System Archetypes: Stories that Repeat

System Archetypes: Stories that Repeat

Source: Archetypes

Archetypes in stories express patterns.

While plots may be “archetypal” when they exhibit certain forms, in this post we are concerned with character archetypes.

In modern storytelling, to consider them as archetypes might suggest a bit of a corset, perhaps even a straightjacket for the characters. For today’s author, to present a character as an archetype does not seem conducive to achieving psychological verisimilitude.

But an archetype is not the same as a stereotype. An advisor or mentor does not need to be a wise old man like Obi-Wan Kenobi. And an antagonist does not need to be a baddy.

Consider archetypes as powers within a story. Like planets in a solar system, they have gravity and they therefore exert force as they move.

Archetypes denote certain general roles or functions for characters within the system of the story. There is ample room for variation within each role or function. Boundaries between one archetype and another may be fuzzy. And it is possible for one character to stand for more than one archetype.

Archetypes Through The Ages

Certain archetypes are ancient and have been around as long as stories have been told. Others may have a Christian background. Some are modern interpretations of ancient archetypes seen in the light of dramaturgical principles.

We may distinguish between three sorts of archetypes.

  • Ancient – archetypes that we find in the very oldest stories, and in very modern ones
  • Classical – archetypes that we find in works of literature of the past two thousand years
  • Role-based – modern variants that consider the dramaturgical function of characters

This categorisation has overlaps. The ancient, original archetypes, such as the Mentor, are of course also classical. And certain role-based archetypes, such as the Protagonist, may correspond to ancient ones, such as the Prince.

The Protagonist is sometimes called the Hero, a word which in terms of ancient archetypes might refer to a number of archetypes, for instance Warrior (Achilles) or Trickster (Odysseus). In the modern sense of role-based archetypes, this is the person (or rabbit, or robot, or whatever) the story is primarily about, the one whose travails the recipient, the audience or reader, follows through to the end of the story.

The Protagonist’s opposing power is the antagonism, which may be personified in an individual Antagonist. It helps to remember that in terms of function within the story, an antagonist does not necessarily have to be a villain, but is a counterforce to the protagonist (for an ancient example, consider Agamemnon and Achilles in the Iliad).

The antagonistic force is sometimes referred to as the “Shadow”. This can be misleading, since really almost every archetype has its own shadow side. A Patriarch may be presented as benevolent or “light”, or as tyrannical and “dark”. Indeed, in one story the character (or characters) representing such an archetype might show signs of both.

Characters Wearing Hats

Several of the roles or functions that you find in all sorts of stories – such as the Mentor, the Ally, the Patriarch – do not always have to be riveted to one specific character. For instance, it is quite possible that one character may have the Mentor hat on at one point in the story, and the Ally hat at another.

The point is that such forces or functions tend to be present in stories, and characters express these forces through their role or function within the story at each point in the narrative.

There is even an archetype for a character that explicitly changes roles in the story, where it becomes part of that character’s function to jump role at one or more points along the story. That is a Shapechanger.

Some archetypes are gender specific. The Patriarch/Father/King stands for different values from the Matriarch/Mother/Queen. For other archetypes, whether the character is male or female is not the point. A Shapechanger or a Trickster is defined by what the character does in the story.

So archetypes are really little more than signposts. Assigning a character an archetype is not to pressure that character into behaving in a certain way. Calling a character an archetype is merely to give us a pointer to that character’s role and function in the story. Characters that can be labelled as several archetypes tend to be multi-facetted. Hamlet, for instance, fulfils the criteria for several archetypes. So thinking about characters in terms of which archetypal roles they may play is actually a way of making the characters richer, giving them more depth, making them appear psychologically real and ultimately human.

System archetypes are the pattern which are recurrent.

Key Terms

  • Systems
  • System Archetypes
  • Feedback
  • Causal Loops
  • Delays
  • Leveraged Networks
  • The Systems Thinker
  • Daniel H Kim
  • Peter Senge
  • Barry Richmond
  • STELLA
  • VENSIM
  • ITHINK
  • Ventana Systems
  • Isee Systems

WHAT IS A SYSTEMS ARCHETYPE?

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Without having to climb beanstalks or push anyone into an oven, children learn lessons from fairy tales about how to hide from powerful, cruel beings, build solid dwellings, and be respectful of old people. Literary themes also show us the hero’s journey, the trials of hard work, the outcomes of faithful love and misguided passion, and the ennui of a materialistic life. In these examples from literature, the term archetype signifies a recurring, generic character, symbol, or storyline. In systems thinking, the term has a very similar meaning. It refers to recurring, generic systemic structures that are found in many kinds of organizations, under many circumstances, and at different levels or scales, from internal personal dynamics to global international relations.

Captured in the stories, structures, and behavior over time of the archetypes are similar teachings about competition, addiction, the perils of quick fixes, and the high flyer’s downfall. And as we do with stories and fairy tales, we can use the archetypes to explore generic problems and hone our awareness of the organizational dramas unfolding around us. We can even use archetypes to sharpen our ability to anticipate difficulties, communicate about them with our colleagues, and find ways to address them together.

The systems archetypes, as a group, make up one of the 10 current categories of systems thinking tools. (See Appendix B for a complete list of these tools.) Each archetype features a storyline with a distinctive theme, a particular pattern of behavior over time that can be graphed, and a unique systemic structure that can be depicted in a causal loop diagram. The value of archetypes is that we can study them apart from a specific story, problem, or organizational situation and take away generic, transferable learnings that we can then apply to many situations in our own lives.

WHERE DID ARCHETYPES COME FROM?

In the 1960s and 1970s, Jay Forrester, Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows, and other pioneers of systems thinking observed several recurring systemic structures. In the 1980s, Michael Goodman, Charles Kiefer, Jenny Kemeny, and Peter Senge built on that work, in part with the help of notes developed by John Sterman, by describing, diagramming, and cataloguing these generic systemic structures as systems templates. When Peter Senge authored The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, he referred to those structures as systems archetypes. Since then, the notion of systems archetypes has become quite popularized, and systems thinking practitioners have continued to teach, apply, and write about these recurring generic structures as well as investigate and test the potential of identifying new ones.

List of Key System Archetypes

  • Drifting Goals
  • Escalation
  • Fixes that Fail
  • Growth and Underinvestment
  • Limits to Success
  • Shifting the Burden/Addiction
  • Success to the Successful
  • Tragedy of the Commons

Source: Systems Thinking Tools: A User’s Reference Guide

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES I

Source: Systems Thinking Tools: A User’s Reference Guide

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES I

System Archetypes and Their Storylines

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES AND THEIR APPLICATION

Archetypes and their Applications

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES AND THEIR APPLICATION

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Growth Archetypes

Source: A theory of spatial system archetypes

➤ A Glossary of Systems Thinking Tools

Source: Systems Archetype Basics : From Story to Structure

Systems thinking can serve as a language for communicating about complexity and interdependencies. To be fully conversant in any language, you must gain some mastery of the vocabulary, especially the phrases and idioms unique to that language. This glossary lists many terms that may come in handy when you’re faced with a systems problem.

Accumulator 

Anything that builds up or dwindles; for example, water in a bathtub, savings in a bank account, inventory in a warehouse. In modeling software, a stock is often used as a generic symbol for accumulators. Also known as Stock or Level.

Balancing Process/Loop 

Combined with reinforcing loops, balancing processes form the building blocks of dynamic systems. Balancing processes seek equilibrium: They try to bring things to a desired state and keep them there. They also limit and constrain change generated by reinforcing processes. A balancing loop in a causal loop diagram depicts a balancing process.

Balancing Process with Delay 

A commonly occurring structure. When a bal- ancing process has a long delay, the usual response is to overcorrect. Over- correction leads to wild swings in behavior. Example: real estate cycles.

Behavior Over Time (BOT) Graph 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. BOT graphs capture the history or trend of one or more variables over time. By sketching several variables on one graph, you can gain an explicit understanding of how they interact over time. Also called Reference Mode.

Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. Causal loop diagrams capture how variables in a system are interrelated. A CLD takes the form of a closed loop that depicts cause-and-effect linkages.

Drifting Goals 

A systems archetype. In a “Drifting Goals” scenario, a gradual downward slide in performance goals goes unnoticed, threatening the long- term future of the system or organization. Example: lengthening delivery delays.

Escalation 

A systems archetype. In the “Escalation” archetype, two parties compete for superiority in an arena. As one party’s actions put it ahead, the other party “retaliates” by increasing its actions. The result is a continual ratcheting up of activity on both sides. Examples: price battles, the Cold War.

Feedback 

The return of information about the status of a process. Example: annual performance reviews return information to an employee about the quality of his or her work.

Fixes That Fail 

A systems archetype. In a “Fixes That Fail” situation, a fix is applied to a problem and has immediate positive results. However, the fix also has unforeseen long-term consequences that eventually worsen the problem. Also known as “Fixes That Backfire.”

Flow 

The amount of change something undergoes during a particular unit of time. Example: the amount of water that flows out of a bathtub each minute, or the amount of interest earned in a savings account each month. Also called a Rate.

Generic Structures 

Structures that can be generalized across many different settings because the underlying relationships are fundamentally the same. Systems archetypes are a class of generic structures.

Graphical Function Diagram (GFD) 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. GFDs show how one variable, such as delivery delays, interacts with another, such as sales, by plotting the relationship between the two over the entire range of relevant values. The resulting diagram is a concise hypothesis of how the two variables interrelate. Also called Table Function.

Growth and Underinvestment 

A systems archetype. In this situation, resource investments in a growing area are not made, owing to short-term pressures. As growth begins to stall because of lack of resources, there is less incentive for adding capacity, and growth slows even further.

Learning Laboratory 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. A learning lab- oratory embeds a management flight simulator in a learning environment. Groups of managers use a combination of systems thinking tools to explore the dynamics of a particular system and inquire into their own understand- ing of that system. Learning labs serve as a manager’s practice field.

Level 

See Accumulator.

Leverage Point 

An area where small change can yield large improvements in a system.

Limits to Success 

A systems archetype. In a “Limits to Success” scenario, a company or product line grows rapidly at first, but eventually begins to slow or even decline. The reason is that the system has hit some limit— capacity constraints, resource limits, market saturation, etc.—that is inhibiting further growth. Also called “Limits to Growth.”

Management Flight Simulator (MFS) 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. Similar to a pilot’s flight simulator, an MFS allows managers to test the outcome of different policies and decisions without “crashing and burning” real companies. An MFS is based on a system dynamics computer model that has been changed into an interactive decision-making simulator through the use of a user interface.

Policy Structure Diagram 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. Policy structure diagrams are used to create a conceptual “map” of the decision- making process that is embedded in an organization. It highlights the fac- tors that are weighed at each decision point.

Rate 

See Flow.

Reference Mode 

See Behavior Over Time Graph.

Reinforcing Process/Loop 

Along with balancing loops, reinforcing loops form the building blocks of dynamic systems. Reinforcing processes com- pound change in one direction with even more change in that same direc- tion. As such, they generate both growth and collapse. A reinforcing loop in a causal loop diagram depicts a reinforcing process. Also known as vicious cycles or virtuous cycles.

Shifting the Burden 

A systems archetype. In a “Shifting the Burden” situa- tion, a short-term solution is tried that successfully solves an ongoing prob- lem. As the solution is used over and over again, it takes attention away from more fundamental, enduring solutions. Over time, the ability to apply a fundamental solution may decrease, resulting in more and more reliance on the symptomatic solution. Examples: drug and alcohol dependency.

Shifting the Burden to the Intervener 

A special case of the “Shifting the Burden” systems archetype that occurs when an intervener is brought in to help solve an ongoing problem. Over time, as the intervener successfully handles the problem, the people within the system become less capable of solving the problem themselves. They become even more dependent on the intervener. Example: ongoing use of outside consultants.

Simulation Model 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. A computer model that lets you map the relationships that are important to a problem or an issue and then simulate the interaction of those variables over time.

Stock 

See Accumulator.

Structural Diagram 

Draws out the accumulators and flows in a system, giving an overview of the major structural elements that produce the system’s behavior. Also called flow diagram or accumulator/flow diagram.

Structure-Behavior Pair 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. A structure- behavior pair consists of a structural representation of a business issue, using accumulators and flows, and the corresponding behavior over time (BOT) graph for the issue being studied.

Structure 

The manner in which a system’s elements are organized or interre- lated. The structure of an organization, for example, could include not only the organizational chart but also incentive systems, information flows, and interpersonal interactions.

Success to the Successful 

A systems archetype. In a “Success to the Success- ful” situation, two activities compete for a common but limited resource. The activity that is initially more successful is consistently given more resources, allowing it to succeed even more. At the same time, the activity that is initially less successful becomes starved for resources and eventually dies out. Example: the QWERTY layout of typewriter keyboards.

System Dynamics 

A field of study that includes a methodology for constructing computer simulation models to achieve better understanding of social and corporate systems. It draws on organizational studies, behavioral decision theory, and engineering to provide a theoretical and empirical base for structuring the relationships in complex systems.

System 

A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements form- ing a complex whole. Almost always defined with respect to a specific pur- pose within a larger system. Example: An R&D department is a system that has a purpose in the context of the larger organization.

Systems Archetypes 

One of the 10 tools of systems thinking. Systems archetypes are the “classic stories” in systems thinking—common patterns and structures that occur repeatedly in different settings.

Systems Thinking 

A school of thought that focuses on recognizing the inter- connections between the parts of a system and synthesizing them into a unified view of the whole.

Table Function 

See Graphical Function Diagram.

Template 

A tool used to identify systems archetypes. To use a template, you fill in the blank variables in causal loop diagrams.

Tragedy of the Commons 

A systems archetype. In a “Tragedy of the Commons” scenario, a shared resource becomes overburdened as each person in the system uses more and more of the resource for individual gain. Eventually, the resource dwindles or is wiped out, resulting in lower gains for everyone involved. Example: the Greenhouse Effect.

The above glossary is a compilation of definitions from many sources, including:

  • Innovation Associates’ and GKA’s Introduction to Systems Thinking coursebooks
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter Senge
  • High Performance Systems’ Academic User’s Guide to STELLA
  • The American Heritage Dictionary and The Random House Dictionary.

Systems Thinking Tools

Source: THE “THINKING” IN SYSTEMS THINKING: HOW CAN WE MAKE IT EASIER TO MASTER?

Source: Systems Thinking Tools: A User’s Reference Guide

Source: Systems Thinking Tools: A User’s Reference Guide

Systems Thinking Publications

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES I

The Systems Thinker

Source: SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES I

The Language of Links and Loops

Source: System Archetypes I

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Jay W. Forrester and System Dynamics

Feedback Thought in Economics and Finance

Stock Flow Consistent Models for Ecological Economics

What are Problem Structuring Methods?

Law of Dependent Origination

Oscillations and Amplifications in Demand-Supply Network Chains

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Stock Flow Consistent Input Output Models (SFCIO)

Stock-Flow Consistent Modeling

Myth of Invariance: Sound, Music, and Recurrent Events and Structures

Systems Biology: Biological Networks, Network Motifs, Switches and Oscillators

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The System Thinker

Pegasus Communications

Systems Archetypes III: Understanding Patterns of Behavior and Delay

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© 2000 by Pegasus Communications, Inc.
First edition.

First printing March 2000

Systems Thinking Tools: A User’s Reference Guide

DANIEL H. KIM

THE “THINKING” IN SYSTEMS THINKING: HOW CAN WE MAKE IT EASIER TO MASTER?

BY

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Disruptive Design

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By Jorge Taborga

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Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg: Using Systems Archetypes to Understand Common and Recurring Issues in Sports Coaching

Scott McLean1*Gemma J. M. Read1Adam Hulme1Karl Dodd1Adam D. Gorman2Colin Solomon1,3 and Paul M. Salmon1

  • 1Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia
  • 2School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  • 3School of Health and Sports Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fspor.2019.00049/full

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Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA; ni78@msstate.edu (N.U.I.H.); vld66@msstate.edu (V.L.D.); mn852@msstate.edu (M.N.)
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System Dynamics Review Volume 20 Number 4 Winter 2004

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.390.6202&rep=rep1&type=pdf#/

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Using-generic-system-archetypes-to-support-thinking-Wolstenholme/daed8d5c3a1081addf196543e9fa4ca228c42185

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308 Harvard St. SE

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Archetypes

Maha Vakyas: Great Aphorisms in Vedanta

Maha Vakyas: Great Aphorisms in Vedanta

 

I have always been fascinated by terse short aphorisms of Non dual Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism.

