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TED and YouTube launch global climate initiative Dec 5, 2019 highlights & change & systems & crowdsourcing

Anyone, anywhere can propose an idea. YouTube creators will help spread the word, and the best proposals could be put into motion with the help of businesses, policymakers, and and celebrities supporting the initiative.

The initiative will culminate in a summit in Bergen, Norway next October to share the solutions that came out of the effort. Countdown will work with a panel of experts and scientists to vet proposals, and the strongest will be turned into TED talks. The talks will be filmed at the summit in Norway, in front of a hand-picked audience capable of turning those ideas into action,” according to a press release.

An interesting partnership, and yet another example of crowdsolving”: trying to find solutions to wicked problems via the mobilizing power of the Internet.

I certainly expect to see some concepts from Drawdown on stage.

The ‘Amazon effect’ is flooding a struggling recycling system with cardboard Dec 2, 2019 highlights & change & systems

Chinaʼs 2017 decision to turn away Americaʼs trash has left the recycling industry reeling as it figures out what to do with all the packaging online shoppers leave behind.

Recycling is a funny thing. For me, it’s almost a guilt-free act. Sure, I’m using all of these boxes, but they’re recycled, so who cares?” But increasingly recycling and the trash bin seem like equivalent destinations. It’s even imaginable that recycling is worse, because recycled objects might travel farther before being dumped into a landfill anyway.

Itʼs very difficult for American material recovery facilities to satisfy that standard because Americans put plastic bags and chewing gum and bowling balls and dirty diapers and everything else you can imagine into the recycling containers,” Biderman says. The strict rules also apply to plastic and other recyclables, but cardboard and mixed paper have seen the sharpest drops in prices.

I’m tempted to blame people: It’s too bad we can’t be more considerate. Have you ever looked in the recycling bins in public receptacles?” Et cetera. But really, we should be designing systems that make this easy—or incentivize good behaviours somehow. Either way, the current situation is insufficient:

There has also been a noticeable shift in the source of the cardboard, says Coupland: itʼs coming from peoplesʼ homes instead of brick-and-mortar businesses. Thatʼs bad news, since retailers are less likely to generate cardboard thatʼs too filthy to be recycled. Consumersʼ cardboard boxes are often mixed with other, dirty recyclables like ketchup bottles or soda cans that spill their contents over the cardboard. On average, about 25 to 30 percent of the materials picked up by a recycling truck are too contaminated to go anywhere but a landfill or incinerator, Coupland says.

John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger wage ‘World War Zero’ on climate change Dec 2, 2019 change & systems & activism & highlights

Today former Secretary of State John Kerry and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared war on climate change. The two led an all-star cast of lawmakers and celebrities to launch an initiative called World War Zero, which aims to get individuals, businesses, and governments to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative, for now, boasts a lot of glitzy names without many details on how it will achieve its goal. Its bipartisan founding members — which include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson, Jimmy Fallon, Cindy McCain, and Al Sharpton, and more than 70 other notable names — plan to hold 10 million climate conversations” in 2020, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

Seems like an incredible effort. And it’s an excellent angle. War”—when declared by major public figures—certainly catches the public attention.

Kerry compared the urgency of climate change to the challenges facing America during World War II. When America was attacked in World War II we set aside our differences, united and mobilized to face down our common enemy,” Kerry said in a statement. We are launching World War Zero to bring that spirit of unity, common purpose, and urgency back to the world today to fight the great threat of our time.”

Of course, actually waging war doesn’t always garner the unity or have the results we aim for, especially when it’s a war against a social issue.

Bad RCS implementations are creating big vulnerabilities, security researchers claim Nov 30, 2019 highlights & tech & systems

Scary:

One issue identified on an unnamed carrierʼs implementation could allow any app on your phone to download your RCS configuration file, for example, giving the app your username and password and allowing it to access all your voice calls and text messages. In another case, the six-digit code a carrier uses to verify a userʼs identity was vulnerable to being guessed through brute force by a third-party. These problems were found after researchers analyzed a sample of SIM cards from several different carriers.

RCS is supposed to be a big deal. It’s fascinating how these system-wide policies can be messed up in microsystem implementations.

Piret Tõnurist & Systems Change: how to get started and keep going? Nov 29, 2019 highlights & systems & innovation & changemaking

This is a great talk from Piret Tönurist of the Observatory on Public Sector Innovation.

One of the core issues of the talk is innovation doubt—the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. To paraphrase Piret:

[…] why are we doing innovation at all? Maybe sometimes things are working fine, why do we think about innovation at all? We start off with four questions:

  1. Do you want to do things better?
  2. Do you have goals and purposes to fulfill?
  3. Do you want to address the needs of your stakeholders?
  4. Do you want to prepare for the risks and uncertainties that the future holds? If you answered yes” to at least one of those questions, then your job is to do innovation—your job is to be a changemaker.

