Tag Archives: cybernetics


Some Thoughts On Generative Art by Anders Holt

Brisk Totem - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun

Brisk Totem – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

Many who know something about my art practice know I loathe the terms “digital art” and “digital artist.” Both terms strike me as almost always leading right into various thickets of ignorance, bias, oversimplification, and, confusion about what the word “digital” means when applied to art-making. Yes, it is my personal hangup that I don’t want to be associated with inevitable misconceptions about where ‘the digits’ fall in my own process.

On the other hand I dig being someone who creates generative art because I’m always ready to explain how I deploy scripted generative routines to make images. If I encounter someone who knows about generative art processes, one of their first questions will be along the lines of, “what sequences what?”

An art acquaintance asked me on what kind of art I made. My initial response was about processes and processing, ‘After taking pictures of set-ups I cut them into symmetries, and, process these half pieces into full symmetries. I may process the art work further by adjusting pixels using software.’

“Mixed process photographs.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

I term the art work to be a: mixed process photographic image, or, mixed process photo-generative image. Sometimes the finished piece is a straight photograph–taken by a digital camera–cut and pasted into a mirror symmetry. It’s all about the process and the ‘processes of processes.’ This fact is, apparently, very hard to approach from the direction of ‘the digital.’

When I imagine possibilities in the realm of generativity, I am visualizing how different iterations of the processing of processes and first order processing work in concert. In this there are features of a peculiar cybernetics anchored to imagining.

Over the past two winters I have not been firing up the generative dashboard, yet I have been stockpiling various experiments, in my head. My goal would be to create a piece as overwhelming as the two here, Brisk Totem, and, Sonny Sharrock in Heaven, both 2015.

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun artist

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

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Pure Experience


Organized Detritus (2017) Stephen Calhoun

What is left of experience if from it are erased feeling it, thinking it, feeling about it, thinking about it?

I’ve been reflecting on the paradox of mindfulness. Mindfulness, over the last several years, is among the hottest trends in management and organizational “self-improvement.”

It seem to me partly counter-intuitive in that mindfulness’s site is individual consciousness, whereas both managers and organizations tend to strongly focus their collective consciousness on some master plan given by holistic “master” assumptions.

Yet, there is the lower level paradox found in the second/third order appreciation of mindfulness, which is: to speak of it is not to be it.

Carl Manchester reads Chapter 2 A World of Pure Experience, from:

William James: Essays In Radical Empiricism (download via archive.org)

Pure experience is the centerpiece of a larger, radical empiricism, one that rejects the assumptions that created the epistemic gap between experience and reality in the first place. This gap is predicated on “an artificial conception of the relations between knower and known,” James says, and this fake problem is his first target. The history of philosophy has shown that all sort of theories have been invented to overcome this gap, he says. Some theories put a mental representation into the gap, common-sense theories left the gap untouched, believing that our minds could just make the leap and, he tells us, and the Transcendentalists brought their Absolute in to perform this epic task. James and Pirsig, on the other hand, say that subjects and objects are not the conditions that make experience possible. Instead, they have been carved out. As James puts it, inner and outer are just names for the way we sort experience. They are linguistic affairs, products of reflection, concepts derived from experience. To supposed that these terms mirror Nature’s own divisions or otherwise correspond to pre-existing ontological categories is to reify these concepts. Under our radical empiricists, subjects and objects are stripped of their metaphysical, ontological status and otherwise demoted to the rank of mere concept – thereby eliminating Cartesian dualism and replacing it with an experiential monism. For the radical empiricist, experience and reality amount to the same thing. This is the context in which James and Pirsig make their claims about pure experience or the pre-intellectual cutting edge of experience. Pure Experience and Dynamic Quality February 16, 2012 by David Buchanan partiallyexaminedlife.com

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The foolish person tries to ignore the phenomenal facts of life simply because he cannot learn the logical theory which explains them. With all the logic at our command, we may reason out of the domain of possibilities everything that may be called a theoretical explanation of the cosmic rhythm which produces the various cycles of life, but we cannot with the same logic and reasonableness negate the facts which have been observed. H. Spencer Lewis Self-Mastery and Fate
With the Cycles of Life

(With a few changes this passage from 1929 may be transformed into a cybernetic proposition. In turn, this proposition proves essential to understanding the problem of noise and signal and cycles.)

