|Philosophy and Cybernetics: Questions and Issues
Thomas Marlowe, Fr. Joseph R. Laracy
In this article, we consider some of the more interesting interactions of philosophy and cybernetics, some philosophical issues arising in cybernetic systems, and some questions in philosophy. Many of these are fruitfully explored in the articles in this issue, which are referenced where appropriate.
Reconceiving Cybernetics in Light of Thomistic Realism
John T. Laracy, Fr. Joseph R. Laracy
Since its origins in the early twentieth century as a transdisciplinary approach connecting the fields of electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, dynamical systems theory, logic and discrete mathematical modeling, neuroscience, and other disciplines, cybernetics has greatly expanded in scope, addressing salient issues across the disciplinary spectrum, including the social sciences and the humanities. One of its most significant interactions has been with twentieth century philosophy. Contemporary second-order cybernetics research engages issues in cognitive science, epistemology, the philosophy of science, metaphysics, ethics, and other fields. Working from the perspective of Thomistic realism, as represented by Étienne H. Gilson and Stanley L. Jaki, this paper presents both a metaphysical and epistemological critique of cybernetics, as traditionally conceived, and attempts to recover some of its key insights and practices in light of new first principles.
Nascent Cybernetics, Humanism, and Some Scientistic Challenges
Zachary M. Mabee
I argue in this paper that certain broad programmatic concerns offered by Norbert Wiener regarding the then-nascent field of cybernetics help us to see how the field has a certain kind of implicitly humanistic orientation. I take this orientation to be emergent or manifest in regard both to its interdisciplinarity and, in particular, to the way in which it highlights the need for not-just-scientific values to be at play in the evaluation and reception of its work. I marshal these points in response to some key recent varieties of scientism, namely those defended, respectively, by Alex Rosenberg and by James Ladyman, Don Ross, and David Spurrett, which have been philosophically resurgent of late. I contend that a humanistic approach to the sciences, following generally upon Wiener’s cautionary points, escapes some obvious problems that ultimately beset varieties of scientism, particularly relating to the role that various values often play in and around scientific work.
Kant, Cybernetics, and Cybersecurity: Integration and Secure Computation
Jon K. Burmeister, Ziyuan Meng
This paper argues that Kant’s philosophy of mind sheds light on Heinz Von Foerster’s cybernetic thinking, and that both thinkers help us identify dubious theoretical assumptions within computer science and cybersecurity. Specifically, these two thinkers discuss the importance of integration within systems, a position which contrasts with a reductionist form of thinking currently common in computer science. We argue that such a reductionist and narrowly technocentric approach leads to the design of insecure software systems. To develop an improved theory of security and vulnerability, we look for inspiration to Kant and von Foerster.
Our approach focuses on two types of integration within Kant’s philosophy of mind – the “unity of apperception,” and the unity of the mental faculties – and then traces these same themes in the thought of von Foerster. Building on that, we argue two points: 1.) a secure software system never directly takes its structure or operations from the external environement, and 2.) the more integrated a software system is, the more secure it is. To illustrate these points, we analyze a case study of a code injection attack against a vulnerable web application, and show how such a system is vulnerable to cyberattack when it fails to maintain its integrated form in response to inputs from the environment.
Interplay Between Cybernetics and Philosophy as an Essential Condition for Learning
In the 21st century, there is an increasing interest in studying the relationship of cybernetics and philosophy. My paper is also inspired by the recent enormous efforts in developing machine intelligence and machine learning to replicate human intelligence and human learning. Furthermore, my paper is motivated by the continuing merge of natural sciences and social sciences. I argue that in the network and wisdom economy, the subject of study in natural and social sciences is converging, which makes the topic of my paper interesting, contemporary, and needed. Here, I will focus on the interplay between philosophy and cybernetics as a necessary condition for learning. This conceptual paper is based on the study of the literature. After presenting the objective of the paper, I will discuss the concept of learning. Then, I present the main characteristics of the five leading learning paradigms such as behaviorism; cognitivism; cognitive and social constructivism; humanism; and connectivism. Next, I briefly discuss how cybernetics and philosophy relate to learning and offer a framework to show the interrelatedness of cybernetics, philosophy, and the learning paradigms. Finally, I conclude with my key arguments.
