Mission, History & Founders
Ecocosm Dynamics, Ltd. is a non-profit corporation that supports an international research team of multidisiplinary analysts who are dedicated to studying the Earth's environmental crisis from a system perspective, and to searching for a solution.
The corporation was founded in 1999 by Willard Fey and Ann Lam, following two years of intensive study of the problems they describe systemically as "The ECOCOSM Paradox". The story of their collaboration is an unusual and interesting one.
After a master's degree in computer science and sixteen years as a software engineer, Ann returned to Georgia Tech In the fall of 1996 to study "sustainability". Prompted by empathy for the problems of both humans and non-humans, and concern for her son, Bryan, who will inherit today's global problems, Ann had spent several years in self-study and interaction with environmentally-oriented groups and individuals. Finally, she had decided to re-enter the academic world in an attempt to develop a "big picture" of the problems with the hope that such a picture would suggest the most optimal way to help solve them.
In the fall of 1997, following courses in public policy, mechanical and civil engineering, and environmental ethics, she concluded that she needed a system perspective to try to assemble the picture, and sought out Willard's course in Feedback Dynamics. Willard was one of the original members of the Industrial Dynamics Group that developed Feedback Dynamics methodology (then called Industrial Dynamics) in the Sloan School of Management at MIT 40 years ago. He had directed and implemented the first study of a real human system using the methodology, directed the first undergraduate program for students majoring in it, and had done extensive consulting applying the methodology to real human systems.
When Ann knocked on his office door that fall and explained why she wanted to learn about Feedback Dynamics, he told her to register for the course and come back in three days. When she returned, he handed her a stack of key papers and books he had selected for her to read. Undaunted, she said, "Thank you," and went away with them.
Toward the end of the course she asked Willard's opinion of the causes and solutions for the environmental crisis. He told her he believed the condition was grave and there was no solution.
Well, Ann was not willing to accept such a pessimistic answer. Instead, she insisted that Willard write a paper describing his opinions for the International Society for the System Sciences conference in the summer of 1998 whose theme was sustainability. At first, he resisted, knowing that his viewpoint would undoubtedly be an unpopular one. But Ann persisted relentlessly, offering to contribute to the research and paper-writing effort. The result, born of intense activity, chronic back pain, spirited discussion, and several technological multimedia adventures, was the plenary presentation at the ISSS 1998 annual meeting.
That presentation fanned such interest and controversy, that Willard and Ann were kept very busy for the next year writing articles and creating their presentation videotape. Despite the activity, it was clear that the "big picture" did not suggest an optimal way (or any other kind of way) to help solve the global problems of the system they had characterized.
In 1999, they decided to create Ecocosm Dynamics, Ltd., in order to convene a group of people who would be willing to consider the problems of "The ECOCOSM Paradox" and help in the search for a solution.
Brief biographical notes on Willard:
Willard was one of the original members of the Industrial Dynamics Group that developed the Feedback Dynamics methodology (then called Industrial Dynamics) in the Sloan School of Management at MIT 40 years ago, where he studied electrical engineering, economics, management science, psychology and systems. He directed and implemented the first study of a real human system using the methodology; and directed the first undergraduate program for students majoring in it, for which he received the 1966 Everett Moore Baker Award. In January of 1969 he renamed the field to Feedback Dynamics, and brought its curriculum to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was a professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering for 30 years. He has conducted and published Feedback Dynamics studies of military systems, higher education, the criminal justice system in Atlanta, ecological systems and corporation dynamics; and has performed numerous consulting studies for corporate and government clients both large and small. At Georgia Tech he supervised hundreds of one-to-two-student course project studies, 5-student-group Senior Design studies for Atlanta businesses, and M.S. and Ph.D. theses; the majority of which have involved the analysis of and the implementation of improved policies and procedures in real human systems. He retired from teaching in 1999 to devote time to this research.
Brief biographical notes on Ann:
Ann has been a knowledge management consultant and software engineer with Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard since 1986, where she has designed and implemented information databases, library, and financial systems. Previously, she spent ten years as a successful singer-songwriter in the Atlanta area. She holds a B.A. in mathematical statistics and music from the University of Florida and an M.S. in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she specialized in human factors and cognitive psychology. She is currently retired from the software industry, and studying environmentally sustainable ecosystems, environmental ethics and public policy, and political, social and spiritual processes. She lives in Georgia with her husband, Jerry (also a software engineer), and her son, Bryan.
Copyright ?1999-2007 by Ecocosm Dynamics, Ltd. except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved.