human use of human beings
The Human Use of Human Beings is a book by Norbert Wiener, the founding thinker of cybernetics theory and an influential advocate of automation; it was first published in 1950 and revised in 1954. The text argues for the benefits of automation to society; it analyzes the meaning of productive communication and discusses ways for humans and machines to cooperate, with the potential to amplify human power and release people from the repetitive drudgery of manual labor, in favor of more creative pursuits in knowledge work and the arts. The risk that such changes might harm society (through dehumanization or subordination of our species) is explored, and suggestions are offered on how to avoid such risk.
What is cybernetics?
The word cybernetics refers to the theory of message transmission among people and machines. The thesis of the book is that
society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and machine, are destined to play an ever-increasing part. (p. 16)
In the context of human/machine society, Wiener offers a definition of the message as “a sequence of events in time which, though in itself has a certain contingency, strives to hold back nature’s tendency toward disorder by adjusting its parts to various purposive ends” (p. 27).
? perhaps better to listen to.. swim in .. nature’s tendency toward disorder…?
Entropy and negentropy
The physical world has a “tendency toward disorder.” Entropy (although a broad concept used in somewhat different ways across disciplines) roughly describes the way that isolated systems naturally become less and less organized with the passage of time; popularly understood as meaning a gradual decline into a state of chaos, the concept more accurately refers to the diffusion of energy toward a state of equilibrium, following the second law of thermodynamics.
Wiener believed that communication of information is essentially negentropic – it resists entropy –, because it relies on organizational structures. There are two kinds of possible disorganizational forces, passive and active: “Nature offers resistance to decoding, but it does not show ingenuity in finding new and undecipherable methods for jamming our communication with the outer world” (pp. 35–36). Nature’s passive resistance is in contrast to active resistance, like that of a chess opponent. This is similar to Einstein’s view, expressed in his famous comment: “The Lord is subtle but he is not vicious”.
Potential for learning
*An increase of information, whether communicated by a living being or a machine, will increase organization. The feedback systems of an organism and those of a machine (informational organization in machines does not necessarily constitute “vitality” or a “soul”) function in a similar way, allowing either to make assessments and act on the actual effectiveness of previous actions; when such feedback modifies not just a discrete action but an entire set of behaviors, Wiener calls this learning.
Forms and patterns
The individuality of a being is a certain intricate form, not an enduring substance. In order to understand an organism, it must be thought of as a pattern which maintains itself through homeostasis – life continues by maintaining an internal balance of various factors such as temperature and molecular structure. While the material substances that compose a living being may be constantly replaced by nearly identical ones, an organism continues functioning with the same identity as long as the pattern is kept sufficiently intact. Since patterns can be transmitted, modified, or duplicated, they are therefore a kind of information. Based on this, Wiener suggests it should be theoretically possible to transmit the entirety of a living person as a message (which is practically indistinguishable from the concept of physical teleportation) – although he admits that the obstacles to such a process would be great, because of the enormous amount of information embodied in a person, and the difficulty of reading or writing it.
how could you ever capture it all..? not to mention each bit changing ongoingly
Science, law, and industry
According to Wiener, the “progress” of human society as we conceive it today did not exist until four hundred years ago, but now we have entered “a special period in the history of the world” (p. 46). The progress of recent centuries has changed our world so dramatically that humans are being forced to adapt to the new environmental order or disorder that we are still creating. Wiener believes the quickness and range of our adaptability has always been the strong point of the human species, which distinguishes us from even the most intelligent of other living creatures. Our advancements in technology have created new opportunities along with new restrictions.
*so why mess with that (antifragility ness)..? by org ing..?
Increasingly better sensory mechanics will allow machines to react to changes in stimuli, and adapt more efficiently to their surroundings. This type of machine will be most useful in factory assembly lines, giving humans the freedom to supervise and use their creative abilities constructively.
Medicine can benefit from robotic advances in the design of prostheses for the handicapped. Wiener mentions the Vocorder, a device from Bell Telephone Company that creates visual speech. He discusses the possibility of creating an automated prosthesis that inputs speech directly into the brain for processing, effectively giving deaf individuals the ability to “hear” speech again. Progress in these areas is ongoing and rapid, exemplified by such devices as the palatometer, a new device created to replace a damaged larynx; it uses a speech synthesizer to recreate words based on its ability to monitor tongue movements. This device effectively rids people with damaged larynxes of the robotic tones associated with artificial speech synthesizers (like the one famously used by disabled physicist Stephen Hawking), enabling people to have more natural social interactions.
Machines, in Wiener’s opinion, are meant to interact harmoniously with humanity and provide respite from the industrial trap we have made for ourselves. Wiener describes the automaton as inherently necessary to humanity’s societal evolution. People could be free to expand their minds, pursue artistic careers, while automatons take over assembly line production to create necessary commodities. These machines must be “used for the benefit of man, for increasing his leisure and enriching his spiritual life, rather than merely for profits and the worship of the machine as a new brazen calf” (p. 162).
How can automata harm human society?
