The “Illusion” of Knowledge or A Trust Issue Nobody Wants to Feel Responsible For (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla PhD)
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.24451.20008. Available in pdf at ResearchGate
Every once in a while I start writing about something. Not always what I start writing ends up being published. So there are times where I find myself going around an idea which overlaps with a piece which I had already touched and sits in the draft folder.
This is one of these situations where I comeback to visit something I begun writing about some time ago since I find sharing points worth to be connected.
Some weeks ago there was a publication by a team from the European Organisation the “Joint Research Centre (JRC)” addressing the topic of “Ignorance and the community of knowledge”. The video presentation available at youtube describes it as “Steven Sloman examining the different dimensions and various drivers of fairness and pose questions relevant to policy-makers and the wider society.”
The topic of transmitting knowledge has always caught my attention within and outside the academia. I have already written about it in previous posts trying to highlight the contrasts existent between the perception of reality between sectors in the same society and even between members of the same sector or community. So this is not a new topic in this blog.
The Illusion of Awareness
One of the first things that called my attention was the concept of “awareness” in the process. In the transaction of knowledge, are both parts being aware of the process? In other words, how much awareness has each part over the conditions upon which such process is actually happening?
We can learn things from people without them even knowing it. Also some messages never reach the aim intended despite the effort put into it.
In this presentation communication fails due to people holding illusions of knowledge. But, which side in the debate is actually not aware of the reality which the other is talking about? Knowledge can only be fed to a mind hungry for it. It can not be stuffed. That is data not knowledge. Knowledge of all kinds is always filtered by prioritization. That is a sociocultural reality.
You cannot make people knowledgeable without attending other priorities like access to job stability, food, housing, health care… Gaps of shared knowledge exists between scientists, between sectors (lawyers politicians scientists) and between social classes. Which “community” of knowledge has the “illusion” of not being listened?
I agree with that the “illusion” of holding knowledge generates behaviours with consequences. However I see missing here the consideration of how the same happens when there is a lack in the ability to recognise knowledge as such.
When you place together people whom do not understand the same language, and even their behaviour, the first instinct from lacking communication is to judge the differences by the limitations in knowledge. And that is how tribes around the world were considered ignorant. So what happens when the lack of knowledge is embedded in the question?
Many times knowledge is judged by the suitability applied to answer questions designed to match answers designed to match questions designed to match answers designed to match questions …
I believe that what it is missing is the proper development of the tools required to Manage the Knowledge available, to think. And that comes all the way up from academic teaching.
It is important to learn how to calibrate and manage the knowledge each one has available. We all need to identify our limited knowledge but if you keep your whole live behaving as a student you will be always blaming others for the “consequences” of living in an environment you are waiting for others to improve but you.
There is a continuous discussion as a “conceptual framework” implemented in the line of research presented in this blog, aiming specifically to address the repercussions derived by the lack of awareness applied over the effect that cognitive perception forces over all type of assessments and communication through members of societies and communities of knowledge. In the following section I leave you brief pieces selected from those publications so my words can be contextualised. You can also move to the next section addressing my latests thoughts.
|Science, scientists, researchers, policy-makers, and the rest of society. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) ResearchGate DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16928.89607 At LinkedIn
I was a Marie Curie participant at the anniversary celebrated in Warsaw in 2011 “Marie Curie Researchers Symposium: Science Passion Mission Responsibilities”.
There was a debate about scientists, researchers and their situation. Some had the chance to share their opinion but time was limited and I kept inside a though which I couldn´t share at the time so I spill it now.
Me, and I suppose many of us (researchers), are surrounded by people whom are outsiders from the world of research. People we encounter everyday part of our family and friends, working in administrative positions, at the market, taxi drivers, waiters, teachers, nurses, transporters, and so on. People that compose the majority of our society. A society that understands the impact that it would have in their lives the disruption of activity in most of the sectors except for … research.
Everybody knows the impact that it would have in their lives if the schools close, or if there is a disruption in transport (supplies and public transport), health services, rubbish collectors, …
So when I have been asked about my job and its applications, I know that they are implicitly aiming to understand, what would be the impact in their lives of having a disruption in my job’s sector? .
And I am not sure myself about the answer to such question. Why is not present in our society the role played by the scientific community? And I am afraid about possible scenarios.
Maybe, it is just a lack of skills in communication, reflecting the mentality of many scientists whom believe that making public your work equals publishing in scientific journals.
The use of the outcome from research is not well implemented into productive social and professional activities.
Scientists and their knowledge should be available, accessible and part of society playing a similar role as medical advice given by Doctors. Instead, many scientists, their work and its implications in social development are only known and understood by their colleagues.
Since I have been involved in market research analyses for product development I know how different can sometimes be the properties demanded in a product by each of the players in the value chain. Scientific research is driven by policy makers whom base their decisions on political agendas and senior researchers demand young people bringing fresh ideas for research but the same Senior researchers are the ones keeping the access to resources, so they have to be as open minded as the new scientists they want.
Value chains can be used to analyse the total social benefit from products and services, and to clarify and refine the relationships between and among links in the chain.
And that is why I wonder if scientific research should be more proactive looking for those questions to be answered in the minds of the sufferers (Farmers, patients, …). Is it possible that science and researchers have developed such different ways of thinking, behave and communicate that are not able to engage with the rest of society?
