INCOSE Webinar: "Foundations of Relational Complexity Theory"
Date: 18 January 2012
Time: 15:00 UTC
Presenter(s): Dr. John J. Kineman
General Webinar Details: Webinar 39
This Webinar is the first of a series of talks on R-theory and its implied information architecture. Relational theory follows the work of the late Robert Rosen (hence 'R-theory' for both Rosen and Relational). Dr. Rosen was a mathematical biologist who had a great deal to say about living and physical systems. His "relational biology" presented a new causal theory of nature with the broadest possible currency that impacts every field of science and modern thought. In this Webinar, Dr. Kineman, who published a new synthesis of relational theory this year, will present the basic assumptions and structure of R-theory with examples of its potential application in various disciplines. We will also explore how R-theory could be the foundation of a new kind of information system that can model and produce simulations of complex and living systems. R-theory represents a major shift in natural science thinking, toward a truly holistic view of reality. With the new synthesis of the theory, it now has a basic mathematical foundation. The theory itself is not difficult to express, but it is hard to grasp because it is so universal and so alien to how we have been trained to think. While there are very familiar elements in terms of dynamical and material systems, there is a contextual relation that in very important ways conditions and drives those dynamics. This complete entailment of causality presents possibilities for system description and analysis that we have not had before. Despite its initially challenging philosophy, the theory is ultimately intuitive when one considers analogies with personal experience. R-theory restores the idea of causality to modern science in a very practical way by including all the known causal types proposed by Aristotle, but in a new understanding of them. Rosen believed that causes can be closed in nature, and such closure is what explains complex and living systems. Closure isolates a system from the general causality (interactions and relations) in the environment and imparts system identity. It turns out that Rosen's analysis of life, arguably a system that makes use of all of nature's possibilities, implies a more generic form of closure that is at the foundation of all systems. It suggests a fundamental unit of nature that is not only a material unit. Causal closure and isolation are the keys to understanding how this theory works. Rosen succeeded in describing what makes a system alive in terms of how its internal efficient causes (dynamical laws) are self-entailed (produced, at least in part, within the system). Causal closure and isolation are therefore the keys to understanding how this theory works. In a nutshell, traditional approaches are limited to descriptions of efficient and material causation , and yet the scientific description itself is imagined to exist in a human domain that cannot itself be described in such terms. If we are to consider that what living systems seem to do naturally is part of nature; that is, 'modeling' themselves and their environments, then we must extend our view of nature to include all four of Aristotle's causes. This is done in a way that Aristotle himself did not imagine. It was envisioned, but without detail, by Arthur Koestler in terms of a theory of 'holons', which in large degree is what R-theory is
Dr. John J. Kineman is a research scientist combining physics and ecology to study the relation between living systems and the environment. He received his B.S. degree in Earth Physics in 1972 from the University of California Los Angeles, his Masters in geographical ecology in 1989 and his Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science, Policy, and Ethics in 2007 from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He completed a 27 year career in public service as an officer and scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Senior Research Warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service and US Peace Corps. In semi-retirement Dr. Kineman continues his research as a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, in cooperation with institutions in India, as Honorary Adjunct Fellow of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Sciences and guest of the Sri Sathya Sai University. His current research is in relational theory, ecological modeling and informatics, physics of life, and ancient philosophies of Greece and the Far East. His research led him to the work of Dr. Robert Rosen in 1997, shortly before Rosen’s death in 1998. Dr. Kineman he has since been working closely with Dr. Rosen’s daughter, Judith Rosen, and through the Relational Science Special Integration Group of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, to further develop relational theory. Dr. Kineman lives with his wife, Patricia, in Colorado and they reside in India part time.