Full text of the Incoming or Presidential Talks can be accessed by clicking on the title of the presentation.
As our species finally breaches the carrying capacity of the planet we call home, we are faced with the perennial challenge: evolve or die. But now the challenge is both global and immediate. We have explored and exhausted the identity of Homo Sapiens sapiens. We must move on, evolve beyond the strategically wise, the rationally refined, the intellectually erudite and the technologically talented. Our patterns of being and becoming now need to match the patterns and processes of ecosystemic meta-stability found in nature and the cosmos at large. But for this, we must abandon our ego-centric conceptions of self. We must no longer look out at the world through the eyes of exclusively individual interests. And above all, we must be ready to repudiate our gladiatorial existence and learn what it means to be a communal being. To commune with ourselves, with each other, with nature, with past and future possibilities. This is no mere poetic flight of fancy. It is the survival imperative of our times. Beyond re-conceptualizing ourselves in this way, the true challenge lies in post-conceptualizing the relational states of emergence that continually manifest the patterns of being and becoming that create conditions conducive to life. We cannot do this alone. Homo Sapiens sapiens is a species bound for extinction. This is cause for celebration. We must become Homo Sapiens cosmicus – capable of manifesting both our mundane individuality and our sacred connectivity as part and whole at one and the same time. What are the forms of perception that propitiate such engagement? Can systems thinking and holistic being provide platforms upon which to curate the emergence of a new species identity? What are the patterns and processes currently alive in our world that intimate the possibility of co-creating a global eco-civilization? And how, and in what ways, must consciousness transform to propitiate such an evolutionary paradigm shift? These are some of the challenges posited by this paper in the hope that the Systems Movement in general, and the ISSS in particular, will take them up over the coming year and into the future.
As we look forward into 2012, I encourage members of the ISSS to continue the development of sciences in synthesis. Synthesis means putting things together, rather than taking them apart. Synthesis leads to emergence: properties of a whole that are not in its parts. The research communities centered on service systems and on natural systems may benefit from a synthesis through a systems approach.
This presidential address has 6 parts.
The address concludes with a call for participation at the 56th annual meeting of the ISSS in San Jose, California, in July 2012.
The question I ask in the title, subtitled in recognition of our Mexican hosts, pertains to both the broadly defined field of systems thinking in general and to the ISSS in particular. Specifically, I will explore what systems thinking might have to contribute to the challenges facing humanity at this juncture in our evolution, as well as the role that ISSS might play in fostering more systemic approaches in education, business, technology, and government. At an even broader level, in order to provide a context for these questions, it is important to consider where the systems that condition our lives are themselves headed. There are many indications that the current state of the world is highly unstable - whether one considers ecological issues, such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or sociopolitical issues, such as the increasing disparity in wealth, heightened tensions between nations, or the threat of nuclear proliferation. In what ways might the various traditions that comprise the "systems approach" contribute to resolving the increasing polarization between individuals, belief systems, and living conditions in different parts of the world? Even within the broad umbrella of systems thinking, there seems to be a growing divide between the "two cultures" (i.e. science and the humanities) that C.P. Snow (1959) identified nearly a half century ago. One of the primary goals for which the ISSS was founded was to foster the unity of knowledge, which is perhaps what makes it unique among the many systems-oriented institutions that have emerged in the interim. How might we most effectively pursue this quest and what might it mean in the context of our times?