It took me several years to understand meaning of each based on my understanding of several scientific concepts

  • Recursion or Recursiveness
  • Fractal Geometry
  • Cybernetics and Systems Theory
  • Subject Object split to Subject Subject
  • There is no objective reality
  • Part and Whole Relationship
  • Microcosm and Macrocosm
  • Pinde and Brahmande
  • Interconnectedness of all
  • Hierarchy Theory
  • Networks Theory

 

 

Key Words

  • Non Dual Vedanta
  • Dualistic Vedanta
  • Advaita Vedanta
  • Brahman
  • Atman
  • Brahman and Maya
  • Real and Apparant
  • Jivatma and Paramatma
  • Sankhya
  • Yoga
  • Buddhism
  • Tantra

 

 

http://lb.geek.rs.ba/oldstuff/swamij-mirror/mahavakyas.htm

Mahavakyas: The Great Contemplations

Contemplation on the Mahavakyas
gradually reveals their truth
in direct experience.

Introduction

The Great Utterances: The Mahavakyas are the Great Sentences of Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga, and are contained in the Upanishads. Maha is Great, and Vakyas are sentences, or utterances for contemplation. They provide perspective and insights that tie the texts together in a cohesive whole. The contemplations on the Mahavakyas also blend well with the practices of yoga meditation, prayer, and mantra, which are companion practices in Yoga. The pinnacle of the wisdom and practices of the ancient sages is contained in the terse twelve verses of theMandukya Upanishad, which outlines the philosophy and practices of the OM mantra.

See also these articles:
Song of the Self (Atma Shatkam)
Mandukya Upanishad

These make the wisdom more accessible: Seven Mahavakyas are described below. By focusing on these seven Mahavakyas, the rest of the principles of self-exploration described in Vedanta and the Upanishads are more easily accessible. Included with the descriptions below are suggestions on what to do with these seven Mahavakyas.

Validation in the inner laboratory: To truly understand the meaning of the Mahavakyas it is necessary to practice contemplation and meditation in your own inner laboratory of stillness and silence. It means doing a lot of self observation, including the four functions of mind. You may find it useful to learn both the Sanskrit and the English of the Mahavakyas. They are not practiced as blind faith beliefs, but rather are reflected on, so that their meaning is validated in direct experience.

Start by hearing the insights described: Some methods of contemplation give you a principle, a word, on which to reflect, but give no clues of the insights that will come. For example, if you contemplate on the word Truth, that is very broad, and may have many meanings. It might take a long time to even come to a core principle. Sometimes, in school or elsewhere, you have probably seen a study guide that has a list of questions that also includes the answers, in a Q&A format. With the Mahavakyas, it is somewhat like that, in that the Mahavakyas provide the answers, already written down. You still have to do the contemplations, but the journey is much more direct.

Direct experience, not mere belief: In contemplating the Mahavakyas, it is not a matter of merely accepting that the statements are true. In the oral teachings of the sages, it is said that you should never merely believe what you are told or what you read in a book. Rather, it is suggested that you should check it out for yourself in the inner laboratory of direct experience. It also seems true that, while ultimate oneness is the same for all, there is also a coloring of cultural and religious influences that determine the way in which different people will experience the early, or unfolding stages of insight.

Dig deep into the well
of only a few such Mahavakyas.

Dig deep in only a few wells: It can appear that exploring only a few sentences, like these seven, is a mere beginning point, and that one must subsequently learn hundreds or thousands of other sentences. This is definitely not the case. Although in academic circles one may do complex intellectual analysis of many scholarly commentaries, comparing and contrasting viewpoints, the seeker of direct experience digs deep into the well of only a few such contemplations.  In the monastic traditions of the swami order, a monk may contemplate exclusively on a single Mahavakya or maybe several of them. The practice bears fruit by deeply going into one, or a few, rather than memorizing many, or doing only intellectual analysis of the many.

Over and over and over: The passionately dedicated practitioner will contemplate on one or more of the Mahavakyas repeatedly, often, over a long period of time. Mind gradually comes to have a greater understanding, and then becomes still as the contemplation shifts from an observing, reflective process into a deep contemplative meditation. Reflection transforms into insight, which again transforms into the direct experience of the underlying truth or reality of the Mahavakya.

Companion practices: In the oral tradition of the Himalayan sages, the Yoga Sutras, Vedanta, and internal Tantra are companions on the journey to Self-Realization. The practices of the Yoga Sutras stabilize and clear the clouded mind. The Vedanta practices form a philosophical basis and means for discovering the underlying unity of the different aspects of our being. Internal Tantra provides the means for awakening the spiritual energy, so that the absolute, unchanging reality at our core is realized.

Mahavakyas are at the heart of Vedanta: These seven principles below are practices at the heart of the Vedanta part of the triad. Actually, all of these emerged out of the one source of teachings, and now appear to be three separate practices. The higher understanding and direct experience comes from person-to-person listening (written and oral), followed by deep reflection, contemplation, and deep contemplative meditation.

Advaita or Non-Dual Reality: It is popular to speak of Advaita as if it were a brand name of spirituality. It is not. Advaita is exactly what it says, Advaita, which means non-duality, not-two. If this little planet were to fall into the sun and burn up, there would no longer be any religionists or philosophers, but that which truly “is” still “is.” Advaita is exactly what it says it is, Advaita, not-two, which stands alone. Any suggestion that there are things such as Hindu Advaita or Buddhist Advaita or Anything-Else Advaita are games of the mind. To transcend all of the levels of false identity so as to “Be” that Reality of Advaita is the Knowledge or Jnana that is sought. It is only the most sincere and longing of aspirants who seek and Know this in direct experience. For others, it is merely an arena of philosophical and religious debate. For those who Know, Advaita stands alone.

 Stages of Yoga Vedanta Meditation and Contemplation
Swami Rama

Meditation and contemplation are two different techniques, yet they are complementary to each other. Meditation is a definite method of training oneself on all levels – body, breath, conscious mind, and unconscious mind – while contemplation builds a definite philosophy. Without the support of a solid philosophy, the method of meditation does not lead to higher dimensions of consciousness.

Contemplation makes one aware of the existence of the Reality, but Reality can be experienced only through the higher techniques of meditation. In the Vedanta system, meditation and contemplation are both used. When an aspirant tires of meditation because of lack of endurance, then he contemplates on the mahavakyas [great contemplations] and studies those scriptures that are helpful in the path of Self-realization and enlightenment. Contemplation, vichara, complements the Vedantic way of meditation, dhyana.

In Vedanta philosophy, there is a definite method used for contemplation. Ordinarily, the mind remains busy in self-dialogue, entangled in the web of its thought patterns. Because of desires, feelings, and emotions, unmanageable conflicts are created in one’s mental life. But the Vedanta way of contemplating transforms the entire personality of the aspirant, for the statements, mahavakyas, imparted by the preceptor create a dynamic change in the values of his life. These statements are compact, condensed, and abstruse srutis and cannot be understood without the help of a preceptor who is fully knowledgeable of the scriptures and these terse texts. Only a realized teacher can impart the profundity of such knowledge in a lucid language.

The thoughts, feelings, and desires which were once important to the aspirant lose their value, for he has only one goal to attain. The glory of contemplation brings a dynamic transformation to the internal states of the aspirant. This seems to be very necessary, because that which creates a barrier or becomes an obstacle for students loses its strength due to the power of contemplation, which transforms all his internal states.

First, an aspirant attentively listens to the sayings of the Upanishads from a preceptor who is Brahman-conscious all the time.

In the second step, he practices vichara (contemplation), which means that he goes to the depths of the great sayings and determines to practice them with mind, action, and speech.

One-pointed devotion, full determination, and dedication lead him to the higher step called nididhyasana. Here he acquires comprehensive knowledge of the Ultimate Truth. But he has not yet attained the final step of consciousness that leads him to the direct realization of the one self-existent Truth without second.

The highest state of contemplation is called saksatkara. In this state, perception and conceptualization are in complete agreement, and all the doubts from all levels of understanding vanish forever. At this height of knowledge, truth reveals itself to the aspirant, and perfect realization is accomplished, “I am Atman – I am Brahman.” This state of advaita is attained by the process of contemplation. Meditation plays an entirely different role and helps the aspirant make his mind one-pointed, inward, and steady.

Steadiness and stillness are practiced from the very beginning in this meditational method. The method of sitting, the method of breathing, the method of concentration, and the method of allowing a concentrated mind to flow uninterruptedly are subsequent steps that help the aspirant to expand his capacity so that he can contemplate without distraction.

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Meaning of the word brahman

Root of the word: The word brahman comes from the root brha or brhi, which means knowledge, expansion, and all-pervasiveness. It is that existence which alone exists, and in which there is the appearance of the entire universe.

Not subject to change: Brahman means the absolute reality, that which is eternal, and not subject to death, decay, or decomposition. In English, we speak of omnipresence or oneness. This is the principle of the word brahman.

Not a proper name: Brahman is not a proper name, but a Sanskrit word that denotes that oneness, the non-dual reality, the substratum underneath all of the many names and forms of the universe. Brahman is somewhat like the difference between the word ocean, and the specific ocean called Pacific Ocean. The word brahman is like ocean, not Pacific Ocean. Brahman is not a name of God. These contemplations neither promote nor oppose any particular religious concept of God.

Immanance and transcendence: One may also choose to think of brahman in theological terms, though that is not necessary. Within that perspective, the scholars speak of two principles: immanence and transcendence. Immanence is described as the divinity existing in, and extending into all parts of the created world. In that sense, the Mahavakyas can be read as suggesting there is no object that does not contain, or is not part of that creation.

It’s really indescribable, as it is beyond form: However one chooses to hold the word brahman, it is very useful to remember that brahman is often described as indescribable. For convenience sake, it is said that brahman is the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss, though admitting that these words, too, are inadequate.

Seek direct experience: The real meaning comes only in direct experience resulting from contemplation and yoga meditation.

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1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya
Brahman is real; the world is unreal
(The absolute is real; the world is unreal or only relatively real)

Brahman is real: The way in which brahman is real is like saying that the clay in a pot is real, or the gold in a bracelet is real (metaphorically speaking). The idea is that first there was clay and gold, and when those changed form, there now appears to be a pot and a bracelet.

The world is unreal: However, when the pot is broken, or the bracelet is melted, there is once again only clay and gold. It is in that sense that the pot and the bracelet are not real; they come and go from manifestation. They are not as real as are the clay and the gold. (Remember that these are metaphors, and that obviously, we could also say that clay and gold also come and go, such as when planets are born and die from the nuclear fire of suns. Also, note that using the English words real and unreal for the Sanskrit words satyam and mithya, are not perfect, but they are the best we have to work with.)

Something is more real than the temporary: In saying that the world is unreal, it means to say that literally everything we experience in the external world is, like the pot and the bracelet, in a process of coming, being, and going (so too with all of the objects of the subtle realm). If the Mahavakya stopped there, this might appear to be a negative, or depressing comment. But it does not stop there. It makes the added comment that this absolute reality is, in a sense, more real than the temporary appearances.

Two points: Thus, the Mahavakya does two major things:

  • Reminder of the temporary: First, it serves as a reminder of the temporary nature of the worldly objects.

  • Reminder of the eternal: Second, it serves as a reminder that there is an eternal nature, that is not subject to change.

An invitation to know: In these reminders there is an invitation to come to know, in direct experience, the existence, consciousness, and bliss that is this eternal essence of our being.

Don’t stop living in the world: When practicing contemplation with this, and the other Mahavakyas, it is important to not allow the reflection that the world is unreal to stop you from doing your actions in the external world. To think that the world is unreal, and therefore we need not do anything is a grave mistake. The realization of the unreality of the world and the reality of the essence behind the world brings freedom, not bondage or lethargy.

1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya
Brahman is real; the world is unreal
(The absolute is real; the world is unreal or only relatively real)

What to do: The purpose of contemplation and yoga meditation exercises is to attain Self-realization, or enlightenment, which has to do with knowing or experiencing the deepest, eternal aspect of our own being. By working with this Mahavakya, one increasingly sees the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal.

  • Be mindful of the passing objects: One way to work with this Mahavakya, is to simply be mindful of the world around you. Gradually, gently, and lovingly observe the countless objects that are ever in a process of coming and going.

  • Remember the eternal: Allow yourself to also remember the eternal nature that is always there, enjoying the beauty of how this process ebbs and flows through that unchanging, eternal essence.

Be mindful of your own temporary and eternal: As you witness the external world in this way, allow your attention to shift to your own physical, energetic, and mental makeup. Gradually comes the insight that these more surface aspects are also temporary, and in a sense, are also unreal, or only relatively real. It increasingly allows the mind to see that there is an eternal aspect of our being, and that this is actually the source of the mind itself. The mind comes to see that it must, itself, let go, so as to experience the eternal that is within.

Practice this at daily meditation time: By observing the world in this way, it is then easier to do the same kind of silent observation and contemplation while sitting in the stillness of your meditation time. Over time, the depth of the insights increase, as an inner expansion comes.

The different Mahavakyas work together: In practice, the Mahavakyas work together. This becomes evident by exploring the others, such as the ones that follow below.

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2. Ekam evadvitiyam brahma
Brahman is one, without a second
(There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts)

No object is truly independent: As our attention goes from object to object, image to image, we keep finding that those objects and images are only relatively real (as discussed above). Gradually, we come to see that no object exists independently from brahman, the whole. Hence, it is said there is one, without a second. Wherever we look, whatever we think or feel, try as we will, we can find no second object or part. Everything is seen as a manifestation of something else.

The objects are made of the same stuff: To speak of one, without a second, is like thinking of thousands of pots or bracelets made from clay or gold. As you look at each of the pots and bracelets, one at a time, you conclude that this pot, and this bracelet is not separate from the whole field of clay and gold. Suddenly you come to the insight that there is not a single pot that is separate from clay, and there is not a single bracelet separate from gold. In other words, you see that there is one field, without a second object, or simply stated, there is one, without a second.

Once again, this can also be viewed in a theological way, wherein immanence(versus transcendence) means the divinity existing in, and extending into all parts all parts of the created world. Thus, there is no object that does not contain, or is not part of that creation.

2. Ekam evadvitiyam brahma
Brahman is one, without a second
(There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts)

What to do: Keep exploring the latter part of the sentence, the part of being without a second. Consciously look at the objects of the world, and the thoughts that arise in the mind. Observe whether it has independent existence and permanence. It is like asking, “Does this object or thought exist on its own? Does it stay in this form, or does it go away? Is it, therefore a second object in comparison to the whole?”

  • Try to find a second object: One practice is to repeatedly look for some second object, which has independent existence from the whole, from brahman.

  • You’ll find there is none: The aspirant will repeatedly find that there is no second object, which has independent existence, but that all objects derive from some other, like the pots from clay, or bracelets from gold. This brings the increasing awareness of underlying wholeness.

See the beauty of oneness in diversity: If this is approached as a mere philosophical opinion, if we merely believe the principle, then the deep insight that comes from exploration will be missed. Each time that some new object or thought is seen to not be a second in relation to the whole, the personal realization of the truth of the principle will become deeper and more profound. We come to see the beauty in this, to see the joy of wholeness, of the unity within the diversity. The interrelationship between the Mahavakyas will also become clearer.

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3. Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is the supreme knowledge
(Knowing the absolute reality is the supreme knowledge)

Knowledge out of which other knowledge arises: There are many types of knowledge one can attain. However, they all stem from, or are a part of, a higher knowledge. There is one exception, and that is the absolute knowledge, which is the highest. It is called absolute because it is not stemming from something else. Supreme knowledge is the ground out of which the diversity of knowledge and experience grows. The plant, though appearing separate, is made of the stuff of the ground.

Many metaphors for higher knowledge: It is just about impossible to write words describing this notion of supreme knowledge, which is part of the reason that there are so many different descriptions given by many people. Thus, we use metaphor after metaphor trying to capture and communicate the essence of the meaning. This Mahavakya is saying that as you climb the ladder of knowledge, this higher knowledge is to be found at the level of brahman, the oneness of universal consciousness.

