30 August 2021 | Draft
Modelling approaches of relevance to the global pandemic
Framing the probability of global modelling bias
Cognitive biases potentially distorting global modelling of crises
Integration of probability of bias into global modelling
Credible modes of global model presentation
From secretive single-issue modelling to open-source multi-issue modelling
Complicity of science in miscommunication of the reality modelled
Conformality of global modelling to cognitive appreciation of crises?
Complicity of science in evaluation of modelling via traditional frameworks
"Modelling" through crises versus "Muddling" through crises
Meta-modelling to interrelate a requisite variety of global models
Global model-making as world-making?
The background to this exploration dates from a conversation in the early 1970s with John McHale, subsequently active in instigation of the World Futures Studies Federation, chairing its meetings, and as a member of the editorial board of the journal Futures. As former Executive Director of the World Resources Inventory, McHale had collaborated with Buckminster Fuller resulting in the production of a series of documents, including an Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends and Needs (1963). The latter was part of the first phase of the World Design Science Decade (1965-1975).
The period was witness to the much-cited publication by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (Population, Resources, Environments: issues in human ecology, 1970). At the time of the conversation, however, McHale indicated that he was being asked to update the earlier study, but without any consideration of how his own thinking had evolved since then with regard to any such compilation. He had declined. To be clear, this is not to deny that he subsequently addressed resource-related issues in many documents. The learning derived from his having declined to update a pattern of data which no longer corresponded to his thinking.
That period was subsequently witness to the much-publicised study associated with the Club of Rome, namely The Limits to Growth (1972). The model from which this was derived was based on five variables: population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources. The selection of these variables by a group of academics as being central to such a model was especially striking from the perspective of involvement with the Yearbook of International Organizations. This profiled some 3,000 international bodies at that time, whether governmental or nongovernmental, with a spread of preoccupations necessarily far exceeding those which were the focus of that early model.
This contrast framed the initiative to produce a complementary Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential to identify a wider set of "variables", namely preoccupations perceived by the profiled international bodies, in addition to those considered relevant to the Limits model. The first edition in 1976 finally included some 2,600 "world problems" interlinked by a network of 58,000 cross-references (World Problems and Human Potential: a data interlinkage and display process, Futures (the journal of forecasting and planning), 7, 1975, 3).
As an "open-source", multi-issue model, rather than a single-issue model, its subsequent development online as the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential was partially funded by the European Commission and approved for funding by the World Bank. It now includes some 56,000 perceived "problems". These profiles are notably complemented by a set of 32,000 "strategies" (whether implemented or not) articulated by international constituencies in response to those problems, together with other data sets, including a set of 600 human values. Its development was a feature of the First Global Brain Workshop (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001).
The acceptance by the Club of Rome of the Limits methodology merits recognition in the light of the dynamics in relation to the rejection as "too humanistic" of a more comprehensive counter-proposal articulated as a "prospectus" by Hasan Ozbekhan, Alexander Christakis, Erich Jantsch, and Aurelio Peccei (The Predicament for Mankind: Quest for Structured Responses to Growing World-wide Complexities and Uncertainties, 1970).
Aspects of the subsequent history are noted in Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations: a 50-year overview (2018). The continuing degree of credibility of the Limits approach has been noted more recently (Donella H. Meadows, et al, Beyond The Limits To Growth, 1992; Ugo Bardi, The Limits to Growth Revisited, Springer, 2011). That of Christakis and Ozbekhan has also been revisited (A Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind: prospectus of the Club of Rome, 2006). Especially evident in the many reports to the Club is the avoidance of any integration of their many single issue perspectives.
As a reaction to the restrictive focus of the Limits approach, and in the light of general systems theory, the systems diagram by which it was characterized was used experimentally at that time as a template to suggest the possibility of modelling a more comprehensive system (World Dynamics and Psychodynamics: a step towards making abstract "world system" dynamic limitations meaningful to the individual, 1971).
Since that period, the focus of global modelling has become ever more specialized into sectoral preoccupations. Potential exceptions with respect to global simulation and world modelling include World3, the European FuturICT project, and the Joint Simulation System. The latter has seemingly now morphed, via the secretive Total Information Awareness program, into the Sentient World Simulation (SWS). This is intended as a "synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information" with a node representing "every man, woman and child" (Towards a History of World Futures Studies -- focusing on collective initiatives, 2010). The latter noted a number of methodological concerns of relevance to this argument. The multi-issue interactive transformation maps central to the controversial Greatl Reset initiative of the World Economic Forum merit particular attention in this respect (Transformation maps -- as "strategic mandalas"? 2020).
The vast investment in global modelling of climate change as a single-issue focus is now the primary outcome of modelling, as evidenced by the current report of the IPCC (Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, August 2021). Notable in that respect is the focus on the "physics" of climate change offering virtually zero insight into the psychosocial context. Understood as "anthropogenic global warming", there is however no effort at complementary modelling of the "climate of world opinion" from which it is assumed that any remedial strategies might emerge sustainably.
Consequently the currently scheduled COP-26 UN Climate Change Conference (Glasgow, 2021) will focus on the need for global governance "to do something" urgently regarding global warming (framed by the sense of a "Red Alert"). There is little understanding of why such warnings have proven to be naive in the absence of commensurate psychosocial insights into the variety of perceived problems with which different constituencies identify as urgent (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009; Coping Capacity of Governance as Dangerously Questionable: recognizing assumptions and unasked questions when facing crisis, 2019; Michael S. Wogalter, Handbook of Warnings, 2006).
The argument here is however provoked by the current single-issue modelling of the global pandemic and the unprecedented consensus to which it has given rise regarding universal vaccination as "doing the right thing" and "for the benefit of all" -- with zero consideration of alternative possibilities. Not only are these alternatives absent from public discourse, but any efforts at their articulation are reframed as misleadingly associated with misinformation -- therefore requiring vigorous suppression, and censorship of those promoting such methodological consideration.
Given appreciation of the engendered consensus by authorities, there is every expectation that the mainstream narrative will be applied mutatis mutandis to the "elephant in the living room" (Application of Universal Vaccination Narrative to Climate Change: implications for biodiversity, human equality and anti-otherness, 2021). An unfortunate indication of this pattern is the constraint on articulation of climate change denial (Wikipedia deletes "List of scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming" in astonishing act of censorship, Electroverse, 7 March 2020).
Expressed otherwise, the focus of the following argument is on the lack of self-reflexivity of global modelling regarding its own probable cognitive biases and how these affect what is included or excluded from any single-issue focus. In the absence of multi-issue modelling, how does global modelling deal with contrasting perspectives -- and any crisis of crises? What of the probability of the emergence of other models in the future following the failure of those that have been previously favoured -- as is only too evident from a historical perspective? Of considerable importance in this respect is the manner in which vested interests bias the selection of what is considered authoritatively relevant -- and the uncritical complicity of academia in this process -- as being in its own best interest.
The argument follows from recognition that the pandemic is equally significant as a memetic disease (COVID-19 as a Memetic Disease -- an epidemic of panic, 2020).
As noted by Wikipedia, mathematical models of infectious disease can project how infectious diseases progress to show the likely outcome of an epidemic and help inform public health interventions. Models use basic assumptions or collected statistics along with mathematics to find parameters for various infectious diseases and use those parameters to calculate the effects of different interventions, like mass vaccination programmes. The modelling can help decide which intervention(s) to avoid and which to trial, or can predict future growth patterns, etc.
The argument is usefully introduced by the following indications:
The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has put mathematical models in the spotlight. As the theoretical biologist Robert May wrote: "the virtue of a mathematical model...is that it forces clarity and precision upon conjecture, thus enabling meaningful comparison between the consequences of basic assumptions and the empirical facts" R. M. May, Science 303, 790 (2004).
For Tim Rhodes, et al: Modelling the pandemic: attuning models to their contexts (BMJ Global Health, 5, 2020, 6):
The evidence produced in mathematical models plays a key role in shaping policy decisions in pandemics. A key question is therefore how well pandemic models relate to their implementation contexts. Drawing on the cases of Ebola and influenza, we map how sociological and anthropological research contributes in the modelling of pandemics to consider lessons for COVID-19. We show how models detach from their implementation contexts through their connections with global narratives of pandemic response, and how sociological and anthropological research can help to locate models differently. This potentiates multiple models of pandemic response attuned to their emerging situations in an iterative and adaptive science. We propose a more open approach to the modelling of pandemics which envisages the model as an intervention of deliberation in situations of evolving uncertainty. This challenges the "business-as-usual" of evidence-based approaches in global health by accentuating all science, within and beyond pandemics, as "emergent" and "adaptive".
