Moulton Lava

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Cybernetic Systems

A correspondent asks:

If you had the task of reinventing the legal system, what would you propose?

I would replace it with a functional regulatory structure.

When I say 'functional' I mean that in a technical, mathematical sense, not in a rhetorical sense.

If you are a student of literature, you may be aware of the writings of Harold Bloom. He is the Yale University academic who has written extensively about the characters in Shakespeare. He also wrote a book analyzing the canon of western literature. He divides the canon into four chronological ages: Theocratic, Aristocratic, Democratic, and Chaotic. One might ask what comes after the Chaotic Age?

I would nominate the Fifth Age as 'Cybernetic'.

Cybernetic Systems are found both in nature and in high technology.

In living systems, Cybernetics explains how organisms regulate themselves through subtle feedback control processes.

In technology systems, Cybernetics explain how complex nonliving systems maintain self-regulation through carefully designed feedback control processes.

The mathematical modeling process that characterizes Cybernetic Systems is the same process in either case.

In a functional feedback control process, the component in the feedback loop cannot be chosen arbitrarily. The feedback unit is obliged to model the mathematical inverse of the main system.

In the analysis of feedback control, legal systems operate as primitive Zeroeth Order Controllers. There are very few systems that can be effectively regulated with a simple Zeroeth Order Controller.

The next most sophisticated feedback controller is called a First Order Controller, or Differential Controller. In a First Order Differential Controller, the feedback unit models the mathematical inverse of the First Derivative of the System Model. This is often simplified to a linear proportional controller. In economics, this corresponds to a fixed unit price for the consumption of a rare commodity. In a salad bar, you can pile as much salad on your plate as you like, and then you pay by the ounce. The optimal price to charge is the price that is neither too low nor too high; the salad bar runs out of salad just as the last customer is being served (supply exactly balances demand at the optimal price).

Higher Order Controllers fold higher order derivatives of the System Model into the solution, and are thus more graceful. Zeroeth Order Controllers are either altogether dysfunctional, or herky jerky, see-saw.

First Order Differential Controllers are smoother, but not altogether graceful. Think of an elevator that travels at a constant speed between floors and jerks to a stop. That's typical of a First Order Differential Controller. If you want your elevator to gently slow down as it arrives at a floor, you need at least a Second Order Controller.

Nature is full of feedback loops, some of which are more graceful than others. Buffered Aspirin is a Second Order Pain Controller. Regular Aspirin is First Order. Shooting the horse with a broken leg is a Zeroeth Order Pain Killer.

Hammurabi hardly knew anything about mathematics, system modeling, feedback control processes, and the like. He introduced a Zeroeth Order Control Structure and admonished us to put our faith in it. It was a mathematical mistake. I call it Hammurabi's Original Logic Error. Theologians call it Original Sin. There are very few systems which can be successfully managed with a Zeroeth Order Regulator. Human society is not one of them.

We need at least a Second Order Regulator, which means we have to wrap our brains around some serious system models of human socio-cultural dynamics and some serious calculus for solving those models for the optimal regulatory structure.

The Law, as defined by the disciples of Hammurabi, cannot possibly rise to the challenge, since it never rises above Zeroeth Order Control Architectures.

My correspondent continues:

Is there any type of existing prototype or model of this system (second order regulator) as it relates to human interaction (or the law)?

Yes, there are several alternative models. The oldest known alternatives to Hammurabism were proposed by the founders of the world's great religions. Figures like Moses, Buddha, Confucious, Lao Tsu, and Jesus recommended radically different practices from those contemplated by Hammurabi and his adherents.

Similar ideas can be found in Secular Humanism and Ethics. If you study Lawrence Kohlberg's model, he outlines six stages of moral development. His student, Carol Gilligan, proposes a seventh stage, which she calls the Ethics of Care.

In the 20th Century, figures like Gandi, King, Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama helped bridge the gap between traditional religious teachings and secular teachings on ethical methods for solving the problems of conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, suffering, and terrorism.

In the meantime, the Humanities were contributing to the challenge of modeling human characters and human socio-cultural dynamics. Shakespeare and Dostoevsky both made major contributions to the art of modeling human systems.

Sociologist Victor Turner made seminal contributions to this process as well, with his pathbreaking notions of Communitas and Liminal Social Drama.

René Girard extracted an insightful model of human socio-cultural dynamics through his insightful analysis of Dostoevsky's novels.

If you solve Girard's System Model for the optimal strategy, you get practices remarkably similar to the teachings of the founders of the world's great religions. But it's not grounded on faith. It's grounded in analytical system modeling, with scientifically valid models of human socio-cultural dynamics.