Reflect on lower knowledge to find the higher: Reflecting on lower knowledge might give some idea. The knowledge of how to ride a bicycle is a form of knowledge, but it is based on the higher knowledge of how to move your body. The knowledge of complex mathematics is based on the higher, more foundational, prerequisite knowledge that allows the thinking process itself. When you see a person that you recognize as your friend, there was first an ability to see and conceptualize, which is a higher knowledge.

Find the foundation: Intuitively, you come to see that there is consciousness, or whatever term you would like to use, that is higher, more foundational, or prerequisite to the lower knowledge in all of its other forms. The highest rung of the ladder is called supreme knowledge, prajna, and this is said to be one and the same with brahman, the oneness.

Knowing is not mere intellectualizing: It is extremely important to note here, that this is not a process of intellectualizing. Knowledge refers to knowing or awareness, not just a linear, cognitive thinking process. The knowledge here, is more like the knowledge of recognizing an object as a tree, than the process of adding up a list of numbers. There is simply no more straightforward way of saying it, than to say it is a matter of knowing the tree.

Knowing applies to both head and heart people: Also, it is not that some people are intellectual, or head people, while others are emotional, or heart people. While these differences between people might be real, this Mahavakya is talking about a universal principle that applies to all people. The practices themselves are applicable to all people, whether inclined towards the head or the heart, though different people will quite naturally have different experiences leading to the same ultimate realizations.

3. Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is the supreme knowledge
(Knowing the absolute reality is the supreme knowledge)

What to do: In trying to reflect on the nature of supreme knowledge, the eternal substratum of all other knowledge, the mind will present many memories, images, impressions, thoughts, sensations, and emotions. All of these are some form of knowledge, that’s for sure. However, they are not the highest knowledge.

Ask yourself if a knowledge is lower or higher: Simply allow these thought patterns to arise. Then ask yourself, “Is this the higher knowledge?” Repeatedly you will find that the answer is no, that it is not the higher, but is a lower form of knowledge.

Remember there is higher knowledge: This kind of reflection leaves a quietness in which the intuition of the existence of the higher knowledge starts to come. The intuition deepens with practice. This quietness is not one of lethargy or laziness, but rather of clarity and openness. It brings a smile to the face and to the heart, as the field of knowing gradually expands towards the wisdom of the Mahavakya.

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4. Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
(That absolute reality is the essence of what you really are)

That is what YOU are: This Mahavakya is stated as if one person is speaking to the other, saying, “That is what you are!” when referring to brahman. The person speaking is the teacher, and person being spoken to is the student.

It is YOU at the deepest level: Imagine that the teacher has explained to you all of the above Mahavakyas, that you had reflected on these, and that you started to have some sense of the meaning of the oneness called brahman. Imagine that the teacher then pointed a finger at you and explained, “That brahman, that oneness, is who you really are, at the deepest level of your being!” It is like telling a wave in the ocean that it IS the ocean.

You are the person underneath the personality: Often, we hold on to our personal identities, such as being from this or that family, organization, or country. We take on the identity of our roles in our jobs or in our families, such as father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter. Or, we come to believe that who we are, is our personality traits that have developed through living. We forget our true nature, that is underneath all of these only relative identities.

We continue our duties, holding identities loosely: The realization of this Mahavakya, Tat tvam asi, leads us to see that the relative identities are not who we really are. It does not mean that we drop our duties in the world, or stop acting in service of other people because of this realization. Rather, we become ever more free to hold those identities loosely, while increasingly being able to act in the loving service of others, independent of attachment to our false identities.

4. Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
(That absolute reality is the essence of what you really are)

What to do: As if talking to yourself, direct your attention inward, possibly towards the heart center. Say to yourself, “That is who you are!”

Point a finger at yourself: You might want to even point your index finger at your own chest, the place from where you experience, “I am.” As you hold in awareness the essence of the truth that this brahman, this oneness, is who you reallyare, also observe how you can gently let go of the false identities, seeing that they are only temporary and relativelyme.

Say to yourself, “That is who you are”:When reflecting on the other Mahavakyas, such as brahman is the supreme knowledge, then shift the observation from that truth, directing attention to your own inner being and say, “Tat tvam asi; That you are!”

Remember the inner feeling: Notice the inner feeling that comes from the statement and the realization of your spiritual nature, rather than your more surface level of mental or physical identity.

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5. Ayam atma brahma
Atman and Brahman are the same
(The individual Self is one and the same with the absolute)

The wave and the ocean are one: Is the wave separate from the ocean? Not really, but sometimes we lose sight of that. Imagine that you are standing by the ocean, watching the vastness of the ocean. Imagine that a really big wave starts to come ashore, and that your attention comes to this one wave. You intently notice it, becoming absorbed in the crashing of the surf, and the feel of the salt spray. In that moment, you are only aware of the immensity of this one wave. The ocean itself is forgotten during that time. Then, an instant later, you recall with an inner “Aha!”, that the wave and the ocean are one and the same.

  • Atman refers to that pure, perfect, eternal spark of consciousness that is the deepest, central core of our being.

  • Brahman refers to the oneness of the manifest and unmanifest universe.

It is like saying that atman is a wave, and brahman is the ocean. The insight of Ayam atma brahma is that the wave and the ocean are one and the same.

Atman seems to be here, and brahman there: Notice how the statement Ayam atma brahma (Atman and Brahman are the same) is framed as if you are a separate observer of both Atman and Brahman. It is like standing at the beach, looking out at both the wave and the ocean, and declaring that the wave an the ocean are one. You are observing from a witnessing stance, outside of both of them . Notice how this perspective contrasts with Aham brahmasmi (I am Brahman), which declares that “I am!”, an inner experience, rather than from an observing standpoint (like being on the beach).

Different perspectives for the underlying reality: In this way, each of the Mahavakyas gives a different perspective of the same underlying Reality. Gradually, they are seen as mirror reflections of the same Absolute Reality. That integrated flash of insight touches on the true meaning of the word brahman. It is like gaining different points of view from different viewing points. Together, they converge in a complete understanding.

5. Ayam atma brahma
Atman and Brahman are the same
(The individual Self is one and the same with the absolute)

What to do: Sit quietly and reflect on the inner core of your being, such as by placing your attention in the space between the breasts, the heart center.

Be aware of your center: Don’t visualize anything, but allow your awareness to touch the feeling aspect of the center of your being. Or, if you like to visualize internally, imagine a tiny spark of light that represents the eternal essence your own self, the atman. Hold this attention for a few seconds or minutes.

Shift to awareness of the universe: Then, shift your attention in such a way that you are imagining the breadth of the entire manifest and unmanifest universe, the gross, subtle, and causal realms. Imagine the oneness that permeates all, and is all. Do this in a way that you are aware of the essence in which all exists, like being aware of the gold or the clay described above.

Then be aware of both as separate: Then, allow your attention to hold both the awareness of the spark that is atmanand the universal essence that is brahman. Be aware of atmanalso being within that oneness of brahman. Allow this to bring insight and peace. You might want to internally think the words of the Mahavakya, “Ayam atma brahma; atman and brahman are the same.”

Be aware of both as one: It is a beautiful practice to do the same thing in relation to other people. Think of the people who are closest to you, including family, friends, and coworkers. Allow yourself to notice the surface levels of their actions and speech, their physical features, and their personalities. Be aware of the subtle aspects of their makeup, and of the spark of the eternal that is the center of their consciousness. Be aware of how that spark, atman, is one with the oneness, brahman.

Different insights from different Mahavakyas: Notice the different insights and feelings between the Mahavakyas. The insight from Tat tvam asi (That is who you are) is experienced differently from Ayam atma brahma (This individual Self is one with the absolute). The two simply feel different internally, yet they work together, describing the same fundamental truth about about who we are. By experiencing the separate vantage points, the whole is more completely experienced.

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6. Aham brahmasmi
I am Brahman
(Who I really am, is that absolute reality.)

If a gold bracelet could speak: Imagine two possibilities of what a gold bracelet might say, if it could speak. It might say one of these two things:

  1. “I am a bracelet!”
  2. “I am gold!”

Bracelet is temporary: Which is more true, more everlasting? We might be tempted to say that #1 is more accurate, in that bracelet seems more encompassing, being both bracelet and gold at the same time. However, the bracelet aspect is not eternal. It is temporary. It is only a matter of the particular shape in which the gold was molded. Is bracelet what it really is?

Gold is everlasting: What is always true, is #2, that “I am gold,” everlasting, ever pure, and not subject to death, decay, and decomposition. (One might argue that gold is not everlasting either, but in the metaphor, gold is being only used as an example.)

Bracelet is gold; I am gold: Note that this metaphor may sound similar to the ones above, regarding the impermanence of a bracelet and the permanence of the gold (metaphorically speaking). This is not the case. The realization that, “I am gold!” or “I am brahman!” is an internal experience compared to the statement, “The bracelet is gold!” (which sounds like the bracelet over there). The two insights are separate, though they also come to be the same.

Similarly, it is very different to realize, in direct experience, “I am brahman!” than one of the statements such as, “Brahman alone is real!”:

  • Out there: “Brahman alone is real!” seems to be about the world out there. It is a valid perspective.

  • In here: “I am brahman!” is an inner declaration of who I am, in here. This is also a valid perspecive.

Truth comes in the stillness of intuitive flash: The truth of a Mahavakyacomes through intuitive flash, that is progressively deeper as one practices. It is not merely an intellectual process, as it might appear to be by explaining the gold metaphor. The metaphors are used as a means of explaining the principle, but this is not the end of the process. In a sense, such explanations are only the beginning of the process. The key is in the still, silent reflection in the inner workshop of contemplation and yoga meditation.

After thinking, let go into contemplative insight:The initial insights come somewhat like the creative process when you are trying to solve some problem in daily life. You think and think, and then finally let go into silence. Then, suddenly, the creative idea just pops out, giving you the solution to your problem. The contemplation on the Mahavakyas is somewhat like that at first. Later, it goes into deeper meditation.

Insight comes within your own context: One may experience himself or herself as being like the gold or the clay, or like a wave in an ocean of bliss, that realizes the wave is also the ocean. With all these metaphors used only as tools of explanation, the insight of each person will come in the context of their own culture and religion, and will not seem foreign or unnatural. One’s religious values are not violated, but rather, are affirmed.

6. Aham brahmasmi
I am Brahman
(Who I really am, is that absolute reality.)

What to do: Reflect on the oneness, or brahman, and the meaning, as suggested in the practices above. Allow your attention to focus on the insights from those Mahavakyas, such as Brahman is one, without a second.

Literally ask questions of yourself: Ask yourself, internally, “Who am I? Am I this body, or do I have a body? Am I this breath, or is this breath just flowing? Am I this mind, or is this mind a manifestation of some deeper truth? Who am I, really? Who am I?”

Make your own declarations: Inside the chamber of your own being, declare to yourself, “I am brahman. I am not only a wave, I am made of ocean. I am ocean!” Allow the truth of the statements to expand. Be sure to practice such affirmations only if you have reflected on them, and find truth in them. This is not about selling yourself, but on affirming what you know.

In daily life, when sitting, or resting: As you do these contemplations, you might be right in the middle of your daily life. Or, you might be sitting straight in a formal yoga meditation posture. Or, you might be resting comfortably in a chair, on a sofa, or lying down in a relaxed position. There is a great diversity of settings in which you can do this type of contemplation.

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7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma
All of this is Brahman
(All of this, including me, is that absolute reality)

The various insights are revealed: Gradually, one comes to understand and increasingly experience the deeper aspects of the other Mahavakyas (the six described above):

  • Brahman is real; the world is unreal.
  • Brahman is one, without a second.
  • Brahman is the supreme knowledge.
  • That is what you are.
  • Atman and brahman are the same.
  • I am brahman.

They sing a song together: As one comes to experience the truth of the individual Mahavakyas, it seems they come together in a song, that cries out in joy, “All of this is brahman!” As was said in the beginning, it is a process that comes from person-to-person listening (written and oral), followed by deep reflection, contemplation, and meditation.


(Perspective on “Sarvam khalvidam brahma”)

Realization comes in stages:

  • First, there is cognitive understanding of the meaning.
  • Second, intuition rolls down, revealing deeper meanings.
  • Finally, it is as if the one doing the practice travels upwards to merge in the direct experience, even though there was never any division in the first place.

7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma
All of this is Brahman
(All of this, including me, is that absolute reality)

What to do: Allow your awareness to try to encompass, at one time, the entire manifest and unmanifest universe, the objects and people in the world around you, as well as your own body and mind. Hold these together, as one whole, and reflect on the words, “All of this is brahman! All of this is one!” This builds on the other practices, and expands in its experience.

Mind is set aside in an explosion of awareness: Eventually, in the depth of meditation and contemplation, the entire mind is set aside in an explosion of awareness, in which the truth of the Mahavakyas comes forward, and is seen to have been there all along, ever still, waiting to be discovered in direct experience.

Four traditional Mahavakyas

Four of the Mahavakyas above are most traditional to Vedanta. Some 1200 years ago Adi Shankaracharya assigned one Mahavakya to one of four monastic teaching centers or mutts in India.

Mahavakya Source Mutt/Center

Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is supreme knowledge
Aitareya Upanishad
3.3, of Rig Veda
Puri/Govardhana
East

Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
Chandogya Upanishad
6.8.7, of Sama Veda,
Kaivalya Upanishad
Dwaraka/Sarada/Gujrat
West

Ayam atma brahma
Atman and brahman
are the same
Mandukya Upanishad
1.2, of Atharva Veda
Jyoti/Badrinath
North

Aham brahmasmi
I am brahman
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
1.4.10, of Yajur Veda,
Mahanarayana Upanishad
Sringeri/Mysore
South

 

 

Please see my related posts

The Pillar of Celestial Fire

The Great Chain of Being

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

On Holons and Holarchy

Recursion, Incursion, and Hyper-incursion

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

 

 

 

Key sources of Research:

 

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

arshavidya.org

Talk on The Essence of Vedanta

 

Talk on Vedanta by Swami Sarvpriyananda

Cybernetics Group: A Brief History of American Cybernetics

Cybernetics Group: A Brief History of American Cybernetics

The Cybernetics Group

Focusing on the Macy Foundation conferences, a series of encounters that captured a moment of transformation in the human sciences.

In this sequel to his acclaimed double biography, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener, Steve Heims recounts another fascinating story in twentieth-century intellectual history – a series of encounters that captured a moment of transformation in the human sciences. Focusing on the Macy Foundation conferences, which were designed to forge connections between wartime science and postwar social science, Heims’s richly detailed account explores the dialogues that emerged among a remarkable group that included Wiener, von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCulloch, Kurt Lewin, Molly Harrower, and Lawrence Kubie. Heims shows how those dialogues shaped ideas in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and psychiatry.

 

Cybernetics

THE MACY CONFERENCES 1946-1953. THE COMPLETE TRANSACTIONS

Between 1946 and 1953, the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation sponsored a series of conferences aiming to bring together a diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars and researchers who would join forces to lay the groundwork for the new science of cybernetics. These conferences, known as the Macy conferences, constituted a landmark for the field. They were the first to grapple with new terms such as information and feedback and to develop a cohesive and broadly applicable theory of systems that would become equally applicable to living beings and machines, economic and cognitive processes, and many scholarly disciplines. The concepts that emerged from the conferences come to permeate thinking in many fields, including biology, neurology, sociology, ecology, economics, politics, psychoanalysis, linguistics, and computer science.

This book contains the complete transcripts of all ten Macy conferences and the guidelines for the conference proceedings. These transcripts are supplemented with an introduction by Claus Pias that charts the significance of the Macy conferences to the history of science.

 

Macy Conferences Participants

A series of 10 focused meetings spanning 1942 to 1953 sponsored by the Josiah Macy Foundation, which brought together

  • John von Neumann
  • Norbert Wiener
  • Margaret Mead
  • Karl Lashley
  • Ross Ashby
  • Warren McCulloch
  • Walter Pitts
  • Arturo Rosenblueth
  • Claude Shannon
  • Heinz von Foerster
  • Rafael Lorente de No ́
  • R. Karl Pribram
  • Duncan Luce
  • Donald M. MacKay
  • Gregory Bateson
  • Kurt Lewin
  • Molly Harrower
  • Lawrence Kubie
  • Filmer S. C. Northrop
  • Lawrence K. Frank
  • Heinrich Kluver
  • Leonard J Savage
  • Ralph Girard and many others

 

Stuart A. Umpleby

A Short History of Cybernetics in the United States

The Origin of Cybernetics

Cybernetics as a field of scientific activity in the United States began in the years after World War II. Between 1946 and 1953 the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation sponsored a series of conferences in New York City on the subject of „Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems.“ The chair of the conferences was Warren McCulloch of MIT. Only the last five conferences were recorded in written proceedings. These have now been republished.1 After Norbert Wiener published his book Cybernetics in 1948,2 Heinz von Foerster suggested that the name of the conferences should be changed to „Cybernetics: Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems.“ In this way the meetings became known as the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics.