For Aniruddha Adiga, et al: Models for COVID-19 Pandemic: a comparative analysis. Journal of the Indian Institute of Science, 100, 2020).
We end the discussion of the models above by qualitatively comparing model types. As discussed in the preliminaries, at one end of the spectrum are models that are largely data driven: these models range from simple statistical models (various forms of regression models) to the more complicated deep learning models. The difference in such model lies in the amount of training data needed, the computational resources needed and how complicated the mathematical function one is trying to fit to the observed data. These models are strictly data driven and, hence, unable to capture the constant behavioral adaptation at an individual and collective level. On the other end of the spectrum SEIR, meta-population and agent-based network models are based on the underlying procedural representation of the dynamics -- in theory, they are able to represent behavioral adaptation endogenously. But both class of models face immense challenges due to the availability of data...
That comparative study concludes by usefully addressing the following issues:
Crowning these scientific disciplines is the field of modelling, for it was its estimates of mountains of dead bodies which fuelled the panic and led to the unprecedented restrictions on public life around the world. None of these early models, however, explicitly acknowledged the huge assumptions that were madeThe study disputes that assessment by arguing that most of the good models tried to be very explicit about their assumptions. The difficulty is that the institutional and academic dynamics of global modelling ensure that every model is claimed to be good. Furthermore, given the degree of secrecy associated with their algorithms as a protection for intellectual property it is questionable where, how and to whom such assumptions are rendered explicit
The study argues that building long term research capacity is essential. Missing from that recommendation however is any effort to incorporate into the modelling process the parameters indicative of the manner in which the modelling is inherently unsustainable, or at least potentially so under present circumstances. Expressed otherwise, as a form of conceptual contract, should global models incorporate some explicit form of "sunset clause"?
Venn diagrams: One approach to recognizing the probability of bias is to juxtaposition the various conditions under which modelling takes place within a Venn diagram. The simplest example is that on the left below. This positions a condition in which scientific modelling (S) would like to perceive itself as independent of governance-political interests (P) and of business-corporate interests (B).
This ideal is of course far from the reality in which science is highly dependent on government-political (SP) or corporate-business (SB) interests -- if only for funding, but potentially for pressure regarding avoidance of unwelcome research themes and conclusions. It is difficult to imagine institutional conditions under which independent modelling could be undertaken without some degree of massaging of data as a result of such pressures (NeilViner, et al, Institutionalized biases in the award of research grants: a preliminary analysis revisiting the principle of accumulative advantage, Research Policy, 33, 2004, 3).
It could be argued that richly endowed universities and think tanks could be seen as fulfilling conditions of independence -- except that use of endowments typically has constraining strings, as variously explored (Tank Warfare Challenges for Global Governance, 2019). Distinguishing S, B and P in this way is of course simplistic -- for purposes of illustration, as with the other categories distinguished below.
The complexity of the situation is appropriately represented by the central condition (SBP). Other than the ideal condition (S), the remaining zones constitute conditions of bias whose relative significance could be represented by changing the size of the zones and their degree of overlap -- perhaps dynamically. The depicted boundaries between the zones are necessarily porous -- conforming to the reality recognized by the revolving door transfer of individuals between them.
This triple format bears comparison with the triple helix model of innovation. This refers to a set of "interactions" between academia (the university), industry and government, to foster economic and social development, as described in concepts such as the knowledge economy and knowledge society. Although framed creatively, "interactions" could be recognized as implying a degree of bias. The Venn diagram could then be understood as a view along the axis of the helix (extending into the page). Some bias in relation to the triple helix model has been identified is offered (David Emanuel Andersson, et al., The Impossibility of the Triple Helix, Prometheus, 36, 2020, 3).
|Alternative frameworks for exploration of bias in modelling crises
(presentations which could be enhanced by distinctive colour-coding of zones of bias)
A more complex version of the Venn diagram is presented with the addition of opinion modelling (O), as was characterized by the techniques basic to the highly publicised Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. As represented in the central image, this frames various forms of bias determined by financial priorities (BO) and political priorities (PO), or their combination (BPO). Opinion modelling could of course be reframed to include that of belief systems, given the degree of influence of religions on governance, for example. Of relevance is of course the question as to the forms of bias implied by the triple representation when such considerations of public opinion are ignored.
The limitations of the central diagram are noteworthy in failing to position those forms of bias associated with overlap with modelling by science (SO) and overlap between governance and business (PB). The circles could be positioned differently in relation to one another to remedy this, although the difficulty of comprehensive visualization is perhaps indicative of the ease with which one or other form of bias can be ignored or denied. Rather than circles in 2D, representation in 3D as spheres could be envisaged (Peter Rodgers, et al, Introducing 3D Venn and Euler Diagrams, 2012).
An even more complex variant of the Venn diagram adds a notion of modelling criminality-illegality (I), as it might relate to the four other forms of modelling. The category of criminality-illegality could of course be framed otherwise to include the preoccupations of the security services with policing conformity -- extending into issues of surveillance and unauthorised invasion of privacy. Again the overlap with science (SI) is not shown because of the limitations of the visualization -- other than in the central zone (SBIOP). Also omitted, for the sake of clarity are the 5 fourfold forms of bias (SBIO, SBIP, SIOP, SBOP, BIOP). Of relevance again is of course the question as to the forms of bias implied in the triple and quadruple representations when considerations of illegality-criminality are ignored. Science has a tendency to be especially naive in its failure to allow for this dimension in any modelling.
The articulation of the triple helix model has in fact been extended to a quadruple and a quintuple model whose relevance could be explored in clarifying the forms of bias (Quadruple and quintuple innovation helix framework). Appreciation of them as models of "interactions" frames valuable questions as to the relation between "interactions" and the complex integration of "biases" that such interaction might constitute.
With respect to the pandemic, the probability of the different forms of bias (in which modelling by science has a tendency to be complicit) is indicated by:
Whereas the helical models continue to be the subject of active exploration with respect to innovation, their relevance to recognition of bias remains to be explored, notably with regard to modelling of crises by science. The overlaps identified frame the question as to whether innovation is in fact possible without bias -- namely in the "advancement of human knowledge" as a primary slogan of science.
Far more problematic is the failure of science to model explicitly the potential for bias indicated by the zones of the various Venn diagrams -- to the point of ignoring them or even denying their relevance in the modelling of crises. Such denial could even be explored as a requirement for "creative ignorance" to enable innovation.
It is of the course the case that "science" is vigorous in its denial of any responsibility for how its methodology may be abused in the interests of other domains -- as exemplified in the case of the development of weapons of mass destruction. Responsibility for the development and use of vaccines by science may in future be defined according to such principles, as with the modelling which has given rise to lockdowns, masking regulations and the quest for herd immunity.
The complexification offered by the helical models is suggestively consistent with mathematical understandings of braiding, notably as they apply to juggling -- frequently recognized with respect to the strategic juggling of priorities which the various zones can also be understood to represent (Governance as "juggling" -- Juggling as "governance": Dynamics of braiding incommensurable insights for sustainable governance, 2018).
The "interactions" of science with the other sectors, to the extent that they bias and distort any modelling in times of crisis, suggest the possibility that they might be fruitfully visualized in 3D, as explored separately (Psychosocial Learnings from the Spiral Form of Hurricanes: Implications of the triple helix and the 3-fold triskelion as "cognitive cyclones"? 2017; Visualization in 3D of Dynamics of Toroidal Helical Coils, 2016).
The question to be raised, and the point to be stressed, is whether (and to what extent) modelling of crises (and the pandemic in particular) take explicit account of the range of such biases -- and of the probability of their denial. Token indication of this would appear to be limited to qualifying statements of conflicts of interest which may be appended to scientific papers. Unfortunately such statements are not supported by the kinds of "hard evidence" most valued by the methodology of science -- and are readily challenged by critics (as could itself be readily predictable in any model).
The following is slightly adapted from a section on Future blindness and the deaf effect as cognitive biases -- a section of a discussion of Group of 7 Dwarfs: Future-blind and Warning-deaf (2018). Global modelling of crises could be understood as a vital tool in alleviating such "future blindness". However it could be asked whether global modelling initiatives are themselves vulnerable to "future blindness" to an unexplored degree.
In a quest for insight into "future blindness" it is somewhat extraordinary to note the far greater proportion of references to the future of blindness and to blindness in the future -- notably given the eventual possibility of enabling the blind to see. Especially interesting therefore is the brief checklist by Morne Mostert (Future Blindness: an index of bias for leaders, University of Stellenbosch, 15 October 2015) and the thesis of Arno Nuijten (Deaf Effect for Risk Warnings A Causal Examination applied to Information Systems Projects. Erasmus University Repository, 2012).