|Towards a General Theory of Change: A Cybernetic and Philosophical Understanding
We consider possible cybernetic and systemic approaches to an interdisciplinary general theory of change as a philosophical and scientific project. The approaches considered are intended as necessary; however, they are not necessarily the only ones, probably, at least in some cases, non-sufficient. The aim of such a theory should be that of identifying levels of descriptions suitable to classify, describe, and forecast the consequences of changes, as well as of finding the conditions which allow to control them as introduced by Cybernetics. Historically the scientific contents relate to the theory of phase transitions, its variations, and quantum approaches. However, we consider processes whose dynamics of change may be represented by other approaches such as meta-structural properties, that is, of necessarily dynamic structures between variable clusters rather than between entities considered structurally invariable. Furthermore, we consider the dynamics of processes of emergence, the general process of changing, as dynamics of validity regimes, an approach inspired by considering fields rather than entities in physics. On the philosophical side of the interdisciplinary general theory, we consider how such a hypothetical general theory of change should consider the theoretical incompleteness of changing, based on equivalences and multiplicities, and the quasi-ness of phenomena when properties are continuously lost and recovered. When systems are not always systems, systems are not only systems, and a system is not always the same system. The quasi-ness of the interaction machinery supporting the interaction activity of emergence is given by the variable duration, different start and end instants, inhomogeneity, and the various composability of interactions themselves which, furthermore, interfere with each other. It relates to the keeping of the same identity by continuously changing systems such as emergent systems. A swarm is always a swarm, even if continuously different. Theoretical incompleteness and quasi-ness are philosophical aspects of the meta-structural, mesoscopic approach, suitable to give new philosophical meaning to Cybernetics and General System Theory in the field of complexity. Where ‘to regulate’ means the ability to induce and to orient complex phenomena (where the replacement substitutes the regulation) with the fundamental role of weak forces as constraints to dynamics, to be processed by systems and not only be formally respected.
Artificial Intelligence and Human Intellect
Many philosophers, computer scientists, and cyberneticists still consider it possible that a computer, described as a Turing machine, can effectively have intelligence. They are not talking about the present but the future of a possible computer to have the same properties as human intelligence. In this brief paper, I will provide some basic arguments that prove the impossibility of such a thinking machine. These arguments will be presented in four parts: the mental experiment of the Chinese Room, the argument from exactness, the argument from phenomenology, and the argument from abstraction. The first argument proves that mechanical manipulation of symbols is not understanding. The second argument proves that logic and mathematics are exact, which is a quality of understanding missing in the material world. The third argument proves that logical laws are unconditional, while physical laws are relative to material conditions. Finally, the last argument proves that abstraction is an operation of the intellect that is required for creative decision making. Neither animals nor any material system manifests abstraction.
The Philosophy of Cybernetics
This special edition of The Journal on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics (JSCI), "Philosophy & Cybernetics", would not be complete without describing the link between the two words of the subtitle. "Interdisciplinary" is the heart of this journal and its embracing organization, the International Institute of Informatics and Systemics (IIIS), one of the few, if not the only organization, devoted to the study of the concept. We find "cybernetics" within the context of "interdisciplinary", also carrying the same import of integration, interdependence, and organicity as "cybernetics".
To see why requires thinking about thinking, or philosophy, more precisely a philosophical system. Yet, all philosophical systems are beset by the insurmountable problem of attaining universal incontrovertible truths, that is, metaphysical certainty. A tentative solution exists.
I start with "discipline" having a generic meaning. Its academic meaning - rigor and specialization - are combined as intense focus, reducing scope ultimately to the smallest of the smallest, interacting Planck scale units, also in a unique manner characterizing the substratum, both process and object contained within the singularity and giving rise to what we have today. This substratum characterizes the most fundamental law, the unity of difference, the essence of "interdisciplinary". Bootstraps, an answer to the metaphysical problem, are starting points, the singularity with superposition and logic the descriptive language. Now, modern computing is moving towards supercomputers, the Q-bit, based on superposition as the computing unit. Ultimately, my discipline here is sociointelligence, the study of how we can transcend ourselves through cybernetics.
Integration and interdependence are dynamic, meaningless absent a framework, a special kind, a system, a dynamism explicitly operating inside and over a system with its descending subsets of objects and processes, designated logically as variables (like "a"s), those also ascending from Planck units to suprasystem, all mutually interacting. Contained within innately, thus implicitly, are deduction (descension of sets) and induction (ascension of sets).
Dynamism does not occur in isolation, it reflecting the same organic essence shared by humans, their environment, and between the two. "Cybernetics" describes that vital connection between dynamic systems and organisms, in founder Norbert Wiener's words, "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine". In the end, humans not only live "interdisciplinary" as well as study it but internalize it, ultimately being it.
Recursion, subsumed by cybernetics, occurs with virtually every dyadic relationship in the Universe, each's output forward-fed as inputs, ultimately reproducing the relationship. If logic is a language of innate order in the Universe, so recursion describes it, hence, cybernetic. In a true recursive manner, a cybernetic one, the IIIS studies itself, hence, self-reflective.
The philosophical system, resting on the pillars of ontology and epistemology (with its substructure of rationalism and empiricism), describes the relationships between cybernetics, and "interdisciplinary", moreover how we arrive at the connection and why. The system, itself, stands on ontology and epistemology, recognizing the inefficacy of attempts at absolutist metaphysics,
deferring to bootstrapping. Such as the foregoing is a precis for my forthcoming book Zero is Greater Than One explaining in detail how and why this all occurs.
