Creating a Passion for Learning LO17409

Mnr AM de Lange (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 19:28:48 GMT+2

Replying to LO17372 --

Dear Organlearners,

This is a long contribution. Skip it if the length will annoy you.
Steve Eskow <> doubts the connection between
entropy production, complexity and the passion for learning. Skip it
if you fear that this connection will destroy your passion for

> As you know, At, I am one of those who has difficulty with large and
> universal schemes for explaining the world's phenemona--

Steve, thank you for being so honest - few people have the guts to
admit that they are sceptic.

Sir Karl Popper correctly pointed out that it is the eternal task of
scientists to falsify any statement parading as a conclusion. But he
failed to point ot that fallibalism is deadly to creativity and that
scientists have first to create that which they wish to falsify. This
causes a dilemma. The good and the bad is made known for scrutiny by
others. The bad is then often exploited by non-scientists. Should the
scientist try to prevent this dilemma by falsifying as much as
possible before making that known which remain robust despite the
falsification attempts, he/she (rather than the creation) is in
danger of perishing in the publication competition/ranking/....

I also found it disconcerting that all the universal schemes since
the days of Plato up to 20th century philosophers and system thinkers
gradually become less applicable- some of them unapplicable right
from their conception. I do not expect my scheme to do infinitely
better. But I do expect it to fare much better because it
incorporates that which most of these schemes lacked, namely
change/becoming as an elemental ingredient. It is based on "entropy
production" as the primordial cause of all changes/becomings.

Obviously, we should be sceptical about any created universal scheme
(including mine). Will it lead to senseable and sensitive management?
I believe it will do so. My own understanding of any thing X depends
on how extensively I can relate it to other things in the universe.
The more encompassing this web-of-relationships, the deeper and
broader my own understanding of X. My "universal scheme" is nothing
else than this "increasing-web-of-relationships".

The other possibility is to deny the value of any universal sheme. It
involves a number of cases. For example, only local schemes
or only subject orientated schemes are possible. Whatever the case,
we should be equally sceptical about this possibility. I will not go
deeper into this possibility now.

> and my difficulty
> extends to your invoking of "entropy" and "entropic production" and your
> "seven essentialities."

I have empathy even for this extension of your difficulty. As a
student "entropy" troubled me since my second year on university
(1964) up to my first year as a researcher (1968). Then came the next
3 years of struggling to understand "entropy production" in the
physical world. (I will discuss the seven essentialities on another
occasion). By 1982 I was very confident that I understood enough of
entropy production - just to be confused utterly again. How? I
discovered empirically that entropy production also happens in the
abstract world of mind. I thus had definitely more than a fair shair
of difficulties to resolve concerning the concept entropy.

> So: I begin by doubting the value of "measuring" complexity "in general."
> For most human purposes I also doubt the value of measuring or trying to
> be precise "in general" about such nouns as "beauty," "love", "faith",
> "hope," and "charity."

[The following on measuring is rather long. Skip it if you are not
interested in measuring. Resume at the next quoted comment of Steve.]

Yes, the word "measuring" has acquired a wide spectrum of meanings.
It originally refered to the measuring of a physico-chemical quantity
such as length, mass and time. It that sense it means to relate
(compare) any value (manifestation) of the quantity through
MEASUREMENT BY EQUALITY to a unique manifestation of it called the
unit. Two properties are essential in this "measurement by equality".

Firstly, the unit must have a "constant manifestation" of it which we
always can refered to - the so-called "standard unit". For example,
the standard for length in the metric system it is the "meter".

Secondly, the unit must be "freely transformable" to any other
manifestation. For example, think of a manifestation of the quanitity
length which will eventually measure into 3.4meter. It means that we
must be able to cut 1meter into the parts 0.4meter and 0.6meter, then
link 0,4 meter and three 1meter units to get 3.4meter which will then
equal the specific manifestation. This second property requires
entropy production to happen. This means physico-chemical
measurements are inherently irreversible.

In the case of physico-chemical quantities the relation (comparison)
may be expressed in terms of rational numbers, the so-called
magnitude of the quantity to be measured.

The problem is that as soon as we move out of the realm of physico-
chemical quanities to any higher order, it becomes very diffcult to
find a relationship through "measurement by equality". Why? First of
all, as complexity increases, it becomes more difficult to find a
constant manifestation which can serve as a unit. This is so because
because change becomes vitally (implicately) important in higher
order realms. Secondly, as complexity increases, it becomes more
difficult to subdivide and superlink a unit without destroying the
vey unit itself.