Reference to information systems is a reminder of the extent in which global society is now readily defined as a knowledge-based information society. Arguably the Group of Seven (G7) has responsibilities for society understood as a global information system -- or would make that claim. The focus on the "deaf effect" in institutional information projects is also a reminder of the focus for which Stafford Beer has been renowned (Brain of the Firm, 1981). How indeed is the "global brain" to be rendered appropriately attentive to the future? What are the implications of Beer's subsequent work on viable system theory?
Cognitive biases: are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics. It is unclear whether they have been a focus of attention with respect to the Group of Seven or the "international community". As noted by Wikipedia with respect to cognitive biases, although the reality of these biases is confirmed by replicable research, there are often controversies about how to classify these biases or how to explain them. Some are effects of information-processing rules (i.e., mental shortcuts), termed heuristics, that the brain uses to produce decisions or judgments. Biases have a variety of forms and appear as cognitive ("cold") bias, such as mental noise, or motivational ("hot") bias, such as when beliefs are distorted by wishful thinking. Both effects can be present at the same time.
There are also controversies over some of these biases as to whether they count as useless or irrational, or whether they result in useful attitudes or behavior. For example, when getting to know others, people tend to ask leading questions which seem biased towards confirming their assumptions about the person. However, this kind of confirmation bias has also been argued to be an example of social skill: a way to establish a connection with the other person. Wikipedia clusters the biases as follows:
Future blindness: The following is an adaptation of Mostert's "index of bias" for leadership, most notably supplemented with links to relevant literature. Seemingly the list necessarily encompasses many of the biases which feature in Nuijten's study of the "deaf effect" with respect to recognition and acknowledgement of warning signals. The checklist of 30 raises valuable questions in relation to any "cognitive dwarfism" potentially characteristic of the Group of Seven.
|Checklist of biases framing future blindness
(summary of Morne Mostert, Future Blindness: an index of bias for leaders, 2015)
The literature indicates other efforts to cluster biases in the range 25-30:
Other authors produce clusters of 20:
Some authors reduce the cognitive biases of significance to an even smaller number::
For Chris Weller: The 5 Biggest Biases That Affect Decision-Making (NeuroLeadership Institute, 9 April 2019):
Cognitive Bias Codex: The cognitive biases indicated by Wikipedia are accompanied by the following configuration of 180+ biases (below left) designed by John Manoogian III -- incorporating the majority listed there. Centered on the depiction of a human brain, the configuration raises the question as to how this pattern might be taken into account in the design of any global model. Of particular interest, in the light of the extensive role envisaged for artificial intelligence, is the extent to which such biases may be inadvertently embodied in algorithms with implications for governance.
As an exercise towards a coherent memorable representation, the larger set of cognitive biases can be tentatively configured as follows (centre and right), necessarily raising the question of how they may be clustered and interrelated in any such mapping.
|Representations of Cognitive Bias Codex
(view enlargements in separate browser windows)
|Cognitive Bias Codex: design by John Manoogian III categories and descriptions; implementation by Buster Benson||Animation of tentative mapping of biases
on 180 vertices of truncated truncated icosahedron
|Animation of tentative mapping of clusters of biases
on 20 faces of icosahedron
|An Extension of the work of John Manoogian by Brian Morrissette [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons||Animations prepared using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Comprehension challenges of complexity: The very question as to "how many" biases merit recognition is a reminder that there are constraints on human comprehension, reinforced by preferences, as discussed separately (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization: number games people play for survival, 2014). The explores the matter through the following sections:
|Enabling disaster through basic mathematical operations
Numbers in play in psychosocial organization
Conceptual clustering and cognitive constraints
Pattern memorability between symbolic mystification and "stretching"
Imaginative depiction of the cognitive challenge
|Requisite complexification of imagery to embody greater significance
Creative pretence dissociating numbers from sexuality
Significance of "encompassing" the numbers required for meaningful governance
Boundary pushing by sport, religion and governance
Reframing boundaries to engage with patterns of collapse
Cognitive bias reinforced via the media: Much has been made of media bias, whether on the part of the mainstream media or various social media. This is readily understood in terms of information warfare and memetic warfare. This is notably evident on how problems are reframed to expose or protect particular strategies and the bodies promoting them, as discussed separately (Vital Collective Learning from Biased Media Coverage: acquiring vigilance to deceptive strategies used in mugging the world, 2014). The latter explores the following aspects:
|Biased coverage of controversy by news media
Clues to possible vigilant interpretation of media coverage
Strategic leadership as a "shell game"?
|Acquiring vigilance through recognition of media bias
Elaboration of a system of media "con codes"
Future credibility of media presentations by authority
Information and memetic diseases: An alternative to use of "warfare", as a framing metaphor for the cultivation of biases, is the use of "disease" -- potentially as an analogue to biochemical warfare. This approach is discussed separately (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008) in terms of the following aspects:
|Approaches to information-related diseases
Classification of information diseases (and memetic diseases)
Excesses in the information diet
Deficiencies in the information diet
Alternative and complementary models of information health and disease
Supplements to an information diet and inexplicable information needs
Mental disorders as disorders of information processing
Emergence of "social diseases" in association with "social networking"?
Understood as "diseases", the memetic implications can be explored as an analogue to lifestyle diseases (Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases of Rich and Poor: transforming personal entanglement with the natural environment, 2010).
Constraints on science? As a valued feature of the scientific method, it is appropriate to note considerations of the constraints of that method in engaging with global crises.
One approach to this took the following form (Challenges of Science Upheld as an Exclusive Mode of Inquiry: pseudorelevance of science to global crises? 2021). This included sections on:
|Existence of "science"?
Questionable quality of evidence-based science
Complicity of science in its politicisation and misuse
Constrained capacity to deal with diversity
Gender bias in science
Lack of self-reflexivity
Pseudorelevance to the pandemic
This is a generalization of the argument considering the Vulnerability of collective initiatives to memetic diseases (2021) in a discussion of misinformation processes in which science is potentially complicit (Towards a Science of Misinformation and Deception: the challenge of an information pandemic -- a COVID-19 infodemic, 2021).
The questions raised follow from an earlier exploration (Knowledge Processes Neglected by Science: insights from the crisis of science and belief, 2012) which included the following sections:
|Unquestioning preoccupation with explanation
Undue preoccupation with validation
Selective appreciation of creative imagination
Unexamined preoccupation with professional reputation and recognition
Deprecation of alternatives and anomalies challenging conventional models
|Methodological dependence on questionable engagement with society
Uncritical belief of science in the appropriateness of its own process
Institutionalized incoherence and disagreement
Ill-considered recognition of constraints and opportunities of an information-based society
Self-referential inadequacy of "metascience"
Bias in crisis modelling? It is indeed the case that there is a degree of concern with biases in global modelling of crises like the pandemic -- if only in defensive response to critics. Examples include:
The focus in the latter on anchoring is especially significant to bias in data collection. As noted:
COVID-19 has a broad spectrum of clinical presentations, including central nervous system manifestations that are not uncommon. The high pretest probability of COVID-19 in pandemic can lead to anchoring.... Anchoring to the diagnosis of COVID-19 may deter clinicians from considering other concurrent diagnoses and a poor outcome consequently.
Another criticism of a particular bias is noted with respect to the influential modelling by the Doherty Institute -- a project of the University of Melbourne (whose mission is explicitly expressed in terms of the "Triple Helix" of research, learning and teaching and knowledge transfer):
Critics say national cabinet roadmap appears ‘risky’ with Doherty Institute only considering best strategy for next six months... National cabinet’s pandemic exit strategy only considered modelling for the “transition” phase over the next six months, with the Doherty Institute yet to consider how relaxed restrictions will affect transmission in the community. (Sarah Martin, Australia’s pandemic exit plan modelling doesn’t examine what happens after restrictions are eased The Guardian, 3 August 2021)
Systemically comprehensive set of biases? As indicated by the Cognitive Bias Codex above, rather than any particular selection of biases, of far greater relevance is how a comprehensive set of biases is taken into account in global modelling -- if only in terms of the probability of their incidence, whether or not they can be detected. As suggested by the checklists above, examples might then include:
Such biases frame the question as to how the associated cognitive biases might be appropriately integrated as possibilities (if not probabilities) into the design of resilient global models. Of relevance in this respect are:
Of particular interest in the case of pandemic modelling has been the precautionary diffidence in consideration of issues otherwise the subject of major controversy, namely overcrowding and overpopulation. The former is especially evident in unrealistic requirements for social distancing, as argued separately (Social Distancing under Conditions of Overcrowding? Weaponising mass distraction from overpopulation denial? 2020; Local Reality of Overcrowding -- Global Unreality of Overpopulation, 2019).