Also, the talk includes a neat model for different varieties of innovation, image courtesy of this post by Adrian M. Senn over on Medium:

I came across this talk via a related panel discussion.

What part of “viral” content makes platforms want to encourage its spread? Nov 22, 2019 twitter & systems & social & tech & highlights

The Twttr prototype app gave me another feedback form today. It’s been my habit to complain, at every opportunity, about the trends page you have to engage with whenever you go to the Search tab. I feel a little bad for the designers and developers, because the beta is really all about how conversations on Twitter look and feel. Still, this feedback form was no different. Here’s what I wrote in the Dislike” section:  I wish I could control the trends page.

It is the absolute worst part of my Twitter experience. It just feels… unhealthy. Like going through a grocery store magazine aisle. Sure, some of the headings are instructive or inspiring, but many are gross, irrelevant, or completely malignant gossip.

The experience is also invasive. Because trends are forced upon you when you intend on searching for something specific, and because they’re algorithmically-tunes to be as attention grabbing as possible, it’s easy to be distracted and forget why you even entered the search pane. I never explicitly consent to learning about celebrity gossip or US politics when I use Twitter. If I tap on some of those topics, it’s not because I want to. It’s because it’s malicious click bait. In turn, it’s corrupt to design an experience that drags the user through it repeatedly.

Sure, this content is viral. But shouldn’t we be inoculating against viruses, not encouraging them to spread?

The Demon Haunted World Nov 21, 2019 highlights & science & systems & change

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

Carl Sagan, as quoted by @Andromeda321 in this interesting Reddit thread on the regretful trends of the 2010s.

The thread discusses the growth of anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theories. I’m reminded of this timeless Medium post about how hating Ross in Friends became a meme in and of itself, reinforcing the persecution of science in the 90s. From David Hopkins:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, led by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

[…]

If you remember the 1990s and early 2000s, and you lived near a television set, then you remember Friends. Friends was the Thursday night primetime, must-see-TV” event that featured the most likable ensemble ever assembled by a casting agent: all young, all middle class, all white, all straight, all attractive (but approachable), all morally and politically bland, and all equipped with easily digestible personas. Joey is the goofball. Chandler is the sarcastic one. Monica is obsessive-compulsive. Phoebe is the hippie. Rachel, hell, I don’t know, Rachel likes to shop. Then there was Ross. Ross was the intellectual and the romantic.

Eventually, the Friends audience — roughly 52.5 million people — turned on Ross. But the characters of the show were pitted against him from the beginning (consider episode 1, when Joey says of Ross: This guy says hello, I wanna kill myself.”) In fact, any time Ross would say anything — about his interests, his studies, his ideas — whenever he was mid-sentence, one of his friends” was sure to groan and say how boring Ross was, how stupid it is to be smart, and that nobody cares. Cue the laughter of the live studio audience. This gag went on, pretty much every episode, for 10 seasons. Can you blame Ross for going crazy?

People in the Reddit thread point out that these seemingly recent trends have been taking root for a long time. While this is true, it’s also true that (just like seemingly everything else) these phenomena have been moving much faster and growing much larger in recent years. Which leads to a curious tangent: how do accelerated scales of change play on our biases? Does the interaction between these biases and our accelerated experiences change our perception of the world?

Systems Practice, Abridged Nov 15, 2019 highlights & systems & kumu & tools & changemaking

For serious system mapping work, spending [significant] time studying, thinking about, and mapping your system helps ensure you are addressing root causes rather than instituting quick fixes. In the long term, the time and resources you invest in Systems Practice will pay dividends.

But what if youʼre not quite sold on the Systems Practice methodology yet? What if you havenʼt encountered systems thinking before and just want to dip your toes in? Or what if youʼre an expert or an educator with only a few hours to introduce Systems Practice to a fresh new group of systems thinkers?

I have been in the latter situation, and it’s a challenge. In my experience, people who are wholly new to systems thinking can take a lot of time to acclimate to the mindset. But! If, as a teacher, you can’t illustrate the benefits quickly, it’s easy to disengage.

So, I’m glad this exists. This is a wonderful new resource from Kumu’s Alex Vipond that helps walk you through systems and Kumu’s tools at the same time.

Fukushima reinvents itself with a $2.7 billion bet on renewables Nov 15, 2019 highlights & change & systems

Land that became too toxic for people to farm and live on after the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station will soon be dotted with windmills and solar panels.

