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Author Topic: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System  (Read 754 times)

etienne

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Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« on: September 04, 2022, 07:49:55 AM »
Just found a great article by Donella Meadows.
https://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/

Donella Meadows has worked on the Limits to Growth model, so she has a systemic view of our world. To stop AGW, we will have to change the system, but since the article has an important political content, I preferred to publish it here that in the policy and solutions.

Quote
PLACES TO INTERVENE IN A SYSTEM
(in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.

And:
Quote
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
A negative feedback loop is self-correcting; a positive feedback loop is self-reinforcing. The more it works, the more it gains power to work some more. The more people catch the flu, the more they infect other people. The more babies are born, the more people grow up to have babies. The more money you have in the bank, the more interest you earn, the more money you have in the bank. The more the soil erodes, the less vegetation it can support, the fewer roots and leaves to soften rain and runoff, the more soil erodes. The more high-energy neutrons in the critical mass, the more they knock into nuclei and generate more.

Positive feedback loops are sources of growth, explosion, erosion, and collapse in systems. A system with an unchecked positive loop ultimately will destroy itself. That’s why there are so few of them. Usually a negative loop will kick in sooner or later. The epidemic will run out of infectable people — or people will take increasingly strong steps to avoid being infected. The death rate will rise to equal the birth rate — or people will see the consequences of unchecked population growth and have fewer babies. The soil will erode away to bedrock, and after a million years the bedrock will crumble into new soil — or people will stop overgrazing, put up checkdams, plant trees, and stop the erosion.

In all those examples, the first outcome is what will happen if the positive loop runs its course, the second is what will happen if there’s an intervention to reduce its self-multiplying power. Reducing the gain around a positive loop — slowing the growth — is usually a more powerful leverage point in systems than strengthening negative loops, and much preferable to letting the positive loop run.

Population and economic growth rates in the world model are leverage points, because slowing them gives the many negative loops, through technology and markets and other forms of adaptation, all of which have limits and delays, time to function. It’s the same as slowing the car when you’re driving too fast, rather than calling for more responsive brakes or technical advances in steering.

Another example: there are many positive feedback loops in society that reward the winners of a competition with the resources to win even bigger next time. Systems folks call them “success to the successful” loops. Rich people collect interest; poor people pay it. Rich people pay accountants and lean on politicians to reduce their taxes; poor people can’t. Rich people give their kids inheritances and good educations; poor kids lose out. Anti-poverty programs are weak negative loops that try to counter these strong positive ones. It would be much more effective to weaken the positive loops. That’s what progressive income tax, inheritance tax, and universal high-quality public education programs are meant to do. (If rich people can buy government and weaken, rather than strengthen those of measures, the government, instead of balancing “success to the successful” loops, becomes just another instrument to reinforce them!)

The most interesting behavior that rapidly turning positive loops can trigger is chaos. This wild, unpredictable, unreplicable, and yet bounded behavior happens when a system starts changing much, much faster than its negative loops can react to it. For example, if you keep raising the capital growth rate in the world model, eventually you get to a point where one tiny increase more will shift the economy from exponential growth to oscillation. Another nudge upward gives the oscillation a double beat. And just the tiniest further nudge sends it into chaos.

I don’t expect the world economy to turn chaotic any time soon (not for that reason, anyway). That behavior occurs only in unrealistic parameter ranges, equivalent to doubling the size of the economy within a year. Real-world systems can turn chaotic, however, if something in them can grow or decline very fast. Fast-replicating bacteria or insect populations, very infectious epidemics, wild speculative bubbles in money systems, neutron fluxes in the guts of nuclear power plants. These systems are hard to control, and control must involve slowing down the positive feedbacks.

In more ordinary systems, look for leverage points around birth rates, interest rates, erosion rates, “success to the successful” loops, any place where the more you have of something, the more you have the possibility of having more.


kassy

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2022, 10:54:19 PM »
Or you could just read the science. In the 1950ies we knew this would happen and we still went for it.

The prime place to intervene is the self. Can you keep supporting the system or do you need to safe your grandchildren?

Can you keep on being a consumer of destruction?
Þetta minnismerki er til vitnis um að við vitum hvað er að gerast og hvað þarf að gera. Aðeins þú veist hvort við gerðum eitthvað.

morganism

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2024, 10:41:11 AM »
(play the game. make your choices. see the results)

https://play.half.earth/

Neven

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2024, 11:17:43 AM »
I want to put a cap on wealth first. How do I do that?
The enemy is within
Don't confuse me with him

E. Smith

morganism

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2024, 08:40:26 PM »
Neven , i like the idea of not having inheritable wealth. Studies in europe on elite families seem to have shown that that is the anchor for influence, and subversion of law for centuries. My most radical theory is to limit ownership of real property to 3 titles. Even more radical would for women to be the only title holders. If every woman was given a title to a house when they turned 18, they could vote with their feet, leaving a country if they didn't respect and protect them. If they wanted to travel, they could lease out their property (or their factory) to even a lowly man, or a business, if they had gotten a factory property (10 yr limit?) and use that income to build or lease in another country.