In subsequent years cybernetics influenced many academic fields – computer science, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics, management, family therapy, political science, sociology, biology, psychology, epistemology, music, etc. Cybernetics has been defined in many ways: as control and communication in animals, machines, and social systems; as a general theory of regulation; as the science or art of effective organization; as the art of constructing defensible metaphors, etc.3 The term ‚cybernetics‘ has been associated with many stimulating conferences, yet cybernetics has not thrived as an organized scientific field within American universities. Although a few cybernetics programs were established on U.S. campuses, these programs usually did not survive the retirement or death of their founders. Quite often transdisciplinary fields are perceived as threatening by established disciplines.

Relative to other academic societies the meetings on cybernetics tended to have more than the usual controversy, probably due to the wide variety of disciplines represented by the participants. Indeed Margaret Mead contributed an article,

Cybernetics of Cybernetics, to the proceedings of the first conference of the American Society for Cybernetics, in which she suggested that cyberneticians should apply their knowledge of communication to how they communicate with each other.4

Interpretations of Cybernetics

Not everyone originally connected with cybernetics continued to use the term. The original group of cyberneticians created approximately four research traditions.

  • The cybernetics of Alan Turing and John von Neumann became computer science, AI, and robotics. Turing5 formulated the concept of a Universal Turing Machine – a mathematical description of a computational device. He also devised the Turing test – a way of determining whether a computer program displays „artificial intelligence“.6 The related professional societies are the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.
  • Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics became part of electrical engineering. This branch of cybernetics includes control mechanisms, from thermostats to automated assembly lines. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, including the Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society, is the main professional society. The principal concern is systems engineering.
  • Warren McCulloch’s cybernetics became „second order cybernetics“. McCulloch chaired the Macy Foundation conferences. He sought to understand the functioning of the nervous system and thereby the operation of the brain and the mind. The American Society for Cybernetics has continued this tradition.
  • Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead pursued research in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, psychology, and family therapy. Work on the cybernetics of social systems is being continued in the American Society for Cybernetics and the Socio-Cybernetics Group within the International Sociological Association.

Other groups can also be identified. For example, a control systems group within psychology was generated by the work of William Powers.7 Biofeedback or neuro- feedback is a subject of investigation by some researchers in medicine and psycho- logy. The Santa Fe Institute has developed simulation methods based on the ideas of self-organizing systems and cellular automata.8 Some members of the International Society for the Systems Sciences have an interest in management cybernetics.

This paper recounts about sixty years of the history of cybernetics in the United States, divided into five year intervals. The emphasis will be on the third and fourth groups, McCulloch’s cybernetics and social cybernetics.

Early 1940s

In 1943 two landmark papers were published. Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts wrote, A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity.9 This article sought to understand how a network of neurons functions so that we experience what we call „an idea.“ They presented their explanation in mathematical form.

Arthuro Rosenblueth, Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow published Behavior, Purpose, Teleology.10 They observed behavior, which they interpreted as purposeful, and then sought to explain how this phenomenon could happen without teleology, using only Aristotle’s efficient cause. Also in the early 1940s Wiener worked on a radar-guided anti-aircraft gun.

Late 1940s

In the late 1940s the early Macy Conferences were held in New York City.11 They were attended by scientists including Norbert Wiener, Julian Bigelow, John von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Ross Ashby, Grey Walter, and Heinz von Foerster. By 1949 three key books were published: Von Neumann’s and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,12 Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine,13 and Shannon’s and Weaver’s (1949) The Mathematical Theory of Communication.14 These books defined a new science of information and regulation.

Early 1950s

In the early 1950s more Macy conferences took place. This time proceedings were published with Heinz von Foerster as editor. Meanwhile the first commercial com- puters were manufactured.

Late 1950s

In the 1950s the CIA was concerned about the possibility of brain-washing and mind control. Under the code name MKUltra experiments with LSD and other drugs were conducted at Harvard University and elsewhere.15 Some of the money for this research was channeled through the Macy Foundation. In one incident, a CIA employee was given LSD without his knowledge. Apparently he thought he was going mad and jumped out a window of a hotel in New York City. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, when he was a student at Harvard, was an experimental subject of these mind control experiments.16

Early checkers-playing programs were written and raised the possibility of artifi- cial intelligence.17 In 1956 at a conference at Dartmouth University people interested in studying the brain and people interested in creating computer programs parted ways. Neurophysiologists valued work that illuminated the nature of cognition. Engineers valued work that led to useful machines. Thereafter the people interested in cybernetics and those interested in artificial intelligence had little interaction.

Following a sabbatical year working with Arthuro Rosenblueth and Warren McCulloch, Heinz von Foerster founded the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois in 1958. During the 1960s and early 1970s BCL was the leading center for cybernetics research in the U.S. Frequent visitors were Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Gordon Pask, and Lars Loefgren. Graduates included Klaus Krippendorff, Alfred Inselberg, Crayton Walker, Roger Conant, and Stuart Umpleby.  During the same period the Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI) at the University of Michigan was the leading center for general systems research in the U.S. The founding director of MHRI was James G. Miller. Other systems scientists at MHRI were Kenneth E. Boulding, Anatol Rapoport, Richard L. Meier, and John R. Platt.

Early 1960s

In the early 1960s several conferences on self-organizing systems were held.18 One of these conferences was held in 1961 at the University of Illinois’s Allerton Park.19 As a result of an invitation made at this conference, Ross Ashby moved from England to Illinois. The work on self-organizing systems was a forerunner to the field of study now called ‚complexity‘ or ‚complex systems‘.

Although the Macy Foundation Conferences ended in 1953, the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) was not founded until 1964. This seems rather late. Actually the ASC was founded not so much to continue the work of the Macy conferences but rather as a result of the Cold War.20 During the Presidential campaign in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected, there was talk about a „missile gap“ between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not long thereafter there began to be talk about a „cybernetics gap.“ Some people in the Soviet Union thought cybernetics would provide the theory they needed to operate their centrally planned economy.

Consequently, the Soviet government generously funded cybernetics research. Some people in the U.S. government then feared that the U.S. might fall behind in a criti- cal area of research, if this country did not also fund cybernetics research.

In Washington, DC, a cybernetics luncheon club was meeting. The participants included Paul Henshaw, Atomic Energy Commission; Carl Hammer, Univac; Jack Ford, CIA; Douglas Knight, IBM; Walter Munster; Bill Moore, lawyer. This group founded the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). The founding ceremony was held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. A grant from the National Science Foundation helped the Society to establish the Journal of Cybernetics. A conference on the social impact of cybernetics was held at Georgetown University in 1964.21 The first conference arranged by the ASC was held in 1967 at the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg, MD.22

Late 1960s

Social movements in the United States – against the Viet Nam war and for civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental protection – produced a time of student activism on campuses. In terms of research it was a productive period for the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois.23

Early 1970s

At a meeting of the American Society for Cybernetics in 1974 in Philadelphia, Heinz von Foerster introduced the term „second order cybernetics.“24 The Mansfield Amendment, which was an attempt to reduce campus unrest caused by the Viet Nam War, cut off government funds for research that was not related to a military mission, including research at BCL.25

There was an argument between the officers of ASC and the publisher of the Journal of Cybernetics. The dispute was submitted to arbitration, and the publisher won. Thereafter the journal continued to be published, but without ASC involvement. The journal published articles primarily in engineering. However, the field of cybernetics was increasingly emphasizing biology and the social sciences.

Late 1970s

Heinz von Foerster retired from the University of Illinois in 1976 and moved to California. There he communicated with Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland and others at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. During this time second order cybernetics or constructivist epistemology had a significant impact on the field of family therapy.26

In the late 1970s no meetings of the American Society for Cybernetics were held. The people connected with BCL attended meetings of the Society for General Systems Research, which a few years later changed its name to the International Society for the Systems Sciences.

For a few years, due to a conflict among the ASC officers in Washington, DC, there was a rival organization, the American Cybernetics Association (ACA), based in Philadelphia. The two organizations came back together a few years later through the efforts of Barry Clemson, Doreen Steg, Klaus Krippendorff and others. The reorganized society used the ASC name and the ACA by-laws. But the society remained small, usually having fewer than 400 members.

Stuart Umpleby, who received his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1975 and moved to The George Washington University in Washington, DC, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for an Electronic Information Exchange for Small Research Communities. The BCL group moved into cyberspace.27 This group, discussing General Systems Theory, was one of nine academic groups using the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) at New Jersey Institute of Technology. For three years in the late 1970s cyberneticians and systems scientists across the United States and a few in Europe communicated with each other using email and computer conferencing via dumb terminals and, initially, 300 baud modems. The long distance telephone charges were paid by the NSF grant. When the grant ran out, there was disappointment that universities would not pay the communications charges. Indeed, it took almost fifteen years before costs declined sufficiently to permit regular email communication among academics.

Early 1980s

As a result of being the moderator of the on-line discussion group, Umpleby was elected president of ASC. A planning conference in 1980 charted a new direction for the Society.28 ASC began organizing conferences again and reestablished connec- tions with its former journal, now called Cybernetics and Systems.

A series of meetings with Soviet scientists was started as a way to bring leading American scientists together to review fundamentals, in particular to discuss second order cybernetics.29 The meetings were funded by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. These meetings were quite productive for exchanging views; however, a controversy with the Soviet side arose over the participation of Vladimir Lefebvre, a Soviet émigré. Prior to glasnost and perestro- ika Lefebvre’s theory30 of two systems of ethical cognition was not accepted by the Soviet government. However, during the break up of the USSR Lefebvre’s work was used by people at the highest levels of government in both the United States and the Soviet Union to prevent miscommunication.31

Lefebvre’s work is being further developed through annual conferences organized by Vladimir Lepsky in the Insti- tute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Lefebvre’s theory of reflexive control is being used by psychologists and educators to help with the psychological and cultural difficulties involved in the social, political, and economic transition in Russia.32

Late 1980s

Members of the American Society for Cybernetics began offering tutorials on first and second order cybernetics prior to systems conferences (see Table 1). They were seeking to make a scientific revolution.33 At a conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in 1987 the members of the American Society for Cybernetics decided to focus their attention almost exclusively on advancing second order cybernetics.34 The focus on second order cybernetics to the exclusion of other interpretations of cybernetics had the effect of reducing the membership of the ASC to about one hundred mem- bers. However, there was strong interest in second order cybernetics in Europe.35

 

Table 1. Definitions of First and Second Order Cybernetics

Author

First Order Cybernetics

Second Order Cybernetics

von Foerster

The cybernetics of observed systems

The cybernetics of observing system

Pask

The purpose of a model

The purpose of modeler

Varela

Controlled systems

Autonomous systems

Umpleby

Interaction among the vari- ables in a system

Interaction between observer and observed

Umpleby

Theories of social systems

Theories of the interaction between ideas and society

The second Soviet-American conference was held in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1988. Due to glasnost and perestroika the original topics (epistemology, methodology, and management) were expanded to include large-scale social experiments.

 

Early 1990s

In 1990 two symposia on Theories to Guide the Reform of Socialist Societies were held in Washington, DC, and Vienna, Austria.36 These meetings were the beginning of a multi-year effort both to understand the changes occurring in the former Soviet Union from the perspective of social theory and to use knowledge of social systems to guide the transitions.

The work on second order cybernetics was also changing. The members of the ASC had worked almost twenty years on developing and promoting the point of view known as second order cybernetics or constructivism. Some people wanted to move from a period of revolutionary science to a new period of normal science.37 One way to understand the change is to say that the period of engineering cyberne- tics lasted from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s. The period of biological cybernetics or second order cybernetics lasted from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s. And the period of social cybernetics began in the mid 1990s (see Table 2).

Late 1990s

Symposia on the transitions in the former Soviet Union continued to be held as part of the European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research. These meetings are held every two years in Vienna, Austria. The symposia bring together scientists from East and West.

In Washington, DC, a series of meetings on the Year 2000 Computer Problem were held with the support of The Washington Post. These meetings were based on the idea that „y2k“ could be regarded as an experiment which would reveal the amount of interconnectedness in our increasingly cybernetic society.38

Niklas Luhmann’s writings in sociology introduced ideas such as constructivism and autopoiesis to social scientists in Europe.39 A Socio-Cybernetics Working Group within the International Sociological Association was established by Felix Geyer and others.

Early 2000s

In the early years of the 21st century large conferences on informatics and cyber- netics were organized by Nagib Callaos and his colleagues in Orlando, FL. One result has been organizing efforts in Latin America stimulated by the conferences in Orlando. Annual conferences on reflexive control began to be held in Moscow

 

Table 2. Three Versions of Cybernetics

Engineering Cybernetics

Biological Cybernetics

Social Cybernetics

The view
of epistemo­ logy

A realist view of epistemology: knowledge is a „picture“ of reality

A biological view of epistemology: how the brain func­ tions

A pragmatic view of epistemology: knowledge is con­ structed to achieve human purposes

A key distinction

Reality vs. Scientific Theories

Realism vs. Constructivism

The biology of cognition vs. the observer as a social participant

The puzzle to be solved

Construct theories which explain ob­ served phenomena

Include the ob­ server within the domain of science

Explain the rela­ tionship between the natural and the social sciences

What must be explained

How the world works

How an individual constructs a „real­ ity“

How people cre­ ate, maintain, and change social sys­ tems through lan­ guage and ideas

A key as­ sumption

Natural processes can be explained by scientific theo­ ries

Ideas about knowl­ edge should be rooted in neuro­ physiology

Ideas are accepted if they serve the observer’s pur­ poses as a social participant

An impor­ tant conse­ quence

Scientific know- ledge can be used to modify natural processes to benefitpeople

If people accept constructivism, they will be more tolerant

By transforming conceptual systems (through persua­ sion, not coercion), we can change society

and may lead to the founding of a Russian Association in the field of cybernetics and systems.

In the International Society for the Systems Sciences there is growing interest in group facilitation and participation methods.40 An increasing number of books about cybernetics appear, frequently by German authors.41 A Heinz von Foerster

Society was established in Vienna to further develop the ideas explored at the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory. A new biography of Norbert Wiener was published which explains the break that occurred between Wiener and McCulloch.42

The „global university system“ created by the Internet and the Bologna process is not only greatly facilitating communication among scientists around the world but is also leading to a new metaphor for the social implications of cybernetics, an alternative metaphor to the „global brain.“43

Questions about the History of Cybernetics

Given the promising and exciting beginnings of cybernetics, the outstanding sci- entists involved, and the subsequent impact of cybernetics on many disciplines, it is curious that the term ‚cybernetics‘ is not widely known or used today, even though most professional people spend several hours a day in cyberspace. Margaret Mead commented on the development of cybernetics at the first ASC conference in 1968:

„We were impressed by the potential usefulness of a language sufficiently sophisticated to be used to solve complex human problems, and sufficiently abstract to make it possible to cross disciplinary boundaries. We thought we would go on to real interdisciplinary research, using this language as a medium. Instead, the whole thing fragmented. Norbert Wiener wrote his book Cybernetics. It fascinated intellectuals and it looked for a while as if the ideas that he expressed would become a way of thought. But they didn’t.“44

Why did the cybernetics movement break up following the Macy Conferences? Perhaps it never came together. People stayed in their home disciplines. Many very thought-provoking meetings were held under the label of cybernetics, but the educational programs that were established did not survive in discipline-oriented universities. When their founders retired, the programs were closed. One conse- quence of the lack of educational programs at universities is that key ideas tend to be reinvented. One example is the work on complex systems centered at the Santa Fe Institute. These writers rarely refer to the work in cybernetics and systems theory.

