Notes of Systems (cybernetic)
1 ; Part2; Part 3; Part 4
Checkland, Peter (1995)
Model Validation in Soft Systems
Systems Research Vol.12 No.1, pp
The concept of "model" usually evoles the
connotation "model of part of the real world". That is an almost
automatic response. It makess sense especially in relation to the way the
concept has been developed and used in natural science. Classical operational
research (OR), with its scientific aspirations, and systems engineering, use
the concept in the same way, and in addition use models as surrogates for the
real world, on which experimentation is cheap. In these fields the key
feature of the model is representativeness. In soft systems methodology
models are not of part of the world; they are only relevant to debate about
the real world and are used in a cyclic learning process. The paper shows how
the different conceptd of validation in classical OR and SSM.
The method (engineering
experiment) is characterized by the three great principles of : reductionism,
repeatability and the refutation of hypotheses expresed in models. ...
"The models are simplifications, simulations, and/or abstractcion of
reality. Models must accurately simulate reality to be useful." In the
activity of natural science, then, we see a continuou never-ending search for
valid models which enable us to increase our understanding of the world.
The nature of SSM
SSM arose and was
developed in a 20-year programme of action research in real-world problem situation.
Von Bilow (1989) :
SSM is a methodology that
aims to bring about improvement in areas of social concern by activating in
the people involved in the situation a learning cycle which is ideally
never-ending. The learning takes place through the iterative process of using
systems concepts to reflect upon and debate perceptions of the real world,
taking action in the real world, and again reflecting on happenings using
systems concepts. The reflection and debate is structured by a number of
systemic models. These are conceived as holistic ideal types of certain
aspects of the problem situation rather than as accounts of it. It is taken
as given that no objective and complete account of a problem situation can be
Model validation in SSM
The complexity of the
universe is beyond expression in any possible notation. The model in SSM are
not "would-be" description of the world, and hence they cannot be
tested by checking how well they represente the world. Models in SSM have
been described here as 'epistemological devices', so that the validity
question becomes the question of how we can tell a "good" decice
from a bad one. There are two aspects of thsi question: thw question of
whether a modl is actually 'relevant' or not , and the technical question of
whether a given model is competently built. wheher a model is relevant has to
be answered by learning process.
Robert, L. (1978)
The rise of systems theory.
New York: John Wiley & Sons.
A number of disciplines have emerged in the
twentieth century that can be classified under the general heading of
"system thinking." These originallly separate disciplines includes
1: The biological
philosophy of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and his concept of the "open
2: Norbert Wiener´s
formulation of cybernetics and W. Ross Ashby´s related work on machines that
are claimed to think and to learn and, stermming from this work, the concept
of feedback and automation.
3. Informarion and
communication theory, based on the work of Shannon, Weaver, Cherry and
others, on the theorerical, mathematical, and linguistic problem involved in
the transmission of messages over message-carying circuits.
4. Operation Research,
which first emerged full-fledged in England during the War of 1939-1945 under
the leadership of E.C. Williams.
5. The game theory of Von
Neumann, computer simulating social and environmental process.
Technical and scientific
advances in different fields have resulted in the establishment of new
(Dialectical relation of
quantitative and qualitative changes in the scientific history) Within a
given period, the overall framework or point of view of the field remains
fixed and stable; scientific work usually consists of applying and
elaborating concepts that are taken for granted. New work is done and new
discoveries occur without overthrowing the general framwork or point of view.
But at some point discoveries occur, the implications of which are
"revolutionary" in that they suggest the overthrow of the paradigm
or general conceptual framework within which scientific work has been done.
The system thinking
assumed a revolutionary world view, i.s, to take the world as
"organization", "wholes", "systems", not as in
the basic categories of mechanistic and positivistic philosophy in which life
was as an accidental product of physical processes: the living world appeared
as a product of chance. Contextualism and organicism (Stephen C. Pepper)
Contextualism is the name
given by Pepper to the metaphysics in which the world is seen as an unlimited
complex of change and novelty, order and disorder. Out of this total flux we
select certain context; these contexts serve as organizing gestalts or
patterns that give meaning and scope to a vast array of details that, without
the organizing pattern, would be meaningless or invisible.
A given quality always
exhibits some degree of fusion of the details (elements) of its texture. ....