Hope Pro 4: Adam Brayton RAW from hopetech on Vimeo.

Humberto Mariotti: Complexity, pragmatism, cybernetics and other issues

via Chris Breen, Complexity and the Enterprise (from Edgar Morin: On Complexity)

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A Myth of Isolation and a Fairy Tale of Causation

The notion of the individual entity having agency is confused by a paradox. The confusion lies with the idea of individuation. The entity (organism, person, or organization) is bound to its unique perspective or epistemology, and in that sense is identifiable as a separate source of responsibility. But, there is no aspect of that entity that is uninfluenced, uninformed, or unbound to the larger contextual interactions. On closer examination we begin to see that agency is diffused into the larger contextual processes that are shared by the entire community. Agency is a paradoxical product of mutual learning within and between people, nature, and culture.

Leadership does not reside in a person but in an arena that can be occupied by offerings of specific wisdom to the needs of the community. So leadership is produced collectively in the community, not the individual. The individual’s responsibility is to be ready and willing to show up, serve, and then, most importantly, stand back. Leadership for this era is not a role or a set of traits; it’s a zone of interrelational process. Step in, step out.






Context transcends causality.
Causality transmits content.
‘A Content’ turns over to reveal ‘an’ other side.
This other side reveals a hidden context.
Do this over and over.

example of inferring causality from content:


Context is hard. Contexts are much harder.

(Semi) Final test:

Ford Clitaurus from MP Cunningham on Vimeo.

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Artist’s Statement, Part II. & III.

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Secondary and Tertiary Contexts and Multiplicities

ARTIST’S STATEMENT (middle section)


I came to this as a matter of my lifelong drive to satisfy my curiosity. This mission demands that I wander, experience, explore, do experiments.


To steep ourselves in a subject-matter we have first to plunge into it.— John Dewey

If you have not experienced a thing, it is not true!— Kabir

The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience.
— Joseph Campbell

Follow the perfume, not the tracks.— Shams of Tabriz

Commentary: My art isn’t post-modern. This doesn’t mean that a post-modern trip is impossible. All trips may be possible. From my personal outlook, there is a cybernetic reaction possible and so I’m doing the only thing I know how to do. What gets read into this counter-normativity my work supposes? Whatever it is, it is tertiary. It would interest me. There are some bridges which could be fashioned. These would join the secondary to the tertiary!

What’s the best explanation of what you are seeing? This is a very hard question.

I’m working a cybernetic formula too. It has three constituents. It would shock and delight me were anyone to figure this formula out from the reflection on experience, or, (easier,) from the background.

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Creative Fire

In this second volume of The Sparks of Randomness, The Atheism of Scripture, Henri Atlan pursues his investigation of human life, which he grounds in a distinctive intermingling of the biological and cognitive sciences and traditions of Jewish thought. The Atheism of Scripture offers up a paradox: its audacious thesis is that the Word or revealed scripture can be better understood without God. It must be decrypted or analyzed atheistically, that is, not as divine revelation, but in and of itself.

The Sparks of Randomness, Volume 1: Spermatic Knowledge (Cultural Memory in the Present) Amazon

What does it mean to be the being observer?

[General Complexity] draws its epistemological implications from the point of view of the subject who knows: complexity would compose a “new paradigm” (Morin, 1977) or “new alliance” (Prigogine and Stengers, 1979), which is potentially transdisciplinar. Therefore it gives a theoretical account of the properties of self-organization and autonomy of the physical, biological, and social systems from the perspective of the process of their observation. Complexity would express the extent of ignorance of an observer who is unaware of the information of the observed system itself (Atlan, 1979) and the process of “construction” (von Foerster, 1981) of an external object that is unattainable by the cognitive system of a subject. It is characterized more by their own “operational closure” and “internal consistency” (Varela, 1979) than by the faithful representation of the external reality. This approach, going back to the historic Macy Conferences (1946-1953) on Cybernetics (Dupuy, 2000), was widely developed in the 70s since the transition from a “first-order cybernetics” or cybernetics of observed systems (Wiener, 1948) to a “second-order cybernetics” or “cybernetics of observing systems” (von Foerster, 1981). A. Malaina, 2015

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The Cybernetics of Discourse and the Discourse of Cybernetics

source: How cybernetics connects computing, counterculture, and design
Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro
(Originally published by the Walker Art Center in the catalog for the exhibit Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia.)

