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GST in the Global U

This title will sound pretty cryptic, especially the GST part, however “General Systems Theory” takes a lot of room to write out, and is meaningless to boot, at least at first. The U in Global U stands for University, which I also need to explain.

Spaceship Earth, with pictures of Earth from space (ET viewpoint) were a novelty in the 1960s and 1970s. One of more famous hippies actually mounted a campaign called “why haven’t we seen any pictures of the whole earth yet?” Good question. The pictures then started to appear. That was Stewart Brand right? Not Wavy Gravy.

“Global U” is a more esoteric stand-in for Spaceship Earth in that it’s used far less frequently. Student Housing stands for all housing and so on.

Faculty are also lifelong students, so the term is neutral in terms of experience and/or age. Not that I’m the dictator of all the jargon, even a chief dean would not do that. I’m merely assuming a responsibility to auto-generate context before launching in.

GST came out as “competition” for Economics a priori, on the thinking that Economics preaches the virtues of competition and so could use a competing discipline. Like of course, right? I’m thinking we have two hemispheres in our skulls for similar reasons: they play “against” each other. Machine Learning specialists are making similar discoveries in their computation intensive realm.

Where GST may differ from Economics is in taking science fiction seriously as a synonym for investment banking. The latter is arcane whereas science fiction is accessible to the people, would be clients, stakeholders. The stated goal of the GST venturer (one might say “pirate”) is to pursue an agenda wherein the ratio of science to fiction (S:F) steadily increases in science’s favor.

Naturally, the obverse is sometimes true: one might prefer some bad dream dystopian nightmare futures be kept at bay, on the shelf, on the big screen only. Not every possible future needs to see the light of day. Some are mutually exclusive. That being said, there’s much to be said for experimentation and diversity. I’m no “one size fits all” evangelist for uniformity and conformity. Within a specific endeavor certainly, one may seek to synchronize.

The Paul Allen Museum of Science Fiction at Seattle Center (the relic of an old Expo, where the famous Space Needle lives), has explored exactly this same tack, and I don’t think Isaac Asimov ever thought at all differently. He was a master storyteller of my day. I read his works religiously during my upbringing. That doesn’t mean I only read his stuff and no one else’s. I read quite widely as a kid, getting into the habit of browsing in open stack libraries, from which launching pad I dove into the Web.

Let me shift angles a bit and get back to Synergetics and my roadmap for it, which was sounding like library science. Those CGI scenes in Hollywood movies where some Mind is supposedly storing everything: how shall we show that? The empty spareness of a holodeck might be nice, but why not a Zen Garden in Kyoto, like a screen saver? The idea is some peaceful equilibrium for a backdrop, against which ideas arise.

At the heart of said Zen Garden: some inter-nesting of polyhedrons, a maze, could be a fountain of some sort, or even water clock. As I kid I used to haunt Tivoli Garden not far from Rome. One went at night, and appreciated the combination of lighting and fountains. I loved it. Couldn’t wait to go again.

The Global U has many sculptures, too many to count. I have much in my library about Kenneth Snelson’s work. He was someone I was privileged to know. I’m looking at one of his later books right now, on the “time capsule” in front of me, a somewhat art deco feature of my Portland, Oregon living room.

Student Housing is pretty good for some people, mostly seniors and those who inherit family wealth. I would include myself in the latter category in my growing up, privileged to travel through much of the world, though never South America. However here in Portland they’re arguing about converting an old abandoned prison into some kind of quarters for refugees from the System. There’s a lot of casting about, not much coherent conversation given the Global U has such a weak curriculum.

That’s always hard to admit, in one’s own age, that one lives in a time of darkness, of ignorance. Easier for some to believe, that we’re at some local pinnacle or maximum and should be celebrating our enlightened status. That could be a realistic and high morale space to occupy, however I see Economics would be better off expressing humility. We have not understood about solar fusion for all that long, about how the crush of gravity forces atoms up the ladder of complexity, to literally explode with gold and silver, enough to line our pockets until Kingdom Come.

I mention gold and silver in particular, solar elements, found on Earth, because Economics is all about money and these two metals were nothing if not monetized.

