LifeOS: exploring the system that executes DNA

March 8, 2009

Systems Theory Revisited

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems, Drafts — Tags: , , , — insomniac @ 1:35 pm

This past few weeks has been a whirlwind of revisiting, rediscovering and rewriting, not without some rethinking, but always focusing on a final draft. The process has been educational, for sure. However, the rewrites are going on behind the scenes, in another world, so to speak, and won’t necessarily get updated in this blog. So here is a quick update for the section on Systems Theory.

Although systems theory may have seen little application to biology in the United States, on the international scene there has been a steadily growing interest.

“The International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) is among the first and oldest organizations devoted to interdisciplinary inquiry into the nature of complex systems, and remains perhaps the most broadly inclusive. The Society was initially conceived in 1954 at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, and Anatol Rapoport. In collaboration with James Grier Miller, it was formally established as an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1956.”

International Society for the Systems Sciences
http://isss.org/world/

I have been surprised and pleased that the scientists in this organization have come to many of the same conclusions about biological systems that i have.

LIVING SYSTEMS THEORY

“By definition, living systems are open, self-organizing systems that have the special characteristics of life and interact with their environment. This takes place by means of information and material-energy exchanges.”

The Living Systems Theory of James Grier Miller is described as an open system characterized by information and material flows. The properties ( or behavior) of a system as a whole emerge out of the interaction of the components comprising the system.

In the conceptual system developed by Miller, living systems form eight levels of organization and complexity:

The principal components are cells, in simple, multi-cellular systems; organs, which are groups of cells; organisms (there are three kinds of organisms: fungi, plants and animals); groups, which contain two or more organisms and their relationships; organizations, which involve one of more groups with their own control systems for doing work; communities, including both individual persons and groups; societies, which are loose associations of communities; and supranational systems, organizations of societies.

Regardless of their complexity, they each depend upon the same essential twenty subsystems (or processes) to survive and to continue the propagation of their species or types beyond a single generation. “The twenty subsystems that process information or material-energy or both account for the survival of living systems, at any level.” “Living Systems Theory is a general theory about how all living systems “work,” about how they maintain themselves and how they develop and change…”

It is both encouraging that this branch of science is still alive after fifty years, and discouraging that few scientists are aware of the implications.

Why aren’t they teaching Living Systems Theory in public schools? Here is something they could teach right along beside random mutation driven evolution that doesn’t have anything to do with religion, but would ease the transition to a more holistic understanding of living systems.

July 15, 2008

Shared Myth of Science and Religion

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , , , , — insomniac @ 4:24 am

This is a rewrite of an earlier post. The older version was moved to Drafts. For those who are keeping up, sorry to be redundant. 🙂

As you might know by now, i’m neither a scientist nor a theologian. Although i’ve studied both world views in some depth, i don’t think either has presented an acceptable model of reality. Both groups have fashioned their model of reality upon myths meant to subjugate human minds and bodies to their will.

Looking at human society as a cybernetic system, agents operating under a shared set of protocols, we have groups of people behaving according to their beliefs. Beliefs are the protocols that set the parameters for human behavior. The beliefs fostered by both religion and science are what leaders use to influence the behavior of their followers. Those beliefs are taught to citizens by an elaborate system of churches, schools and peer guidance, that operates as if it were being directed by some method of system-wide management.

The rules followed by the lowly individuals benefit the ruling class, who make and enforce the rules. The ruling class has gone to great lengths to make it appear as though the citizens make and enforce their own rules, but the structure, or context, of those rules gives them away. The structure controls the flow of energy and information through the system.

Follow the Money

Who benefits from the rules and their structure? Follow the money(energy) and the rules(information). Follow the feedback loops that form the rules. Follow the feedback loops that circulate the cash. They show the cash going one way and rules coming back. Some of the money circulates back to the rule makers through obscure channels. Looks like a scam. How is such a blatant pyramid scheme created and maintained? By careful myth making.

The primary myth, perpetuated by both religion and science, is that the Universe is organized as a hierarchal pyramid structure with either a god or the human intellect at its peak and the environment just below the bottom. In this model, the information trickles down and the money rises. This model gives supreme authority to those who occupy the highest positions in the hierarchy and none to those on the bottom.

From this point of view, the main duty of religion and science is to organize the masses in order to maximize the benefits from exploitation of the environment. That’s what they do. The environment provides all the benefits that industry turns into profits. Science and religion provide the belief structure that their followers use as a basis for their behavior. It is important to the sponsors of both science and religion, that plants, animals and the environment in general, be kept in their place in that belief structure; as fuel for an ever expanding civilization.