Whether either is a determining factor in the disastrous consequences of a global crisis is seemingly a focus of censorship in the mainstream narrative (Prohibition of Reference to Overcrowding:, 2019; Prohibition of Reference to Overpopulation of the Planet, 2018). The issue has been variously evident in the granularity of modelling and the administrative decisions to which it has given rise, especially with the later transition of focus from country-level data to "clusters" and "hot spots".
Of potential relevance to the wider credibility of any global model is any excessive reliance on a particular mode of presentation (notably text and equations), thereby avoiding any concern with the need of others for comprehensible visualization or sonification of data. As stressed by Harold Lasswell, many valuable participants in decision-making need audio-visual displays to encompass the quantitative and abstract analytical insights so that "an immediate sense of time, space and figure is retained" (The transition toward more sophisticated procedures. In: Davis B. Bobrow and J. L. Schwartz (Ed.), Computers and the Policy-making Community; applications to international relations, 1968, pp. 307-314).
With respect to audio-visual representation of global modelling by science, it is appropriate to ask whether it is misleadingly assumed that the communication biases of science exhaust the possibilities and advantages of communication as a guidance to governance (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990; A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006).
The question goes to the heart of the problematic interplay between the "two cultures" of the sciences and the arts, ironically embodied to a high degree in the preoccupations of the futures research of John McHale, otherwise renowned for his work in the arts. It is now most creatively addressed by the Bridges Organization. This oversees the annual Bridges conference on mathematical connections in art, music, architecture, and culture. As yet, however, the only reference to COVID in the archive of the conferences relates to development of an insight into braiding (mentioned above in relation to juggling) from dance by Karl Schaffer (Dancing Topologically, Bridges 2021 Conference Proceedings). There is however some irony to the fact that the widespread nursery rhyme Ring-a-Ring-o'-Roses has been explained (controversially) to derive from the Great Plague (England, 1665), or from earlier outbreaks of the Black Death.
It is remarkable to note the very particular tone-of-voice through which the guidance provided by global modelling is communicated by politicians and propagandists to the general public in the case of the pandemic -- with the assumption that that mode will not be in itself alienating to many, irrespective of the content (Varieties of Tone of Voice and Engagement with Global Strategy, 2020). The latter notes with regard to nonverbal communication,that it has been estimated that 7 percent of meaning is communicated through the spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language.
With what tone-of-voice will the urgency of a response to climate change be communicated, as a result of the modelling by IPCC? Is there some danger that politicians and propagandists -- for any global strategy framed as a war -- invite unfortunate comparison with Lord Haw-Haw, Tokyo Rose, Hanoi Hannah or Pyongyang Sally?
It is appropriate to note the manner in which "modules" with distinctive functions are used in translation-interpretation software to interrelate otherwise incommensurable languages. This suggests the relevance of interrelating global models with contrasting emphases, especially given the neural learning possibilities of artificial intelligence, in order to derive more coherent and comprehensible policy guidance.
The progress of the pandemic has successively revealed vulnerable economic and social functions -- in addition to exceptionally vulnerable people. This suggests the need for recognition of an equivalent to indicator species in the biological environment. As with the traditional caged canary in a mine, these are individual species, or a group of species, whose function, population, or status can reveal the qualitative status of the environment. Possibilities in the socio-economic environment obviously include the elderly, the disabled, the mentally or emotionally vulnerable, the (computer) illiterate, and the socially dependent -- all of which have been "unexpectedly" affected to an undue degree by the pandemic and the cumbersome strategic responses.
It is an evident characteristic of many global models that they are the work of a small group of academic specialists within an institution -- possibly recognized as a think tank. The funding and other constraints of any such context reinforce tendencies to secrecy as a protection of intellectual property, of the career path of the individuals, and of the promotion of the prospects of the institution. The efforts to protect intellectual property can be understood as a major constraint on requisite global strategic resilience, as argued separately (Future Coping Strategies: beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors, 1992). The algorithms creatively developed may well be a particular focus of concern. The secrecy considered necessary may well inhibit vital corrective feedback.
In order to fund such an initiative it is necessarily framed to appeal to foundations and other bodies which are themselves concerned with ensuring the specificity and topical relevance of any model. Funding is typically ensured within a contract of short-term nature. It is therefore difficult to envisage model construction exploring a multiplicity of issues, especially those of seemingly limited relevance to potential clients, and more especially to allow for the possibility of unforeseeable emergent issues. These factors can all be recognized as operating as biases in model design.
It is therefore of value to consider approaches which go to the other extreme, namely in favouring multi-issue profiling in a sustainable open-source context. Such extremes are associated with other challenges, notably the extent to which they may be usefully recognized as "models" from a conventional perspective.
An obvious example is provided by the remarkable appeal of Wikipedia -- especially in the light of the highly problematic edit wars for which it provides a context (Róbert Sumi, et al, Edit wars in Wikipedia, 9 February 2012). In contrast with conventional single-issue models, its value can be readily challenged in terms of its predictive limitations -- however many of its entries may be indicative of current and emergent challenges. As a model, even as a source of data, it is readily deprecated from an academic perspective and the priorities which that cultivates.
Another example is the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (noted above), given the integration of its data sets with the Yearbook of International Organizations. Although assiduous in responding to the variety of extant international perspectives on problems and advocated strategies, it is especially attentive to their placement within a systemic context -- in contrast to the approach of Wikipedia. However its entries draw directly and automatically on Wikipedia profiles where complementary information can be found. The linkages integrate entries into multiple hierarchies and causal chains.
Rather than excluding perceptions as "wrong", the profiles provide for both potentially exaggerated claims as to their relative importance and/or their irrelevance as otherwise perceived. This enables inclusion of a very wide variety of perspectives, whether or not they are considered dangerously misleading from some other perspective, however authoritative it may claim itself to be. This enables the real-world dynamics between claims and counter-claims to be explored using network analytic tools (Preliminary NetMap Studies of Databases on Questions, World Problems, Global Strategies, and Values, 2006).
|Indication of the visual displays of selected Encyclopedia data using Netmap|
of Energy Strategies
(represents 1472 strategies and 4790 links;
click on image for larger version)
(represents 2367 strategies and 6740 links;
click on image for larger version)
|emergent groups||detail||emergent groups||detail|
|Study of Water-related Problems
(represents 1690 problems and 4115 links;
click on image for larger version)
|Study of Water-related Strategies
(represents 1506 and 5730 links;
click on image for larger version)
|emergent groups||detail||emergent groups||detail|
It is therefore as a network of relationships that the interrelated data sets constitute a contrasting model, as mentioned above (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001).
Particular consideration is given to the detection and visual representation of complex causal loops between problems or strategies, as indicated by the following images showing selections resulting from the interactive extraction of loops of different sizes using a force-directed layout technique. as developed and described by Tomáš Fülöpp (Loop Mining in the Encyclopedia of World Problems) prepared for the 17th International Futures Conference (Tackling Wicked Problems: where futures research, education and action meet, Turku, 2015).
|Selective views of systemic relationships between perceived problems|
|179 loops containing 3 nodes||1212 loops containing 6 nodes.|| 379 loops containing 5 nodes
(animation of interactive selection)
|Images derived from the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential|
This approach is contrasted separately with the transformation maps currently promoted by the World Economic Forum:
|Transformation maps -- as "strategic mandalas"?
Missing "halves" of the Global Reset mandalas?
Learning from other social change initiatives -- past and present
|Knowledge cybernetics: the self-referential requirement of any viable reset|
In the case of the online Encyclopedia initiative, extensive commentaries are available on the methodology employed, including:
|Overview / Summary
Conceptual processes summarized
"Positive" vs "Negative" strategies
Integrating constraint and opposition
Patterning the resolutique
Specific commentaries focus on: Biases, Strengths and weaknesses, Criticism, International organizations as a source, Global modelling perspective, as well as considering Future possibilities. Given the emphasis on perceptions of problems, the data could be considered to constitute a global compilation of collective biases.
Criticism of the Encyclopedia initiative offers useful pointers to critical appreciation of global modelling of crises more generally, as argued separately (Flatulence is a Problem Aired: resmelling the stench of past undertakings, 2013). Given that air pollution is but one of many problems to which people are sensitive, it frames the question of how crises could be more appropriately modelled and for whom -- a question which critics fail to address.
