Imagination > Knowledge.

About

This blog is a collection of my ideas and activities. Here I mostly present spare time projects of mine, sometimes related to my actual work, sometimes not. I also gather resources related to my teaching and publications.

I am an ecological economist (PhD candidate) at the University of Leeds but also have a wide range of other interests, the most significant being: Complexity science, grand patterns, data science, AI, model-thinking in general, entrepreneurship, maths, physics, history, fitness and probably more.

The name collective mind has been inspired by my father’s work who is a theoretical physicist turned project trainer, and applies the principles of self-organization and complexity in teams all around Germany.

I adopted that because I think a collective mind is really what I am (what we all are? networks of billions and billions of cells). Furthermore, I have had manifold other intellectual influences and mentors throughout the last decade and I cannot really say I am just X or Y.

I am deeply influenced, by the climate crisis and its connection to energy consumption. It is the golden thread that pervades my career. We do try to find solutions for social disparities and the climate challenge at the University of Leeds and can show that they are strongly intertwined. For more info, have a look at my Prof’s work for example: Julia K. Steinberger.

However, I also like science just for the sake of science. I am generally an optimist concerning our collective potential and what we have already achieved (yes, despite global warming likely soon hitting crazy levels and the world seeming in constant demise).

Other strong influences in my life were from computational biology and swarm robotics, lead by Prof. Thomas Schmickl at the University of Graz. Or from complexity science at the Santa Fe Institute and its online learning community.

Moreover, complexity science taught us that a collective mind is (or close to) what humanity and the planet’s ecosphere are really. We exist in a complex web consisting of ourselves, everything we make and everything that surrounds us. There are emergent characteristics to be surprised by, chaos to master and tipping points to die or live by.

Maybe contrary to many other ecological economists, I also have a strong interest in technology, its progress and its applications in energy, AI, robotics, space industry, bio-tech and many more. I do believe that scaling our consumption and economic activity down is absolutely fundamental to re-enter equilibrium with our planet and guarantee long-term survival (the evidence is pretty clear on that, so pretty much in line with the degrowth community here), but I do not agree that scientific, technological and social stasis are necessary desirable long-term (talking many millenia here) goals for humanity (so pretty much anti the degrowth community, but more in line with people like Elon Musk). I do believe that technology and science are the central ways of using our mind (next to music, arts and spirituality) and I do believe that we should and that it is the most exiting and vast venue for us to explore the universe.

We should now focus on saving the planet, a favorable climate and ourselves and then future generations can deliberately consider what to do with some spare/surplus resources, if there are any. The problem is that we never had these considerations when the industrial revolution lit off, we just behave to this day as if there is infinite of everything: Air, water, trees…. There is not, naturally. The thinking that led us there is unidimensional.

Reading as many of the great authors as I can, in my admittdetly limited time devoted to reading, (e.g. Carl Sagan, Eric Jantsch, Yuval Harari and Thomas Piketty), I came to the conclusion that an integral mindset is what actually drives humanity forward, in mental, ecological, social and technological issues, and not one that only thinks in poles and absolutes (left vs. right, socialist vs. capitalist, environmentalist vs. oil company, progress vs. degrowth, evil vs. good etc.). Differentiation is insightful. Synthesis can be ingenious.

Extremely short CV/Qualifications:

B.A. International Energy Management. (2012-2015, Karlshochschule)

M.Sc. International Sustainable Development (2015-2018, University of Graz, Utrecht University and TERI University)

PhD candidate Energy footprints and Economic inequality (2018-present, University of Leeds)

Over the years, I also did a couple of pure maths courses at the Distance University of Hagen and several online courses in physics, programming, modelling, and otherwise mostly more maths.

Long CV.

Current other projects/interests:

Studying Machine Learning/AI

Watching talks like the this one

Measuring my own energy and carbon footprints

Climate entrepreneurship

Yannick Oswald

E-mail: y-oswald@web.de, eeyo@leeds.ac.uk