Bottom Line

When people start to be concerned about plants and animals, it threatens industry’s bottom line. Industry gets nervous when people show too much respect for the environment. After all, ripping it off is how they profit. Religion and science both support the concept that the environment is subordinate to the human species, and exists to be exploited.

So, please don’t put me in either camp. If you must locate me in relation to the debate between religion and science, place me firmly in the leftover territory; that of magic, the occult, shamanism and all the forces of Nature. Where i live, the information is supplied by the System, and the information travels in all directions. It loops back on itself in an endless flow. The System circulates information just as surely as it does energy and building materials.

The pyramid hierarchy of human knowledge runs counter to reality in both its structure and its content. The pyramid is the symbol of civilization, the foundation for the myth of human separateness from Nature and the very shape of human folly. Breaking out of the rigid pyramid belief structure and into the flow of a holographic reality, is as easy as recognizing the myth of your existence.

May 19, 2008

Bias Towards Established Behavior

Systemic Inertia

The current body of scientific knowledge exists primarily in the minds of the active participants. It is much like the current information held in RAM on your computer; both are invisible. You might think that knowledge is stored in books and reports, and it is, but the archived knowledge is only a fragment of the active knowledge stored in the memory banks of individuals. And like the programs currently operational in RAM, they are different from the version stored on the hard drive in that they have interacted with other programs, the operating system and the user to produce a unique synergy of accumulated data and its organizational structure. Just like the information stored in RAM, the active version of knowledge is dynamic, invisible and subject to rapid reorganization.

It has taken centuries for millions of participants to build the current body of active knowledge. The very structure that holds that block of collective consciousness together was built from a human centric, ego based, point of view. That’s not bad, just limited. Because of this structure, the system of science reacts as one, defending its collective view of reality. For example…

A bunch of revolutionary thinkers in science come up with a new class of theories with a common thread. All of these theories involve taking a holistic approach to understanding the world around us. They agree that we need to look more closely at the “wholes” instead of being so caught up in the details. Another commonality is that these theories apply to all types of organization; mechanical, biological and social. They therefore apply to the organization of science itself.

There was a lot of excitement during the 1970s when it was assumed that this overall perspective would put us on the threshold of a grand new understanding of life. Many of us thought there would be a new “interdisciplinary” approach that would unite many diverse fields of study and produce a much better understanding of what makes the Universe go. If these new fields of study would unite with existing disciplines, a true scientific revolution would take place. It didn’t happen.

Instead, the bureaucracy of science immediately moved in the opposite direction. The holistic view, the cornerstone of the new theories, was ignored. Instead of uniting the new theories, or forming some new truly interdisciplinary department that would take a broader view, they immediately fragmented the existing groups. Since the late 1940s, when the basic concepts underpinning these new theories started to take hold, science has divided these four, (system theory, cybernetics, information theory and Gaia theory) up into dozens of sub-disciplines. Instead of embracing this new concept, science has swept it under the rug and continues to break everything into smaller and smaller parts, while ignoring the larger picture. They call it interdisciplinary when ANY collaboration is done.

The Structure of Scientific Bureaucracy

If we apply these system concepts to the bureaucracy of science, we can see that it doesn’t function very efficiently as a system. Each discipline works in relative isolation, functioning more like a separate unit than part of the same system. The information flows up and down hierarchically organized departments with little or no horizontal exchange.

In all of science there is no one discipline that attempts to integrate the many other disciplines into a meaningful whole. Instead science continues inventing new disciplines. Each of these disciplines has its own jargon and methods that often make little sense to scientists from other disciplines, let alone to the rest of the world. Science is so compartmentalized that important discoveries in one discipline are often unknown to researchers in other fields.

From a systems standpoint you could say that the scientific bureaucracy is organized in such a way as to facilitate control and management of results. Its design and structure work to impede the free flow of information, while making it easy for a few well placed individuals to manage research and therefore, control the output. The output of science being ideas and concepts that impact society. In a perfect world, all the ideas and concepts brought forth by science would lead to a better understanding of the Natural World and our place within it. However, in the real world, the discoveries of science are geared primarily towards maximum profit for industry.

The internet is slowly tearing down some of the barriers created by the scientific bureaucracy, as well as letting the rest of us in on the discussion. Eventually, this will lead to a common language that more accurately describes reality. The interconnected structure of the internet and the way it distributes information is undermining the old pyramid structure that supports our university system. Universities essentially make their living by holding information hostage and charging big bucks to run students through a giant maze where the gems of knowledge are secreted. Today it is easy for anyone to log on and search for the gems on their own.