Much has been made of the level of misinformation and disinformation regarding the pandemic, as discussed separately (Reframing Fundamental Belief as Disinformation? Pandemic challenge to advertising, ideology, religion and science, 2020; Identifying information specifically held to be misinformation, 2021). Much has also been made of the miscommunication by authorities regarding the response to the pandemic in terms of frequent changes of recommendations and regulations regarding lockdown, masking and vaccination. Noted above was the unpreparedness of those with modelling skills, exacerbated by the low level of transparency with regard to the assumptions made and the data selected as relevant.
The pattern is variously evident in the case of earlier crises -- and presumably to be expected with respect to implementation of any future global response to climate change. One example is offered by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (2010) in the Caribbean, acknowledged as the greatest recent environmental disaster, as discussed separately (Enabling Collective Intelligence in Response to Emergencies: illustrated by the case of deep oil spill containment, 2010):
|Expertise and arrogant assumptions
Enabling timely gathering of remedial collective intelligence
Mistaken intelligence gathering assumptions in a knowledge society
Extreme considerations in intelligence gathering
|Wiki-model for eliciting strategic responses to urgent issues
Unforeseen disasters and unheeded warnings
Geoengineering: a disaster in waiting
Technological negligence as environmental terrorism?
Another example is offered by the disaster the following year arising from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011), as discussed separately (Anticipating Future Strategic Triple Whammies: in the light of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear misconceptions, 2011):
|Multi-whammy preparedness: a Strategic Whammy Scale?
Transcending the obvious
"Acts of God"?
|Systemic neglect -- of warnings
Identifying strategic options characterized by marginalization of warnings
A third example, potentially of greater relevance to future responses to climate change, is offered by the unusual flooding in Europe in 2016 (Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect: implications for authoritative response to future surprises, 2016):
|Systemic analogues to "flooding"
Impact of flooding understood generically
Response by authorities to "flooding" or "dearth"
Assessment of risk
Systemic risk level
Decision-making within misleading periods of risk
|Surreptitious juggling of periods of testing, responsibility and liability in relation to risk
Flood control: the reality
"Flood control": exemplified by "governance" of road traffic
Insights into "flood navigation" from road signs?
Psychoactive hazards in recognizing and engaging with risk
The themes discussed in each case raise questions about the complicity of science in exacerbating emergency unpreparedness -- especially in the light of massive investment in other priorities (Challenges More Difficult for Science than Going to Mars, 2014). Given the communication confusion associated with the pandemic, it is appropriate to ask in what single location is to be found descriptions of the extant models relating to the pandemic, as previously advocated (Wiki-model for eliciting strategic responses to urgent issues, 2010).
Why is the research justifying lockdowns, masking, sanitising and the advantages (and disadvantages) of particular vaccines not assembled in a public accessible facility -- whether or not this could be appropriately managed by the World Health Organization? Why is it currently inconceivable that authoritative arguments challenging aspects of such research should be assembled in the same location and appropriately cross-linked to facilitate debate -- and challenged in its turn?
Irrespective of the viciously perverse handling of any challenge to vaccination itself, how is the justification of the research regarding worldwide social distancing to be discovered, as explored with respect to 1.5 meters. As with the arbitrary identification of a 1.5 degree threshold for global warming, such figures are all the more puzzling when crudely converted into other scales, as with the Biblical 6 feet requirement for the separation from lepers (Humanity's Magic Number as 1.5? Dimensionless constant governing civilization and its potential collapse, 2020).
More puzzling, in a period when governments and model-makers are surprised by "mysterious" breakthrough cases of COVID-19, is the failure to take account of potential transmission of infection by the exposed eyes -- following the mandatory covering of nose and mouth (COVID-19 Infection via the Eyes and Mask Protection Misinformation, 2021). Why indeed were potential threats of this nature not documented in the same facility for the benefit of those required to where masks -- especially when front-line health workers have been recommended to protect their eyes?
Given widespread use of slogans to the effect that "we are all in this together", "do the right thing", and "it is for the benefit of all", why have such calls for participation not been matched by the development of facilities whereby the public can explore variations in the the parameters in models from which arbitrary regulations are currently derived by anonymous experts? Has science proven itself to be too arrogantly self-confident to enable the masses to use internet technology to game the parameters of a crisis -- despite having been invited to do so with respect to protein folding (through Foldit) and astronomy in collaboration with AI (Kevin Pimbblet, Across the Zooniverse: keeping an eye on citizen astronomy, Phys.org, 19 April 2013).
The case for widespread engagement will become ever more relevant with the disastrous consequences of global warming. A valuable insight in this respect is offered separately (A. N. Christakis and M. Kakoulakiby, Objectifying Intersubjectivity through Inclusion for a Scientific [R]Evolution: avoiding polarization by engaging stakeholders for saliency, priority and trust, Institute for 21st Century Agora).
It is curious to note the manner in which a very evident crisis -- a hurricane -- is used as a meaningful metaphor to describe other crises, as in the case of financial disasters. For example, there were some 10,000 web references to "financial hurricane", 8,000 to "financial maelstrom", 90 to "financial cyclone", some 40,000 to "financial tsunami" in October 2008 (Larry Elliot, Surviving the hurricane, The Guardian, 10 October 2008; Carter Dougherty, Global plan sought to quell maelstrom, International Herald Tribune, 11 October 2008).
At the time this suggested the possibility that metaphors from nature offered an unexpected set of resources of relevance to modelling of crises (Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies: a metaphorical Rosetta Stone for future strategy? 2008), framed in the following terms:
Dangerous neglect of underlying patterns
Metaphorical descriptions of systems
Interplay of metaphors in strategic discourse
Systemic insights to be derived from the financial system crisis: an example
Systemic challenge: opportunities (hopes) vs threats (fears)
Self-reflexivity in systems representation
|Interplay of metaphors as an integrative system of correspondences
Cross-system strategic "puzzles": enabling a different form of connectivity
Modelling credibility crises of the future
Avoidance of responsibility
Given widespread familiarity with the patterns of nature, there is the possibility that the weather may offer an unexpected means of engaging with the complexity which it is to be expected that modelling would encompass (Enabling Governance through the Dynamics of Nature: exemplified by cognitive implication of vortices and helicoidal flow, 2010; Weather Metaphors as Whether Metaphors, 2015). That possibility could prove to be consistent with the triple, quadruple and quintuple helical forms noted above (Psychosocial Learnings from the Spiral Form of Hurricanes: implications of the triple helix and the 3-fold triskelion as "cognitive cyclones"? 2017)
|Achieving perspective on a vortex through triadic framing
Contrasting the implications of "triple helix" -- cognitive and otherwise
Systemic closure: fourth helix -- and beyond?
Relevance of any helical model to global governance?
|Reconciling triskelion and triple helix: a topological transformation
Suggestive representation of dynamics of a "cognitive wormhole" associated with a quintuple helix
Attribution of significance: considering meaningful pattern mapping
From global weather patterns to global whether patterns?
The question is whether the conception and design of global models should "conform" in some way to the helical forms through which they are framed in nature. This contrasts with other approaches to any mind map of potential civilizational collapse (Mind Map of Global Civilizational Collapse: why nothing is happening in response to global challenges, 2010). The spiralling characteristic recognized -- if only experientially -- in crises of crises -- then suggests depictions such as the following in anticipation of any "perfect storm", reproduced from a detailed discussion with related animations (Convergence of 30 Disabling Global Trends: mapping the social climate change engendering a perfect storm, 2012).
|Representation of trends engendering together a hurricane-like vortex
into which society is drawn or from which it might escape
|Mutual reinforcement of a system of 30 disabling global trends||Mutual reinforcement of a system of 30 enabling global trends
|Reproduced from Convergence of 30 Disabling Global Trends (2012)|
The case for conformality, as a means of bridging between contrasting modes of discourse in relation to global modelling, is most fruitfully made in the much-cited study by Gareth Morgan (Images of Organization, 1986). This offers the following frameworks through which organizations can be perceived: machines, organisms, brains, cultures, political systems, psychic prisons, flux and transformation, and instruments of domination.
Through how many such images can the organization of a crisis of crises be perceived, as discussed separately (Interrelating Multiple Ways of Looking at a Crisis: beyond the pandemic discipline of the one right way, 2021). Arguably global modelling is faced with a "cyclopean" challenge (Transcending One-eyed Global Modelling Perspectives: incorporating under-currents into global circulation of value, 2010; Cyclopean Vision vs Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006).
