The Primer Papers
BY CHARLES FRANCOIS
Editor: International Encyclopedia of Cybernetics and Systemics
Let us be Practical in Systemic Terms :
Our Unfulfilled aims
TOWARDS A FRAMEWORK THEORY FOR SYSTEMICS
1. Constructing a framework out of the-empirical view
The most fundamental and general feature of any human or nonhuman organized entity is interconnectedness: A system is basically a set of interconnected elements [acting as Whole -“standing relationship”]
By interconnectedness we mean the specific nonrandom way the components or subsystems of the entity are functionally working together, and, at the same time, are structurally organized. For both aspects are inseparable [complementaries?].
Interconnectedness can be easily observed in stellar and planetary systems, in nonorganic. and organic chemical molecules, in cells, in living beings and their brains, in. ecosystems, in insect societies and, of course in all kinds of human groups.
This empirical observation implies the need for a closer and more precise view of interconnections, in general, as well as in.more specific senses in particular cases.
Interconnectedness is the very crux of any sound science of systems in the most general sense. Without internal connections - and external ones with other entities - no complex entity (= system) can or will exist.
And we now understand that organized entities are universal, from the cosmic to the ecological, biological, social or cerebral level. Accordingly we need urgently to “gather together” our systemic-cybernetic-wholismic thinking for the practical study of interconnectedness, i.e. the ways interconnections appear, self-organize, act and persist.
Of course, no theoretical or abstract construction makes much sense if it cannot be related to the study of [real] entities. We are surely not responsible citizens at any level of action if we do not base such action on a sound understanding of how “things work” (Please note: Not how they “should” work, which was the fodder of the ideologists who plagued and tortured this century, or the thin-aired idealsts) Our first need is thus to discover efficient models for the workings of all the complex systems in which we are enmeshed. Systemics and cybernetics offer us already an enormous common treasure trove of tools for such endeavor. Just to give some few examples, concepts like emergence, synergy, interaction, constraints, trigger effects, autopoiesis, resonance, homeostasis, etc … or models like compensated feedbacks, critical thresholds, types of growth, boundary effects, boundaryless, etc … provide very general insights into the ways “things work”. [It is only that we must understand their universal value and become able to translate them to a considerable variety of situations.]
We should thus be advised to construct our theoretical framework around the connection concept.
To do this, we should focus our inquiry on the following questions.. - What is a connection? - What does produce connections? - What are the effects of a connection on the connected elements? - How do connections generate complexity? - How to construct a descriptive taxonomy of the various types of connections?
Moreover, through the connection model, Cybernetics and Systemics become closely related (as complementary aspects of a more general principle).
Generally speaking, the domain of Cybernetics is related to processes, i.e. the dynamic interactions which emphasize the active aspect of interconnectedness. The domain of Systemics would more clearly cover the defined entities whose organization, relative permanence, and global activities are observable consequences of repeated and mostly nonrandom interactions.
2. From a framework for a theory to a theory framework
Taking the Lead from “Interconnections”
In order to construct a theory framework, we could try to work in the “bottom up” or in the “top down” way.
In my opinion, we should start from bottom up and after a sufficient time, rework the results as a whole from top down.
As an example, I made my Encyclopedia “Bottom up”, i.e. for many years I went fishing for unconnected bits of models and concepts in the widest possible domain of information within my reach.
Then, later on, I created a connecting web organizing the whole as a whole, admittedly still in a loose way. My goal was, and still is, to create a system of systems concepts and models, in accordance with the general idea of systems connectedness.
This [is] not really, yet, a top down work. But a coherent general theory could and probably will be constructed in the future.
I propose to work toward such a theoretical framework using as the central organizing hub, the “interconnection” [model]concept,
Some basic queries could be used to find leads toward-, synthesis, as for example:
-What is interconnected? (Elements catched [?], or even produced in fields)
-Which types of interconnections can we define? - deterministic, i.e. rigidly constrained - regulating, i.e. allowing for fluctuations which remain constrained within limits by feedback - rando i.e. not constrained in any clearly defined pattern (Practically, for real entities, this corresponds to chaotic determinism, i.e. allowing random variation within very wide space and time global limits)
-In which order and ways can we derive all systemic properties from the interconnection concept [model]?
The last question mark could really usher the top down phase of the construction of the Theory Framework. This would be a considerable work and would need a carefully established general methodology for finding significant linkages, in a way somewhat similar to L. Troncale's proposals some years ago.
It could be done by using the Encyclopedia as a first source for a beginning, using the general question mark: “What does ……….mean in the light of the interconnection concept?” Hereafter some examples., “What does Ageing, Carrying capacity, Density (Critical), Heterogeneity, Lock-in effect, Memory, Perceptual field, Structure (Fractal), Threshold, Variable (Relevant), Vortex, and so on mean in terms of the interconnection model?.
Note: As the necessary precursors of any organized entity are vortices in fields (C. Laville, D. MacNeill, we possibly need a kind of systemic “big bang” concept, previous to the “interconnectedness” one. Thus we will also flesh out a Relationship Theory for a more general treatment.
The concept of “Process” (In H. Sabelli's formulation) could cover most of the functional and dynamical aspects of interconnections.
In short, there is a lot of work to do.
February 28th, 1998
Take the tour…Reflections