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#ISSS2015 Berlin - Judith Rosen - Redefining Objectivity


Published on - see the presentation recorded live.
The 59th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Berlin, Germany (2nd Aug - 7th Aug 2015)

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#ISSS2015 Berlin - Judith Rosen - Redefining Objectivity

  1. 1. Redefining Scientific Objectivity By Judith Rosen (So that it’s finally appropriate for biological systems…)
  2. 2. What’s wrong with The Machine Metaphor of Rene Descartes? • Machines are created by human beings for human purposes, to extend human capacities or possibilities, in some way. • This capacity for creating technologies to serve functional needs is not unique to human beings. It’s a high level Anticipatory behavior pattern. • BUT… why should a hermit crab try to get itself into the empty mindset of its shell? Where’s the value in that?
  3. 3. What is “Health”? • The World Health Organization has defined it thusly: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Question: Where does the value for “Health” come from?
  4. 4. Anticipatory Systems Theory • Explains the differences between living and non-living systems. • Living organisms are examples of naturally self-organizing Anticipatory Systems • A.S. Describes the Characteristics of Life from a scientific framework.
  5. 5. What is an Anticipatory System? • Robert Rosen wrote: • "The present volume is intended as a contribution to the theory of those systems which contain internal predictive models of themselves and/or of their environments and which utilize the predictions of their models to control their present behavior.” • “Systems of this type have a variety of properties which are unique to them. It is most important to understand these properties, for many reasons. We shall argue that much, if not most, biological behavior is model-based in this sense. This is true at every level, from the molecular to the cellular to the physiological to the behavioral. Moreover, model-based behavior is the essence of social and political activity. An understanding of the characteristics of model-based behavior is thus central to any technology we wish to develop to control such systems, or to modify their model-based behavior in new ways.”
  6. 6. What does that MEAN?
  7. 7. Living Organisms as Anticipatory Systems • The Rosennean definition for “INFORMATION” is: “Anything that can be the answer to a question.” That requires the existence of a question-asker: A living organism. There must be a need of some kind, which pre-exists either the asking of the question or seeking of the answer. • What is definable as “information” depends on perspective. One organism’s information might be another organism’s incidental and meaningless noise. • “Information” is, therefore, a relational label and entirely context dependent: It is not a quality intrinsic to the thing or phenomena or percept, on their own. The designation of information arises through interaction between a living organism, its internal predictive models, and aspects of its environment. • Being a model-guided system means that information is a component of the system, itself. • It is part of the pattern of life that organisms seek out, ingest, and metabolize information just as they do energy, from the environment. Information is “digested” (processed, interpreted) and perhaps encoded into new models or used to activate current models and generate guidance for behavior of the system.
  8. 8. Sensory Capacity as Information- Gathering Capacity.
  9. 9. What is “food”? • The answer depends on who is hungry.
  10. 10. An internal value for “Health”… • Depends on an internal value for “Self”: Health of what? Health of Self. • Therefore, the value for “Health” will change if the “Self” model changes. In reproduction of many species, one or both parents seem to encode offspring into their self-model and sometimes put the health of the offspring ahead of their own as an independent organism-- sometimes, to a lethal degree. Death after reproducing is a common pattern. • The internal value for Health will guide the activities of metabolism and repair (the two functional capacities that arise/emerge along with LIFE). • Robert Rosen’s concept of an “M,R-System” as a model for a living organism, where M is metabolism and R is repair. Both are Anticipatory processes…
  11. 11. Life, Survival, Reproduction… • … are all future-based activities • With a future-based perspective • And a future-based (Anticipatory) control strategy.
  12. 12. The Optimality Scale • Co-arising with the Self-model and the definition for Health (of-Self), there arises the means for evaluating (predicting) the risk or benefit of any given percept. This is the perspective of each organism. • I call this The Optimality Scale: the full range of “good” or “bad” that any given percept can represent. • As such, the range of optimality is unique to the perspective of each organism.
  13. 13. Descartes’ Definition of Objectivity • “All systems in the universe can be thought of as being like a machine.” This is “The Machine Metaphor”. • Therefore, the perspective of all living organisms must be like a machine’s (as we imagine it to be…) • Scientific detachment from all bias or preferences (total objectivity) became synonymous with Science, itself. • Any and every area of human activity that wished to become “more scientific” also became machine like.
  14. 14. The Legacy of the Machine Metaphor in Human Systems • All concept of intrinsic “function” was outlawed in Science as being non-objective. • Mechanistic concepts and techniques in Science were applied across the board, even to ecosystems and organisms. They were treated like they were not significantly different from the atoms and elements of which they were “made”. • Even disciplines devoted to human health became machine-like and factory-like.
  15. 15. Is this “Optimal”? • Industrial agriculture • Giant hospitals where patients and their families are treated like cogs in an impersonal machine instead of the hospital’s reason for being. • Education becomes industrialized where the discussion centers around “standardization”-- of our children’s minds. It’s a production line. • Business, regardless of what product or service is being sold, is based on a single, imposed human goal: money. With that as “the” goal, the optimality scale is based entirely on how well that goal is achieved. This is true even in arenas like education, health care, and law enforcement (private prisons).
  16. 16. Natural, complex, Anticipatory behavior that clearly has both information and sophisticated information-processing capability involved… The self organization of new life (as seen watching a timelapse of the embryonic development of a fruitfly larva) • Monarch butterfly migration • Human immune function, including model- based error behaviors like allergies.
  17. 17. What should be the definition for Scientific Objectivity, under the circumstances? • I humbly suggest something along these lines: • "The simple fact, which every scientist should know, is that "objectivity" in science means only that one must not let non scientific issues intervene in scientific judgments. Not religion, not politics, not social exigencies, must intervene, any more than personal self-interest in the form of direct financial or academic rewards. To do otherwise is to falsify, as surely and as reprehensibly as if one presents false data. • “In short, scientific objectivity, the refusal to be a "social actor" while doing science, is one of the few thin safeguards of civilization itself. The integrity of this process, and of those who have maintained it, is one of the few glorious things of which our species can boast. The "isms" pass; each epoch has its own, to which it demands this integrity be sacrificed; laughing at the "isms" which preceded it, and deploring the devastations perpetrated in their name, while in the very process of perpetrating its own.” ~ Robert Rosen
  18. 18. Science then becomes synonymous with verifiable truth, independent accountability, and integrity • We need to be able to trust the information our science generates • We need to make sure that the process of science as well as the practitioners of it are unfettered by intellectual debts to private interests or fear based on beliefs and assumptions.
  19. 19. See you all in Boulder, Colorado at ISSS 2016!