implication of the new systemic understanding of life is a new understanding of the nature of mind and consciousness p.252 The phenomenon of mind is connected with the phenomenon of life p.253 In other words, cognition is the very process of life p.254 The organizing activity of living systems, at all levels of life, is mental activity p.254 Mind or, accurately, mental activity is immanent in matter at all levels of life p.254 Every living organism continually renews itself while maintaining its overall identity or pattern of organization p.255 Living organisms create new structures new connections in the network p.255 Living systems are autonomous p.255 Living organisms respond to environmental changes, and these changes alter future responses This modification of behavior on the basis of previous experience is learning p.255 Continuing adaptation, learning, and development are key characteristics of all living beings p.255 We can never direct a living system we can only disturb it p.256 A living system has the autonomy to decide what to notice and what will disturb it p.256 Describing cognition as the breath of life seems to be a perfect metaphor p.256 Mind is the process of cognition, which is identified with the process of life p.257 At all levels of life, mind and matter, process and structure, are inseparably connected p.257 Consciousness emerges when cognition reaches a certain level of complexity p.257 Consciousness is a cognitive process p.260 which involves self awareness p.258 Conscious experience is an expression of life, emerging from complex neural activity p.265 Mind and body are two complementary aspects of life p.273 Primary, or core, consciousness provides the organism with a transient sense of self the core self in the act of perception p.274 , while reflective consciousness is the process of cognition we experience as thought p.274.The pattern of organization of any system is the configuration of relationships among the system s components p.301 This configuration of relationships gives the system its essential characteristics p.301 The structure of a system is its physical embodiment of its pattern of organization p.302 The process of life is the continual embodiment of the system s pattern of organization p.302 These are three perspectives on life organization, structure, and process p.302 This is the trilogy of life p.303.The trilogy of life can, in general terms, be expressed as form or pattern of organization , matter or material structure , and process p.304 Meaning is added to the other three perspectives in order to extend the systemic understanding of life to the social domain p.304 Meaning is a shorthand notation for the inner world of reflective consciousness, which contains a multitude of interrelated characteristics p.304 Human action flows from the meaning that we attribute to our surroundings p.304 Human language involves the communication of meaning p.304.Living systems exhibit similar patterns of organization p.305 The network pattern, in particular, is very basic p.305 All living systems are networks within networks p.306 A social network, too, is a nonlinear pattern of organization p.306 However, organisms and human societies are very different types of living systems p.307 Human beings can choose whether and how to obey a social rule molecules cannot choose p.307 Meaning is essential to human beings p.309 In acting with intention and purpose we experience human freedom p.309 The behavior is constrained but not determined by outside forces p.309 As human beings, we experience this as the freedom to act according to our own choices and decisions p.309 Bringing life into human organizations increases their flexibility, creativity, and learning potential p.320 People need to feel that they are supported and do not have to sacrifice their integrity to meet the goals of the organization p.320 However, the economic environment today is not life enhancing but increasingly life destroying p.320 We need to change our economic system so that it becomes life enhancing rather than life destroying p.321 This change will be imperative not only for the well being of human organizations but also for the survival of humanity as a whole p.321 The new unifying vision of life has important implication for almost every field of study and every human endeavor p.322 From a systems point of view, illness results from patterns of disorder p.327 Health is a multidimensional and multileveled phenomenon p.327 Lack of flexibility manifests itself as stress p.356 Loss of flexibility means loss of health p.328 From a systems view of life the current health revolution can be seen as part of a global movement dedicated to creating a sustainable world p.338.Sustaining the web of life pp 339 452 There are different meanings of self organization p.346 To cyberneticists self organization meant the emergence of order in machines featuring feedback loops p.346 In complexity theory self organization is the emergence of new order governed by nonlinear dynamics p.346 And, in ecosystems self organization is understood as dissipative structures operating far from equilibrium p.346 There is, however, almost total silence on the question of autopoiesis in ecosystems p.347 We need to understand the