Though hopeful that humanity will ultimately prosper by the use of automatons, he mentions a few ways this relationship with technology could be detrimental. Automatons must not be taken for granted, because with advances in technology that allow them to learn, the machines may be able to escape human control if humans do not continue proper supervision of them. We might become entirely dependent on them, or even controlled by them. There is danger in trusting decisions to something which cannot think abstractly, and may therefore be unlikely to identify with intellectual human values which are not purely utilitarian.
While I had long been planning to write a manifesto against the technological singularity and launch it into the conversational sphere for public reaction and comment, an invitation earlier this year from John Brockman to read and discuss The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener with him and his illustrious group of thinkers as part of an ongoing collaborative book project contributed to the thoughts contained herein.
begin of 20th cent real change of pov.. newtonian physics.. had ruled from end of 17th to end of 19th cent.. described universe in which everything happened precisely according to law.. where whole future depends on whole past
change.. as.. bolzmann and biggs intro stats in to physics.. so that stat approach valid not merely for systems of enormous complexity but even for systems as simple as single particle in field of force..
stats is the science of distribution.. they retained the principle to which certain systems may be distinguished from others by their total energy.. but rejected .. same total energy may be clearly distinguished indefinitely and describe forever by fixed causal laws..
there as an important stat reservation implicit in newton’s work, though the 18th cent .. ignored it.. no physical measurements are ever precise;.. not what we must expect when initial positions/momenta are given w perfect accuracy (which never occurs).. but what to expect when given w attainable accuracy.. this merely means that we know, not the complete initial conditions, but something about their distribution.. the functional part of physics, in other words, cannot escape considering uncertainty and the contingency of events..
this revolution has had the effect that physics now no longer claims to deal w what will always happen, bu rather what will happen w an overwhelming probability..
this recognition of an element of incomplete determinism.. almost an irrationality in the world… .. for this random element.. this organic incompleteness.. is one which w/o too violent a figure of speech we may consider evil; the negative evil which st augustine characterizes as incompleteness.. rather than the positive malicious evil of the manichaeans
whoa.. so .. we can’t control/org it.. so it’s evil.. so.. reason for neg connotations of entropy et al.. similar to reasonings for colonization.. no..?
gibbs’ innovation was to consider not one world.. but all worlds which are possible answers to a limited set of questions concerning our environ.. his central notion concerned the extent to which answers that we may give to questions about one set of worlds are probable among a larger set of worlds.. gibbs had a theory that this probability tended naturally to increase as the universe grows older.. the measure of this probability is called entropy.. and the characteristic tendency of entropy is to increase..
as entropy increases, the universe ,and all closed systems in the universe, tend naturally to deteriorate and lose their distinctiveness.. to move from the least to the most probably state, from a state of org and differentiation in which distinctions and forms exist to a state of chaos and sameness..
? – chaos and sameness..?
what does that mean..? sounds more like chaos and inability to define.. which is way diff than same..
ginorm small ness: too big to know.. too small to label
in gibbs’ universe order is least probably, chaos most probably. but while the universe as a whole, if indeed there is a whole uni, tends to run down, there are local enclaves whose direction seems opposed to that of the universe at large and in which here is a limited and temp tendency for org to increase.. life finds its home in some of these enclaves.. it is w this pov at its core that the new science of cybernetics began its development
note: there are those who are skeptical as to the precise identity between entropy and bio disorg.. it will be necessary for me to evaluate these criticisms sooner or later, but for the present i must assume that the differences lie, not in the fundamental nature of these quantities, but in the systems in which they are observed. it is too much to expect a final, clear-cut defn of entropy on which all writers will agree in any less than the closed, isolated system.
1 – cybernetics in history
in giving the defn of cybernetics in the original book, i classed communication and control together.. when i control the actions of another person. i communicate a message to him.. if my control is to be effective i must take cognizance of any messages from his which may indicate that the order is understood and has been obeyed..
it is the thesis of this book that society can only be understood thru a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages between man/machine, machine/man, machine/machines.. are destined to play an ever increasing part..
when i give an order to a machine, the situation is not essentially diff from that which arises when i give an order to a person….. in other words, as far as my consciousness goes i am aware of the order that has gone out and the signal of compliance that has come back… to me personally, the fact that the signal in its intermediate stages has gone thru a machine rather than a person is irrelevant and does not in any case greatly change my relation to the signal… thus the theory of control in engineering, whether human or animal or mechanical, is a chapter in the theory of messages..
the commands thru which we exercise our control over our environ are a kind of info which we impart to it.. like any form of info.. these commands are subject to disorg in transit.. in control and communication we are always fighting nature’s tendency to degrade the org’d and to destroy the meaningful; the tendency, as gibbs has shown us, for entropy to increase
dang.. i don’t get that.. i’d say it’s more our trying to org/control people/nature.. that destroys meaning.. et al
much of this book concerns the limits of communication w/in and among individuals.. man is immersed in a world which he perceives thru his sense organs. info that he receives is coordinated thru his brain and nervous system until, after the proper process of storage, collation, and selection, it emerges thru effector organs, generally his muscles.. these in turn act on the external world, and also react on the central nervous system thru receptor organs such as the end organs of kinaesthesia;
info is a name for the content of what is exchanged w the outer world as we adjust to it, and make our adjustment felt upon it..
the process of receiving and of using info is the process of our adjusting to the contingencies of the outer environ and of our living effectively w/in that environ.. the needs and the complexity of modern life make greater demands on this process of info than ever before, and our press/museums/sci-labs/unis/libraries/textbooks… are obliged to meet the needs of this process or fail in their purpose. to live effectively is to live w adequate info. thus, communication and control belong to the essence of man’s inner life, even as they belong to his life in society..