What prevented unity? There was never agreement on fundamentals. Eric Dent in his doctoral dissertation at The George Washington University provides an explanation of the continuing heterogeneity of the field of cybernetics and systems science.45 Dent claims that after World War II the systems sciences dramatically expanded the scientific enterprise. Specifically, science expanded along eight dimen- sions: causality, determinism, relationships, holism, environment, self-organization, reflexivity, and observation.46 However, not all of the various systems fields chose to emphasize the same dimensions. Indeed, each field chose a unique combination. This meant that the various systems fields did not agree on what the key issues were. As a result each subfield developed its own language, theories, methods, traditions, and results.

These eight dimensions have both united and divided the systems sciences. The dimensions unite the systems sciences because each of the subfields of systems sci- ence uses at least one of the new assumptions, whereas classical science uses none. The dimensions divide the systems sciences because each subfield emphasizes a different dimension or set of dimensions. Hence, issues that are very important in one subfield are less important or do not arise in other subfields. Given different questions, the answers in theories and methods have been different.47 Perhaps in the 21st century the progress made in developing the field of cybernetics in many disciplines will be successfully integrated.

Notes

1  Claus Pias, ed., Cybernetics – Kybernetik: The Macy Conferences 1946–1953, Zürich and Berlin 2004.

2  Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Cambridge, MA 1948.

3  Larry Richards, Defining ‚Cybernetics‘ (1987), http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/definitions.htm.

4  Margaret Mead, Cybernetics of Cybernetics, in: Heinz von Foerster et al., eds., Purposive Systems, New York 1968.

5  Alan Turing, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, in: Pro- ceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42/2 (1936), 230–265. Reprinted in Martin Davis, ed., The Undecidable, New York 1965.

6  Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in: Mind 59 (1950), 433–460.

7  William Powers, Behavior: the Control of Perception, New York 1973.

8  M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, New York 1992.

9  Warren S. McCulloch and Walter Pitts, A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity, in: Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 5 (1943), 115–133; reprinted in Warren S. McCulloch, Embodiments of Mind, Cambridge, MA, 1965, 19–39.

10  Arturo Rosenblueth, Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow, Behavior, Purpose and Teleology, in: Philosophy of Science 10 (1943), 18–24; reprinted in W. Buckley, ed., Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist, Chicago 1968, 221–225.

11  Steve J. Heims, The Cybernetics Group, Cambridge, MA 1991.

12  John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Princeton, NJ 1944.

13  Wiener, Cybernetics.

14  Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Urbana, Ill. 1949.

15  John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, New York 1978.

16  Alston Chase, Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist, New York 2003.

17  Arthur Samuel, Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers in: IBM Journal 3/3 (1959), 210–229.

18  Marshall Yovits and Scott Cameron, eds., Self-Organizing Systems, London 1960; Marshall Yovits, George Jacobi, Gordon Goldstein, eds., Self-Organizing Systems – 1962, Washington 1962.

19  Heinz von Foerster and George W. Zopf Jr., eds., Principles of Self-Organization, New York 1962.

20  Charles Richard Dechert, ed., The Social Impact of Cybernetics, New York 1966.

21  Ibid.

22  Heinz von Foerster et al., eds., Purposive Systems, New York 1968.

23  Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller, eds., An Unfinished Revolution? Heinz von Foerster and the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory, 1958–1976, Wien 2007.

24  Heinz von Foerster, Cybernetics of Cybernetics, in: Klaus Krippendorff, ed., Communication and Control in Society, New York 1979.

25  Stuart Umpleby, Heinz von Foerster and the Mansfield Amendment, in: Cybernetics and Human Knowing 10 (2003), No. 3–4.

26  Paul Watzlawick, The Invented Reality: How do we Know what we Believe we Know? Contributions to Constructivism, New York 1984.

27  Stuart Umpleby, Computer Conference on General Systems Theory: One Year’s Experience, in: M. Henderson and M. MacNaughton, eds., Electronic Communication: Technology and Impacts, Boul- der, CO 1979; Stuart Umpleby and K. Thomas, Applying Systems Theory to the Conduct of Systems Research, in: Anthony Debons ed., Information Science in Action: System Design, vol. l, The Hague 1983.

28  Stuart Umpleby, The 1980 Planning Conference of the American Society for Cybernetics, in: Cyber- netics Forum 10/1 (1981).

29  Stuart Umpleby, American and Soviet Discussions of the Foundations of Cybernetics and General Systems Theory, in: Cybernetics and Systems 18 (1987); Stuart Umpleby and Vadim Sadovsky, eds., A Science of Goal Formulation: American and Soviet Discussions of Cybernetics and Systems Theory, New York 1991.

30  Vladimir A. Lefebvre, Algebra of Conscience: A Comparative Analysis of Western and Soviet Ethical Systems, London 1982.

31  Stuart Umpleby, A Preliminary Inventory of Theories Available to Guide the Reform of Socialist Societies, in: Stuart Umpleby and Robert Trappl, eds., Cybernetics and Systems 22/4 (1991).

32  Stuart Umpleby and Tatyana A. Medvedeva, Psychological Adjustment to Economic and Social Change, in: Reflexive Control 1/1 (2001), 102–112.

33  Stuart Umpleby, On Making a Scientific Revolution, in: Heinz von Foerster, ed., Cybernetics of Cy- bernetics, Urbana 1974; reprinted in 1995, Minneapolis: Future Systems.

34  Stuart Umpleby, Three Conceptions of Conversation, in: Continuing the Conversation: A Newsletter of Ideas in Cybernetics, No. 10, 1987.

35  Stuart Umpleby, Cybernetics of Conceptual Systems, in: Cybernetics and Systems 28/8 (1997), 635– 652.

36  Umpleby, Inventory.

37  Stuart Umpleby, The Science of Cybernetics and the Cybernetics of Science, in: Cybernetics and Systems 21/1 (1990).

38  Stuart Umpleby, Coping with an Error in a Knowledge Society: The Case of the Year 2000 Computer Crisis, in: George E. Lasker et al., eds., Advances in Sociocybernetics and Human Development VIII, Windsor, Canada 2000.

39  Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems. Stanford, CA 1995.

40  Ken Bausch, ed., Special Issue on Agoras of the Global Village, World Futures, 6/1–2 (2004).

41  Müller and Müller, Revolution.

42  Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics, New York 2005.

43  Stuart Umpleby, Strengthening the Global University System, in: R. Meyer, ed., Perspectives in Higher Education Reform, vol. 12, Alliance of Universities for Democracy, American University in Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria 2003.

44  Mead, Cybernetics.

45  Eric B. Dent, The Design, Development, and Evaluation of Measures to Survey Worldview in Orga- nizations. Ann Arbor, MI University Microfilms 1996

46  Eric B. Dent, System Science Traditions: Differing Philosophical Assumptions, in: Systems, Journal of the Polish Systems Society 6 (2001), No. 1–2.

47  Stuart Umpleby and Eric B. Dent, The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics, in: Cybernetics and Systems 30 (1999).

 

 

 

 

Please see my related posts

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Feedback Thought in Economics and Finance

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Ratio Club: A Brief History of British Cyberneticians

Second Order Cybernetics of Heinz Von Foerster

Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Recursive Vision of Gregory Bateson

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

 

Whatever Happened to Cybernetics

Kevin Kelly in his book Out of Control

https://kk.org/mt-files/outofcontrol/ch23-a.html

The Cybernetics Group

Steve Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/cybernetics-group

Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America

The Cybernetics Group, 1946–1953

By Steve Joshua Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/constructing-social-science-postwar-america

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/396a/f617fb699b71d3a7ecb44c5a8a39d7c69d31.pdf?_ga=2.252779531.343517398.1572734637-1265037359.1572734637

 

John Von Neumann and Norbert Weiner

From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death

Steve Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/john-von-neumann-and-norbert-weiner

Cybernetics

THE MACY CONFERENCES 1946-1953. THE COMPLETE TRANSACTIONS

EDITED BY CLAUS PIAS

 

https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/C/bo23348570.html

 

 

 

Do Cyborgs Dream of Electronic Rats? The Macy Conferences and the Emergence of Hybrid Multi-Agent Systems

 

Samuel Gerald Collins

 

Click to access FS07-04-005.pdf

 

 

Macy conferences

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macy_conferences

 

 

Cybernetics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetics

History of Cybernetics

American Society of Cybernetics

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/history.htm

 

History of Cybernetics and Systems Science

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/CYBSHIST.html

 

 

HISTORY OF CYBERNETICS
Additional Reference Resources

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/historyrefs.htm

The Macy Story

https://macyfoundation.org/news-and-commentary/the-macy-story

 

 

The Next Macy Conference: A New Interdisciplinary Synthesis [Keynote]

September 2015

Andrew Pickering

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281896821_The_Next_Macy_Conference_A_New_Interdisciplinary_Synthesis_Keynote

 

 

A Brief History of (Second-Order) Cybernetics

Louis Kauffman
Stuart Umpleby

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319751991_A_Brief_History_of_Second-Order_Cybernetics

 

 

A Short History of Cybernetics in the United States

The Origin of Cybernetics

 

Stuart Umpleby

 

Click to access 4566_oezg4_08_s28_40_umpleby_1_.pdf

 

 

 

Analog, digital, and the cybernetic illusion

Claus Pias

 

Click to access kybernetes.pdf

 

 

 

 

GREGORY BATESON, CYBERNETICS, AND THE SOCIAL/BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

 

Click to access gbcatsbs.pdf

 

 

Cybernetics: A General Theory that Includes Command and Control

Stuart Umpleby

 

Click to access 076.pdf

 

The Future of Cybernetics

Click to access Pangaro-Nano-2018.pdf

 

 

John Bowlby: Rediscovering a systems scientist

Gary S. Metcalf, PhD

January 7, 2010

 

Click to access John_Bowlby_-_Rediscovering_a_systems_scientist.pdf

 

 

REBEL GENIUS: WARREN MCCULLOCH’S TRANSDISCIPLINARY LIFE IN SCIENCE

By Tara H. Abraham

2016 MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA

ISBN: 9780262035095

 

Click to access The%20prophet%20who%20foretold%20our%20future%202018-4523.pdf

 

 

 

Where are the Cyborgs in Cybernetics?

Ronald Kline

 

Click to access Where-are-the-Cyborgs-in-Cybernetics-Kline.pdf

 

 

SECOND ORDER CYBERNETICS

Ranulph Glanville

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.645.9031&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

The Road to Servomechanisms: The Influence of Cybernetics on Hayek

from The Sensory Order to the Social Order

Gabriel Oliva

 

Click to access The%20Road%20to%20Servomechanisms.pdf

 

 

Cybernetics Revolutinaries

Click to access Eden_Medina_Cybernetic_Revolutionaries.pdf

 

 

 

CYBERNETICS AND THE MANGLE: ASHBY, BEER AND PASK*

Andrew Pickering

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.15.882&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

 

Cybernetics Page at Monoskop.org

https://monoskop.org/Cybernetics

 

 

 

The Cybernetics Brain

Andrew Pickering

 

 

 

HISTORY OF CYBERNETICS

R. Vallée

Université Paris-Nord, France

 

Click to access E6-46-03-01.pdf

Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Recursive Vision of Gregory Bateson

Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Recursive Vision of Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson.  One of the most brilliant man I have read.  Please check out his books and books about him.  He was married to Margaret Mead, a famous Anthropologist.  His daughters Mary Catherine Bateson and Nora Bateson have also published books and documentaries about him.

  • Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology.
  • Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences).
  • A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind
  • Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred.
  • Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry

 

GB used concepts of Cybernetics and Systems Theory to seek integration among:

  • Aesthetics
  • Consciousness
  • Sacred
  • Ecology

I have found book A Recursive Vision to be most helpful in understanding GB.

 

 

Please see my related posts.

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

 

 

 

Key Sources of Research

 

GREGORY BATESON (1904-1980)

http://www.interculturalstudies.org/Bateson/

 

 

MEAD/BATESON RESOURCES

http://www.interculturalstudies.org/resources.html

 

Gregory Bateson and the Promise of Transdisciplinarity

December 2005

Alfonso Montuori

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228380041_Gregory_Bateson_and_the_Promise_of_Transdisciplinarity

The Cybernetics Society

UK

http://www.cybsoc.org

Undersstanding Gregory Bateson

Suny Press

https://www.sunypress.edu/p-4615-understanding-gregory-bateson.aspx

 

 

Book “A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson”

by Peter Harries-Jones

 

 

Gregory Bateson

WIKIPEDIA

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Bateson

 

 

Bateson Archive

Cambridge University

https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/batesonarchive/1

 

 

Bateson Archives

California

https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt029029gz/

AUM Conference 1973

https://www.kurtvonmeier.com/aum-conference-introduction

American Society for Cybernetics

USA

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/history/MacySummary.htm

GREGORY BATESON, CYBERNETICS, AND THE SOCIAL/BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

 

Click to access gbcatsbs.pdf

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Key Developments:

  • Cybernetics to Second Order Cybernetics
  • Social Systems (Talcot Parsons) to Autopoietic Social Systems (Niklas Luhmann)
  • Semiotics to Cyber Semiotics
  • Systems Theory to Networks Theory
  • Communication Theory
  • Conversation Theory
  • Culture Theory

Key Terms and People

  • Niklas Luhmann
  • Dirk Baecker
  • F Varela
  • H Maturana
  • Heinz Von Foerster
  • George Spencer Brown
  • Charles Sanders Pierce
  • Soren Brier
  • Louis Kauffman
  • Gordon Pask
  • Second Order Cybernetics
  • Socio Cybernetics
  • Second Order Systems Theory
  • Social Systems Theory
  • Cybernetics of Cybernetics
  • Semiotics
  • Cyber Semiotics
  • Autopoiesis
  • Emergence, Embodiment, Enactment
  • Organizations in Networks

From Second Order Cybernetics

Second order Cybernetics (also known as the Cybernetics of Cybernetics, and the New Cybernetics) was developed between 1968 and 1975 in recognition of the power and consequences of cybernetic examinations of circularity. It is Cybernetics, when Cybernetics is subjected to the critique and the understandings of Cybernetics. It is the Cybernetics in which the role of the observer is appreciated and acknowledged rather than disguised, as had become traditional in western science: and is thus the Cybernetics that considers observing, rather than observed systems.

In this article, the rationale from and through the application of which, second order Cybernetics was developed is explored, together with the contributions of the main precursors and protagonists. This is developed from an examination of the nature of feedback and the Black Box—both seen as circular systems, where the circularity is taken seriously. The necessary presence of the observer doing the observing is established. The primacy of, for example, conversation over coding as a means of communication is argued-—one example of circularity and interactivity in second order cybernetic systems. Thus second order Cybernetics, understood as proposing an epistemology and (through autopoietic systems) an ontogenesis, is seen as connected to the philosophical position of Constructivism.

Examples are given of the application of second order Cybernetics concepts in practice in studies of, and applications in, communication, society, learning and cognition, math and computation, management, and design. It is asserted that the relationship between theory and practice is not essentially one of application: rather they strengthen each other by building on each other in a circularity of their own: the presentation of one before the other results from the process of explanation rather than a necessary, structural dependency.

Finally, the future of second order Cybernetics (and of Cybernetics in general) is considered. The possibility of escalation from second to third and further orders is considered, as is the notion that second order Cybernetics is, effectively, a conscience for Cybernetics. And the popular use of “cyber-” as a prefix is discussed.

