Attending the Emergence of a New Science - Part II
Attending the Emergence of a New Science - Part II
A logical revolution
According to Hirst, "The fundamental revolution will occur in logic." The logics that will provide a new formal foundation for the coming sciences will not rely upon consistency. "These new logics," says Hirst, "unlike the old ones, will allow for time, change, novelty, and even paradox as basic features in the process dynamics of nature. The logics forming and guiding process philosophy are distinct from traditional logic in their departure from a frame of reference dominated by things. The languages of the old logic are dominated by nouns. But there are languages that emphasize verbs, languages more suitable for describing events, acts, and activities. Process philosophy. Central to the notion of process is the idea of what is being done, or acts, rather than the static idea of what is." Can logic be expressed strictly in terms of acts? The answer is yes, it can be. A relatively new and promising branch of non-standard logics called combinatory, or epi-logics, fit this requirement of process philosophy. Acts are features built into the working design of combinatory logic equations.
Logic is presently undergoing a revolution. Logic today is as different from logic of the past as quantum physics is different from Newtonian physics. Perhaps even more so!
"The whole revolution," Hirst says, "is in the shift from the traditional static model to a dynamic process model. My conclusions will indicate that our contemporary science has been magnificently successful in dealing with the simple systems of [past] technology, but when it comes to life and complex systems, contemporary science is misleading, even to being largely wrong."
Mechanistic, reductionistic, and binary thinking (true, or not true; existing, or not existing) will perhaps always have their place in sciences and technology, but their limits need to be recognized and their roles reevaluated in accord with the new perspective that has already long been emerging in the sciences.
The precise and orderly behavior of electrons around atomic nuclei is a prime example of the natural patterns scientists are discovering everywhere and today's mathematics has an almost uncanny capacity to describe. "No one," says Hirst,"has succeeded in explaining why the math works as well as it does in some cases-- why natural patterns of order and numbers are so close. What was once called the "music of the spheres" is today found in the harmonic and marvelously precise patterns of electrons rising and falling from one orbit to another, and of organic molecules vibrating in liquid suspension and arranging themselves into cells-- the symphony of the natural universe.
Laying the new foundation
In selecting new theoretical and logical underpinnings, builders of the new science have been determining the domain of discourse. "For physics, in Newton's time," says Hirst, "the domain of discourse consisted of such basic notions as numbers, space, time, force, and particles. Also needed was a formal scientific language and a calculus, which was created by Newton and Leibniz. Today, three hundred years after Newton, we live in a world transformed by the formal system of the infinitesimal calculus combined with the natural laws discovered by Newton, Maxwell, and others. We can only vaguely imagine the extent of the next transformation, which will occur when the theories and discoveries now being unraveled are unified in one scientific theory. Autognomics, as a science of life and living systems, will rely upon a philosophy of process, which is built upon a number of notions that are very different from the ones that supported the science of the past. Says Norm Hirst, "The real revolution is in the process viewpoint. Process philosophy goes from the traditional static consideration of objects and fixed states, to dynamic consideration of function, movement, and activity." The difference between the old perspective and the new is as large as the difference between viewing still slides on a projector screen and watching a movie in a cinema of the future, where the images are projected three-dimensionally in the space in front of us, and sounds and smells and breezes surround us. In fact, the difference is even larger, since it is actually infinite.
A process science-- the science of the future-- will describe an infinitely vast and complex living universe, a universe that we don't have to stop or break apart to learn about.
Here are a few examples of the limitations built into traditional logics, which make them obsolete, contrasted against characteristics of newly emerging logics that serve a living systems approach:
are truth preserving
are thing oriented (extensional)
are consistent (which denies process)
exclude self-reference, self-knowing require self-reference
Living systems logics
meaning oriented (intensional)
Similarly, Nicholas Rescher, a contemporary philosopher and meta-logician studying new logics, contrasts the new process philosophy of a true dynamic open systems approach against the long-dominant static, object-bound substance philosophy:
condition (fixity of nature) activity (self-development)
uniformity of nature
unity of being
classificatory stability fluidity and evanescence
passivity (being acted upon)
unity of law (functional typology)
productive energy, drive, etc.
