ASC logo   ASC Home Page

American Society for Cybernetics (ASC)
2004 Conference



Keynote Presentations

Glanville, Ranulph

Control, Imagination and Addiction:
Some Cybernetics of How we Limit and Transcend Ourselves

Thursday August 5, 8:00 P.M.


Bunnell, Pille

The Biology of Astrology: A Lineage of Coherences Between Biology, Explanation and Wellness

Friday, August 6, 8:00 P.M.


Krippendorff, Klaus

  Saturday, August 7 8:00 P.M.


Panel - A Systems Approach to Gambling Addiction


Thursday August 5, 8:00 P.M.

Richard Govoni (Chair)

Ph.D., Co-Director, Problem Gambling Research Group, University of Windsor

Nigel Turner

Ph.D. Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Masood Zangeneh

M.Ed. Research Associate, Center for Addiction and Mental Health

Faculty, Centennial College.



Boyd, Gary

Improving Soul Through Modeling and Communication

It is argued that the main biologically evolved imperative that specifically characterizes human beings is to improve the lastingness and eco-beneficiality of the most important parts of our personal-collective identities (souls). We acquire and pass soulstuff on to others through all the Arts, through Games, through education and through physical architectures and social architectures. The"immortability" of soulstuff depends on aesthetic attractiveness, coherence, and its practical technical potency. Cybersystemics, the science of embedded communicontrol systems has shown the central importance of Signal to Noise ratio, and the generalization of this to Control-variety to Disturbance veriety ratio, to the proportion of all messages including distributed execution programs such as our souls. It is argued also that under current circumstances and with currently available tools, that probably the Œbest' way to improve soul viability (immortability) is through participatory modeling and simulation-running accompanied by Paskian learning conversations.

Thursday August 5, 4:00 P.M.


Congleton, Chris

Towards a Transportation Therapy:
Communication, Reflexivity and Travel Behavior

Friday August 6, 3:20P.M.


Film: Why Community Electric Vehicles

Sunday, August 7, 5:30 P.M.

Conrad, Wayne

Our Currently Unsustainable Future and What We Can Do About It

In the natural world, behaviours that threaten the survival of an organism or a species typically encounter negative feedback which moderates these destructive trends. However, our modern society is developing products and processes in a vicious circle that threatens our health, our welfare, and our economy. Yet, the marketplace and society currently reinforce such destructive designs. Several examples of automotive, recreational vehicles, solar power, wind power and water treatment development are given to demonstrate the problem and several possible solutions are proposed. The concept of sustainability is at the heart of the discussion and can lead to new products and processes that do not compromise either the enjoyable nature or usability of products and processes, yet are sustainable for future generations.

Friday August 5, 4:00 P.M.

Dorsey, Ely

Racism and the Biology of Love

I want to give a talk on racism and the biology of love and how some of the work on Evil and Ethics comes into play. I want to talk about the idea that love is not a choice and what that would lead to in terms of the human conversation.

Thursday August 5, 4:30 P.M.

Dorsey, Ely and Kaufmann, Lou

Recreation of the Einstein-Bohr Conversation

Quantum theory is notorious as a physical theory (or framework for theory) that works very well and yet has no fully accepted interpretation. This is in stark contrast to e.g. General Relativity where the idea of space time curvature is a universally accepted interpretation of the meaning of the theory. In quantum mechanics, predictions are couched in probabilistic language, but no one knows what is being counted to produce these possibilities. The mathematics of the theory consists in deterministic unitary evolutions broken up by discontinuous measurement where the probability comes in. Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr had an extraordinary series of debates on the nature of quantum theory, with Einstein taking the position that "God does not play dice." And Bohr taking the position that "Understanding nature involves understanding the nature of complementarity.

Saturday August 7, 3:30 P.M.

Fressadi, Arek

The Self-Esteem of Cybernetics

Friday August 7, 2:30P.M.