Think of what we so easily did with 3.4meter. Let us assume that we
also want to the same ("measure by equality") to the emotion anger.
Let us assume we want to measure sombody's anger which eventually
would be 3.4anger-units. Have you ever tried to subdivide a person's
anger in 0.4 and 0.6 parts? Have you ever tried to triple exactly a
person's anger? Where will you find a person who will willingly
sunject himself on demand as a standard unit for anger? In other
words, it is difficult to find relationships through "measurement by
equality" in complex systems. The "complex units" do not remain
constant and do not allow us to freely transform them.

Yet our natural languages abound with adjetives and adverbs which are
used for comparison purposes. Think of synonyms offering a range of
grading or antonyms offering a sharp contrast. In other words, we can
still make comparions of (find the relations between) one
manifestation with another of the same type, but not any more in the
sense of one of them as a constant which can be freely transformed
on demand. In this case the word "measuring" still makes sense, but
not the word "magnitude". The most frequent way of making such
comparions is in terms of MEASUREMENT BY RANK. We have had enough
of that on this list the last couple of months.

> Suppose we wanted to "measure" the "complexity" of the paragraph of yours
> that I have quoted. What weighting would we give to your reference to
> Stafford Beer? Little? A great deal?

Your usage of the word "weighting" refer to magnitude and thus to
"measurement by equality". As I have explained, it is not possible
to make this type of measurement such as Stafford Beer's. If you want
to do it, try it by all means.

On the other hand, what is most import - to weigh a statement or to
get insight into the statement? As I have said before, insight into
any thing X for me depends on how extensively I can relate it to
other things in the universe. In other words, to have insight into
Stafford Beer's proposition itself (and not my reference to it), I
will have to relate his proposition to other things in the universe.

Here is one example. Ecologists now commonly use the term "genetical
diversity" to express the resilience, fitness and complexity of an
ecological niche. The greater the "genetical diversity", the easier
the living specimens in the niche will survive a catastropy. How do
these living entities survive such a catstrophy? Humans are not the
only creative creatures. Diversity is essential to creativity.

I do not know about you, but this mere ecological link definitely
increases my insight into Beer's proposal - even without thinking
about the other six essentialities. On the other hand, counting the
number of papers in which referance have been made to Beer's
proposition in order to weigh its importance, is foolish. Of what use
is an important concept to me if I have no insight into it?
Furthermore, to bluff other people into thinking that I have insight
into this important (determined by the number of references to it)
concept by simply refering to its publication, is adding insult to

> Suppose we let the mind wander and entertain a hunch that Beer may be one
> of the great influences on the development of your own system. If we do
> that, and many of us do that kind of wandering all the time, are we
> finding complexity inherent in your paragraph, or are we creating it by
> injecting extrinsic elements of complexity? Is one aspect of "creativity,"
> perhaps this random and undisciplined form of mind wandering that suddenly
> leads to Eureka!, to epiphany?

Your hunch is completely wrong! In fact, it was a serious oversight
of me not to take into consideration the proposals of the system
thinker Stafford Beer. But thanks, there are friends like Keith
Sandrock who reminded me that Beer (famous for the "law of requisite
variety") has definitely proposed variety as a measure of complexity.
In other words, my own proposition to express (measure) complexity in
terms of all seven essentialities was not so completely original as I
had assumed.

In your paragraph you also mention other things beside Beer's
porposition. They are very important to me and I will reflect on

Since 1968 I am continuously aware of my need to manage chaos, order
and complexity in nature and culture. I have created, far beyond my
original expectations, a system which helps me in managing the
past, present and the future. The system is complex, but not as
complex as the reality which I need to manage.

But is this latter statement not an admission of failure because how
is it possible for a lesser complex system to image a more complex
system? No, not if the lesser complex system has the abilty to become
consistently and coherently more complex until it matches or even
surpasses the complexity of that which it has to express. I have
created this ability into my system. If this ability fails for
others, then somebody else will have to improve on it.

Otherwise somebody else have to scrap it as a useless scheme by
proving beyond any doubt that it will fail. Kurt Goedel did that for
logics as the system to manage mathematics. He certainly did not
jump the gun. Steve, although you are trying to disqualify my scheme,
at this stage you are simply jumping the gun.

