1.1 copyright Gary McI. Boyd
1.2 8 Sept 1996
1.3 Note: -intended as a basis for Educational Cybersystemics
Educational cybersystemics is the application of cybersystemic science to the development of legitimated educative activities and artefacts
1.4 KEYWORDS: cybernetics, cultural_evolution, education, emergence, communication, control, information, memes, system_theory,
2.1 Evolutionary Cybersystemics-defined
This whole monograph is a definition in extenso of evolutionary cybersystemics. Etymologically the `Cyber' comes from the Greek for steersman and from "Cybernetics" defined by its' founder Norbert Wiener as "The science of communication and control in man and machines." Where by `machines' are meant an extremely broad spectrum of algorithmic and quasi-algorithmic entities (e.g. Turing-machine sense), and where `control' is meant in the engineering sense of making desired (process & outcome)states more probable (not in the everyday personal dominative sense).
Of course all `communicontrol'(-my term to emphasize the inextricability of these processes) occurs in systems nested in or interpenetrated by other systems, but since this fact is too often ignored it is important to emphasize the systemic nature and systemic limits of steering.
Again all control systems have evolved either directly as part of biological blind variation and blind selection, or have been designed and produced with foresight by people & cultures which initially largely blindly evolved. Moreover, actual communication and control systems are usually designed as evolutionary improvements to existing systems, and insofar as possible are constructed from existing components. The extent to which evolutionary history determines our present cybersystems and their behaviour also is frequently ignored, and so it is needful to emphasize this too here with the term `evolutionary'.
2.2 HISTORY of this endeavour
In 1968 I first taught a course on communications theory for Educational Technology graduate students at Sir George Williams University which was almost alright as far as it went, but it became apparent that the theory was not really getting incorporated into the research or professional work of the graduates. Clearly what was lacking was practise with systemic theory of the contextual situation and the purposive aspects of the subject. To remedy this over a number of years I created a course in Educational Cybernetics, and had students undertake exercises in which they applied the theory to make models of educative systems which they had been in. The crucial thing being to relate the theoretical ideas to direct personal & professional experiences. On the basis of student work experiences and my on-going studies and research, I have continually revised the material and activities to reach the present result.
2.3 Education and Performance as systemically embedded activities
Your goal may be to better educate, or to more effectively and efficiently train people to perform, or it may have to do with the transmission of cultural traditions to new generations, or to conduct research on the foregoing, in any case you are working in multiple interpenetrating historically evolved communication and control systems. To ignore the evolutionary cybersystemic aspects of your undertaking is to handicap yourself, and set yourself up for more unpleasant surprises than are really necessary. This is one reason why it is important to study cybersystemics and to do so by modelling and simulating educative systems you have been in, or are in.
When I refer to "education" I mean not just schooling, but quite broadly the undertaking of re-creating the best old knowledge and skills and commitments in new people, and creating good new knowledge in anyone who wants or needs it. `Good' and `best' for what? This depends on how the educational undertaking is legitimated (historically, authoritatively, scientifically, &/or discursively). I believe discursive legitimation is required for democratic public education. In such discourse I argue for both Eco-Co-Cultural Symbiosis, together with present-moment hopeful-satisfaction as necessary criteria for the good and the best for the viability of the life-world of this planet.
2.4 New Ideas, preface
Re-educating Intuition Two decades of teaching "educational Cybernetics" to Concordia University Graduate Students in Educational Technology, has led me to the conclusion that even innovation-oriented students "don't want to know!" new ideas. Totally new (to the students) ideas are not heard, or seen, or they are all too often defensively re-interpreted as something already familiar. Remember that; new ideas are bound to be strongly counter-intuitive, until you re-educate your intuition. For example:
a)Stafford Beer's five cybernetically functional recursive system components, get re-interpreted as some sort of conventional management hierarchy. b) Gordon Pask's "P-individuals" get re-interpreted as job roles, or even worse simply identified with people.
c)Additive(+), deviation-amplifying spiralling feedback gets re-interpreted as "positive re-inforcement". Or more generally any evaluative response to an output gets called "feedback". This is the prime example of debasing a precise technical term into a `folk psychology' parody of itself.
d)Receiver-ensemble-expectation-uncertainty-reducing signal information (Gibbs, Hartley, Shannon, Wiener), gets re-interpreted as a simple quantitative attribute of a message related to commonsense notions of "information".
e)Cybersystemic, "communicontrol" levels are re-interpreted as a version of Bloom's Taxonomy, or Maslow's levels of needs.