? – that grouping.. communication and control..
the place of study of communication in the history of science is neither trivial, fortuitous, nor new.
leibnitz, dominated by ideas of communication, is, in more than one way, the intellectual ancestor of the ideas of this book, for he was also interested in machine computation and in automata.. my views in this book are very far from being leibnitzian, but the problems w which i am concerned are most certainly leibnitzian.. leibnitz’s computing machines were only an offshoot of his interest in a computing language, a reasoning calculus which again was in his mind, merely an extension of his idea of a complete artificial language. thus, even in his computing machine, leibnitz’s preoccupations were mostly linguistic and communicational..
in his (einstein) theory of relativity it is impossible to intro the observer w/o also intro ing the idea of message, and w/o in fact, returning the emphasis of physics to a quasi leibnizian state, whose tendency is once again optical…
messages are themselves a form of pattern and organization. indeed, it is possible to treat sets of messages as having an entropy like sets of states of the external world.. just as entropy is a measure of disorganization, the info carried by a set of messages is a measure of organization. in fact, it is possible to interpret the info carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy, and the negative logarithm of its probability. that is, the more probable the message, the less info it gives.. cliches, for ie, are less illuminating than great poems..
leibnitz’s interest in automata… shared by his contemporary.. pascal.. the technique embodied in the automata of his time was that of the clockmaker.. let us consider the activity of the little figures which dance on top a music bos.. they move in accordance w a pattern, but it is a pattern which is set in advance, and in which the past activity of the figures has practically nothing to do with the pattern of their future activity..
there is a message indeed; but it goes from the machinery of the music box to the figures, and stops there.. the figures themselves have no trace of communication w the outer world.. except this one way stage of communication w the pre-established mech of the music box.. they are blind, deaf, and dumb and cannot vary their activity in the least from the conventionalized pattern
sounds like what we’ve done to us
contrast w them the behavior of man, or indeed of any moderately intelligent animal such as a kitten. i call to the kitten and it looks up. i have sent it a message which it has received by its sensory organs and which it registers in action.. kitten is hungry.. lets out a wail.. now the sender
i have contrasted the prearranged behavior of the .. music box.. and contingent behavior of humans/animals.. but we must not suppose the music box is typical of all machine behavior..
the older machines, and in particular the older attempts to produce automata, did in fact function on a closed clockwork basis. but modern automatic machines such as the controlled missile, the proximity fuse, the automatic door opener, the control apparatus for chemical factory, and … possess sense organs.. that is, receptors for messages coming from the outside..
thus.. machine which is conditioned by its relation to external world.. is w us and has been w us for some time.. machine which acts on external world by means of messages is also familiar..
feedback (results of machines own actions) .. sensory members.. it is the function of these mechs to control the mechanical tendency toward disorganization.. in other words, to produce a temporary and local reversal of the normal direction of entropy
perhaps where this all gets tripped up..? feedback doesn’t have to be about getting things in order.. via computation.. perhaps communication (if truly free) would choose to dance w entropy ness.. perhaps in those spaces is where we could truly hear each other..?
it is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy thru feedback..
again.. perhaps machine could be used to gain some order.. but i’m doubting/questioning the benefit of living individual seeking/gaining thru order.. rather.. gaining thru disorder..
ie: collecting info from outer world at low energy levels and making it available in the operation of the individual or machine..
in both.. their performed action on outer world and not merely their intended action, is reported back to the central regulatory apparatus.. *this complex of behavior is ignored by the average man, and in particular does not play the role that it should in our habitual analysis of society; for just as individual physical responses may be seen from this pov, so may the organic responses of society itself.. i do not mean that the sociologist is unaware of the existence and complex nature of communication in society, but until recently he has ended to overlook the extent to which they are the **cement which binds its fabric together..
*before or after we regulated people..? i’d suggest.. if before.. than the feedback was too computational.. ie: not indigenous.. if after.. could be 1\ people are too toxic to hear 2\ message too toxic/irrelevant
**depends.. could be cement.. could be cancer..
we have seen in this chapter the fundamental unity of a complex of ideas which until recently has not been sufficiently associate w one another.. namely.. the contingent view of physics.. toward order and conduct .. and the theory of message among men, machines, and in society as a sequence of events in time which .. though it itself has a certain contingency, *strives to hold back nature’s tendency toward disorder by adjusting its parts to various purposive ends..
betting on it being cancer
2 – progress and entropy
nature’s statistical tendency to disorder, the tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems is expressed by the second law of thermodynamics.. we, as human beings, are not isolated systems. we take in food, which generates energy, from the outside, and are, as a result , parts of that larger world which contains those sources of our vitality..
1st law of therm: the amount of energy w/in a given system is constant.. 2nd law of thermo: energy spontaneously runs down hill in temperature.. in other words, the maxwell demon seems to overcome the tendency of entropy to increase..
