When Newton meets Heinz Von Foerster, Complexity vanishes and Simplicity reveals
Complexity is a mindset. It’s a perception. In any entity, artificial or natural, there is a natural simplicity ingrained. May be its hidden. But, through interest and efforts, may be many times automatically, the inherent simplicity gets revealed.
According to Newton, nature is exceedingly simple and comfortable or harmonious to herself. The Newtonian paradigm, as is well-known, is the reductionist linear paradigm, the mainstay of the most academic work in the natural and social sciences. In it, the observer is said to be neutral and objective. The observation of same object by different observers, even at different time, yield same results. Such notion of value free observation seems okay when the object is a physical system. The difficulty arises when the object is a social system, including business systems and economic systems; not to speak of the socio-cultural systems.
Pickering observes that cybernetics is an instantiation of a different paradigm. In terms of years, the discipline of Cybernetics is still young. However, in the 1970s, the field of cybernetics took a revolutionary turn based on the celebrated contribution entitled ‘Cybernetics of cybernetics’ of Heinz von Foerster. He distinguished between the cybernetics of observed systems and the cybernetics of observing systems in which observer is explicitly included in the system under study. Thanks to the explosive growth of information-based technologies, cybernetics, the idea coined in the 1940s by Norbert Weiner, lives on through the use of simulation which may be termed as neo-cybernetics . Kabir, a mystic poet and saint of India, dating back to the 14th century, writes in one of his couplets- A pitcher in water, water in pitcher, water outside and inside. I feel, this is a precursor to what Foerster called ‘cybernetics of cybernetics’.
As per the epistemology of ‘constructivism’, reality is not only to be found by subjects, but can also be constructed by them. Wallner talks about the constructed world as the cognitive reality (world we are capable of knowing) and the world outside this construction as reality that is environment. The relation between the observing and the observed, knowledge and reality, the subject and the object is thus no less than a puzzle. Some connects the definition of complexity to the subjectivity of the observer.
Ranulph Glanville claims in ‘Designing Complexity’ that complexity is an observer’s choice rather than given by a mind independent reality. Eliyahu Goldratt painstakingly illustrates in his book ‘the choice’ that ‘reality is built in wonderful simplicity’. In the present work, we, harnessing various disciplines and thinking processes, attempt to model any ‘reality’ as such and experience that there is simplicity inherent in the reality. The thesis in the paper is that complexity is a perception. It’s simple though not simplistic. Realization so far through living in Cybernetics has been that simplification is the solution. It’s a different matter that lot of pedaling goes beneath the water to expose or reveal the natural simplicity and attain the solution.
- 3) Experimental epistemology; constructivism; philosophy of science
- 8) Neurobiology; consciousness studies