Cybernetics in the Future – Introduction by Mary Catherine Bateson

The Cybernetics of Discourse and the Discourse of Cybernetics
Keynote speech by Klaus Krippendorff

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Implicit Sacramental Fallacies (Re: Gregory Bateson on the Nature of the Sacred)

A linear concept of causality cannot adequately explain the interactions of a complex
system or Gestalt. The classical scientific paradigm is sufficient only for understanding
carefully isolated phenomena, where unidirectional cause and effect relationships occur
between interacting pairs, e.g., between one thing and another thing. – Lawrence Bale (Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics, and the Social/Behavioral Sciences)

Gregory Bateson: Am I using explanation in the same sense you are? I’m not sure. By explanation I would mean mapping a bunch of phenomena onto a tautology. The tautology being such that you cannot doubt the steps contained within it. The propositions you can doubt, but the steps you cannot. If P…then P…all right. This means that what is contained in the tautology is relations, only relations

Paul Ryan: Right.

Gregory Bateson: In order to explain, we build a tautology and map the things onto the tautology. And in order to strengthen our explanation we shall then go into what Peirce calls abduction and find other cases under that tautology.
(Metalogue: Gregory Bateson, Paul Ryan via earthscore.org)

In a computer, which works by cause and effect, with one transistor triggering another, the sequences of cause and effect are used to simulate logic. Thirty years ago, we used to ask: Can a computer simulate all the processes of logic? The answer was “yes,” but the question was surely wrong. We should have asked: Can logic simulate all sequences of cause and effect? The answer would have been: “no.” (Gregory bateson, Mind and Nature)

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Color Vision and Seeing Ourselves

Confucian Feminine Conduction V. (Stephen Calhoun - 2015)

Confucian Feminine Conduction V. (Stephen Calhoun – 2015)

Dr. Beau Lotto, Reader in neuroscience and founder of Lottolab at University College London, talks about how colour, vision and seeing ourselves can contribute to a richer, more empathetic view of nature and human nature.

Lottolab: Experiment 1.0

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Slow, Steady, and Permanent

Your half hour will be well spent in a close engagement with the thought of Mr. Varela.

Recovering Common Sense
The tacit assumption behind the varieties of cognitive realism (cognitivism, emergence, and the society of mind) has been that the world can be divided into regions of discrete elements and tasks. Cognition consists in problem solving, which must, if it is to be successful, respect the elements, properties, and relations within these pre-given regions.

This approach to cognition as problem solving works to some degree for task domains in which it is relatively easy to specify all possible states. Consider for example the game of chess. It is relatively easy to define the constituents of the “space of chess”: there are positions on the board, rules for movements, turns that are taken, and so on. The limits of this space are clearly defined; in fact, it is an almost crystalline world. It is not surprising, then, that chess playing by computer is an advanced art.

For less circumscribed or well-defined task domains, however, this approach has proved to be considerably less productive. Consider, for example, a mobile robot that is supposed to drive a car within a city. One can still single out in this “driving space” discrete items, such as wheels and windows, red lights, and other cars. But unlike the world of chessplaying, movement among objects is not a space that can be said to end neatly at some point. Should the robot pay attention to pedestrians or not? Should it take weather conditions into account? Or the country in which the city is located and its unique driving customs? Such a list of questions could go on forever. The driving world does not end at some point; it has the structure of ever-receding levels of detail that blend into a nonspecific back- ground. Indeed, successfully directed movement such as driving de- pends upon acquired motor skills and the continuous use of common sense or background know-how. (Chapter 8, The Embodied Mind)

Varela passed away in 2001. What would he think about self-driving cars, and self-navigating drones? On one hand, he would no doubt be impressed by the effective programming underlying the operational flexibility in such robotic machines. On the other hand he would have every reason to remind us about the inherent uncertainty in particular task domains.

Embodied Cognition Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Archive.org full text Francisco J. Varela, Evan T. Thompson, Eleanor Rosch The Embodied Mind Cognitive Science And Human Experience MIT Press (1993)

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Eno On Cybernetics and Music Making

This video is new to me and it provided a big wallop.

