Fritjof Capra: The Systems View of Life with the Design Science Studio
8:40PM Feb 2, 2021
Hello, and Good morning or good afternoon wherever you are in the world. Welcome to today's guest seminar of the Living Systems Art and Design Collaboratory presented by the Design Science Studio at the Buckminster Fuller Institute in partnership with HabRitual and the Emergent Media Design Lab at the University of California Irvine.
This program the living systems aren't designed Collaboratory provides funding for artists and designers to support the development of creative projects that are exploring living systems. The Collaboratory has a cohort of 30 designers and artists who are designing projects that aid people in perceiving the biological, cognitive, social, ecological, philosophical, spiritual, mathematical, political, and technological dimensions of life as a unified whole, inspired by living systems.
design side studio is a decade long, anticipatory art and design driven accelerator inspiring a future that works for 100% of life. I'm going to pass it to Amanda joy Ravenhill to share more about our educational incubator.
Thank you, Roxy, good to see everyone. Yes, the design studio is a decade long program, matching the design science decade, which is a resurgence of one of Buckminster Fuller's visions from the 60s. He said that we could reform and retool all of humanity and the whole world in order to work for 100% of life in a matter of 10 years. And like many things, he was 50 years ahead of his time. And so here we are in the 2020s. And it's time, urgency has never been more palpable. And we've never had the level of technology that we have today to live in interdependent and regenerative existence. And so we started the design side studio really to bring together artists of all sorts, many multidisciplinary creators, to create culture and create that shared vision of the future that we can all step into and co create. And it's all based on a living systems understanding of the world. Buckminster Fuller said, I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I'm not a category, a thing, and not a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process, an integral function of the universe. And I think that quote, sums up kind of this awakening that so many people around the world are going through right now and a reawakening really to so many of the indigenous ways of knowing and for some who are still in those ancient practices, and bring them to life today is just nature to them. That we are not just living on Spaceship Earth, but we are Spaceship Earth, we are part of this living, beautiful system. It's such an honor today to have all of us together to talk about living systems, helping and supporting artists who are translating these concepts into embodied experiences for all of us. Thank you.
Thank you, Amanda.
At the design science studio. With all of these principles from Buckminster Fuller, and this decade long mission, I've created this educational incubator for regeneration through artistic expression. And we're empowering global creators, as Amanda said, systems thinkers, organizations initiatives, to imagine collaborate and create a regenerative future together. It's high time for art that changes our future. And we're at this cusp of a wild change and a thriving planet and the healthy human society is within our reach. If only we dare to bring them into being which is why we are here together today to welcome Nico, who is a core member of the design studio team to share a few words about our mission, and then we'll introduce our guest speaker for today.
welcome everybody. And I would say that if we are a verb definitely adapter would be to imagine In the core of what we do at the studio is trying to imagine possible futures, better futures. We always say that the future is always first an idea, we first need to imagine it in order to build it. And so we're so glad to be here, welcoming all of you into these decades, decade long journey to imagine a better future.
And today's talk, we have the honor and pleasure of having the talk for today, which is the system's view of life, a framework for integrating art and science, with freakier copra, PhD physicists and systems theorist. He's the author of several international bestsellers, including the Tao of physics, the web of life, science, and Leonardo, he is the co author with Pierre Luigi luisi, of the multi disciplinary textbook, the system's view of life, which today he will be sharing with more with us more about as well as Kepler's online course, based on his textbook, which we'll also be sharing. And many of us will be taking this next session, which we're very excited about, thanks to Monster vakili. And I will say that I was introduced to your work 11 years ago, and I did a study of art and science at the time. And I was given the Tao of physics and it has become very special. It was a very special important like grounding force for me, so, so honored. And I know so many people who are tuning in today have had such special connections to your work for so long. And so today, we're so excited to explore your your session. And what will be covered today is that over the last 30 years, a new systemic understanding of life has emerged at the forefront of science. At the core of this new understanding, we find a fundamental change of perspective, from seeing the world as machine to understanding it in terms of networks complexity and patterns of organization. In this lecture freakier from kabra will present his synthesis of the new understanding of life and he will argue that its emphasis on complexity and patterns offers a unique conceptual framework for a synthesis of art and science. I will now hand the mic over to months or vakili, who is the patron of the living systems aren't designed Collaboratory and has been mentoring so many of us along this process to welcome his peer, and colleague. Welcome answer.
