learning with, or without a goal LO28785

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 07/05/02

Replying to LO28777 --

Dear Organlearners,

Terry Priebe <terryp@dca.net> writes:

>This is the kind of contribution that brings together
>experiences, concerns, and aspirations. It caused me to
>rethink about "spontaneous, irreversible self-organisation"
>and do a Google search on the string. I know we've been
>over and over this before, but Prigogine, et al, had a much
>greater impact this time 'round. Thank you, At, for your
>persistence ;-)

Greetings dear Terry,

It is a pleasure.

I did a search too with Google' advance search engine.
< http://www.google.com/advanced_search >
because using three words like
   spontaneous irreversible self-organisation
in the second window becomes a strict selection rule. The three
words have to stand as such next to each other. As expected, i
got only two hits. So i used the three words in the top window
and got 180 hits. In this case the three words have to occcur in
the file, not neccesary next to each other and also not in that order.

I looked at some of the files and very soon I realised how much
misconception there still is on these three words. Firstly, some use the
word "spontaneous" as a synonym for "irreversible". It is by far not the
case. Spontaneous processes are always irreversible and never reversible.
Reversible means that a very slight change in the environment can reverse
the processes in the opposite direction. Irreversible means that only with
large changes in the environment the process may be reversed. For example,
the living of a tree is an irreversible process. Sun shining on it is a
slight change in the environment. The tree does not die. A forest fire
around it until it self catches flame is a large change and the tree may
die as a result of it.

Technically, the only thing which can be a synonym for "irreversible" is
"entropy production" (two words, one concept). In fact, it is the "entropy
production" during a process which makes it irreversible.

We may distinguish between
   spontaneous irreversible self-organisation
   non-spontaneous irreversible self-organisation
The first is a possibility while the second is an absolute impossibility.
Spontaneous means that an external source of work is not necessary
to keep the process going. The spontaneous process itself may rather
be harnessed as a source of work.

Technically, the only thing which we can use as a criterium for
spontaneous is "lowering of free energy". When the opposite applies,
namely "highering of free energy", the process is non-spontaneous. It
is during the very lowering of the "free energy" (two words, one
concept) that entropy gets produced. That is why spontaneous
processes are always irreversible. Consequently a description like
      spontaneous reversible self-organisation
is impossible.

The "self-organisation" does not mean that the system organises
independent of the environment. Actually, it cannot self-organise without
an enviroment. The "self-organisation" says that the main "parts" to shift
from a lower level to a higher level of organisation have to come from
that lower level in the system self rather than the environment.

Leo Minnigh in "learning with, or without a goal LO28780" gave the
following wonderful description. (Thank you Leo)

>I remember myself in such situation; I think I was at the age
>of 8. I developed the plan to make a slide projector. A
>special projector to show stellar constellations. So an empty
>cigarbox of my father served as body for the projector, a
>torch lamp was the light source. Square cutted pieces of
>white carton were the slides and with a glowing needle
>(heated on the gas-cooker) I burned small holes in the carton.
>book with lots of constellations was for me the information
>source. And so a collection of some 60 constellations were
>made. In a darkened room I could project the pictures on a
>white wall. It was a great learning experience, because I
>wanted to make and wanted to know more about stars.

What happened to cigar box, torch lamp and square pieces of carton
was not at all
      spontaneous irreversible self-organisation
but rather
      non-spontaneous irreversible organisation
It means that the stellar slide projector would never have came into
existence self. But what happened in Leo's mind was remarkable
case of
      spontaneous irreversible self-organisation
He connected the mental pictures of a box, a light and a slide to form
the picture of a projector. All three these pictures came from his own
mind and not somewhere else. Hence it was a "self-organisation". This
happened "spontaneously" so that his mind could work on his body,
telling it what materials to find and how to fit it together into a physical
projector. He still remembers it so that it happened "irreversibly". If
he read it somewhere, he would soon have forgotten this reversible
importation of information. Last, but not the least, he says that "It was
a great learning experience". It gave him a lot of mileage and was
probably a main event in his life giving him the motivation to study
creativity so intensely later in life.

>I would like to modify your last sentence, replacing
>"a child" (which is of course true) with "a person". And
>one could expand to use "a group of people" or "an
>organization"... whatever fits the occasion.

You are right. The reason why I used "child" was because Leo himself
was using "child".

>Do I detect here and elsewhere more hope for the
>system / child relationship than for the non-child?

I clearly remember how each of our own children at pre-school age often
said "I shall do it self". Only as grandfather i became wise enough to
detect when it begins to fade away. It is when a child begins to attend a
formal school.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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