Global Warming

Global warming is evidence that our present day science has had a poor understanding of the Natural World and how human beings fit into it. It wasn’t the ignorance and superstition of uneducated masses that brought us to this uneasy situation, but industry turning scientific discoveries into profit. We were led into the industrial revolution and its attendant degradation of the environment by science. It is science our culture depends on to warn us when we are on a dangerous course. In this regard, science has failed us. Environmentalists, indigenous peoples and old hippies have been warning us for years that disregard for the system that supports us would lead to trouble.

The ideas coming from science today on how to deal with Global Warming show that they still don’t have a clue on how to “belong” to our environment. Most of the solutions presented so far, involve escalating the war on the environment already under way.

You know the war i mean, the one where we exercise our dominion over the Natural world; the one that has brought us to this critical crossroads. Instead of retreat and an admission that the aggression against our environment is unwarranted, ill-advised and dangerous, science goes on the attack with bigger and better weapons. They think they are bound to come up with some new technology that will supposedly bring Nature to heel, but will only create a new set of problems that require a new round of inappropriate technologies, producing still more profit for the companies that created the problems in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not blaming “Science” for our current problems, just telling it like i see it. Science has done part of its job well; they’ve gotten us to this point of discovery. However, there comes a time when the old ways of perceiving are no longer adequate to explain new discoveries, and change is inevitable.

The Status Quo

One of the repeated patterns we can see in adaptive complex systems is that there exists be a bias towards established behavior. This gives a solid baseline from which to introduce change. The challenge is for the system to maintain stability, while at the same time retain the ability to adapt rapidly to environmental variation.

Resistance to new ideas is not bad, it helps protect the status quo. In a System where everything is infinitely adjustable, it can’t be too easy to make adjustments, especially in areas fundamental to homeostasis. Since it is all interconnected, even minor adjustments in one area can affect all others. The status quo has to have a strong bias to maintain systemic stability. Any adaptive system relies on what has been successful in the past as a baseline to plan the future.

The inertia of established order is hard enough to overcome, but when the new ideas threaten the very economic foundation of our society, they are hard to sell. Don’t count on contemporary science and their corporate sponsors to bail us out of this one. They will continue to profit from their exploitation of the environment, for as long as they can get away with it.

Although the industrial revolution could be blamed for our dilemma, it all boils down human behavior. That should make it easy. After all, our behavior is really the only thing that you and i have the power to change.

May 17, 2008

Gaia

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , , — insomniac @ 6:17 pm

I’m surely not the first to suggest applying systems analysis in biology. Microbiologist Lynn Margulis and chemist James Lovelock formulated the Gaia Hypothesis in the 1970s. They reached their conclusions by viewing the biosphere as a single system, made up of subsystems in self-regulating feedback relationships.

“The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis that proposes that living and nonliving parts of the earth are a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism. Named after the Greek earth goddess, this hypothesis postulates that all living things have a regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment that promotes life overall.”
–Quoted from Wikipedia:

According to Lovelock and Margulis:
“Evolution cannot be explained by the adaptation of organisms to local environments, because a network of living systems is also shaping the environment.”

Makes sense to me. If everything is interconnected, what manages all those relationships? The dynamic environment we experience constantly changes, yet it maintains overall stability. The system view recognizes that the overall stability of a dynamic system requires constant readjustment of subsystems. Scientists call this process evolution.

Looking at natural selection from an individual perspective, it is a very important issue, like life or death. Who cares about the system at a time like that? But when viewed as a system, the evolutionary process is a balancing act between codependant subsystems that require they be constantly monitored and adjusted. The overall efficiency of the evolutionary process infers that these feedback loops indeed exist. Unless, we are going to believe in magic.

The path of evolutionary change is definitely in the direction of adaptation. When we consider that all adaptations are adapting to other adaptations controlled by the same process, and that some of these adapting subsystems appear not to have changed in millions of years, whereas others have changed significantly, almost overnight, it would seem obvious that there is an overall information processing system that manages evolution.

More from Lovelock and Margulis:
“…the whole Earth behaves like one self-regulating organism wherein all of the geologic, hydrologic, and biologic cycles of the planet mutually self-regulate the conditions on the surface of the Earth so as to perpetuate life.”
–Quoted from biped.info(not available)

In a system, behavior is controlled by information. If something behaves in a certain way, it does so because of the information it processes. Gaia acts as if it had an overall system of controls and protocols that manages all this “mutual self-regulation”.

