Speaker: J. Doyne Farmer
With the advance of global warming, the predictability of future technological change becomes a pressing and relevant issue. Doyne Farmer of the Santa Fe Institute compares several different hypotheses for technological improvement using different examples of technologies, ranging from computers to energy. He shows that it is indeed possible to make useful forecasts of technological progress. He also reviews ideas for why such laws exist, and discusses how one can use this to address problems like global warming.
Professor Philip Beesley of University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture describes field-oriented experimental architecture installations, including the recent hylozoic soil and epithelium series. Drawing from the interactive behaviours of these installations, he discusses the implications of architecture that pursues mutually dependent, post-humanist relationships.
Speaker: Brad Bass
Cities are analogous to peaks on a dynamic fitness landscape. Brad Bass of the University of Toronto discusses this concept theoretically and illustrates it using a geographical analysis of the U.S. Patent Database. This analysis also illustrates networked, authoritative and chaotic search strategies and sheds light on the stability of the central place structure.
Professor Karen Houle of the University of Guelph argues that, while we now recognize the genuine complexity of many issues, we have yet to rethink the basic — and oddly Newtonian — concepts we use to make normative judgments around those same issues. She discusses what features a concept of responsibility adequate for coping with complex issues must have.
Professor Dawn Park of the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo reports on a collaborative research project with the University of Michigan exploring land-use change and carbon sequestration in ex-urban landscapes in Southeastern Michigan, with a focus on the carbon implications of landscaping behaviours of developers and residents.
Speaker: George Francis
For WICI to realize its potential, argues Professor George Francis of environment and resource studies at the University of Waterloo, it should draw upon a cadre of people familiar with different approaches to understanding complex systems, as well as specialists highly accomplished in particular complex phenomena. He briefly summarizes his perspectives derived from years of research and sketches a “consumers’ guide” to world-systems thinking, a well-developed body of scholarship that should be an important part of a WICI repertoire.
Professor Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics examines the fundamental Arrow-Debreu model of market equilibrium in neoclassical economics. He asks the basic question always raised by physicists when confronting a new system: What are the system’s symmetries? Addressing this question, he argues that many markets have multiple equilibria. He also explores the application of the principle of gauge invariance to markets — an idea originally introduced by Malaney and Weinstein — and explains some of this principle’s consequences for economic theory.
Professor Matthew Hoffman of the University of Toronto explores the applicability of theories of self-organized criticality to the study of innovation in global governance. He presents both an agent-based model of the evolution of social norms and empirical illustrations of innovations in global governance drawn from work on climate change and multilateral treaty-making.
Social innovation alters the basic routines and beliefs of a society, but the durability and scale necessary to generate this momentum requires enough interactive opportunity and action. Professor Frances Westley, director of Social Innovation Generation at the University of Waterloo, discusses how disruptive social innovations can address seemingly intractable social problems such as environmental degradation, and how a society able to consistently generate social innovations can become socially and ecologically resilient.
Professor Keith Hipel of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo discusses applications of graph theory to conflict analysis and resolution. His research focuses on local, national, and global conflicts between the values underlying economic trading agreements and the principles of environmental stewardship.
Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon of the Balsillie School of International Affairs draws from his research on how societies adapt to complex stress to explore the factors making the world’s problems harder to solve and the factors that impede the delivery of solutions to these problems when and where we need them.