Cybernetics and Public Administration
Leonie Solomons reports on CybCon2004 the Cybernetics Society Annual Conference organised with Metaphorum
Our collaboration with Cybernetics Society started on a beautiful sunny afternoon on September 3rd in St James Park, London UK which set a convivial mood for our resident and international attendees. Download Programme.
- Nick Green opened the poster session with a management cybernetics overview of the UK National Health Service National Plan for Information Technology (NPfIT). A decision support, alerting and prompting patient record distributed database was presented. Remarkably it appears to have a supporting VSM architecture and much in common with the Real Time Study Group paradigm. He asked members for their views on the 5/4/231 correspondence to Freud's superego, ego and id. He circulated his poster on work-in-progress Interactions of Actors. He conjectures a carapace crossing is required to account for Pask attraction.
Pictures from Margeret Heath.
By 3.30pm we reconvened at the Parliament Room to hear presentations by:
- Dr Y.I. Hayut-Man (Academy of Jerusalem) outlined in his "The Old City of Jerusalem - a New Interfaith Solution" an approach to a Virtual New Jerusalem to celebrate the Abrahamic Religions. An Internet Games System that will facilitate locating all the varieties of Lovers of Jerusalem into the New Assembly of the New Jerusalem was discussed. These varieties include representatives of all the monotheistic religions and other religions that feel identified with Jerusalem and cares for its destiny.
- Luc Hoebeke, Director of Hoebeke, Staes & Partners, discussed the theme of his next book on VSM applications emphasizing the importance of discovering the embodiments of the VSM-components and their interaction and not trying to apply the model on "abstract" entities.
- Margeret Heath, Free University of Brussels, Belgium, discussed VSM from within a complex systems perspective, more specifically from a Distributed Cognitive Systems Theory orientation. Attention was directed to the assumptions and assertions as to the scalability of the VSM functions to any size of "collective" (as a Cybernetic Model of Individual to Collective cognition).
- Leonie Solomons, University of Sunderland, UK, presented a Cybernetic Diagnosis of Sri Lanka's Peace Negotiations. Drawing attention to the static architecture of the design of the negotiation process, the inability of the negotiation process to cope with emergent parties was highlighted. The tetrahedron structure was used as a model to illustrate how a dynamic negotiating process would be designed to iteratively absorb variety amongst the various parties as they became affected as a product of changing relationships amongst the structurally coupled systems.
Discussion ensued after each of the presentations. Drinks were served and Particpants and discussions continued with dining into the evening.
The next day, 4th Sept 2004, Prof Alfredo Moscardini opened the conference with his deliberations on the need to get academic institution to conduct degree programs on Systems Thinking. Currently, proposals are afoot to design such a program for Egypt.
He also pressed for collaboration between the three cybernetic organizations (The Cybernetic Society, Metaphorum and Cybernetics North ) in order to ensure that Cybernetics survives as a viable academic area in the UK. He also outlined a paradigm that could be used for assessing Cybernetic work. He would welcome feedback on these ideas.
Dr Allenna Leonard facilitated a three-part presentation by Dr Angela Espinosa, Dr Marcela Villarreal and John Clark.
- Dr Angela Espinosa (Hull University) in her "Measurement systems in socio economic development programs from a cybernetic view" talked about national development programs. From her Columbian consultancy experiences, she discussed how a cybernetic approach would change the design, implementation and monitoring of such programs in developing countries. For example, she discussed the difference between the lending agency's traditional post-assessments of 'resource utilization efficiency' compared to assessment to gauge the "social change effected".
- Dr Marcela Villarreal (UN) presented "FAO support on governmental program for AIDS: Current philosophy, and approach and important challenges faced at the moment":
the world situation of the AIDS pandemic, with examples from African countries. She illustrated how the FAO is diagnosing problems to face current humanitarian crisis and argued in favour of more systemic views of the development programs to support AIDs victims. The issues of the scope of boundaries, methodologies and co-ordination interactions amongst the various arms of the UN agencies were also considered.
- John Clarke (UN) presented "Transcending Organisational Autism"
the basis of a current proposal that would use both Stafford Beer's ideas of Eudemony and Max-Neef's ideas on Human Scale Development, to design and monitor AIDs programs in South Africa. He discussed the fundaments that would support such a program design. His use of a disease analogy made this the first Metaphorum paper since the Staffordian Syntegration where members were asked to consider the diagnosis of management disease as a source of applicable invariance.
There were three presentations after lunch.
- Dr Steve Wright, (Omega Foundation) introduced his analysis of the Northern Ireland conflict and his modeling technique. He went on to introduce us to various technologies some new for potential deployment in low intensity conflicts.
- Dr Paul Stokes (University College Dublin) opened the "Identity and Structure" session with his "Identity as a Cybernetic Process, Construct and
on the question why sociology, the "science of human society", has not yet taken on board the insights of cybernetics. He proposed the problem is two-fold: conceptual and a matter of the "fit" to society. The enormous complexification of human society in the modern west has been responsible for the emergence of the signature phenomenon of the Age of Identity. Identity exists at three levels of a recursively organized structure: individual person, organization, survival unit (nation-state/society).
The VSM was used as a platonic template to identify various societal functions in the three levels of recursion. Using arguments from Elias and Schmookler, he suggested due to a history of power struggle between survival units, empirical investigation would reveal a deformed or degraded model of viability and ubiquitous patterns of systematically distorted communication (Habermas).
He went on conclude the criterion of viability has changed from military strength to GNP thence to the ability of manage complexity. This is the oncoming Governance Challenge. Social scientists armed with the insights of cybernetics are in a unique position to contribute to this historic opportunity.
- Luc Hoebeke, Director of Hoebeke, Staes & Partners, stressed that the application of the concept of identity is different for "living" social systems with a limited number of participants (500) and for "abstract" social systems as nations, corporations, etc. He raised questions of applicability of the amplifier/attenuator model of a system introduced by Beer.
We were pleased to be invited by Prof Brian Rudall Kybernetes Editor in Chief to submit the papers for publication. Dr Allenna Leonard, President of the American Society for Cybernetics, has agreed to Guest Edit.
The attendees over our one and a half day Cybcon 2004 collaborative event with Cybernetics Society came from UK, Colombia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada, Ireland, Israel and Australia.
The NEXT Metaphorum Event will be held in Dublin, Ireland where Paul Stokes will host the gathering. We aiming at early in May in 2005. The theme for our event is yet to be agreed. Suggestions are welcome to Prof Alfredo Moscardini please. Many thanks to our contributors who produced a fascinating event. We were honoured by the participation of Dr Allenna Leonard, Stafford's partner, and Vanilla Beer, the painter, and daughter of our illustrious mentor the late Stafford Beer.
A shorter report with some speakers texts and pictures by Vanilla Beer can be seen at the Cybernetics Society website.
The Society is happy to make any reasonable amendments should members and contributors feel an inadequate representation of their work has been made. Written comments and further details and clarifications are encouraged.
3rd October 2004