William Jame´s lemonade has become famous in this regard: lemon, sugar, and
water are the ingredients or details of the taste, but the quality of
lemonade is such a persistent fusion of these that it is difficult to analyze
the components. .....Where fusion occur, the qualities of the details are
completely merged in the quality of the whole. Where fusion is released, the
details take on qualities of their own. ... Fusion, in other words, is an
agency of qualitative simplification and organization .. some fusion must
remain in the quality of an event; otherwise the event would break apart and
we would have not a single event, but two quite unconnected events...
Contextualism is the only theory that takes fusion seriously.
From the assumptions of
contextualism a specific theory of trouth emerges: truth is "the successful
working of an idea within a specific (and always limited) context. Truth is
verification in practice. No theories or formulations can be used to
construct a theory or a metaphysis that will successfully digest the world.
All conceptual schemes occur within a universe and can never grasp the total
structure of events. Many contuxtualists would even deny that the universe
has a "structure" that can be grasped. Nature itself may be
constantly changing and full of novelties. The philosophical and epistemological
problems connected with this world view are beyond the scope of this study ;
what is relevant to the development of systems theory is the organizing
properties of contextualism; part are meaningless when detached from a whole;
more than that ,they are not only meaningless but often simply unperceived or
as it is, is not the only root metaphor that relates to systems theory. The
fourth root metaphor offered by Pepper, organicism, also constitutes a major
orientation for some systems theories.
The organicist points
maintains that integrating structures surrounding and extending through given
events, are more numerous, coherent, and real than the contextualist want to
admit. Our experience is not the chaos the contextualist would have us
believe, but shows undeniable regularties of details and texture. For the
contextualist, the truth of any idea of theory is operational; these ideas
are never firmly established, but may at any time be overthrown by the
emergence or discovery of a new fact. The organicist, on the other view,
points to the same scientific theories to show that in fact the overthrow of
scientific theory does not mean a collapse into chaos, but rather the
replacement of a relatively limited integrating form by a more comprehensive
and more accurate form. The materials of experience are never lost when a one
scientific world view is over thrown by another; rather, they are transferred
from a system in which they did not belong to one in which they do belong .
"Each level of
integration resolves the contradictions of the levels below and so removes
the errors that were most serious there. Each level brings about an
improvement of judgment. Each level exhibits more truth through higher integration
of the facts. There is much more truth in Ptolemy than in Anaximenes, ore in
Kepler than in Ptolemy, more in Newton than in Kepler. It appear that the
criteria of truth are precisely the features of the organic
whole-inclusiveness, determination, and organicity...."
Equilibrium: ( Lawrence
J. Hederson, Biochemist and sociologist)
The organism possesses a
self-regulating mechanism whose goal is the maintenance of equilibrium:
" a state such that if a small modification different from that which
will otherwise occur is impressed upon a system, a reaction will at once
appear tending toward the condition that would have existed if the modication
had not been impressed." He use the idea in social system from
mathmatical describtion. " in a social system all factors (person,
interests, residues, etc.) are mutually dependent or interactive" He
demonstrated the equilibrium with a figure in which three elements A,B, and C
are connected with relational (elastic) bands, and so on..
Homeostasis: (Walter B.
A variety of mechanisms
exist in the organism to manitain fixed levels of blood sugar, blood
proteins, and so on. Insighs derived from psychology might prove fruitful for
the study of society. His analogy develops into an argument against
individualism. Only with the development of more complex social systems and
more complex division of labor do the individuals become more mutually
dependent, gaining thereby the advantage of relative freedom from the
immediate pressures of foodgathering. He draws a direct analogy between the
"fluid matrix" of animal organisms and the transportation system of
a state or nation. Persons in need due to hunger, fear, insecurity, are not
Open system and hierarchy
(Ludwig Von Bertalanffy)
The formulation of the
concept of an open system by L. V. Bertalanffy first established system
thinking as a major scientific movement. In Modern Theories of Development he
argues that organic laws, in contrast with physical ones, require a new ways
of thinking. He concluded that higher levels of organization involve new laws
that are not deducible from the laws appropriare to lower levels. Science is
seen as a hierarchy of statistics.