The Fukushima disaster unfolded as an incredible story of systemic response to new scales of tragedy. Take, for instance, the Skilled Veterans Corps: a group of elderly volunteers who helped with cleanup, knowing that the damaging radiation would have less impact on their lives than it would on younger volunteers.

Now Fukushima’s next chapter is evolving as an example of systemic creative destruction, as new opportunities are unlocked by the collapse of the region’s previous energy strategy.

Resources → education & resources & systems & design & futures & change Updated Nov 14, 2019 Below I’m collecting a set of resources dealing with a variety of topics for shareable reference—a sort of living,
“This is Sticking with Them:” Professor Explores Benefits of Model-Based Learning Nov 9, 2019 highlights & learning & university & systems

Through model-based learning, students use diagrams as a way to think about and reason with systems—and to think about how complex systems interact and change.

Model-based learning” seems like a reframing of classic teaching practices, but it’s nonetheless a powerful reframing. Emphasizing the model—and encourage students to test and iterate their models—is catchy. It’s also deliberately organizational—it requires students to organize and structure their thinking about a given system, often visually.

A ton of people received text messages overnight that were originally sent on Valentine’s Day Nov 7, 2019 highlights & tech & systems

Something strange is happening with text messages in the US right now. Overnight, a multitude of people received text messages that appear to have originally been sent on or around Valentine’s Day 2019. These people never received the text messages in the first place; the people who sent the messages had no idea that they had never been received, and they did nothing to attempt to resend them overnight.

It is incredible to think that this could happen on a scale big enough to hit headlines now, but it wasn’t noticeable on Valentine’s Day originally.

That’s one of the problems with our ever-more-complex technologies. We’re accommodating to the bugs. It gets easier and easier to dismiss weird tech events as glitches and move on without worrying. Unreliability is, itself, unreliable.

But there can be major consequences to seemingly innocent bugs:

… one person said they received a message from an ex-boyfriend who had died; another received messages from a best friend who is now dead. It was a punch in the gut. Honestly I thought I was dreaming and for a second I thought she was still here,” said one person, who goes by KuribHoe on Twitter, who received the message from their best friend who had died. The last few months haven’t been easy and just when I thought I was getting some type of closure this just ripped open a new hole.”

A ton of people received text messages overnight that were originally sent on Valentine’s Day Nov 7, 2019 highlights & tech & systems

Something strange is happening with text messages in the US right now. Overnight, a multitude of people received text messages that appear to have originally been sent on or around Valentine’s Day 2019. These people never received the text messages in the first place; the people who sent the messages had no idea that they had never been received, and they did nothing to attempt to resend them overnight.

It is incredible to think that this could happen on a scale big enough to hit headlines now, but it wasn’t noticeable on Valentine’s Day originally.

That’s one of the problems with our ever-more-complex technologies. We’re accommodating to the bugs. It gets easier and easier to dismiss weird tech events as glitches and move on without worrying. Unreliability is, itself, unreliable.

But there can be major consequences to seemingly innocent bugs:

… one person said they received a message from an ex-boyfriend who had died; another received messages from a best friend who is now dead. It was a punch in the gut. Honestly I thought I was dreaming and for a second I thought she was still here,” said one person, who goes by KuribHoe on Twitter, who received the message from their best friend who had died. The last few months haven’t been easy and just when I thought I was getting some type of closure this just ripped open a new hole.”

Applied Systems Thinking → systems & design & workshops & talks Based on the Applied Systems Thinking workshop, I’ve collected a variety of resources to help you map complex problems below. The buttons link
About the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society  Oct 30, 2018 highlights & science & systems

Spanning all five schools at MIT, IDSS embraces the collision and synthesis of ideas and methods from analytical disciplines including statistics, data science, information theory and inference, systems and control theory, optimization, economics, human and social behavior, and network science.


The mission of IDSS is to advance education and research in state-of-the-art analytical methods and to apply these methods to address complex societal challenges in a diverse set of areas such as finance, energy systems, urbanization, social networks, and health.


IDSS comprises a number of academic programs, including those offered by the Statistics and Data Science Center (SDSC), two online education programs, and the IDSS research entities Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) and Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC).