Another approach to the case for conformality is the sense in which every distinctive global crisis can be understood as a distinctive "question" to global civilization. With the quest for a remedial response then to be understood as an "answer", the relation can be explored in terms of the conformality of question to answer, as explored separately in the light of catastrophe theory (Conformality of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential psychosocial implications, 2006). Can global crises be usefully categorized in terms of the mathematics of elementary catastrophes?
The quest for an elusive remedial response to a complex crisis has a tendency to be framed through the metaphor of the quest for the Holy Grail (Trust: Holy Grail of Governance?; Confidence: Holy Grail of Finance? 2011). That metaphor -- as indicative of the ultimate global model -- can be speculatively explored in relation to the topological form of a catastrophe (Interrelating Cognitive Catastrophes in a Grail-chalice Proto-model, 2006; In-forming the Chalice as an Integrative Cognitive Dynamic: sustaining the Holy Grail of global governance, 2011).
The clarification of the context of potential bias offered above (using Venn diagrams) indicated the potential role of opinion. Reference was made in that regard to belief systems and more specifically to religion as a constraint on the development of global models by science. Science is vigorous in defending its evidence-based approach and in dissociating itself from the traditional beliefs it claims to have superceded through its methodology.
Traditional frameworks: Such claims are however called into question when the framing of any modelling initiative, or its results, are determined to some degree by traditional perspectives or filtered through them. This is most obvious when the primary value of the modelling is to provide guidance to decision-makers and the people who may have elected them. Religious beliefs of scientists may well be an unexplored influence on model-building as well as on the appreciation by decision-makers of the guidance provided. Such influences can be readily inferred in the following cases:
Such contexts may be significant in determining what factors are taken into account in the model, or what weight is given to them. This would be most evident where the religion has particular beliefs -- as in the case of family planning, eugenics, triage, or potentially with respect to just war theory.
It is striking to note that both the oaths of office of political leaders, and the oaths sworn prior to the presentation of scientific evidence in legal proceedings, may require particular reference to deity -- and the assistance expected from that source ("so help me God"). Daily parliamentary proceedings may be preceded by an "opening prayer" (Opening Prayer Archive, Office of the Chaplain, United States House of Representatives). A Presidential Prayer Team is a supporting feature of legislative processes in the USA. Analogous processes may well be evident in countries where other religions are dominant.
Irrespective of such formalities, it is of course the case that political leaders may be of a particular faith -- and required to be so to ensure election. It is completely unclear how this affects appreciation of any global modelling provided, or provision of the funding for its development. How, for example, would the pattern of daily prayers in The White House affect such decision-making -- when that is precisely their intention (Josh Delk, Pence: 'There's prayer on a regular basis in this White House', The Hill, 5 March 2018; Trump and Prayer in The White House, ApocalypseNowMedia, 5 February 2017; Gary Demar, Media Show their Ignorance over Prayer Meeting with Trump at The White House, 15 July 2017).
It is potentially significant to note that the presentation of evidence to intergovernmental assemblies is not framed by any such formalities -- especially oath swearing with regard to truth. This could be seen as fundamental -- given the misleading presentation by Colin Powell (US Secretary of State) to the UN Security Council (5 February 2003) justifying the original intervention in Iraq. It is of course the case that major world leaders of the time (acting on such evidence) were strongly committed Christians -- faced with a challenge from countries whose people and leadership were strongly inspired by the deprecated Islamic faith.
Of particular significance with respect to policy-making regarding the pandemic in Australia, for example, are the fundamental Christian beliefs of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a Pentecostalist whose global intentions are framed by the Seven Mountains Mandate, based on the ideology of dominionism, as variously discussed by the Australian Independent Media Network:
A direct consequence is clarified with regard to the appointment of Lieutenant General John Frewen as Coordinator General in the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce on 4 June 2021 (Daniel Hurst, Letter reveals what Scott Morrison told John Frewen when he gave him vaccine role, The Guardian, 1 September 2021).
Based on the biblical Book of Revelation, the Mandate is recognized as a plan to seize control of every aspect of the US; government, law and media and has been fundamental to the evangelical support for Donald Trump, as variously reported (Jamie Seidel, The 'Seven Mountain' prophecy, News, 20 December 2018).
Historically valued frameworks: Framed in this way, there is a case for exploring the role of other traditional approaches to policy guidance (Susantha Goonatilake, Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). Whereas they may be deprecated by science (as with the role of prayer), their value as guidance may be of fundamental importance to policy-making in practice. A striking example is provided by the role of astrology, most notably as it influenced an earlier president of the USA, namely Ronald Reagan, in timing his breakthrough encounter with Mikhail_Gorbachev at the Reykjavik Summit (Mary Kay Linge, How Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy let her astrologer control the presidency, New York Post, 10 April 2021; Joan Quigley, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years as White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan, 1990; Joan Quigley and the Reagans’ Use of Astrology, 8 March 2016).
It is of course the case that there is a long history of the use of astrology in decision-making relating to matters of state in many countries of the world (Gustav-Adolf Schoener, Astrology: Between Religion and the Empirical; Debra Kelly, 10 Influential Astrologers That Shaped History, Listverse, 11 October 2016; Philip Ball, How astrology paved the way for predictive analytics, The Guardian, 12 January 2020).
Readily understood as forms of predictive global modelling, extensive use of a variety of techniques was common in the Mediterranean civilizations, and most strikingly in the Roman Empire. For example, birds were of considerable significance at that time with respect to prediction of the strategic future through augury. Undertaken by an augur, this was the practice from ancient Roman religion of interpreting omens from the observed flight of birds. This included whether they were flying in groups or alone, what noises they made as they flew, direction of flight, and what kind of birds they were. The process was known as "taking the auspices". Irrespective of modern deprecation, the process was valued by an empire that lasted centuries longer than any of more recent times. One can only speculate on how the widespread disappearance of birds, as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change, would be interpreted from that perspective
With comparisons now made between the potential collapse of the current civilization and that of Imperial Rome, there is then a case for learning from the imaginative ways in which that culture, and others, endeavoured to engage with the netherworld (Designing Global Self-governance for the Future: patterns of dynamic integration of the netherworld, 2010; Engaging with the Future with Insights of the Past: consulting the dead, sacrifice, bone-cracking and divination, 2010).
Chinese frameworks: Of current significance, an alternative source of insight is offered by the frameworks favoured in Eastern cultures as intimately related to the art of feng shui or geomancy, as applied to physical topography and strategically appropriate placement. The seriousness with which this is taken in developed Chinese societies is evident in contemporary building construction, urban planning and environmental design, notably in Singapore and Hong Kong. Its value is recognized in education (cf Renée Heiss, Feng Shui for the Classroom: creating a focused learning environment, 2004).
Feng shui is now being applied to the design of virtual environments. This is illustrated by a keynote presentation to an ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (Seoul, 2000) by Michael Heim (The Feng Shui of Virtual Environments, 2000) that emphasizes its value in understanding flow, notably in group dynamics. It is recognized that corporations worldwide are now employing feng shui consultants to give them a competitive edge in responding to changing and challenging times (cf T. Raphael Simons, Feng Shui Strategies for Business Success, 2005). It is valued in relation to investment strategies. Although its value for ordering "physical space" is widely recognized, far less evident is how this might apply to the ordering of "knowledge space" -- to knowledge architecture (Andrew Gent, What is Knowledge Architecture, 18 March 2008).
Given increasing appreciation of the role of China in world affairs, it is somewhat surprising to note the seeming lack of recognition of a traditional Chinese approach to global modelling. This is curious given the importance attributed to the role of the Yi-Jing (I Ching) over centuries, as noted by Xiaoying Qi:
This text, and the philosophical ideas in it, has had a significant influence in shaping all subsequent Chinese teachings, including Confucianism and Daoism, as well as other schools. (Paradoxical Integration: globalised knowledge flows and Chinese concepts in social theory, 2011, p. 190)
The author cites Chung-ying Cheng (founder of contemporary Chinese management philosophy and author of C Theory: the Yijing philosophy of management, 1995) to the effect that the major trends in the development of the history of Chinese philosophy have been:
... guided, inspired, sustained, and enriched by this primary model of onto-cosmological and ontohermeneutical thinking, knowing, understanding, and interpretation in the Yi-Jing (Inquiring into the Primary Model: Yi-Jing and Chinese Ontological Hermeneutics, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 2003)
Xiaoying Qi continues:
It is in this work that the influential early statement of the ways in which the opposite elements of yin and yang is given expression, to explain how they do not exclude each other but work in collaboration. This relationship is described... as one in which yin and yang "are … complementary in the sense that they are interdependent, interactive, intertransforming, and interpenetrating … they enjoy equal metaphysical status to the extent that neither could exist without the other and neither is absolutely dominant over the other". This characterisation of the relations between yin and yang is effectively the template for understanding the relations of opposites in all of the Chinese teachings or philosophies, and within the Chinese intellectual heritage more generally (p. 190).