Gaia has recently been upgraded to a “theory”, but hardly accepted by mainstream science as originally proposed. No matter how much science tries to adjust and amend Gaia to fit in with the tenets of neodarwinism, it just won’t work.

Neodarwinism is based on the individual point of view; the one that considers particles the second most important objects in the Universe, right behind the human brain. The structure used to organize evolutionary theory is the familiar hierarchial branching tree. When they get to mapping evolution using shared genetic information the resulting computer readouts are more like a field full of bushes than a tree. There is some sort of nonlinear process going on here.

The problem is that our present day scientists can’t get their heads out of their particle accelerators and microscopes long enough to really look at the systems approach. It is sort of like the left-brain, right brain test where you see either a vase or two human faces depending on how you look at it. Looking at biological life from the systems point of view gives us a very different picture. For some mind sets, “seeing” this version of reality takes more effort than they are willing to put out. Diehard reductionists are literally blind to this view of reality.

May 16, 2008

What’s the Difference?

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , , — insomniac @ 5:03 pm

Along with Systems Theory and Cybernetics, there was another basic concept necessary for the design of computer networks. Pioneered by folks like Gregory Bateson, this conceptual territory deals with mathematical theories of information management. One important aspect identified by this line of thinking was the task of identifying discreet information in raw data. Bateson called it, “The difference that makes a difference.” In a dynamic system, everything is in a constant state of change, so it is the deviation from the dynamic pattern that registers as the difference that matters.

In order for accurate predictions to be made for a dynamic system, past performance must be known and plotted through time. It is deviation from the past dynamic action that differentiates between normal cyclical variation and meaningful change. To identify the deviation, one must be able to identify the difference that makes a difference. To spot this deviation is a very sophisticated undertaking, and yet routine for biological systems.

Imagine you are running to catch a ball. The information coming in to the brain from the eyes is constantly changing. Everything in your line of sight is moving as you run. Your brain identifies the ball as moving against the background movement, the difference that makes a difference. From that information, your brain calculates a trajectory. It tells your body how to get to a point where you can intercept the ball. All of this is done by analyzing information brought in by the senses. Our human biological systems would not function without processing information. Not only is information processing essential for internal brain functioning, it is fundamental to the physical universe as well.

In an information processing system, everything within the system is seen as information. Diehard materialists will insist that this is not the case, but we can soften their argument by saying that all matter has an information component. The information component is whatever it takes to organize light energy into matter. It is the rules or laws that trap light energy into atomic structure.

We are going to let others argue about the details of those laws. At this point, it doesn’t matter to us whether the Earth sucks or the heavens blow, we care that there exists a set of invisible laws that govern the operation and interaction of matter, energy, time and space. These laws are invisible to the naked eye, but are defined in the universal structure we seek.

Tree Rings

Everything we see around us is information. Tree rings are a good example of matter as information. The structure of the tree is a result of the interaction between its DNA and the environment, over time. The rhythm of the environment is captured along with samples of available minerals from the ground and gases from the atmosphere. The moisture cycles are recorded as surely as if it was being done by a weather station graphing pen. We have multiple levels of information stored in the same location. A tree is a living logbook of the activities of billions of cells doing their thing. Even when the tree dies, much of the information stays intact. Even when the tree is petrified, the tree rings still hold on to their information.

If we take a look at the tree rings of a lot of different trees in the forest, we can see that the patterns recorded in the rings can be synchronized with trees of different ages. In this way scientists can produce a continuous record of environmental cycles.

Since we know a lot about the chemistry of trees and how they process light, we can look back in time and learn a great deal about how weather conditions fluctuate over time. We can learn these things by deciphering the information stored in matter.

Information is All

Some folks want to make a distinction between information and noise, or biological or non-biological sources, or transmitters and receivers, but all transmissions of energy and all bits of matter carry information.

When we look at all matter and energy as information we get another bonus. It easily explains how so many diverse viewpoints can all be true: as information, both matter and energy can be viewed in an infinite number of accurate, though incomplete, representations. Like a database can be viewed in different ways to gain perspective on the relationships involved, so reality can be looked at from different perspectives. Any view that doesn’t include the “Whole” is incomplete, and therefore not really accurate, yet viewing the Whole at once provides no useful information.

Cause and Effect

Linear concepts are handy tools for focusing on details, but can’t be used to accurately describe reality. It can be convenient to think of cause and effect relationships as isolated sequences that follow set patterns. We can modify steps and change the outcome, but as a process within a system, the causative factors are really found in the system protocols which apply equally to all elements. The true causation exists on a higher level than the events themselves. For example, the cause of the tree falling in the forest was far more than just the ax and lumberjack. It was caused by a web of influence that expands to include the financial forces that put the lumberjack in the forest, as well as the history of the relationship between trees and human beings.

