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Aaron
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PostSubject: Systems Theory   Wed May 30, 2007 5:47 pm

I just wanted to review some of the basic concepts of systems theory here.

General Systems Theory
David S. Walonick, Ph.D.

General systems theory was originally proposed by Hungarian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928. Since Descartes, the "scientific method" had progressed under two related assumptions. A system could be broken down into its individual components so that each component could be analyzed as an independent entity(reduction), and the components could be added in a linear fashion to describe the totality of the system.

Von Bertalanffy proposed that both assumptions were wrong. On the contrary, a system is characterized by the interactions of its components and the nonlinearity of those interactions. In 1951, von Bertalanffy extended systems theory to include biological systems and three years later, it was popularized by Lotfi Zadeh, an electrical engineer at Columbia University. (McNeill and Freiberger, p.22)

One common element of all systems is described by Kuhn. Knowing one part of a system enables us to know something about another part. The information content of a "piece of information" is proportional to the amount of information that can be inferred from the information (A. Kuhn., 1974).

Systems can be either controlled (cybernetic) or uncontrolled. In controlled systems information is sensed, and changes are effected in response to the information. Kuhn refers to this as the detector, selector, and effector functions of the system. The detector is concerned with the communication of information between systems. The selector is defined by the rules that the system uses to make decisions, and the effector is the means by which transactions are made between systems. Communication and transaction are the only intersystem interactions. Communication is the exchange of information, while transaction involves the exchange of matter-energy. All organizational and social interactions involve communication and/or transaction.

Kuhn's model stresses that the role of decision is to move a system towards equilibrium. Communication and transaction provide the vehicle for a system to achieve equilibrium. "Culture is communicated, learned patterns... and society is a collective of people having a common body and process of culture." (p. 154, 156) A subculture can be defined only relative to the current focus of attention. When society is viewed as a system, culture is seen as a pattern in the system. Social analysis is the study of "communicated, learned patterns common to relatively large groups (of people)." (p. 157)

The study of systems can follow two general approaches. A cross-sectional approach deals with the interaction between two system, while a developmental approach deals with the changes in a system over time.

There are three general approaches for evaluating subsystems. A holist approach is to examine the system as a complete functioning unit. A reductionist approach looks downward and examines the subsystems within the system. The functionalist approach looks upward from the system to examine the role it plays in the larger system. All three approaches recognize the existence of subsystems operating within a larger system.

Descartes and Locke both believed that words were composed of smaller building blocks. Both thought that one could strip away all terms of ambiguity and be left with the clarity of comprehension. Kuhn argues for clear definitions in science. The criteria that Kuhn (1974) uses to evaluate system terminology is that it provides "analytic usefulness and consistency with other terms".

Kuhn's terminology is interlocking and mutually consistent. The following table summarizes his basic system definitions:

Term Definition

element any identifiable entity

pattern any relationship of two or more elements

object a pattern as it exists at a given moment in time

event a change in a pattern over time

system any pattern whose elements are related in a sufficiently regular way to justify attention

acting system a pattern where two or more elements interact

component any interacting element in an acting system

interaction a situation where a change in one component induces a change in another component

mutual interaction a situation where a change in one component induces a change in another component, which then induces a change in the original component

pattern system is a pattern where two or more elements are interdependent

interdependent a situation where a change in an element induces a change in another element

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PostSubject: Re: Systems Theory   Wed May 30, 2007 5:56 pm

Systems can be identified by their structure. A real system is any system of matter and/or energy. An abstract or analytic system is a pattern system whose elements consist of signs and/or concepts. Unlike the real system, which can only exchange information, abstract systems are information. A nonsystem is one or more elements that show no pattern of change. Since change is measured relative to a reference, something can be viewed as both a system and a nonsystem depending on the researcher's purpose.

A system variable is any element in an acting system that can take on at least two different states. Some system variables are dichotomous, and can be one of two values--the rat lives, or the rat dies. System variables can also be continuous. The condition of a variable in a system is known as the system state. The boundaries of a system are defined by the set of its interacting components. Kuhn recognizes that it is the investigator, not nature, that bounds the particular system being investigated. (A. Kuhn., 1974)

A system's input is defined as the movement of information or matter-energy from the environment into the system. Output is the movement of information or matter-energy from the system to the environment. Both input and output involve crossing the boundaries that define the system.

When all forces in a system are balanced to the point where no change is occurring, the system is said to be in a state of static equilibrium. Dynamic (steady state) equilibrium exists when the system components are in a state of change, but at least one variable stays within a specified range. Homeostasis is the condition of dynamic equilibrium between at least two system variables. Kuhn (1974) states that all systems tend toward equilibrium, and that a prerequisite for the continuance of a system is its ability to maintain a steady state or steadily oscillating state.

Negative equilibrating feedback operates within a system to restore a variable to an initial value. It is also known as deviation-correcting feedback. Positive equilibrating feedback operates within a system to drive a variable future from its initial value. It is also known as deviation-amplifying feedback. Equilibrium in a system can be achieved either through negative or positive feedback. In negative feedback, the system operates to maintain its present state. In positive feedback, equilibrium is achieved when the variable being amplified reaches a maximum asymtoptic limit. Systems operate through differentiation and coordination among its components. "Characteristic of organization, whether of a living organism or a society, are notions like those of wholeness, growth, differentiation, hierarchical order, dominance, control, and competition." (von Bertalanffy, 1968)

A closed system is one where interactions occur only among the system components and not with the environment. An open system is one that receives input from the environment and/or releases output to the environment. The basic characteristics of an open system is the dynamic interaction of its components, while the basis of a cybernetic model is the feedback cycle. Open systems can tend toward higher levels of organization (negative entropy), while closed systems can only maintain or decrease in organization.