Thank you, everyone. Historically, it has been a major challenge for linear thinking, to explain the nonlinear world. That's why we have employed nonlinear mediums like mythology, mysticism, and ought to do so. But Fisher has expanded the domain of linear thinking, not only to not only be able to explain the nonlinear world, but acknowledge its limitation and unsustainability, along with its linear relationship and values in current nonlinear digital boards, and providing nonlinear system thinking relationship and values to successfully pass through this ongoing transformation that Earth and human being in COVID. And thank you for patriots paycheck to be a pioneer of this thinking and made the foundation for all of us to go forward for this transformation.
50 up we would love for you to begin.
Welcome. Well, thank you. Hello, everybody. Thank you Roxy for this very nice introduction. And thank you, man, so for your words and for making this possible. It's really a delight to be in this company. You know, throughout my life, I've always sought the company of artists, and I have been inspired by many artists over the years and decades. As you have heard, I was trained as a physicist, and I spent 20 years doing research in theoretical high energy physics. And then, in the mid 1980s, I left physics and turned to what the life sciences where a new conception of life has emerged. Over the last 30 years or so. At the forefront of contemporary science, the universe is no longer seen as some kind of a giant machine made of elementary building blocks. We have discovered that the material world ultimately is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships. We've also discovered that the planet as a whole is a living, self regulating system, this is the celebrated Gaia theory. Correspondingly, the view of the human body as a machine, and of the mind as a separate entity, is now being replaced by one that sees not only the brain, but also the immune system, the bodily tissues, and even each individual cell as a living, cognitive system. Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as some kind of cooperative dance, in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces. And with the new emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, a whole new science of qualities is now slowly emerging. During the last 30 years, I developed a synthesis of this new understanding of life, the conceptual framework that integrates four dimensions of life, the biological dimension, obviously, but also the cognitive dimension, the social dimension and the ecological dimension. I presented summaries of this framework as it evolved over the years in several books. And my final synthesis, is published in the textbook titled The system's view of life as Roxanne mentioned, and I've got a copy here, I wrote it with a friend and colleague Pierluigi luisi, who is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Rome. Now, I call my synthesis the system's view of life, because it requires a new kind of thinking, thinking in terms of relationships, in terms of patterns, in terms of context. And in science, this kind of thinking is known as systemic thinking, or systems thinking. thinking in terms of relationships, is crucial for ecology. Because ecology, you may know the word is derived from the Greek oil costs, meaning household ecology is the science of the relationships among the various members of the earth household, the plants, animals, micro organisms that make up what we call the web of life.
Now, I should also mention that systems thinking is not limited to science. Many indigenous cultures embody profound ecological awareness and think of nature, in terms of relationships, and in terms of patterns. And I will argue in this talk, that thinking in terms of patterns is also characteristic of the arts, and that artists therefore, have an important role to play in propagating the system's view of life. Now in modern science, systems thinking emerged in the 1920s From a series of interdisciplinary dialogues involving biologists, psychologists and ecologists, ecology of course, was a very new science in the 1920s. And systems thinking from the very beginning has been multidisciplinary transcending disciplinary separations. So, in all these fields, scientists realized that a living system, an organism, an ecosystem, or a social system, is an integrated whole, whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller parts, the systemic properties are properties of the whole, which none of the parts have, let me give you a simple example of a nonliving system. And that is sugar. We all know that sugar tastes sweet. Now, where does this sweet taste come from? If you do some chemistry, then you will discover that sugar is a carbohydrate that is a compound of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in a particular pattern of relationships. Now, the carbon doesn't taste sweet, nor does the hydrogen nor does the oxygen. So, the sweetness comes from the relationships among those atoms in that particular pattern of organization that defines sugar. So, to understand that, we need to shift our perspective from the parts the atoms to the pattern, the whole the early systems thinkers expressed this in the now well known phrase, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Now, sugar is of course not a living system, when we turn to living systems, we can observe that all living systems share a set of common properties and common principles of organization. And this means that systems thinking can be applied to integrate academic disciplines, and to discover similarities between different phenomena within the broad range of living systems. So, we can sort of transfer properties from you know, one type of system to the other and speak for example, about the health of a city or the stress of an economy or about regenerative agriculture and so on. So, systems thinking really has this integrative property that is very important.
