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Further to my pet theorization about hybridizing climate sci and SE, let us pick up the unaddressed “catch” from the …New Branch of Software Engineering post.

The catch is the epistemics-power entanglement, that Michel Foucault famously made so prominent through his work (see note 1 below) – what else? It is a reliable predictor of which way things go, on variable scales of temporality, geography, sociality. Since the cherished hybridity is (to use a Lorraine Code turn of phrase) NOT UNavoidable, it may be also be the best way to model social “climates” (not neglecting the “weather”!), as support for building a strategy and its tributary tactics. (note 2 for sci fi souls)

Picture said entanglement as an elaborate vise. To the extent that one can read the imprint that it unavoidably leaves on any axiology it may have between its “jaws”, and to extent that values are the main engine driving our decisions and actions, one would be able to compute the probabilities of the hypothesized hybridity.

Assuming that the proposed hybridity among the sciences which currently make up the epistemology of climate science, on the one hand, and that of software engineering, on the other, is a move in the right direction for the sake of enhancing climate modelling technology, then current knowledge says, Go for it! #1 on the 2Do list, then, would be to scope out the higher levels of academic-societal hierarchy, and the people embodying them, who could and would bend power the Yes way.

As to implementation, it might take time and effort (ok, $$$, too) to figure out how to go about it as far as already accomplished scientists are concerned, and even more – on all three counts – to determine the best ways to educate future scientists who are more fluent in both modelling and climate “tackling”. It is also true that however good models may become, at least from today’s perspective, ongoing observations and paleoclimate studies would still play a major role, to the point of providing the key scientific support for some decision making. (see Jim Hansen’s comparative weighting in section Re computation complexity of models) It may be twice as true as both of the above assertions put together that the motivation for innovation would be coming from younger academics, with less if any influence, and caution, even opposition, may come from those more deeply embedded in the power structures and better positioned to weigh in on the No side for all the above “common sense reasons” (this is not written

Would it be up to the “threat of GW” to make up our mind for us? Let’s think of the tobacco analogy that plays a superb rhetorical role in James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore’s 2009 book, apart from being historically justified from what they present. How many smokers do you know who have tried to give it up and failed, even when diagnosed for cancer (2 in my book), how many who never even tried because they “can’t” (3+ in my book)?

So let’s set that part aside as an ADDICTION-to-habit. Even if it may be difficult to get a logical argument across to, meaning a change in the behaviour of “addicts”, the Yes-side can benefit from as long a list of motivators as possible.

My 2 p’s worth of input – a “Sport”/Sport pun below. [tagging it “serious joking”]

I’d do it for the Sport! And I’d assign the label “In-tact Sport” (cf. note 3, if you would), to counter Steve Schneider‘s very apt monikin [Science as a] “Contact Sport“. Engaging the positive connotations of the former, it represents eco-consonance, and according to the already familiar negative signification of the latter, it implies eco-dissonance.

Coming to the gym?

What am I saying! – urban addictions die hard. How about hiking-skiing-power walking, if you like:) The sky’s the limit to hands-on climating. Not “weathering”! You have to climate over a sufficiently long period of time to earn the label for your research. But it might help you learn to pack a mean modelling punch, too.

Mens sana in corpore sano. (go check note 4)

NOTE 1. To make sure we’re on the same page, Foucault is known to have studied prisons and schools as the mechanisms through which the state metes out “disciplinary power” (Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (1975); 1977 trans. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison ). Synchronistically, Louis Pierre Althusser also includes those institutions in his taxonomy of Ideological State Apparatuses.

NOTE 2. An attempt in that direction was made in science fiction, (cf. “psychohistory” in Frank Herbert’s 1980s Dune Trilogy), though the social sciences might be wary of using similar modelling “in reality”. But have similar considerations deterred us from employing medical diagnostics, so why shove aside climate or social climate modelling?

NOTE 3. The signification can go any number of “good” ways: “gentle, tactful – oh, diplomatic, too – approach”, “the tao of staying and keeping intact”

NOTE 4. Lat. lit., “spirit healthy in body healthy”. “Everybody” knows the English, si?


June 2010


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