The concept of mobility applied for the research jobs market, with all the potential behind it for career development, is becoming closely similar to that of the life of people working on destination, like a military career. People are starting to identify researcher with instability. So, under our family, friends and neighbours eyes we become members of society always on the move, with no input in long term social activities they can relate to. And that is not the way to sell a career prospect. Not if we want to allow researchers to engage in society as members building long term relationship with neighbours and friends, having the opportunity to create a family and become actively involved in a community. Mobility should be the way to transfer knowledge between people and not to transfer lives between places.
|November 28, 2013|
|Cross-pollinators and the risks of specialization. The screw and the knife. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
Recently, a new term has caught my attention: “Cross-Pollinator“. Based on my experience in Aerobiological studies, I assumed its meaning to be related to vectors inducing cross pollination between plants. But I was wrong.
The term is applied by Tom Kelley in the book “The Ten Faces of Innovation”. Tom has observed a number of roles that people can play in an organization to foster innovation and new ideas while offering an effective counter to naysayers. Among these approaches are the Anthropologist, the person who goes into the field to see how customers use and respond to products, to come up with new innovations; the Cross-Pollinator, who mixes and matches ideas, widely disparate people, and technologies to create new ideas that can drive growth; and the Hurdler, who instantly looks for ways to overcome the limits and challenges to any situation.
“Cross-pollinators” are defined as those people that can create something new and better through the unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts. They often innovate by discovering a clever solution in one context or industry then translating it successfully to another.
Those aptitudes described to play the role of a cross-pollinator inside organizations such as Kraft, Samsung, and Procter & Gamble, are also recognised, valued and even desired when building up teams aimed to confront environmental issues. The aptitudes expected in the person to play the role are drawn together as multidisciplinary thinking. However, this role not only involves the ability to see connections between disciplines but also to have broad and well-formed foundations.
Academic and non-academic formation (education, trainning) are being designed to achieve specialization in the shortest period of time despite of compromising the strength of their foundations. I see a contradiction between an increasing awareness for the need of multidisciplinary thinkers or cross pollinators and a fast-paced urge for specialization and the risks associated to it.
The risks of specialization.
These type of aptitudes are being increasingly valued and demanded since it is becoming more evident than ever that, like in many different sectors, in order to understand how our environment works, it is not good enough to define separate disciplines of study looking for building specialised fractions of knowledge. Since our environment is the result of multidisciplinary processes interacting, isolating bodies of knowledge allows specialisation but put at risk understanding the interactions playing in the whole. It is like creating specific disciplines of study for each individual tree of a forest, leaving in second place the forest as a whole. And that seems to be a direction reflected in the way how formation has become structured in all the sectors from academia, electronics, mechanics …
Using my own experience as an example, I remember that I wanted to study Biology because I wanted to understand the world in which we live. And oh my, it was hard but I was right. We had to undertake several annual modules in general Biology for 3 years going through every aspect being part of the environment and 2 more getting specialized choosing between Molecular, Animal and Environmental fields (if anybody is curious I leave the relation of modules at the bottom). As a result, any Biologist would be suitable to understand multidisciplinary issues (a molecular biologist would understand about climate change issues and an environmentalist would understand Genetic Manipulation matters) and see connections between fields. Not only would be able of formulating approaches in a broad spectrum but with the enhanced capacities of adopting new skills based on multidisciplinary foundations. Like a mechanic whose formation allows him to understand general mechanics but also to recognise and incorporate tools and skills from different disciplines independently of the field of performance.
Nowadays, it is very common to find that University degrees like Biology [BSc-UK] takes 3 years where it is advertised that in the course content for year 2 “you will continue your studies in greater depth and begin to specialise”… I suppose that this policy of promoting fast specialization at the expense of building strong multidisciplinary foundations is based on trying to increase competitiveness. However, it comes with the same risk that we face with Genetic Modified organisms in food production. That is reducing biodiversity and resilience in the “DNA code” of our academics.
Specialization vs Multidisciplinary knowledge. The battle.
Debates about Climate are one of those places where specialization becomes easily apparent. Everyone talks and defends its own tree, or field of expertise. Everybody is either defending or searching for the right answer and yet, I haven´t seen somebody analysing which is the right question. It feels like each one involved in the topic of “Human development impact in the Global ecosystem” is looking at his/her own tree and nobody moves out to look at the forest. Are being formulated the right questions in order to answer our worries? What are we looking at and trying to find treatment for, symptoms or cause? (link to previous post) Every protocol followed to study the impact of the development of any individual specie in a closed ecosystem (Australia, Galapagos, Yellowstone …) seems to be thrown out the window as soon as we talk about the human species. And we must remember that the earth is a closed environment.