principles of self organization that ecosystems have evolved p.353 Ecology is of paramount practical importance p.361.The major problems of our time cannot be understood in isolation p.362 The fundamental dilemma is the illusion that unlimited growth is possible on a finite planet p.363 Social and environmental costs are not included in economic activities p.363 There is a widening gap between the rich and the poor p.363 All ethical dimensions are excluded p.378 Global capitalism exacerbates poverty and social exclusion pp 384 385 There are also actively misleading campaigns that systematically create doubt and confusion concerning the threat of global warming p.388 This is why the systems view of life is very important and has tremendous practical relevance p.392 There are hundreds of systemic solutions being developed all over the world p.393.It seems as a fluid system of global governance would be appropriate for today s world, where power is increasingly shifted to regional and local levels p.398 This includes the shift from governments serving corporations to governments serving people and communities, as well as respect for core labor, social and other human rights p.397.The most important reformation of the corporation will be to expose the core myth that shareholder returns must be maximized at the expense of human and ecological communities p.400 This means reviving the traditional purpose of the corporation to serve the public good p.400 A fundamental issue is ownership p.401 Conventional corporate ownership is an example of extractive ownership p.401 A new generative ownership is needed, which generates well being and real, living wealth p.401 Unfortunately, systemic thinking is still very rare among corporate and political leaders p.407 The world has to act now or face devastating consequences, but there is lack of political will p.411 There is an erroneous belief that nature can be subjected to human control p.437 We need to honor, respect, and cooperate with nature p.442 And we can learn valuable lessons from nature s ecosystems p.442 We have the knowledge and the technologies to build a sustainable world p.452 What is needed is political will and leadership p.452 Major breakthroughs are needed to turn the tide p.452.ConclusionsFritjof Capra och Pier Luigi Luisi s book is truly impressive The amount of materials covered is broad indeed The Systems View of Life A Unified Vision is an attempt to integrate life s biological, cognitive, and social dimensions in a unified systems view of life In a way, I think Capra and Luisi are brave in taking such a broad sweep across so many different areas Even if you take a broad sweep, it will still be too narrow And what you gain in breadth, you risk losing in depth Overall, I think Capra and Luisi have succeeded in integrating many different perspectives The book certainly broadened my own perspectives The main value of the book is the integration of the different ideas, models, and theories into a single framework.


  8. says:

    Very ambitious I didn t know what to make of it when I first heard about Fritjof Capra s work He and his co author are attempting to not only understand the systematic nature of everything, and I mean everything, they are also trying to find a way to harvest what they learn from how systems work so they can make suggestions about how to make life on Earth sustainable While I enjoyed their explanation of systems in the emergence of organisms, I didn t really enjoy the sections on consciousness, I really appreciate what they are trying to do However, I think they muddy the waters in trying to have a philosophy of mind debate They would stand firmly with the Churchland s, who believe that all consciousness is material And maybe I would be interested in reading about that But IMO, that is for another book I would be happy to hear opposing views Cognitive neuroscience is one of my favorite subjects, and I would love it if someone who understood systems thinking than I do could shed light on where Fritjof Capra and co author are going with this Their discussion of the systems approach to evolution was fantastic That alone makes this book worth reading So much research coming from systems folks, thermodynamics folks i.e.., Jeremy England , and others are demonstrating that gene centered evolutionary theory is outdated A new paradigm is afoot that adds 3 very important aspects to the theory 1 emergence, 2 horizontal gene transfer as a greater focus, 3 endosymbiosis Once we view evotdluion from this perspective, we see that the inclusion of the aforementioned additions to evolutionary process means that the behaviors that arise are less random than once thought At the end of the day, genes are less the driver of evolution and physical forces, which result in the emergence of complexity are the main driver He is firmly in the camp that under the right conditions, life will self organize The authors then go on to show that social networks emerge and operate on the same principles They are self generating From this, they look at the systemic nature of social issues and try to understand what steps can be taken, once you have taken the steps to understand the systems nature of the problem, to live in a sustainable manner.