In my framing of fortuity, contingency and fragility, I have only roughed out some of the implications for music making. B.E. helps move this forward during a really essential 15 minutes.

He mentions Stafford Beer. (He, along with Ralph Stacey, Gordon Pask, and Gregory Bateson, probably did the most to extend cybernetics to human domains in the first wave of cybernetic thinking. Largely from Beer and Stacey we gain the concept of soft systems, and from Beer we gain the Viable Systems Model (Trevor Hilder’s presentation – pdf).)

What Is Cybernetics?

Leonod Ototsky’s fond archive and research on Mr. Beer is a terrific old style web site.

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Revisualizing the Experiential Learning Cycle of David A. Kolb (I.)

Nested Learning Cycle of Stephen Calhoun (after David A. Kolb)

This remix mashes typological ideas with a meta-schema based in nesting. (See note [A].)

I’ve been pondering the hidden polar dynamics of the learning cycle of my friend, colleague and softball teammate David Kolb. By definition those implicit yet ‘out of sight’ dynamics are anchored by various factors which instantiate or otherwise ramify dialectical, or dichotomous, or sensible polarities, or novel pairings.

These wanderings then approach the schema, of which there is a normative schema that shows the basic layout of pairings, and, as well, by way of exclusion, hides all the others. For example. there would be, in what would be a meta-schema, the crucial polarity of learner |- – – -|environment. This specific relation is dialectical in the broad context given by a, or any, constructivist model.

There’s no reason those hidden relations cannot be pinned to the normative schema. Heck, the views on offer here are of non-normative schemas, and so supplemental pairings may be pinned to these too!

Stephen Calhoun Transformative Learning Cycle

This remix suggests the learning cycle may be negotiated in micro phases. (See note [B])

This is why I have been thinking about this stuff:

Generating Paradox. Overt and Covert Polarities in Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle
Given the theoretical-conceptual architecture of Kolb’s Learning Cycle, fascinating yet obscured conceptual relations subsist within the dynamic move from the organismic systematic theory to its application as a theory-in-use/applied model.
This interactive, experiential presentation teases out some of those relations by leveraging both the explicit dialectical relations in the normative model, and co-existing, emergent, yet hidden polar relations discoverable elsewhere nearbye.
In this peeling away of layers of the conceptual ‘onion,’ two gains are anticipated: one, the active learner will experience reasons for de-reifying applied aspects of learning style, and, two, the learner may be inspired to expand his or her own experiential learning model’s practical reach.
This presentation is designed to be experiential and interactive. Participants may maximize the experience by having at hand five pieces of blank paper, scissors, and a fine marker or bold pen.
Stephen Calhoun is an independent researcher, experiential toolmaker, learning partner of Experience-based Learning Systems, and perpetual student.

Quarterly Virtual Presentation – The Experiential Learning Community of Practice
March 12, 2015 – 4:00pm EST

[Note A] In my model, taken from the Kolb model, Intentionality is necessarily the initial and initializing point of entry into learning. This intention holds Concrete Experience. Its import is imparted by the learner’s appropriation of a motive to learn for his or her own reasons, in his or her own context. This Intention is derived from the learner’s FEEL for what is right for him or her.

My model is in a critical relation with Dr. Kolb’s view. For me, Concrete Experience, is: present sensemaking contextualized by the learner’s motivating, evaluative Feeling.

[Note B] Negotiation in a micro phase means that a learner navigates the entire learning cycle in a background micro operation at different macro phases of the normative learning cycle. One benefit of this suggestion is that it supports a phenomenological entry for intuition into the macro cycle and does so in a particular sense by implying that the entire cycle might be navigated instantaneously, or, alternately, that the cycle might constitute something like a non-linear cascade (a) at this micro phase level.

(a) Patricia Smith Churchland and Paul M. Churchland, “Neural Worlds and Real Worlds,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3
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As Below, So Above


My essay, Liberating the Stars From Space & Timewhen completed. will complete the narrative concerned with how I came to necessarily etch a limit to my philosophical ability, and, in doing so, squish thousands of years of astrology into tools able to exist in my flatland.