Is this a realistic possibility?

In theory, yes. But it will take a major paradigm shift in our beliefs and practices. We're gonna have to let go of some long-standing mythologies and dysfunctional practices — a transformation that carbon units have not demonstrated much ability to achieve, with the notable exception of a few rare individuals.

Probably the only way such a paradigm shift can ever take place is through the medium of storycraft. Our core beliefs are those which we embed in the stories we tell ourselves. Every culture and every age has its characteristic myths — the stories we tell ourselves to define our beliefs and practices. That's why dramatists like Sophocles, Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky are so important. They reflect the cutting edge in the crafting of stories through which we define ourselves.

I studied Engineering, so I'm not a storymaker; I don't have that talent. But I recognize that the tragedies which bring us together are recurring tragedies because we have failed to capture them in a compelling story.

My favorite modern storymaker is JK Rowling. Her heroes are highly functional adolescents. And among the adults in their storybook lives, only Dumbledore appreciates that in order for them to solve the problems in a functional manner, they must necessarily break every rule in the book. Were Harry Potter and his friends to obey the rules, they would be utterly dysfunctional and ineffective.

In the Harry Potter stories, magic is a metaphor for functional solutions. Arthur C. Clarke said it best: "Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic."

Were humankind able to evolve into the Age of Functionality, it would be a magical transformation.

If this model has been explored, why do you think it has not been accepted? And do you think that will ever change?

Not that many people are aware of it. I estimate that fewer than one person in 500 knows about these system models at all, and even fewer have digested them. Keep in mind that most people have never heard of Systems Theory, let alone any specific system model.

I expect it will change ever so slowly. Look how long it took for the Copernican model of the Solar System to overthrow the Ptolemaic Model, or for Newton's model of gravitational mechanics to take root. Similarly, it's been a century since Einstein published his Theory of Relativity. And while almost everyone has heard of it, almost no lay person understands it. Even though Einstein's iconic formula is widely recognized, few people can explain what it really means.

I've always believed that the study of history is necessary to prevent society from repeating past mistakes. I don't quite see the connection with story telling — and how that relates to implementing a new legal system. How do you connect the two?

History is His+Story. Stories are how we understand sequences of events and discern the underlying cause and effect linkages that renders a story coherent. Until modern times, almost all cultural learning was mediated by stories.

The story of the Hammurabic Method of Social Regulation is a woeful tragedy in slow motion. The story has been slowly unfolding for nearly four millenia.

I was born in 1945, the year the Second World War ended, and the year the world first began to learn of the horrors of the Holocaust, during which time the Nazis were incinerating Jews at the rate of 2 million a year.

I long thought the Holocaust was an abberation. But then I looked at the statistics for genocide and political violence for the entire 20th Century. During the 20th Century, the governments of the world killed some 200 million people. That's an average of 2 million people a year, year in and year out. That's the price humankind is paying for our lust for political power and our belief in the rule of law. If that's not a tragedy, I dunno what is.

And yet the oldest story in the canon of western literature — the story of Adam and Eve and the Apple — predicted that very outcome. It's a story everyone knows and almost no one appreciates for its insightful prediction.

What that tells me is that carbon units are woefully learning disabled.

Nor do I know a functional solution to that problem.

14 Comments:

Blogger torporific said...

I'll give you a link in my blog.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Porten said...

This response is sort of intended as a continuation of our discussion below about the general principles you suggest.

I am a bit confused as to the manifestation of this functional system. A change in the way we approach materialism would not, in any event, remove society from its status as a Zeroeth Order system, it would merely change the system. In fact, it would seem that humanity is patently incapable of producing a check on its own society. My perception (which is admittedly skewed by my poor primary education) is that these feedback loops must be in some ways divorced from the system; plugged in only to the extend necessary to 1) perceive the ‘chemical’ being regulated and 2) adjust the flow. If the regulator is affected by the ‘chemical’ it regulates, it loses its neutrality. Second (and related): from the perspective of one who believes the problem is not the system but abuse of it, asking people to look into the problem is a bit like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

Further, the justice system (of the U.S. and a handful of others) as a subsystem of human society is not a zeroeth order system. Lawmakers and the vast majority of judges are directly elected; the remainder are appointed by elected officials. The progress made by the world’s leading systems as feedback (read: public participation) was refined is undeniable. Some of the countries in which I have lived provide a system for comparison. In Suriname, for example, where popular political process and government transparency are underdeveloped, the justice system is not amended to attempt to provide fairness. The results include a politically motivated mass execution without trail in 1986 (the functional equivalent of shooting the people who tell you the horse has a broken leg). Southern nations are replete with such examples, leading me to believe that from some valid perspectives, the system we discuss here is hardly the bottom of the barrel, and that the difference seems to spring from the feedback.