Well, during the 1970s and 1980s, systems thinking was raised to a new level with the development of complexity theory, technically known as nonlinear dynamics. This is a new mathematical language that allows scientists for the first time to handle the enormous complexity of living systems mathematically to do mathematical modeling actually set up some mathematical equations and so on. Chaos Theory is an important branch of complexity theory and so is fractal geometry. So, we are talking about a nonlinear mathematics and it is a mathematics of patterns and mathematics, mathematics of relationships. You may have seen or heard about strange attractors in chaos theory or about fractals in fractal geometry. Now, these are visual representations of this Systems complex dynamics. At the same time, you may have noticed that these patterns can be very beautiful. And in fact, artists have recently begun to use fractals and attractors and mathematical patterns like this in the art. During the last 30 years or so, there has been a very strong interest in nonlinear phenomena. Because with modern computers, scientists and mathematicians were able for the first time to not only set up these equations, but actually solve them with very new techniques. And this has dramatically increased our understanding of many key cargo characteristics of life. So we have powerful new scientific theories. And my synthesis of these new theories, is what I refer to as the system's fly. Now, to present it properly, would take a whole seminar or better still a whole course. And in fact, as Roxie mentioned, I teach such a course online. It is called Capra course. And if you're interested, the website is capricornus.net. I've taught this course now for five years. And we have a global alumni network of over 1800 people who have taken the course in 85 countries around the world. So here in this talk, I can give you only a few highlights of the system's view of life. Well, one of the most important insights of this new systemic understanding of life is the recognition that networks are the basic pattern of organization of all living systems, you may know that ecosystems can be understood in terms of food webs, that is networks of organisms, organisms are networks of tissues of organs of organ systems, tissues, a network of cells, and cells are networks of molecules. So, wherever you look in the living world, you see networks, the network is a pattern that is common to all life. And indeed, at the very heart of the change of paradigms, from the mechanistic to the systemic view of life, we find a fundamental change of metaphors from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network.
Now, these living networks have been studied extensively over the last few decades. And these studies have revealed that their key characteristic is that they are self generating. In a cell, for example, the simple living system, all the biological structures, the proteins, including enzymes, the DNA, the cell membrane, and so on, all these structures are continually produced, repaired and regenerated by the cellular network. Similarly, in multicellular organisms, the cells of the organism are continually regenerated and recycled by the organisms metabolic network. So living networks continually regenerate themselves by transforming or replacing their components. And in this way, they undergo continual structural changes, while at the same time preserving their weblike patterns of organization. And this coexistence of stability and change is indeed one of the key characteristics of life. Now, when we turn from the biological to the social realm, we can again understand social life in terms of networks. But here, we are not dealing with chemical reactions. We're dealing with communications, social networks, as everybody knows today, our networks of communication. Like biological networks, they generate themselves, but what they generate is mostly non material. Whereas biological networks generate new compounds of molecules, new materials structures, social networks mostly generate new ideas, new information, new meaning. Every communication gives rise to further communications. So, the entire network generates itself. And as this process goes on, eventually a tacit understanding, a shared knowledge, shared modes of behavior, a shared belief system is developed. And this is known as culture. So culture is, if you wish, a common context of meaning that emerges out of the interactions of social networks. Well, now, let me turn to one of the most important philosophical implications of the system's view of life. And this is one of the most radical implications, namely, a new conception of the nature of mind and consciousness, which finally overcomes the Cartesian division between mind and matter that has haunted scientists and philosophers for hundreds of years.
You may remember that in the 17th century, the great mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes, based his view of nature, on a fundamental division between two separate and independent realms, that of mind, which he called the thinking thing, race, Corgi turns in Latin, and that of matter, which he called the extended thing, race extends up. And then following the cart in subsequent centuries, scientists and philosophers continued to think of the mind as some intangible entity, because the card called it a thing, and they were unable to imagine how this thinking thing is related to the body. Well, the decisive advance of the system's view of life has been to abandon the Cartesian concept of mind as a thing, and to realize that mind and consciousness are not things but processes. This novel concept of mind was developed during the 1960s, independently by Gregory Bateson, who was originally an anthropologist, and then became part of the cybernetics group, and, in my view, was one of the most important systems thinkers of the 20th century. And this concept of mind was independently developed also by Humberto maturana, a neuroscientist and biologists in Chile. And Bateson thought about what he called mental process, and matauranga focused on cognition, the process of knowing and their central insight is exactly the same. It's the identification of cognition, the process of knowing, with the very process of life. According to maturana, the activity involved in the self generation and self perpetuation of living networks is Cognitive activity. In other words, cognition is the very process of life. The self organizing activity, including a very particular form of interaction with the environment that living organisms have is cognitive activity. And in this way, life and cognition become inseparable, reconnected, mind, or more accurately mental activity is eminent in matter at all levels of life, irrespective of whether a particular organism has a brain and the higher nervous system or not. So the entire organism participates in this cognitive activity in the very process of life. So for the first time, we have a scientific theory that unifies mind, matter, and life. And as such, of course, it has many important consequences and implications. Now, I want to emphasize that my synthesis of the system's view of life it's not only theory, but has very concrete applications. And so in the last part of our textbook, which is titled sustaining the web of life, in this last part, we discuss the critical importance of the system's view of life, for dealing with the problems of our time with the problems of our multifaceted global crisis.