Try to build an animal or a plant-- even a single-cell plankton-- out of raw organic compounds. Good luck. It would be easier to rebuild every city on earth, or rewrite every history book, than it would be to create one tiny living cell from scratch. Why? The answer-- or part of it, anyway-- is that something is missing. Something invisible, yet undetectable, but something very important nonetheless.
Some say that that something emanates from God. Others say it's a kind of energetic matrix and leave it at that. Whether the perspective is spiritual or purely scientific, it is a matter of philosophical speculation. But one fact remains: something is missing.
Aristotle's philosophy of physics featured the doctrine of the "four causes". The causes were listed in their functional order. The first cause was the material cause, which, if one were building a house, would be the materials used-- the lumber, the nails, the shingles for the roof, etc. The second was the moving, or efficient cause-- the carpenter building the house and the movements he made, such as swinging the hammer, drilling the holes in the boards, and raising sections of the frame. The third cause in building Aristotle's house was the formal cause-- the planned form or design of the physical house. And the last and highest level of causation Aristotle asserted was the final cause, by which he meant the purpose or end of the house.
Since the Renaissance, that final, teleological cause has been conspicuously absent from scientific-- and certainly from mathematical-- consideration. For centuries form has been the descriptive and explanatory ceiling in the physical sciences and their coexisting mathematics, with a material floor, and movement, energy, and change of all kinds as the efficient, moving cause overemphasized in the modern and postmodern eras as the entire continuum in which all objects and events take their places in the universe, with no teleology-- no underlying, overarching plan or intelligibility of wholeness. Our current (residual) dominant scientific paradigm accounts for nothing more than the most predictable motion of particles-- the domain of physics. Biology, as it is predominately conducted today, accounts for only material cause (of the four causes Aristotle recognized)." But life, and living systems, involve all four causes, according to Hirst, including the final, teleological cause. For centuries, that final, teleological cause (Greek telos, end, purpose) has been conspicuously absent from scientific-- and certainly from mathematical-- consideration. Subsequently, today's sciences are restricted to the first three causes, based on the prevalent belief that consideration of final causation introduces unacceptable teleology. That belief is rooted in the ongoing struggle to keep science free and clear of clouding mystifications which might come from contact with religion or mysticism. It is a historically justifiable issue, but the restriction it brings, says Hirst, "introduces serious distortion in the study of infinitely complex self-organizing systems such as organisms and their communities.
Mathematical biologist Robert Rosen, one of the growing population of scientists whose forward-thinking approach to inquiry is drawing the attention of the researchers at Autognomics Institute, proposed in his book Life Itself (19 ) that we reconsider Aristotle's fourth level of causality in light of the emerging scientific perspective. Aristotle's doctrine of "final" causation stated that things and events in the world can best be explained by some purpose or good to which they are conducive. "If a biologist of today proposed a final cause, writes Hirst, "he or she would be drummed out of the profession. But from a whole system perspective it makes sense that in the multiple levels of divergent logic governing an organism, a higher level's logic places demands on a lower level. For example, a liver requires the cells that compose it to be quite different from the cells that compose an eye. Can we not consider the requirements of the higher level to be a final cause for the lower level? By contemporary thinking, we can't because the higher level doesn't exist until the lower level exists to make it. There can be no liver until there are liver cells. But where did the plan for liver cells come from? From an autognomic perspective, the liver instructs and guides the coming cells-- not only after the liver is formed, but also before its formation has begun." The theory is not mere blind Platonic mysticism: the process theory of autognomics proposes specifically that biology of the future will demonstrate that the code we read in genetic material is much more like a journal of events than it is like a governing chemical computer. Although genes have catalytic function, they are organized rather than primary organizing agents themselves. Now we are getting to the most fundamental level-- the level of metaphysics (or, more accurately, meta-physics) and logic. At this level we can begin to understand the blinding limitations of our most fundamental paradigms and how they contribute to our failure to comprehend processes, the values which order and drive those processes, and life itself.