The key to being able to deal with relationships between phenomena is to be able to isolate them from other relationships. We just need to remember that the isolation is an illusion, it’s sort of a “what if” used for convenience of mind, but not the reality of the situation. The truth is that every event is connected to every other event. Like our tree falling in the forest, nothing falls alone.

It is all in how you look at it. That’s the idea here; take a look from this perspective, as if all Matter and Energy are the expression of Information. You don’t have to believe it to look at it from this angle. All you need is an open mind and a fearless heart.

May 15, 2008

Cybernetics

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , , — insomniac @ 4:27 pm

This field grew out of the landmark book, Cybernetics:Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Wiener 1948).

Dr. Norbert Wiener studied the subsystems that control behavior in animals, social groups, and machines, looking for common functionality. He identified and analyzed some of the information channels used. From there, he formulated some rules that seemed to apply universally. He was essentially reverse engineering the behavior of task oriented systems. He identified “goal directed behavior” and the feedback loops necessary for success. To perform tasks, a system has to have a way to monitor progress to know when the goal has been attained. Feedback mechanisms provide that information.

Feedback mechanisms return some of the output as input. Your heating system probably has a thermostat. It monitors the temperature, which is the result of the system’s output, and feeds that information back into the system. When the selected temperature is reached, the system shuts down the furnace.

This concept is core to information processing and indispensable in the design of computers and their networks. Concepts like feedback loops and self organizing systems developed from the observation of a wide range of functioning processes.

In many of those processes, like machines or social groups, the organizing principles are easy to see, but in biological systems the controlling factors are more obscure. It is obvious that functionality involves feedback and self organization, but where are the physical channels that carry and organize that information? In machines and social interaction we are fully aware of those channels because we created them. We know that intelligence is applied to gain functionality. Without intelligent human participation, machines and social groups do not function. The fact that biological systems function at all indicates to me that there is an intelligent element at the root of all biological action. The fact that biological systems function so well indicates a high level of intelligence is involved.

Second Order Cybernetics

Call it self organization, but the system that controls biological information processing has physical components that make its functionality possible. It obeys natural laws and produces real output. It should be no big trick for us to identify those physical components and the rules they follow, but that forces us into an area known as, “second order cybernetics”.

Second order cybernetics, initiated by Heinz von Foerster (1911-2002) and Roger Ashby (1903-1972), presents a similar hurdle to the one encountered by quantum physics; if the observer is part of the system, part of a feedback mechanism, how is the observation affected? We can’t just study other cybernetic systems without considering that the study is an interaction between two cybernetic systems.

We are individual cybernetic systems, and as such have our own observational components. Our keen awareness, and the senses that make our observations possible, follow a set of internal rules that have been learned. That learning is heavily influenced by our culture and the beliefs we inherit from it. The resulting personal view of reality is the baseline we must use to measure our observations. If that view is skewed by erroneous assumptions, it is surely affecting everything else.

Special Beings?

For example, we have been under the assumption that the systems we observe are fundamentally different from ourselves. We have always assumed that human beings, whether created by god or evolution, are special beings with skills, rights and privileges not available to other species. The most important of course, is our superior intelligence.

We have always thought of ourselves as intelligent beings living in a largely unintelligent alien environment. We share that environment with vicious creatures ruled by animal instinct. Survival has been seen as a battle against a hostile environment, vicious predators and other humans seeking the same resources. That point of view still dominates our consciousness, today.

Objective observation reveals that we humans are indeed cybernetic subsystems, functioning within other cybernetic systems, and fundamentally the same as the rest. As such, we operate under the same set of rules and are subject to the same limitations as all living things. When we study other living things, we are studying but another model of the same subsystem as ourselves. Our view of human beings and how they fit into the larger systems has definitely been, “skewed by erroneous assumptions”.

Conflict of Interest

More importantly, we are not at war with the System, we belong to it. I think most of us realize that defeating Mother Nature is not a realistic goal, yet that is the very behavior our species continues to exhibit daily. We have caught ourselves in a major conflict of interest. Our civilization is organized to reap maximum benefit from exploitation of the environment. We are very efficient at this from a economic point of view. The more we know about the environment and how we fit into the system, the more obvious it becomes that our current rate of exploitation is not sustainable. Global warming is only the tip of the iceberg, it is only a symptom of a deeper malaise. Our efficiency at sucking the energy out of the environment is wreaking havoc on multiple levels.

