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What would the point of a system that could control society and all  
accidents?

Where would we have the ability to learn?

Even 1984 had an escape clause in it and that was one of Orwell's  
darker hours.

I think we have freedom for a reason; teach- but let them make their  
own choices: Like raising children.

Like Roger I think this discuss has a lot more legs to it.

Stefan

On 8 Feb 2008, at 21:21, ROD THOMAS wrote:

> Hi
> That's probably because it has a concrete problem that has involved  
> some actual discussion of management cybernetic principles. And we  
> are all helpful sorts wishing to assist Arthur's  PhD.  In my  
> experience, he will need all the help he can get, cybernetics is the  
> last thing you should introduce to a PhD because academia hates it  
> to the marrow. But I have just been dipping in & out and havent had  
> time to read it all.
>
> I didnt mean to suggest that you were happy with crash accidents -  
> that would be silly. But I'm sure that at some stage you made a  
> point about failure or disaster being interest relative & that  
> researching it had ethical dimensions - it struck in my mind because  
> you illustrated it with reference to a Lion eating an antelope. It  
> reminded me of CH Waddington having some theory or other that you  
> could base ethics on evolution - not that I'm suggesting that this  
> was your argument.
> Best,
> Rod
>
> Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The other point is that it is fascinating that this stream is  
> continuing to generate such interests...
>
> Roger
> On 8 Feb 2008, at 20:55, Roger Harnden wrote:
>
>> Rod, to the point as always.
>>
>> My point was that the VSM might not be the tool to analyse the  
>> problem - it was not that I am happy with accidents that might  
>> include myself among others.
>>
>> There are many strands going on in this thread. There are observer  
>> determined points, there are SSM points, there are 'hard' and  
>> 'soft' points.  As has been said before, the VSM is not a universal  
>> panacea. The VSM is not a 'tool for stopping air crashes'. It never  
>> was, and it never will be. Human beings and 'messy' systems are  
>> involved, as well as technical ones. The VSM might well help  
>> highlight the overall situation. It will not in itself give an  
>> answer. It is not a design blueprint for the 'perfect automated  
>> system'. That's all I meant to say.
>>
>> Roger
>>
>>
>> On 7 Feb 2008, at 22:58, ROD THOMAS wrote:
>>
>>> Hi Nick,
>>>
>>> Yes, just dipping in and out of this thread over the weeks has  
>>> revealed quite a great deal of confusion as to just what is  
>>> offered by cybernetics to the prevention of failure. As if it  
>>> offers the magic spell to ward off all harmful possibilities!
>>>
>>> As I understand it, 'stability' is the cybernetic term for the  
>>> output (that is of interest to us) remaining within acceptable  
>>> bounds. Notwithstanding Roger's implied observation that from an  
>>> ecological viewpoint an air traffic crash may be no bad thing, I  
>>> think most people's intentionality to the world would call it a  
>>> 'disaster' or 'accident'. Hence, to those people, cybernetics  
>>> would say that 'stability' can sometimes be achieved by what  
>>> Stafford sometimes called 'implicit control' - fast action,  
>>> continuous and ideally automatic, negative feedback. As I  
>>> undersatnd it, this is what the Wright brothers achieved - they  
>>> designed an aircraft that could not fly by itself, instead they  
>>> introduced a pilot to offer feedback adjustments that counteracted  
>>> tilt or dip. As De bono once wrote, 'their eyesight and seat of  
>>> pants' completed the feedback loop. However, that cybernetic  
>>> advance did not overcome the many disturbances to flight that are  
>>> not overcome by eyesight and seat of pants.
>>>
>>> Ultrastability still relies on feedback, but as I understand it,  
>>> its where there are a number of interacting feedback loops that  
>>> continually act to reconfigure until all sub-sytems are within  
>>> stable zones: an equilibrium for the system as a whole. This means  
>>> that control may not be located in a single controller - simply  
>>> monitoring horizon and seat of pants - it may be distributed  
