## Cybernetics • Regulation In Biological Systems • Selection 9

Studies of intelligent systems, natural or artificial, tend to focus on dynamic models or symbolic models, rarely both, finding it difficult to integrate the two.  But here we are asking the synthetic question — How does a cybernetic system come to develop semiotic systems, mediated both internally and externally, capable of bearing the information it needs to survive and achieve its other objectives?

With that in mind, let’s return to Ashby’s text, picking up the argument where he underscores his thesis up to this point and continuing from there.

## Regulation In Biological Systems

### Survival

10/6.[concl.]   In general, then, an essential feature of the good regulator is that it blocks the flow of variety from disturbances to essential variables.

10/7.   The blocking may take place in a variety of ways, which prove, however, on closer examination to be fundamentally the same.  Two extreme forms will illustrate the range.

One way of blocking the flow (from the source of disturbance $D$ to the essential variable $E\,)$ is to interpose something that acts as a simple passive block to the disturbances.  Such is the tortoise’s shell, which reduces a variety of impacts, blows, bites, etc. to a negligible disturbance of the sensitive tissues within.  In the same class are the tree’s bark, the seal’s coat of blubber, and the human skull.

At the other extreme from this static defence is the defence by skilled counter-action — the defence that gets information about the disturbance to come, prepares for its arrival, and then meets the disturbance, which may be complex and mobile, with a defence that is equally complex and mobile.  This is the defence of the fencer, in some deadly duel, who wears no armour and who trusts to his skill in parrying.  This is the defence used mostly by the higher organisms, who have developed a nervous system precisely for the carrying out of this method.

### Reference

• Ashby, W.R. (1956), An Introduction to Cybernetics, Chapman and Hall, London, UK.  Republished by Methuen and Company, London, UK, 1964.  Online.

cc: Cybernetics • Ontolog (1)(2) • Structural Modeling (1)(2) • Systems Science (1)(2)

## Cybernetics • Regulation In Biological Systems • Discussion 4

Re: Systems Science • (1)(2)Jack Ring

JR:
I share your appreciation of Ashby’s work.  However it seems to reflect the deductive approach typical of males as contrasted to the inductive approach typical of females.  Make sense?

A tutorial introduction to a scientific subject is necessarily bound by considerations both rhetorical and logical.

• Rhetoric, classically speaking, concerns those forms of argument which consider the audience, that is, which take into account the receiver’s operating characteristics and prior state of information.
• Logic, especially the “Logic of Science” conceived in a line of thinking from Aristotle through C.S. Peirce, requires abductive as well as deductive and inductive reasoning and divides their duties in a different way than dualist accounts of scientific inference.

### Reference

• Ashby, W.R. (1956), An Introduction to Cybernetics, Chapman and Hall, London, UK.  Republished by Methuen and Company, London, UK, 1964.  Online.

cc: Cybernetics • Ontolog (1)(2) • Structural Modeling (1)(2) • Systems Science (1)(2)

## History, Its Arc, Its Tangents • 2

Are there watersheds in the history of science?  A continental divide between basins of right and wrong ideas?  I was pondering these questions when one of my favorite passages from Leibniz came to mind.

### The Present Is Big With The Future

Now that I have proved sufficiently that everything comes to pass according to determinate reasons, there cannot be any more difficulty over these principles of God’s foreknowledge.  Although these determinations do not compel, they cannot but be certain, and they foreshadow what shall happen.

It is true that God sees all at once the whole sequence of this universe, when he chooses it, and that thus he has no need of the connexion of effects and causes in order to foresee these effects.  But since his wisdom causes him to choose a sequence in perfect connexion, he cannot but see one part of the sequence in the other.

It is one of the rules of my system of general harmony, that the present is big with the future, and that he who sees all sees in that which is that which shall be.

What is more, I have proved conclusively that God sees in each portion of the universe the whole universe, owing to the perfect connexion of things.  He is infinitely more discerning than Pythagoras, who judged the height of Hercules by the size of his footprint.  There must therefore be no doubt that effects follow their causes determinately, in spite of contingency and even of freedom, which nevertheless exist together with certainty or determination.

Right or wrong side of history?

On the one hand it envisions a thoroughgoing determinism.  On the other hand it foreshadows latter-day ideas about a holographic universe.  And it does all this while laying out its own theory of history, whose core idea is the germ of the differential calculus.