Today, it is becoming more and more evident, that the major problems of our time, energy, environment, climate change, economic inequality, and now the COVID pandemic, that these problems cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they're all interconnected and interdependent. They require corresponding systemic solutions, solutions that do not solve any problem in isolation, but deal with it within the context of other problems. Over the last few decades, the research institutes and centers of learning of the global civil society have developed and tested hundreds of these systemic solutions all over the world. And in our textbook, we dedicate about 60 pages to a discussion and review of the most important and most effective of those systemic solutions. They include proposals to reshape economic globalization and restructure corporations; new forms of ownership, that are not extractive but generative; a wide variety of systemic solutions to the interlinked problems of energy, food, poverty, and climate change; and, finally, the large number of systemic design solutions, known collectively as ecodesign, which incorporate the basic principles of ecology. My conclusion, from this extensive review of existing systemic solutions is that the new systemic understanding of life has given us the knowledge and the technologies to solve our major problems and build a sustainable future. What we need now is political will and leadership. Well, in conclusion, let me come back to the important role of artists in the current shift from the mechanistic to the systemic understanding of life. Systems thinking, as I've mentioned, involves a shift of perspective—from the parts to the whole, from objects to relationships and patterns. Conventional science has concentrated on measuring and on quantities, but relationships cannot be measured. They need to be mapped. So, there is a shift from measuring to mapping—to visualizing—from quantities to qualities. This is a very important part of studying patterns. And this is the reason why, throughout history, artists contributed significantly to the advancement of science by studying patterns. Perhaps the two most famous examples are Leonardo da Vinci in the Italian Renaissance, whose entire science can be understood as a study of patterns, and the German poet, Goethe, in the 18th century, who made significant contributions to biology through his study of patterns.
My work in environmental education has convinced me that there's hardly anything more effective than the arts—the visual arts, music, or the performing arts—for developing and refining our natural ability to recognize and express patterns. When you look at the arts, you soon realize that it's all about patterns: patterns of music, patterns of movement in dance, patterns of the composition of a painting, patterns of plot in a novel, and so on. So the arts can be a powerful tool for teaching systems thinking. And of course, in addition, the arts have an important role by injecting an emotional dimension that is essential to learning and especially essential to transformative learning. What we need today is learning not only in terms of absorbing new ideas and new concepts, but transformative learning that really changes ourselves, our being, and that has a strong emotional component which the arts can provide. Well, let me end with a few words about the unique synthesis of art and science, developed by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. During the Italian Renaissance, I spent 10 years studying Leonardo's famous notebooks, in which he discussed his scientific observations and theories. And I came to the conclusion that Leonardo da Vinci was a systemic thinker. Understanding a problem, for him, always meant connecting it with other problems. So understanding your phenomenon meant connecting it with other phenomena through a similarity of patterns. Nature as a whole was alive for Leonardo, and he saw the patterns and processes of the microcosm as being similar to those in the macrocosm. The unifying conceptual threads that interlinked his knowledge of macro and microcosm, where life's patterns of organization, its organic structures, and its fundamental processes of metabolism and growth. In the macrocosm, the main themes of Leonardo's science were the movements of water and air, the geological forms, and transformations of Earth, which he saw as a living being—the living Earth—and the botanical diversity and growth patterns of plants. In the microcosm, his focus was on the human body, which he considered an animal body, as scientists still do today. Its beauty and proportions, the mechanics of its movements, and how it compared to other animal bodies in motion, in particular to the flight of birds. Leonardo did not pursue science and engineering to dominate nature, as Francis Bacon would advocate a century later. He had a deep respect of all life, especial compassion for animals, and a great awe and reverence for nature's complexity and abundance. While being a brilliant inventor and designer himself, he always thought that nature's ingenuity was vastly superior to human design. And he felt that we would be wise to respect nature and learn from her. And in this, he anticipated the disciplines known today as ecodesign, and biomimicry.
This, in my view is the main reason why Leonardo's legacy is immensely relevant to our time, as we recognize that our sciences have become increasingly narrow in their focus, unable to understand our multifaceted problems, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and dominated by corporations more interested in financial rewards than in the well being of humanity. We urgently need a science that honors and respects the unity of all life that recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena. And that reconnects us to the living Earth. What we need today is exactly the kind of synthesis of art and science that Leonardo da Vinci anticipated and outlined 500 years ago.
Well, thank you very much for your attention.
Thank you so much. So much to chew on there. I'm really excited that we're registered for the course. And we get to dive deeper with you. And encourage everyone to do the same. Yeah, yeah. And it it. It echoes a lot of what Buckminster Fuller spoke about, right. He, he often talked about how he wasn't trying to just mimic nature, but really find the underlying principles of nature in order to design artifacts and design a world that could work for all life. I'm curious if you ever met him or saw him speak?