 Please see my related posts:

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Ratio Club: A Brief History of British Cyberneticians

Key Sources of Research:

SOCIAL SYSTEMS

Niklas Luhmann

TRANSLATED BY John Bednarz, Jr., with Dirk Baecker

FOREWORD BY Eva M. Knodt

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

Click to access Niklas_Luhmann_Social_Systems.pdf

Form of the Firm

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/11784199/The_Form_of_the_Firm

Why Systems

Dirk Baecker

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1867406

Systems, Networks and Culture

Dirk Baecker

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1867444&download=yes

SECOND ORDER CYBERNETICS

Ranulph Glanville,

Click to access Glanville-SECOND_ORDER_CYBERNETICS.pdf

Observing Networks: A Note on Asymmetrical Social Forms

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/24649161/Observing_Networks_A_Note_on_Asymmetrical_Social_Forms

Systemic Theories of Communication

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/24649171/Systemic_Theories_of_Communication

Reintroducing Communication into Cybernetics

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/24649181/Reintroducing_Communication_into_Cybernetics

Managing Corporations in Networks

Dirk Baecker

Click to access 5795f05a08ae33e89fad5f96.pdf

Niklas Luhman and Cybernetics

https://papiro.unizar.es/ojs/index.php/rc51-jos/article/download/790/721

Cybernetics and Human Knowing

Click to access Peirce%20and%20Spencer%20Brown.pdf

Systems in Context
On the outcome of the Habermas/Luhmann‐debate

Poul Kjaer

Click to access ancilla2006_66_kjaer.pdf

The myth of the system: On the development, purpose and context of Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory

Stefan Rossbach
University of Kent at Canterbury

Click to access 30ae4fa5-2413-4e4d-a837-37c5df56f4c7.pdf

Niklas Luhmann and Organization Studies

Click to access 9788763003049.pdf

Network Society

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/11784198/Network_Society

Shape of things to come: From the ‘laws of form’ to management in the post-growth economy

André Reichel

Click to access 17-1reichel.pdf

Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic social systems

David Seidl

Click to access paper2004_2.pdf

Systems, Network, and Culture

Dirk Baecker

Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany baecker@mac.com

Click to access baecker2.pdf

Niklas Luhmann neosystemic theory and the notion of communicative autopoiesis in organizational studies

Click to access 2b127064006ab5fedb0746faa395f9d3a5b1.pdf

A Calculus for Autopoiesis

in: Dirk Baecker und Birger P. Priddat (eds.), Ökonomie der Werte: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Michael Hutter, Marburg: Metropolis, 2013, 249-267

15 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2012 Last revised: 1 Jun 2013

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2073362

The N-Closure of the Observer

Dirk Baecker

https://www.academia.edu/24649177/The_N-Closure_of_the_Observer

Working the Form: George Spencer-Brown and the Mark of Distinction

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

 

  • Micro approach
  • Macro approach
  • Micro-macro approach
  • Hierarchy
  • Multi Scale
  • Multi Level
  • Heterarchy
  • Holarchy
  • Holonomic
  • Holons
  • Networks
  • Agents
  • Interaction
  • Aggregation
  • Disaggregation
  • Emergence
  • Complexity
  • The Fractal Company (Book)
  • The Fractal Organization (Book)
  • Viable Systems Model (Stafford Beer)
  • Self Similarity
  • Power Laws

 

 

From Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations

Foundations for Multilevel Theory in Organizations

Conceptual Underpinnings: General Systems Theory

General systems theory (GST) has been among the more dominant intellectual perspectives of the twentieth century and has been shaped by many contributors (e.g., Ashby, 1952; Boulding, 1956; Miller, 1978; von Bertalanffy, 1972). Systems concepts originate in the “holistic” Aristotelian worldview that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, in contrast with “normal” science, which tends to be insular and reductionistic. The central goal of GST is to establish principles that generalize across phenomena and disciplines-an ambitious effort that is aimed at nothing less than promoting the unity of science.

Systems principles are manifest as analogies or logical homologies. Logical homologies represent identical concepts (that is, isomorphism), and parallel processes linking different concepts (that is, homology), that generalize to very different systems phenomena (von Bertalanffy, 1972). For example, it is noted that open systems counteract the second law of thermodynamics-entropy-by importing energy and information from the external environment, and transforming it, to maintain homeostasis.

Feedback and servo- mechanisms are the basis for the purposive responses of cybernetic systems. Organizational systems are proposed to have analogous structures and processes (e.g., Katz & Kahn, 1966; Miller, 1978).

Whether one takes a more macro (Parsons, 1956, 1960) or micro (Allport, 1954) perspective, the influence of GST on organizational science has been pervasive. Unfortunately, however, that influence has been primarily metaphorical. The bureaucratic-closed systems-machine metaphor is contrasted with a contingent-open systems-living organism metaphor. Although metaphor has important value-virtually all formal theory is rooted in underlying metaphor (Morgan, 1983)-lack of specificity, formal identity, and precise definition can yield truisms that mislead and fail the test of science (Pinder & Bourgeois, 1982; Bourgeois & Pinder, 1983). GST has exhibited heuristic value but has contributed relatively little to the development of testable principles in the organizational sciences (Roberts et al., 1978). It is to this latter concern that the multilevel perspective is directed.

As social systems, organizations are qualitatively distinct from living cells and other concrete physical systems. The goal of the multilevel perspective is not to identify principles that generalize to other types of systems. Although laudable, such an effort must often of necessity gloss over differences between qualitatively different systems in order to maintain homology across systems (compare Miller, 1978). The primary goal of the multilevel perspective in organizational science is to identify principles that enable a more integrated understanding of phenomena that unfold across levels in organizations.

Macro and Micro Perspectives

Fundamental to the levels perspective is the recognition that micro phenomena are embedded in macro contexts and that macro phenomena often emerge through the interaction and dynamics of lower-level elements. Organizational scholars, however, have tended to emphasize either a micro or a macro perspective. The macro perspective is rooted in its sociological origins. It assumes that there are substantial regularities in social behavior that transcend the apparent differences among social actors. Given a particular set of situational constraints and demographics, people will behave similarly. Therefore, it is possible to focus on aggregate or collective responses and to ignore individual variation. In contrast, the micro perspective is rooted in psychological origins.  It assumes that there are variations in individual behavior, and that a focus on aggregates will mask important individual differences that are meaningful in their own right. Its focus is on variations among individual characteristics that affect individual reactions.

Neither single-level perspective can adequately account for organizational behavior. The macro perspective neglects the means by which individual behavior, perceptions, affect, and interactions give rise to higher-level phenomena. There is a danger of superficiality and triviality inherent in anthropomorphization. Organizations do not behave; people do.  In contrast, the micro perspective has been guilty of neglecting contextual factors that can significantly constrain the effects of individual differences that lead to collective responses, which ultimately constitute macro phenomena (House et al., 1995; Klein et al., 1994; Roberts et al., 1978; Rousseau, 1985).

Macro researchers tend to deal with global measures or data aggregates that are actual or theoretical representations of lower-level phenomena, but they cannot generalize to those lower levels without committing errors of misspecification. This renders problematic the drawing of meaningful policy or application implications from the findings.  For example, assume that we can demonstrate a significant relationship between organizational investments in training and organizational performance. The intuitive generalization-that one could use the magnitude of the aggregate relationship to predict how individual performance would increase as a function of increased organizational investments in training-is not supportable, because of the well-known problem of ecological inference. Relationships among aggregate data tend to be higher than corresponding relationships among individual data elements (Robinson, 1950; Thorndike, 1939). This fact continues to be a significant difficulty for macro-oriented policy disciplines-sociology, political science, economics, education policy, epidemiology-that attempt to draw individual-level inferences from aggregate data.

Micro researchers suffer from an obverse problem, which also makes the desire to influence human resource management policy difficult. We may, for example, be able to show that individual cognitive ability increases individual performance. However, we cannot then assert that selection systems that produce higher aggregate cognitive ability will necessarily yield improved organizational performance. Perhaps they will, but that inference is not directly supported by individual-level analyses. Misspecifications of this sort, however, are not unusual (Schmidt, Hunter, McKenzie, & Muldrow, 1979). Such “atomistic fallacies,” in which organizational psychologists suggest team- or organization-level interventions based on individual-level data, are common in our literature.

A levels approach, combining micro and macro perspectives, engenders a more integrated science of organizations. House and colleagues (1995) suggest the term meso because it captures this sense that organizational science is both macro and micro. Whatever it is called, we need a more integrated approach. The limitations that the organizational disciplines suffer with respect to influencing policy and applications can be resolved through the development of more complete models of organizational phenomena-models that are system-oriented but do not try to capture the complexity of the entire system. Instead, by focusing on significant and salient phenomena, conceptualizing and assessing at multiple levels, and exhibiting concern about both top down and bottom-up processes, it is possible to build a science of organizations that is theoretically rich and application-relevant.

https://goal-lab.psych.umn.edu/orgpsych/readings/2.%20Multilevel%20and%20Methods/Kozlowski%20&%20Klein.pdf

 

A multilevel approach to theory and research in organizations: Contextual, temporal, and emergent processes

Steve W, J. Kozlowski

Katherine J. Klein

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232580888_A_multilevel_approach_to_theory_and_research_in_organizations_Contextual_temporal_and_emergent_processes

 

 

Multilevel Theory and Research

 

Stan Gully

Click to access StanGully_%20Spring2013_%20MultilevelSyllabus.pdf

 

 

THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MULTILEVEL RESEARCH

Gilad Chen

 

Click to access SWARM-Syllabus-2017.pdf

 

 

 

Multilevel Issues in Supply Chain Management

 

Marian Oosterhuis, Eric Molleman, Taco van der Vaart

Click to access ch_3.4_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

Modeling consensus emergence in groups using longitudinal multilevel methods

 

Jonas W. B. Lang

 

Paul D. Bliese

Alex de Voogt

 

Click to access 8562633.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

BUILDING THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL BRIDGES ACROSS LEVELS: MULTILEVEL RESEARCH IN MANAGEMENT

 

MICHAEL A. HITT

PAUL W. BEAMISH

SUSAN E. JACKSON

JOHN E. MATHIEU

Click to access 20150528101003_4659.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Micro/Meso/Macro Levels of Analysis

Joshua B. Barbour

 

Click to access 2017_levels.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

‘Multi-level research into the social: An old wine in an old forgotten bottle?’

Harwood, S

2016

Click to access 16_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations: Foundations, Extensions, and New Directions

Katherine J. Klein (Editor),

Steve W. J. Kozlowski (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-787-95228-0Aug 2013, Pfeiffer

https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Multilevel+Theory%2C+Research%2C+and+Methods+in+Organizations%3A+Foundations%2C+Extensions%2C+and+New+Directions-p-9780787952280

 

 

 

 

 

Complexity Theory and Organization Science 

 Philip Anderson

Source: Organization Science, Vol. 10, No. 3, Special Issue: Application of Complexity Theory to Organization Science, (May – Jun., 1999), pp. 216-232 

Click to access 409e0ed1257af816c96cb5b555838287a50a.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE CORPORATION: THE FRACTAL COMPANY

  Dr.-Ing. Wilfried Sihn

 

https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1474667017422889/1-s2.0-S1474667017422889-main.pdf?_tid=a61a6be3-a25d-41ee-a602-e38da9115fd0&acdnat=1528492319_cae660ddbcbdbe1961f63d4469a43489

 

 

 

 

 

Analysing Enterprise Models from a Fractal Organisation Perspective – Potentials and Limitations

Kurt Sandkuhl and Marite Kirikova

 

https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01572393/document

 

 

 

 

 

 The Theory of the Organization and the New Paradigms

Aquiles Limone, Milan Marinovic

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1018.6354&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Company: A Revolution In Corporate Culture

by H.J. Warnecke

Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1993, 228 pp.,

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Organization: Creating sustainable organizations with the Viable System Model

2009

by Patrick Hoverstadt

 

 

 

 

 

Multi Level Analysis

Joop J Hox

Theoretical approaches to managing complexity in organizations: A comparative analysis

Luz E. Bohórquez Arévaloa,∗, Angela Espinosa

THE HOLONIC PERSPECTIVE IN ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT

 

 

 

 

 

From Micro to Meso: Critical Steps in Conceptualizing and Conducting Multilevel Research

KATHERINE J. KLEIN

STEVE W. J. KOZLOWSKI

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

 

Three Meta Integral Theories:

  • Integral Theory (Ken Wilber)
  • Critical Realism (Roy Bhaskar)
  • Complex Thought (Edgar Morin)

 

Please see review papers for each of the theory in the references below.

These are the best meta theories in my opinion.

Ken Wiber, Roy Bhaskar, and Edgar Morin have created ideas worth reading about.

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

MIT

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

MIT2

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

 

MIT3MIT4MIT5MIT6

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

 

MIT7MIT8MIT9

 

I also suggest Cyber Semiotics a book by Soren Brier.

 

Please see my related posts:

Semiotics, Bio-Semiotics and Cyber Semiotics

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

 

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

 

Overview of Integral Theory

Click to access Integral_Theory_Overview.pdf

 

 

Critical Realism

Click to access Critical%20Realism_REVISED.pdf

 

 

Ken Wilber on Critical Realism

Click to access Critical%20Realism_Revisited-1.pdf

Complex Thought

Click to access Complex_Thought_FINAL.pdf

 

Metatheory for the Twenty-First Century: Critical Realism and Integral Theory in Dialog

edited by Roy Bhaskar, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, Nicholas Hedlund, Mervyn Hartwig

2017 published by Routledge

 

 

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

ITC 2013

Click to access Esbjorn-Hargens%27%20ITC%202013%20Keynote.pdf

TOWARDS A CRITICAL REALIST INTEGRAL THEORY
Ontological and Epistemic Considerations for Integral Philosophy

Nicholas H. Hedlund-de Witt

https://www.academia.edu/4661222/Towards_a_Critical_Realist_Integral_Theory_Ontological_and_Epistemic_Considerations_for_Integral_Philosophy

Click to access Hedlund-de%20Witt_Nick_ITC2013.pdf

 

 

 

A Complex Integral Realist Perspective: Towards A New Axial Vision

By Paul Marshall

© 2017 – Routledge

 

https://www.routledge.com/A-Complex-Integral-Realist-Perspective-Towards-A-New-Axial-Vision/Marshall/p/book/9781138803824

Situating Critical Realism Philosophically

Ruth Groff

Department of Political Science St. Louis University

Click to access GROFF.pdf

 

 

 

Sean Esbjorn-Hargens discusses integrative thinking and the new leadership

June 2017 Podcast

http://unbeatablemind.com/sean-esbjorn-hargens/

 

 

 

The Future of Leadership for Conscious Capitalism

By: Barrett C. Brown

 

https://associates.metaintegral.org/blog/future-leadership-conscious-capitalism

 

 

Edgar Morin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Morin

 

 

Integral Theory (Ken Wilber)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_theory_(Ken_Wilber)

 

 

 

From the Concept of System to the Paradigm of Complexity

Edgar Morin
Translated by Sean Kelly

Click to access morin-paradigm-of-complexity.pdf

 

 

 

Integral Meta-Theory – The What and Why

Zak Stein

https://centerforintegralwisdom.org/integral-theory/zak-stein-integral-meta-theory/

 

 

Sophia Speaks: An Integral Grammar of Philosophy

By Bruce Alderman

Click to access Alderman_ITC2013.pdf

 

 

 

The Variety of Integral Ecologies: Kosmopolitan Complexity and the New Realisms

Sean Kelly

Adam Robbert

Sam Mickey

Click to access Mickey%20%26%20Robbert%20%26%20Kelly_ITC2013.pdf

 

Metatheory for the Anthropocene: Emancipatory Praxis For Planetary Flourishing (Routledge Studies in Critical Realism (Routledge Critical Realism))

Nicholas Hedlund (Editor), Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (Editor)

 

 

 

Meta Integral Foundation

https://metaintegral.org

 

 

 

Toward an Integrative Theory of Higher Education: Connecting Lines of Inquiry from Morin’s Complex Thought, Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, and Wilber’s Integral Theory

Gary P. Hampson and Matthew Rich-Tolsma

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION: On the Deep Need for Integrative Metatheory in the 21st-Century

Nicholas Hedlund
Sean Esbjörn-Hargens
Mervyn Hartwig
Roy Bhaskar

 

 

 

Situating the Mapmaker: An Imminent Critique of Wilber’s Cartography of the
Transphysical Worlds

Prepared by Nicholas Hedlund-de Witt, M.A.

Professor Eric Weiss

California Institute of Integral Studies

Spring 2011

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra, Ph.D., physicist and systems theorist, is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley. Capra is the author of several international bestsellers, including The Tao of Physics (1975), The Web of Life (1996), The Hidden Connections (2002), The Science of Leonardo (2007), and Learning from Leonardo (2013). He is coauthor, with Pier Luigi Luisi, of the multidisciplinary textbook, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Over the last thirty years, a new systemic understanding of life has emerged at the forefront of science. It integrates four dimensions of life: the biological, the cognitive, the social, and the ecological dimension. At the core of this new understanding we find a fundamental change of metaphors: from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. One of the most radical philosophical implications of the systems view of life is a new conception of mind and consciousness which, for the first time, overcomes the Cartesian division between mind and matter.

From THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE

The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities, designed in such a way that their ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies respect, honour, and cooperate with Nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. The first step in this endeavour, naturally, must be to understand how Nature sustains life. It turns out that this involves a whole new conception of life. Indeed, such a new conception has emerged over the last 30 years.