>>> throughout the structure of feedback relationships. Hence a  
>>> disturbance to any one system, potentially regardless of cause,  
>>> will result in a series of changes that have no end until the  
>>> whole system recovers an equilibrium state. This was Ashby's  
>>> machine - strangely enough built from surplus RAF equipment. No  
>>> doubt modern aircraft have these kinds of arrangement: with all  
>>> their red warning lights etc.
>>>
>>> But obviously (?) even ultrastability can't thwart a devastating  
>>> missile or a bomb that destroys the homeostatic configuration.
>>>
>>> I remember Stafford used to talk about Ashby's Law and airport  
>>> security - his example was that his cigar case was an imaginery  
>>> bomb and no-one once looked in it when he checked in at the  
>>> airport. What are we to do - go through security bollock naked?  
>>> But as every special forces soldier knows - the body itself has  
>>> one or two natural suitcases.
>>>
>>> So in short, we are (wo)men not gods.
>>>
>>> Rod Thomas
>>>
>>> Nick Green <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> Dear Paul
>>>
>>> How about this:
>>>
>>> Ultrastability is a desideratum of a system seen as a number of  
>>> interacting
>>> homoeostats. Clearly any perturbation if big enouigh will destroy  
>>> coherence.
>>> A large enough meteor crashing on earth for example could end
>>> mammalian/human life.
>>>
>>> Ashby set up a technical (notationally over rich perhaps)  
>>> description of
>>> ultrastability in his "Design for an Intelligence  
>>> Amplifier" (Automata
>>> Studies ed Shannon and McCarthy Princeton UP 1956) and embodied in  
>>> the many
>>> stable states achievable in his hardware homeostat (the step  
>>> function of
>>> which we may see as System 4) in his "Design for a Brain". There  
>>> is a
>>> feeling that redundancy is important, reflected in Ashby's Law of  
>>> experience
>>> (and his technical idea of cylindrance isomorphic, perhaps, to  
>>> Stafford's
>>> paradigm of the logical search in Brain).
>>>
>>> But having said all that I'm not sure we can say much with  
>>> certainty about
>>> the future. A number of small unexpected perturbations all within  
>>> bounds
>>> might defeat any control policy. With adequate Variety engineering  
>>> at least
>>> we can monitor what we know to be these critical variables and  
>>> their bounds,
>>> simulate worst cases and deal with problems as they arise in as  
>>> timely a
>>> manner as possible -but that's probably more than most would say.  
>>> We laugh
>>> at the obvious errors made by the "Wobbly Bridge" designers but  
>>> can we
>>> honestly say we can produce designs that will never go into  
>>> destructive
>>> oscillations (like the sub-prime credit errors threatens to)?
>>>
>>> However there are simple fundamental checks at present that are  
>>> not done and
>>> these we can tackle with some certainty. What is the flux of CO2  
>>> over
>>> desert, sea, pampas and rain forest? We dont know. What was the  
>>> cost of risk
>>> in sub-prime lending? We didn't know. What are the daily outcomes of
>>> medicating patients again we don't know- but we could know. All we  
>>> can do
>>> (Chaitin like) is decrease the probability of halting (or going  
>>> extinct,
>>> non-viable) by adding variety (men, machines, money) where our  
>>> quantitative
>>> models, always improving, suggest it is most needed. In effect  
>>> from VSM we
>>> set up a transparent structured heuristic for survival.
>>>
>>> Incidentally if anybody wants a textbook on Risk I have been using  
>>> Bedford
>>> and Cooke "Probabilistic Risk Analysis: foundations and  
>>> methods" (Cambridge
>>> UP 2001) for some years now and, at least, it makes me feel better.
>>>
>>> I once asked a Chem Eng friend who had been doing the Risk  
>>> analysis for
>>> Sizewell B what he did. "Oh", he said "you know". Well I didn't  
>>> and that is
>>> why I asked but it turns out they just looked at scenarios and  
>>> probabilities
>>> (sometimes of rare events - which can be tricky); added some (for  
>>> logical
>>> OR), multiplied others (for logical AND) and answered questions  
>>> like "the
>>> chances of aircraft dropping out of the sky onto the reactor", the  
>>> pressure
>>> vessel failing and the way a smoke plume would drift. That is one  
>>> way of