If we were to rely solely upon our traditional models of scientific inquiry we could have no adequate understanding of life. There are important processes in life and living systems which are not being acknowledged by current scientific procedures. Learning these dynamics would benefit us greatly. Problems such as the organization of genomes, the arrangement of molecules composing a virus shell, and the processing of thoughts and decisions in the human brain might have solutions in the near future. Biologists such as Mae-Wan Ho, Beverly Rubik, and Valerie Hunt are studying the bioelectrodynamic qualities of living organisms. Their studies of the bioelectric fields organizing various types of organisms have demonstrated that living organisms are liquid crystalline in their composition, permeated with low-level, highly organized electrical activity. Studies of the bioelectrical processes within and around living organisms could provide observable evidence of an organic (harmonic-holistic) teleology involving organizing bioelectric fields. Applications of the new theory could lead to significant advances in medicine.
Surrounded as we are by a universe filled with complexity and unpredictable changes, scientists in many fields, from artificial intelligence, to immunology, to psychology, will find it increasingly practical to think beyond the merely physical, and increasingly impractical not to. Meta-physical and meta-logical problem-solving need not be confused with religious faith or blind mystification of processes which are ultimately-- if gradually-- intelligible. Meta-physical thinking, in terms of twenty-first century science, is needed thinking "outside the box." Without thinking like that, the sophisticated cutting edge equipment and techniques that are pushing medicine forward so rapidly today wouldn't have a ghost of a chance.
From the inside
There is a principle which all of the particles and minerals and organisms in nature are built upon. It's a precious secret that every one of us has seen at work, but our science does not possess the key to: everything natural-- diamonds and trees and our human bodies alike-- all take their design and grow from the inside out. We, on the other hand, do and create everything in the opposite direction-- that is, from the outside in. The way nature works is a kind of open secret we've known about for uncounted centuries but haven't ever known how to apply in our sciences and technologies. Working from the inside out is one of the primary principles of the processes making up any living systems we've encountered. It's something so close to us-- literally closer than our own breath-- and yet we've never learned how to use it.
The idea of beginning to understand this principle-- which is an entirely new logical foundation-- inspires questions. What benefits would there be with thinking and creating from the inside out, like a vortex moves, or a tree grows? Could we solve our problems more easily and more completely? Could we better handle the paradox and complexity we encounter in our world and in our universe-- even infinite complexity? Nature manages pretty well. Why wouldn't we?
In social theory, the word "autonomy" connotes personal liberty and the ability to manage oneself. Likewise, in nature autonomy refers to the ability of an organism to manage the processes of its internal functions and thereby sustain itself within its environment, which in many cases can be extremely hostile to the organism. Unlike machines, which are closed systems relying upon the outside environment only for energy input, organisms are open systems which, by definition thrive on almost constant interaction with the environment 'outside' their boundaries. Autonomy in a plant or an animal involves not only sustaining within its skin, but also in an environment that includes widely varying temperatures, food shortages, predators and parasites, and even periods without life-sustaining water. Autonomy implies some form of intelligent organization. It is this innate intelligence in living systems which some biologists are beginning to look at in a new way. They are beginning to put aside the strictly biochemical model and considering the possible presence of a level of consciousness within cells.
In recent years, two Chilean biologists, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, began developing a study of this principle of self-making and self-sustaining in organisms, which they termed autopoiesis-- literally "self-making." Biologists who follow this line of study will concern themselves with the internal processes by which living organisms both create and maintain themselves in a state of autonomy in a constantly changing ecological niche.
"The behavior of simple (mechanical) systems," according to Hirst, "is changed by an applied force, from outside the system. But living systems are governed from within, by laws of value. Value laws are rules for navigation. They are fixed, like traffic laws." On the highway the importance of certain fixed rules is obvious when we consider the alternative to following them. In nature laws of navigation are just as crucial.
Values directing process
What are values in a living system? "Values in nature are functions of process which order and drive the dynamics of an organism or a community of organisms," says Norm Hirst, sounding slightly abstract. "Facts serve a process of valuation," he continues, giving us a key into his meaning. The fact of a limit-- concerning food or temperature, for instance-- sets value for an organism, such as a polar bear, who must increase her food intake weeks in advance to prepare against the demands of the coming winter, or a desert skink, who uses the light of the morning sun to warm his body after a near-freezing night.
As with the traditional connotations of logic, when we hear the word "values" we think immediately of ideas invented by people to describe and prescribe what is important to us. But the use of values is not dependent upon brains with the capacity for abstract thought-- or even upon brains at all. For a microbiologist searching for laws of value, values would be found within the walls of living, working plant or animal cells, where essential organic compounds (such as the thousands of vitamins that still remain uncatelouged and unstudied) are assimilated by ingestion of food, or where waste is ejected before it can poison the cell, or where a protective membrane is thickened against a danger of cell wall compromise. An ecologist, on the other hand, studying an entire community of organisms, or a sociologist studying changes in one or more human communities, might conduct his search for laws of value in a population of millions, billions, or even trillions.
But regardless of the scale the search was conducted on-- micro or macro, individual or community-- that search would begin in precisely the same place where all values and activities come together and have relationship with each other-- namely, the whole, or totality of the living system. A biologist, a sociologist, or a psychologist working from a living systems perspective considers all functioning values from the ground or base of the entire system itself. What exactly does that mean? It means simply that values are conceived within the totality of the living system itself, whether that living system is a single tree frog in a Costa Rican rainforest, an eco-system of marine extremophiles thriving in darkness around a thermal spring thousands of feet below an ocean surface, or a nation of humans with dialects and customs so divergent that communication between villages is difficult. The specific living contexts differ widely, and each system is its own context.
Of course, values for many non-human organisms are largely or almost entirely set by their instinctive natures. In the case of humans, most values must be taught, tested by experience, and discovered. According to G.E. Moore, the central problem of human ethics is the definition of "what is good." One of the most obvious "bottom line" understandings of "the good" would seem to be that it does not threaten the organism with injury or extinction. But the phenomenon of altruism in the animal kingdom points in a very different direction. Socially oriented organisms, such as ants and bees and humans-- and of course the mothers of many species-- frequently demonstrate a higher valuation placed in something outside of the physical borders of their own bodies. Among worker ants, the greatest "good" seems to be the continuation of the colony as a whole. A worker will voluntarily lay down her life, for instance, as a bridge over dangerous water so that others of her colony can climb to safety. Because of the extensive development of our brains, the human relationship to values is necessarily a more abstract one; still altruism is a value with high priority among many of the members of our species. Rescue workers in disaster situations-- after earthquakes, floods, and bombings-- risk serious injury and death in every incident.
Drawing partly upon the works of G.E. Moore, Robert Hartman developed a theory of axiology-- the study of values and value laws-- applicable to living systems, including humans and our communities. Hartman's theory of axiology is one of the first of a growing number of new bodies of insight which Hirst and his colleagues have found both instructive and inspiring in the ongoing development of autognomic theory.
"For the first time in history," Hirst says from his desk at the Autognomics Institute, "we are beginning to understand what values are all about. Up until now, most of our thinking and logic have been based upon things-- objects and machines. Our sciences have forced us into an impasse and crashed." The empty, monolithic values that drive and govern much of our social and personal lives are far too superficial, vastly incompatible with the demands of a complex and living world. "The values we humans live by set the tone for our experience of living," says Hirst. The predominant values that are currently driving our collective global civilization are money (validation of personal and organizational power), status (fear of being left behind), and immediate gratification (short term gain, compulsive spending, addictions, and other forms of escape, not the least of which, especially in the U.S., are sensational entertainment which sells sex and violence as substitutes for thinking creatively and feeling deeply).
"It's often said that we're all connected at some deep level", Hirst says. "I find that to be true, although the deep level is not understood. As long as our psychological spaces were independent enough, to maintain virtual separation, we were able to act as if that connection wasn't real. But as the world shrank our psychological spaces became interdependent. We began to experience ourselves as cells in a living system. Now we need to think differently and act differently. I detect a change in consciousness occurring-- the first step in learning to think differently." However, Hirst continues, "while much of the talk is different, people's actions are still following the old ways of thinking. That is why so many institutions are failing to keep pace with the demands of contemporary civilization.
"The current technological and information explosion out-pace our human capacity to comprehend or discover consequences resulting from a borderless world, a second industrial revolution, the world of digerati. There is both an information and a technology explosion beyond anyone's ability to manage or absorb. Product developments are being driven solely by free enterprise values with little consideration for ethics or consequences to all forms of life. We have no way of knowing short and long range consequences of such activities as genetic engineering, for instance."
