2016/07/26 10:40 John Kineman for Roberto Poli, “Anticipatory Science — Science before the crisis”, ISSS 2016 Boulder

Plenary @ISSSMeeting John Kineman for Robert Poli @panticipation, Keynote #isss2016USA, 60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences and 1st Policy Congress of ISSS, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Day 2 theme:  Global Science and Assessment

Plenary IV: Crisis Science: Anticipatory, Real-Time, and Preventive

  • Description: Adequate resilience and appropriate response (interventions) to crises and disasters and continuous improvement thereof is a growing global need and a social responsibility in view of the seemingly growing number of disasters endangering a growing number of people and even our civilization. Can we do a better job of anticipating, systemically understanding and mitigating the cycles of crisis and recovery by combining exploratory ‘crisis science’ with long-term ‘sustainability science’? Can we unravel the antithesis of incompatible response systems and find new ways to integrate scientific, technological, cultural, ethical, political and economic influences? Preparedness must systemically consider the often emergent interplay of supporting and obstructing factors. Actual interventions (responses) must holistically evaluate the total situation and make decisions, unfortunately to be performed under high uncertainty, extreme stress and time pressure. Despite the often singularity of disasters we have to identify similarities and powerful abstraction in order to support scientific analysis and improved mitigation. A long range target could be an interdisciplinary ‘Strategic Crisis Science’. The panel of international experts will discuss these issues from their different backgrounds and national priorities with respect to preparedness and interventions. We will attempt to establish common grounds and basic solutions.

Chair: Gerhard Chroust, Institute of System Sciences, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

[Gerhard Chroust]

Gerhard Chroust

When can we detect that a crisis is coming?

Living systems have fundamental (re-actions)

  • Passive:  freeze; ignore/deny; submit/sustain/endure
  • Active: flight/run away, …


Disaster phases

  • 1. Anticipation
  • 2. Alert/Action Planning
  • 3. Response/Intervention
  • 4. Restoration
  • 5. Post-mortem Analysis (in parallel)

Phasing for secondary disasters (which could be worse that the first one)

  • e.g. Fukushima took away nuclear plant, but also impacted people locally

ICT Resources

  • Supporting humans

Have computer and processes, what is helpful in disasters?

  • Need elaborate process management, it’s teachable
  • Disasters are difficult to train on the spot
  • Repository of best practices

Disasters are usually wicked problems.


  • John Kineman, filling in for Roberto Poli, Anticipatory Science
  • John Kineman on oil spill situation
  • James Syvitski on politics to technology


Deming circle:  Plan Do Act?

  • Add reflect?

[John Kineman, President of the ISSS, 2015-2016]

Roberto Poli unfortunately fell ill, but we do have his slides

John Kineman

Roberto Poli is the UNESCO Chair on Anticipatory Systems, University of Trento

Lives in Trento

  • Convention in 1545-1563, 3 Popes Tridentinum, reaction to the Reformation

Starting point

  • Future is coming back to the research agenda
  • Reorientation from understanding “what is”

Traditional Future Studies

  • Foresight, analytic exploration of possible futures (e.g. via scnearios) to change the present
  • Forecasts (time series)
  • Foresight includes passage from scenarios to action

New Futures Studies

  • Includes forecasts as legitimate component of FS (building quantitative models)

Forecast with math

Between forecast and foresight, something not forgotten (trends deflect, may vanish, new trends may arise), so there are surprises and novelties

  • Problem with term “sustainability”:  a basis, then invented new things (e.g. in agricultural)

Role of reframing:  see things in a different way

Opposition between “seeing” and “knowing”

  • If you see the flood, it’s too late to run; but if you know about the flood, you can do something

Anticipatory behaviour

We can allow ourselves to talk about the future


Computer systems maybe for the local; international teams moving to local.  Anticipation is the way we should be thinking in the future.  Assumption of the universality of knowledge.  Fire station office, paramedics respond to disasters all the time, not on the same scale.  Computers can’t assimilate the information, there’s time critical decision-making.  People are trained.

Anticipatory knowledge and indigenous systems.  Natural springs running more strongly, know there’s a wind system coming for rain.  Mother Earth is anticipating capacity.

  • Computer scientists can correlate inputs.  Computers will be at the ground level, in the infrastructure.  Will never cover it all.
  • Shouldn’t lose the important details, we should lose the unimportant details.
  • In marriage, my wife decides the big things, e.g. election.  I decide the little things, money.  We always lose the details.
  • If don’t recognize a fire brigade engine, a problem.

#isss, #isss2016