These tools do not either make predictions or anchor person and possibility to a priori requisites. On the other hand, in future experimental philosophical research, I will attempt to show to some greater degree how these flatlander’s astro-psychological tools connect up with other over-arching concerns of mine, serendipity in adult development, the praxis of polarity and paradox, and the ‘action’ pragmatics given in the third order human/social cybernetics.

Until this essay is ready-to-roll, there’s a new page here that skates over the surface of my promethean poke, Cybernetic Liberation of Astrology.


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The Hand


Page 1 with two of the five questions in the short form H&HAS we’re testng right now.


I recommend you take your hand home and take a look at it when you get there — very quietly, almost as part of meditation. And try to catch the difference between seeing it as a base for five parts and seeing it as constructed of a tangle of relationships. Not a tangle, a pattern of the interlocking of relationships that were determinants of its growth. And if you can really manage to see the hand in terms of the epistemology that I am offering you, I think you will find that your hand is much more recognizably beautiful as a product of relationships than as a composition of countable parts. In other words, I am suggesting to you, first, that language is very deceiving, and, second, that if you begin even without much knowledge to adventure into what it would be like to look at the world with a biological epistemology, you will come into contact with the concepts that the biologists don’t look at. You will meet with beauty and ugliness. These may be real components in the world that you as a living creature live in.

…Of course natural history can be taught as a dead subject. I know that, but I believe also that perhaps the monstrous atomistic pathology at the individual level, the national level, and the international level — the pathology of wrong thinking in which we all live — can only in the end be corrected by an enormous discovery of those relations in nature that make up the beauty of nature. Gregory Bateson

This is a deceptive juxtaposition. In noting as much, I would guess almost all my given juxtapositions have an element of deception concealed in my secret intention!

plus, bonus:

Our apelike ancestors’ hands were surprisingly like ours, say scientists

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Heaven & Hell & ‘Showing’ Generative Metaphysics


My and Ken’s Heaven and Hell Mandala format provides a fine format for juxtaposing generalizations, or first order conceptual classes, or just about anything which can be brought into relations.

In these examples the heavenly quadrant represents where the pairing and tension is heavenly, or hellish for me. The combination of foreordained supra-natural, or supernatural, is hellish for me to deeply think about.

The foreordained natural monism is another conception of mechanical determinism.

Here I’ve superimposed markers for analysis, and, identified orders using the terms of the Reduced Bateson Set.

Betwixt tautology and creative heuristics, contrary to the suggestion of the marker, creative heuristics resolves toward unity. Why? Because any such heuristics are only, merely, the instantiation of the deterministic mechanics.

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Realism Unwired

Ralph Stacey Complexity and Creativity in Organizations – Amazon

bonus: Bill McKelvey, Transcendental Foresight: Using Complexity Science to Foster Distributed Seeing (pdf)

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Teaching Cartoon – Systems are not in Nature, they are in the mind of humans.

teaching cartoon

h/t The Wizard of Id (used without permission)

“The fixity of the milieu supposes a perfection of the
organism such that the external variations are at each
instant compensated for and equilibrated…. All of the vital
mechanisms, however varied they may be, have always
one goal, to maintain the uniformity of the conditions of
life in the internal environment …. The stability of the
internal environment is the condition for the free
and independent life.” *

* Claude Bernard, from Lectures on the Phenomena Common to Animals and
Plants, 1978. Quoted in C Gross, “Claude Bernard and the constancy of the internal
environment”, The Neuroscientist, 4:380-5 1998

Claude Bernard 1813–1878

Bernard introduced the concept of the milieu intérieur – the regulatory function that the nervous system applies to the stability of internal secretions and tissues. It anticipated the notion of homeostasis, introduced by Walter Cannon (1871-1945) in 1932, which has been at the heart of many psychological theories of learning and motivation.