I read the linked article regarding the general problems of competitive materialism with some interest, but found myself with two key questions. First, I understand that there is some truth to the assertion that society creates violent persons (in the article, the Columbine shooters). But is allowing violent persons to continue to act unabated and un-deterred really going to de-escalate violence in general? The people of the former Democratic Republic of Congo might disagree. In a related vein, the author of the article references the NATO action against the Serbs as an example of exacerbating a violent cycle. Rwanda and Darfur, however, offer compelling examples of violence continuing in absence of intervention. In short, the absence of systematic response to violence seems to exacerbate the cycle complained of in the article more than response. Surely, intervention in Rwanda would have been better than 800,000 deaths? I cannot stand for a theory that suggests the mass rape occurring in Darfur is somehow equally the fault of the women raped for their participation in a system of human greed. Nor can I believe that simply refraining from violence as a nation will somehow begin the de-escalation of violence in the face of the death and humiliation faced by these women. Surely, retribution and violence abound despite the lack of military response. The two questions, then: 1) is a sudden rejection of all violence the most efficient way to attain the change we desire, or are we required to slowly de-escalate? 2) Can we really afford to abandon our conceptions of justice and guilt before our society undergoes the transformation in which it abandons competition? After all, you response to my earlier comment suggests at least partial agreement that we have yet to craft a psychic knife sharp enough to remove these evil drive from men. Put another way, are we not allowed to make rules regarding the materialistic competition? If people, by their nature, pursue resources through competition is there something inherently unfair about restraining their conduct in competing? Neither Shakespeare nor Dostoyevsky, by my readings, offer much by way of solutions.

It also bears mentioning that the alternative notions of justice you present (Jesus, Moses, Buddha, etc.) all explicitly include an otherworldly judgment of character (and whether this judgment system includes feedback controls is unclear at best) leaving us to seeth and pray for retribution rather than act. As a mitigant to the current violent and competitive nature of humanity, these theories seem not to offer much change.

“Similarly, the greatest single cause of crime is the astonishing number of obscure laws that label so many technically defined behaviors as 'criminal'.”

In my opinion, this statement is patently untrue. In some cases, charges of conspiracy and accessory may confuse the accused, but violent offenders make up the largest group of prison inmates (see http://www.doc.state.nc.us/r&p/abstract/FY19596/FILE16.HTM, showing that 46% of persons in North Carolina prisons entered on convictions of violent offenses, mostly armed robbery) followed by property crimes such as breaking and entering (see http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/annual/0001/stats/ip_general.html, showing that 54.4 % of Florida inmates are violent offenders, followed by 21.5 % property crimes and 17.9% drug offenses). These crimes are generally straightforward, require proof of specific intent (i.e., knew that the actions were illegal), and are interpreted through the Rule of Lenity, which provides that convictions cannot be made on statutes which would confuse a person of average capacity.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

To some extent, econonic trade obeys First-Order Regulatory Dynamics, to the extent that consumption is regulatated by price, and to the extent that prices are allowed to automatically adjust themselve so as to balance supply and demand.

Feedback loops, if they are to work, cannot be divorced from the system they are regulating. In general, the function in the feedback loop must be the inverse of the system model. In a First-Order Controller, that means the function in the feedback loop must be the function inverse of the first derivative of the system model. That gives you a linear proportional controller, in which the correction is a linear function of the error to be corrected. When you steer a car to keep it centered in your lane, you approximate this model.

Linear proportional control works pretty good for small errors.

It doesn't matter how judges are selected. As long as they are making binary decisions (guilty or not guilty), they are obliged to employ Heaviside Switch Functions (i.e. Zeroeth Order On/Off Functions).

I don't believe violent people should be allowed to operate unabated. The most violent people on the planet are the heads of state of large and powerful nations. I would abate them bigtime by discontinuing the idiotic practice of giving them the means to visit violence at will upon other peoples of the planet.

The rejection of violence begins first and foremost with the rejection of state-sponsored violence.

Most of the violence in our culture is not unlawful violence by the criminal element. Most of the violence in our culture is state-sponsored violence under the color of law.

Unlawful violence is a dim echo of lawful violence.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Porten said...