### Reference

Gottfried Wilhelm (Freiherr von) Leibniz, Theodicy : Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, edited with an introduction by Austin Farrer, translated by E.M. Huggard from C.J. Gerhardt’s edition of the Collected Philosophical Works, 1875–1890.  Routledge 1951.  Open Court 1985.  Paragraph 360, page 341.

## Higher Order Sign Relations • 3

Travel delayed … so I have a little time …

JA:
The subject matters of relations, types, and functions enjoy a form of recursive involvement with one another which makes it difficult to know where to get on and where to get off the circle of explanation.  As I currently understand their relationship, it can be approached in the following order:

• Relations have types.
• Types are functions.
• Functions are relations.

In this setting, a type is a function from the places of a relation, that is, from the index set of its components, to a collection of sets known as the domains of the relation.

My 3-basket mantra recited above harks back to the mid 1980s when I took a course on Applications of Lambda Calculus from John Gray at Illinois.  It was all about categories, combinators, and computation, focusing especially on cartesian closed categories, one of the hot topics of the day.  We had a packet of readings from the classic sources and used J. Lambek and P.J. Scott’s Introduction to Higher Order Categorical Logic as our main text.  I followed that up with a supervised independent study where I explored various themes of my own.

The directions I pursued, and continue to continue, all have to do with mutating category theory just far enough to encompass Peirce’s 3-eyed vision in a more natural fashion.

I’ll make that more explicit when I next get a chance.

## Theory and Therapy of Representations • 4

JA:
What are the forces distorting our representations of what’s observed, what’s expected, and what’s intended?
PDM:
The short answer is …. the force behind all distortions is our own unenlightened mind, and all the shortfalls this comes with.

I think that’s true, we have to keep reflecting on the state of our personal enlightenments.  If we can do that without losing our heads and our systems thinking caps, there will be much we can do to promote the general Enlightenment of the State.

Well, the weekend is upon me, and I find myself in a weakened state, so I’ll leave off here with another recurring train of thoughts:

### Theory and Therapy of Representations • 2

December 19, 2011

In a complex society, people making decisions and taking actions at places remote from you have the power to affect your life in significant ways.  Those people govern your life, they are your government, no matter what spheres of influence they inhabit, private or public.  The only way you get a choice in that governance is if there are paths of feedback permitting you to affect the life of those decision makers and action takers in significant ways.  That is what accountability, response-ability, and representative government are all about.

Naturally, some people are against that.

In the United States there has been a concerted campaign for as long as I can remember — but even more concerted since the Reagan Regime — to get the People to abdicate their hold on The Powers That Be and just let some anonymous corporate entity send us the bill after the fact.  They keep trying to con the People into thinking they can starve the beast, to limit government, when what they are really doing is feeding the beast of corporate control, weakening their own power over the forces that govern their lives.

That is the road to perdition as far as responsible government goes.  There is not much of anything one leader or one administration can do unsupported if the People do not constantly demand a government of, by, and for the People.

## Theory and Therapy of Representations • 3

Representation is a concept we find at the intersection of cybernetics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, politics, and psychology both cognitive and clinical.  In my studies it led me from math to psych and back again, with sidelong glances at the history of democratic governance.  Its time come round again, here’s a bit I wrote on that:

### Theory and Therapy of Representations • 1

Again, in a ship, if a man were at liberty to do what he chose, but were devoid of mind and excellence in navigation (αρετης κυβερνητικης), do you perceive what must happen to him and his fellow sailors?

Plato • Alcibiades • 135 A

Statistics were originally the data a ship of state needed for stationkeeping and staying on course.  The Founders of the United States, like the Cybernauts of the Enlightenment they were, engineered a ship of state with checks and ballasts and error-controlled feedbacks to achieve the bicameral purpose of representing both reality and the will of the people.  And Max Weber understood a state’s accounting systems were intended as representations of realities its crew and passengers must observe or perish.

The question for today is —

• What are the forces distorting our representations of what’s observed, what’s expected, and what’s intended?

## History, Its Arc, Its Tangents • 1

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe;
the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways;
I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by
the experience of sight;  I can divine it by conscience.
And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

I think we are dealing with the scientific analogue of the moral figure above.  To inquire is to act as if inquiry pursued far enough will end in truth.  It’s a regulative principle, not a dogma, but a regulative principle is akin to a leap of faith.  Here we have a parting of the ways between those who think the end is near what we think we already know and those who think it’s more likely further down the road.  The two camps sort past and present ideas according to each one’s guess what the future holds.