The first law of thermodynamics is a version of the law of conservation of energy, adapted for thermodynamic systems. The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.
The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy can never decrease over time for an isolated system, that is, a system in which neither energy nor matter can enter nor leave. The total entropy can remain constant in ideal cases where the system is in a steady state (equilibrium), or is undergoing a reversible process. In all spontaneous processes, the total entropy always increases and the process is irreversible. The increase in entropy accounts for the irreversibility of natural processes, and the asymmetry between future and past.
thus while the demon may temporarily reverse the usual direction of entropy, ultimately it too will wear down.. can work indefinitely only if additional light comes from outside the system and does not correspond in temp .. ie: light from sun
in a system which is not in equilibrium, or in part of such a system, entropy need not increase.. it may in fact, decrease locally.. perhaps this non equilibrium of the world about us is merely a stage in a downhill course which will ultimately lead to equilibrium.. nothing left but a drab uniformity
whenever we find a new phenom which partakes to some degree of the nature of those which we have already termed ‘living phenom’ but does not conform to all the associate aspects which define the term ‘life’ we are faced w problem whether to enlarge the word ‘life’ so as to include them or to define it in a more restrictive way so as to exclude them.. we have encountered this problem in the past in considering viruses, which show some of the tendencies of life – to persist/multiply/organize.. but do not express these tendencies in a fully developed form…
now that certain analogies of behavior are being observed between the machine and the living organism, the problem as to whether the machine is alive or not is, for our purposes, semantic and we are at liberty to answer it one way or the other as best suits our convenience..
if we wish to use the word ‘life ‘ to cover all phenom which locally swim upstream against the current of increasing entropy, we are at liberty to do so..
when i compare the living organism w such a machine, i do not for a moment mean that the specific physical, chemical, and spiritual processes of life as we ordinarily know it are the same as those of life imitating machines. i mean simply that they *both can exemplify locally anti entropic processes, which perhaps may also be exemplified in many other ways which we should naturally term neither biological nor mechanical..
is that *anti entropy ness human?.. natural..? do we know..?.. i ‘m thinking this is more about .. machine- imitating automata.. ie: comparing machine data to human memory; machine decisions to nervous system.. making decisions on basis of decisions made in past
the synapses in the living organism corresponds to the switching device in the machine..
the machine like the living org, is, as i have said, a device which locally and temporarily seems to resist the general tendency of the increase of entropy. by its ability to make decisions it can produce around it a local zone of organization in a world whose general tendency is to run down..
the scientist is always working to discover the order and organization of the universe.. and is thus playing a game against the arch enemy, disorganization..
?disorg as the enemy.. ? what about taleb antifragile law.. gaining from disorder
nature offers resistance to decoding, but it does not show ingenuity in finding new and undecipherable methods for jamming our communication w the outer world..
we are immersed in a life in which the world as a howl obeys the second law of thermo: confusion increases and order decreases. yet, as we have seen, the second law of therm, while it may be a valid statement about the whole of a closed system, is definitely not valid concerning a non isolated part of it..
the result is that in ashby’s machine a, as in darwin’s nature, we have the appearance of a purposefulness in a system which is not purposefully constructed simply because purposelessness is in its very nature transitory.. of course, in the long run, the great trivial purpose of max entropy will appear to be the most enduring of all..
i believe that ashby’s brilliant idea of the unpurposeful random mech which seeks for its own purpose thru a process of learning is not only one of the great philosophical contributions of the present day, but will lead to highly useful tech developments in the task of automatization.. build propose into machines.. machine designed to avoid pitfalls will look or purposes which it can fulfill..
in physics, the idea of progress opposes that of entropy, although there is not absolute contradiction between the two.. in forms fo physics directly dependent on work of newton.. the info which contributes to progress and is directed against the increase of entropy may be carried by extremely small quantities of energy.. or perhaps even by no energy at all.. this view has been altered in the present century by the innovation in physics knows as quantum theory..
quantum theory has led to a new association of energy and info..
what many of us fail to realize is that the last four hundred years are a highly special period in the history of the world. the pace at which changes during these years have taken place is unexampled in earlier history, as it he very nature of these changes.. this is partly the result of increased communication, but also of an increase mastery over nature which, on a limited planet like the earth, may prove in the long run to be an increased slavery of nature
we have modified our environ so radically that we must now modify ourselves in order to exist in this new environ..
we can no longer live in the old one. progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future but new restrictions. it seems almost as if progress itself and our fight against the increase of entropy intrinsically must end in the downhill path from which we are trying to escape..
the simple faith in progress is not a conviction belonging to strength, but one belonging to acquiescence and hence to weakness
3 – rigidity and learning: two patterns fo communicative behavior
certain kinds of machine s and some living organisms – particularly the higher living organisms – can ., as we have seen , modify their patterns of behavior on the basis of past experience so as to achieve specific anti entropic ends.. in these higher forms of communicative organisms the environ, considered as the past experience of the individual, can modify the pattern of behavior in to one which in some sense or other will deal more effectively w the future environ..
thinking about this from video on convo page..
it takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say..