I apologize if I’m boring you, but I think I’m still a tad confused. I’ve done a bit of reading on cybernetics, so I get a bit more the principle, but I am still at a loss over two things:

I fail to see the distinction between a simple market economy model and the justice system. In the economic model, frozen to a single instance, multiple ‘inputs’ such as price of a product or its utility, enter the ‘system’ of the buyer, and create a ‘binary’ output: ‘buy’ or ‘not buy.’ This binary output (or rather, the sum of many of them) then enters a feedback loop and effects future input; i.e., the price or quality of the product fluctuates.

The same seems true of the justice system. Input, in the form of an accused and his or her set of circumstances, judges, juries and their prejudices, the text and interpretation of laws, enters the system. The system processes (ideally) the input and produces a ‘binary’ output; guilty or not guilty. Based upon a collection of these binary outputs, the system changes. The feedback system of voters then changes the inputs by electing new officials, etc.

Most of the example systems on web pages that describe cybernetics end in classically binary results: the pituitary gland either releases more serotonin or it doesn’t, etc. In fact, depending upon how we frame the question, everything is a step function. For this reason, your example seems to rely upon an unequal comparison; for example, the output of the ‘law system’ is not an overall culture in which debate about crime and appropriate reaction move our position on the curve fluidly, but rather the isolated and binary ‘guilty / not guilty.’ The presented conception of economics relies upon a precisely opposite perspective in which individual binary ‘buy / not buy’ decisions merely feed smooth movement along the price / demand curve. If the smooth price demand curve evidences feedback control, why can’t the smooth curvature of our conception appropriate and illegal action evidence the same thing?

A social feedback system such as justice or economics does not prevent individual binary decisions, it changes the context in which we make decisions (which, based upon the way we frame some questions, are necessarily binary). The fact that buying an Apple IIe is a different decision today as a result of economics does not change the fact that each person, if offered an Apple IIe, must make a binary decision about the purchase. Similarly, an individual judge faced with the binary decision of whether to jail practicing homosexuals makes the decision differently today than fifty years ago because (if we zoom out a bit) homosexuality is slowly becoming more culturally (and legally) acceptable.

Considering this, I agree that people should study cybernetics. The more we realize that all our actions become inputs into the system, the more care we take when dealing with one another. But damning the empty courtroom for requiring a binary result makes little sense. Even your advocacy for using cybernetics seems to be a new input, slowly changing the way humans conceive of themselves and their systems.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

There are important differences between market economics which efficiently converge to optimal price equilibrium and justice processes which proceed at a snail's pace over millenia without coming anywhere close to reaching a stable equilibrium.

In the case of the Justice System, the step sizes are gigantic traumas in the life of an individual; most people have relatively few minor scrapes with the system during their lives; most encounters with the system produce outcomes disproportionate with the triggering events. The triggering events are a small, erratic, random sample of the population of events theoretically subject to examination by the system.

In the economic system, with the exception of a few major purchases like a home or a car, most transactions are modest; many recur on a routine basis and are not sources of emotional stress or trauma. This fluidity allows the markets to slosh around and settle into equilibrium.

By contrast, the Justice System is a sequence of relatively few tsunamis spread over lifetimes. It is nowhere near convergence to a stable equilibrium.

In mathematics, we call such stable equilibrium conditions a Fixed Point of the process. What we want is process which converge quickly and efficiently to a stable fixed point.

The Justice System is like a lumbering monster, staggering about in a graceless stupor. It doesn't know where it's going or how to get there.

In living systems, the amount of blood, sweat, tears, or serotonin secreted is a continuous function of time. True, the stuff comes in discrete quanta of molecules, but so does Sour Cream. For all intents and purposes, it's an infinitely divisible fluid.

What that does is to provide continuous shades of grey. There are very few catastrophes that hinge on the presence or absence of the last molecule on the camel's back. Nature minimizes the likelihood of plunging off a sheer cliff by converting cliffs into gentle slopes.

Mathematically, that corresponds to replacing the Heaviside Switch Function by the Error Function.

In nature, that corresponds to replacing the sturdy but brittle oak which breaks under stress with the willow which can bend into a graceful arc and then spring back when the stress has abated.

The Justice System is maximally brittle and minimally graceful.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Porten said...

Shouldn't the complexity of the system be taken in context? My body's natural feedback systems (on a normal day) can balance my temperature in a few minutes. Balancing the price of even complex commodities can be nothing compared to (if I understand you correctly) bringing human morality into relative homeostatis seems a bit more difficult. I can't help but be a bit skeptical that we can 'design' a feedback loop to work any faster than the system we currently have (or, as I have suggested, that we aren't involved in the feedback loop anyway).

