Big loops and little loops LO25338

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 09/13/00

Replying to LO25316 --

Dear Organlearners,

Andrew "Campnona" < > writes:

>Cybernetics may also be understood by the simple loopy;-)
>beginner (like me) as a 'looping system' which is controlled
>through its inevitably complexifying inter-related 'real world'
>fluctuations by a 'governor' or 'pilot' mechanism that is 'inserted'
>(much like self into world herein) into this circulatory;-) system.

Greetings Andrew,

I once wrote on the first order maximisation and second order minimisation
of "entropy production" which manages the "deep evolution" of the universe
-- the Grandmother of Big Loops. (Leo, do you still remember the metaphor
of the fish -- its tail as first order and its head as second order?).

I think it was one big failure because of the complexity involved. So let
me take the cybernetics involved to a simple experience which may evolve
through all your levels of knowledge and higher levels of spirituality.

What is the central feature of cybernetics as envisaged by Wiener and even
reflected in his creation of the name "cybernetics"? The internal control
of a system may happen by connecting its outputs to its inputs so as to
form closed loops. The sign of this Feed Back (FB), negative or positive,
has a decisive influence on the properties of the output. Negative FB will
damp the system into linear transformations which may be repeated ever so
often. Positive FB may drive the system nonlinearly into even saturated
chaos which may never be repeated exactly again because of slight noise
(alterations) in the input.

Control systems were practically know to humankind long before Wiener
formalised them and gave them the name "cybernetic systems". Here is a
practical examplar which you can fiddle with rather than taking something
to read with you. But it will require you to reverse the way in which you
usually sit so as to fiddle with the gadget. Take care of the splashes
every time you pull that lever. Others may think that you have had a slip,
some other "valve" not working or overworking ;-)

The examplar is the ball-valve system to keep water in a tank at a certain
level. Plumbers use it to provide large, instant flushes of Water in a
certain Closet. (Notice the W and the C to find your exemplar ;-) Farmers
use it in drinking troughs to provide their animals with water in an
unattended way. Their other option is to let the water overflow
continuously the trough, but that would be a waste.

Open the lid of this "water reservoir" to experiment with its cybernetics.
The ball "measures" with its boyancy the level of water in the tank. The
output of the tank is water rushing by gravitational forces through a big
hole in the bottom of the tank. This output causes a one-to-one lowering
of the water level in the tank. The "lower bound" of the water level is
when the tank is empty. The "upper bound" of the water level is the rim of
the tank, or some run-off pipe slightly lower than the rim. By a levering
system, this large motion of the ball is converted into the small motion
of the valve regulating the input.

The lower the ball, the faster the valve allows water to enter the system.
The lowering of the ball towards its own "lower bound" results in
positive feedback. When lower than a certain level, the input cannot
increase any more. The input has reached its own "upper bound". (Notice
lower-of-out and upper-of-in inversion).

Conversely, the rising of the ball results into negative feedback. When
the tank reaches full capacity once again with the ball at its highest
level, the input has reached its "lower bound". The plumber had to bend
during installing the lever so that the input shut off before the "lower
bound" has been reached. Should the plumber not set (standardise) the
lever correctly, or should the ball get stuck for some or other reason,
the tank would overflow with water. In other words, as Wiener himself
stressed, internal standards are vital to cybernetic control.

There is a time delay in the feedback because the output of water is
faster than the input -- the very reason why this cybernetic system has
been invoked. Turning a tap open to do the flushing may not deliver enough
water. (Extend this idea to a rather arid country like South Africa -- the
rain the input and the water consumption by living entities part of the
output. Think what time delays can do in our local water cycle.)

Dear Andrew, your experience with this exemplar will require "joining of
man to machine" until sufficient experience has been gained. Or do you not
make use of this particular "joining of man to machine" ?;-)

>The idea stemmed from 'servomechanisms'; the joining of man
>to machine for the purpose of increased stability of a 'direction'
>toward some resolved outcome. For me in that respect
>(mechanization) it held little 'inter-est'. Though I was a little
>more inter-ested that such a machine might appear intelligent
>to the uninformed eye;-)

In some countries the plumbers are intelligent enough to make machines
which seem to be intelligent too. In some other countries, believe it or
not, the plumbers use less intelligence to make machines which soon become
dumb, leaving one with the #### to deal with ;-)

>But I am fascinated that usually and most usefully the
>'control mechanism' comes through insertion at the end
>of the loop or cycle of production, as is most eloquently
>explained by Kevin Kelly 'Emergence of Control' (p 155.)

Feed "back" control (pull backs) may be fascinating. But introducing feed
"forward" (push outs) so as to anticipate what later needs to be
controlled by feed "backs", may become stupyfying.

My own experiences in this regard happened in 1966-67. It was also my
first encounter with formal cybernetics. Were it not for a SF novel by R
Heinlein (I forgot the name, but it had to do with a journey to the moon)
which I have read earlier, I would not have found my way out of what may
be called an electronic labyrinth.

If you are inter-ested (;-), and Rick will allow it, I can tell you about
these experiences during 1966-67.

These and all my other experiences and studies since then into cybernetics
prepared me to program what I call a Creation Processing Structure during
the early nineties. I use this extremely complex CPS in CAE lessons to act
as midwife for emergent learning. The CPS is used to comprehend the
learner's freely created answer (one-to-many-mapping) rather than to force
the learner to select one out of many pre-formatted answers

But I want to conclude that your learning journey into cybernetics was of
great inter-est (;-) to me. Thank you very much Andrew.

>The problem I see with all cybernetic attempts at control in
>a complexifying world is that they are unable to handle the
>'shifting goals' or the experience expressed by cognitive
>scientists as the 'groundlessness' of modern existential life.

Yes, we become so used to "pull the lever" on the outside that we never
notice that from time to time a plumber has to bend the other lever on the
inside. It makes me wonder who is who on the inside and the outside of a
job ;-)

>Maybe the eventual 'veering' of all living 'things' is something
>to do with Ossager cross inductions? For me Ossager cross
>inductions are like beautiful breezes, but for those with a more
>concrete intent or goal in life maybe they are singularly

The Onsager "cross inductions" (officially known as "reciprocal
relationships", discovered in the hey days af statistical mechanics many
years before the word "irreversible termodynamics" came into existence) is
metaphorically like opening the Pandora Box.

One "pattern of becoming" mapping itself into many "patterns of becoming".

What can pop out will pop out. (What can "kno" will "kno" ;-) Trying to
push back the lid will cause even more to pop out at places never
expected. (Trying to stop "kno" with "off-kno" will sooner or later "kno"
unexpectedly ;-)

The Law of Requisite Complexity is nobody's play mate.

>A kind of self causing entity and interesting to me that
>Organisms like Organlearners are by biological definition,
>"self causing agencies". Its purpose is, therefore via
>'self emergence', to 'transcend itself'.

I think that the relationship between the "causal" and the "trancendental"
is not casual, but one which I prefer to call the "ordinate cyber loop".
Yet it is not something new because as long back as some 4000 years ago a
young man named Elihu described it as
. "The spirit in the human and the breath
. of the Almighty give understanding".

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.