At any rate, the introduction of second order cybernetics pretty much put an end to the philosophical branch of cybernetics. The practical application of these concepts proved to be much more economically rewarding. Cybernetics was applied to the design of computers and their networks, and in some ways, defined the concept of information processing. Our concept of cyberspace, traversed by a virtual information highway, grew out of this new understanding of the role of information in any active process.

May 14, 2008

Dissecting Wholeness

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , , , — insomniac @ 11:11 am

We all seem to think that we understand the concept of wholeness, but we are under one major handicap. We are hopelessly locked into our own point of view: that of a separate, individual ego. The view from the high throne of the ego is great, but if we really want to understand how the System works, we need to get past our inevitable human-centric bias and look at the System as the Whole that it is.

We humans are “parts”, and as such, we still think of the Whole as the sum of its parts and maybe a little extra for synergy. But the Whole came first! Parts are divisions of the Whole, rather than the Whole being the sum of the parts. Again, the distinction may seem trivial, but it amounts to looking at the road traveled from the opposite direction. It is a totally different view.

Like a Rainbow

Wholeness is like a rainbow in that any attempt to divide it into parts results in arbitrary boundaries. We think we see bands of color in a rainbow, but that is a construct of our mind. In reality there is a steady rate of change of the frequency of refracted light, from one edge to the other, with no real border between one “color” and the next. It is our mind that lumps a band of frequencies together and labels them as one color.

Dividing Wholeness into parts is a function of the same mental attribute that divides the color of the rainbow into bands. That’s the way we humans see things. We divide our environment up into units, then we label and classify them. That’s what we do.

Cultural Connections

We have a similar handicap when it comes to the concept of interconnectedness. Everything is connected to everything else, sure that’s easy to say, but our ego is operating under a different set of rules. Our ego has been sold on the idea that connections run in a hierarchal structure, with the most important or intelligent at the top and the least down at the bottom.

This is the structure of information flow that most of us grew up with. We looked to the next highest person on the ladder for our information. Our parents, teachers, coaches and the rest of our system of education have all reinforced that model. Our civilization runs on the up and down flow of information. Religion, the military and most financial and business institutions also use this branching tree structure to organize themselves.

That is also the way the ego organizes the rest of the self: the ego on top with the rest of the self divided into sub-units that the ego can boss around. The ego considers itself to be intelligent, but the rest of the self is kind of dumb. The ego thinks it is going on to a life ever after, but it isn’t intending to take the body along. It is really funny for the ego to take all the credit when it is literally nothing without the rest.

Pyramid Values

As citizens of our respective cultures, we live our lives within this pyramid shaped hierarchal structure. In the workplace, in our social organizations, in personal relations, in education, we are constantly being placed in a structure according to our “value” within the organization. Everything has a pecking order. It should be no surprise that we project that same model on physical reality.

The real surprise comes when we find out that the Universe is not really organized that way at all, but as this holistic, all units connected to all others, super cybernetic kind of holographic information processing system. Before we can really take advantage of this information, we need to update our own internal models, the ones we use when we think. Our behavior follows our thoughts, consequently the old patterns and structures that we have been using to run our lives have got to be replaced with models that more accurately reflect reality.

All of us today have been exposed to a new model of information flow that more closely resembles the Natural System; the global interconnected computer network, known as the internet. This is the new model for how the Universe works. Information flows in all directions, with no top nor bottom, no beginning nor end.

We oldsters have to learn this new structure, and try to apply it, but the youth of today are born with this new concept of the flow of information stuck in their ears. As the shape of our collective consciousness changes to incorporate this new model of reality, our performance within the system will improve.

Funnel Vision

The pyramid structure is no longer adequate to describe our world. It is obsolete, but change comes slow. Our culture, if not addicted, is totally dependent on this view of individual power and worth. Both religion and science have used this hierarchical structure to diagram the origin of the Universe. Whether it be god or the big bang, their concepts of the cosmos are very similar. In fact, the pyramid structure itself demands it resolve to a single point, which is the top of the hierarchy. It is the dominant conceptual structure employed by both science and religion that forces them into their “funnel vision”.

The Interconnected Endless Loop

The concept of interconnectedness doesn’t have a top. It is a different kind of structure. Placement within the structure is not dependent on any individual value or privilege. In a system, every “part” is of equal value as a function within the whole, with no provision for moving up or improving position. The value of an individual part is its contribution to the whole, not its relative success compared to other single units.

