Holistic engineering and a renewed science of holism for a thriving world
We see a misalignment between the engineering field’s constitutive-interests rooted in the reductionist sciences and the needs of the 21st century in the socio-political, environmental, and spiritual realms. Following Habermas’s critical theory, the knowledge-constitutive interest of the natural and reductionist sciences lie primarily in the manipulation of the physical world for the purpose of predictable and quantifiable outcomes by reducing the studied system to its smallest components. Such interests are unfit to understand and intervene in our world; a living world of dynamic complexity. We argue that a renewed science of holism will create the conditions for a critical engineering education that can mimic the properties of living systems to recreate a thriving existence for all living beings on this planet. In this thesis, we identify six loose web-nodes to draw a picture of a science for the whole:
(1) Natural phenomena such as emergence, self-organization, or autopoiesis acquaint us with the nature of nature. (2) The study of our world brings us closer to our cosmos’s mysteries, which naturally introduces spirituality to the holistic web. (3) Dynamically complex systems theory attempts to understand the relationships between parts of the system to make assumptions about future behavior or opportunities for intervention. Practices that are commensurate with the nature of reality are crucial for an effective engagement with living systems. Such practices include (4) methods for a co-creation of the future and (5) research and learning methodologies that embrace unpredictable emergence of insights and emancipate us from hidden oppressive power structures. (6) Lastly, a holistic science includes the reductionist sciences to analyze, predict, and control non-living, simple systems. Our hope is that a holistic science will re-shape engineers’ understanding to learn and interact with our world to recreate the nature of nature in our systems: a thriving existence for all.
Readers are invited to comment on the online version of the thesis: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1C3SCRvH27EgcddZZr0pTxEqCUb41ksqJ/view
| Advisors: Linda Vanasupa, Benjamin Linder, Jonathan Stolk