Cybernetics and Philosophy in a Translation of Oedipus the King and Its Performance
Inspired by Professor Marlowe’s presentation “Implicit Cybernetic Systems” in IMCIC 2021, the author of this study will approach Gilbert Murray’s translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus, King of Thebes and Max Reinhardt’s theatrical performance of this translation (as Oedipus Rex)2 in early 20th-century London, UK, through interacting cybernetic systems theory, exploring how early archaeological finds and Nietzsche’s philosophy influenced the reception of this Greek tragedy by a wider English public of the period (Appendix B: Figure 1). Issues of reflection and “reflexion” will also be discussed, with “reflexion” being manifested in the correspondence between the translator and the protagonist of the performance. At the end, the author will advance an extension of the theory of the existing cybernetic systems, proposing that when a polysystem is closed there is a model that: (1) incorporates the human mind/nous (philosophy of knowledge) as an overarching observer of a wider system; and (2) takes into consideration how time span and the existence or absence of evidence so that cybernetics can be operative in Humanities, as a Second-Order Closed Cybernetic Polysystem in Appendix B: Figure and Figure 2. On the contrary, when the overarching observer/nous completes his/her study, s/he enters a Second-Order Open Cybernetic Polysystem, as in Figure 3, where s/he can communicate his/her knowledge and his/her field (?πιστ?μη: episteme), and, eventually, influence the polysystem itself.
In this study, when required, parallelism between cybernetic and various inter-semiotic systems will be drawn, and some literary terms (such as “interdiscursivity”) will be introduced in the text and in Appendix B - Figures 1, 2 and 3 to a new diagram so that cybernetic systems will further enhanced. So, the author’s hope is that a cross-fertilization between Humanities and Sciences – that is, multi-disciplinarity – will be a crucial component in our understanding of the past and the present.
Linguistic Philosophy of Cyberspace
Rusudan Makhachashvili, Ivan Semenist
21st century has witnessed the qualitative advances in ontological reality structuring and approaches to perception and cognition by the human mind. The study objective is the investigation of the innovative philosophic aspects of cyberspace through the lenses of the language development processes in the sphere of innovative computer technologies and digital communication. The study design is the disclosure of cyberspace as an ontology model and as a linguistic model in the template of a logosphere. The linguistic philosophy approach to the study of cyberspace allows to efficiently investigate the empirical manifestation of cyberspace ontology (space and time dimensions), the generic categories and dimensions of cyber-epistemology, to denote existential anthropocentric character of cyberspace. Philosophical foundations of the study of cyberspace as an integrated macro-and micro-entity are determined by the substantive features of innovative logosphere as a macrostructure and by the phenomenological characteristics and properties of substrate of linguistic units of innovative cyberspace logosphere.
Systems Philosophy and Cybernetics
The general purpose of this article is to outline the intellectual importance and the pragmatic value of Cybernetics Philosophy. With this orientation, we will try to show the plausibility that Cybernetics, in its essence, is not new but, on the contrary, it seems consubstantial with human nature and, plausibly with Nature itself. Based on this plausibility, we will try to reason why it is intellectually important and pragmatically valuable, to foster reflections oriented to a Philosophy of Cybernetics. Consequently, we will suggest that applying systems philosophy, to be applied to Cybernetic systems, as a species. Additionally, it would be required to identify the differentia specifica of cybernetic systems and, hence, add other predicates to the notion of Cybernetics. This does not mean that we will be suggesting the use of the Aristotelian Definition and adding another definition to the overwhelming number of definitions that already exist. What we are suggesting is to use the Aristotelian notion of ‘definition’, in a more comprehensive context, i.e., not to define but to describe the notion or the idea of Cybernetics. In this context, we suggest the support of ‘Control Philosophy’ as a source to identify the differentia specifica of “cybernetics” in the context of the genus “general system”. This suggestion will emerge as we provide details regarding the con-essential nature of cybernetics to human beings and potential with Nature and its Evolution.
Based on the details, we will provide regarding the above paragraph, we will suggest cybernetic relationships that tacitly, implicitly, or explicitly exist between the most important notions; which we will provide as related to the general-purpose briefly described above. To do so, we will try to get intellectual support from Lonergan’s cognitive levels. We will also, 1) briefly describe the relationships between Lonergan’s cognitive levels and important cybernetic notions; and, then, 2) use Lonergan’s terms and notions in order to increase the precision parts of the following sections. The latter would show the importance of Lonergan's Philosophy as intellectual support for a Cybernetics Philosophy. This is because Lonergan's intellectual perspective is a cybernetic one in both First and Second-Order Cybernetics.