In our new book, The Systems View of Life, we integrate the ideas, models, and theories underlying this new understanding of life into a single coherent framework. We call it “the systems view of life” because it involves a new kind of thinking – thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context – which is known as “systems thinking”, or “systemic thinking”. We offer a multidisciplinary textbook that integrates four dimensions of life: the biological, cognitive, social, and ecological dimensions; and we discuss the philosophical, social, and political implications of this unifying vision.

Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, beginning with the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, we chronicle the evolution of Cartesian mechanism from the 17th to the 20th centuries, the rise of systems thinking in the 1930s and 1940s, the revolutionary paradigm shift in 20th-century physics, and the development of complexity theory (technically known as nonlinear dynamics), which raised systems thinking to an entirely new level.

During the past 30 years, the strong interest in complex, nonlinear phenomena has generated a whole series of new and powerful theories that have dramatically increased our understanding of many key characteristics of life. Our synthesis of these theories, which takes up the central part of our book, is what we refer to as the systems view of life. In this article, we can present only a few highlights.

One of the most important insights of the systemic understanding of life is the recognition that networks are the basic pattern of organisation of all living systems. Wherever we see life, we see networks. Indeed, at the very heart of the change of paradigms from the mechanistic to the systemic view of life we find a fundamental change of metaphors: from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network.

Closer examination of these living networks has shown that their key characteristic is that they are self-generating. Technically, this is known as the theory of autopoiesis, developed in the 1970s and 1980s by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Autopoiesis means “self-making”. Living networks continually create, or recreate themselves by transforming or replacing their components. In this way they undergo continual structural changes while preserving their web-like patterns of organisation. This coexistence of stability and change is indeed one of the key characteristics of life.

In our synthesis, we extend the conception of living networks from biological to social networks, which are networks of communications; and we discuss the implications of the paradigm shift from the machine to the network for two specific fields: management and health care.

One of the most rewarding features of the systems view of life is the new understanding of evolution it implies. Rather than seeing evolution as the result of only random mutations and natural selection, we are beginning to recognise the creative unfolding of life in forms of ever-increasing diversity and complexity as an inherent characteristic of all living systems. We are also realising that the roots of biological life reach deep into the non-living world, into the physics and chemistry of membrane-bounded bubbles — proto cells that were involved in a process of “prebiotic” evolution until the first living cells emerged from them.

One of the most important philosophical implications of the new systemic understanding of life is a novel conception of mind and consciousness, which finally overcomes the Cartesian division between mind and matter. Following Descartes, scientists and philosophers for more than 300 years continued to think of the mind as an intangible entity (res cogitans) and were unable to imagine how this “thinking thing” is related to the body. The decisive advance of the systems view of life has been to abandon the Cartesian view of mind as a thing, and to realise that mind and consciousness are not things but processes.

This novel concept of mind is known today as the Santiago theory of cognition, also developed by Maturana and Varela at the University of Chile in Santiago. The central insight of the Santiago theory is the identification of cognition, the process of knowing, with the process of life. Cognition is the activity involved in the self-generation and self-perpetuation of living networks. Thus life and cognition are inseparably connected. Cognition is immanent in matter at all levels of life.

The Santiago theory of cognition is the first scientific theory that overcomes the Cartesian division of mind and matter. Mind and matter no longer appear to belong to two separate categories, but can be seen as representing two complementary aspects of the phenomenon of life: process and structure. At all levels of life, mind and matter, process and structure, are inseparably connected.

Cognition, as understood in the Santiago theory, is associated with all levels of life and is thus a much broader phenomenon than consciousness. Consciousness – that is, conscious, lived experience – is a special kind of cognitive process that unfolds at certain levels of cognitive complexity that require a brain and a higher nervous system. The central characteristic of this special cognitive process is self-awareness. In our book, we review several recent systemic theories of consciousness in some detail.

Our discussion also includes the spiritual dimension of consciousness. We find that the essence of spiritual experience is fully consistent with the systems view of life. When we look at the world around us, whether within the context of science or of spiritual practice, we find that we are not thrown into chaos and randomness but are part of a great order, a grand symphony of life. We share not only life’s molecules, but also its basic principles of organisation with the rest of the living world. Indeed, we belong to the universe, and this experience of belonging makes our lives profoundly meaningful.

In the last part of our book, titled Sustaining the Web of Life, we discuss the critical importance of the systems view of life for dealing with the problems of our multi-faceted global crisis. It is now becoming more and more evident that the major problems of our time – energy, environment, climate change, poverty – cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent, and require corresponding systemic solutions.

We review a variety of already existing solutions, based on systems thinking and the principles of ecodesign. These solutions would solve not only the urgent problem of climate change, but also many of our other global problems – degradation of the environment, food insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and others. Together, these solutions present compelling evidence that the systemic understanding of life has already given us the knowledge and the technologies to build a sustainable future.

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

1) THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE : A UNIFYING CONCEPTION OF MIND, MATTER, AND LIFE

Fritjof Capra

Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 11, no. 2, 2015

 

http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/503/843

 

2) THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE: A UNIFYING VISION

https://www.ecoliteracy.org/article/systems-view-life-unifying-vision

 

3) The Systems View of Life – A Unifying Vision – An interview of Fritjof Capra

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-05-04/the-systems-view-of-life-a-unifying-vision

 

4) Personal Website of Fritjof Capra

Home

 

5) Systems View of Life- Lecture Video 

 

6) THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE

http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article4162-the-systems-view-of-life.html

 

7) THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE A Unifying Vision

Click to access 9781107011366_frontmatter.pdf

Semiotics, Bio-Semiotics and Cyber Semiotics

Semiotics, Bio-Semiotics, and Cyber Semiotics

 

From The Biosemiotic Approach in Biology: Theoretical Bases and Applied Models

Biosemiotics is a growing field that investigates semiotic processes in the living realm in an attempt to combine the findings of the biological sciences and semiotics. Semiotic processes are more or less what biologists have typically referred to as “signals,” “codes,” and “information pro- cessing” in biosystems, but these processes are here understood under the more general notion of semiosis, that is, the production, action, and interpretation of signs. Thus, biosemiotics can be seen as biology interpreted as a study of living sign systems—which also means that semiosis or sign process can be seen as the very nature of life itself. In other words, biosemiotics is a field of research investigating semiotic processes (meaning, signification, communication, and habit formation in living systems) and the physicochemical preconditions for sign action and interpretation.

To treat biosemiotics as biology interpreted as sign systems study is to emphasize an important intertheoretical relation between biology as we know it (as a field of inquiry) and semiotics (the study of signs). Biosemiotics offers a way of understanding life in which it is considered not just from the perspectives of physics and chemistry, but also from a view of living systems that stresses the role of signs conveyed and inter- preted by other signs in a variety of ways, including by means of molecules. In this sense, biosemiotics takes for granted and preserves the complexity of living processes as revealed by the existing fields of biology, from molecular biology to brain science and behavioral studies. However, biosemiotics attempts to bring together separate findings of the various disciplines of biology (including evolutionary biology) into a sign- theoretical perspective concerning the central phenomena of the living world, from the ribosome to the ecosystem and from the beginnings of life to its ultimate meanings. From this perspective, no positivist (i.e., theory-reductionist) form of unification is implied, but simply a broader approach to life processes in general, paying attention to the location of biology between the psychological (the humanities) and the physical (natural) sciences.

Furthermore, by incorporating new concepts, models, and theories from biology into the study of signs, biosemiotics attempts to shed new light on some of the unsolved questions within the general study of sign processes (semiotics), such as the question about the origins of signification in the universe (e.g., Hoffmeyer 1996), and the major thresholds in the levels and evolution of semiosis (Sebeok 1997; Deacon 1997; Kull 2000; Nöth 2000). Here, signification (and sign action) is understood in a broad sense, that is, not simply as the transfer of information, but also as the generation of the very content and meaning of that information in all living sign producers and sign receivers.

Sign processes are thus taken as real: they are governed by regularities (habits, or natural rules) that can be discovered and explained. They are intrinsic in living nature, but we can access them—not directly, but indirectly through other sign processes (e.g., scientific measurements and qualitative distinction methods)—even though the human representation and understanding of these processes in the construction of explanations is built up as a separate scientific sign system distinct from the organisms’ own sign processes.

One of the central characteristics of living systems is the highly organized character of their physical and chemical processes, partly based upon informational and molecular properties of what has been described in the 1960s as the genetic code (or, more precisely, organic codes). Distinguished biologists, such as Ernst Mayr (1982), have seen these informational aspects as one of the emergent features of life, namely, as a set of processes that distinguishes life from everything else in the physical world, except perhaps human-made computers. However, while the informational teleology of computer programs are derived, qua being designed by humans to achieve specific goals, the teleology and informational characteristics of organisms are intrinsic, qua having evolved naturally, through adaptational and evolutionary processes. The reductionist and mechanistic tradition in biology (and philosophy of biology) has seen such processes as being purely physical and having to do with only efficient causation. Biosemiotics is an attempt to use the concepts of semiotics in the sense employed by Charles Sanders Peirce to answer questions about the biological emergence of meaning, intentionality, and a psychological world (CP 5:484).  Indeed, these are questions that are hard to answer within a purely mechanistic and reductionist framework.

 

From The Biosemiotic Approach in Biology: Theoretical Bases and Applied Models

The term “biosemiotic” was first used by F. S. Rothschild in 1962, but Thomas Sebeok has done much to popularize the term and the field.  Apart from Charles Peirce (1939–1914) and Charles Morris (1901– 1979), early pioneers of biosemiotics were Jakob von Uexküll (1864– 1944), Heini Hediger (1908–1992), and Giorgio Prodi (1928–1987), and the founding fathers were Thomas Sebeok (1920–2001) and Thure von Uexküll (1908–2004). After 2000, an institutionalization of biosemiotics can be noticed: since 2001, annual international meetings of biosemioticians have been taking place (initially organized by the Copenhagen and Tartu groups); in 2004, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies was established (with Jesper Hoffmeyer as its first president; see Favareau 2005); the specialized publications Journal of Biosemiotics (Nova Science) and Biosemiotics (Springer) have appeared; several collections of papers have characterized the scope and recent projects in biosemiotics, such as a special issue of Semiotica 127 (1/4) (1999), Sign Systems Studies 30 (1) (2002), Sebeok and Umiker-Sebeok 1992, Witzany 2007, and Barbieri 2007.

Also, from the 1960s to the 1990s, the semiotic approach in biology was developed in various branches:

a. Zoosemiotics, the semiotics of animal behavior and communication

b. Cellular and molecular semiotics, the study of organic codes and protolinguistic features of cellular processes

c. Phytosemiotics, or sign processes in plant life

d. Endosemiotics, or sign processes in the organism’s body

e. Semiotics in neurobiology

f. Origins of semiosis and semiotic thresholds

 

From Cybersemiotics: A New Foundation for Transdisciplinary Theory of Information, Cognition, Meaningful Communication and the Interaction Between Nature and Culture

 

Cybersemiotics constructs a non-reductionist framework in order to integrate third person knowledge from the exact sciences and the life sciences with first person knowledge described as the qualities of feeling in humanities and second person intersubjective knowledge of the partly linguistic communicative interactions, on which the social and cultural aspects of reality are based. The modern view of the universe as made through evolution in irreversible time, forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. This changes the way we conceptualize the problem and the role of consciousness in nature and culture. The theory of evolution forces us to conceive the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities together in one theoretical framework of unrestricted or absolute naturalism, where consciousness as well as culture is part of nature. But the theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of the meaning of communication seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in the development of our knowledge about evolution? Phenomenology and hermeneutics show the sciences that their prerequisites are embodied living conscious beings imbued with meaningful language and with a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self- understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural and historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness and therefore leaving it out of the story. Cybersemiotics proposes to solve the dualistic paradox by starting in the middle with semiotic cognition and communication as a basic sort of reality in which all our knowledge is created and then suggests that knowledge develops into four aspects of human reality: Our surrounding nature described by the physical and chemical natural sciences, our corporality described by the life sciences such as biology and medicine, our inner world of subjective experience described by phenomenologically based investigations and our social world described by the social sciences. I call this alternative model to the positivistic hierarchy the cybersemiotic star. The article explains the new understanding of Wissenschaft that emerges from Peirce’s and Luhmann’s conceptions.

 

Key People:

  • Thomas Sebeok
  • L M Rocha
  • Jesper Hoffmeyer
  • Charles Sanders  Pierce
  • Soren Brier
  • Marcello Barbieri
  • Howard Pattee
  • Jakob von Uexküll
  • Stanley Salthe
  • Claus Emmeche
  • M. Florkin
  • Kalevi Kull
  • Donald Favareau
  • Umberto Eco
  • Koichiro Matsuno
  • Thure von Uexküll
  • Gregory Bateson

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

A Short History of Biosemiotics

Marcello Barbieri

Click to access Marcello%20Barbieri%20(2009)%20A%20Short%20History%20of%20Biosemiotics.pdf

 

 

The Biosemiotic Approach in Biology : Theoretical Bases and Applied Models

Jo ã o Queiroz, Claus Emmeche, Kalevi Kull, and Charbel El-Hani

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.94.171&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

Irreducible and complementary semiotic forms

Howard Pattee

 

Click to access irreducible_and_complementary_semiotic_howard_pattee.pdf

 

EVOLVING SELF-REFERENCE: Matter, Symbols, AND SEMANTIC CLOSURE 

Howard Pattee

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=0E1C125F151B5165F839E8FAC5411A00?doi=10.1.1.17.6467&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary

D. Favareau,

Essential Readings in Biosemiotics, Biosemiotics 3,

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

 

 

Introduction: An Evolutionary History of Biosemiotics

Donald Favareau

Essential Readings in Biosemiotics, Biosemiotics 3

 

Click to access Lesson_13_Favareau_History_biosemiotics.pdf

 

 

Introduction to Biosemiotics: The New Biological Synthesis

edited by Marcello Barbieri

 

Cybersemiotics:
A New Foundation for Transdisciplinary Theory of Information, Cognition, Meaningful Communication and the Interaction Between Nature and Culture

Søren Brier

 

Click to access Brier,%20Cybersemiotics,%20Vol.%209,%20No.%202.pdf

 

 

Levels of Cybersemiotics: Possible ontologies of signification

Søren Brier

 

Click to access 2_Brier_v1_2.pdf

 

Design and Information in Biology: From Molecules to Systems

By J. A. Bryant

 

Cognitive Biology: Dealing with Information from Bacteria to Minds

By Gennaro Auletta

 

The cell as the smallest DNA-based molecular computer

Sungchul Ji

 

Click to access The_cell_as_the_smallest_DNA_based_molecular_computer.pdf

 

Semiotics Web page of Umberto Eco

http://www.umbertoeco.com/en/semiotics-links.html

 

Biosemiotics in the twentieth century: A view from biology

KALEVI KULL

 

Click to access semi.1999.127.385.pdf

 

Biosemiotics: a new understanding of life

Marcello Barbieri

 

Click to access Bar08.pdf

 

What Does it Take to Produce Interpretation? Informational, Peircean and Code-Semiotic Views on Biosemiotics

Søren Brier & Cliff Joslyn

Click to access 02e7e529745b2b7e66000000.pdf

 

Spencer-Brown, G. (1972).

Laws of Form

New York: Crown Publishers

 

The Paradigm of Peircean Biosemiotics

Søren Brier

Click to access Brier_2008_peircean_biosemiotics.pdf

 

BIOSEMIOTICS AND BIOPHYSICS — THE FUNDAMENTAL APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF LIFE

KALEVI KULL

Click to access BiosemBiophys.pdf

 

Biosemiotic Questions

Kalevi Kull & Claus Emmeche & Donald Favareau

Click to access a4414fbb4bdca11561d08cb4de0a0d6c.pdf

 

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

 

From  System Dynamics and the Evolution of Systems Movement A Historical Perspective

Origins

The systems movement has many roots and facets, with some of its concepts going back as far as ancient Greece. What we call ”the systems approach” today materialized in the first half of the twentieth century. At least, two important components should be mentioned, those proposed by von Bertalanffy and by Wiener.

Ludwig von Bertalanffy, an American biologist of Austrian origin, developed the idea that organized wholes of any kind should be describable, and to a certain extent explainable, by means of the same categories, and ultimately by one and the same formal apparatus. His General Systems Theory triggered a whole movement, which has tried to identify invariant structures and mechanisms across different kinds of organized wholes (for example, hierarchy, teleology, purposefulness, differentiation, morphogenesis, stability, ultrastability, emergence, and evolution). 