The Personal Workspace or PWS is the room with a view each student needs to get on with research. Living a learning is a life long activity. We each get born helpless and ignorant, and grow through experience to face an unknown, a source of new data. However, many get herded from room to room, with no time left over to devote to a private workspace. The democratic values of privacy and secrecy stand less chance of taking root when the children spend all their time in public quarters, under strict supervision.

How might GST empower and enable more students to snag a PWS? That might not be quite the right question, but clearly it’s caught up in the whole question of Student Housing, which means refugee camps for large populations displaced by wars. The psychological sciences had been unable to address human incapacity for civilization with any great success, though some saw gains. My affiliations were with the Quakers and the “Russian mystics” as I called them, meaning Scotsman Maurice Nicoll, a Jungian in the footsteps of P. D. Ouspensky. Norman O. Brown had made an impact. Closing Time and Love’s Body. Also Walking with Nobby, by one of his students.

The student professors lucky enough to snag a PWS sometimes turn out Youtubes. Serious academic institutions pump it out. MIT, Stanford… Those with PWSs get to listen to some of the best lecturers in the business, in whatever subject. Others get herded through hallways, with room for personal belongings in backpacks only, occasionally lockers. Nor is there privacy at home. As I believe I mentioned, the curriculum was super weak back then (when I’m writing this), meaning the blame all went elsewhere. People didn’t have a sense their discipline, whatever that might be, could make a difference. Enter GST.

Portland has a lot of struggles keeping its seaport open to a lot of marine traffic. It does OK with the grain elevators, and the Columbia takes fairly humongous ships. However, Portland is mighty far inland for a seaport, and for that reason finds itself in stiff competition with the likes of Seattle. Both GST and Economics would take such a big picture view, as would Urban Historians. I used to work at one Center for Urban Education (CUE) myself.

When at CUE, I wrote Project Renaissance, as public/private partnerships were all the rage. This was long before my Trucker Exchange Program. I was already into Synergetics. My attempt to break into the Jersey City PR business had met stiff resistance. I ended up on the other side of Manhattan, in Brooklyn, working in Rockefeller Center. I wrote a memo, about the Fuller Map, but for the most part was focused on television, reality television, and Sesame Street because of its pioneering use of short topical cartoons, puppet scenarios.

Ray & Bonnie were my companions in this period, and their new baby Julie, for whom I cared. Actually, that was in my final days on the Jersey side, before taking up with Americans for Civic Participation in Washington DC, election year work. Once the election was over, I moved back north and rejoined with Ray Simon. He was more an admirer of both Werner Erhard and L. Ron Hubbard in those days, though he feared the latter might be deceased, his death covered up. I was present when he got a letter from Hubbard asking what was up.

I should explain all this a lot more, also tracing another branch of the graph to Fernando Flores, who would prove influential in a later Pycon chapter.

However, I don’t need to trace GST through those channels. Rather, I should confess to being something of a garbage collector (in the Pythonic sense) and finding GST pretty much abandoned, unused. I had the sense to brush it off and add some spin to it, as competition for Economics. This was around 1985 or so. I’m thinking I must have worked a summer in Princeton before returning to New York? Memory fades.

Kenneth Boulding, a Quaker (Friend) was using it, and I got the feeling city and regional planners like my dad were in close proximity, discipline wise. Fuller and Erhard were all about ending world hunger as an option, seeing less a physical scarcity than a change in our code of conduct as necessary. Tools of persuasion might be employed. Quakers foreswear outward violence, but not sarcasm. Mocking the devil is OK, less stupid that trying to run him through with a sword. All of which is to say, I see GST as relating to “anticipatory design science” as Fuller called it. We need some way to steer towards a better tomorrow. Cybernetics has everything to do with Fuller’s “trim tab” concept (a real artifact he used metaphorically to suggest how we might all be “change agents”).

Kenneth and I corresponded some, mostly about whether energy and mass were two names for the same thing, or different things with a mathematical relationship. I’ve been thinking about gluons lately, and how they’re supposed to be massless, yet enormously energetic, which energy counts for mass in another sense. Understanding quantum processes was a shared interest.

