Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lunch with Jay Forrester

Meeting Notes
Jay Forrester and Tenley Albright
October 13, 2011

These notes record a lunch between John Reid, Tenley Albright, and Jay Forrester at MIT.
Tenley Albright is legendary. The first US woman to win an Olympics Gold in figure skating, Surgeon at Harvard Medical for 23 years, and the Director of the MIT Center for Collaborative Initiatives.

Forrester is beyond legendary. I interned for him in 1973…what an honor! He is an MIT Institute Professor Emeritus – 95 years old.


Invented and patented core memory – the random access memory that for years was the basis for modern digital computing
Led the MIT Digital Computer Lab from 1946 to 1951, and supervised the design and construction of “Worldwind I”, one of the first high speed computers.
Led the Digital Computer Divison of MIT’s Lincoln Lab from 1952 to 1956, where he led the team that designed Air Force SAGE – for continental air defense.
Has been widely honored globally and by MIT and by professional associations.
Was associated with Norbert Weiner and John von Neuumann, and others who are widely recognized as fathers of digital computing. At lunch, he said that Weiner was a big ego, and dominated every conversation in a rude way; he said von Neumann was the big brain that made it happen.
invented systems dynamics, starting with “industrial dynamics”, followed by “world dynamics”, and;
ultimately enabled his students Dennis and Donnella Meadows, along with Jorgen Randers, to publish “Limits to Growth” – which is widely credited with getting the world’s attention on the environmmental issues facing the world.
At lunch, Professor Forrester, whose acuity matches any fifty year old, told us of his conviction that systems dynamics hold the key to reform in K-12 education – and that he has the results to prove it.
He told us:

that D-4893 documents 20 years of history in testing this pedagogical approach.
that Creative Leaning Exchange is a foundation created to facilitate information exchange among participating schools
that $100 million is needed to fund the next ten years of experimentation
that simulations in the classroom are exciting students and teachers alike, and form the basis for an exciting new form of classroom engaagement which focuses on the connectivity between subjects rather than the differences.
then systems dynamics are a “language” for the classroom that – once mastered – creates a new fluency for concepts that are central to issues facing businesses and societies alike.
D-4895-1 says that this type of education allows student to “gain a well-rounded confidence for managing their lives and the situations they encounter.”
He says, in D-4895, “education must reverse the trends of the last century toward more and more specialization.” “a person with an understanding of systems sees the common elements of diverse settings rather than focusing on the differences”.
“the innovative personallity believes there are reasons for why things happen”‘
“computer simulation modeling is a repeating process of trial and error.”
“in complex systems,, there are many interconnected feedback loops”
“in simple systems, the cause of failure is clear. In complex systems, causes are more obscure; it is not evident that we have caused our own crisis, so, there is a strong tendency to blame others. However, the practice of blaming others diverts attention from the real cause of trouble.”
“system dynamic modeling is learning by doing”
“I bellieve that immersion in such activee learning can change mental models”

he told us that three software programs are at the basis of the approach. STELLA is simple to use. A second is amiable for business application. A third is VEN-SIM, which is the most powerful (this is what he uses).
He has published “Road Maps”for system learning through the Creative Learning Exchange”