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Oslo, NO
Immortal since Jul 21, 2010
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    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.

    “Good morning, self-organizing systems!”
    The cheerful speaker smiled with a polished ease and adjusted his tie. "I am indeed very happy to
    find the Office of Naval Research joining with the Armour Research Foundation in organizing this
    conference on what I personally consider an exceedingly important topic, and at such a well-chosen
    It was a spring day in early May, 1959. Four hundred men from an astoundingly diverse group of
    scientific backgrounds had gathered in Chicago for what promised to be an electrifying meeting.
    Almost every major branch of science was represented: psychology, linguistics, engineering,
    embryology, physics, information theory, mathematics, astronomy, and social sciences. No one
    could remember a conference before this where so many top scientists in different fields were about
    to spend two days talking about one thing. Certainly there had never been a large meeting about this
    particular one thing.
    It was a topic that only a young country flush with success and confident of its role in the world
    would even think about: self-organizing systems — how organization bootstraps itself to life.
    Bootstrapping! It was the American dream put into an equation.
    "The choice of time is particularly significant in my personal life, too," the speaker continued. "For
    the last nine months the Department of Defense of the United States of America has been in the
    throes of an organizational effort which shows reasonably clearly that we are still a long way from
    understanding what makes a self-organizing system."
    Hearty chuckles from the early morning crowd just settling into their seats. At the podium Dr.
    Joachim Weyl, Research Director of the Office of Naval Research, beamed. The conference he
    hosted was a public rendezvous of scientists who had been convening in smaller meetings since
    1942. These intimate, invitation-only gatherings were organized by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation,
    and became known as the Macy Conferences. In the spirit of wartime urgency, the small gatherings
    were interdisciplinary, elite, and emphasized thinking big. Among the several dozen visionaries
    invited over the nine years of the conference were Gregory Bateson, Norbert Wiener, Margaret
    Mead, Lawrence Frank, John von Neumann, Warren McCulloch, and Arturo Rosenblueth. This
    stellar congregation later became known as the cybernetic group for the perspective they pioneered
    — cybernetics, the art and science of control.

    As has been noted by many writers, cybernetics derives from the Greek for "steersman" — a pilot
    that steers a ship. In order to steer the ship, the pilot is constantly dependent on constant feedback.
    The ship and its sails, the wind and waves affecting it can be seen as a whole, closed self-sustaining
    system, of which the pilot is a vital part. Just as the pilot is dependent on the ship, the ship is
    dependent on the pilot actively steering to avoid sinking the ship.
    In short, cybernetics is the study of the functions and processes of systems which participate in
    circular, causal chains that move from action to sensing to comparison with desired goal, and again
    to action. As cybernetician Louis Kauffman has defined it, "cybernetics is the study of systems and processes that interact with themselves and produce themselves from themselves."

    (CON'T HERE....)

    Based on the book, Out of Control

    Out of Control is a summary of what we know about self-sustaining systems, both living ones such as a tropical wetland, or an artificial one, such as a computer simulation of our planet. The last chapter of the book, "The Nine Laws of God," is a distillation of the nine common principles that all life-like systems share. The major themes of the book are:

    -As we make our machines and institutions more complex, we have to make them more biological in order to manage them.

    -The most potent force in technology will be artificial evolution. We are already evolving software and drugs instead of engineering them.

    -Organic life is the ultimate technology, and all technology will improve towards biology.

    -The main thing computers are good for is creating little worlds so that we can try out the Great Questions. Online communities let us ask the question "what is a democracy; what do you need for it?" by trying to wire a democracy up, and re-wire it if it doesn't work. Virtual reality lets us ask "what is reality?" by trying to synthesize it. And computers give us room to ask "what is life?" by providing a universe in which to create computer viruses and artificial creatures of increasing complexity. Philosophers sitting in academies used to ask the Great Questions; now they are asked by experimentalists creating worlds.

    -As we shape technology, it shapes us. We are connecting everything to everything, and so our entire culture is migrating to a "network culture" and a new network economics.

    -In order to harvest the power of organic machines, we have to instill in them guidelines and self-governance, and relinquish some of our total control.
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