>>> simulating future worst cases and hence managing the future.  
>>> System 4 is
>>> asked is the containment vessel strong enough? What do we do if it  
>>> isn't?
>>> What are the chances of it failing due to excessive perturbation  
>>> in, say, 25
>>> years?
>>>
>>> Best
>>>
>>> N.
>>>
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Paul Stokes"
>>> To:
>>> Sent: Friday, January 18, 2008 1:43 AM
>>> Subject: Fw: System failure
>>>
>>>
>>> > Arthur,
>>> >
>>> > It is my understanding that for a well-designed cybernetic  
>>> system you do
>>> > not
>>> > need to specifiy in advance causes of possible future  
>>> disturbance to the
>>> > system.
>>> >
>>> > It would be a very interesting exercise though to specify an  
>>> ultrastable
>>> > (Ashby) aircraft capable of dealing with any possible source of
>>> > disturbance.
>>> > Sounds impossible? Any takers?
>>> >
>>> > Paul
>>> >
>>> >>
>>> >> ----- Original Message -----
>>> >> From: "Arthur Dijkstra"
>>> >> To:
>>> >> Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:52 PM
>>> >> Subject: Re: System failure
>>> >>
>>> >>
>>> >>> Thanks Stuart and all,
>>> >>> Yes I have read the Perrow's book. Because of complexity and  
>>> coupling we
>>> >>> can
>>> >>> expect failures. I the safety management system (SMS) these  
>>> failures
>>> >>> should
>>> >>> be anticipated and avoided or controlled. I want to work  
>>> backwards, so
>>> >>> from
>>> >>> the accident, via the conditions into the organisation to find
>>> >>> precursors
>>> >>> and control them. The way you understand accidents shape the  
>>> way you try
>>> >>> to
>>> >>> prevent them. For now I want to describe accident in cybernetic
>>> >>> language.
>>> >>> Regards,
>>> >>> Arthur
>>> >>>
>>> >>>
>>> >>> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>> >>> Van: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer
>>> >>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Namens Stuart  
>>> Umpleby
>>> >>> Verzonden: donderdag 17 januari 2008 17:25
>>> >>> Aan: [log in to unmask]
>>> >>> Onderwerp: Re: System failure
>>> >>>
>>> >>> Probably you know about Charles Perrow's book Normal  
>>> Accidents, 1984.
>>> >>> As I recall, he claims that if the number of elements that can  
>>> fail is
>>> >>> large and the interconnections among elements is large,  
>>> occasional
>>> >>> failure is "normal." Stated differently, complexity can be a  
>>> cause of
>>> >>> failure. Back up systems prevent a crash due to the failure of a
>>> >>> single component. Hence, several things need to go wrong at  
>>> the same
>>> >>> time to cause a crash. So, one looks for combinations of  
>>> failures and
>>> >>> factors which cause several components to fail at once.  
>>> Perrow's book
>>> >>> was widely read in the months and years before y2k.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> On Jan 17, 2008 9:39 AM, Arthur Dijkstra
>>> >>> wrote:
>>> >>>> Hi Frank and others,
>>> >>>> Thanks, I am aware of this. The challenge is to relate data  
>>> from the
>>> >>>> operational flights and the organisation to the probability  
>>> of a
>>> >>>> accident.
>>> >>>> Therefore I need a exhaustive list of possible ways to crash  
>>> a aircraft
>>> >>> from
>>> >>>> a cybernetic perspective.
>>> >>>> Regards,
>>> >>>> Arthur
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>> >>>> Van: Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer
>>> >>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Namens Frank
>>> >>>> Verzonden: donderdag 17 januari 2008 15:33
>>> >>>> Aan: [log in to unmask]
>>> >>>> Onderwerp: Re: System failure
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> Dear Arthur,
>>> >>>> whilst this is not a cybernetics approach I think it could be  
>>> useful.
>>> >>>> It's
>>> >>>> more front line but tells its own story..
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> Extract from article
>>> >>>> [...] But with so few crashes in recent years, air carriers and
>>> >>>> regulators
>>> >>>> have been trying to find other ways to identify potentially  
>>> dangerous
>>> >>>> trends. Instead of digging through debris, they now spend far  
>>> more time
>>> >>>> combing through computer records, including data downloaded  
>>> from
>>> >>>> thousands
>>> >>>> of daily flights and scores of pilot incident reports.