I did meet him? Yes, I met him in San Francisco, in the 1970s, I believe, and he was already quite old. But he talked for about two hours, I was really absolutely amazed by his energy and his vitality. And after the talk, I had the chance to exchange a few words with him at a reception. And still he was completely vibrant and talking to everybody at the reception. It was really extraordinary.
Roxie, do you want to kick us off with the first question from the laboratory?
Yes. And also just to say, just the gratitude of the way that you have so elegantly woven, all of the different interdependent, interrelated systems that we've been working so hard to study, and uplift for the creative community that we've been supporting and scaffolding and cultivating. And there's we had a whole session where we actually talked about the built the bridge built between Leonardo da Vinci and Buckminster Fuller. And so there's this like really powerful weaving that then you know, you're taking that and then so clearly, identifying how incredibly important the synthesis of art and science is, and how ripe The time is right now. So, just wanted to start with a deep gratitude. And just to say, how, how empowering that is, I know for all of the artists and designers in the Collaboratory and all of the interdisciplinary transdisciplinary polymaths that are We've been together for this design science decades. So thank you so much. So the first question comes from Rita. And she asks, what conditions are needed for this natural regeneration, we can then apply it in the society as a network. So I'll put it also up on the screen. So what are needed,
you know, regeneration and regenerative are terms that I'm sure you notice has become very fashionable recently. And some people even say that we shouldn't be talking about sustainability. any longer, we should talk about regeneration. So we shouldn't talk about, say sustainable agriculture, we should talk about regenerative agriculture. But I do use the term myself increasingly, because it's very evocative, and it's immediately understandable. However, we as I tried to emphasize in my talk, we need to realize that life itself is inherently regenerative. As I mentioned, living networks continuously regenerate and transform the components. So sustaining life means continually regenerating life. And, and I think this is very important to realize that when we are engaged in regenerative activities, whatever they may be, we are engaging with life with the very nature of life. So I think an understanding of life from the systemic perspective, from the perspective of living networks, is a very important condition to to really be effective and, and really understand the meaning of regeneration.
Thank you. And I feel like you know, I wonder if there's a way we can lean a little bit more now that we've talked about regeneration and how it is a natural phenomena, but like, the question being, what what conditions are needed for it? I think what you said was that what I heard was that it's already happening. And I wonder like, you know, what, what conditions do we
get to go? A little further? Yeah, okay. When when you when you then actually look at how nature sustains life. This is this is very important part to learn from nature. We know that nature has sustained life for billions of years, more than 3 billion years from the appearance of the first cells. So when we look at how nature does that, we discover that nature sustains life by creating and maintaining communities. When the first cells evolved on earth 3.6 billion years ago, they immediately formed tightly knit communities, these were bacterial cells. And so these communities are called bacterial colonies. And in subsequent evolution, nature has created communities at all levels of life. So the answer to how what are the conditions? How can we be regenerative? How can we sustain life? The most effective and most powerful way is to create and nurture communities. And I suppose that's what you're doing with your art and design community, your your will on the way, you know, of doing that.
Thank you. That's a great answer and really clarifying. Amanda, would you like to ask the next question?
The next question is from Linda with Sweeney. She says, Leonardo recognized that all natural phenomena are fundamentally interrelated. And Bucky was cautious of specialization. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the interrelated structure of reality. indigenous cultures continue to speak of the same fundamental reality. So considering all of this, why is this reality not more mainstream, and You've kind of just answered it a little bit, but how can we engage others in this reality?
Well, if you go back through our intellectual history, you know, European Western intellectual history in in general, you can see that the mechanistic worldview, understanding the world as a machine, has been very successful for a long time, no Newton's mechanics, Newton's physics has been very successful in explaining many natural phenomena. And, of course, the resulting technologies have been very successful, you know, including the Industrial Revolution and various technologies, machine based technologies that were developed, but they have their limitations. And once the limitations were discovered, by that time, scientists and engineers and and business people had invested very heavily in the mechanistic worldview, we have a similar situation today, where we know that in order to save human civilization and continue human civilization, we need to abandon fossil fuels, and we need to replace them by renewable sources of energy. But the oil companies and other fossil fuel industries have very heavily invested in fossil fuels, they make huge profits for them. And so they don't want to abandon them, you know, because they prefer to make profits for a few more years, rather than looking further into the future. So so this is the struggle, and of course, there has been a big struggle, and this is a very, very sad history, you know, between American settlers, and the indigenous population, the Native American population, the Native American culture, like so many indigenous cultures around the world, do have this view of relationships. There's this famous saying that they think of nature as all my relations. Now, if you think of the theory of evolution, then you know that this is literally true. Because relations, what are relations relations are, from the modern scientific point of view. We know that relations share certain aspects of the genome, there is a genetic link. And this is true for all living beings, we all descend from the same living ancestor, so that our Binion vision is a vast network of life stretching in space and time. And this what is what so many in indigenous cultures intuited when they say, you know, the living world, the community of life, these are all my relations are all our relations. So it is time to honor that also, you know, from the scientific perspective.