If some people expect from me an indredible simple system which can
image the complexity of reality, they will be disappointed. Einstein
had such a dream, eventhough merely for physics. Although it helped
him to make profound breakthoughs, that dream still remains a dream.
I do not have this dream and do not want anyone to think that I have
any this dream of managing complexity by simplicity.

But I do have my own dream which I hope will not remain a dream
forever. That dream is that learners will learn creatively themselves
how to manage chaos, order and complexity to the benefit of all
humankind. This dream helped me to make two important discoveries,
namely 1) that entropy production also occurs in the abstract world
of mind, and 2) the seven essentialities of creativity. It also
helped my to create this management system which is complex, but
manageable for me. How manageable for others, remains a question. But
I am willing to help them to explore the system.

Steve, if the system is too complex to manage, as you so often
insist, then provide a simpler, more manageable system rather than
persisting with criticisms which you cannot back up with an
alternative system free of your criticisms.

If the two discoveries go beyond your perception, do not try to
denigrate them by that very reason. Wait for the publication of my
book. They will be carefully documented in it. Then check whether
they can be repeated or not. In the mean time, assume that these
discoveries are either valid or not and use correct logical
argumentations to discover what your assumptions will entail. For
example, assume that creativity does need wholeness, discover what it
entails and tell us about it. But stop acting like a bull in a
novelty shop.

If it is my dream which trouble you, what of it troubles you?

Is it because learners are encouraged to learn by themselves rather
than surrendering themselves to those opportunists whose pirating
of formal educational systems all over the globe is leading to the
collapse of our civilisations?

Is it because learning of knowledge has to proceed creatively rather
than for learners to soak up like sponges the creative outcomes of
others should they have the decency to bear the learners in mind?

Is it because reality involves chaos, order and complexity rather
than only simple vanities, fabrications and corruptions through which
a few become shamefully rich while billions of real people have to
struggle with death and pain on a daily basis?

Is it because through self-learning qualities such as benevolence
and compassion may emerge rather than the persistance of arrogance,
brutality and selfishness inherent to ignorance?

> So: I would tend to hold that since there are no rules for
> complexity and creativity, there is no valid way of measuring
> them. There is little point, in thiw view, of applying ordinal
> numbers to Rembrandt and Jackson Pollock: or rating and ranking them.

I will first refute you in general.

There are definitely patterns to be observed which are essential to
the complexity and creativity of the world around us. Unfortunately,
our minds cease to function in a complex and creative manner when
these patterns do not any more image themselves in our minds. Our
ability to observe and recognise these patterns is reduced
accordingly. In other words, it is impossible to deny these patterns
in the mind and then to expect observing them in complexity and
creativity. If you prefer to call such essential patterns rules, then
so let it be.

To refute you by example.

One of the seven essentialities of creativity is
"associativity-monadicity" (wholeness). Forget the other six. Jan
Smuts is the father of holism with holism=wholeness+emergence. Long
before me (1925, "Holism and Evolution") Smuts observed that
wholeness is essential to evolution in general and human creativeness
in particular. He wrote "The most important result of the idea of the
whole is, however, the appearance of the concept of creativeness." He
went so far as to consider wholeness a powerful force. David Bohm
(1980) came to the same conclusion. What can we learn from wholeness?

If it were not for internet (an excting new whole), if it were not
for English (another kind of whole) and if it were not for humans
like you and me (yet another kind of whole), this creative discourse
above would not have been possible. It is because of this wholeness
that you have been able to respond to my original contribution. Thus
it is one rule which you have made use of. You cannot deny
it. Therefore you cannot insist any more that " ... there are no
rules for complexity and creativity ..."

> Over the years, however, creative people have left accounts of the paths
> to creativity they have pursued--like leaving time for undisciplined and
> unruly mind wandering--that we can try for ourselves to see if they work
> for us as they have worked the creative people we might like to emulate.

It is what I am doing. It seems as if my account is not working for
you because you have said that you have "difficulty with large and
universal schemes for explaining the world's phenemona" such as mine.
My passion for learning is so immense that I will be very happy to
study your own "scheme for explaining the world's phenemona". If you
scheme to claim that such a scheme is neither necessary nor
permissible, substantiate your claim so that I can scrutinize it
because I have also a passion for science, among other things.

What counts in the end is passion in its highest form, namely
unconditional love.

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email:

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