Call for Participation in the Twelfth Fuschl Conversation

IFSR Newsletter 2003 Vol. 21 No. 1 November
Sunday, April 18 to Friday, April 23, 2004
at Seehotel Schlick,
Seepromenade 35
5330 Fuschl am See, Austria
The Fuschl 2004 Conversations will – to a large extent – be the continuation of the Conversations held in 1996 through 2002 and will comprise the following five teams, each led by a Team Coordinator.
Team 1: New Agoras for the 21st Century:
Conscious Self-Guided Evolution

Coordinator: Patrick M Jenlink,
The Agoras of the City States of the Classical Greeks were public spheres where true democracy was lived by citizens who made collective decisions about issues affecting their daily lives. Reconsidering the idea Agora in society today, and creating an ideal of the New Agora is a metaphor for social action contexts (public spheres or arenas) in which people can make collective decisions about their future. These contexts would be forums of democratic discourse. People in the settings of their families, neighbourhoods, community groups, organizations, and institutions have the potential to organize themselves as evolutionary design communities. These New Agoras could link up with each other and engage in evolutionary conversation in order to bring to life the Guided Evolution of the Society. The dual purposes of the New Agora project are to first create and sustain an Agora community of stewards who will then support the right of people to take part directly in the decisions that affect their lives and to guide their own destiny. The New Agora would guide the conscious evolution of civil society on local, national, and world levels. This goal will be achieved by creating knowledge bases for evolutionary inquiry; developing resources for evolutionary learning; and exploring approaches, methods, and technologies toward the establishment of New Agoras. These purposes are grounded in the belief that the right of people to take part directly in making decisions that affect their lives and to guide their own destiny is a fundamental human right.
Triggering questions:
What is the role of the New Agora project in addressing societies problems?
What would be the design of a “New Agora” that would serve as an evolutionary guidance system for improvement and peace of the world?
How could the “New Agoras” contribute to the conscious evolution of the human species?
In what ways can the “New Agora” serve humanity through creating and sustaining a society based on knowledge?
What can Information Technology do to support the collective learning and thus support Agoras?.
Team 2: Designing Systems for Human Betterment
Coordinator: Arne Collen,
This conversation group continues its focus, which began in 1998. Having discussed a range of topics on the theme, we shall give attention to globalization in its relation to systems design.
Our world promises to be a more holistic, interconnected, and interdependent global community of human beings. Whether we like it or not, we are entrusted from now on as the stewards of all life on the planet. Therefore, our concern for the design of systems of human betterment must be inclusive of the ecological, ethical, humane, and participatory dimensions in their broadest meanings.
There are many encouraging as well as disturbing trends accompanying the globalization of humanity, which seems inevitable. What does systems design mean in such a complex context? What does it mean to come to terms with a global community and a global ethics? How are we individually and collectively to cope and contribute to this inevitability? In what ways can we contribute to human betterment? What is betterment in this regard? Is globalization to be shaped by an ethics yet to be known and articulated? These are some of the trigger questions that may prompt our team toward productive conversation to culminate our series of conversations on this theme. Our intention will be to take up these and related questions, answering them in terms of evidence we can provide in our experience and knowledge of systemic changes of everyday living relevant to globalizing trends. Our challenge will also be to consider various designerly changes for betterment that may impact these trends.
Team reports of our 1998, 2000, and 2002 conversations are available upon request, and they will be available on site to inform and facilitate our forthcoming conversation.
Team 3: Foundations of Information Science: What comes after Enlightenment Rationality?
Coordinator: Søren Brier,
European culture stands in a watershed when it comes to make the final step into a knowledge based society. Either we can stay with our understanding of knowledge and rationality that we developed through the Renaissance and made central to our civilization and culture in the Enlightenment or we can deepen the foundation into human embodiment and life world practice.
From the Greeks we inherited the idea of a well-ordered and mathematically beautiful Cosmos, which we – for instance Galileo – build the foundation of the new mechanical physics on. It is the belief that rationality and the order of the world fits through the divine order of logic and mathematics. As Prigogine showed from Laplace onward the belief was founded that the physical world you be explained in one mathematical formula. – a ‘world formula’. This was what Laplace took out of the Enlightenment thinking (D’Alambert was his teacher). That is one of the reasons that Russell and Whitehead tried to unite them logic and mathematics in their Principia- and that Gödel’s incompleteness proof was such a shock.
