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General Systems Theory:
Brainstorming New Scenarios
for our Global University

 Version 1.1, October 1996
by Kirby Urner

imageGeneral systems theory begins with Earth as the microeconomic client of an energy-grant source, the Sun. Given that solar energy grants are not interest-bearing notes, the client economy is off the hook as far as submitting a repayments schedule, is really more akin to a not-for-profit in receipt of grant monies than a third world borrower against World Bank accounts. By extension, the subcircuitry within the Earthian ‘motherboard’ derives from this initial macrocosmic relationship. This is not a new model. Ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations came up with something similar. But every age needs to find its own characteristic narrative accounting language most relevant to the challenges at hand.

imageBy imputing a current-to-currency exchange rate, as we find implemented at every household kilowatts meter, we recognize even more clearly the cash infusion value of solar grant income. A solar farm becomes the theoretical (and sometimes practical) nexus where to investigate the ‘currency’ concept in relationship to its ecosystem origins. Given that agriculture is ‘solar farm’ technology of another kind, and the archetypal village market is where cash enters the picture to facilitate the trade of agricultural goods, we have further information with which to tie ‘velocity and volume of money’ measures with the kilowatt-infused biological processing to which this ‘cash economy’ is well-synchronized -- or not, if food supplies dwindle while money values shrink in proportion, ‘inflation’ being equally the ‘shrinkage’ of money values vis-á-vis a ‘grocery basket’ of biologically derived solar farm outputs.

Combined with this picture of our ‘Earth-appliance’ plugged into a ‘solar wall socket’, comes a ‘global balance sheet’ of assets minus liabilities, and resulting net worth. GST builds human intelligence into the model on the assets side, with the definition of intelligence as ‘energy channeling programming.’ Just as software processed through the CPU channels electrons in their to-and-fro trajectories enroute to the ground (motherboards being fancy detours between the wall socket source -- AC converted internally to DC -- and the ground), so human intelligence exercises energy-channeling control over whatever energy units, be these currency units or other assets (props).

Using the web and ecash (ID-linked and anonymous) as a place to think about human intelligence (programming), we design theoretic websites with Java thermometer applets, displaying a rise in ‘temperature’ as ecash donations flow in, responding to human decision-making investments. Websites set forth ‘theatrical scenarios’ involving energy inputs (props, currency, players, budgets) with designed outcomes (results) and go on-line to attract investments in sufficient amount to permit a ‘green light going critical’ threshold, at which point the ecash-charged storage accounts discharge through the programming, animating the storyboard for real, providing feedback as to the effectiveness of the original programming in creating the intended outcomes, along with the outcomes themselves. Participants in such dramas (scrolling credits) have new items for their resumes and transcripts with which to attract (or deter) future types of investor, recruiter, collaborator and so on.

imageObviously GST is mirroring the movie-business in this picture of the individual enterprise, but is expanding the metaphor to carry the ‘dollars and sense’ values of film production into the larger economy, where lifestyles, both ‘at home’ and ‘at work’ are theatrical productions minus some of the camera work (some jobs in politics, having cameras everywhere, are now practically indistinguishable from TV and movie-making).

image‘Storyboarding’ stands for generic planning and the ‘Java thermometer applet’ stands for the generic need to attract investments. But of course real world investors are usually risking monetary account equity with an eye toward reaping rewards in kind, and so commit to transactions involving commercial paper with cash infusion promises attached (or at least the paper itself has to have trade value, even if a redemption date is set for some years hence). In other words, website scenarios attract funding in proportion to their ability to deliver those currency units most relevant to investors, who usually carry debt themselves and need to discharge back to their creditors, and so on.

Money creation through telescoping loans through bank lending is equally debt creation (all those dollars are loaned, not dispensed as grant income -- a significant difference between bank-sourced units and solar units), with the pressure of exponential interest rates keeping the debt load increasing, pushing investors to underwrite whatever theater is going to discharge them of their unrelenting and increasing debt obligations (short term destruction of long term assets may seem sensible behavior given this pressure to repay, and so go the forests, including last remaining stands).

Sometimes war seems the only way out when the debt curve gets too overwhelming, although this is ultimately an illusion as it involves trashing underlying ecosystems (including physical human biologies), which are ultimately where currency values arise. In individual cases, repaying in worthlessly inflated cash can get a borrower off the hook, after using the initial loan to get some real world assets, but most loan officers would go after those assets, building in some language pegging the value of the loan to the grocery basket (not to the someday potentially worthless paper units used to secure it) -- and so it comes down to the loaners having the enforcement powers to seize the real values, and hence the ongoing war threat as borrowers feel increasingly hopeless about their debt loads vis-a-vis debt-discharging theatrical productions (e.g. ‘the job’).

