Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

My friend Bruce, in the middle of reading my book, has kindly alerted me to this article by Robert Sapolsky.  Here is a sample:

'This neural confusion about the literal versus the metaphorical gives symbols enormous power, including the power to make peace. The political scientist and game theorist Robert Axelrod of the University of Michigan has emphasized this point in thinking about conflict resolution. For example, in a world of sheer rationality where the brain didn’t confuse reality with symbols, bringing peace to Israel and Palestine would revolve around things like water rights, placement of borders, and the extent of militarization allowed to Palestinian police. Instead, argues Axelrod, “mutual symbolic concessions” of no material benefit will ultimately make all the difference.'

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Follow-up from this year's ASC conference

News about this year’s conference.
•    Judy Lombardi made a slide show of the conference;
•    Lev Ledit, with Judy Lombardi, made a 35 minute movie from the video material recorded during the event;
•    You may like to hear Ernst von Glasersfeld’s after dinner speech, which formed a theme in Lev’s movie.

Of course, you are still welcome to explore the whole site. It is very rich, and still being added to!
Meanwhile, we are working on proceedings which will be published next year in a double volume of Kybernetes. There are also reviews of the conference: Claudia Westermann’s will appear in Leonardo—the Arts and Science Journal—on line in November (and may also appear in hard copy); and 2 reviews, one by Stuart Umpleby and the other by Michael Hohl and Stefan Wiltschnig will appear together in issue 1 of Kybernetes in 2011. Finally, ASC President Raulph Glanville has written an assessment that will appear in Cybernetics and Human Knowing, as the ASC column, by the end of the year, together with the text of Ernst’s talk.  urls will be posted on the conference site, when they are available.
Cybernetics of Cybernetics—a competition

Ranulph Glanville, President, of ASC (the American Society for Cybernetics ) and his committee are delighted to announce a competition (open to all, prize fund up to US$ 1500) to propose cybernetic ways in which a Society for cybernetics might be organised and behave. This follows a suggestion from Margaret Mead, the founding mother of cybernetics summarised below. Submissions should be received by noon, GMT, on 31 January 2011. Full details can be found on the ASC website.

The ASC welcomes your interest and your suggestions!

Brief Background Description

In 1967, Margaret Mead, one of the original attendees at the Josiah Macy Jr. conferences and the founding mother of cybernetics, presented a paper (published in 1968) called “Cybernetics of Cybernetics” to the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). Following on from a suggestion by Gregory Bateson, at the end of her address Mead proposed that the ASC should consider itself as a cybernetic body, and apply cybernetic insights and techniques to its own organisation and operation.

Although Mead proposed a number of specific questions the ASC could ask about how it might be run (see full quote here), her suggestion received little attention. Rather, the title of her paper (given to her by Heinz von Foerster) became used more generally in the application of cybernetics to cybernetics, or second order cybernetics.

The “Cybernetics of Cybernetics” paper thus leaves two legacies. The ASC has come to recognise the need to take up Mead’s original challenge and address the conflict that occurs when a cybernetic society is not run according to cybernetic principles. The ASC can be seen as convention-bound in its operation, which is particularly odd for a cybernetic society.

The ASC (and no doubt other societies) needs ideas and renewal, and we are looking to competition entries for inspiration and direction developed from cybernetic principles. As the established home of second order cybernetics, these cybernetic principles should reflect, preferably, second as well as first order cybernetics.