The Institute on Man and Science; Systems Interact, part III
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and human relationships resulting from its application on this program. V.L. Parsi Jhon of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute concludes his discussion of the topic. What systems analysis has taught us about ourselves and the natural world. Here now is Mr. Parsi age in the past two mornings we have discussed the interrelationship of output in a form of feedback which
greatly modifies the cause and effect principles by showing that there are interlaced shapes output and input and they. Systems diagram. And the concept of cybernetics. Concepts of cybernetics tend to help us in our orientation toward attacking any situation for purposes of analysis B whether the situation is in the physical in physical systems our social systems or whatever we've gone through this the past two mornings in some detail this morning. I would like to go into an extension of these. And try to relate it to some of the basic concepts of science in the physical world and to some extent in the biological Where does the interrelationships of these basic principles by which we
identify science with some of the things we've been talking about. I'd like first to discuss how we live in terms of ideas becoming indeed heated and generated and developed again because I don't have the project or tried to reproduce on the board. The items that I must refer to. Supposing we begin with the physical world. Let's call this long rectangle. The physical environment within which we as individuals live biological and physical invite. We as an individual might be in a box just above it
over here. And as individuals we interrelate with our environment with arrows pointing both ways. In fact very many arrows pointing both ways from us to our biological and physical environment and from the environment to our interaction is of course in many forms. We are products of the physical environment. We are dust of the dust of the earth. We are altogether dependent on the physical environment in which of which we are a part. We have experiences this interrelationship between us has a certain amount of very elemental character reflex reactions such as we discussed yesterday which do not require much thinking.
A great many of the acts in which we become involved in the course of the day in the course of a lifetime are strictly of the kind that are reflex responses without Bay much thinking going on. However we do have a brain which we represent by this rectangle a little higher up the higher nerve centers various levels of these nerve centers involving memory reason logic integration and interrelationship experiences from us. We must draw an arrow into that box and from that box we go back to our elemental experiences. From that box we also draw a line down to still another box which represents cognitive
experience. That is the experiences which are of a reflex automatic nature do eventually develop to be something that we recognise as being cognitive experiences and we begin to have the benefit of past experience of what we have experienced in the past as a reflex action may take on more meaning so that at this point we come to a cognitive level as the step beyond the body operation level. Add to that. The body operation level at the left to begin with. And now this is the cognitive level which represents taking advantage of these experiences and building up some meaning that then becomes part of us. Life there are of course these arrows that go both ways from the elementals automatic body experiences to the cognitive box back and forth from the
cognitive box. Eventually they develop some other Arrow's feedback from this cognitive bot goes way back and begins to take part in our body automatic experiences in that we begin to live by habit that begins to benefit from the interpretive experiences that we give to our past experiences. From here also there are arrows that go up to the brain level so that it is now again a further refinement development utilization of the experiences that accumulate at the cognitive level by the higher brain centers. And at this point we begin to go into some abstract thinking inductive deductive reasoning and perhaps some intuitive
ideas inductive deductive and intuitive processes begin to produce what we might consider to be postulates. Or constructs constructs Henry Marga now writes that phraseology. Yeah and it's a good construct. It's the beginning of all abstract thinking which is going to hit us as human beings into a higher level of thinking that we that characterizes that human being at its best from the postulates construct ideas hypotheses. Again arrows go feed back arrows go way back to the elemental experience box so that the thing begins to be of the positive feedback nature in many respects.
It is a theory a postulate becomes tested by body experiences. If if the experience is confirmed. What had been postulated the thing takes on the nature of positive feedback which enhances the original move toward that postulate and the thing grows into stronger ideas more definite ideas more concrete ideas. If it is negative feedback it tends if it is for example a hypothesis which on testing is found to be untrue it is negative feedback and so the concepts the postulate becomes attacked or destroyed and negated. And this is then the process by which we ultimately go to a box that we might call theory. Abstract concepts and models.