Norbert Wiener, an American mathematician at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building on interdisciplinary work, accomplished in cooperation with Bigelow, an IBM engineer, and Rosenblueth, a physiologist, published his seminal book on Cybernetics. His work became the trans-disciplinary foundation for a new science of capturing, as well as designing control and communication mechanisms in all kinds of dynamical systems. Cyberneticians have been interested in concepts such as information, communication, complexity, autonomy, interdependence, cooperation and conflict, self-production (”autopoiesis”), self-organization, (self-) control, self-reference, and (self-) transformation of complex dynamical systems.

From System Dynamics and the Evolution of Systems Movement A Historical Perspective

Roots

Along the tradition which led to the evolution of General Systems Theory (Bertalannfy, Boulding, Gerard, Miller, Rapoport) and Cybernetics (Wiener, McCulloch, Ashby, Powers, Pask, Beer), a number of roots can be identified, in particular:

  • Mathematics (for example, Newton, Poincaré, Lyapunov, Lotka, Volterra, Rashevsky);
  • Logic (for example, Epimenides, Leibniz, Boole, Russell and Whitehead, Goedel, Spencer-Brown);
  • Biology, including general physiology and neurophysiology (for example, Hippocrates, Cannon, Rosenblueth, McCulloch, Rosen);
  • Engineering, including its physical and mathematical foundations (for example, Heron, Kepler, Watt, Euler, Fourier, Maxwell, Hertz, Turing, Shannon and Weaver, von Neumann, Walsh); and
  • Social and human sciences, including economics (for example, Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, John Stuart Mill, Dewey, Bateson, Merton, Simon, Piaget).

 

From System Dynamics and the Evolution of Systems Movement A Historical Perspective

Levels of Organizations 

In this strand of the systems movement, one focus of inquiry is on the role of feedback in communication and control in (and between) organizations and society, as well as in technical systems. The other focal interest is on the multidimensional nature and the multilevel structures of complex systems. Specific theory building, methodological developments and pertinent applications have occurred at the following levels:

  • Individual and family levels (for example, systemic psychotherapy, family therapy, holistic medicine, cognitivist therapy, reality therapy);
  • Organizational and societal levels (for example, managerial cybernetics, organizational cybernetics, sociocybernetics, social systems design, social ecology, learning organizations); and
  • The level of complex technical systems (systems engineering).

 

From System Dynamics and the Evolution of Systems Movement A Historical Perspective

Mathematical/Quantitative Strand

 

As can be noted from these preliminaries, different kinds of system theory and methodology have evolved over time. One of these is Jay W. Forrester’s theory of dynamical systems, which is a basis for the methodology of System Dynamics. In SD, the main emphasis is on the role of structure, and its relationship with the dynamic behavior of systems, modeled as networks of informationally closed feedback loops between stock and flow variables. Several other mathematical systems theories, for example, mathematical general systems theory (Klir, Pestel, Mesarovic & Takahara), as well as a whole stream of theoretical developments, which can be subsumed under the terms ”dynamical systems theory” or ”theories of non-linear dynamics,” for example, catastrophe theory, chaos theory, complexity theory have been elaborated. Under the latter, branches such as the theory of fractals (Mandelbrot), geometry of behavior (Abraham) and self- organized criticality (Bak) are subsumed. In this context, the term ”sciences of complexity” has also been used. In addition, a number of essentially mathematical theories, which can be called ”system theories,” have emerged in different application contexts, examples of which are discernible in such fields as:

  • Engineering, namely information and communication theory and technology (for example, Kalman filters, Walsh functions, hypercube architectures, automata, cellular automata, artificial intelligence, cybernetic machines, neural nets);
  • Operations research (for example, modeling theory and simulation methodologies, Markov chains, genetic algorithms, fuzzy control, orthogonal sets, rough sets);
  • Social sciences, economics in particular (for example, game theory, decision theory); and
  • Ecology (for example, H. Odum’s systems ecology).

Qualitative System Theories

Examples of essentially non-mathematical system theories can be found in many different areas of study, for example:

  • Economics, namely its institutional/evolutionist strand (Veblen, Myrdal, Boulding);
  • Sociology (for example, Parsons’ and Luhmann’s social system theories, Hall’s cultural systems theory);
  • Political sciences (for example, Easton, Deutsch, Wallerstein);
  • Anthropology (for example, Levi Strauss’s structuralist-functionalist anthropology);
  • Semiotics (for example, general semantics (Korzybski, Hayakawa, Rapoport)); and
  • Psychology and psychotherapy (for example, systemic intervention (Bateson, Watzlawick, F. Simon), fractal affect logic (Ciompi)).

Quantitative and Qualitative

Several system-theoretic contributions have merged the quantitative and the qualitative in new ways. This is the case for example in Rapoport’s works in game theory as well as General Systems Theory, Pask’s Conversation Theory, von Foerster’s Cybernetics of Cybernetics (second order cybernetics), and Stafford Beer’s opus in Managerial Cybernetics. In all four cases, mathematical expression is virtuously connected to ethical, philosophical, and epistemological reflection. Further examples are Prigogine’s theory of dissipative structures, Mandelbrot’s theory of fractals, Kauffman’s complexity theory, and Haken’s Synergetics, all of which combine mathematical analysis and a strong component of qualitative interpretation.

System Dynamics vs Managerial Cybernetics

At this point, it is worth elaborating on the specific differences between two major threads of the systems movement: the cybernetic thread, from which Managerial Cybernetics has emanated, and the servomechanic thread in which SD is grounded [Richardson 1999]. As Richardson’s detailed study shows, the strongest influence on cybernetics came from biologists and physiologists, while the thinking of economists and engineers essentially shaped the servomechanic thread. Consequently, the concepts of the former are more focused on the adaptation and control of complex systems for the purpose of maintaining stability under exogenous disturbances. Servomechanics, on the other hand, and SD in particular, take an endogenous view, being mainly interested in understanding circular causality as a source of a system’s behavior. Cybernetics is more connected with communication theory, the general concern of which can be summarized as how to deal with randomly varying input. SD, on the other hand, shows a stronger link with engineering control theory, which is primarily concerned with behavior generated by the control system itself, and the role of nonlinearities. Managerial cybernetics and SD both share the concern of contributing to management science, but with different emphases and with instruments that are, in principle, complementary. Finally, the quantitative foundations are generally more evident in the basic literature on SD, than in the writings on Managerial Cybernetics, in which the mathematical apparatus underlying model formulation is confined to a small number of publications [e.g., Beer 1962, 1981], which are less known than the qualitative treatises.

Positivistic Tradition

A positivistic methodological position is tendentially objectivistic, conceptual–instrumental, quantitative, and structuralist–functionalist in its approach. An interpretive position, on the other hand, tendentially emphasizes the subjectivist, communicational, cultural, political, ethical, and esthetic: the qualitative, and the discursive aspects. It would be too simplistic to classify a specific methodology in itself as ”positivistic” or as ”interpretative.” Despite the traditions they have grown out of, several methodologies have evolved and been reinterpreted or opened to new aspects (see below).

In the following, a sample of systems methodologies will be characterized and positioned in relation to these two traditions:

  • ”Hard” OR methods. Operations research (OR) uses a wide variety of mathematical and statistical methods and techniques––for example of optimization, queuing, dynamic programming, graph theory, time series analysis––to provide solutions for organizational problems, mainly in the domains of operations, such as production and logistics, and finance.
  • Living Systems Theory. In his LST, James Grier Miller [1978], identifies a set of 20 necessary components that can be discerned in living systems of any kind. These structural features are specified on the basis of a huge empirical study and proposed as the ”critical subsystems” that ”make up a living system.” LST has been used as a device for diagnosis and design in the domains of engineering and the social sciences.
  • Viable System Model. Stafford Beer’s VSM specifies a set of control functions and their interrelationships as the sufficient conditions for the viability of any human or social system [cf. Beer, 1981]. These are applicable in a recursive mode, for example, to the different levels of an organization. The VSM has been widely applied in the diagnostic mode, but also to support the design of all kinds of social systems. Specific methodologies for these purposes have been developed, for instance, for use in consultancy. The term viable system diagnosis (VSD) is also widely used.

Interpretative Tradition

The methodologies addressed up to this point have by and large been created in the positivistic tradition of science. However, they have not altogether been excluded from fertile contacts with the interpretivist strand of inquiry. In principle, all of them can be considered as instruments to support discourses about different interpretations of an organizational reality or alternative futures studied in concrete cases.

  • Interactive Planning. IP is a methodology, designed by Russell Ackoff [1981], and developed further by Jamshid Gharajedaghi, for the purpose of dealing with ”messes” and enabling actors to design their desired futures, as well as bring them about. It is grounded in theoretical work on purposeful systems, reverts to the principles of continuous, participative, and holistic planning, and centers on the idea of an ”idealized design.”
  • Soft Systems Methodology. SSM is a heuristic designed by Peter Checkland [1981] for dealing with complex situations. Checkland suggests a process of inquiry constituted by two aspects: a conceptual one, which is logic based, and a sociopolitical one, which is concerned with the cultural feasibility, desirability, and the implementation of change.
  • Critical Systems Heuristics. CSH is a methodology, which Werner Ulrich [1996] proposed for the purpose of scientifically informing planning and design in order to lead to an improvement in the human condition. The process aims to uncover the interests that the system under study serves. The legitimacy and expertise of actors, and particularly the impacts of decisions and behaviors of the system on others – the ”affected” – are elicited by means of a set of boundary questions.

All of these three methodologies (IP, SSM, and CSH) are positioned in the interpretive tradition. They were designed to deal with the qualitative aspects in the analysis and design of complex systems, emphasizing the communicational, social, political, and ethical dimensions of problem solving. Several of them mention explicitly that they do not preclude the use of quantitative techniques.

 

Key People:

  • Markus Schwaninger
  • Stafford Beer
  • Werner Ulrich
  • Raul Espejo
  • Peter Checkland
  • John Mingers
  • M C Jackson 
  • Peter Senge
  • Russell Ackoff
  • C. West Churchman
  • R L Flood
  • J Rosenhead
  • Gregory Bateson
  • Fritjof Capra
  • D C Lane 
  • Ralph Stacey
  • James Grier Miller
  • Hans Ulrich

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

System theory and cybernetics

A solid basis for transdisciplinarity in management education and research

Markus Schwaninger

 

Click to access System%20Theory%20and%20Cybernetics_%20A%20Solid%20Basis.pdf

 

Intelligent Organizations: An Integrative Framework

Markus Schwaninger

Click to access Intelligent%20Organizations_An%20Integrative%20Framework.pdf

 

System Dynamics and the Evolution of the Systems Movement

Markus Schwaninger

Click to access System%20Dynamics%20and%20the%20Evolution%20of%20the%20Systems%20Movement_SysResBehSc%2023.pdf

 

Methodologies in Conflict: Achieving Synergies Between System Dynamics and Organizational Cybernetics

Markus Schwaninger

 

Click to access Integrative%20Systems%20Methodology%20-%20Methodologies%20in%20Conflict%202004_.pdf

 

System dynamics and cybernetics: a synergetic pair

 

Markus Schwaningera and José Pérez Ríos

Click to access System%20Dynamics%20and%20Cybernetics_SDR_2008.pdf

 

Managing Complexity—The Path Toward Intelligent Organizations

Markus Schwaninger

 

Click to access Managing%20Complexity%20-%20The%20Path%20Toward%20Intelligent%20Organizations.pdf

 

Design for viable organizations: The diagnostic power of the viable system model

 

Markus Schwaninger

 

Click to access Design%20for%20Viable%20Organizations_06.pdf

 

Contributions to model validation: hierarchy, process, and cessation

Stefan N. Groesser and Markus Schwaninger

Click to access 233_Contributions%20to%20Model%20Validation_SDR%2028-2,%202012.pdf

 

A CYBERNETIC MODEL TO ENHANCE ORGANIZATIONAL INTELLIGENCE

MARKUS SCHWANINGER

Click to access A%20Cybernetic%20Model%20to%20Enhance%20Organizational%20Intelligence-Systems%20Analysis%20Modeling%20Simulation_2003.pdf

 

System Dynamics and Cybernetics: A Necessary Synergy

Schwaninger, Markus; Ambroz, Kristjan & Ríos, José Pérez

Click to access System%20Dynamics%20and%20Cybernetics%20-%20A%20Necessary%20Synergy%20072004_IntSDConf%20Oxford.pdf

 

System Dynamics and the Evolution of Systems Movement

A Historical Perspective

Markus Schwaninger

Click to access DB52_Schwaninger_historical.pdf.pdf

 

System Dynamics in the evolution of Systems Approach

Markus Schwaninger

 

Click to access 214_System%20Dynamics%20in%20the%20Evolution%20of%20the%20Systems%20Approach_Encycl.%20SySciences_2009.pdf

 

The Evolution of Organizational Cybernetics

Markus Schwinger

Click to access The%20Evolution%20of%20Organizational%20Cybernetics.pdf

 

Operational Closure and Self-Reference: On the Logic of Organizational Change

Markus Schwaninger and Stefan N. Groesser

Click to access 235_Operational%20Closure%20and%20Self-Reference_SRBS%202012.pdf

 

 

Model-based Management: A Cybernetic Concept

Markus Schwaninger

2015

 

Click to access 254_Model-Based%20Management_A%20Cybernetic%20Concept-SRBS-2015.pdf

 

 

THE VIABLE SYSTEM MODEL
A BRIEFING ABOUT ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE

Raul Espejo 2003

 

Click to access INTRODUCTION%20TO%20THE%20VIABLE%20SYSTEM%20MODEL3.pdf

 

 

A complexity approach to sustainability – Stafford Beer revisited

 

A. Espinosa *, R. Harnden, J. Walker

2007

Click to access 57043bc708ae74a08e2461d9.pdf

 

THE SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE: METHODS AND MODELS FOR THE FUTURE

 

Allenna Leonard with Stafford Beer

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.20.9436&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Stafford Beer

The Viable System Model:

its provenance, development, methodology and pathology

2002

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.456.2285&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Cybernetics and the Mangle: Ashby, Beer and Pask

Andrew Pickering

Click to access 544529760cf2f14fb80ef419.pdf

 

What Can Cybernetics Contribute to the Conscious Evolution of Organizations and Society?

Markus Schwaninger

Click to access What%20can%20Cybernetics%20Contribute%20to%20the%20Conscious%20Evolution….pdf

 

Fifty years of systems thinking for management

MC Jackson

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.511.6731&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

Introducing Systems Approaches

Martin Reynolds and Sue Holwell

 

Click to access systems-approaches_ch1.pdf

 

A review of the recent contribution of systems thinking to operational research and management science

John Mingers
Leroy White

Click to access EJOR-Systems_version_1_sent_Web.pdf

 

Managing Complexity by Recursion

by Bernd Schiemenz

 

Hard OR, Soft OR, Problem Structuring Methods, Critical Systems Thinking: A Primer

Hans G. Daellenbach

Click to access Daellenbach.pdf

 

Anticipatory Viable Systems

Maurice Yolles

Daniel Dubois

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.195.2167&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Second-order cybernetics: an historical introduction

Bernard Scott

Click to access 1798.pdf

 

Glanville R. (2003)

Second-Order Cybernetics.

http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/archive/fulltexts/2326.html

 

Systems Theory, Systems Thinking

S White

Click to access Systems%20Theory%20-%20Systems%20Thinking%20Baltimore%20talk%2010022012.pdf

 

Theoretical approaches to managing complexity in organizations: A comparative analysis

Estudios Gerenciales
Volume 31, Issue 134, January–March 2015, Pages 20–29

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0123592314001843

 

Helping business schools engage with real problems: The contribution of critical realism and systems thinking

John Mingers

Click to access Tackling%20Real%20Problems%20EJOR%20Rev1%20sent.pdf

 

Only Connect! An Annotated

Bibliography Reflecting the Breadth and Diversitv of Svstem.sThinking

David C. Lane

Mike C. Jackson

Click to access 548f08000cf2d1800d861f3f.pdf

 

The greater whole: Towards a synthesis of system dynamics and soft systems methodology
David C. Lane  Rogelio Oliva

Click to access 54d9e2e20cf2970e4e7d06ae.pdf