In this structure, information doesn’t originate at the top and filter down, but is equally available throughout. Commands don’t come from the top or any central location, but originate at the point of action. That’s your free will. All of the information necessary to make decisions is at your disposal, but the final decision is always yours. This gives you the authority try new strategies. After all, who knows the situation better than you? If your implementations are a successful, they may be adopted by the System. If not, the structure will not miss you.

This holistic, all connected structure doesn’t point to an origin or any single cause or string of causes, but to a dynamic Whole that manages its own homeostasis through dynamic subsystems. Creation is not something that happened once in the past, but happens in the present, incessantly, everywhere there is Life. This holistic, dynamic, interconnected structure doesn’t even present a path to an origin, but cycles and recycles itself into an endless loop.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

There is nothing wrong with having an ego-centric point of view, in itself. That is the mode one must be in to deal with local reality. However, the ego can benefit greatly from an understanding of the whole picture. To improve that understanding, improves the quality of all one’s interactions with local reality.

Understanding Wholeness might be the key to the survival of our species. Understanding may be the wrong word; it might be that Wholeness has to be felt emotionally before it can be grasped by the intellect. Can you feel it?

May 13, 2008

Systems Theory

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — Tags: , , — insomniac @ 1:20 pm

 “Systems theory is an interdisciplinary field of science. It studies the nature of complex systems in nature, society, and science. More specifically, it is a framework by which one can analyze and/or describe any group of objects that work in concert to produce some result. This could be a single organism, any organization or society, or any electro-mechanical or informational artifact.

“The systems view was based on several fundamental ideas. First, all phenomena can be viewed as a web of relationships among elements, or a system. Second, all systems, whether electrical, biological, or social, have common patterns, behaviors, and properties that can be understood and used to develop greater insight into the behavior of complex phenomena…” 
–Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory

 Back in the 1940s, when systems theory got its start, the concept of studying systems as functioning units was fairly new, but the idea that the actions of systems as diverse as cells, machines, social groups and computers could share some “patterns, behaviors, and properties”, was and still is, revolutionary. 

 In this work, we are expanding the systems concept to include the biosphere and beyond, all the way to the big Whole, the Universe. We are on the lookout for the common “patterns, behaviors, and properties”, as the organizational elements underlying the physical Universe. What we are looking for is the set of rules that govern these common attributes.

 Within the highly complex Universal System, Life qualifies a special kind of subsystem.

 more from Wikipedia:
“Complex adaptive systems are special cases of complex systems. They are complex in that they are diverse and made up of multiple interconnected elements and adaptive in that they have the capacity to change and learn from experience.”
 
This is the kind of system i’m talking about. These systems show consistency of operation, inferring some sort of systematic operating rules, laws or protocols: LifeOS.

 Reductionism

 Although the concept of looking at whole systems may not seem like a big deal, it is opposite to the way science has been doing things for centuries. When scientists set out to study something, they break it down into its component parts and study those units in minute detail. It is called, “reductionism”. The idea is that creation started with the smallest particles which organized themselves as they evolved. Reductionism is seen following that conceptual path backwards to its origin, a sort of reverse engineering. Seems logical.

 In the systems approach we take a different perspective. We take the something we want to study and place it in the larger framework of the system within which it functions. This amounts to an about face.

 Science is very good at breaking things down into smaller and smaller units and has reached some conclusions based on this point of view. Most of our western scientific world view is based on this concept that the whole is made up of a collection of individual parts. Science is very satisfied with the world view thus created, but looking at the larger systems view alters the picture in some fundamental ways. 

 In the systems view, the very first “thing” to exist was the System. No part exists without being part of the System. The system is controlled/managed by information. The information, in the form of system protocols, comes first. In biological systems, we find this information stored in DNA code.

 Code Driven Systems

 In a code driven system, three elements must be present before the system can function; there must exist a language, a specific string of code in that language and a processing unit that has the resources available to execute the string of code, including reading it in the first place. In all biological systems yet studied, these three elements are in place. In a living cell, DNA represents the language and a specific string of code that the cell selects and processes. It is hard to imagine how these three could have evolved independently, without a system being in place. 

 Two of the elements, the code and the processing unit, are bound together by the third, the language. Reductionists will come up with all kinds of theories about how individual parts can build themselves without a system, and then “invent” the language that they need to become a system. In the systems view, the language, the information, comes first. The system is a concept before it functions. As it functions, the system expresses those concepts as physical reality.