And here we have CDs abstract models and concepts that begin to take shape and we give them shape with models and then we're in trouble. Our models are never any good. They're all limited. And so what we postulated what became a theory becomes a model. We have to envision something physical. We have to see a model and the model becomes a handicap against further progress against change. And this is one of those injured scientists are faced with now at any point along the way. We've got feedback into these various boxes they don't all go to the elemental box of our beginning but they go into various intermediate points from here for example we have arrows going into the postulate construct. But from here we have many arrows going into the brain system and the brain begins to feed into the OR
in one form or another so that the boxes begin to be vague intimately interrelated by arrows going both ways. Now note that a representation of this kind is just as good for describing the reactions of an infant as for society as a whole. An infant also has body experiences and infant has the experience of crying and infant has the experience of getting response from the crying and the infant also in time gets to know how to test the mother's patience. How far he can go there are the feedback influences that make the child try the mother and the negative feedback comes maybe in the form of a slap across the rear. Not at the infant stage a little later I hope. But at any rate the child follows this kind of development
and this same diagram can illustrate the progress of an entire discipline. This is an interesting thing so that whether if these this diagram were properly drawn whether you apply it to a child or two are hot shots on the front table or to any of us or to a discipline as a whole or to society we can represent the experience by this kind of systems diagram and these interrelationships. I'd like to then note what might come out of this. We have sensory experiences as the source of all of our information. There is a range of experience we must. We might call the sensory or else play. These
are made up of all the little observations all the little experiences and I will simply represent them as a bunch of dots at the left side of the board. The sensory experience the dis the sensory discharge phenomena that give us the experience of the touch the sight the hunger pains. Everything else that we might experience now. Experiences in the s plane do become organized because of the ability to organize experience through the mental processes so that gradually some of these take shape in the form of dart that are not so haphazard that are not so distorted but that tend to be avoided into something that we might say is in the perceptual plane of knowledge percept that seem to have organization and these might be
called the P or perceptual plane. These again will evolve and take on even more significance even more structure as ideas until it reaches the sea plane or they construct a conceptual knowledge. The construct state that we referred to earlier. And in this case. The organization sometimes comes out and remains only as I've indicated in the form of a dotted line dotted dots that do shape up into some kind of a structure. However the more interesting things come when we begin to relate these ideas to each other and out of them there emerge the constructs the
concepts the CVT that ultimately become the series concepts that we regard as the basic principles of science. There are many interrelationships here for example the. The sense of temperature the sense of temperature begins with the feeling of temperature hot and cold on the part of the body and out of that emerges something that is fairly definite in terms of what you what we've learned to call temperature. But the concept such as the gravitational attraction Siri emerged only after we have brought to bear on our thinking process all the inductive and deductive reasoning that we can apply that relates to all our experiences. And finally
bringing together also an intuitive leap that helped Newton to go from the common observations to the law of gravitational attraction. This was it this was one of the marvels of that period. We take gravitational attraction as being so common good. We we just usually fail to recognize the magnificence of that leap. Intuitive leap which brought us to that stage. Some other phenomena did not require that leap to that extent at any rate this is how our mind develops how our concepts develop how we think how we test ourselves how we sometimes change our ideas on the basis of experience or confirm ideas on the basis of experience. And that's how things are more. Now if we leave this and consider some things that relate to the patterns of all organisms that develop in nature
as we know we are the products of a long evolutionary process. We don't know the exact details of that process we don't know whether it has been all of one kind or another. But we do know that the earth changed in the composition of its atmosphere we do know that we have changed to depend on the Oxygen which is now in the atmosphere. We do know that there are organisms that have represented many levels of development and we do think that man is at the highest level of this development. I'd like to put a box here. That we can say is one of us and perhaps we even show our prejudice by calling that Boche mail. We of course are what we are because we were born. And
there was required a male and a female each coming from a different environment to produce each one of us. Supposing we back off a little bit and make this the environment and that the environment for the male and another environment for the female which together produced each one of us. And the arrow pointing to us from each of these walks. Now the interesting thing is this. The presence of each one of us on earth represents an influence on our on that environment in which we live. Therefore the presence of each one of us represents a feedback influence on and by. So let's draw an arrow backing off to the environment that produced us and in fact even in the
female environment that produced us it is not without some influence from our being president male or female in that environment because we have influenced it. Produces still another environment. It is not modified because of our presence. And. While this has been going on in connection with each one of us males a similar process has been going on with a female who is subject to two environments the influences of two environments and who in turn also has influenced those environments by her presence. And so we come to this stage where the male and female may join both having
influenced the environments that produced them by feedback influences. But most now representing totally different environments in many cases or at least different to some extent. But now joining to produce a new. Male or female. The new male or female is the project of the joining of these two and the influence of all the environments which became new environments modified from the earlier environments. That is the progression of environments follows the progression of progeny in each case but progeny being different the environment being different in each case the one influencing the other intimately. Now let's leave that
and discuss some of the ideas that seem to be relevant from the physical sciences. Let's go to the early periods of time. So let's discuss for example the history of science from the time of the early Greeks and see where we are the ideas that were presented by various thinkers during various early periods were wonderful they were truly amazing concepts to the Greeks and others present in the Judeo tradition along with it. And in some cases preceding However the information was not organized. There were ideas there were postures based on some experiences but not supported not supported by experimental observation test largely based on observation.