"All laws of nature
are of a statistical nature. They are statements about the average behavior
of collectives. Science as a whole appears as a hierarchy of statistics. At
the first level is the statistics of macrophysics .. A second level is
constituted by the laws of macrophysics.... A still higher level is
represented by the biological realm .. Finally there are the laws that apply
to the supra-individual units of life... laws of this kind are the basis for
insurance statistics, and hence are the great practical and commercial
General System Theory
leads to the transfer of laws from one field to another. The main concepts
are as follows:
1: the characteristic
state of the living organism is that of an open system. It is open in the
sense that it exchanges material with its environment; by this import and
export of materials, there is change of components. Previous conception of
the organism as maintaining a state of equilibrium must yield to the idea of
the steady state.
2. The concept of the
open system maintaining itself in a steady state represents a departure from
the concept of classical physics, which has dealt for the most part with
closed system. According to the second law of thermodynamics, a closed system
must eventually attain a state of equilibrium with maximum entropy and
minimum free energy. But under certain conditions an open system may maintain
itself under a steady state.
of steady states are exactly those of organic metabolism... There is first
maintenance of a constant ratio of the components in a continous flow of
materials. ... after a disturbance, a stimulus, the system re-establishes its
steady state. Thus the basic characteristics of self-regulation are general
properties of open system."
4. A profound difference
between most inanimate, or closed, systems and living systems is expressed by
the concept of "equifinality." In an inanimate system the final
state of the system is determined by its initial conditions. A change in the
initial conditions produces a change in the final conditions. A different
behavior is shown among vital phenomena: under many conditions the same final
state may be reached from different ways.Though equifinality is not a proof
of vitalism, it can be shown that equifinality is not to be found in closed
According to open system
theory, phenomena such as metabolism, irritability, and autonomous activities
may be understood as maintenance of the steady state, while "growth,
development, senescence and death represent the approach to, and slow changes
of, the steady state."
The idea of Wiener´s
feedback is related to the theory of open system. Feedback, both in manmade
machines and in organisms, are based upon structural arrangements. Such
organisms are responsible for homestasis.
Summary of Von
Both in living and
organisms and in human behavior, we see order, regularization,
self-maintenance during continual change, regulation, and apparent teleology.
In human behavior we see goal seeking and purposiveness. The urgent question
is whether conceptual schemes can be expanded to deal with these problem where
the application of physics proves insufficient or unfeasible. Biology was
embroiled in the controversy between mechanism and vitalism. In attempting to
resolve this controversy Bertalanfy first formulated organismic and system
concepts. General definition of a system is as a complex of interaction, sum,
mechanization, centralization, competition, finality, and so on.
There is a general
tendency towards integration in the various science; this integration appears
to be centered in a general theory of systems. System properties can be
stated in a set of mathematical forms.( e.g, Taylor series, law of
General system theory
" will make possible the transfer of simplified conceptual models from
one field to another, " and will no longer be necessary to duplicate or
triplicate the discovery of the same principle in different fields isolated
from each other. General system theory, then will be a discipline that
develops, tests, and demonstrates laws that apply equally to a variety of
Psychology in many
respects took its origins in a set of biases that hindered its development.
For a long time psychology was dominated by the stimulus-response scheme.
Human and animal behavior was considered to be a response to stimuli coming
from outside. The second principle in psychology, derived from stimulus-
response, is environmental conditioning. A third principle is equilibrium.
The fourth principle at the root of modern psychology is economy: behavior is
governed by principle of least effort. Thus the imagine of man under these
principles is that of the robot: Man as a machine manufactured and trained by
those using applied psychology. They can not explain behavior as creativity,
seeking adventure, and different reactions under same conditioning. Biologically,
life is not the maintenance or restoration of equilibrium, but the
maintenance of disequilibrium, as the the theory of open system reveals.
" If life, after disturbance from the outside, had simply returned to
the so-called homeostatic equilibrium, it would never have progressed beyond
the amoeba which, after all, is the best adapted creature in the world-it
survived billions of years from the primeval ocean to the present day."
In this perspective, a new image of man is emerging; the model of man is the
active personality system. Man is not a passive receiver of external stimuli,
but that he activly creates his universe.
approaches by figures such as Vico, Hegel, Marx, and others, Whatever their
differences, they all at least agree that historical process is not
completely accidental, "but follows laws and regularities which can be
determined." Human behavior can not be reduced to biologistic notions;
personality disorders must now be understood in terms of the breakdown of value
systems; culture is an important component of mental health. System thinking
provides a new conceptual framwork for psychiatry.