  9. says:

    This also appears on my blog www.silashruparell.com My one liner Astounding breadth of coverage of philosophical, scientific and economic systems and processes guiding humanity towards a sustainable existence T he Zeitgeist spirit of the age of the early twenty first century is being shaped by a profound change of paradigms, characterized by a shift of metaphors from the world as a machine to the world as a network The new paradigm may be called a holistic worldview, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts The Systems View of Life A Unifying Vision Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi is the kind of book I wish I could write As the industrial age, which began in the period of the European Enlightenment, draws to maturity through the end of the 20th century and beyond, its very fruits have given humanity the tools to move beyond the industrial and mechanical, and into a higher conception of the nature of existence Thus we have the insights of quantum physics and fractal mathematics which were only made possible by going through the Newtonian Cartesian phase Or the interconnected, networked world that is forming today, that came about through incremental phases of industrial, machine based progress The recent giant leaps in computing power that today enable us to study and model complexity and chaos, leave us perhaps with questions than answers, but evolved through essentially linear statistical methods over the preceding 200 years Where Capra and Luisi take us therefore, is into a place that we I think, already know to be instinctively know we need to be Namely that as a society we are perhaps grown up enough to be able to once again emphasise the qualitative over the quantitative, the observation over the explanation, the process rather than the outcome The prize, they argue, is a great one As we move further into the twenty first century, transcending the mechanistic view of organizations will be as critical for the survival of human civilization as transcending the mechanistic conceptions of health, the economy, or biotechnology All these issues are linked, ultimately, to the profound scientific, social, and cultural transformation that is now under way with the emergence of the new systemic conception of life Personally I would add a caveat to this the developed or industrialised world in primed for this transition the developing world is still undergoing its industrialisation phase through which many hundreds of millions of people are being lifted out of food poverty Capra and Luisi hint that this can be short circuited The root causes of hunger around the world are unrelated to food production They are poverty, inequality, and lack of access to food and land my view is that they need to take their time to evolve societally, having now moved away from a land organic based existence they will not need 500 years like we did, but they will need decades This is important, because the transitions implied in the book will likely remain imperceptible at the level of all humanity for rest of the century.Moving back to the book itself, the authors do well to delve into science well enough to give the reader a sense of rigour, without crossing the line into incomprehensibility for the layman A consistent theme is the rationalist, and currently prevailing tendency to break down our existence into building blocks and compartments, whether that be measurements of economic growth, medical diagnosis, legal systems, industrial production But modern physicists have taught us that at that quantum level matter in the non technical sense is fundamentally interconnected and cannot be reduced to infinitesimally small building blocks An electron is neither a particle nor a wave, but it may show particle like aspects in some situations and wave like aspects in others While it acts like a particle, it is capable of developing its wave nature at the expense of its particle nature, and vice versa, thus undergoing continual transformations from particle to wave and from wave to particle The discovery of the dual aspect of matter and of the fundamental role of probability has demolished the classical notion of solid objects At the subatomic level, the solid material objects of classical physics dissolve into wave like patterns of probabilities These patterns, further, do not represent probabilities of things, but rather of probabilities of interconnections The laws of atomic physics are statistical laws, according to which the probabilities for atomic events are determined by the dynamics of the whole system Whereas in classical mechanics the properties and behavior of the parts determine those of the whole, the situation is reversed in quantum mechanics it is the whole that determines the behavior of the parts And the recently evolving discipline of fractal geometry provides us with the basis to extend this principle of interconnectedness and probability both upwards and downwards More obviously upwards the functioning of the human body the development of societies and economies ecological phenomena the space time of the universe Less obviously downwards, but reaching into the spiritual and philosophical think of the buddhist and other eastern philosophies which emphasise the oneness of zero and infinity We arrive here through the property of fractal geometry known as self similarity The authors tell us how the inventor of fractal geometry Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrates this by breaking a piece of a cauliflower and showing that it looks just like a small cauliflower Every part looks like the whole vegetable at every level of scale So if such interconnectedness and self similarity exists at the quantum level, why have we organised our societies in such a compartmentalised, non holistic way The answer set out in the book can be summarised by two phenomena First, the focus on responding to, and treating, observed outcomes rather than rather than understanding the underlying processes that lead to those outcomes An obvious example would be politicians who create new government policies based on events rather than a qualitative appraisal of the world around them Or alternatively the diagnostic