and how it’s improv ness is what keeps it alive.. this seems counter to that.. and called – higher living orgs..? seems more machine like.. than living like..
in other words, the organism is not like the clockwork monad of leibnitz w its pre established harmony w the universe, but actually seeks a new equilibrium w the universe and it s future contingencies. its present is unlike its past and its future unlike is present. in the living organism as in the universe itself, exact repetition is absolutely impossible..
still a cycle..
let me give still another ie of feedback which will clarify its function w respect to learning.. panama locks; states; armies; ..admin govt/uni/corp; policy; lecturer..
all these books.. all the ie’s are from our manufactured states.. we’re caught in the non repeating yet repetitive ness of the cycle of not us.. dang.
eskimo communities.. seems to be no chieftainship and very little subordination.. so that the basis of the social community is simply the common desire to survive against enormous odds of climate and food supply.. then socially stratified communities in india.. communication closely restricted.. by ancestry and position..
sounds opposite of what amy was talking about .. on colder weather causing problems..
these worshipers of efficiency would like to have each man move in a social orbit meted out to him from his childhood, and perform a function to which hs is bound as the serf was bound to the clod.. w/in the american social picture, it is shameful to have these yearnings, and this denial of opps implied by an uncertain future.. accordingly, many of those who are most attached to this orderly state of permanently allotted functions would be confounded if they were forced to admit this publicly..
in the ant community, each worker performs its proper functions. there may be a separate caste of soldiers. .. if man were to adopt this community as a pattern, he would live in a fascist state.. in which rulers are perpetually rulers, soldiers perpetually soldiers.. peasant never more than a peasant.. worker doomed to be a worker..
ant.. to be essentially stupid and unlearning individual.. on other hand.. human .. capable of vast learning and study which may occupy almost half of his life.. is physically equipped as the ant is not.. for this capacity
whoa.. i’d say the ant is closer to freedom than us .. ie: science of people in schools.. your words sound true.. but how we’ve played it out has made us machine like more than human
variety and possibility belong to he very structure of the human organism..
yet we structure/pigeonhole ourselves.. more than the way you are describing the ants..
while it is possible to thro away this enormous advantage that we have over the ants and to org the fascist ant state w human material, i certainly believe that this is a degradation of man’s very nature.. and economically a waste of the great human values which man possesses
indeed.. although.. it’s what we’ve done.. in tying everything to ie: control; market econ; ..
if the human being is condemned and restricted to perform the same functions over and over agin, he will not even be a good ant.. not to mention a good human being.. those who would org us according to permanent individual function s and permanent individual restrictions condemn the human race to move at much less than half steam
not even moving.. rather.. zombie’s.. waiting for daily supposed to’s.. (taught to them in their education of nearly half their life)
(on both ant and human being land.. air breathing).. this transition from water to land, wherever it has occurred, ahs involved radical improvements in breathing, in the circulation generally, in the mechanical support of the organism, and in the sense organs..
an internal skeleton such as man’s can grow with the animal.. and external skeleton (unless, like the shell of the snail, it grows by accretion) cannot. it is dead tissue and possesses no intrinsic capability of growth. it serves to give a firm protection to the body and an attachment for the muscles, but it amounts t a strait jacket..
so not only is the insect structurally incapable of a first rate memory he is also structurally incapable of an effective size..
thus the insect is rather like the kind of computing machine whose instruction are all set forth in advance.. the behavior of an ant is much more a matter of instinct than of intelligence.. the physical strait jacket in which an insect grows up is directly responsible for the mental strait jacket which regulates its pattern of behavior..
cybernetics takes the view that the structure of the machine or of the organism is an index of the performance that may be expected from it.. theoretically.. if we could build a machine whose mechanical structure duplicated human physiology (mechanical fluidity) we could have a machine whose intellectual capacities would duplicate those of human beings..
(on man recognized as immature until the age of 21).. and the modern period of ed for the higher walks of life continues until about 30.. man thus spends what may amount to 40% of his normal life as a learner, again from reasons that have to do w his physical structure.. it is as completely natural for a human society to be based on learning as for an ant society to be *based on an inherited pattern..
oy.. all good and well.. but in organizing/controlling that idea.. we spend 20 some years.. not learning.. rather.. *basing our day on an inherited pattern..
crazy.. promoting ed from viewpoint of fluidity of human body..
man like all other organism lives in a contingent universe, but man’s advantage over the rest of nature is that he has the physiological and hence the intellectual equip to adapt himself to radical changes in his environ.. the human species is strong only in so far as it takes advantage of the innate adaptive, learning faculties that its physiological structure makes possible..
which we are not doing.. we are doing the opposite of that..