In all cases there is some slight relation, if only one hinging on the appearance of a familiar word or symbol, just enough to allow the replacement of the troubling novelty with something comfortably familiar! When I have pointed this out, occasionally I've been met with the Occam's razor rationalisation: Why introduce something new when what you have already is enough to explain things?! If it really is, there is no point in you studying cybersystemics at all. Stop, here, or prepare to struggle delightfully with alien concepts.
At present "constructivism" is more fashionable than realism, probably because people fancy the notion of constructing whatever sort of reality they like, without being brought up short by failures of correspondence or prediction. The social construction of reality is always constrained by bio-physichemical reality. In the short run for a small community the physical constraints may not impinge seriously. The biological and bio-evolutionary constraints are always however, heavily present in human endeavours; people die inconveniently no matter what they believe.
Roy Bhaskar in his several recent books, gives a better explanation of and justification for transcendental realism than I can do here. Moreover the assumption of the real physical and biological world informs successful research methodologies (successful in both explaining and conditionally & probabalistically predicting) and therefore is justified from the stance of "methodological pragmatism" (Vid. N. Rescher).
2.6 Modelling ( Source systems, models, theories)
( The best treatment of this is probably George Klir's, although there are some good bits from Brian Gaines on boundaries etc. and John Warfield, Stafford Beer, Checkland, Flood & Jackson all have much to offer.)
2.7 Collaborative modelling
The reasons for doing collaborative modelling are:
1) to Change the world and understand how the changes work.
2) Requisite Variety - to gather greater control variety from a number of participants -more than any one could muster. Multiple complementary perspectives are to be employed. (Boyd & Zeman 94).
3) To develop new knowledge through "learning conversations". (Pask, Harri-Augstein & Thomas).
4) Proof-reading, - to catch errors & ommissions that one participant would not readily see, & to correct them .
5) To develop, or bring into being, a (new) venture related DAVA or Distributed Autopoietic Virtual Actor ( Trans-body P-individual = team, collectivite' etc.).
2.8 OVERVIEW: A taxonomy of Systems
2.8.1 Formal Systems vs "real" `source' systems
188.8.131.52 Formal Systems
184.108.40.206 Real-"source" systems
220.127.116.11 Model systems
2.8.2 Entropic vs locally negentropic systems
18.104.22.168 Entropic physical systems
22.214.171.124 Locally negentropic physical systems
2.8.3 cybernetic = steering/steered systems
126.96.36.199 Darwinian evolutionary steering
188.8.131.52 feedback-loop steering
184.108.40.206 model-based steering
220.127.116.11 self-history observing based steering
18.104.22.168 gametheory &model based steering
3 AVAILABLE ENERGY & ENTROPY
3.1 Support, Constraint & Leverage
The biophysichemical systems of our world provide the carriers for all culture, communication and imagination; while not actually determining the specifics of our visions and conversations they do make some possible, others difficult and some impossible. Consequently, it is important to understand which possibilities are really favoured and how, and which are rendered impossible, and why.
3.2 Creativity,free-will, and responsibity, vs. determinism
Dennett vs. Penrose History versus magic.
3.3 Time's Arrow (A property of the total expanding universe system)
3.4 Order out of Chaos (Prigogine, Highly dissipative systems)
3.5 Quantum Uncertainty (real) chaos
3.6 Virtual (attractorial) chaos
4 Evolution by Variation and Selection, and Emergence
4.1 Variation= mutation &/or crossovers
4.2 Selection, co-evolution of environment and populations
4.3 Genetic Algorithms
4.4 Artificial Life
4.5 Effects/costs of ORIGIN BY: Blind-evolution, Command, Salesmanship, or Discursive concensus
Blind evolution versus commanded design: Tuzo Wilson's Chinese Junk comissioning story.
5 NATURAL Systems (they all are!), and SUB-OPTIMAL BOUNDARIES
5.1 Modeller's choice
5.2 Zeroth class is merely slowly decaying, entropic systems
5.3 Crystallizing systems (preserve order as cool off)
5.4 Regions of accelerated fall-off of mass, Energy
5.5 CARRIERS,(substrates) and MODULATIONS
5.6 Emergent Levels and Corresponding Boundaries
5.7 M.Bunges definition of emergent levels
6 CYBERSYSTEMS:The 20 most useful classes of regulatory information-processing components: automata & Agents & Actors, arranged in pre-requisite (roughly evolutionarily emergent) order (A selection of the little & larger "cranes" the world is built of, which are particularly useful for cultural & educational engineering).