I'm also leery of the assertion that the fact that because "most transactions are modest; many recur on a routine basis and are not sources of emotional stress or trauma." As one of the 40 million Americans without health insurance, I can assure you that the current "settling into equilibrium" of health care costs is very stressful. It may be easy to forget, but for many, small purchases ARE traumatic. The fact that individual prices have settled has little to do with the continuing economic injustic.

The fact that we are at the relative beginning of our moral story does not itself prove that the fact that we haven't started the journey. I'm further unsure how to move forward under your theory. If I believe that I can move the system forward, I can at least pretend that I'm helping by providing compassionate 'feedback.'

12:02 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The complexity of the system is automatically taken into account in the System Model that characterizes the system to be regulated. The optimal (or merely efficacious) controller in the feedback loop must necessarily be a reasonable approximation to the inverse of the System Model. The task of the controller is to keep the Error Term as close to zero as possible. The only way it can do that efficaciously is to steer the system efficiently, the way a good helmsman steers a ship.

The term 'Cybernetics' comes from the Greek 'kiber' which means 'helmsman'. The choice of where to go might be a democratic consensus decision, but the process of efficiently steering a ship to a given desired destination is a technical problem in Cybernetics. The solution to such problems necessarily requires some serious System Calculus (e.g. 'rocket science').

The present civil and criminal regulatory structure is actually diverging from the overarching goals of minimizing conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, suffering, and terrorism.

That is to say, the present methodology is iatrogenic — meaning ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. We aimlessly drift ever farther from our goals. The Ship of State is at sea without a competent helmsman.

The state of health care in our culture is drifting ever farther from equilibrium, mainly due to the disruptive influence of bureaucratic processes in allocating health care dollars and resources.

Even the Red Cross has become dysfunctionally bureaucratic and unresponsive to the urgent needs of those devastated by natural disasters.

To move forward, we need to examine the system models of human socio-cultural dynamics. If one has reasonably accurate and insightful models, the mathematics of solving them for the optimal policy isn't all that hard.

Look at how long it took for humans to arrive at and adopt the Copernical Model of the Solar System. But shortly after the Copernican Model emerged, mathematicians like Galileo and Newton provided the mathematical tools that NASA uses today to navigate smoothly through the planetary system and achieve soft landings on planets, moons, and asteroids.

Shakespeare and Dostoevsky were among the first to craft insightful models of human socio-cultural dynamics. They were followed by literary critics like Harold Bloom and René Girard who extracted the underlying system models.

Of these, Girard's Model is perhaps the most insightful.

Combining such models, one can reduce them to a System Model for Drama Theory.

In a trial, the hardest part of the process is to figure out how to tell the story of what happened so that the judge and jury can understand what took place. The injustices in my own life correspond to the inchoate stories that no one has figured out how to tell in a coherent manner.

An alternative to a jury trial is a Truth and Reconciliation Process. In that model, the victims are allowed to tell their story without having to face a hostile adversary whose role it is to debunk their story at every turn.

The utility of Drama Theory is that it helps us structure the process of crafting a coherent story.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Porten said...

We’ve moved a bit away from what I think is the real issue. Clearly, the abandonment of Rule of Law does not by itself solve the ultimate problem of human suffering. To (mis?) use your analogy, some trees may be more graceful, but they all burn.

You suggest that the story of Adam and Eve is predictive. I agree, but it was not created as such. The Adam and Eve story was, like most fables, written as an explanation of previous observations. Abuse of social hierarchies has existed since humans became self-conscious, and certainly before the time of Hammurabi.

I think the empirical evidence supports me on this point. I suspect (as a result of statistics) that you have not lived in or visited Africa. If you have not, I suggest you give it try. I have lived on three continents and have witnessed the absence of Law. In Somalia, the difference between the ‘income’ of warlords who capture and hoard food aid and those for whom the aid is intended is thousands of times greater than the executive bloat in the US under the Rule of Law. Further great rewards for abandoning the Rule of Law can be seen in Sierra Leone, where no law impeded the progress of independent militants. Rather than risk having the village seek revenge, the militants chopped off the hands of boys as young as three. Now, the nation’s major import is prosthetic limbs. Stateless violence abounds in the former DRC, and large portions of Nigeria and Mali.

The article you link to model human society is critical of an intervention which ended genocide in Kosovo. The article cites the intervention as an aggravation of the cycle of violence. What, I wonder, would Mr. Girard whisper over the fields of Rwanda where 800,000 murder victims lie in mass graves? Is this the ‘de-escalation’ he craves? (A very simple equation: Kosovo – Intervention = Rwanda II).