The range of Bernard’s experimental research was vast, being concerned initially with digestion and its nervous control, and extending to the whole of experimental physiology and its philosophical underpinnings. His influence on physiology, both through his teaching and his many textbooks, was far-reaching. His studies of control mechanisms in the vascular system led him to propose a more holistic view of physiology: he stated that “Systems do not exist in Nature, but only in men’s minds”. Bernard rejected the prevalent approach of comparative physiologists who emphasised species differences, proposing a general physiology which “does not seek to grasp the differences that separate beings, but the common points that unite them”. He was also skeptical about the use of averages in the study of complex systems, favoring the presentation of results from the “most perfect experiment” as a reflection of the true state of affairs. source: Portraits of European Neuroscientists

The Things We Do. Using the Lessons of Bernard and Darwin to Understand the What, How, and Why of Our Behavior Gary Cziko

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Bambino Communicates

Free Play June 29

Our foray into animating mostly aging bodies for the purpose of continuing the autopoietic experiment set course on a perfect June day.

Last week featured a walk-off comeback, but Sunday’s game echoed the game two weeks before, the bottom of the order of the visitors–the visiting team being the team I place Mark Jr. on–came through again with lots of seeing-eye hits. To make the self-organization of the mismatch possible, Jedi Matt arrived late, after Pete, “shirtless, above average first baseman,” and automatically was placed at the bottom of the home team’s line-up.



Driving away after the game, I slowed down to complement Jedi Matt on his five hits in five at-bats day–including a homerun, and he in his modest way, reminded me he is over two weeks, ten-for-ten. I have to emphasize modest too: for the twelve years I have been playing Free Play Softball Matt has not once become entangled in any drama, any vaunting of any outcome, and, even his reminder about his performance carried with it no inflection of self-aggrandizement. Yes, Jedis are like this!

Katz, the greatest junk ball hitter of all time.

Katz, the greatest junk ball hitter of all time.

Where is this ball headed?

I tease Katz, asking him when he arrives,

Which Katz is showing up today?

The effortless fielder and crafty hitter has been showing up recently.


Niklas Luhmann suggests new framework for understanding society that society is an autopoietic system, in other word, society is the nexus of communication. He insists that the element of the society is communication, not actor nor action.

Purloined from Naruse, Iba; Ecosystem as an Autopoietic System Considering Relationship between Ecology and Society based on Luhmann’s Theory [pdf].

(Being a cybernetics kind-of-dude, any event that constitutes a difference making the difference is communicative; this includes all such events in the closed system of a softball game. Example: a hit or a catch encapsulates the embodied psychic intention; so a hit or a catch enacts the communication in the physically permeable agentic structure of the game’s social system. A game structures the possibilities for emergent instances of communication and so a game instantiates events that reflect, and briefly ‘incarnate,’ the foamy, non-substantial, psychic intentions.)

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Breaking Up Wholes

MAry Parler Follett

Proto-cybernetician; cornerstone pragmatist. Mary Parker Follett [Wikipedia] ‘s Creative Experience (1924) is foundational for me. (online version)

Constructive Conflict by Mary Parker Follett
–Paper presented at Bureau of Personnel Administration conference, January 1925 (pdf)

The psychiatrist tells his patient that he cannot help him unless he is honest in
wanting his conflict to end. The “uncovering” which every book on psychology has
rubbed into us from some years now as a process of the utmost importance for solving the
conflicts, which the individual has within himself, is equally important for the relations
between groups, classes, races, and nations. In business, the employer, in dealing either
with his associates or his employees, has to get underneath all the camouflage, has to find
the real demand as against the demand put forward, distinguish declared motive from real
motive, alleged cause from real cause, and to remember that sometimes the underlying
motive is deliberately concealed and that sometimes it exists unconsciously.
The first rule, then, for obtaining integration is to put your cards on the table, face
the real issue, uncover the conflict, bring the whole thing into the open….

….This method of breaking up wholes is the way you deal with business
problems; it is the method, which precedes business decisions….

….This is the most important word, not only for business relations, but for all
human relations: not to adapt ourselves to a situation—we are all, or rather each, of too
little importance to the world for that; but to take account of that reciprocal adjustment,
that interactive behavior between the situation and ourselves.

Mary Parker Follett @InFed

Mary Parker Follett Network

Mary Parker Follett saw into the situation of the relations between manager and employee–what was at the time termed industrial relations–before there was much of any accurate conceptual psychological language to help her. She works both forward and backward from her observation of the transactional interpersonal system to discover propositions which anticipate systems-theoretical views.