6.1 Barriers, Channels & Passive filters
6.2 Amplifiers & copiers of other stuff
6.3 SIMPLE AUTOMATA (logic-mechanisms etc.)
6.4 Analog to Digital (& vice-versa) converters
6.5 Automata with D-A (additive) FEEDBACK(e.g. spiralling oscillators)
6.6 "VIRTUAL CHAOS machines" oscillators with "strange attractors"
6.7 Automata with D-L (subtractive) FEEDBACK (e.g. feedback controllers)
6.8 Turing Machines = UNIVERSAL Computing Automata with large memory
6.9 Self-reproducing (Von Neuman )or elementary Autopoietic (Maturana & Varella) AUTOMATA
6.10 Instruction-requiring learning machines
6.11 Spontaneously learning (genetic algorithms &c.) Automata
6.12 Competing evolutionary autopoietic automata ( ARTIFICIAL LIFE)
6.13 Parasitic and symbiotic (& host) automata
6.14 MODELLERS -automata which make models of their environment
6.15 Teleogenic strategic GAME-PLAYING (political) systems
6.16 Autopoietic "Societies" of (amoral)autopoietic automata
6.17 Conscious "Mimeversation" systems
6.18 Intentional "Conversation" systems
6.19 (ethically & morally & aesthetically) Responsible PERSONS as products of conversation-evolution.
6.20 Intentional Cultural(religious, national etc.) Communities
6.21 The world scientific mutually-educative Rooted credibility-staus coherent knowledge development game-leahue system-community
7 NINE MOST EDUCATIONALLY VALUABLE EMERGENT COMMUNICONTROL LEVELS (There are one or more classes of automata corresponding to each cybersystemic communicontrol level.(at each level both positive &/-negative information exists).
7.1 Effectual Modulations (Patterns which do(cause) something later & or elsewhere.(/-modulations which interfere with other modulations so they don't have an action at a distance-later effect).
7.2 UNCERTAINTY-REDUCING(/increasing=NOISE) RECEIVED INFORMATION:- Hartley-Shannon-Weltner signal Information (SBits)
7.3 SUSTAINING(/-Poisoning)(of survival&growth systems) Information
7.4 VIRAL (symbiotic/parasitic) Information (meme-bits)
7.5 CATEGORIAL(/-discategorial) Keith Devlin type Contexted Information(Inforns)& (/-?mis & dis-inforns?)
7.6 Identity-Conjugative(/-divorcing) Information
7.7 ??Liberative replacement
7.8 Scientific (coherent reliable predictive heuristic)model of the real world information.
7.9 EXISTENTIAL? (hope/despair) eco-co-cultural symbiotic unity tending) Information
8 GAMES Theory
8.1 (Why) Formal 2 & n person games
8.2 Payoff & strategies
8.3 Prisoners' Dilemma
8.4 tragedy of the commons
8.5 The law of requisite variety
9 MIMEVERSATION & CONVERSATION THEORY
9.4 Emergent participants
9.5 Non-dominative (Habermasian) discourse
10 DEVELOPING SATISFYINGLY VIABLE SYSTEMS
10.1 viability ( & the desire to sustains the desire to sustain etc)
10.2 LEGITIMATION (Habermas)
10.3 Novel-exciting-possibilities vs. Safe-fair support (A. Zijderveld)
10.4 Ethics & morality
11 PHASES OF CYBERSYSTEMIC MODELLING as a Development strategy
11.1 Identify Focal System (origin-type, and goals &/of principal stakeholders, space/time/population boundaries).
11.2 Model interactions with Context/environment, supersystems etc.
11.3 Identify Important(disturbing, nourishing, constraining, controlling) Context systems
11.4 Model internal functional structure (Key-variable, parameters, constants, levels, loops, dependencies)
11.5 Model dynamic behaviour over appropriate time
11.6 Do sensitivity analysis/simulation-runs
11.7 DO Nine-level audit of Requisite Variety
11.8 Generate innovations
11.9 Implement, formatively evaluate
12 REFERENCES (like all else, under construction!) CHEERS!