My personal fav is to go to the point where corporations can't own anything, and have to dissolve to the employees after 10 yrs, or after they have accomplished what was their purpose in their Charter.

IIRC, Corps where originally all incorporated to accomplish a specific task, usually an exploration/shipping, to share costs and insurance, or a charity. So basically what we would consider a Sub S type.
In the USA, first major conglomerate was the Five Companies to build Hoover Dam. They needed more than one comp to accomplish it, and allowed multiples to come together to get the job done (with no labor protections either, but another story. PBS has good vid on it)

If a Corp can't own anything, then they have no reason to go on forever, and consume everyone else around them. Properties, IP, R and D, licensing, would have much less influence over personhood then.
(well, that didn't work out in China, but that is Govt control)

This is one of the major dangers in AI. It is prob going to allow rich folks to live at least 200 yrs, and control more and more wealth, and concentrate ownership of more real property and IP, and reduce any competition, by lawyers or other less nefarious means. Regulatory capture has already happened.

Rodius

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2024, 12:11:10 AM »
Neven , i like the idea of not having inheritable wealth. Studies in europe on elite families seem to have shown that that is the anchor for influence, and subversion of law for centuries. My most radical theory is to limit ownership of real property to 3 titles. Even more radical would for women to be the only title holders. If every woman was given a title to a house when they turned 18, they could vote with their feet, leaving a country if they didn't respect and protect them. If they wanted to travel, they could lease out their property (or their factory) to even a lowly man, or a business, if they had gotten a factory property (10 yr limit?) and use that income to build or lease in another country.

My personal fav is to go to the point where corporations can't own anything, and have to dissolve to the employees after 10 yrs, or after they have accomplished what was their purpose in their Charter.

IIRC, Corps where originally all incorporated to accomplish a specific task, usually an exploration/shipping, to share costs and insurance, or a charity. So basically what we would consider a Sub S type.
In the USA, first major conglomerate was the Five Companies to build Hoover Dam. They needed more than one comp to accomplish it, and allowed multiples to come together to get the job done (with no labor protections either, but another story. PBS has good vid on it)

If a Corp can't own anything, then they have no reason to go on forever, and consume everyone else around them. Properties, IP, R and D, licensing, would have much less influence over personhood then.
(well, that didn't work out in China, but that is Govt control)

This is one of the major dangers in AI. It is prob going to allow rich folks to live at least 200 yrs, and control more and more wealth, and concentrate ownership of more real property and IP, and reduce any competition, by lawyers or other less nefarious means. Regulatory capture has already happened.

Women are no different to men... so handing them power gives the same results as men having it.

Women don't have any special powers that make them better people than men... a complete myth on every level and doing stuff like you suggested changes nothing but who gets to abuse who.

morganism

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2024, 12:37:05 AM »
There are fewer women psychopaths, and they tend to isolate the ones they have, not empower them.

morganism

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Re: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2024, 11:42:04 PM »
The brazen optimism of Kathryn Murdoch’s plan to save Earth

Rupert’s liberal-leaning daughter-in-law thinks a doom-and-gloom attitude is thwarting climate action. She and Ari Wallach have a new documentary promoting a brighter future.
(...)
“A Brief History of the Future,” a six-part series that debuted on PBS last week, showcases “some of the people that are working really hard to make it go right,” she said, whether in food production, clean energy, pro-democracy or economics.
(snip)
Challenging the status quo is an approach the documentary applauds. In another segment, designer Pupul Bisht says imagining a different future is a “deeply political act … putting a lot of power in the hands of people who are, in the traditional system, left out of the equation.”

It’s a formidable statement. And given that people who have power typically do not volunteer to share it, viewers might understandably be left with a sense of the radical — or even the revolutionary?

“We don’t use those words,” Murdoch said. “If you’re talking of revolution, that means you’re toppling something.”

Wallach allowed that there’s “a role for protesting and external pressure.” But their documentary is more about effecting change from the inside, he said: “How do you make systems work? How do you build alternative systems to complement but not abdicate the current ones, right?”

“Our focus here was on creating something curious, hopeful and inviting regardless of a person’s background or personal politics,” Wallach wrote later in an email. “We see the unfinished work before us as deeply pragmatic for all of us instead of simply ideological.”

Which, to George Monbiot — a British journalist and environmental activist whose riffs on historical movements are featured in the documentary — is disappointing.

Any conversation about the future, he said, demands some straight talk about capitalism. “Capitalism is not the market. It’s an exploitative system laid on top of the market,” he told The Post. “People find it impossible to imagine the end of capitalism, because they don’t know what capitalism is.” And if you don’t confront capitalism, he added, “then the change you can achieve will be very limited.”
Advertisement

Monbiot, who has not yet seen “Brief History” — given the quantity of interviews he does, he admitted apologetically that he didn’t even remember this one — said it sounds like a well-meaning project. It is essential, he said, to fight against nihilism about our ability to act collectively by imagining radical new possibilities.

But, he said, it’s “not surprising” that a billionaire’s imagined future would leave capitalism intact.

“Those who wield the power always try to convince us that the system we have is the only system we can have,” he said.
(more)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/style/media/2024/04/08/kathryn-murdoch-brief-history-future-ari-wallach/