- https://www.prweb.com/releases/noted_mit_scientist_muncher_dahleh_joins_the_enterworks_executive_advisory_board_to_help_guide_company_s_vision_for_artificial_intelligence/prweb15872695.htm
Complex adaptive systems thinking is an exciting approach, and the popularity of the theory in the policy literature is testimony to this Oct 13, 2018 highlights & science & systems Complex adaptive systems thinking is an exciting approach, and the popularity of the theory in the policy literature is testimony to this. But a number of issues are yet to be resolved. There needs to be clearer indication of the practical changes that it implies (if any) for policy research and practice. What are we saying that is different from “we need to take the wider context into account”, and “it’s hard to predict all possible consequences of any given action”? A widely accepted definition of complexity in the context of policy would add weight to evidence found to support the theory. We also need to clarify whether there is good cause to apply a natural science theory to political science. Most importantly, we should be wary of accepting the approach first and then looking for evidence to support it, rather than following the normal social science method of evaluating whether there is evidence in favour or against a given hypothesis. — http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2018/10/12/what-are-the-implications-of-complex-systems-thinking-for-policymaking/
Frequent mention is made in the academic literature to the need to clarify the way that this approach can be put into practice empirically, or as Holmes and Noel put it, move from “systems thinking-talking to systems thinking-action” Oct 13, 2018 highlights & systems Frequent mention is made in the academic literature to the need to clarify the way that this approach can be put into practice empirically, or as Holmes and Noel put it, move from “systems thinking-talking to systems thinking-action”. — http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2018/10/12/what-are-the-implications-of-complex-systems-thinking-for-policymaking/
Perhaps due to the variety of definitions of complex systems, there is a lot of variation amongst the claims made for their application to policy Oct 12, 2018 highlights & systems Perhaps due to the variety of definitions of complex systems, there is a lot of variation amongst the claims made for their application to policy. At one end of the spectrum, this approach is being offered as a “new scientific paradigm” for studying the social world. Others see it more as a “complementary analytical tool” to be used in conjunction with established policy concepts such as game theory. Links are also being made to wicked problems, and there is the suggestion that complex systems thinking might be the most appropriate way to approach these issues that seem to frustrate traditional policy methods. — http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2018/10/12/what-are-the-implications-of-complex-systems-thinking-for-policymaking/
Complex systems thinking is experiencing a moment of popularity within the worlds of policy research and practice Oct 12, 2018 highlights & systems Complex systems thinking is experiencing a moment of popularity within the worlds of policy research and practice. It’s an intuitively exciting approach that seems to capture some fundamental truth about our experience of policy: it suggests that policymaking takes place in a system that operates somewhere on the spectrum between “complicated” and “chaos”, making the results of policy interventions difficult to predict. Those who have attempted to study or shape policy might attest to this understanding. — http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2018/10/12/what-are-the-implications-of-complex-systems-thinking-for-policymaking/
there’s a lot of potential in collaborating to illuminate the systems that create data Sep 1, 2018 highlights & science & systems there’s a lot of potential in collaborating to illuminate the systems that create data. Part of that potential, I think, will be realized by leveraging the different epistemological assumptions behind our respective approaches. For example, there is unquestionable value in using statistical models as a lens to interpret and forecast sociocultural trends—both business value and value to growing knowledge more generally. But that value is entirely dependent on the quality of the alignment between the statistical model and the sociocultural system(s) it is built for. When there are misalignments and blind spots, the door is opened to validity issues and negative social consequences, such as those coming to light in the debates about fairness in machine learning. There are real disconnects between how data-intensive systems currently work, and what benefits societies. — https://www.epicpeople.org/data-science-and-ethnography/
TYE: We touched on data provenance earlier, but I want to come back to it from the perspective of quantitative data Aug 31, 2018 highlights & science & systems TYE: We touched on data provenance earlier, but I want to come back to it from the perspective of quantitative data. In particular, I think it is critical to keep in mind that the systems that generate quantitative data are necessarily embedded in socio-technical systems. The technological elements of those systems (electronic sensors, software-based telemetry, etc.) are designed, manufactured, and maintained by sociocultural factors. So, a data scientist who is diligently trying to understand where their data comes from in order to interpret it, will sooner or later need to understand sociocultural phenomena that produced data, even if that understanding is more meta-data than data. It would make sense to co-develop rubrics for assessing the quality of data generated by socio-technical systems. Shining a bright light on the deepest lineage of data that impacts business or design decisions is important for everyone involved. Such assessments could lead to more cautious ways of using data, or be used in efforts to improve the explainability of technical systems. — https://www.epicpeople.org/data-science-and-ethnography/
Ethnography is now used across anthropology, sociology, marketing, strategy, design, and other fields, but regardless of where it’s used, the core is about understanding people’s beliefs and behaviors and how these change over time Aug 29, 2018 highlights & people & science & systems Ethnography is now used across anthropology, sociology, marketing, strategy, design, and other fields, but regardless of where it’s used, the core is about understanding people’s beliefs and behaviors and how these change over time. Ethnography is a research skill that makes it possible to see what the world looks like from inside a particular context. If “man [sic] is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun" (Geertz), this skill involves systematically tracing out the logic of those webs, and examining how those webs structure what people do and think. Depending on the domain of study, these webs can be large scale or small, and in applied work they are often about people’s multidimensional roles as customers, users, employees, or citizens. Ethnographers look at the social world as dynamically evolving, emergent systems. They are emergent systems because people reflexively respond to the present and past, and this response shapes what they do in the future. Years of building ethnography from this core has generated both analytical techniques and a body of knowledge about sociocultural realities. — https://www.epicpeople.org/data-science-and-ethnography/
The National Youth Leadership & Innovation Summit → Apr 28, 2016 articles & leadership & innovation & systems On April 29 & 30, ~300 Canadian youth and youth-serving leaders will convene at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto to explore a strategy
We can build software to eat the world, or software to feed it Mar 21, 2016 design & science & systems & highlights We can build software to eat the world, or software to feed it. And if we are going to feed it, it will require a different approach to design, one which optimizes for a different type of growth, and one that draws upon – and rewards – the humility of the designers who participate within it. — Kevin Slavin, Design as Participation. MIT’s Journal of Design and Science.
When designers center around the user, where do the needs and desires of the other actors in the system go? Mar 20, 2016 design & systems & highlights