Tracking loops and knots
The Union of International Organizations (UIA) in Brussels, Belgium, which was founded in 1910 and has 20,000 organizations as members, maintains a database of 1200 world problems. An interesting development in the world problems database is the tracking of connections between problems, including the display of circularity. For example, problem A exacerbates problem B, which in turn exacerbates problem C, which then comes back to exacerbate problem A. This constitutes a reinforcing loop. In addition to tracking such loops, the database also tracks the interactions of separate but related loops. Thus the various problems in the world form a holistic network. This is in line with autognomic theory. It is clear that attempts to solve the problems piecemeal will fail. Specific examples abound in the fields of medicine, aeronautics, city planning, the court systems and corrections, to mention only a few.
According to UIA, what is needed to get out of the loops and solve the world problems is an understanding of values that can lead to a coherent worldwide human potential movement. But, as the UIA argues, there is no such understanding of values. Their own studies list hundreds of value words, both positive and negative, along with value oppositions and some surprising empirical observations. For example, belief systems that combine both positive and negative values work better than belief systems dedicated to positive values alone. They confess that a belief system everyone could agree to isn't in the offing. But a single belief system everyone could agree to is neither necessary nor desirable. Holistic perspective regarding social systems does not call for a potentially totalitarian approach. Instead, what is required is to understand the axiological equivalence of diverse systems. This will require understanding the role of values in the life processes.
"It's better," Hirst believes, "to have variety and diversity in belief systems. What is key is greater understanding of values and how to navigate around differences of values. Then there can be a coherent human potential movement without recourse to totalitarianism. The human world we live in is folding in on itself and tying itself up in figurative knots. Those knots are problems which our present level of technology or know-how does not equip us to solve. With the proliferation that has occurred in our sciences and technologies, and in our sheer population, many of the problems which have grown to be both gargantuan and urgent are also inextricably interconnected--interwoven-- with other problems both large and small. The problems we face are chemical, social, bureaucratic, economic, technical, and so forth. Many of these world problems are very different from each other, but all of them converge in one place-- namely, the personal/global sphere of our lives. Those many figurative knots cannot be approached piecemeal, one by one. They must be treated as local manifestations of a single collective global knot, or super knot, as if they are all composed of the same thread. The logic of this view is not that all world problems are caused by the same thing, but that they are all problems impacting each one of us, to one degree or another, either actually or potentially, and that they are all related by the human denominator-- that is, they are all related in our lives.
The global knot of problems is growing bigger by the day. Precisely because it is a tangled conundrum that cannot be resolved completely at any one place, it will be of tremendous benefit to all of us that as many individuals and teams as possible in every conceivable field come to understand and apply the living systems approach-- the sooner, Hirst believes, the better.
Functions of a scientific language
The first step in building the science of autognomics out of the philosophy of autognomics was to reform our notions of logic. The second step-- having gathered our basic notions and chosen workable new logics that match and describe to a greater degree than before the dynamics of natural process-- is to construct a formal scientific language for the precise description of autognomic theory. That new language won't be displayed in this article-- only because it hasn't quite been formulated yet-- but a few things can be said about its two main functions and its structure. The first function of a scientific language is to unify useful existing notions and logics within one practical system of consideration and study. The new scientific language will be required to describe the dynamic notions of change, complexity, harmonic holism, and paradox, among others.
For Hartman, the difference between philosophy and science was found in the sign vehicles-- the language-- used for inquiry. For philosophy, the sign vehicle is relatively colloquial language shaped and honed by philosophers to fit the particular usages their subjects demanded. For science, the sign vehicle is formal language-- notably those used for logic and mathematics. Philosophy addresses the meanings of concepts, based on the personal perspectives and beliefs of individuals, and in language subject to wide variations in meaning. By virtue of that fact, the meanings expressed in philosophy are not precise.
Science concerns itself with the relations of objects and activities and behaviors to each other in precise language. In order to build a full science that describes the processes and laws of value in living systems, a scientific language will need to be formalized, based upon a 'deep' logic and 'geometry' of functions not yet discovered. The methods of notation projected by Hirst for the new language will stem from innovations such as the newly developed epi-logics and the work of G. Spencer Brown, whose equations are compatible with aspects of infinitely complex systems. . "The difference between philosophy and science is a difference in methods of inquiry." --Norm Hirst
Norm Hirst elaborates: "The methods of inquiry of philosophy and science are complementary, being applied to the same subject matter. The methods of philosophy are analytic and inductive, whereas the methods of science are synthetic and deductive. For any given subject matter, the initial inquiry must be philosophical. Science can only begin when philosophical inquiry has sufficiently matured." Hirst agrees with Hartman's assessment that process philosophy has matured sufficiently to take the next step.
