Technology convergence, systems thinking and the role of international business studies


Systems Biology Trinity

Illustration of the Trinity of Systems Biology, from the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB) and ISB’s Innovation Engine. “This virtuous cycle of biology driving technology driving computation can exist only in a cross-disciplinary environment where biologists, chemists, computer scientist, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, physicians and others can come together in teams to tackle grand challenges.” [1] Perhaps a potential complementary knowledge gap to be filled in the trinity of the innovation engine would be economic geography and the field of international business (IB) studies to investigate the facets of impact of such an innovation engine on economic policies and global value chains.
Text © CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

When studying trends of technological innovation, my thoughts are often drawn towards the evolution of the robotics industry and the impact of systems biology on machine design / function. Developed from the perspective of biological evolution as described in a 2006 study on self-modeling resilient machines, intelligent machines can self-diagnose its context, morph, adapt behaviour and replicate:

“Here, we describe an active process that allows a machine to sustain performance through an autonomous and continuous process of self-modeling. A robot is able to indirectly infer its own morphology through self-directed exploration and then use the resulting self-models to synthesize

Singapore Management University
BSM Scandinavia 2016
visiting the Swedish west coast


Swedish west coast, Singapore Management University (SMU) Business Study Mission (BSM) Scandinavia 2016

The Singapore Management University (SMU) on their 2016 Business Study Mission (BSM) Scandinavia group visits the Swedish west coast. The group is headed by Tom Estad, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Student Matters, SMU.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

For a number of years now, students of the Singapore Management University (SMU) have made it a tradition on their annual Scandinavian Business Study Missions, to visit the actual departure point of the Swedish East India Company (1731-1813) yearly voyages to China. It was in the aftermath of these trips and those of the Portuguese, Dutch and the English companies that the very state of Singapore was founded just a few years thereafter as a British trading post in 1819.

Some years back, I found myself in discussion with a professor of economic geography, of the travels with students on a geography field study trip to an ice cave in Russia where during the time of the late 1900s, travel routes between Sweden and Russia were not as accessible as they are today. Listening to the somewhat humour filled challenges of gathering about sixteen students on the trip with either poor clothing choice or sometimes even lack of proper food during the long outdoor treks, I wondered if I could myself ever pull through such an expedition. I asked the professor what motivated him to arrange this student ice cave travel to Russia?

A village of Walden huts


In a recent round-table session, the concept of ‘ideas’ was discussed and the question of whether ideas could in fact be stolen, and if so – is that a bad thing – was debated.

Two related thoughts were put forth. The first was from Henry D. Thoreau’s book Walden (1854).

“Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” (p. 343)

The other was Matt Ridley’s, The Rational Optimist and “The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge”:

“Innovation is about the combining and re-combining of ideas. That virtually every technology that we can think of is a combination of other technologies. …That is the fuel of innovation and that’s why innovation happens where people can meet and exchange ideas.” [1]

Thoreau’s Walden bravely postulated that we should not be afraid of being open to whole continents of new thoughts. More than a century later, we find that current information technologies make possible the creation of entire villages of Walden huts. I am here not quite using the concept of Thoreau’s cabin as it was meant by Thoreau himself, but rather in metaphor of a network of connecting ideas. In such a case of an evolution of perspective and technologies over time, one could conclude that the more open the environment for the sharing of information and ideas, the greater the mutual benefit for the people.

Introduction to quantum physics 5th century: Dionysius the Areopagite


atlas CERN 2012

Candidate Higgs boson event from collisions in 2012 between protons in the ATLAS detector on the LHC. Image: ATLAS/CERN [1]

Dionysius the Areopagite

Mystical Theology

Chapter I

These things thou must not disclose to any of the uninitiated, by whom I mean those who cling to the objects of human thought, and imagine there is no super-essential reality beyond; and fancy that they know by human understanding Him that has made Darkness His secret place. And, if the Divine Initiation is beyond such men as these, what can be said of others yet more incapable thereof, who describe the Transcendent Cause of all things by qualities drawn from the lowest order of being, while they deny that it is in any way superior to the various ungodly delusions which they fondly invent in ignorance of this truth? [2,3,4]

[1] CERN 2015. ATLAS and CMS experiments shed light on Higgs properties. Internet resource at, retrieved 27 March 2016.
[2] Stanford University, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, First published Mon Sep 6, 2004; substantive revision Wed Dec 31, 2014. “Ch. 1: Introduction, and allegory of Moses’ ascent up Mt. Sinai.” Internet resource

The latent image


Auguste Rodin, L’aurore (Camille Claudel) c.1885, Musée Rodin, Paris.

Auguste Rodin, L’aurore (Camille Claudel) c.1885, Musée Rodin, Paris.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

Dionysius the Areopagite

Mystical Theology

Chapter II

How it is necessary to be united with and render praise to Him Who is the cause of all and above all. Unto this Darkness which is beyond Light we pray that we may come, and may attain unto vision through the loss of sight and knowledge, and that in ceasing thus to see or to know we may learn to know that which is beyond all perception and understanding (for this emptying of our faculties is true sight and knowledge), and that we may offer Him that transcends all things the praises of a transcendent hymnody, which we shall do by denying or removing all things that are like as men who, carving a statue out of marble, remove all the impediments that hinder the clear perceptive of the latent image and by this mere removal display the hidden statue itself in its hidden beauty.

Modeling Systems Thinking: knowledge as network


Gunter Pauli, founder of The Blue Economy and ZERI(Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives), and Dr. Cheryl Marie Cordeiro.