World Game was meant in contrast to War Games and I suppose could be GST’s prime activity, in terms of serving simulations. We’re here in the cloud, giving students in their PWSs access to Machine Learning models, data sets, whatever tools they need. Pytorch. TensorFlow. Simulations such as SimCity may embody more of a theory. We model electrical grids and railroads, looking at their patterns of historical growth. I mention SimCity because a lot of us played with it, though maybe even more played with Sims.

The build-out of infrastructure from China to seaports in Iran and Pakistan, to use that data layer, is also a big story of our day, though maybe less so in North America, where the topic of infrastructure is pretty sensitive. Americans did not suffer carpet bombings during World War Two and were uncertain about how to deal with plummeting real estate values in some CBDs. Demolition is a difficult business, as people learned in modern day Detroit. I was back in Portland, the city of my youth, when 911 happened. WTC and even the Pentagon subway stations had been right outside my door, on PATH and the Arlington Line respectively. Port Authority Trans Hudson has responsibility for those tracks between Jersey City, Hoboken and Manhattan.

Bonnie, a nurse, was taken from us by the same influenza epidemic that killed Jim Henson, the puppeteer. Ray moved to Las Vegas. He popped up on my radar for accomplishing long-held dreams. He’d wanted to write a couple books. The Jungian phenomenon of Synchronicity (serendipity) had been a lifelong focus, to a point where he felt confidant he could aid and abet its occurrence. He and I spent many hours debating these topics. He was also interested in people who had bootstrapped their careers. Both books appeared through Amazon, look it up sometime? Ray later passed away.

The Jersey City chapter stays important in my story as I was newly out of Princeton and looking for ways to make a contribution. My boyhood in the company of futurists, city planners, big picture thinkers, had conditioned me to think in terms of science fiction gradually becoming more true. This is how we approached the “Year 2000” back in those days, the millennium beckoning as a kind of proof of concept. We would finally arrive in the future and make the best of it. The Hunger Project was designed in anticipation of these mechanics. Fuller survived until July of 1983. Urners were heading to a gathering of Friends known as FGC when he died.

However, I wasn’t seeing how my DIADEM Center for Creative Networking, as I called it, was going to amount to much. EPCOT was a fading dream, and seemed the most like Project Renaissance. We needed product placement reality TV showing humans prototyping new lifestyles, not necessarily insisting their way was best. Testing prototypes need not mean evangelizing, though if one comes to believe in a technology, so be it. I was hyping the Fly’s Eye Dome as promising, but no one in aerospace seemed even slightly interested. Not that the FED was mine to begin with. As I mentioned, science fiction was my game. FEDs were Student Housing in the Global U.

I think that pretty well explains how I see planet Earth going forward. The student body has an opportunity to strengthen the curriculum. Library science, along with data science, have come a long way thanks to the internet and the development of inexpensive cloud services. World Game now runs on Amazon when it wants to, speaking figuratively of Fuller’s Global U simulation games. I’m aware of the NGO by that name as well, Medard Gabel’s, which had some name recognition around the United Nations. I know Chuck Dingée and toured Medard’s place with Kiyoshi Kuromiya, back in the day. Fuller’s centennial was a big event in San Diego in the 1990s. My wife and daughter Tara managed to get there. GENI was the principal organizer.

I’ll end this brief account of GST’s continuance with a discussion of GENI, the Global Energy Network lobby. I call it a lobby because of the challenges politicians face anytime the subject of inter-hemispheric relations between electric grids comes up in cocktail conversation. Engineer diplomats mingle, from companies you might recognize, suggesting several mega-projects of interest, hoping to steer the more myopic away from their dystopian visions. We could do better than that. An uphill battle, I’ll grant you.

Currently, the Game of Nations (or “great game”) has at least as much attention as the Game of Thrones. Indeed, I’ve not had time for the latter given my preoccupations with projects. These days I focus on Python Nation (not really a Nation, nor a Planet either), as one of those islands in an archipelago of open source engineering. Sharing bounty with humanity is about more than sharing software, but it’s a place to start, especially for those able to work on their PWSs.