Chaos in Manufacturing
8th Annual Conference

May 2-5, 2000, Santa Fe, New Mexico

By : Jim Pinto,
San Diego, CA.

Dick Morley has been running his annual Chaos in Manufacturing Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 8 years - and I've attend seven of them. Nearby is the Santa Fe Institute, home of Complexity Science, Artificial Life, Emergent systems and the kind of advanced thinking that will begin to make a major difference as we move into the new century.

This is a review of the Conference in May 2000.

A version of this review is at :
Click for Manufacturing Automation Interactive Manufacturing Automation Interactive

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the home of Chaos - which means Complexity Science, Artificial Life, Emergent systems and the kind of advanced thinking that will begin to make a major difference as we move into the new century. Indeed, that is what Heinz Pagels referred to in his book The Dreams of Reason when he wrote: “I am convinced that the nations and people who master the new sciences of complexity will become the economic, cultural and political super-powers of the next century”.

The classic Dick Morley was at Santa Fe again this year, presiding at his Chaos in Manufacturing conference, May 2-5, 2000. Attendance was somewhat less than previous years, but there was good representation from the likes of Proctor & Gamble, the US Postal Service and attendees making the pilgrimage all the way from Mexico and Spain. Doug Bartholomew of Industry Week was there again this year, looking for the new trends and thinking that signal the emergence of a new age.

In the world of science, a trumpet rarely blows to announce something significant; a choreographed climax seldom occurs. Here Morley was the bandmaster, waving his hands incessantly about ideas that have been talked about before. But they come again, with freshness for the newcomers, stimulating yet another slant, getting ready to burst into awesome practicality. Morley insists that every time something "new" happens, the originators insist that they had been discussing it for twenty years. At Santa Fe, midst the lurking of the likes of Nobel-prize winner Stuart Kauffman in the restaurant and the ghost of Chris Langton (father of A-Life) in the corridors, I have a hunch that the revolution is almost ready.

The first day is for rookies to get orientated to the terminology and thinking. Van Parunak of the ERIM Center for Electronic Commerce was again the tutor. The next morning, the conference was ready to handle speakers from Los Alamos National Labs and the Santa Fe Institute talking on Dynamics, Emergent Computation and Evolution in Cellular Automata. This was followed by a discussion on the new technology of Quantum Computing. The talk on market strategy using non-linear pricing brought new thinking into the stark reality of the stock market.

After lunch, "Macroinnovation - Complexity's Killer-app" presented a management discipline which stimulates innovative thinking in large organizations. This was followed by a discussion of the new and highly acclaimed book "The Soul at Work" by the authors, who engaged the attendees in a practical demonstration of how individual thinking stimulates the emergence of positive, motivated behavior in work-groups.

The next day, the Material Manager of a manufacturing company talked passionately about how his struggle with an MRP (material requirements planning) system that forced people to conform was transformed into success through allowing spontaneous change to emerge through the responsibility and motivation of individuals. Then came a fascinating discussion on the theory and practice of auctions and how they affect e-commerce pricing. Dick Morley demonstrated his original thinking with a discussion of "Loosely Coupled Sets" - the practical applications of predictive diagnostics through using a lot of inaccurate sensors, rather than a few accurate measurements.

Last year, Jim Pinto presented the possibility that computers will soon exceed human intelligence. At this conference, Jim proposed that in the future, synthetic intelligence will not merely reside in a single entity, but that advancing technology is already producing a symbiosis of humans with a connected intelligence - the Internet - which is resulting in emergent behavior that is radically different from the past.

The true value of this annual Chaos conference is not just the lectures and meetings, but rather the informal gatherings each evening in the Morley suite. There, aficionados, critics and converts alike mingled till the wee hours of the morning, beer and peanuts within reach, with a mixture of wit and wisdom, brilliance and BS. Topics ranged from venture capital to video-games, science and the stock-market, football and frivolity - all loosely coupled sets…..

Stephen Hawking has recently pronounced: "I think the next century will be the century of complexity!" Indeed, at Morley's Chaos/2000 in Santa Fe, complexity science has moved us another step into the new age.

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