(on feedback) .. this form of learning is most certainly a feedback, but it is a feedback on a higher level, a feedback of policies and not of simple actions..
this pattern of behavior may also be found in machines..
it’s that the policy ness is machining us.. not humanizing the machines…
i repeat, feedback is a method of controlling a system by reinserting it into the results of its past performance. if these results are merely used as numerical data for the criticism of the system and its regulation, we have the simple feedback of the control engineers. if, however, the info which proceeds backward from the performance is able to change the general method and pattern of performance, we have a process which may well be called learning..
another ie of learning process.. predictive machines.. ww 2.. and the gunner
the advance process of learning which we have here discussed
the gun thing.. advanced process.. dang
is still limited by the mechanical conditions of the system in which it occurs, and clearly does not correspond to the normal process of learning in man.. but from this process we can infer quite different ways in which learning of a complex sort can be mechanized..
nice.. exactly.. we get ed from copying the way we kill each other
this all or nothing machine is called a digital machine. it has great advantages for the most varied problems of communication and control.. in particular the sharpness of the decision between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ permits it to accumulate info in such a way as to allow us to discriminate very small differences in very large numbers..
besides these machines which work on a yes and no scale, there are other computing and control machines which measure rather than count. these are known as analogy machines.. because they operate on the basis of analogous connections between the measured quantities and the numerical quantities supposed to represent them.. an ie of an analogy machine is a slide rule.. in contrast w a desk computing machine which operates digitally..
in other words.. machines that measure, as opposed to machines that count are very greatly limited in their precision.. so more or less done on digital basis..
however if we insist too strongly on the brain as a glorified digital machine.. we shall be subject to some very just criticism..
it is therefore necessary that in considering the problem of learning, we should be most wary of assuming an all or none theory of the nervous system, w/o having made an intellectual criticism of the notion, and w/o specific experimental evidence to back our assumption..
actually.. we just shouldn’t
locke – end of 17th cent.. considered the content of the mind was made up of what he calls ideas.. the mind for him is entirely passive, a clean backboard, tabula rasa, on which the experiences of the individual write their own impressions.. if impressions appear often.. will form complex ideas.. the mech by which the ideas stick together lies in the ideas themselves; but there is throughout lockes’ writing singular unwillingness to describe such a mech..
pavlov.. lower animals cannot speak in man’s language but in the language of behavior.. much of their more conspicuous behavior is emotional in its motivation and much of their emotion is concerned w food..
here we have on the level of the animal reflex, something analogous to lock’es association of ideas..
ie: reflex of cows to electric fence.. original trigger is pain.. transferred trigger is the sight of the fence…
leading to reasons which would otherwise have been closed.. cybernetics.. change in taping..
the interesting thing is that the new, active stimulus need have almost nothing predetermined about it except the fact of repeated concomitance w the original stimulus..
4 – the mechanism and history of language
it may seem curious to the reader that we admit machines to the field of language and yet almost totally deny language to the ants. nevertheless, in constructing machines, it is often very important for us to extend to them certain human attributes which are not found among the lower members of the animal community
in a certain sense, all communication systems terminate in machines, but the ordinary language systems terminate in the special sort of machine known as a human being..
it is quite clear that if left alone, babies will make attempts at speech. . and do not follow any existing form of language. it is almost equally clear that if a community of children were left out of contact w the langauge of their seniors thru the critical speech forming years, they would emerge w something.. would be unmistakably a langue..
in man.. the impulse to use some sort of language is overwhelming; but that the particular language used is a matter which as to be learned in each special case..
it apparently is built into the brain itself, that we are to have preoccupation w codes ad w sounds of speech.. and can be extended .. speech to.. visual.. however, there is on t one fragment of these codes which is born into us as a pre established ritual…. not the gift of speech, but the gift of the power of speech..
to sum up, the human interest in language seems to be an innate interest in coding and decoding and this seems to be as nearly specifically human as any interest can be. speech is the greatest interest and most distinctive achievement of man
what about mutes..? what about people like me
the scientist, whose main work must always concern itself w content rather than w perfection of form.
the result was that the people who taught latin and the people who used latin became ever more widely separated classes.. until the teachers completely eschewed the problem of teaching their disciples anything but the most polished and unusable ciceronian speech.. in this vacuum they ultimately eliminated any function for themselves other than that of specialists.. for this sin of pride, we now have to pay in the absence of an adequate international language..
the greek language of the time of aristotle was ready to compromise w the technical jargon of a brilliant scholar.. while even the english of his learned and revered successors is not willing to compromise w the similar needs of modern speech..
grammar is no longer primarily normative.. it has become factual.. the question is not what code should we use, but what code do we use..
we have thus established the basis in man for the simplest element of his communication: namely, the communication of man w man by the immediate use of language, when two men are face to face w one another..
among primitive groups the size of the community for an effective communal life is restricted by the difficulty of transmitting language.. for many millennia, this difficulty was enough to reduce the optimum size of the state to something of the order of a few million people, and generally fewer.. and larger.. due to improved communication mechs
jo freeman ness
but as efficient as communications’ mechs become, they are sill as they have always been, subject to the overwhelming tendency for entropy to increase, for info to leak in transit, unless certain external agents are intro’d to control it..
speech is a joint game by the talker and the listener against the forces of confusion
it is not the quantity of info sent that is important for action, but rather the quantity of info which can penetrate into a communication and storage apparatus sufficiently to serve as the trigger for action
what is important is not merely the info that we put into the line, but what is left of it when it goes thru the final ..