The essential difference between the philosophic and scientific languages involves the progression of thought, or how one thought may lead to the next.
For the nonformal language employed by philosophy, thought progresses based on the "felt sense" of meaning invoked by the progression of sentences. People may differ on their senses of meaning, but in dialogue they converge on a common acceptable sense. This process of rendering meaning is useful for exploration in areas of consideration that are not yet fully understood and where, if we had to speak precisely nothing could be said. To develop a science, a formal language needs to be constructed.
The second function of a scientific language
A scientific language is made up of terms that are fixed and definite in their meanings, so that they are incapable of causing confusion in their use. Using a formal scientific language, specific rules are then identified by which scientists can talk with each other about the subject of their inquiry.
For the formal language employed by science, the meaning of every symbol or sign is totally specified, often by defining axioms. Thought processes proceed by rules of inference applied to the specified meanings represented in that precise language. "A scientific language is like a thought-recipe", Hirst explains. It has to be written using terms and symbols that are precise, definite, and fixed in their context and meaning, so that when one scientist in Arizona types in a term or symbol another scientist in Osaka or Sao Paulo knows with certainty that she has precisely the same understanding of its meaning as the scientist who sent it. That isn't always possible with philosophy, where the language used to convey meanings is relatively colloquial, and therefore subject to shifts in perspective, personal bias, and other distortions. For example, when a social philosopher refers to "capitalist" or "socialist" policies, there are a number of possible meanings for each of these terms, depending upon contingencies such as which time period is being specified, which nation or regime, and even which branch of the ideology one is concerned with. And, as is the case with many words relied upon for meaning in philosophy, the terms "capitalist" and "socialist" actually overlap in some contexts of political and governmental policy and procedure. A nation or regime which calls itself "socialist" may also be largely "capitalist" in its structure and operation. And then there are the differences in perspective, where one self-called "socialist" nation may be considered predominately "capitalist" by another "socialist" nation. The question may arise, which nation's or regime's perspective do we acknowledge as the authoritative one?
If we had that much variation in a recipe for baking a cake-- where "milk" could mean cow's milk, or elephant's milk, or whale's milk for that matter, and "flour" might mean wheat, or rice, or yam flour-- the cakes baked in Osaka and Sao Paulo would probably be very different than the cake baked in Arizona. And so it is with science. The terms and symbols used have to exert control over a definite corner of the literally infinite field of variables which surround every situation, and every equation. Exerting that kind of control is significantly more challenging, of course, when the equations are describing infinite complexity, and the need for controlling represented meaning is perhaps all the more essential.
As a new science coalesces
Autognomics will evolve as an increasingly precise science of natural meta-logic-- that is, the study of various formats of logic in living systems and their functional relations to each other. As studies of living systems continue, the scientific natural language will continue to evolve from its original foundation. With each new discovery made about the dynamics of living systems, a new piece will be added to the gradually unfolding picture of nature. Some of those pieces added into our picture of nature are bound to radically transform the entire theoretical framework of the science of autognomics itself from the ground up. Autognomics is projected to be a science unlike any other that has come before it in at least this one sense: it will be a true science of process-- namely, one that revolutionizes its own hypotheses and methods of inquiry at frequent intervals in order to increase the accuracy with which it describes and explains the workings of nature.
The formation and maintenance of such a vigorously self-transforming science will require an unprecedented level of flexibility and open-mindedness on the part of the architects of its evolution, at its beginnings and throughout its service.
Research: new questions for new answers
At the "grass roots" level of vanguard science, the real foundation and prerequisite to all discussion and application of cutting edge theory, is the independent basic research. True independent research is the single most effective agency for generating foresight and responsible change, both in the "hard" sciences and in the "soft" social sciences. Unfortunately, independent research is in short supply. Independent basic research is the only way in which corporations and institutions-- and each one of us-- are challenged with new questions that help us discover what we don't know. Independent research is an unwelcome concept in many organizations, largely because it is not profit-driven. Most academics are forced to conduct applied research solely towards product development instead of looking as well to new questions and directions. Too often original thought is neither encouraged by mainstream institutions nor supported by the mainstream press and media. Discovery of the unknown should not be neglected-- because in that unknown is precisely where we'll find the solutions to many of our present problems.