Human intelligence, through storyboarding, circuit designing, programming, acting, has the task of coming up with sustainable ecosystem-energizable scenarios in which human players don't get squeezed to death and forced into drastic-action behaviors owing to their ‘cornering’ in no win, no exit scenarios. Of course life itself can seem this way, given its inevitable end in death, but scientific analysis shows humans to be on average reasonably cooperative and good natured when participating in scenarios where their loved ones are doing OK, and have vital prospects for the future. Hopelessness and ‘quality of life’ measures go hand in hand (no GNP/capita measure means anything useful to storyboard artists in the absence of clear data about how folks are feeling about their futures).

GST is about designing computer-based circuitry wherein human players have secure sources of life support with scenarios that contribute to the short and long term sustainability of the whole show. Both ID-linked and anonymous transactions are a part of the various programmable reward systems, with the additional feature that not all credit units have the cash-like attribute of purchasing just about anything that has a price tag.

imageOf course some props are not ‘for sale’ as usable-in-scenarios in any simple ‘price tag’ sense. This is true, for example, where you need to pass certain competence tests before being allowed to do surgery, fly an airplane, pilot an oil tanker or whatever. There's no substitute for learning the job, no way that currency units will short circuit around this requirement, because the phoniness of the ensuing performance will be obvious to all (or at least to those trained to detect fakes, e.g. the examiners).

imageSome ID-linked credits towards accessing some of the props and scenarios will be dispensed in exchange for performance, and will not be sellable for cash in exchange, i.e. your competence to do brain surgery is not something you can turn around and sell for cash to someone with no training, although you can ‘bank on it’ in other senses (e.g. become a teacher of your skill if you can find others willing to invest (of course some ‘dying arts’ don't attract many earnest learners, which can mean the art is of fading relevance, or maybe the surrounding curriculum context is bogus (lack of learners doesn't ipso facto mean the discipline is worthless, contrary to what a ‘free market’ analysis might conclude))).

Some credits, ID-linked or not, will also be earmarked as 'being good’ only towards certain kinds of transactions. Videogame designers already have lots of experience designing interfaces around these concepts, as characters collect charms, tools, assets of various kinds, each with characteristic powers. GST wires distance education circuits to dispense life support to global university students, but not always in the form of ‘cold cash.’ Sometimes life support might look like another training manual to read, even though you were hoping for other assets. Remember, there's no monopoly on intelligence in this school -- feel free to unenroll or cross-enroll elsewhere (not every school is lenient about this -- you can hurt your career prospects if you take some misguided detours, to be sure).

GST looks at the microeconomy of a university with its own power plant and solar farms, self sustaining in terms of food services, with sufficient talent and creativity to come up with tradable assets for those props not obtainable locally. This university is in good shape, in other words. But internally, students and faculty still need to work out circuitry, scenarios, plays. Who gets to use what props to what ends? We don't have an infinite supply of everything, and yes, life is short. So even if no one is in danger of physically starving, there's lots to work out in terms of what plays to put on and how to reward the participants, with what etc. Lots of ‘opportunity costs’ enter this picture (doing this with these assets now, means not doing that, which might have been a lot cooler -- people quit in disgust when it looks like their crew is going to waste a chance to do quality theater, and so they move to a new job (happens every day)).

Now we zoom out and see the whole earthian economy as such a university, with a fusion solar plant safely insulated by lots of space, and solar farms plus other energy harvesting tech which provides food services. The GST information bank shows that human intelligence has the potential to wire up this university so that no one physically starves to death. Hopelessness can be drastically reduced through intelligent programming.

Internal circuitry needs a lot of work though. For one thing, we need to offer more GST via the internet, so that world game players everywhere come to see their global university situation with clearer understanding. And much of the rewiring will involve phasing in storyboard accounting languages which divest some of the earlier human accounts of much of their load-bearing significance. GST displays some of its data on Fuller Projections, for example, whereon the political jigsaw puzzle is generally considered irrelevant to getting on with this more serious business of shared university living.

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Some of the old great tragedy theatrics indulged in by casts of characters in the past, will no longer attract much funding. What were once considered highly trained actors with access to inner sancta and highly secured storyboarding rooms will find the combinations have been changed, new cyphers put in place, and new learning curves intervening between them and their license to perform certain roles or functions.

But that's not to deprive anyone of their human rights or to corner earnest actors in no-win, hopeless careers. On the contrary, learn some GST, tap in to some of the curriculum websites (or create some new ones of your own) and you'll be back in business, ready for the big time circus once again.

For further reading:

GST Graphics with Explanatory Text

Synergetics on the Web
maintained by Kirby Urner