Header image First International Workshop on  
Orlando, Florida
26 October, 2009
Position Papers

This page lists the position papers submitted to the workshop. As there is no formal proceedings for the workshop, all of these papers should be treated as drafts - we encourage discussion and revision of these prior to (and during!) the workshop. To provide a forum for such discussion, we'll be using the google group "SE for the planet". Feel free to sign up and join the discussion.

List of Submitted Papers
Keynote Talk: Cybernetics of Climate

The climate change problem can be seen as less a problem in physics than in information theory.

The classical problem in information theory, also known in its early days as "cybernetics", is decision making under uncertainty. The mathematics of the field were worked out as a foundation of digital machine design, as the propagation of a bit of information from one device to another necessarily requires an automated decision about the polarity of that bit. The founders of cybernetics became famous for suggesting that their approach could be extended to a vast array of problems, and indeed attempts have been made in a wide variety of applications to apply rigorous cybernetic theory. However, despite the aspirations of the field's founders, the ideas have not penetrated into governance.

The climate problem is the first and probably not the last problem where new criteria for management of highly complex systems intrudes upon evolved social mechanisms. For civilization to emerge from this problem relatively intact will require the world to collectively develop new skills. Whole system thinking, an idea much praised in the mid 20th century, cannot be seen as a fading intellectual fashion. We need cross-disciplinary rigor of new sorts.

In this talk, Michael Tobis, a geophysicist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics in Austin, and a long time devotee of both computer science and of information theory, will outline the climate policy problem from a whole systems point of view, emphasizing some points where the information sciences may have a considerable role in untangling the quandary.