approach of modern medicine The conceptual foundation of modern scientific medicine is the so called biomedical model, which is firmly grounded in Cartesian thought T he conceptual problem at the center of contemporary healthcare is the confusion between the origins of disease and the processes through which it manifests itself A systemic approach, by contrast, would broaden the scope from the levels of organs and cells to the whole person to the patient s body and mind, as well as his or her interactions with a particular natural and social environment Such a broad, systemic perspective will enable health professionals to better understand the phenomenon of healing, which today is often considered outside the scientific framework Although every practicing physician knows that healing is an essential part of all medical care, the phenomenon is presently not part of scientific medicine The reason is evident it is a phenomenon that cannot be understood when health is reduced to mechanical functioning The second is the sense of connection that humans once had with the physical world, the land, nature and eco systems, and which has been lost through in the industrial society that we inhabit This connection is, the authors tell us, real and rooted in science Indeed that very epitome and oft cited champion of the rationalist scientific school, Charles Darwin gives us our route back to nature For at the end of day all living organisms share a common ancestor Organic and inorganic matter evolved to produce living cells which then evolved to produce water, air and land borne species, of which we are but one There is nothing holistic and systemic than this notion of Darwinian biological evolution Studies of the number of proteins that form all of life suggest that there around 1014 different types or 100,000 billion A lot, you might think However, the mathematically possible number of proteins that could exist based on chains of so called residues , or amino acids, is 10130 Some of those would be energetically impossible, but even if 1 in a billion of those are permitted the resulting number of all possible proteins would be 10120 By way of comparison if the actual number of proteins in existence were a single grain of sand, then all the other possible combination representing those that don t exist, would be the equivalent of the Sahara Desert And we still do not understand very much the process by which that one grain of sand , representing all of life, was selected, over and above all of the other mathematically possible combinations And delving into space time, planets such as our own, have also been part of a cosmic evolution of the universe, the concept of a universe pregnant with life The authors quote the physicist Freeman Dyson 1985 As we look out in the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming So where does that leave us and where do we go from here Rationalist science cannot yet and may not ever give us the answers to the true origins of life Does it matter Yes, it does matter, One the one hand it matters to adherents of organised religion, searching for a way to become closer to a god as creator And it also matters to the finest scientific minds seeking out the origins of life and the universe, whether to through Big Bang or recent theories Take Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, and his binary test for whether or not there is a creator So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator But if the universe is really completely self contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end it would simply be What place, then, for a creator Capra and Luisi push us to gaining an understanding of the nature of consciousness, and the signposts point to philosophies of the east From our point of view, the apparent dichotomy dissolves when we move from organized religion to the broader realm of spirituality, and when we recognize that both spiritual experience and the mystery we find at the edge of every scientific theory transcend all words and concepts S cientists such as Oppenheimer, Bohr and Heisenberg published popular books about the history and philosophy of quantum physics, in which they hinted at remarkable parallels between the worldview implied by modern physics and the views of Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions As physicists delve deeper into the material world they come to realise that their own consciousness is part of the unity of all natural phenomena Mystics arrive there from the opposite direction, with an understanding that outer world is essentially one and the same as the inner world which is their starting point Thus there is an increasing recognition, observable as we move into a new century that we are part of a great order, a grand symphony of life Every molecule in our body was once part of a previous body, non living or living, and the same will apply to all life forms that come after us Indeed, the authors point out the origin of spirituality The word spirit is derived from the Latin for breath , see also the related Latin anima , Greek psyche , and Sanskrit atman Allowing us to posit that this notion of the spirit, being breath as the source of life, is common across the ancient schools of thought in both east and west Spiritual teachers throughout the ages have insisted that the experience of a profound sense of connectedness, of belonging to the cosmos as a whole, which is the central characteristic of mystical experience, is ineffable incapable of being adequately expressed in words or concepts and they often describe it as being accompanied by a deep sense of awe and wonder together with a feeling of great humility This, say Capra and Luisi, is the true sense of ecology derived from the Greek oikos meaning Earth Household a oneness with the natural world around us, being a member of a global community of living beings , and not interfering with ability of the earth to sustain life The reader is not surprised at this point that authors take on a quick detour into Gaia theory as well.Practically, achieving this oneness means that current and future generations of politicians, scientists, business leaders, teachers and professionals will need an