When designers center around the user, where do the needs and desires of the other actors in the system go? The lens of the user obscures the view of the ecosystems it affects.

[…] The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.’

For users, this is what it means to be at the center: to be unaware of anything outside it. User-Centric Design means obscuring more than it surfaces.

— Kevin Slavin, Design as Participation. From the shiny new MIT Journal of Design and Science.
TEDxOxbridge - Marc Ventresca - Don’t Be an Entrepreneur, Build Systems → Jan 19, 2016 systems & social & innovation
Don’t build a start-up, become a systems entrepreneur - Social Innovation Generation → Jan 18, 2016 systems & leadership & social & innovation
Millions of worlds. Billions of cultures. Quadrillions of people. Decillions of interrelationships. And you want me to reduce it to order. → Oct 30, 2015 systems & futures “Millions of worlds. Billions of cultures. Quadrillions of people. Decillions of interrelationships. And you want me to reduce it to
The view that negative impacts are an inevitable consequence of development has blinded us to the obvious Oct 24, 2015 systems & design & highlights The view that negative impacts are an inevitable consequence of development has blinded us to the obvious. We could design development to increase the size, health and resilience of natural systems, while improving human health and life quality. — Janis Birkeland, Positive Development: From Vicious Circles to Virtuous Cycles through Built Environment Design”. As quoted by James Greyson.
Security Means Global Security → Oct 24, 2015 systems
Habits of creative thought cannot be cultivated by assuming that inquisitive young minds must be moulded into established patterns of thinking Oct 21, 2015 education & systems & highlights Habits of creative thought cannot be cultivated by assuming that inquisitive young minds must be moulded into established patterns of thinking. — James Greyson calling for a new emphasis on creating curiousity in education.
SOLVE@MIT: A participant’s perspective → Oct 12, 2015 global & systems On October 5, 2015, MIT launched a movement — but the world has a lot of movements. What makes this one different? Jeffrey Sachs addresses
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe Sep 26, 2015 systems & design & highlights When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. — John Muir as quoted by Ecoliteracy.
Designers … seek to choose rather than predict the future Sep 25, 2015 systems & design & futures & highlights Designers … seek to choose rather than predict the future. — Jamshid Gharajedaghi, Systems Thinking.
Systems Mapping → Aug 24, 2015 systems & education & innovation
[S]chools are designed based on the average Aug 22, 2015 education & design & systems & highlights [S]chools are designed based on the average. But the problem is that no student is average on every dimension, “Every student has a jagged learning profile.” [Todd] Rose said, “We blame kids, teachers, and parents, but it’s just bad design.” — Nobody is average, every student deserves personalized learning.
Social Innovation Lab Guide - The Rockefeller Foundation → Jul 30, 2015 social & innovation & systems & design
The End of Leadership → Jul 23, 2015 leadership & systems & futures
Seth’s Blog: The technology ratchet → Jul 22, 2015 systems
Fixing Health Care Will Require More than a New Payment System → Jul 18, 2015 systems
Sean Parker: Philanthropy for Hackers → Jul 11, 2015 systems
In telling ourselves that we can neatly distinguish between equality of opportunity on the one hand and equality of outcome on the other, we’ve created a system with vast inequalities of outcomes. → Aug 13, 2012 systems
Notes from a TEDtalk - Ian Goldin: Navigating our global future → Jun 21, 2012 leadership & futures & innovation & systems & articles