Yeah, and it reminds me of something else I've read from you about how the, the health and really the resiliency of a network is can be measured, at least in part by the interrelations and the productivity of the various nodes.
Yes. And what what happens is that the more interconnected a network is, the more resilient will it be. Because if some connections are ruptured, like some species die in an extreme climate situation or something, then if there are many other strengths in the network that are connected, the network will continue to be resilient. And of course, this connectivity or complexity of an ecological network translates into biodiversity. This is why biodiversity is so important. And it also translates into diversity in human systems. This is an example where systems thinking is really helpful. You go from biodiversity, to cultural diversity, to ethnic diversity, to intellectual diversity, whatever the diversity is, It will enhance the resilience of the system of the community.
As far as the focusing on the on the patterns in a social network, we are seeing that degree of separation is reducing from six degrees maximum six degrees of separation to 2.7. Now, and is rapidly decreasing, decreasing. So, that means that the whole human focus connecting and we are going to that one connectedness that it is almost one degree of separation among us, actually, and that way we are emerging to the higher level of consciousness and interconnectivity that is mentioned. At the same time, as a living system as a cognitive living system is somehow connecting us and forcing this amazing transformation that is coming and providing all kinds of connections, that relationship between human being to connect and understand and go forward. That's why this right now, this concept of citizen thinking even though is not in mainstream parties in necessity, that is to deal with all of this interconnected world that we are dealing with, right?
Absolutely. And and we also need to learn how to manage these interconnections how to deal with the interconnections? You know, in an extreme example of the dangerous is the COVID pandemic, which which arises from interconnectedness, if, if there is a pandemic, if there's a virus like the Coronavirus around, it propagates when there is great population density. So, so we need to manage population density. And population density in our world is often related to excessive profit maximizing, for instance, you know, one of the early infection centers were cruise ships, where people are pack together in a very small space so as to increase the profits of the shipping company of the cruise line. Or you know, meatpacking factories where workers work in very tight conditions, which is not necessary except for profit motives. So So interconnectedness also has its dangers, and we need to learn how to live with the with it and how to manage it. Well.
Move to the next question. Such a rich conversation. All right. So this one comes from Robin Renton. No, I hope there will be time for frithjof to talk about his conversations with the Dalai Lama, read the nature of consciousness, and how that can advance solutions to our urgent problems. So that's our next question for you.
Well, maybe Robin saw the picture of me and Dalai Lama in the background. I don't know whether you can see this on on the screen that I have. I have a series of pictures here. And here. This is this is a picture of my meeting the Dalai Lama. I met the Dalai Lama several times and this was in Prague. There was a conference symposium called forum 2000, organized by the former president of the Czech Republic, vaslav Havel. And he invited about 300, scientists, philosophers, spiritual teachers and activists. We talk about the future. And I have to tell you, the funny thing, I had met the Dalai Lama before, but at this symposium in, in Prague in the Prague Castle, those people we were all sitting at a huge table in a huge hole. And for some reason, they had arranged people alphabetically, and copra was next to Da Li. And so that's not to sit next to the Dalai Lama. And this is when I had long Converse. Well, to answer the question, you know, the Dalai Lama always emphasizes that he is not interested so much in theories of consciousness, and theories of the nature of the world. He says, those are interesting questions, but they are very complicated. And then he says, you know, my religion is loving kindness, and being kind to people being compassionate being, you know, a loving person is, is what he emphasizes. And that's what he demonstrates, you know, he is a very kind person, and he is the kind of person where you really feel good in his presence. Even without him saying anything. He just, he radiates kindness, and you really feel well, you feel good. In in his presence. And so, so that is his main message, I think.
What's up? I was
just saying, What an exciting synchronistic moment in life.
Dalai Lama scientist, and it's a bunch of different conversations with you know,
yes. Yeah, they, they have something called the mind and Life Institute. I never participate in this. But my friend Pierluigi luisi is one of the cofounders of this institute. And so he had many, many conversations with the Dalai Lama, and also published the book about him, which is called mind and Life Institute.
Yeah, well, looking into kind of another parallel of, of science. There's a question around how do you think quantum science and the quantum revolution will help to support systems thinking?
