Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 6, No 1 (2010)

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Models Learning Change

Philip F Henshaw

Abstract


We live in a complex world, made more complex by the difficulty of distinguishing between our cultural ideas of how things work and the independent physical systems of our world we interact with.   Environmental systems are hard to recognize and constantly change their behavior independent of what people think about them.  So rules for them we’ve come to trust can become misleading without notice.   Learning how to know when natural system realities are changing, and models will need to change with them, starts with identifying the difference between natural physical systems and our cultural ideas of them, between information and its subjects.   The leverage used for doing that is the distinctly different way information models and physical systems use energy, are organized, and display different kinds of limits.   Environmental systems often have independent learning parts, for example, and models can’t. A useful method for identifying individual environmental systems and tracking their independent changes is found in how the conservation of energy requires developmental processes with a recognizable complex continuity, that does not apply to information models.   The characteristic continuities of developmental processes can be identified from recorded measures or implied by models of physical systems, and prompt key questions about approaching changes in organization precipitated by changes in scale, that will require finding new variables or concepts for related models. It builds a new bridge of methodology between theoretical and physical systems, introducing a new kind of empirical research.   An example of steering economic systems and their models is used, pertaining to the timing of responses to limits of growth and its feasibility.  

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