Current-day management leaders such as Peter Drucker and Rosabeth Moss Kanter have cited Mary Parker Follett as guru and prophet given her foreknowledge of systems theory, action research and leadership. She viewed business as a social institution and work itself as a community service, concepts particularly relevant in the context of understanding social entrepreneurship. Referencing two of her works, “The Individual in Society” and “Business in Society”, this paper introduces Follett, defines social entrepreneurship and presents her ideas as timely insights on the meaning of work, ethics and the role of business in society.

Circular response: Response is always to a relation. I respond, not only to you, but to the relation between you and me.  My behaviour helps create the situation to which I am responding. That implies (what we have daily to take into account) that my behaviour is helping to develop the situation to which I am responding the developing situation makes it impossible to develop a map of the future.

(1) Social experience is the basis of state structure.
(2) Sovereignty is relative to the capacity to rule oneself, to rule a group or a state.
(3) State structure is the expression of elements of identity in purpose.
(4) The will of a group is not atomic but is the common expression of individual wills.
(5) Rich experience can only come through actual experiences in group life. There must be experience in a variety of groups. Because of the multiplicity of human nature no one group can exhaust the capacity of the modern citizen.
(6) Individual and group are not antitheses.
(7) The individual is the ultimate unit which is more diversified than any group can be.
(8) There is no necessary contradiction between the citizen and the state.
(9) Freedom and determinism are not opposites.
(10) Self and others are not opposites.

The Enduring Contribution 

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Humberto Maturana & Heinz von Foerster: Meta-Science, Reflection

(I will be posting the two additional videos of Humberto and Heinz. Their brief engagements are very dense and rewarding. One of my favorite endeavors is to dive into dialogs. Thankfully these moments betwixt Maturana and von Foerster were captured so it is now possible to point to fine examples on youtube of deep diving dialog and conversational learning.)

Given the objectives of the Reduced Bateson Set, The second protocol of systems awareness, following from the first protocol of Intentional Reflection, is: “de-location and re-location.” This move is concerned with, in actual effect, jiggling–the/available/any–context(s.)

For now, after dealing with the above video, ramble with Heinz von Foerster.

shr: Do you not think that artificial intelligence is similarly implicit in other fields?

heinz von foerster: I do not think so. The founders and proponents of Artificial Intelligence were from the beginning very much motivated and extremely competent to go after highly specialized tasks as, for instance, how to build a robot which could rearrange an arrangement of blocks into another desired arrangement.

The performance of these machines are very impressive indeed, but I see them more as witnesses to the extraordinary natural intelligence of their designers, rather than cases of “artificial intelligence.”

The anthropomorphization of these machine functions I see insofar as dangerous, because one may be tempted to believe that when we say “this machine ‘thinks'” we know now how we think, for we know how the machine “thinks.”

Syntactically, however, the distinction is clear, for when the machines “thinks” they do it between quotes: quote think unquote. Except for the name there is nothing in common between the functions “think” and think!

shr: This is somewhat reminiscent of some classical critiques of artificial intelligence, for example, Hubert Dreyfus’s critique. It seems that you are saying something along Dreyfus’s lines because you are saying that although artificial intelligence is claiming that they are working to solve the problem of intelligence at large, indeed they are working within a very narrow definition of cognition or intelligence, ignoring the larger background and context within which cognition operates. And it seems that your view of cybernetics, or your own work, strives to look at cognition the opposite direction, in its largest possible framework.

hvf: The way you put your question conjures up in my mind the image of the Roman god of the Beginnings, the Guardian of the Universe, the god Janus. He has a head with two faces that look in opposite directions. Now I see one face watching Aristotle’s way of synthesizing imitations of life: “bio-mimesis”; the other face attending to those who follow the Platonic of coming to grips with, as Bateson put it, “mind and Nature, a Necessary Unity.”

My sense is that we need to learn to look both ways, like the god Janus. Interview at SEHR; Stanford

Cybernetics Experiment

Heinz vo Foerster: When I answered “I shall talk about Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics,” almost all of them looked at me in bewilderment and asked “What is second-order cybernetics?” as if there were no questions about ethics.

I am relieved when people ask me about second-order cybernetics and not about ethics, because it is so much easier to talk about second-order cybernetics than it is to talk about ethics. In fact, it is impossible to talk about ethics. But let me explain that later, and let me now say a few words about cybernetics, and, of course, about cybernetics of cybernetics, or second-order cybernetics.