I don´t know who is right or wrong but there is just one think that I am convinced about and that it is that sooner or later the development of the Human species is going to have an impact in the ecosystem of the same scale as the distribution of the specie in the ecosystem, global. Since the first time that it was recognised the impact of a single species in the equilibrium of an ecosystem it feels missing those studies proposing and hypothesising which would be the symptoms and causes based on the trends of development for the human species (link to previous posts). The data obtained in our present should have already some hypothetical approaches to play against. I would like to know what would need to happen in each discipline of research to identify the impact of human development in order to have some data to play against the actual observations. I believe it would make a good starting point to allow “cross-pollinators” to study connections out of the box. …
|January 16, 2014|
|Cultural cognition and the role it plays in polarizing debates. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
… A study conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project looked at “The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks”. “The aim of the study was to test two hypotheses,” said Dan Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School and a member of the study team. “The first attributes political controversy over climate change to the public’s limited ability to comprehend science, and the second, to opposing sets of cultural values. The findings supported the second hypothesis and not the first,” he said. In this study it was found that members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.
Comments: I have received this comment:
Is it there a need for making people aware of the relevant role that polarization is starting to play against unifying efforts and disciplines to find common ground in multidisciplinary debates?
Is it becoming polarization relevant enough in scientific debates to undermine their functionality?
What makes an argument valid to be contemplated?
I have seen arguments like:
So, does it need an argument to come from a relevant positioned member of a renowned institution to be contemplated? In that case, any other person, scientist or researcher could feel the pressure of being the one claiming that the King is naked.
A discussion from a different group in Linkedin treated the subject of climate change.
“Folks, I have been following this discussion, and feel it’s about time for it to have run its course. It’s clear that there are very strong opinions here, but at this point, this particular thread seems to have run its course. I am certain the topic will come up down the road, but for right now, I think the points to have been made, have been.
Could it be time to stop for a moment from keeping our heads down over each one’s data and think for a second about how limited its meaning can be, not due to the lack of data in itself but due to the lack of interpretations?
It feels needed a space, a playground where to play freely with concepts, ideas, data, no fear to say something silly since after 5 silly ideas you might find a very good one nobody else thought about. Or by saying what you think you might actually wake up a dormant idea in somebody else’s mind. And all of that involving people open minded and with the skills of being able to adapt the language to communicate complex matters in simple ways, creating an environment accessible for a multidisciplinary exchange of ideas.
We well might reach a point where the speed developing technological advances to obtain data could overtake the systematic established to interpret it and new strategies will have to come in place (see previous post about this https://diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/cooking-an-environment/). And that would demand avoiding polarization in order to enhance the functionality of the debate.
|February 3, 2014|
|What would you like to know? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
I believe that this is a very simple question but very much undervalued and misused.
Debates can be of many different natures. And many times are just entertainment. They can be the most time consuming activity you can engage in, but that does not always mean that they would be the most profitable. Every time, the profits depend on what are you looking for from the act of debating. Most of the time, debating is used just to consume time playing “wrestling” as a hobby. But, how many times have you engaged in a debate having something in mind that you wanted to know? and end up actually finding it out?
There are many things that can be learnt from others in a debate which are beyond feeding information. Things which are not told but that can be appreciated such as the ability to listen, to stretch your mind trying to understand different approaches, the progression applied to unfold an idea, the temper applied in defending positions and the capacity of integrating different pieces of information and points of view.
I am one of those persons who enjoys debating. I like when I find my postures reinforced by sharing points of view but further than that, I really appreciate the effort that someone else puts into understanding where I am coming from.
Many times I rather prefer to be considered “useful” than “right”. Because I consider other ways of thinking “useful” and even surprisingly inspiring, even when I do not fully agree with the conclusions adopted.
In several occasions I have encountered people taking the posture in a debate of just being right, period. And by expressing doubts and not surrender your own point of view the debate shifts into a trust issue (if you have doubts about what I am saying it is because you do not trust me…).
At this point I usually think to myself, what is more important in a debate, to find out what we know or to find out who is right?
What do you really would like to know?
|August 28, 2014|
|Barking up the wrong tree. GMOs, Hunger, Climate and Environment (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
… Considering all resources available there is one questions that makes everything tremble in this subject. Efficiency is not considered a strategy economically sustainable. The market demands needs to justify investment, even if they have to be created.
There is a huge lack of efficiency in energy consumption and production, as well as in resource management, in each one of the sectors sustaining our society.
Food production is competing with the demand to cover the gap left from the waste generated in its own production. And the same happens with Energy. Inefficiency in energy consumption generates demands not only to cover the gaps, but furthermore, to dissipate the energy being wasted.
I really wonder, are we barking up the wrong tree?
… Or perhaps Diego the question is, how do we make the system better?
I have big concerns about which are the demands that the system is addressed to cover.
So far, there are propositions to make the system work for some but not for others. Actually, the system is being fed just to preserve from collapse by looking into creating demands that increment consumption. Self-preservation is driving the system that we know as we know it. The system only works based on consumption and it works better with more consumption. So, how do we make the system better?
The only way to design and implement “efficient systems” is by separating niches of demand, drivers and synergies between niches. That is what it would be done in any market study aimed to identify the most efficient strategy to introduce a product or to design and incorporate a system. E.g. introducing “smartphones” as a product and “social media” as a system to make them useful. However, can we compare smartphones with food?
Food is being treated as a commodity. As such, the system applied to produce it is based on fomenting consumption following market drifts driven by marketed appealing properties. Do we need all products from all seasons and all parts of the world, manufactured by all multinational chains, to be supplied all the year round at our footsteps? Is this type of food production and supply what GMOs are made for?