A system parameter is any trait of a system that is relevant to an investigation, but that does not change during the duration of study. An environmental parameter is any trait of a system's environment that is relevant to an investigation, but that does not change during the duration of study.

http://www.survey-software-solutions.com/walonick/systems-theory.htm

I know it's a lot of information but it's a theory that acts as a basis for my metaphysics.

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PostSubject: Re: Systems Theory   Fri Jun 01, 2007 12:44 pm

I wanted to explore this quote a bit...

Quote :
Kuhn's model stresses that the role of decision is to move a system towards equilibrium. Communication and transaction provide the vehicle for a system to achieve equilibrium. "Culture is communicated, learned patterns... and society is a collective of people having a common body and process of culture." (p. 154, 156) A subculture can be defined only relative to the current focus of attention. When society is viewed as a system, culture is seen as a pattern in the system. Social analysis is the study of "communicated, learned patterns common to relatively large groups (of people)." (p. 157)

The quote regarding culture and society would seem to agree with the four quadrants where culture is LL and society is LR.



The individual process could be described something like this...

Intention would be "communicated, learned patterns" in the individual and behavior would be the a collective of neurons having a common body in the individual that follow a process of intention.

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PostSubject: Central Concepts in Living Systems Theory   Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:57 pm

Quote :
Central Concepts in Living Systems Theory


Space-Time

As mentioned, living system are concrete, they exist in physical space. Over time the actual physical space occupied by a living system may change considerably. This may be a change in location, a change in form like growth and aging, or both. Time is the fourth dimension of the physical universe and living systems. Though free to move in any direction in the other dimensions, living systems only move forward in the temporal dimension. Thus, a living system will always change from one observation to the next with no ability to reverse the changes that have occurred. Living systems maintain their integrity, albeit changing, by imputing energy from outside their boundaries. Even so, eventually entropy (the tendency to move into a state of random disorganization), overtakes the system as its ability to move matter-energy across its boundary declines. The system then dies or disintegrates.

Matter-energy

"Matter is anything which has mass and occupies physical space. Energy as defined by physics is the ability to do work" (Miller 1978, p.11). The total amount of energy and matter remains constant in the universe though it may change from one state to the other. This is the conservation of energy in physics. Living systems sustain themselves by ingesting matter and converting it to energy. Living systems are unable to receive energy directly, except for plants that use sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. All living systems primarily derive energy from sunlight stored in matter by earlier living systems that contained chlorophyll. Miller uses the term matter-energy since they are they are in an inseparable relationship, as sort of flux equilibrium. As mentioned, living systems must import matter-energy from outside their boundaries to maintain their integrity and perform their processes. If input stops, the living system ceases to exist. The import of matter-energy to minimize entropy within the system increases entropy outside the system, thus the physical universe conserves the flux equilibrium by decreasing order in one area to increase or maintain it in another.

Information

Information means "the degree of freedom that exist in a given situation to choose among signals, symbols, messages, or patterns to be transmitted" (Miller, 1978, p. 11). This also seems true of receiving information. Miller uses "meaning" as the significance a given system places on information, that is, its usefulness to the system. In concrete systems (including living systems), information markers are quantifiable; for example, the digital signals found in electronic communication systems. Information may be of several types from which the system must find meaning. Information literally means to bring into form. Thus, information is the creative directive for a system in its use of matter-energy. The information selected determines what a system will do with input, how it will be throughput, and what its output will be.

Information transfers on what von Neumann (1958) termed markers. Markers are the observable bundles, or units of matter-energy that contain and communicate symbols from one place to another. Examples of markers range from the digital bits used by a computer, patterning of a DNA molecule, or the vibration of a radio transmission. The less energy needed to transfer the information marker from one place to another, the more efficient the system is and the greater the amount of information the system can process. Bremermann (1962), an information theorist, estimated a minimum amount of energy that can transfer information as a marker based on quantum-mechanical considerations and estimated that the maximum information a system can process is 2 x 1047 bits per second, per gram of its mass. Thus, in concrete systems markers can be measured and the information it can process estimated. This material is less useful in this paper's description of transcendental systems since we are at this time unable to measure and observe this realm but it will help to consider information markers in relation to the creative process later in this writing.

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PostSubject: Re: Systems Theory   Thu Jun 21, 2007 2:58 pm

There was one thing from the above essay that struck me and it was this...

Quote :
Information means "the degree of freedom that exist in a given situation to choose among signals, symbols, messages, or patterns to be transmitted"

That sounds an awful lot like free-will or consciousness. Is it possible that systems play a part in subjective experience and consciousness? It could certainly help to explain the relation of mind to matter.

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PostSubject: Re: Systems Theory   Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:59 am

Aaron wrote:
There was one thing from the above essay that struck me and it was this...

Quote :
Information means "the degree of freedom that exist in a given situation to choose among signals, symbols, messages, or patterns to be transmitted"

That sounds an awful lot like free-will or consciousness. Is it possible that systems play a part in subjective experience and consciousness? It could certainly help to explain the relation of mind to matter.

I would say they help fascilitate them. In other words they provide the options for free will to participate.

-TC

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PostSubject: Re: Systems Theory   Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:15 pm

Is it possible that Systems Theory is more integral then the Integralists are giving it credit for? Sure the approach is external (so are the four quadrants) but it seems to me that it reaches into the internal/subjective realms (information) as well as the external/objective realms (matter/energy).

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