Spaceship Earth Poster from James Lovelock Centenary Conference

I had a fantastic time at the James Lovelock Centenary Conference last week.

My Poster Paper on Spaceship Earth was accepted, based on the following Abstract. The poster itself is can be seen below.

Spaceship Earth – from attractive metaphor to architectural analogue

Sillitto, H.G.1,

1Sillitto Enterprises and International Council On Systems Engineering, Edinburgh,

“Spaceship Earth” is an attractive and compelling metaphor for our planetary system. Ecologists now have a good understanding of the whole-earth system-of-systems and the many coupled systems that in combination generate its dynamic behaviour – notably the dynamic interactions that maintain an environment hospitable to life. Systems Engineering has emerged as a general technique for realising, managing and retiring “engineered” systems of all sorts. Notably, the Systems Engineering community now has well established architectural patterns and implementation approaches for making successful spacecraft capable of supporting human life during extended self-contained missions.

Ecologists and systems engineers will need to work together to understand the problems facing us in the Anthropocene, and to conceive and implement – indeed, to “engineer”, in its widest sense of “to cunningly contrive” – viable governance systems and intervention strategies for the Anthropocene. The spaceship earth metaphor and the spaceship engineering architectural pattern provide a nearly-shared fuzzy mental model between the communities. Very few members of the public, or engineers, have a good mental model of how Gaia works. Many of both have usable mental models of spacecraft, based on professional experience and/or popular fiction.

The “Spaceship Earth Challenge” seeks to turn a fuzzy metaphor into a formal analogue. It invites participants to develop a formal reference architecture drawing explicit parallels between earth systems and spaceship systems, to allow ecologists and engineers to share mental and formal models, with each other and with the general public. The poster presents current status of our thinking and invites constructive debate.