understanding of the nature of sustainability An education programme, in other words Modern social networks have the ability to achieve this Social networks can be and have typically in the past used as instruments of control and authority, through bringing together and influencing people of similar mindsets But in the future they can also be a means of empowerment, dissipating common views about the importance of sustainability, and a systemic or holistic way of thinking Examples include holistic therapies that connect physical well being to mental well being a recognition that an individual s well being is determined by diet, and environment and social interaction an understanding of the self healing properties of many systems, including the human body and its surrounding ecology the importance of human and ecological well being for any corporate entity, arguably over and above its financial and profitability measure So, the network, technological and philosophical ingredients are in place in the 21st century What are the policy implications Is there some new world order that needs to be created The book takes the obligatory diversion through the well trodden path of the economic and environmental unsustainability of our current existence, culminating in a now familiar walk through of the global financial crisis, its causes and effects We also hear about various bodies, movements and NGOs that have sprung up before and since to address and promote sustainability The book then concludes with a number of possible visions for a sustainable future, and presents a number of overlapping strategies The authors note in particular that economic globalisation, which has accelerated in the last 100 years or so, is now essentially characterised by a global network of machines computers, factories, communication lines, financial systems that are pre programmed to maximise profit The financial motive is the current human value which dominates It would not, they argue, be too much of a leap of imagination to re programme the machines to have other values built into them This would also involve moving from quantitative measures of economic growth, such as GDP, to what may be termed qualitative growth Whilst growth is a characteristic of all life, it is not linear and not unlimited at the same time as some organisms and ecosystems grow others will shrink and release their components which can become resources for new growth Qualitative growth is growth which enhances life Quantities can be measured, but qualities need to be mapped, and new mathematical and computing disciplines are allowing us now to do this Linked to this, the authors contend, should be a programme for corporate reform The obligation to maximise shareholder return is etched into the contractual structure of a company, its board and the underpinning legal system The fiduciary duty owed by a company and its managers to its shareholders overrides all other duties This profit maximising duty makes the same assumption that economists currently do, namely that social costs, resource ownership, ecological sustainability should not be the goal of a corporation The authors recommend extending or even replacing this fiduciary duty to include the well being of the corporation s employees, of local communities and of future generations, and creating new forms of ownership And arguably this need not be in conflict with a market based economy The next area for change is where I am most sceptical namely a number of suggestions around poverty eradication, stabilising population growth, and empowering of women The last, in particular is seen to be important as a way of tempering the male, power based, private ownership based, accumulative cultures that predominate today, with a feminine approach conservation, co operation, and community More yin, less yang I am sceptical not because these aims are not highly laudable though limiting population growth sounds a tad Malthusian , but because it seems apparent to me, having witnessed the rise of China, the tiger economies and some Latin American countries, that the quickest way to eliminate poverty is rapid industrialisation As I mentioned, their time for an ecological approach will come, and it will come within decades rather than centuries, but they will have to learn the hard way Finally, energy transformation In particular the systemic view advocates a shift away from coal, oil and other fossil fuels We are at a moment of perfect technological alignment for an energy revolution, because of advances in both energy and communications technology, enabling the a Third Industrial Revolution with five pillars shifting to renewables solar, wind, hydro transforming building stock into power plants, collecting energy on site deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies using the internet to transform electricity grids into inter grids transforming automobiles to electric plug in and fuel cell vehicles The argument is that this can be achieved in the context of a market economy generating viable returns for investors Couple this with reductions in industrial waste and inefficiency estimates are that we can save up to 90% of energy and materials currently used in industrial design , and we can become truly sustainable Imagine fuel without fear No climate change No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife No energy poverty No oil fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists Nothing to run out Nothing to cut off Nothing to worry about Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, for ever This is a great book and will get a 5 rating from me on the various book blog sites I like it because it provides a coherent scientific, philosophical and technological underpinning for the ideas presented I do agree that we are seeing signs of systemic rather than linear phenomena, and I do think that current conditions can provide the impetus for this transition What I don t understand, and I don t think the authors do yet either, is whether this transition will be itself a systemic process, or whether some top down policies or new forms of government will be required to push the process.


  10. says:

    Fundamental Really I m serious