How comforting to know that this savage violence is somehow less disturbing than horrors wrought upon the world under color of law. How comforting to the women of Darfur, where rape, murder and violence are daily life, to know the willow switch that beats them is supple and graceful. They live in a world without law, where binary decisions are unnecessary, even outdated. There is no guilt, only survival. I suppose we must do as we are now; ignore them and salute their bravery in accepting their role in general de-escalation of violence.

Seeing as violence, repression and systematic abuse are manifest in many areas bereft of state organization, I am forced to conclude that the problem lies elsewhere. I am persuaded by Girard’s argument that violence is a product of a competition, which is a general model for human behavior. The solution, as you so astutely point out, must be to reverse the competition model. While none of the posts thus far illuminate grounded strategy to this end, I can foresee one potential method, at least; make sure that everyone is in exactly the same position (the thought of an equation which regulates or measures human serotonin to control behavior is too vile to address).

But the failure of so many models of society, both those affected and unaffected by Indo-European concepts of law (your old pal Hammurabi) and those governed by state and non-state models illuminates another truism: pride, avarice and vanity plague the human heart. Some among us will always be driven to have more. Why should a person settle for what everyone else has, when picking up a gun is so easy? Why should I believe there is an equation to make it better?

So what protects the citizens of your world from those so motivated, Moulton? You propose a society, an equation to create a feedback loop which balances the output of human culture. How does this feedback loop force a tyrant to abdicate power? Surely we don’t expect the Somalian warlords to kneel before a notebook containing the equation. What is the manifestation of control?

I apologize if my lack of mathematic expertise prevented me from understanding your more subtle points, although if you really want to convince people about this cybernetics thing, you might try using simpler vocab. A ‘step function’ is relatively simple mathematic concept (even I get it), but I had to chase around on the internet to find that a ‘heavyside switch’ is the same thing(interesting fact: if you Google ‘Heavyside Switch Function,’ the first two hits are your work). I had half a mind to start putting the most important words in my responses in Finnish. I know this won’t come as a compliment, but you would make a good lawyer.

As I can see no point at which this theory is given concrete form, I find it difficult to place in it much faith. It seems little different than a cold fusion advocate who suggests we quit refining oil because the utopian solution is out there waiting, decrying those who only advocate for sustainable fuel use as traitors. Further, even if your system is grounded, there is no guarantee that its solution is near. As a result, I find it both disappointing and personally insulting that someone who names agony as their enemy has so little regard for an honest ally. Whether you believe my solution has system-wide ramifications, your posts seem to acknowledge that many people today deserve individual help. The volunteerism and advocacy for system reform by many who seek to work within the scope of Law bring relief to individuals who may not live to see the cybernetic revolution. Many of us simply don’t have the talent to grasp cybernetic mathematics. I’m sorry that some lawyers shut down your project, but your rote disrespect for all who toil in legal and political studies sounds like a perfect example of the senseless culture of pre-judgment and hatred you claim to despise.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Evolution from a lame and dysfunctional regulatory structure to a more robust and functional one is hardly 'abandonment'.

If you replace your on-off light switches with continuous dimmer switches, do you consider that 'abandonment' of the previous system?

If you replace monthly, quarterly, or annual interest payments with continuous compounding of interest, do you consider that 'abandonment' of the previous system?

If you replace a 2-speed transmission with an advanced transmission featuring a continuously variable gear ratio, do you consider that 'abandonment' of the more primitive system?

How do you know the intention of the authors of stories found in Genesis or in other early stories in the Canon of Western Literature?

The Adam and Eve Story clearly warns of the otherwise unforseen consequences of dividing all that one surveys into two binary categories called 'Good' and 'Evil'.

We invented thermometers with continous measurement of the degrees between Cold and Hot, for the obvious reason that taking a continuous measurement is a more sensible way to gauge what one is contemplating. The problem with dichotomous classifications is that things become very dicey at the switching point.

If there is a continuous measurement rather than a binary judgment, one can measure the variable to whatever precision is called for. It's like going to a salad bar. You can take as much or little as you like, and then they weigh it to the nearest ounce and charge you accordingly. That's called linear proportional (e.g. fixed price per ounce) regulation.

Hammurabism doesn't mark the birth of abusive practices, but it enables abusive figures to exploit the system, meting out their egregious abuse under the color of law.

I am not advocating the abandonment of regulatory structures. I am advocating the evolution of the architecture of our regulatory structures from the erratic and dysfunctional zeroeth order methods introduced by Solon and Hammurabi to higher order structures that perform that essential function more gracefully. That's what Cybernetics is all about – smooth, graceful, efficient, and robust regulation, in which the regulatory function is attuned to the system at hand.