Gunter Pauli, with Cheryl Marie Cordeiro.
Gunter Pauli is author of ‘The Blue Economy’ and initiator of the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) network that began from 1994. ZERI was based first at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo, as a network of 3000 scientists searching for pragmatic solutions to poverty, climate change and competitiveness. It targeted redesigning production and consumption into clusters of industries inspired by natural systems. Pauli was in 1992, CEO of Ecover, where he built the first zero emissions factory for detergents out of wood. He has an honorary doctorate in economics from the University of Pécs, Hungary.

Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

In 1976, Fritjof Capra, Ph.D, a Vienna-born physicist and systems theorist published The Tao of Physics [1] that explored the way in which modern physics was changing our world perspective from mechanistic to holistic and ecological. It was this underlying influence of systemic thinking and modeling of thought I was interested in when given the opportunity at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, to meet with two distinguished individuals belonging to the realm of systemic thinkers and activists in an evening of lectures – Gunter Pauli, author of The Blue Economy [2] and founder of the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI), and Göran Carstedt, Assar Gabrielsson Professor

The buggy ski: an Emerson connect


“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has be-fallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.” [1]

I find it rare that the outerscape connects with my own innerscape of what, how and where to. This multimodal buggy ski that made me smile is for me, an Emerson moment. A connect.

But perhaps this connect (generic) today is getting much more concrete than Plato himself could have ever conceived, as shown in Michael A. Persinger’s research on cognitive neuroscience:

Michael A. Persinger on Human Brains, Shared Geomagnetic Field, Quantitative Solutions & Implications, Future Adaptations:

“Most of the biological time the human species is continuously exposed to the more or less “steady-state” or static component of the earth’s surface magnetic field. This simultaneous immersion of about 6 to 7 billion human brains, that are effectively very similar semiconducting microstructures within this magnetic field, may be sufficient to produce a secondary field that may have biological implications for survival and adaptation. This secondary field could display emergent properties with qualitatively different characteristics. In previous approaches [8] metaphoric references to the secondary field generated by exposing large numbers of conductors (such as functionally adjacent copper wires) to an applied magnetic field

Quest for semantic consistency in relativity


Fractals in sunset, Swedish west coast, Sweden.

Quantum reality. Fractals that appear and disappear as probabilities, when the observer is standing teetering from left to right to peek at the sunset between. “Classical systems are supposed not to be disturbed by measurement, for the state of a quantum system measurement is crucial” [1:1174]. By ‘measurement’ it is also understood that what is being measured depends upon the position from where the measurement takes place, as when Heisenberg suggests “I believe that one can fruitfully formulate the origin of the classical ‘orbit’ in this way. The ‘orbit’ comes into being only when we observe it. [13:73 in [1]]
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

As the field of quantum physics advanced in theory and discoveries in the past century, what scholars have noticed was just how inadequate language is to frame what Robbert Dijkgraaf calls ‘the study of nothing’ [2]. It is this very topic of language and reality that was addressed in Brigitte Falkenburg’s [1] paper on Peter Mittelstaedt’s contributions to the philosophy of physics. His works addressed a constant quest for semantic self-consistency in the field of quantum mechanics.

Mittelstaedt’s quest for semantic consistency has to do with how relativity and quantum theory get into conflict with traditional philosophical assumptions about the structure of the physical world.

Carl G. Jung on reductionism, and its implication on homo oeconomicus in the era of big data analytics


Carl Gustav Jung, on reductionism in science, with in my view, implications for the current dominant paradigm of theories of human cognitive development, and culture. Transcript from a 1990 documentary of Jung [1] based on his works [2, 3].

“Mythology is pronouncing of a series of images that formulate the life of archetypes. So the statements of every religion, of many poets and so on, are statements about the inner mythological process, which is a necessity because man is not complete if he is not conscious of that aspect of things. So you see, a man is not complete if he lives in a world of statistical truths, he must live in a world of his biological truth, that is his biological truth that is not merely statistics. Yet our natural science makes everything into an average, reduces everything into an average, and of course, all the individual qualities are wiped out. That of course is most unbecoming, it is unhygienic, it deprives people of their specific values where they are individuals. It deprives them of the most important experiences of their life where they experience their own value, the creative background of their personality and we think we are able to be born today with no history. That is a disease. That’s absolutely abnormal. Because man is not born everyday. He is once born in a specific historical setting, with its specific historical qualities and therefore he is only complete when he has a relation to these things. It is as if you were born without eyes and ears when you are growing up without connection to the past. From the standpoint of natural science, you need no connection to the past, you can wipe it out. And that is a mutilation of the human being.” [1: 45:43-49:25]

The 21st International Robot Exhibition (iREX 2015) NEDO Robot Forum, Tokyo.


Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks, NEDO Robot Forum 2015, Tokyo

Dr. Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, with MIT Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks, CTO and Chairman of Rethink Robotics.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2015

The NEDO Robot Forum took place between 3 to 4 December 2015 in conjunction with the 21st International Robot Exhibition (iREX 2015). Held at the conference tower of Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo, Japan, the forum saw a gathering of some of the best minds of the industry and academia.

Two presentations of particular personal interest included Service Robotics by Dr. Steve Cousins, and Collaborative Robots in Factories and Beyond by Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks.

 NEDO Robot Forum 2015, Tokyo

I. Service Robotics

Steve Cousins is the founder and CEO of Savioke, creators of the Relay (Botir and Dash) delivery robots for hotels and was previously President and CEO of Willow Garage, overseeing the creation of the robot operating system (ROS), the PR2 robot and the open source TurtleBot. Over the next decade,

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