From Doing to Knowing and Back: The Cybernetics of Wisdom
In The Tree of Knowledge, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela coined the aphorism: “All doing is knowing, and all knowing is doing.” Russell Ackoff, in a variety of references, distinguishes data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom from each other, and then applies those distinctions to the design of an educational system that preserves human individuality and creativity. This paper brings these ideas together to formulate a way of thinking about learning, competence, education and our society at large. It culminates in a discussion of the concept of wisdom, drawing on Varela’s notion, particularly as presented in Ethical Know-How, that there can be no wisdom without love. Implications for the design of a desirable educational system, and hence for the transformation of society, are postulated.
1. Introduction: Knowing, Doing and Understanding
2. A Way of Thinking about Learning and Competence
3. The Cybernetics of Wisdom
4. A Radical Proposal for an Alternative Educational System
5. Conclusion: The Transformation of Society