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Theme 2. Interactions in society:

the cybernetics of society, ecology and governance

   From the perspective of current social crises, such as COVID-19, climate change and in general sustainable development, this theme wants to explore...

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   From the perspective of current social crises, such as COVID-19, climate change and in general sustainable development, this theme wants to explore the interdependence of global and local policy making. The reach of national policies today may be distorted by poor understanding of autonomy. While autonomy may be desirable, when nations overreach this autonomy and make dysfunctional their relations with more global institutions, such as the United Nations Environmental Programme, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organisation and others, the policy outcomes for the world as a whole can be disastrous. Nations are behaving beyond their natural autonomy with an unrestricted independence, thus making their contribution and collaboration to global policies dysfunctional and costly to humanity. This theme relates to the governance of pressing social and environmental issues in the age of the Anthropocene, experiencing institutional failures. Powerful insights are provided by the Westphalian dilemma, one of the sessions in this theme. This dilemma, by increasing the relevance of national decisions at the expense of a world in need for global decisions, makes responses to different forms of global crises extremely difficult. In this theme, we want to open conversations around policy issues in their local and global aspects, with an emphasis in ecosystems and organisational structures.

   Therefore, this theme aims at exploring cybernetics in several aspects of society, including its contributions to the development of healthy global ecologies, to the strengthening of participatory democracies, to decentralization of control, to effective governance of communities, institutions and nations. What can cybernetics and systems thinking contribute to debates about the network democracy and to the emergence of distributed collective intelligence? What can local, regional, international bodies of knowledge say about strategic control and development centres to initiate and support the consolidation of state, business and societal institutions?

   It is recognised that current democratic models are often dysfunctional, overwhelmed by big data, weakly supported by artificial intelligence, battling with an increasing variety of cloud computing suppliers and dealing with algorithms built upon a top-down direction, which, as implied by the Westphalian dilemma, built upon poor multilevel interactions. This makes it increasingly difficult to bridge global and local constructs and to provide constructive feedback loops. Effective interactions between citizens, experts and policy-makers in a world in which people’s actions are increasingly damaging the environment are posing uncontrolled challenges to the future of society.

   In democratic societies, we often relate decisions and policies as outcomes of direct, representative and participative forms of democracy, which need further development to be effective. This theme invites discussions of the significant distinction between the “wisdom of the commons” emerging from the citizens’ agency as they interact with policy-makers’ decisions supported by experts, think tanks and political parties, and all together, by citizens and policy-makers influenced by an ever stronger media. This distinction between people and policy-makers touches key aspects of communications in a complex world, dominated by big data, which in practice implies data overload for both of them. How do we increase societal capacity to identify, understand and react to the dynamics of their environment? For citizens of a country, big data may conflate their very local experiences with aspects such as the economy, migration, health services, environment and so forth, with the requirements and demands of global policies. Politicians, overwhelmed by data -in an uncertain world- may construct and impose their ego influenced truths propelled by their ideology, weak exposure to expert advice and short-term political interests.

   In WOSC 2021, we invite reflections on how to reduce the gap between sound evidence and wild emotional constructions, through effective ‘hybrid organisations’ and necessary innovation. We need to discuss our responsibility to create regulatory procedures to contextualize what we read and hear in the media and social networks. We invite reflections about the authenticity, legitimacy and truthfulness of the arguments advanced by those forming public opinion. It may be argued that the complexity of societal processes make impossible dealing with these challenges. However, it can be argued that complexity management tools such as organisational models, artificial intelligence, real time decisions, situation centres, operation rooms and shared media, displayed in the digital society, need the support of systems thinking and cybernetics to improve the quality of decisions. These tools carry some risks but also have the potential to increase the opportunities for more effective participation in policy and decision-making processes. We want to learn how to keep open checks and balances between multiple viewpoints to bridge gaps between emotional and empirical truths. We need to learn how to construct dialogues enmeshed in multiple moral mazes. This proposal for WOSC 2021 is an invitation for participants to contribute to the creation, regulation and implementation of more transparent societies.

Theme 2 Sections

  1. Governance of pressing social-environmental issues in the age of the Anthropocene (Ray Ison, Australia; Sandro Schlindwein, Brazil; Igor F. Kefeli, Russia; Shann Turnbull, Australia)

  2. Institutions, nations and distributed organisation and control (the Westphalian Paradox) (Raul Espejo, UK; Clas-Otto Wene, Sweden; German Bula, Colombia; Markus Schwaninger, Switzerland; Allenna Leonard, Canada)

  3. Culture and Society, Citizenship and Democracy (Bernard Scott, UK; Tatiana Medvedeva, Russia; Matjaz Mulej, Slovenia; Zoraida Mendiwelso Bendek, UK)

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