Systems theory can be
seen in its social philosophy as another variant of organicism, the image of
society as an organism subject to "growth" and "decay"
which "evolves" over time into new and more differentiated forms.
In addition, various social instituations will be likened to organs of the
body; perhaps the military will be seen as the teeth and claws of the social
organism, the university as brain, the massmedia as senses, and the like.
System thinkers fall into the organicist conception of society; many do so
with little or no awareness of the great age of this imagery.
The essential features
(of intelligent machine and human) is that they must operate according to
feedback-the control of a machine or man on the basis of its actual
performance. We know that human muscular reactions are controlled and
regulated in precisely the same way: the reflex by which one reaches for an
object is modified by information fed back to the brain about the distance
between the object and the hand that reaches for it. Wiener takes for granted
the significance of feedback not merely for muscular or mechanical control,
but for social control as well.
The nevous system and the
automatic machine are fundamentally alike in that they make decisions on the
basis of past decisions. The machine, like the organism, is a device for
working against entropy. " There are local and tempory oslands of
decreasing entropy in a world in which the entropy as a whole tends to
increase, and the existence of these islands enable some of us to assert the
existence of progress."
W.Ross ashby find similar
process among machines; even an arbitrarily constructued machine tends to
seek out purpose; it tends to favor modes of acivity in which the parts work
together in a stable way.
" I believe that
Ashby´s brilliant idea of the unpurposeful random machanism which seeks for
its own purpose through a process of learning is not only one of the great
philossophical contributions to the present day, but will lead to highly
useful technical development in the task of automization. Not only can we
build purpose into machines, but in an overwhelming majority of cases a
machine designed to avoid certain pitfall of breakdown will look for purposes
which it can fullfill." The ultimate significance of communication is
that it serves to bind societies together. In fact modern communication makes
possible - and even inevitable- the establishment of the "World
The organism may be
consider as analogous to a message. The organism is a pattern that maintains
itself against chaos disintegration; the message is a pattern that imposes
itself upon the chaos of "noise".
There is no fundamental
distinction between materials transportation and message transportation .
Wiener believe that he
can define the law and justice as 1: the right of each individual to develop
his full potential; 2: the feeling that what is just for one is just for
another.; 3. sentiment of unlilimited good will.
Wiener describes what he
calls the two industrial revolutions. The first was defined by the
subtitution of the machine for human muscle power; the second is symbolized
by the science of electronics, cybernetics concept of feedback. By coupling
feedback directly to the machine instead of through the agency of a human
operator, immense new possibilities of unfold. We may expect vast economic
and social consequences to emerge from these development, but the most he can
tell us is that these new developments have great potential for good or for
evil and that much depends on how society use them.
The significance of
cybernetics in medicine science, e.g, the diseases of inability of the
sufferer to guid his muscles accurately-appears to be a function of the
breakdown of feedback mechanisms in the nervous system and brain. of even
greater important, however, are machie that have learnd how to play chess and
to improve their games on the basis of theor past experence.
This is a hard lesson of
cold machematic, we are running the risk nowdays of a great World State,
where deliberate and conscious primitive injustice may be the only possible
condition for the statistical happiness of the masses; a world worse than
hell for every clear mind. Wiener assumes that the best safeguard against
cybernetic tyranny would be the engagement of a philosopher and an
anthropologist on the governing committee. Once we know what man´s nature is
and what his "built-in-purposes" are, and once we know why we wish
to control him, we can then wield this knowledge as "soliders and as
Wiener argues that
cybernetics impinges upon society. ethics, and religion; he wish to show how:
first some religious and scientific prejudices must be overcome. The former
is the belief that man is essentially different from animals; the later is
that the living beings and machines are profoundly different.
Human learning must br
considered from two aspects: (1) ontogenetic (the learning that an individual
acquires in the course of his life experience) and (2) phylogenetic (the
learning of the entire human race in the course of its evolution. Wiener says
one of the great future problems we must face is how man and machines must
interact and which functions properly belong to each. Machines work better
and faster than man and are relatively tireless, but man is more comlex and
has a greater storage capacity for information. In adition human brain can
handle vague ideas, imperfectly defined.