“Green energy” is a label competing with “fossil” but the general system has not steered yet towards prioritising energy efficiency in any of both sources. Both compete for the niche of which consume less energy, highlighting the availability of the source (fossil, wind, electricity). But they do not move towards which delivers the most efficient transformation from consumption into useful work. Only efficiency has become relevant in the fossil industry when alternative energy has being introduced in the market.
|December 19, 2014|
|Communication takes more than just publishing thoughts. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
In my blog, I have just tried to challenge myself into finding relevant gaps of knowledge trying to bring attention to them presenting arguments which would sustain the criteria presented. The main aim of it, it would be to call for the attention of those involved in related topics of research in order to originate a constructive discussion. Those discussions would help to dismiss or restate the arguments that I have developed, trying to unify criteria pointing to those of relevant accuracy. I have chosen such attitude for my blog in the belief of that this activity would offer an enriching and challenging activity for myself to keep active in research at the same time that it would add some value “in the making” for others.
I don´t have the answers, if anything, I have questions. I am only trying to find out if there are already out there answers which have not been applied just because nobody has made the matching question yet. Connecting points. Could it be that the information or the person with the answer is already there but is still waiting to be used until somebody points out its relevance? Let’s call it poking the beehive trying to induce a brain storm in research. That is what I have tried to achieve.
All of this process can only be achieved through communication. However, it is difficult for anybody to control the image that we project when we only use words. Communication takes more than just publishing thoughts.
As part of my communication management, I keep record for most of my interventions from everywhere that I have incorporated my thoughts into, so I can see the consistence of my arguments and any drift on my own line of thinking. In that way I can track the coherence of my views on things, how my points of view might change over time and what it was that might have exerted an influence on them.
As part of the follow up over my interventions in several discussions I can see where I have had positive feedback and also, where I have had some challenging situations.
Sometimes, being challenged receiving not such a good feedback is a good exercise because it forces you to get out of the comfortable zone. And this is part of anybody’s personal and professional experience. So I want to share some of those situations showing how difficult is for anybody to control the image that we project when we only use words.
|June 9, 2015|
|The scope of Environmental Science and scientific thought. From Thought-driven to Data-driven, from Critical Thinking to Data Management. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Researchgate: DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2007.0161
Science is undergoing a transformation which follows a pathway led by the term “data”. Scientists are no longer thinkers growing on knowledge looking for connections. They start to become data managers, data scientists relying on algorithms to understand the mechanisms driving the dynamics which have generated the genetic drift, black holes, gravity, energy and intelligence.
Sometimes, “data” is what it is being generated by your capacity for understanding. Other times, “data” is what allows you to understand. It might be a matter of discussion if “data” can teach how or what to understand.
Technology is overtaking, and somehow overriding, human patterns of thought and capabilities for analysis and discovery.
Algorithms and digitalization are encapsulating the power of observation and “random” thinking.
I believe that science in general, and environmental science in particular, base their functional power on perception. From there, interpretation and then assimilation. All those steps lead to understanding and potential discovery. Only by identifying the limitations of our perception of things we will understand the problems behind assimilating new concepts and our lack of understanding.
Environmental science is becoming a data driven organization. And therefore it carries the risk of becoming blind by technology. It is moving towards seeing things only through technological interpretation. And yet, there is a huge gap of knowledge addressing its limitations. Scientists are becoming data managers subjecting their creativity and capacity of perception to data processing and algorithms. Consequently, if the data does not show it or the algorithms do not replicate it, it does not exist.
There is a transformation in the scope of Environmental Science. Ranging from Micro to Macro, the focus of attention is being displaced from Thought-driven to Data-driven, from Critical Thinking to Data Management. And we might not realise what we are losing in the process.
… In today’s time, similarly as the tale of “the blind men and the elephant”, after all the evolution in technology developments, we still are facing different descriptions from different scientific approaches for the same realities about our environment.
… A thought-driven mind is creative. Proposes a theory based on knowledge and then search for data to validate it. A data-driven mind is reactive. It looks at data and reacts to what the data tells.
Science and scientific thought is becoming “reactive” instead of “creative”.
|June 26, 2015|
|The Language of Science ( by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
… I believe that understanding the complexity of things starts by identifying the analogies between “complex scientific topics” and the “simple world” around us in our daily routines. An apple, a bathtub, a pressure cooker, a thermo flask and a freezer can tell us how the world works as well as a satellite.
|November 10, 2015|
|The Sound of Silence in a Discussion We All Are Involved… Our Silence. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
… Are we publishers or communicators, audience or network?
Sometimes it feels like it would be impossible to have a minute of meaningful silence in the Internet, and yet there are hours, days of silent apathy from relevant and knowledgeable persons present in every corner of the net. Also as members of my own network at LinkedIn or coming by looking at some publications in this blog.
There is meaning behind every action and lack of it. There is reassuring silence, inquisitive silence and noisy silence. And then there is a type of silence which represents an empty space, free from external interferences, required to allow yourself to recognise what is yours from what has been implanted in you as yours. The way we think, what we think and when we think. What we express, the way how we express and why we express.
|November 24, 2015|
|Paris2015. Environmental Management at PARIS2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)||December 5, 2015|
|Who has the right and the responsibility to discuss Climate as a topic of debate? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
The Guardian has published an article offering the topic of climate for debate.