As you all know, cybernetics arises when effectors, say, a motor, an engine, our muscles, etc. are connected to a sensory organ which, in turn, acts with its signals upon the effectors.

It is this circular organization which sets cybernetic systems apart from others that are not so organized. Here is Norbert Wiener, who re-introduced the term “cybernetics” into scientific discourse. He observed:

The behavior of such systems may be interpreted as directed to the attainment of a goal.

That is, it looks as if these systems pursued a purpose! That sounds very bizarre indeed.

But let me give you other paraphrases of what cybernetics is all about by invoking the spirit of women and men who rightly could be considered the mamas and papas of cybernetic thought and action.

First, here is Margaret Mead, whose name is, I am sure, familiar to all of you. In one of her addresses to the American Society of Cybernetics she said:

As an anthropologist, I have been interested in the effects that the theories of cybernetics have within our society. I am not referring to computers or to the electronic evolution as a whole, or to the end of dependence on script for knowledge, or to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young.

Let me repeat that:

I am not referring to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young.

[And then she continues:]

I specifically want to consider the significance of the set of cross-disciplinary ideas which we first called ‘feed-back’ and then called ‘teleological mechanisms’ and then called ‘cybernetics’ — a form of cross-disciplinary thought which made it possible for members of many disciplines to communicate with each other easily in a language which all could understand.

And here is the voice of her third husband, the epistemologist, anthropologist, cybernetician, and, as some say, the papa of family therapy, Gregory Bateson:

Cybernetics is a branch of mathematics dealing with problems of control, recursiveness and information.

And here the organizational philosopher and managerial wizard Stafford Beer:

Cybernetics is the science of effective organization.

And, finally, here the poetic reflection of “Mister Cybernetics,” as we fondly call him, the cybernetician’s cybernetician, Gordon Pask:

Cybernetics is the science of defensible metaphors.

It seems that cybernetics is many different things to many different people, but this is because of the richness of its conceptual base. And this is, I believe, very good; otherwise, cybernetics would become a somewhat boring exercise. However, all of those perspectives arise from one central theme, and that is that of circularity.

When, perhaps a half century ago, the fecundity of this concept was seen, it was sheer euphoria to philosophize, epistemologize, and theorize about its consequences, its ramification into various fields, and its unifying power.

While this was going on, something strange evolved among the philosophers, the epistemologists and the theoreticians: they began to see themselves more and more as being themselves included in a larger circularity, maybe within the circularity of their family, or that of their society and culture, or being included in a circularity of even cosmic proportions.

What appears to us today most natural to see and to think, was then not only hard to see, it was even not allowed to think!


Because it would violate the basic principle of scientific discourse which demands the separation of the observer from the observed. It is the principle of objectivity: the properties of the observer shall not enter the description of his observations.

I gave this principle here in its most brutal form, to demonstrate its nonsensicality: if the properties of the observer, namely, to observe and to describe, are eliminated, there is nothing left: no observation, no description.

However, there was a justification for adhering to this principle, and this justification was fear. Fear that paradoxes would arise when the observers were allowed to enter the universe of their observations. And you know the threat of paradoxes: to steal their way into a theory is like having the cloven-hoofed foot of the Devil stuck in the door of orthodoxy.

Clearly, when cyberneticians were thinking of partnership in the circularity of observing and communicating, they were entering the forbidden land:

In the general case of circular closure, A implies B, B implies C, and — O! Horror! — C implies A!

Or in the reflexive case:

A implies B, and — O! Shock! — B implies A!

And now Devil’s cloven-hoofed foot in its purest form, in the form of self-reference:

A implies A.

— Outrage!

l would like to invite you now to come with me into the land where it is not forbidden, but where one is even encouraged to speak about oneself (what else can one do anyway?).

This turn from looking at things out there to looking at looking itself, arose — I think — from significant advances in neurophysiology and neuropsychiatry. (H.v.Foerster, ethics and second order cybernetics; SEHR; Stanford)

The Heinz von Foerster Page – Radical Constructivism (Wikipedia)

Paper: On Constructing Reality (pdf)



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