Will the, you know quantum physics is is really at a different level operates at the level of the very small. And what I have discussed, is the system's view of life, at our everyday level, going down to cells. But you know, a cell is still much much larger than, you know, a molecule or an atom or subatomic particle. So quantum physics does not help us directly in understanding life, because it applies to nonliving. physical systems of very small dimensions. However, quantum physics is very important, historically, in in when you talk about the history of ideas and the history of science, because it was the first science where systems thinking really became relevant in a very dramatic way. And in my talk, I emphasized that the material world can no longer be understood as is existing of separate objects, but it's an inseparable network of relationships. And this is what physicists struggled with in the 1920s. And they investigated atomic and subatomic phenomena. Because they found that the basic concepts like object cause and effect space time, were not applicable in the same way at this subatomic reality. And the main phenomenon that they had to face was really, that the world cannot be separated into separate entities separate objects at the atomic and subatomic level. And they struggled with this for a decade, before they found a way of no formulating a theory about it. So, this side, I discuss no to great extent in my first book, The Tao of physics,
quantum mechanic by nature, it's a nonlinear system, but they've been trying to explain it to the linear logic. One does is reason brings all kind of confusion. And if they can look at it at a systemic way of quantum mechanics, that would elevate that Understanding and we make that more clear and more application comes from.
And you know the other the other problem is when you go to smaller and smaller dimensions, you are facing higher and higher velocities of the these particles, atoms, nuclei, protons, neutrons, electrons and so on. And, in physics, when you deal with very high velocities, you have to apply Einstein's relativity theory. And so what we are looking for is really a combination of quantum physics and relativity theory. That's the forefront of science right now. If you if you want to know more about it, you could go to my website, my personal website is fritjof Capra dotnet. And I have a blog there. And one of the essays in the blog is called the unification of physics. And then I talk about very, the very forefront of science of quantum theory, relativity theory, string theory, the Higgs boson and all these recent discoveries. So that's all in this essay, the unification of physics.
There's definitely a lesson there in how to speak between paradigms as we're moving from a mechanistic view into a living systems view and how we could Yeah, learn how to navigate and acknowledge which one we're operating from, or what combination of paradigms we're operating from. However, Roxy, I think we have time for one more question.
Yeah, one, one or two, maybe depending on how long we go. Um, so I'd love to ask those two questions. There's many questions, I have to say we won't get to all of them. But one comes from extra asthma, which asks, what type of cultural system do you surmise is best for supporting the existence of thriving of artists scientists example the patronage of dementia these days, which increased access to education for all? So what type of cultural system is best for supporting the existence and thriving of artists? Scientists?
It's a it's a very difficult question, I would I would say, it would have to be a cultural system, which includes a valuation of aesthetics of things that are beautiful, which is definitely not the mainstream now, in industrial culture, because our mainstream culture today is dominated by economics, and by this global economy, which has only one value and that is making money, the more money you make, the better it is. And we are actually have a network of financial flows of computerized financial flows. And this network is programmed according to this value of maximizing profits, and all other human values are excluded. So when, you know, when somebody you know, starts, you know, a building or some construction work, from the economic point of view, what matters is how profitable this construction is not how beautiful it is. Now, of course, there are architects and artists who disagree with that, and and who have different criteria, but they they have a very difficult time promoting these criteria. And so I would say in answer to the question, it would have to be a culture, valuing beauty valuing aesthetics, as the Renaissance did in Italy, when Leonardo da Vinci live, and they made it cheap, who were the patrons of Florence and of the Renaissance? The mediatory were bankers, but they were bankers with a sense of beauty. And I think that's the kind of culture we need, culture with aesthetics and a sense of beauty.
One of the things that we are helping steward with the design studio is the regenesis. So it's this sort of,
Oh, very nice from the Renaissance
and the regenerative Renaissance through regeneration and how through interdisciplinary art, we can transform our path forward, regenerate our culture, our planet and our relationship with the living world. Because we see that this power of Art and Design is a cross cultural technology and language for systemic change. And so I think there's this like new evaluation of seeing it as this as this technology that actually can build bridges, that is beyond the aesthetics. And I think, like that bridge is one that we're hoping to help cross but I think, you know, in general, just have people care more about the aesthetic dimension, and how important that is for embodying understanding that also would definitely help.
Right, well, thank you so much. And thank you again, so much for inviting me. There's been a great pleasure.
Yes, of course. So we were scheduled to go till 1050. Do we have time for one?
Question? Yes, of course. No.