The debate created in the comments section is, as always with climate and little with let say, the origin of cancer, very broad and full of participants.
The energy and passion shared is like what we find in football. Everybody has an opinion, but also, everybody seems to have a preference when judging Who has the right and the responsibility to have an opinion and discuss, in this case, Climate as a topic of debate.
Since I am trying to do my bit sharing my research and assessments over climate dynamics I thought on joining the debate and leave a comment based on my experience.
The comment was the following:
Cycles have always existed and it will continue as part of synergistic interactions. What it keeps out of the discussion is how can we compare the state of the environment reacting under those cycles between different time periods. The capacity of the environment in previous climatic shifts was far more resilient than it is now. And that alone will deliver a new scenario under any other similar atmospheric shift. Our environment has been transformed in composition, distribution and structure in the solid, gaseous and liquid phases (water cycles, land cover, soil, and atmospheric composition). So I see as a matter of concern to be concious about what is that we assume to be similar and what not.
The reply that I got was strait to the point of the present post I am writing:
What inspired you to sign up to CiF just to let everyone know your opinion on climate change? Personally, I’ll stick with the hard evidence from scientists who are experts in the field.
And actually, I find it fair enough. Right or wrong my answer was to just point out my blog in order to express where my inspiration came from to write about climate when I saw the publication at the Guardian. But then, a day later, I realised that by just point to my blog it could be seen as the behaviour behind a spammer or things alike. So I wrote a longer comment to explain the inspiration that moved me to leave a comment about such complex subject, and I want to leave it also registered in this blog, giving to anybody the option to make their comment at the Guardian’s page or here: (follow link at the title to read full article)
|June 20, 2016|
|Climate. The Long Distance Between Science And Politics. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.)
Last week the celebrity physicist Brian Cox appeared at the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night to discuss the state of climate with other panellist.
Several different digital platform media have covered the debate with sensationalist headlines focusing on the confrontation of two points of view. Brian Cox defended the existence of a climate change linked to anthropogenic forcing and Co2 emissions based on data and scientific agreement. Meanwhile, the Australian senator-elect Malcolm Roberts defended his doubts based on an untrusted sense over the agenda behind the institutions handling the measurements and assessments supporting Brian’s posture.
Both postures have become stereotypes in the debate on climate. Same situation can be found all over the different channels supplying information and allowing interaction between participants.
Brian used “data based” assessments representing the scientific thought. Malcolm defended his doubts based on inaccuracies on computer modelling and the need for “empirical evidence.”
The missing link
Both postures are so close that they could be called the two sides of the same coin. Both represent postures which are allegedly based on analytical thinking and resource management.
The scientific thought looks for the most accurate method to analyse situations and evaluate their impacts and applications. Similar approach is expected in politics when they take decisions applied in designing and imposing policies affecting access to social-care, education, economic stability and environmental policies.
The assessments from scientists and politicians have an impact over all aspects related with the dynamics of any society.
The posture of following data blinded by its “objectivity” is risky and any posture based entirely on datasets, should be followed with an attitude of constant critical thinking. So I would not go so hard on anybody bringing doubts into the table. But, somebody with such critical attitude, should also show it with any other assessments directly related with the implementation and designing of all other policies and use of resources.
In the present economic situation, many countries are suffering economic imbalances triggered by lousy assessments followed by the politic absence of criticism. So it takes my attention how easily it can be made a strong political statement against assessments made by scientists over the use of natural resources and its impact over the global dynamics when such strong political criticism is not applied in the design and application of other policies.
Science and Politics surged as a necessity to manage resources and apply strategies aimed to generate a sustainable growth in our societies.
Both are carried out by humans and therefore, all aspects of human behaviour are present in all sectors. Political and economic agendas and personal interests are involved in both sides. But also the responsibility behind any decision and posture having an impact over the whole society.
Science and politics are advocated to work together. The mere fact of losing trust over each other, by extension, triggers the lost of trust from society towards either politics and science.
People pick their sides and create a sense of right and wrong in a dispute which has no winner.
We need to focus on understanding the source of our differences before we can move into convincing any fictitious “opponent”. And that is what I missed in the debate. A discussion over the source of the differences between both postures, a scientists and a politician.
One major question arise for me from the debate which involves everyone:
Which assets do we ask for in a scientists and in a politician?
And after you think for a while over those, look at them and ask yourself why are not the same assets for both?
|August 21, 2016|
|July 27, 2016||Climbing The Hill Of Development (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.) ReasearchGate DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.27552.79360
… Curiously enough, the kind of economy claiming to improve “green jobs” do not accommodate science as a sector in which the conditions are improving, and that is settled science for some.
Scientists have been put on the spot. Some enjoy it, others feel under pressure, in front of an audience looking for whom to blame from the result of political decisions. The image of “an united effort” should not only be political, it also should have a botanist, an edaphologist, a physicist, a chemist, an oceanographer, a climatologist, … and the outcome from such meeting, I am sure, it would not bring such a cheerful picture as from PARIS2015. There is nothing to celebrate when you identify a problem and moreover, if you feel the pressure from having to take the responsibility of dealing with it. It is like celebrating that there is consensus on that the roof of your own house needs to be replaced, you have to do the work and not only to not loose money but furthermore, generate profits.