Look at the Federal Reserve Bank. They rely on sophisticated system models to compute the optimal value of the adjustable parameters (e.g. the Prime Rate) to smoothly steer the dependent variables of the economy toward the optimal values.

Look at NASA. If you want to navigate through the Solar System to a soft landing on Mars, you are obliged to do genuine rocket science. Otherwise you miss the mark entirely or suffer an ignominious crash landing.

Moving forward does not mean throwing away zeroeth order regulatory structures and replacing them with nothing at all. Moving forward means evolving to higher order regulatory architectures that operate more smoothly than Hammurabi's zeroeth order architecture.

Under the color of law, weapons systems have been peddled far and wide to the less developed nations of the world. Under Girardian analysis, the folly of this practice would be obvious to anyone bothering to exercise the system models. Even Eisenhower saw that and warned against it.

In Game Theory, there are two major kinds of games. The first kind is the Zero-Sum Game of Competition. The second kind is the Non-Zero-Sum Game of Cooperation.

What Girardian Analysis and Cybernetics promote is the evolution from Zero Sum Games of Competition to Positive-Sum Games of Cooperation, where every player gains and no player loses. In these models, Justice is defined as distributing the system's net gains equitably among all the cooperating players.

Down through history, civilizations have come and gone. Each civilization has its core beliefs, including mythological beliefs. There is a time when a unifyng mythological belief helps a civilization work as a system. But eventually mythological beliefs have to be supplanted by more scientifically grounded beliefs.

The time has come for western civilization to evolve from its faith in zeroeth order controllers, because they are now generating net chaos.

Hammurabi's Legacy has come to maturity, and now yields net planet-wide metastasis of conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, suffering, and terrorism.

Therefore, it's time to stop believing in the Myth of Law and Order and call it by its true name: Hammurabism and Tragic Drama.

And it's time to evolve to the next stage of thinking, from Rule-Based Logic to Model-Based Reasoning, Systems Thinking, and Functional Methods of System Management.

The only thing that protects me from the vississitudes of ignorant people in positions of power is the dim possibility of education.

The National Science Foundation wants American children to learn Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. And so do I.

That's the only protection I have from the impending collapse of western civilization.

Cybernetics and Systems Theory may be modern vocabulary terms, but the ideas precede the introduction of the Rule of Law. Nature uses these methods. And so does the technology sector of our economy.

Only government remains mired in an anachronistic and dysfunctional regulatory structure.

My utter contempt for the Rule of Law is grounded in sober analysis. The Rule of Law is a miserable failure.

The time has come to evolve to a more functional architecture.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Porten said...

I still feel that you have decided to take an unneccesarily microscopic view law. Perhaps it is simply that our perspectives are irreconcilable. I’ll work with the examples of the dimmer switch and the sour cream. For starters, it seems apparent in these examples that there is always a very important binary decision to make; to open the flow of electricity to the light or not? to put sour cream on the taco or leave it dry? I can sense the objection. These analogies work better if we pretend that the light is always on, but we have the ability to turn it so low, etc, etc, to the point that we are always affected by the system, and our desire for more or less light in the room or sour cream on the taco is always a reaction to the amount previously present. Okay.

From my perspective, the legal/social system works the same way. I am constantly perceiving the output of the system, and my options to react are infinitely divisable; I vote or debate or advocate, I affect the system. As a sum of all people voting, debating, demanding, interacting with each other and thus the system, our conception and application of morality shifts and changes fluidly. Our system would allow us to deny access of state leaders to the machinery of death, if enough people pushed our morality in that direction.

Of course, if you are a molecule in the tub of sour cream, you might wonder why these decisions are so binary. You, after all, are either On The Taco or In The Tub. Similarly, single criminal convictions are merely expressions of the ebb and flow or moral debate. The pool of humanity and the fate of its individuals is infinitely divisible. If a new cluster of individuals sent to prison motivates a social movement or change; it is as if one drop too many of sour cream hit the taco.

I will suggest another smooth feedback system; a thermostat. The fact that you find yourself cold is not evidence that the thermostat is broken. It may just as easily be that no one has bothered to turn up the heat. You forget that the thermostat is merely a system, a machine. The machine can, on its own, reach its first order goal, a steady room temperature. What the system lacks is the loop which helps it reach the goal of your comfort.

Your conviction that the world is not as peaceful as it should be is similar. That you passively want less conflict is meaningless to the system; it requires your input. There are two potential reasons you find the political room too cold, Moulton, and neither of them is a problem with the thermostat. Perhaps you simply desire more heat in a room where everyone is comfortable. More likely, in my opinion, the problem is that too few people get themselves off the couch to move the dial.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Porten said...