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> The information is stored on banks of computers, such as the  
>>> server
>>> >>>> housed
>>> >>>> in a windowless office of a US Airways hangar here. Like its
>>> >>>> counterparts
>>> >>> at
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> other carriers, a small team of pilots and analysts sift  
>>> through
>>> >>>> thousands
>>> >>>> of records daily looking for the seeds of the next big air  
>>> crash.
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> In recent years, the team has uncovered such potential safety  
>>> problems
>>> >>>> as
>>> >>>> unsafe landing and takeoff practices and difficult landing  
>>> approaches.
>>> >>>> The
>>> >>>> data have helped pinpoint areas that pose an increased risk  
>>> of midair
>>> >>>> or
>>> >>>> ground collisions and have led to the discovery of a large  
>>> bulge in the
>>> >>>> runway of a Vermont airport. Even after threats have been  
>>> reduced, US
>>> >>>> Airways' executives and pilots say they keep monitoring the  
>>> data to
>>> >>>> ensure
>>> >>>> that their new procedures work.
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>>
>>> >>> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/12/AR2008011202
>>> >>>> 407.html
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> Hope this helps.
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> Regards
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> Frank Wood
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> >>>> From: "Arthur Dijkstra"
>>> >>>> To:
>>> >>>> Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 2:10 PM
>>> >>>> Subject: System failure
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> > Dear all,
>>> >>>> > In my project to develop a Safety Management System for  
>>> aviation I am
>>> >>>> > evaluating different categories to describe aircraft  
>>> accidents. Using
>>> >>>> > cybernetics, I want to make a exhaustive and usable list of  
>>> the way
>>> >>>> > an
>>> >>>> > aircraft can crash. Sort of 50 ways to crash your  
>>> aircraft :-) Usable
>>> >>>> > means
>>> >>>> > in this context that in an organisation events can be  
>>> related to the
>>> >>>> > possible accidents. As a cybernetician how would you build  
>>> such a
>>> >>> category
>>> >>>> > (hierarchy of categories) to describe the possible accident  
>>> types ?
>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>> > Thanks for your response,
>>> >>>> > Arthur
>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>> > For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
>>> >>>> > For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE)  
>>> go to:
>>> >>>> > www.platformforchange.org
>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>> > ---
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>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>> >
>>> >>>>
>>> >>>> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
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>>> >>>>
>>> >>>
>>> >>>
>>> >>>
>>> >>> --
>>> >>> Stuart Umpleby, Research Program in Social and Organizational  
>>> Learning
>>> >>> 2033 K Street NW, Suite 230, The George Washington University,
>>> >>> Washington, DC 20052
>>> >>> www.gwu.edu/~umpleby, tel. 202-994-1642, fax 202-994-5284
>>> >>>
>>> >>> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
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>>> >>> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
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>>> >>>
>>> >>
>>> >
>>> > For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
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>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > --
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>>> >
>>>
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>>>
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>>>
>>
>> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum  
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>>
>>
>>
>
> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum  
> Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org
>
> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum  
> Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org
>
>
>


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