Okay. Wonderful. Yeah, thank you so much for coming, we're so honored to have you as a supporter on our mission and your work your synthesis of your work of your whole life is we're just yeah, excited losing words of the joy that is, there
is a shift from quantity to quality,
that we are going through as far as the values, yeah,
this is this is all the same kind of shift, you see, when you shift from your perspective, from objects to relationships, you also shift from measuring to mapping and from quantity to quality, because relationships cannot be quantified. No, they, they they need to be mapped, and the quality of a phenomenon is a property of the whole, not a property of the parts. So the quality, say, of my health, of my just being in the world, the quality of my life, is not the sum of you know, the health of my hands and feet and, and fingers and toes. But it's embodied in the relationships between those spots and in the processes in which those parts are involved and embedded. So, I think you you can say that what I call a systemic property that is a property of the whole, you can also call it call this a quality qualities or systemic properties.
I think this next respects question really is such a perfect synthesis of the conversation we've been having. And it comes from Chris Weir, who asks, If the arts are essential for our transformative learning of systems thinking, how might we shift our societal cultural focus away from that which merely perpetuates economics instead of prioritizing and investing in the expansion of these ideas in the arts? So I think you've touched on a dimension of that through aesthetics. And I wonder if there's anything else at this question? Well,
I think what what we can do is try to incorporate the art in the various projects we have in to begin with in education. Because, you know, the arts come natural to children. So if you teach children, what whatever you teach, whether it's, you know, natural science or geography or language or or history or whatever, you can always include an artistic dimension. So, if you if you teach history, you can act out a historical scene. No, just just think of the famous musical Hamilton. You know, how powerful this this has been? No acting out history in an artistic way. And you can use with children, you can use drawings, you can use movement and dance. You can use music, singing, you know, all all the arts as a dimension of teaching of education. And when we organize conferences, you know, in the post COVID world when we meet again, physically, and be in the same room together, and have symposia and conferences, to, to always include the art, and not include the art, justice, entertainment, but include the arts as a contribution to the dialogue and the contribution to the discussion. Because artists have a lot, a lot to teach us and, and to offer us.
collaborators, Linda, she's the one she's using all kinds of art to communicate with the young generations. Very good.
Yeah, I think artists are, you know, one of the last disciplines, I think, to be taught systems thinking they're told to look out, you know, and interweave between disciplines. Buckminster Fuller talked about architects, you know, having a similar upbringing in academia. And, yeah, I think artists are our systems thinkers, but just haven't been celebrated as much and have been kind of closed off as like, it's just an entertainment realm, versus a sense making, you know, illuminating.
And also, this the intersection of art and business, which is very unhealthy know, the way galleries are run, you know, from a business perspective, and, again, you know, making profits is, is the only value. So that's very unhealthy thing. Well, shall we end on something positive,
I think it is positive, it's something really synchronistic about that's what we're doing at the design studio, really supporting, including and standing for artists as a core contribution to the dialogue and a key player and shifting the culture around that so that we can uplift and empower them as key systems thinkers, and an important part of the puzzle. As we're moving towards regeneration for our culture, and our planet, and our interconnected and interdependent world. And so, we're on that mission definitely already. And thank you for for illuminating it even more clearly with us today.
Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah. Amanda,
wow, just feeling really grateful to have exactly like your shoulders to stand on. And you're all the synthesis that you've done. And then to be in this community within Buckminster Fuller Institute, kind of take it and expose it, we often talk about how the conversations at the edges need to be the conversation more in the middle, and so really grateful that we can building on your work.
I have a question for you a final, if you had like some, some words of wisdom to leave our audience with, you know, you have been so dedicated to your craft and to this work your whole life, and because of it, you have brought so much through that is now a guiding light, so many, What kept you going and like, you know, how do you stay connected to that? And and what can you offer us as we are weaving with you forward? Well,
I think Roxy, I will come back to the importance of community, you know, I've always tried to not only think in terms of networks, but also to live within networks. So I have been part of a community, a global community of systemic thinkers and activists for a very long time, ever since the 1960s. And 70s. You know, long before the internet and websites and emails, we have a global community of thinkers and activists, and I just find being in a community, extremely nurturing and and very powerful for transformative learning.
And I believe that he has embodied this system thinking and relationship in his body in his work and his thinking and any relationship that he has. And you can feel that when you're talking to him. No, no one the Dalai Lama was impressed with your existence because you were feeding him and you were feeding you at the same time with them. energy that you have always positively and obviously intelligently to help others at the same time. Is it amazing value that we can learn from? No,
Thank you. And I know that through conversations with months or freaky off that you were a big influence in why he ended up deciding to put so much resource and support behind creative communities to help bring different dimensionality to the work so that we can have different mediums for embodiment and understanding. And so, through that, and through both of you so many people's lives have been transformed and this community.