semantically significant info in the machine as well as in man is info which gets thru to an activating mech in the system that receives it, despite man’s and/or nature’s attempts to subvert it.. from the pov of cybernetics, semantics defines the extent of meaning and controls its loss in a communications system
5 – organization as the message
organism is opposed to chaos, to disintegration, to death, as message is to noise.
the process by which we living beings resist the general stream of corruption and decay is known as homeostasis
we can continue to live in the very special environ which we carry forward w us only until we begin to decay more quickly than we can reconstitute ourselves.. then we die..
if body temp rises/sinks ten degrees.. all but sure to die. the oxygen, carbon dioxide and salt in our blood, the hormones flowing from our ductless glands, are all regulated by mechs which tend to resist any untoward changes in their levels…. these mechs .. homeostasis.. and are negative feedback mechs of a type that we may find exemplified in mechanical automata..
it is the pattern maintained by this homeostasis which is the touchstone of our personal id..
our tissues change as we live: the food we eat and the air we breathe become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones.. and the momentary elements of our flesh and bone pass out of our body every day.. we are not stuff that abides.. but patterns that perpetuate themselves..
a pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message..
one thing is clear.. the physical id of an individual does not consist in the matter of which it is made.. modern methods of tagging the elements participating in metabolism have shown a much higher turnover than was long thought possible, not ony the body as a whole, but of each and every component part of it.. the biological individuality of an organism seems to lie in a certain continuity of process, and in the memory by the organism of the effects of its past development..appears to hold also of its mental development…
there is no inconsistency in a living individual forking or divaricating into two individuals sharing the same past, but growing more and more different. this is what happens w identical twins; but there is no reason why it could not happen w what we call the mind.. w/o a similar split of the body..
moreover, it is thinkable that two large machines which had previously not been coupled may become coupled so as to work from that stage on as a single machine..
to recapitulate: the individuality of the body is that of a flame rather than that of a stone, of a form rather than of a bit of substance..this form can be transmitted or modified and duplicated, although at present we know only how to duplicate it over a short distance..
? duplicated..? of just moved
the idea that one might conceivably travel by telegraph in addition to traveling by train or airplane is not intrinsically absurd
? huge diff there.. in one.. human is just moved.. in other.. form is changed.. which isn’t a duplicate..?
it is possible to evaluate something like the amount of significant info conveyed by all the genes in a germ cell, and thereby to determine the amount of hereditary info as compared w learned info.. that a human being possesses..
i don’t think so
any scanning of the human organism must be a probe going thru all its parts, and will, accordingly, tend to destroy the tissue on its way.. to hold an organism stable while part of it is being slowly destroyed .. with the intention of re creating it out of other material elsewhere , involves a lowering of its degree of activity, which in most cases would destroy life in the tissue..
in other words. the fact that we cannot telegraph the pattern of man from one place to another seems to be due to technical difficulties, and in particular, to the difficulty of keeping an organism in being during such a radical reconstruction.. the idea itself is highly plausible.. as for the problem of the radical reconstruction of the living organism, it would be hard to find any such reconstruction much more radical than that of a butterfly during its period as a pupa.
sounding like two loop theory
not following this for an individual.. because in two loop.. one does die (way of living) in the translation/transmitting
it will be well to reconsider kipling’s test of the importance of traffic in the modern world from the pov of a traffic which is overwhelmingly not so much the transmission of human bodies as the transmission of human info..
6 – law and communication
law may be defined as the ethical control applied to communication, and to language as a form of communication, esp when this normative aspect is under the control of some authority sufficiently strong to give its decision an effective social sanction.. it is the process of adjusting the ‘couplings’ connecting the behavior of diff individual sin such a way that what we call justice may be accomplished, and disputes may be avoided or at least adjudicated. thus the theory and practice of the law involves tow sets of problems: those of its general purpose, of its conception of justice; and those of the technique by which these concepts of justice can be made effective..
let us look at the mater from the simplest pov – that of the contract..
besides this gross injustice (land treaties between whites and indians), there was a semantic injustice, which was perhaps even greater. the indians as a hunting people had no idea of land as private property. for them there was no such ownership and ownership in fee simple.. in their treaties w the settlers.. what they wished to convey were hunting rights and generally only concomitant hunting rights over certain regions.. not even a semblance of justice was possible, not did it exist..
let us put it this way: the first duty of the law, whatever the second and third ones are, is to know what it wants.. the first duty of the legislator or the judge is to make clear unambiguous statements, which not only experts, but the common man of the times will interpret in one way and in one way only…. the problems of law may be considered communicative and cybernetic.. they are problems of orderly and repeatable control of certain critical situations..
controlling machines.. not us
there are vast fields of law where there is no satisfactory semantic agreement between what the law intends to say and the actual situation that it contemplates.. whenever such a theoretical agreement fails to exist, we shall have the same sort of no man’s land that faces us when we have two currency systems w/o an accept basis of exchange.. in the zone of unconformity between one court and another or one coinage and another, there is always a refuge for the dishonest middleman..
rather.. with law and money.. you compromise humanity.. can no longer assume good.. because.. we aren’t ourselves..
the greatest opp of the criminal in the modern community lies in this position as a dishonest broker in the interstices of the law.. noise.. regarded as a confusion factor in human communications, is damaging but not consciously malicious.. this is true as far as sci communication goes, and to a large extent in ordinary convo between two people.. it is most emphatically not true in language as it is used in the law courts..