At the time of Newton this began to change. There had been influence of people like predicates Galileo cark and finally Newton who look at these ideas considered observation tested some of them and out of this evolved the three laws that are referred to as the three laws of mechanics and Newton. And also the gravitational attraction concept. The laws relating to gravitational attraction. So they came with this logical development. The concept that for every effect there has been a cause a stone has moved only because it has been pushed. It moves only in proportion to exactly definable forces and it moves with an acceleration which you can't determine accurately cause and effect relationship
developed and so the age of reason found strong support in this logical cause and effect concept. The Age of Reason. Did more. It also and the Newtonian mechanics did more. They produced the industrial revolution so that everything seemed to be well determined Wellwood God was in his heaven and the earth ran somehow God was acceptable in that logical situation although there was much confusion as to just in what relationship but the cause and effect principle seemed to be so firmly established that there began to develop the idea that everything in nature was. Well the term that if we could only know the forces that are at the moment at this instant being imposed on each molecule on each individual on each body.
If we could know the forced nature of the force and some of these mass characteristics we could predict the entire future of the universe. This seems logical on the basis of cause and effect and the beautiful laws that seem to find no contradiction. Well this was a bold spirit presumptuous actually. And it did not last. It did not last and it did not last because for one thing when there began to be consideration of molecules and realization that there were just too darn many not molecules in the world to know the details on. Maybe there were some uncertainties about this thing. In fact the Italian mathematician had done oh well Melanne began to see these probability ideas in connection with games of chance tossing a coin tossing a dice and so on.
And the idea that an interaction may take place on may not take place the head if the coin might fall heads and might fall tails. I began to develop the idea that there was a probability aspect to nature to interactions to human phenomena to the possibilities of an idea coming or not coming and as soon as you talk about the probability of something happening then of course you must accept the improbability of things happening and as soon as you say in probability then uncertainty creeps in and so gradually that idea that everything could be known completely began to erode the toss of a coin. When you toss a coin it may fall head it may fall tails and you can know on any single toss. Say which it will be. However that uncertainty
seems to find another characteristic. If you keep at it and just keep tossing that toy coin it does develop that in the long run. About half of them fall tails about half of them fall and so the. The complete haphazardness of the single throw begins to find some law and order in the amplification of this into many throws. There is also the observation that came when it was discovered that some atoms are radioactive. True at the beginning of this century maybe and life elements that were radioactive nuclei of atoms would change suddenly throwing off radiation or a part of it was determined that if you were to look at a single atom you would not know you could not guess whether that had him would disintegrate or
change within the next instant or within the next million years. If there was a probability that it might be centigrade or change in one second there was a probability that it might take a million years however. Despite that great uncertainty with any type of radioactive atom almost if you were to take some billions of these of the same kind and examine the number that you are in that change within a second at the beginning and examined again the number that disintegrate per second moments from now or hours from now and go on testing these it would be found that the sum total of all the experiences of these haphazard events follows very precise equations the precise rules
- Systems Interact, part III
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- Institute on Man and Science
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- APA: The Institute on Man and Science; Systems Interact, part III. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ks6j556b