After some thought, I would like to change this statement:

"You, after all, are either On The Taco or In The Tub."

to this:

You are, after all, either In The Tub or Not In The Tub.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

A furnace and a thermostat is a zeroeth order regulator. The thermostat either switches the furnace on full blast, or shuts it off completely.

As a result, if you graph the temperature of the house, it rises at a roughly linear rate when the furnace is on and falls at a roughly linear rate when the furnace is off.

This results in a temperature graph that is a sawtooth function, zig-zagging about the mean temperature.

Most people can live with a zeroeth order furnace and thermostat.

But it would be totally unsatisfactory for a cruise control on your car. There, you need at least a first order (linear proportional controller) adjusting the throttle by degrees. A zeroeth order controller on a cruise control would alternately floor the gas pedal or idle it.

There are very few systems where you can get by with an on/off zeroeth order controller like a furnace and thermostat.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Porten said...

Okay, I think I understand that. But I don’t think that changes my two basic points.

First, humans are the smallest components of society, so even a system that treats them fluidly as a group appears to make binary determinations about an individual’s status. Gas in a cruise controlled bus is the same, each gas particle either or explodes or does not. As our society adjusts individuals will similarly find themselves in Are or Are Not situations. With respect to a system of society, humans are as particles.

Second, while I recognize that the cruise control analogy is also a bit off (I’m not educated enough to understand how important the difference is, but your control system would be bent at positive feedback; each act of violence makes us less prone to commit another, where as the cruise control model is a negative feedback bent upon equilibrium at a given speed), a cruise control model leaves me with the same questions. If the “bus” isn’t going fast enough for my liking, is it because the cruise is off or because everyone else on the “bus” wants to go slower? Do I trash the bus, or work harder for a collective understanding

Perhaps it would be closer to your model to ask why we aren’t accelerating quicker. Are the controls broken or is the bus laden and the engine small? Another limit on the efficiency of societal feedback loops is that humans are the only creatures capable assessing the output and adjusting the input. The equation you suggest would thus be required to operate by creating consensus. You discuss story-telling as an answer. I agree that story telling and folklore are great ways to create feedback because they so efficiently communicate values and culture. But even the best stories generally fail at creating a consensus, as interpretations of stories are infinite and often disparate. Although it isn’t important to the argument, you asked before how I knew the intent of the Adam and Eve fable. Every good story teller knows their craft must be rooted in their experience, or the voice of the narrator never gains credibility or trust from the audience (I learned this principle while earning my degrees in theatre and creative writing). No story is ever successful if the author has an agenda. But audiences in turn come to own a story by relating it to their own experience, they rarely see the same things. Stories may slowly bring people together, but we cannot expect stories to change conceptions overnight.

The fact is that legal systems (democratic regimes in partiular) are complex feedback loops in which the collective reactions of people to the current state of society. Storytelling is important as a useful component of the feedback currently happening. It is simply not possible to totally abandon a legal model, human society will always create social norms and consequences for deviation. Law (or interactions that look enough like it) cannot be divorced from society, and the machine of society will always effect the fate of its particles.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Violence, like most easily imitated acts, tends to behave like a cancer: it spreads.

What's worse, is that we've deluded ourselves by dividing our violence into two categories: lawful violence and unlawful violence.

A careful systems analysis reveals that each of these two kinds of violence stimulate both kinds of future violence, such that the total amount of violence in the culture grows like compound interest.

The best estimates are that we are now killing ourselves off at a rate of 2 million deaths a year from violence. And the vast majority of that violence is state-sponsored violence under the color of law.

The theory that state-sponsored violence would reduce total violence in the culture is a misconception that begins with Solon and Hammurabi. Among the first to realize this belief was a tragic misconception were the founders of the world's great religions.

Today, the evidence is overwhelming. Violence begets more of the same, nothwithstanding the heroic efforts of the founders of the world's great religions to disabuse us of that tragic misconception.

What stories can occasionally do is speed up the process of enlightenment. But that's not an easy goal for a Bard to pull off.

Harold Bloom classifies the Canon of Western Literature into four chronological ages: The Theocratic Age, the Aristocratic Age, the Democratic Age, and the Chaotic Age.

After the Chaotic Age, I would like to see the advent of the Cybernetic Age (or perhaps we might call it the Systematic Age or the Autopoietic Age).

At the present time, there is scant literature that represents the Cybernetic Age.

9:05 PM  

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