Harries-Jones, Peter

Why Gregory Bateson Insisted Aesthetics
Was Necessary to the Well-Being of Systems

Friday August 6, 9:45 AM

Ing, David

Enabling Collective Knowledge Work Through the Design of Mediating Spaces (from a paper written with Ian Simmonds)

Collaborative production of physical goods was largely based on geographic proximity to factors of production in traditional guilds or family-centered businesses where the community of workers and owners recognize each other on a first name basis. The community shares and reproduces a common set of skills, practices and knowledge sets largely because they share a common physical space. In contrast, the interconnected, knowledge based, technology-enabled society has made mobile and distributed work the norm. Teams are rapidly assembled and disbanded and an individual who plays a senior role one week, may be junior in the next. Instead of assembling a group of generalists, teams bring together specialists, often with little overlap in skills and knowledge. We propose a framework for designers of businesses and designers of information systems that portrays three forms of Œspace' that mediate social interactions: physical space, social space and informatic space. The framework aids understanding of the complexities of work enabled, by contrasting the properties of spaces and their interactions.

Friday August 6, 2:30 P.M.

Jackson, Peter

Exploring Dimensions of Community

In this interactive session, participants will explore how individuals and organizations integrate their constituent parts into well functioning organic wholes. Session leader Peter Jackson provides consulting services in strategic change.

Thursday August 5, 2:30 P.M.

Kauffman, Lou

Knots, Self-Reference and Laws of form

This presentation will begin with the notion of a distinction and with a participant discussion of what might a distinction be, what distinctions are fundamental, what is the role of circularity at the emergence of meaning? We will go from there to Laws of Form, Concepts of Sign and Space, levels of circularity, including eigenforms, recursions, knots and topological forms, structure of conversation. This is an open discussion of the nature of form in a cybernetic context.

Saturday August 7, 10:30 A.M.

Kieu, Cindy and Borges, Jason

A Viable Systems Model of St. Thomas Choir School

The presentation will address the viability of a high school and its viability within the broader scope of the education system. The high school under examination was selected because of its unique blend of public and private organizations created situations and scenarios raising questions as to the health of the learning environment and student development. Given the role that academic institutions play in developing students and leaving behind lifelong memories and imprint, a lack of transparency, blind spots, and warning of systemic conflicts can result in serious consequences if left ignored. In the fall of 1997, St. Thomas Choir School and its revered administrators came under investigation following various disciplinary incidents at the school. Stafford Beer's Viable System Model (VSM) was used to sift through the roles, responsibilities and procedures to reach a proper diagnosis of the problem. Our goal was to determine the systemic weaknesses causing the failure to acknowledge and address warning signs in the disciplinary system at STCS. Furthermore, a plan for change and the management of that change will be outlined.

Saturday August 7, 9:30 A.M.

Komlos, David

Team Syntegrity: A Science for Managing Complexity

Executives and managers who must face their organization's most pressing problems, and seize their greatest opportunities, know how to look for, find and assess lots of advice that bears on their major issues. The best available advice insightfully identifies weaknesses ("You are here") and clearly describes improvements (" Go there"). But few approaches offer practical aid for those trying to lead an enterprise from "here" to "there". Team Syntegrity is an exception. This presentation will delve into Team Syntegrity - a revolutionary breakthrough in applied cybernetics that provides a systemic, holistic approach for "how to" of execution that yields consistent and compelling results.

Saturday August 7, 9:00 A.M.

Leonard, Allenna

A Viable System Model of the Electrical Grid

Large scale systems, such as the electricity grid, often develop non-viable structures due to a competing mix of interests, ideologies and histories. This results in breakdowns, often major ones such as the blackout last August that left fifty million people in the northeastern United States and Ontario without power and caused losses for businesses and homes in the affected areas. A Viable System Model, with three levels of recursion will be used to diagnose some of the problems in the current structure. While most VSM's are done on smaller situations and often inside, or with the collaboration of those inside the organization, many public issues can benefit from analysis conducted from outside. The public discourse on issues that affect us all will benefit from different treatments and models, based on the perspectives of different observers or stakeholders.