Given the total dependence of the science of Western-inspired global modelling on the use of computers, there is considerable irony to the fact that their binary coding was partially inspired through exposure of Gottfied Leibniz to that of the Yi-Jing in 1701, as discussed separately (Framing Cognitive Space for Higher Order Coherence" toroidal interweaving from I Ching to supercomputers and back? 2019).
|Traditional global models deprecated by science
(despite a degree of popular credibility greater than the global models of science)
( with associated "measure formulae")
|Shao Yong circle of hexagrams as communicated to Leibniz (1703)||Geomantic compass (Luopan)|
|Following the attributions of Arthur Young (1976)||By Unknown - Perkins, Franklin. Leibniz and China: a commerce of light. Cambridge UP, 2004. 117., Public Domain, Link||Pcae18 at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons|
In an interview in the light of Australian pandemic modelling by the Doherty Institute, Stuart Robert (Australian Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business) indicated:
Minister: So many things have changed, but that’s why we have a framework called the National Plan from which we can plan... anything could change next week... We could have not just the Delta but the Epsilon variant, and I’m not saying there’s any indication of that. But the whole point is to have a plan as a framework. We’ve got it, we should stick to it....
Speers: So, just so I’m clear: We should have a framework and stick to it, but it might shift and we might need to change it?
Minister: Well, of course plans change (Interview on ABC Insiders with David Speers, Ministers' Media Centre, Department of Education, Skills and Employment,, 5 September 2021)
By contrast, the Australian National University has highlighted the challenge of Muddling through Misinformation and Myths (ANU, 12 July 2021). That understanding also features in the argument of Erik Hollnagel of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation (The Necessity of Muddling Through, Macquarie University, 2021).
A degree of legitimacy has been given to muddling through by Nobel Laureate Charles Lindblom (The Science of "Muddling" Through, Public Administration Review, 19, 1959, 2; summary; John Kay, History vindicates the science of muddling through, Financial Times, 15 April 2009). In contrast with modelling, Lindblom was one of the early developers and advocates of the theory of incrementalism in policy and decision-making. His view (also called gradualism) takes a "baby-steps", "Muddling Through" or "Echternach Theory" approach to decision-making processes, as described by Leslie Pal in a critique of rational decision-making (Lindblom’s Incrementalism and Muddling Through, Atlas of Public Management). For Lindblom:
... in a world of convergence, internationalization and decentralization -- we will be faced with patchwork like structures and muddling-through like decision-making (NGI101x Governance Challenges, Part 1, YouTube, 28 January 2021)
As a contrast to one-plan thinking, in concluding his insightful study of 60 years ago, Lindblom indicates:
This raises again a question only briefly discussed above on the merits of like-mindedness among government administrators. While much of organization theory argues the virtues of common values and agreed organizational objectives, for complex problems in which the root method is inapplicable, agencies will want among their own personnel two types of diversification: administrators whose thinking is organized by reference to policy chains other than those familiar to most members of the organization and, even more commonly, administrators whose professional or personal values or interests create diversity of view (perhaps coming from different specialities, social classes, geographical areas) so that, even within a single agency, decision-making can be fragmented and parts of the agency can serve as watchdogs for other parts.
As discussed by Hans de Bruijn, muddling through is characterized by:
The use of information and communication technology (ICT) during the current pandemic has been the focus of a professional gathering (Shengnan Yang, et al, The use of ICT during COVID‐19, Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 57, 2020, 1). This included a paper by Shijuan Li, et al. on Muddling through an infodemic: ICT acceptance and utilization under the COVID-19 health crisis. For Mark Sujan:
Muddling through can be understood in terms of the trade-offs healthcare workers make in response to tensions and contradictions in their everyday work. (Muddling through in the intensive care unit, Safety Assurance of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2021)
There is a charmingly significant irony to the fact that for many (and especially for those of mother-tongue other than English) the distinction between "modelling" and "muddling" (as between "tourist" and "terrorist") merits recognition in terms of Words with similar pronunciation and spelling but different meaning, as described by Andrew Ambrosius. Such a word pair is one of 8 variants encoded using the trigrams of the I Ching by William S. Huff. (Homonym, Homonym and Homonym, and Other Word Pairs, Symmetry: Culture and Science, 3, 1992, 1).
As noted by Wikipedia, a meta-model (or metamodel) is a model of a model, and meta-modelling is the process of generating such meta-models. Thus meta-modellling is the analysis, construction and development of the frames, rules, constraints, models and theories applicable and useful for modelling a predefined class of problems. As its name implies, this concept applies the notions of meta- and modelling in software engineering and systems engineering. Metamodels are of many types and have diverse applications.
Given the number and variety of global models, it may then be asked whether there is a case for developing a meta-model to interrelate extant models -- and to frame the possibility of other global models. To facilitate learning (given varying degrees of comprehension), there is the further case for integrating models variously considered obsolete or "wrong". A meta-model framework would then serve as a means through which different models could draw on data and algorithms from other models.
A relevant question with respect to global modelling of potential future crises is why the design of such a framework is not envisaged. Clearly with the rapid development of artificial intelligence, the possibility of an AI-managed integration of disparate models could be anticipated, as discussed separately (Governance of Pandemic Response by Artificial Intelligence, 2021).
This raises the question of the criteria of value in the design of such a meta-model. An early, and necessarily naive, reflection took the following form (Criteria for an Adequate Meta-model: preliminary list, 1971). It discussed:
Ordering of a dimension
Dynamic and evolutionary
Justification of superseded perspectives
A potentially far more sophisticated and fundamental approach to the matter could be usefully inspired by M-theory, as separately discussed (Models: M-theory as indicative of meta-modelling potential? 2015). This notably considered the strategic reality of climate change:
The obvious difficulty arises from the multiplicity of systemically unrelated models, the elusive significance of any potential meta-model, and the challenging complexity of the models deemed to be the most adequate for purposes of explanation.
Beyond the complexity of the many models now elaborated -- including the TRAK approach to meta-modlelling -- there is the ultimate meta-model of physics known as M-theory, notably elaborated from 1995 by Edward Witten. This followed a period in which physicists looked to eleven-dimensional supergravity in the hope that it might provide an elusive superunified theory superceding the focus on supergravity. M-theory notably describes supermembranes and superfivebranes, subsuming string theories, with 11-dimensional supergravity as a lower limit (M. J. Duff (Ed.), The World in Eleven Dimensions: supergravity, supermembranes and M-theory, 1999). It claims to unify all consistent versions of superstring theory.
Framed in such terms, it might then be asked why is it assumed that the challenges faced by global governance are of a far simpler nature than those faced by fundamental physics in recognizing the need for descriptions involving 11 or 26 dimensions? Of related interest is the need of physics to explain how such complexity and its extra dimensions must necessarily be reduced to the 3 or 4 dimensions which the human mind can readily grasp -- a reduction termed compactification. Arguably it is just such an explanatory reduction which is required to render global strategic thinking comprehensible in practice.
From the perspective of physics, "model" acquires a special significance in its use with respect to the Standard Model of fundamental particles and its mathematical formulation. Arguably the world is perhaps fortunate in not having a "standard model of crises" -- or has it? -- given the manner in which it would tend to serve as guidance for an overly simplistic set of strategic responses, under the aegis of the United Nations. Ironically the particle physics extreme can be provocatively complemented by the metaphysical quest for an appropriate "model" of God, as argued by Sallie McFague (Models of God: theology for an ecological, nuclear age, 1987). Indeed it is from "God" that many expect remedies in times of crisis.
Such complementarity invites speculation on the possibility that the tortuous explorations of complexity by physicists (in explaining the Universe) and the ineffectual strategic preoccupations of global governance (in response to a crisis of crises) may both be indicative of cognitive avoidance of epistemological panic in the face of an emerging memetic singularity (Beyond the Standard Model of Universal Awareness: being not even wrong? 2010).
To the extent that different global models reflect different ways of looking at one or more crises, it might then be asked how these distinctive ways of looking might be fruitfully interrelated through a meta-model, as discussed separately (Interrelating Multiple Ways of Looking at a Crisis: beyond the pandemic discipline of the one right way, 2021). By contrast, this concluded with a discussion of the prevalence of Effective strategic commitment to oversimplification and unsubtlety.