The 18th of May (2016) I attended to a speech given by the sub-director of the Spanish Office of Climate Change. He started his speech acknowledging the efforts behind the Paris meeting and used the majority of his more than an hour of talking describing the complex process of being a politician gathering different sides together to address issues on the GHGs agenda. What surprised me the most was the ending of his speech. In the last 15 minutes he explained that the real deal and responsibility lies in the hands of the population and their daily decisions. At the Q&A time I presented my arguments to perform a question:
Despite the fact that industry has a far bigger impact than urban populations, we both industry and population, are obliged to follow the laws and directives designed by Politicians. We are free to choose, but only between the options given by the policies and laws dictated by our governments. One example, in Spain, we can not have a house with an autonomous supply of electric energy. If you produce electricity you have to pay for it, even if it comes from your own solar panels. Consumption facilities have to pay a fee for each kilowatt-hour of energy self-consumed instantaneously. There is also another charge (fixed charge) to be paid in respect of all facilities including those using batteries. (article related here. European Commission posture here).
Since the industry of a country and its population is ruled by the policies dictated by the governments I asked: “what was the relationship between the beginning of his speech giving so much credit to the efforts behind the Paris meeting and, his final assessment putting the responsibility of mitigating the impact from human activities over the global ecosystem over the shoulders of the population?. (I felt that there was a gap missing the link between those two. And I promise that I paid attention)
The answer was… an elaborated improvisation of self preservation. I am aware of that the organisers made a sound recording of this speech but I haven´t found it in the internet.
Climbing The Hill of Development
The reason behind the title for this article is that in all aspects of climate research it feels like we are climbing a hill in too many senses. The effort that it takes to move in scientific agreement and the measurements being monitored. And we have become so used to see numbers climbing that it seems like a relief when we are told that the deterioration of our environment has stopped from increasing regardless the implications from keep happening at an steady continuous pace.
|Just Thinking on Climate (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)
“During a talk at the Oxford Union debating society this week, the renowned theoretical physicist said humanity probably had only about 1,000 years left before going extinct. “
This kind of phrases raise always a very lively debate and discussion about how much of it can be true and how much is just playing with sensationalism.
What nobody seems to realise is that in those kind of general assessments, he is referring to those humans with access to resources. This assessment talks about the last survivors. As the resources become less available the more elitist will become humanity. If 1000 years are left for those enjoying privileges, money, status… the question is how long would last the other percentage…
Just make a simple statistical analysis. Take life expectancy differences by poverty level, social status, education, economic stability, health care access, … and subtract the proportional difference to 1000 years so you can see how long will be the life expectancy for “our” populations.
There is nothing innocuous in our environmental system, everything which exists, just by its mere existence sustains, promotes, feeds, allows or inhibits processes.
The human attitude towards nature is that we can domesticate nature as if nature needs to be domesticated to survive. When in fact, we, as specie, are the one who has grown and evolved thanks to the state of nature before we even appeared in this planet.
This attitude has to change if we want to change the course of our history, and science and scientists have to learn forms to engage with the rest of society in order to make this change a common goal. Those who call themselves outsiders, or inadequate to understand what science is talking about play a role in this change as important as the scientist affiliated to the highest institution, because the reality of our own evolution is relying on all members of our society despite education or social status.
It is not that every member of our society “has to be educated enough to understand science. But science has to be able to spark the curiosity required to be willing to learn the simplicity and usefulness of knowing.
Every year the UN runs a poll which surveys people’s greatest concerns across the world.
Climate change comes the last priority in a world in which just to survive is difficult enough.
Only by implementing and supporting the process of learning as well as integrating in our societies the use and applications of knowledge to solve situations and achieve goals, will make possible a tangible change in the inertia of our evolution.
One thing calls my attention in this poll. Nigeria has the majority of votes by a number which is enormous when compared with the rest of the other western countries. So I wonder. If in order to participate in this poll each vote represents a computer and paying for access to internet, do those votes from Nigeria mean the differences in number of people capable of paying for a computer and access to internet when compared with the other countries?, really?
Furthermore, if you don´t have the capacity to pay for food, health care, electricity, or to buy a computer and pay for access to internet, would you really have as a priority to be worried for any type of climate?
Being honest, to have as “a priority” being worried for a question designed to be dealt with by “renowned scientists” and “politicians” (not everybody’s opinion has the same value), or as a mere hobby in blogs (like this one?), chats and discussions, is a privilege which has to be taken with humble pride by those whom can enjoy not to have other more urgent and personal priorities.
There is one interpretation that I make from this poll.
The positions of Politicians and Scientists in our societies are defined to address different responsibilities in their duties. The order for the most demanded priorities and responsibilities are aimed to duties to be adopted by politicians. And just climate change is a responsibility which could be addressed to scientists.
So it seems that the priorities in our societies demand political changes urgently. I only hope that with those we could also find some improvement in those issues driving the scientific input over climatic developments.
|November 30, 2016|
The “Illusion” of Knowledge or A Trust Issue Nobody Wants to Feel Responsible For
Playing with the sense of who has to learn from who is a rhetoric posture which sometimes takes some people to misinterpret the difference between, representing a pattern of though shared by others, and, the self imposed authority to “make the thinking” for others, claiming that their thoughts are yours, and beyond, that their actions represent you as well.