Sunday, August 8, 9:00 AM

Müller, Karl

Health, Well-Being, Inequality and Living Conditions
from a Second Order Point of View

In recent years, the linkages between health, well-being, living conditions and social inequality turn out to be rather fragile and only weakly connected. Taking the classical dimensions of stratification and social inequality like income or education as reference categories, there is a wide spread agreement across a large number of comparative studies that the linkages between thee four domains become weaker to the point of statistical insignificance. What the paper will demonstrate, however, is that, on the one hand, health issues can be brought into the arena of second order cybernetics (SOC) and to the SOC-core heuristics. On the other hand, a new way of cybernetic re-conceptualizations of living conditions, placing heavy emphasis on action potential, control and access, will offer a comprehensive platform which will allow, inter alia, to introduce a multi-dimensional concept of socio-economic life chances (Max Weber). With the help of a five stage procedure under the name of PATHS, a new scale of risk accumulation can be constructed. In turn, the new scale as well as the new measure of social inequality, based on this scale, will establish, contrary to the conventional wisdom, a surprisingly dense connection pattern between living conditions, social inequality, the status of health as well as living in well-being. These new highly interlinked patterns will be supported with the help of a large number of international surveys. Finally, the talk will point out several new implications for an integrated health and social policy, based on these new findings as well as on the new theoretical framework.

Thursday August 5, 9:30 A.M.

Pickering, Andrew

Cybernetics and Madness:

from Electroshock to the Psychedelic 60’s

Canonical histories of cybernetics locate its origins in the intersection of mathematics and engineering during World War II. Actually, the field owed as much or more to its continuing associations with psychiatry and madness. I expand on this thesis in an examination of the work of one of the British pioneers of cybernetics W. Grey Walter. Walter is best remembered for the small and attractive robot Œ tortoises' he built in the late 1940's, and I discuss these as the science of a materialist approach to the mind and brutalist forms of therapy (electroshock, lobotomy). Plunging off in anther direction, I then discuss cross-overs from Walter's investigations of the brain to the Œaltered states' of the psychedelic 60's - exemplified in the persons of Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Finally, I turn to a different axis of cybernetic development going via Gregory Bateson to R.D. Laing and the anti-psychiatry movement - another key thread of the high 1960's.

Thursday August 5, 1:30 P.M.

Reynolds, Ern

A Campaign Seen Systemically

Friday, August 6, 1:30 P.M.

Whistleblower as Alarm Channel

Sunday, August 8, 10:30 A.M.

Schwab, Amy and Schmaltz, David

What We Cannot Speak About

Anyone applying second-order techniques when consulting discovers that our language cannot explain the results. In organizations insisting upon defined process, formal methods, and predictable results, trying to explain the differences that make real differences can leave us babbling. We must be stealthy when applying our techniques, and curiously mute when asked to explain how our conversations work. This session will offer a brief experience of second order change and consider, in reflection on this shared experience, how we might describe what happened in ways acceptable to a client who expects straightforward explanations for profound effects.

Friday August 6, 11:00 A.M

What We Can Change and What We Cannot

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." Yogi Berra In a world hungry for effective change techniques, we have been unsuccessful in gaining wide-spread acceptance of second-order approaches. This change might be unnecessary, as second-order techniques do not need first order explanations to work, though they might seem to require such explanation to sell. This session will consider the dilemmas encountered when applying second-order cybernetic insights in practice. Participants will employ second-order techniques as a medium for resolving this dilemma and consider together how these theories work in practice.

.Sunday August 8, 9:30 A.M.

Seeley, Doug

Constructivism and the Sensuous World:
have We Lost the Connection and, hence, Our Well-Being?

Social constructivism is often based upon verbal or gestural language, and effectively launches from an abstract conceptual basis. This talk briefly reviews Abram's arguments for a split in conscious attention from a sensuous immersion in a unified living world, often associated with a danger to both the mental and bodily health of the person. The split is also seen as the primary cause for our species' threat to the well-being of the planet's biosphere. Finally, an approach to incorporating the wisdom of the first person consciousness to scientific dialogue will be suggested.

Friday August 6, 9:00 A.M.

Simpson, Beth

Performance: Punishment is a Threat

I will be exploring the relationship between punishment and threat - who they are speaking to and in what/whose interest. Discussion to follow.

Saturday August 7, 7:30

Truss, Joe and Cullen, Chris

Geometry and Structure, Form and Function —
Explorations of Team Syntegrity

Using models and graphics, we will explore the general architecture, the various structures and internal forms, including a brief introduction to the embedded enneagram, of the Team Syntegrity Icosahedron and related forms and the use of colours and roles in its application as protocol for planning and group process.

Saturday August 7, 1:30 P.M.

In Memoriam

An open forum for anyone who wishes to pay homage or make comments concerning members of our cybernetics community who we have lost in the last few years

Sunday, August 8, 11:15 AM

Moderator: Allenna Leonard