the whole nature of our legal system is that of conflict.. bluff or sending messages w deliberate purpose of concealing the strategy of the sender is not only permitted but encouraged
7 – communication, secrecy, and social policy
the fate of info in the typically american world is to become something which can be bought or sold.
it is not by business to cavil whether this mercantile attitude is moral or immoral, crass or subtle. it is my business to show that it leads to the misunderstanding and the mistreatment of info and its associated concepts.. i shall take this up in several fields, beginning w that of patent law..
behind our patent law and our patent policy is an implicit philosophy of private property and of the rights thereto..
just as entropy is a measure of disorder, so info is a measure of order.. info and entropy are not conserved, and are equally unsuited to being commodities..
the problem of the work of art as a commodity raises a large number of questions important in the theory of info.. hard to not share.. easy to make copies
property of weapons.. storing in between wars.. info and security.. et al
the hurrying up of the pace of science, owing to our active simultaneous search for all means of attacking our enemies and of protecting ourselves.. leads to ever increasing demands for new research… to defend ourselves against this phantom we must look to new sci measure, each more terrible than the last (ie: atomic bomb).. there is no end to this vast apocalyptic spiral.. whether takes form of shooting or the saver form of diplomacy..
the whole technique of secrecy, message jamming, and bluff, is concerned w insuring that one’s own side can make use of the forces and agencies of communication more effectively than the other side..
in the long run.. there is no distinction between arming ourselves and arming our enemies..
8 – role of the intellectual and the scientist
properly speaking the artist, the writer, and the scientist should be moved by such an irresistible impulse to create that, even if they were not being paid for their work, they would be willing to pay to get the chance to do it. however, we are in a period in which forms have largely superseded educational content and one which is moving toward and ever increasing thinness of educational content. it is now considered perhaps more a matter of social prestige to obtain a higher degree and follow what may be regarded as a cultural career than a matter of any deep impulse
skills and signaling
heaven save us from the first novels which are written because a young man desire the prestige of being a novelist rath er than because he has something to say.. from the math papers which are correct and elegant but w/o body or spirits.. ..in the arts, the desire to find new things to say and new ways of saying the is the source of all life and interest..
i protest, not ony as i have already done against the cutting off of intellectual originality by the difficulties of the means of communication in the modern world.. but even more against the ax which has been put to the root of originality because the people who have elected communication as a career so often have nothing more to communicate..
9 – the first and the second industrial revolution
first industrial revolution: machine as an alt to human muscle.. second industrial revolution:
the notion of programming in the factory .. was ready to be transferred to the machine..the automatic factory – 2nd industrial rev
10 – some communication machines and their future
hearing aids.. and chess playing.. machines
11 – language, confusion, and jam
(on policy of research scientist being to play it safe).. this pov is unjustified..communication in general, and sci research in particular, involve a great deal of effort even if it is useful effort, and the fighting of bogies which are not there wastes effort which ought to be economized.. we can not go thru our communication or sci lives shadow boxing w ghosts.. experience has pretty well convinced the working physicist that any idea of a nature which is not only difficult to interpret but which actively resists interpretation has not been justified as far as his past work is concerned, and therefore, to be an effective scientist, he must be naive, and even deliberately naive, in making the assumption that he is dealing w an honest god, and must ask his questions of the world as an honest man
thus the naiveté of a scientist, while it is a professional adaptation is not a professional defect. a man who approaches science w the pov of an officer of detective police would spend most of his time frustrating tricks that are never going to be played on him.. trailing suspects who would be perfectly willing to give an answer to a direct question… .. i have not the slightest doubt that the present detective-mindedness of the lords of sci admin is one of the chief reasons for the barrenness of so much present sci work.
in this present day when almost every ruling force, whether on the right or left, asks the scientist for conformity rather than openness of mind, it is easy to understand how science has already suffered, and what further debasements/frustration are to be expected..
the devil whom the scientist is fighting is the devil of confusion, not of willful malice..
science is a way of life which can ony flourish when men are free to have faith.. a faith which we follow upon orders imposed from outside is not faith, and a community which puts its dependence upon such a pseudo faith is ultimately bound to ruin itself because of the paralysis which the lack of a healthily growing science imposes upon it
We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.
Just as entropy is a measure of disorganization, the information carried by a set of messages is a measure of organization. In fact, it is possible to interpret the information carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy, and the negative logarithm of its probability. That is, the more probable the message, the less information it gives.
Just as entropy tends to increase spontaneously in a closed system, so information tends to decrease
To be alive is to participate in a continuous stream of influences from the outer world and acts on the outer world, in which we are merely the transitional stage. In the figurative sense, to be alive to what is happening in the world, means to participate in a continual development of knowledge and its unhampered exchange.
Weiner’s most visionary point is that if we are to not only survive but thrive as a civilization and a species, we must encode these same values of affection and respect into our machines, our information systems, and our technologies of communication, so that “the new modalities are used for the benefit of man, for increasing his leisure and enriching his spiritual life, rather than merely for profits and the worship of the machine as a new brazen calf.” ..t