Representing an idea is one thing. To take appropriation of the capacity to think replacing others, that is a completely different matter.
Furthermore, to claim that others need to be taught in order to make them share one’s point of view, moves between the lines of manipulation and brain washing. Actually, it represents an Illusion applied to cover a lack of trust nobody wants to feel responsible for.
There is an open debate about the stiffness in the state of knowledge over environmental science, the political and economical agendas and the lack of social engagement. But, when did all this hassle begin?
Coherence and Trust
Some postures among some people claim that the problems identified in our current environment should be tackled by considering the need to educate the less educated members of our societies.
I was born in 1974. I begun my university studies in 1993 without a mobile phone, writing essays with pen and paper and I finished submitting pieces written in a computer borrowed from a friend. I am now someone with academic training at PhD level and some knowledge about the environmental problems facing our current society.
Since I was 3 age old I spent the summers with my grandfather and grandmother in a rural village where they worked the land.
So, if I imagine myself trying to teach something to my grandparents I would consider to tell them about the advantages of separating the waste produced at home to be treated in recycling process, to reduce waste production, to maximise the use of tools, food, clothes, machines, … I would tell them about the appropriate use of the soil in their activities, to avoid the overuse of chemicals, … I would talk to them about the importance behind the conservation of forests and aquifers, and the threads of breaking the equilibrium between the resources consumed and the overexploitation of those in a frenetic consumerism.
And then, I imagine their faces looking at me, thinking how is possible that a person with a PhD could have learnt so little from my time spent when living with them?, when all the organic waste was used to produce manure to recover the losses in their soils from the agriculture practises, when overuse of chemicals were treated as a demise for the quality of the products harvested, when things were made to endure the pass of time and producers used it as an asset to sell their products, when most of the bottles and containers applied to transport and conserve all types of food were reusable and returnable and packaging represented a minimal part of the domestic waste, …
I can imagine their faces and one single question: why should they be the ones to learn to deal with the consequences of a problem they are suffering as an imposition being the consequence of the policies made not long ago by the same people who is now trying to educate them?
As a professional environmental analyst I am aware of the knowledge that many members of the society holds and yet, they do not have even the chance to apply it.
It seems that the channels of communication in our societies are divided between Politicians, policy makers, scientists and the rest.
Scientists are asked to work into finding easy ways to communicate their “knowledge” with policy makers. Policy makers transfer their “knowledge” to politicians. Politicians and policy makers design strategies designed to incorporate some scientific “knowledge” into an socio-economic framework. Then, politicians, in order to implement their strategies, require the support of the votes from the rest of society. Ultimately, politicians, policy makers and scientists claim to share a level of Knowledge which is lacking by the rest of society.
Actually, the rest of the society has a level of knowledge that seems missing by politicians, policy makers and established scientists. And that is evident in the poll made by the UN about priorities:
Just Thinking on Climate (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD). https://diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/just-thinking-on-climate-by-diego-fdez-sevilla-phd/
My point is that one of the problems on today’s “sociocultural climate” is that researchers are not dull by nature, neither politicians, but they are looking for answers making the wrong questions, asking answers to the wrong people
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. ~Albert Einstein
Shame and Fear
At the present time, 16 October 2017, Portugal and the North Of Spain are suffering a wave of wildfires overwhelming the capacity of all efforts to control the situation.
The situation can be described as a complete mess. It might not be the most technical assessment I could produce but it represents the feeling on the streets, and it is comprehensible for all members of society…
Is it about weather?, is it about climate?, is it about policies managing resources?, is it about human behaviour? …
The question I ask myself is: the scenario in which we live allow for this things to happen, BUT, is it possible to build a scenario where the impact from all those factors can be minimized?
Spain has suffered an um-precedented heat wave in October 2017. The combination of high temperatures and lack of precipitation for the most of the summer and Autumn has left the imprint of a drought which is taking its toll in ecosystems and resources.
But also, the policies applied to maintain forests lacks basic rules and management so there is plenty of fuel ready to fire-up. Meanwhile, laws dictating the use and reclassification of soils defining it as “available to urbanize” or not, create a sense of mistrust over political agendas.
In other hand, the precarious state of employment in our society has led some people to fight for those few positions available to work few months as fire fighter. And their yearly income relies entirely in the duration of the period through which fires force the extension of their contracts. And also there are drug organizations using fires to entertain the police while they move their values. Not least, the wood industry has pushed its agenda into policies allowing the change of native species for others with fast growth like Eucalyptus, which is highly flammable and with high demands of water drying out the soil.
So the forest is messy and un-organised, people are fearful of politicians and their political agendas and also fearful even of their neighbours, and, the climate is “mad”.
About Scientist? At the present time, many of them are unemployed tacking buckets with water to help fighting the fires around their family and friend’s houses. And the others …
What gives validity to a conclusion is the agreement reached arriving from different views and disciplines. The differences in knowledge between members of the society is not a problem when those share a common goal.
What sets us apart is not the differences in knowledge between people and communities, but instead, the limitation from what we make out of our limited knowledge and the goals we choose for its use, politicians, lawyers, scientists, farmers, … you, me
For More related posts in this topic see timeline page to consult the index with all previous assessments published by Diego Fdez-Sevilla PhD. (author’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
After finishing my Masters in Biology Environmental Science in 2001, I have performed research at PhD level and worked inside and outside academia at institutions linked with environmental research and management. In 2013 I found myself in a period of transition searching for a new job’s position.
