msb ~036 Macroscopes of the mind

Macroscopes of the mind

Scopes – three different kinds

What instruments does imagination offer? Microscopes and telescopes selectively bring the small and distant into human focus. But selecting some things means excluding others, helping to simplify the complex. What if an instrument could bring complexity itself within our scope?

In 1979, French systems theorist Joël de Rosnay wrote The Macroscope. “The macroscope is unlike other tools … a symbolic instrument made of a number of methods and techniques borrowed from very different disciplines. It would be useless to search for it in laboratories…” The name came from Piers Anthony’s 1969 SF novel, Macroscope, where a revolutionary instrument enables the hero to see whatever’s happening anywhere in the universe. Rosnay’s conceptual tool-for-complexity is more valuable. In Engaging Emergence (2010), Peggy Holman described macroscopes as “tools for sensing complex interconnections among information, ideas, people, and experiences. Maps, stories, art, media or some combination of them all … help us see ourselves in a larger context.”

Imagination itself is our best macroscope, if we can actively include what we’d prefer to unsee. “Imagine,” Holman asks: “what if we could easily see a range of perspectives? … What does the nuanced landscape of multiple perspectives on any issue look like?” A nuancescope? I’ll take a dozen.

NB: The link above is to Peggy Holman’s article in The Systems Thinker. Her book is here.

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