He says that social
sciences are a bad proving ground for the ideas of cybernetics, for the
conditions and variables are so difficult to control. He assumes that science
contributes to what he calls social homeostasis, instead in the other way
around which many other thinkers assume that a society that is relatively
stabilized, perhaps along tranditional lines, is disrupted by the
intruduction of new technological and scientific devices, e.g, E. M. Forster
express " We can not reach social and political stability for the reason
that we contimue to make scientific discoverie and to apply them, and thus to
destroy the arangement which were based on more elementary discoveries. If
science would discover rather than apply-if, in other words, men were more
interested in knowledge than in power-mankind would be in a far safer
position, and the stability statement talk about would be a possibility ..
But science shows no signs of doing this: she gave us the internal combustion
engine, and before we had digested and assimilated it with terrible pains
into our social system, she harnessed the atom, and destoryed any order that
seemed to be evolving. How can man get into harmony with his surroundings
when he is constantly altering them? The future of our race is, in this
direction, more unpleasant than we care to admit, and it has sometimes seemed
to me that its best chance lies through apathy, uninventiveness, and
inertia." . Perhaps Wiener then means stability to be introduced by
scientific management of society.
process brings about change; the institutional process, which apparently
represents a residue of earlier instrumental achievements, rasists change and
accepts it slowly. Thus the phenomenon of cultural lag: the gulf between what
is possible and what is acceptable. The problem for the systems exper, then,
is to be used are manipulative where they are not overtly
"Change is easier to
introduce in matters arranged on a scale with narrow intervals than in those
arranged in a sharp dichotomy,....the introduction of change is eased if the
symbols of change present no apparent alteration or modification of the
culture´s widely held symbols. .. One resolution of this difficulty ... is to
conduct a project with mixed teams of investigators, some of whom have
instrumental skills, and others who have institutional skills" .
The result appears to
have satisfied the needs of systems designers rather than the need of
society. The technology to determine the "optimal system" for ....
The Limitation Of Systems
One concept fundamental
to all system theory is the notion that a system has clear boundaries.
furthermore, the system, if it is to be a system, must not only have boundaries;
it must also be a closed system, sometimes closed by the very act of
constructing the experiment. Dealing with a "natural reality" is
always a matter of dealing with an open reality. In some areas, no doubt,
closed systems can be constructed, but not in others; one cannot make a
closed system just by assumption.
The arbitrary Choice of
A constructed system,
which is relevant, is usually arbitrary in its reflection of nature. Thus one
can be arbitrary in experiment, but one can not call it nature when one has
selected the factors.
There is a tendency to
assume that the system has purpose. Nature can be viewed as to operates in a
given way. In other areas the teleology of nature may be a linguistic fiction
necessary to reconstruct an image of nature in teleological terms in order
that finite minds-which tend to personalize nature-may develop some
Systems and Cooperation:
Systems theorists tend to
see systems as essentially cooperative, and with almost no exceptions, social
systems are seen as cooperative. This assumption means that one can work
within the framework of cooperative people who cooperate with the ends of the
system. And since this is done by way of implicit assumption, the contrary notion
that men do not always cooperate, that they miss and misunderstand each
other, and that whatever cooperation does ensue may be a result of coercion,
lack of communication, misunderstanding, and error-all of which one finds
difficult to integrate into systems theory. Further, when such phenomena are
noticed, they are taken to represent deviation from a conceptually pure
system in which the values of cooperation, coherence, harmony, and the rest,
are assumed to be the normal phenomenon, with the "systems"
***** Systems theory as
social doctrine may be regarded as a new variant of organic or
"organismic" approaches to society. REgardless of the details of
the analogy, the social import is always the same in the sense that it tend
toward a doctrine of increasing unification and centralization of social
functions with human individuals reduced to the role of "cells" in
the organism with their functions and sphere of action delimited from outside
and from above. The question, of course, is not merely whether this
systems-organic imagine is true, but rather: (1) what are its probable social
consequences and (2) what can be done with the image. With the respect to the
first, the answer has been evident from the beginning: system theory appears
to be the "natural" ideology of bureaucratic planners and
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