In such competitive scenario, instead of just moving my cv between desks waiting for my next opportunity to arrive, I used it as an advantageous standing point to start and develop independent research in a blog in which I could open my own line of research completely free of external pressures or interferences.
Through the whole project I have increasingly being focused on publishing pieces of original research applying my own perspective aiming to address relevant environmental questions.
The level of uncertainty which I have accomplished in my assessments has reached enough accuracy to replicate real time developments to the point of compete with models sustained by corporate and administrative budgets.
On Feb 2017, it has reached an stage in which its framework has been defined and it has been applied in follow-ups (in the timeline section at the bottom use ctrl+F: “follow-up”) delivering the subsequent conclusions. Therefore, the work which I present in my blog has become a chapter in my career, and I should focus now my attention on my new steps towards professional and personal growth.
The economic support sustaining the three years of research presented in this blog has been private based on my own capacity to generate it. Once the main conclusions of the project have demonstrated their value, in the absence of economic support, I can only look into other activities aside offering detailed assessments in this blog in order to keep moving while hoping that my published work could call the interest for its continuity from external sources of financial support.
Therefore, since Feb 2017, the generation of assessments over real-time developments discontinues its weekly bases due to the absence of financial support.
You have to be aware of that while one single line of writing containing an original idea can be read in seconds, reaching such idea might take weeks, months or years of analyses and reasoning. Such process is time consuming and require to achieve a state of mind where the focus of attention is prioritised over the subject under study above other matters. This state of mind can only be achieved and maintained when there is no need to address solving the challenge of being under the pressure of having to find access to all kind of material resources while also searching for ways to support an autonomous life style.
If you are interested in the continuity of this project, please share your interest publicly so investors and institutions might recognise its value and offer the support required to make this research an activity sustainable in a full time schedule.
Some people might think that being independent is related with being free from economical agendas. Since we all rely on economic support to sustain our activities, every activity require economic support. Being “independent” is a mindset which only should reflect an attitude based on a self-evolved criteria built upon a critical mind. It should not be identified with isolation but instead with the reputation of the source offering an opinion.
I am sorry I can not be involved in discussions and assessments in a full time-frame since I do not have the required economic support.
I only hope that with my previous activity I have been able to build a reputation over my capacity to analyse situations, make assessments, build communication channels and interact with others. And I hope that it will help me to find a team interested in sharing such attitude helping to support the reputation of institution/s involved.
Diego Fdez-Sevilla PhD In transition
I am looking for new opportunities and new challenges, to join a team. At the same time that I look for job openings to incorporate my resume, I would encourage any one finding interesting any of the skills which I apply throughout my research, as well as communicator, to evaluate my profile as a candidate for your projects. email d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com
You can look at the whole project (more than 190 posts between Oct 2013 to Feb 2017) published at https://diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com and also you will find some of those publications in my profile at ResearchGate and at the Citations page.
I am living in Spain free to relocate geographically worldwide.
About this Project:
My definition of Climate Drift is: the deviation from equilibrium of the conditions allowing the perpetuity of an established symbiotic relationship between biotic and none biotic components in a micro and macro ecosystem. This situation can be due to changes in any component of the ecosystem playing a synergistic effect over the rest. And the causes can be either a change in the magnitude of the already implemented forces in place, changes in the directionality or rates in the flows of energy pre-established OR/AND the impact suffered by the incorporation of new components/forces and energy sinks or sources in any part of the system interfering with the previously established order and balance.
This project published in a blog format, offers pieces of original research in environmental science, and a space for discussion, based on considering as a major factor limiting our understandings the lack of attention given to the gaps of knowledge existent. The concepts, measurements and parameters applied to address environmental synergistic interactions are too narrow and isolated from each other to understand their full meaning. Such circumstance induce to reach dogmatic patterns of thought to make the quickest conclusions in the absence of a better and clear idea describing what is happening.
In this Project I aim to address those limitations using observational analyses offering assessments over real time events considering those as proxies of significant value to make interpretations over global synergistic relationships.
Feedback is always welcome here and at my email d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com
Since 2002 I have performed research over the Atmospheric Dynamics interacting with the biota in the field of Aerobiology. In Oct 2013 I focused my attention over climatic dynamics and in Oct 2014 I published what I believe to be a valid theory explaining current developments in atmospheric dynamics. I shared my thoughts at my blog and several groups in LinkedIn (like the AGU, NASA and NOA groups) where the immense response offered has been silence.
In Feb 2015 I published a revision and since then a constant follow-up throughout more than 200 assessments. Still today, April 2017, the majority of the response is silence despite the amount of visits identified by all the SEO tools and the interactions and shares accounted. See the related stats at the Timeline page.
So I thank your open feedback and share.
Nowadays, there are many divisions between disciplines due to the isolated nature of their specific language and methodologies. I might not use the right vocabulary for all the fields which I discuss, or the right data or the right reasoning. But when nobody is able to offer a consensus over what it is going on, I wonder, what is right this days?.
Esta obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial 4.0 Internacional.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.