 
End of Chain Codons

 As pointed out earlier, the three codons that signify the end of a polypeptide chain are part of the language and had to be functional within the first cell in order to produce protein. Since even the smallest cell has to produce more than one polypeptide chain, the “end of chain” marker had to be working,(in the right place in the code, read and recognized by the cell), before the first cell could build itself. The concept of an “end of string marker” had to exist before one could function. 

 The code came first, living tissue second. Looking at the system as coming first, means that the Whole becomes the “fundamental” unit rather than the smallest building block. The Whole manufactures building blocks as needed. The value of the individual parts is their ability to interact with other parts in order to accomplish some task to benefit the larger System. System wide organization becomes the controlling factor, rather than the actions of individual parts multiplied. 

 In other words, system organization is specified by DNA, and has been a fundamental element from the beginning of Life. The evolutionary structure that Life takes is specified in DNA, rather than invented by adaptation to local environments. Adaptation is an inherent function of the system and not a function of relative agent intelligence.

 Evolution is the product of the original organization contained in DNA, expressed through time. This does nothing to clarify the origins of Life; indeed it indicates that they may be obscured by a great deal more time than we could have imagined.

 I’m getting ahead of myself, what we want from Systems Theory at this juncture, is to give us some help finding our way. Since everything is connected, we have one total, all inclusive System/Universe that we can study using a tried and proven technique. We can use the framework of systems analysis to describe the Whole System. 

 If everything is connected to everything else, in order not to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, the system has to have a super efficient way of managing communications. The method must be functional from the smallest subsystem all the way up to the Whole, the Universe.

May 12, 2008

Memorable Structures

Filed under: Ch 05 Cyber Systems — insomniac @ 11:54 am

I remember reading a book many years ago that suggested that the dimensions of the great pyramids revealed secret knowledge. My first reaction was a hearty teenage guffaw. But as i read further, i began to get the drift of what the author was saying. The shape, orientation and dimensions of any edifice show quite plainly the level of expertise attained by the builders. The shape of the pyramids clearly shows the builders had a working knowledge of solid geometry, for example. Closer study reveals that they were also experts in measurement, stone masonry, transport of extremely heavy objects and management of huge labor forces. The process of reverse engineering the pyramids has been going on for some time and we are still discovering more of the “secret” knowledge contained therein.

The same has been said of the great cathedrals of Europe. Their designs reveal the secret knowledge possessed by the architects. The knowledge of building technique and strength of materials was adequate to create structures that have endured for centuries. The structures themselves are more than just a testament to the skill and knowledge of the architects, they are a physical record, a real expression of that skill. These structures are a form of memory.

Take a look at the structure of keys and locks as information. Not only do they reveal the level of expertise of the locksmith, the very function of locking mechanisms is the storage of information in the structures themselves. Changing the shape of the key changes its stored information. The lock stores the same information, but in negative form. When they match, the information can be used to open the lock. If they don’t match, nothing is accomplished.

Now think of all the connections that have evolved in the construction of computers. These connections fit like a key in a lock. This keeps the ignorant user from plugging a device in the wrong place. The shape of the connectors is stored information, intelligence really; a memory that remembers how it fits into the system.

In biological systems, we find this key and lock, complex connector, concept used everywhere. The whole system functions by molecules interlocking their complex shapes with other molecules. The shapes of these molecules are information about who is supposed to hookup with what. The shape of each molecule predetermines its potential relationships. In other words, each molecule fits into an overall plan that all other molecules share.

Reverse Engineering

The concept of reverse engineering involves studying the structure of an object and decoding the information stored therein. Usually it means taking apart the finished product and figuring out how it must have been produced. It works well if you have an understanding of the processes involved. For example, industrial competitors usually have little trouble figuring out each other’s methods, once they have the product.
The finished product is specific information about the process creating it, in the same way that a building is a nail by nail, board by board, stone by stone record of its construction. The same is true of all matter. Every molecule is a physical record of the chemical events involved in its creation. When we fully understand the process, the steps will be as obvious as those of building a house. Looking at it this way, all matter is memory. Every molecule assembled by a cell is like a packet of data. The atoms and molecules used in the assembly have changed relationship. That new “state” is a physical record of those changes.
From this point of view, the storage and transfer of information is the main function of all those complex molecules that traverse our environment.
This concept of structure is everywhere we look. It is a basic attribute of time and space, energy and matter, even personality and behavior. If we consent to a Whole Universe, with everything related to everything else, then the relationship matrix, the structure, the definitions or rules that hold it all together, become Its essence.
The structure of the Universe is not something you can touch or feel directly. Structure, here, is not a material or static thing, but a dynamic web of relationships. It is informational rather than material. Structure is information that holds the system together.

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