Clearly, as in the case of physics, the question is in how many ways does the potential for global crisis -- and a crisis of crises -- need to be viewed? Such a notion of requisite variety is fundamental to control theory. How indeed is the set of such disparate perspectives to be integrated (Dynamics of N-fold Integration of Disparate Cognitive Modalities, 2021; Global Coherence by Interrelating Disparate Strategic Patterns Dynamically, 2019; Framing Cognitive Space for Higher Order Coherence, 2019; Reconciling disparate strategic frameworks, 2020). Such a preoccupation is in complete contrast to the dangerous satisfaction with a simplistic global consensus in response to the pandemic or to climate change.
With respect to the pandemic, it is appropriate to note the arguments of Jordana Cepelewicz (The Hard Lessons of Modeling the Coronavirus Pandemic (Quanta Magazine, 28 January 2021) [with comments added]:
In the fight against COVID-19, disease modelers have struggled against misunderstanding and misuse of their work. They have also come to realize how unready the state of modeling was for this pandemic. [Arguably their approaches have contributed to this misunderstanding and misuse. Why indeed was global modelling unprepared for the pandemic, and for any crisis of crises?]
Researchers expect to be dissecting what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come. They will comb through the massive numbers of models that were generated and try to account for what worked, what didn’t and why. [A meta-modelling approach to interrelating the models produced would be valuable in this task, rather than the conventional tendency to compare them separately in the absence of any contextual framework]
But there are key lessons they are already taking away from the experience in preparation for the inevitable next pandemic.
One is that they should take advantage of new, potentially rich streams of data from cell phones and other sources, which can provide detailed information about people’s real behaviors. [This desire is provocatively naive in the light of the high level of controversy associated with invasive use of "people's real behaviors". It suggests the need for models capable of reflecting such opposition as constituting one of the "real behaviors" -- as with opposition to vaccination]
Another is that certain kinds of problems are most easily conquered by dividing them up among teams, sometimes spanning several disciplines.... [This classic approach serves to frame the question of why such division into specialized approaches has merely served to highlight the methodological inadequacies of their integration, especially when the approaches are framed by different disciplines -- potentially incommensurable in nature]
But the other crucial lesson of COVID-19 has been that epidemiologists need to communicate the proper uses and limitations of their models more effectively to decision-makers and the public -- along with an appreciation of what the uncertainties in those models mean. [Indeed. However this frames the question as to why the models developed by such disciplines systematically fail to reflect the factors determining proper and improper use of such models -- and of their incomprehension by many, if not most]
The frustrating challenge is that researchers are often already offering these explanations, but the public and its representatives tend to want more certainty than science can provide. [Why is it that the models are presented in such a way that degrees of certainty are not made apparent. For those needing to operate at a higher level of certainty what indications can be more fruitfully offered?]
And when governments decide to disregard researchers’ best counsel and clutch instead at specious but popular policies, it isn’t clear what scientists can do about it. [Plaintive though this is as a conclusion, why does the development of models not reflect the probability that governments and populations may opt in preference for relatively simplistic policies?]
Global model-making can be recognized as one understanding of "world-making" -- at least in cognitive terms. An exercise in global modelling, most evidently when it is used to justify government strategy -- and consensus at the global level -- is effectively a process of designing a reality in which people may be expected (or ordered) to believe. It can be understood as a preoccupation articulated by the Global Sensemaking network in providing tools for dialogue and deliberation on wicked problems.
Any such understanding of world-making can be contrasted with the considerable participative development of virtual worlds, namely computer-simulated environments potentially populated by many users. They may be closely associated with massively multiplayer online games or online virtual world such as Second Life.
Such distinctions can be explored in the light of the extensive speculation on the probability of living experience being engendered by a simulation of some form (Living within a Self-engendered Simulation: re-cognizing an alternative to living within the simulation of an other, 2021).
World-making: Especially with the increasing dependence on virtual reality and the construction of virtual worlds, the variety of approaches to world-making merit comparison and juxtaposition:, as argued separately (World making, diasporas and virtual communities, 2019).
The theme has been variously explored:
As described by Marie-Louise Von Franz, in his later years the work of Carl Jung suggested that the seemingly divergent sciences of psychology and modern physics might, in fact, be approaching a unified world model in which the dualism of matter and psyche would be resolved. Jung believed that the natural integers are the archetypal patterns that regulate the unitary realm of psyche and matter, and that number serves as a special instrument for man's becoming conscious of this unity. (Number and Time: reflections leading toward a unification of depth psychology and physics, 1974).
Model-making and hypotheses as "world-making": As implied above, an obvious connotation of world-making is the manner in which construction of a conceptual model or hypothesis can constitute a "world" -- one which the like-minded may share and effectively "inhabit" to the extent they find it credible. A belief system can be understood in this light. To that extent a model may constitute a "bubble" -- which may well be engendered by search algorithms as a consequence of profiling, as in the case of a so-called filter bubble (Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, 2011).
This frames the question as to the extent to which global models of crises -- and notably the pandemic -- effectively create a filter bubble beyond which it becomes difficult to perceive, whether for individuals, the media, or decision-makers (Vera Q. Liao, et al, Beyond the filter bubble: interactive effects of perceived threat and topic involvement on selective exposure to information, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI '13: 2359; Harald Holone, The filter bubble and its effect on online personal health information, Croatian Medical Journ, al. 57, 2016, 3).
Engagement with that world may be cultivated through creating an organization for that purpose -- or simply through the organization of occasional or periodic meetings. Such contexts may call conventional assumptions into question in a quite unconventional and radical manner. This may be held to justify the confidentiality of such contexts -- even the secret of their existence or of the nature of the world which is cultivated. Clearly many cults may be understood from this perspective.
As noted by Wikipedia, the concept of a filter bubble has been extended into other areas, to describe societies that self-segregate according political views but also economic, social, and cultural situations. Less evident is how the bubble engendered globally by a global model may be "burst" (Pricking the Bubble of Global Complacent Complicity: hyperdimensional insights from the physics of bubble blowing, bursting and collapse? 2017).
Collusion with the pharmaceutical industry? The argument can be taken further in reframing the model-making proclivity of academia and think tanks -- especially in their use of the laboratory and workshop metaphors -- as characterizing the elaboration of "designer pills". Model-making from a cognitive perspective can be understood as "pill design", as argued separately Academic model-making as "pill production"? within the context of a more general argument (Psychosocial Transformation by "Pill Pushing"? Model-making, strategic advocacy and the myth of the "red pill", 2017)
There it was suggested that under the guise of the "advancement of knowledge", there is clearly a sense in which such models are designed as "pills" to be presented to the collective and consumed by society as a means of its transformation. As might be expected, as with "designer drugs", those involved in the process aspire to benefits in terms of career advancement, recognition and awards -- epitomized by the Nobel Prizes.
Especially intriguing is the resemblance of such models to psychoactive substances. Arguably an implicit ambition is to transform the paradigms within which society collectively operates cognitively -- exemplified by aspirations to the elaboration of an ultimate Theory of Everything by which all will be subsumed. The academic process can of course be recognized as having been long-preceded by that of the various religions and their theological models -- each identified with a "Big Pill" which people are invited to swallow. Ironically the ambitions associated with such a cognitive "mega-pill" call for careful dissociation from those of a"universal panacea" -- with all its "snake-oil" connotations.
Engendering and sustaining subunderstanding: There is a degree of familiarity with the process of dumbing down, understood as the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content in education, literature, and cinema, news, video games, and culture. As a consequence of media coverage of fatal ties, real or fictional, dumbing down can be understood as associated with the process of psychic numbing (Paul Slovic, Psychic Numbing and Genocide, American Psychological Associations, November 2007; David Hicks and Andy Bord, Learning about Global Issues: why most educators only make things worse, Environmental Education Research, 2001).
Missing is recognition of the degree to which the design of global models, and the guidance they offer to decision makers, may itself contribute in some way to both dumbing down and psychic numbing -- consequences readily denied.
Some insight is offered through the possibility of bias with respect to the capacity to handle multiple factors, usefully framed by the consequence of "subunderstanding" as articulated by Magoroh Maruyama (Peripheral Vision: polyocular vision or subunderstanding?, Organization Studies, 25, 2004, 3, pp. 467-480).The matter is especially important in that some forms of viable system failure are due to inadequate comprehension and inattentiveness -- typically framed as "human error". The system may indeed be too complex to be managed by ordinary means (Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions, 2016).
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