More has been discovered about living systems in the past twenty-five years than in any other period of history. Pioneer sciences in this field are emerging all around the world, largely outside the major academic institutions. Independent researchers are synthesizing unique new fields of inquiry, such as electromagnetic fields research, biosemiotics, and new paradigm biophysics, which are rapidly pointing to new insights and directions for practical application in numerous fields. Living systems basic research is currently taking place in England, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, France, and to a lesser degree, in the United States. But there has been no unified organized effort to bring this work together and make it available to the public-- until now.
A global collaboration of inquiry
A science of dynamic process systems, being a science for describing infinite complexity, will not be created or applied solely by one person, or one team or school. It will need to evolve out of a process of dialogue between thinkers from every field of intellectual endeavor, and from every corner of the globe.
Individuals and teams, working in fields as diverse as medicine and international diplomacy need to put their minds together on the most pressing problems affecting the human population as an interconnected and mutually dependent global network. There is a sizeable list of urgent problems that need addressing immediately, and which can only be solved by a new approach of whole-system synergy-- the complementary and mutually cross-strengthening strategy made possible for the first time in our history by a global computer network and by a new perspective that is emerging to match our science and technology and guide them into the new millennium.
Researchers at Autognomics Institute continuously compile insights and experience needed for the ongoing creation and the erstwhile application of the new scientific theory, through what are called inquiry circles. Inquiry circles are informal conferences in which scientists, technologists, and academicians in all fields of inquiry can discuss current problems and questions in an atmosphere of cooperative exploration. Much of the work at the Institute will come out of gathering individuals from many fields together, but not to discuss what they have already thought. Says Hirst, "We will get nowhere with old recipes. We need to think entirely new thoughts. What is required for the sciences of the twenty-first century to move forward is a radical transformation of our present understanding of our universe and Life itself." The proliferation of new ideas presently circulating in scientific literature gives strong evidence, Hirst believes, that there is the potential in the scientific community to achieve what he envisioned more than forty years ago-- namely, the establishment of a full science of life and living systems, complete but designed to revolutionize itself by subsequently and successively emerging discoveries and innovations, with a formal language of infinitely complex open systems designed to evolve and a compatible system of realistic natural logics suitable for the demands of the twenty-first century. It is Norm Hirst's hope, and the mission of Autognomics Institute, to help bring into awareness and practical application the vast wisdom contained within the domain of living systems and Life itself, by developing available new logics which reveal aspects of reality that are left out of the current (residual) mechanistic and reductionistic scientific world view.
Insights leading to the new formal system of autognomic science are already demonstrating possibilities for guidance in finding solutions for many presently intractable social problems facing world leaders today. Researchers in autognomic theory are developing and applying new formats for practical solutions in many corporations and organizations, even as the project of building a new language and a comprehensive theoretical foundation continues.
The shape of the future
What new features will we discover in our universe-- both inside of atoms, among living communities, and out in the far reaches of space? Our global scientific community stands before a tremendous new opportunity. In the coming century it will be within our grasp to enter into entirely new models of scientific vision and technological advances beyond our present imaginings. As our parents walked in a world newly transformed by a few revolutionary ideas about sub-atomic particles and celestial gravitation, so our children may grow up in a world where both technologies and problem-solving strategies not yet imagined have been developed out of secrets that now lie hidden in the organizational dynamics of living cells, and of waves and fields that order and unite our energy and matter, and even dynamics of thought and consciousness itself.
A lot depends upon how we approach the scientific challenges which our next hundred years of discoveries brings-- what questions we ask, and how we ask them. One thing Norm Hirst and his growing circle of colleagues in the frontier sciences can promise with the conviction and momentum of a hundred years of change and search and exploration: the answers to the most important questions-- from better energy sources, to the eradication of disease and even perhaps of war-- will come in the form of a spherical wave that originates simultaneously at its center and at its periphery and leaves nothing standing unchanged in between.
The answer to tomorrow's questions will come in the shape of paradox-- the shape of revolutionary thinking.