Physics has continued the search for the world formula. Steven Hawking is one of the most well known exponents for it. The paradigm has “spilled over” into the search for the genetic algorithms and artificial intelligence. As Lakoff has shown that this has created a myth of abstract un-embodied intelligence as the highest goal of knowledge (The Greeks considered mathematics to be divine and the heavenly bodies to move in perfect circle and classical physics hoped to find exact, deterministic context free eternal laws of nature). This has lead to worshipping computers as being the ideal of intelligence, of religious ideas of our future possibility of ‘going over’ into the Internet and live there forever as pure intelligences, plus the belief that robots can be intelligent in the same way as humans. The most famous example is ‘Data’ in the Star Trek movies. In the last on (Enigma) his intelligence is transferred to another robot some days before he (it?) was destroyed on a mission.
This idea of intelligence and knowledge based on the Turing machine has carried us a long way. It is now called the information processing paradigm of cognitive science. Its usefulness has run out for the modern complicated problems and systems we have to deal with. One of them is of course the human-computer interaction and how to integrate the computer, Internet and robots in our culture in a way that supports human development and does not destroy the centre of European culture which is its respect for the uniqueness and rights of the individual human being.
We need to know more about the relation between human meaningful information and the meaningless algorithmic processing of information. We need to know much more about human embodied information. How embodied and un-embodied information differ, and we need to know more about the interaction between culture and embodied knowledge.
Knowledge seems to be both in the body, in the mind and in the conscious use of language. These three levels seem to interact. Human knowledge is embodied and is therefore rooted I our evolution and genetic make up and our ecological interactions preserving our body and its procreation. But Second order cybernetics, autopoiesis and triadic semiotics are some of the tools that can help us make better models of signification, cognition and communication.
Team 4: “Being” Social Systems: Awareness and Enactment
Coordinator: Gary Metcalf (
This Fuschl conversation will continue a theme that was begun at the 2000 meeting. Its intent is to build upon and further the possibilities for social systems design, which is the core theme of the conversations as introduced by Bela H. Banathy.
While the goals of social systems design through conversation are admirable, the systems communities as a whole have yet to articulate any meaningful and coherent understanding of human social systems, as such. Efforts to affect systems, from family units to international economic and political systems, tend to borrow from an array of disciplines for theory and insight, but typically fall short or fail at the point of implementation (or at the least, fail in any ability to explain and replicate successes.) Conversation has thus far not succeeded as an alternative process at significant levels.
This particular conversation team will continue to explore human social systems specifically, including the emerging realm of “virtual” systems, in an effort to understand how we as individuals participate in them (consciously or not) and to search for means by which we might affect them purposefully and positively.
Triggering Questions: What does it mean to “be” part of a social system? How can we become more consciously aware of our participation in them?
Team 5: Y3K and a Meta-System Design Field
Coordinator: Gordon Dyer,
The term Y3K is used at Fuschl as a metaphor for a more desirable long term future to which we as systems designers might wish to aspire. It does not literally mean the Year 3000. However, with this long term focus it prevents us saying that nothing can be done. It also allows us to think of steps that we can begin to take now towards a Y3K vision and not move further away from that vision.
At Fuschl 2000 the team discussed the Y3K issue i.e. what would we as systems designers wish to see for humankind for the Year 3000. By the end of the conversation we had obtained some insights towards six principles, which constitute an Evolutionary Guidance System (EGS), for the Year 3000, or similar long-term future. We also identified some markers in terms of desirable behaviour patterns for the Year 3000. These desirable behaviours provide a basis for considering future education and human development programmes in future conversations.
At Fuschl 2002 we examined what kind of systems thinking would be necessary to make major advances towards our vision of Y3K. We concluded that contemporary systems design was developed primarily for industrial society within a western-based scientific rationality, which is not a universal framework for all kinds of problem solving or task-fulfilment. Rather, there could be numerous cultural frameworks besides the large-scale industrial system, even for people’s lives in developed nations, where notions of time and other culturally interpreted phenomena will vary. What we suggest is now needed, as humankind, is to accept such a broad area/framework of human activities, and develop systems “meta-design” concepts for various cultural settings. Only then could we say that systems design offers a comprehensive framework.
At Fuschl 2004 we wish to explore further the domain of meta-systems design either in terms of possible new dimensions to the model or within the time and culture dimensions that we already identified. Here are some initial triggers for our conversation:

  • What further insights can we generate on the concept of the meta-design field, either in terms of new dimensions, or within the time and culture dimensions already identified?
  • How can the conceptual frameworks that we generated at Fuschl 2000/2002 be further explored to facilitate meaningful actions?
  • What specific actions can we and others take over the next several years as first steps towards the types of ideals that were identified?
Schloß Fuschl at  Lake Fuschl

Schloß Fuschl at Lake Fuschl

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