Literature/1990/Foerster

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Foerster, Heinz von (1990). "Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics," SEHR, volume 4, issue 2 (1995) Constructions of the Mind
  • /criticism; http://www.stanford.edu/group/SHR/4-2/text/foerster.html
  • Origninally, "Opening address for the International Conference, Systems and Family Therapy: Ethics, Epistemology, New Methods, held in Paris, France, October 4th, 1990, subsequently published (in translation) in Yveline Rey and Bernard Prieur, eds., Systemes, ethiques: Perspectives en therapie familiale (Paris: ESF Editeur, 1991) 41-54. Reprinted with permission from the original unpublished English version."

Authors[edit]

Heinz von Foerster

Excerpts[edit]

... something strange evolved among the philosophers, the epistemologists and the theoreticians: they began to see themselves more and more as being themselves included in a larger circularity, maybe within the circularity of their family, or that of their society and culture, or being included in a circularity of even cosmic proportions. [c 1]

What appears to us today most natural to see and to think, was then not only hard to see, it was even not allowed to think!

Why?

Because it would violate the basic principle of scientific discourse which demands the separation of the observer from the observed. It is the principle of objectivity: the properties of the observer shall not enter the description of his observations. [c 2]

Wikimedia[edit]

Chronology[edit]

The reader should understand ... that any model of neuronal mechanisms of the higher cognitive processes must of necessity involve speculation and metaphorical language. It should also be understood that a multidisciplinary approach to such a large and complex subject cannot avoid a mixing of jargon and an oversimplification of many difficult issues.

Q: What so-called smart computers do -- is that really thinking?
A: No, if you insist that thinking can only take place inside the human cranium. But yes, if you believe that making difficult judgments, the kind usually left to experts, choosing among plausible alternatives, and acting on those choices, is thinking. That's what artificial intelligences do right now. Along with most people in AI, I consider what artificial intelligences do as a form of thinking, though I agree that these programs don't think just like human beings do, for the most part. I'm not sure that's even desirable. Why would we want AIs if all we want is human-level intelligence? There are plenty of humans on the planet. The field's big project is to make intelligences that exceed our own. As these programs come into our lives in more ways, we'll need programs that can explain their reasoning to us before we accept their decisions.

From http://www.pamelamc.com/html/machines_who_think.html

Comments[edit]

It is a great mystery indeed who on earth among them -- among others than experts of circularity -- was the leader who could convince them of such a revolutionary paradigm shift, often even self-defeating, e.g., March, 1975. When? Suddenly? Why?

It might be around 1975 when the "second-order cybernetics" was coind, and when a great deal of new cognitive theories began to pour out. At the moment, the U.S. for example was perhaps most overcast since 1957 when the Sputnik 1 was launched into the orbit and she was required to spend far more money on advanced research, including computing and AI. The period 1957-1975 must be sunny to the author, either, the 1958-75 director of Biological Computer Laboratory.

Around 1957, meanwhile, George Miller and some others believe the cognitive revolution took place, which looks like the objectivist, positivist, strong AI manifesto (McCarthy, 1955, etc.), aiming to make the dehumanizing, first-order cybernetic "machines that think" as well "as we may think" (Bush, 1945).

While this author and his old student Umpleby (1990) argued for the observer cognitive of the observed, Bruner (1990) scathed the cognitive revolution (since 1956), as claimed by his old Harvard colleague Miller.

  • I want to begin with the Cognitive Revolution as my point of departure. That revolution was intended to bring "mind" back into the human sciences after a long cold winter of objectivism.
  • Some critics ... argue that the new cognitive science, the child of the revolution, has gained its technical successes at the price of dehumanizing the very concept of mind it had sought to reestablish in psychology, and that it has thereby estranged much of psychology from the other human sciences and the humanities.
  • I ... want to turn ... to a preliminary exploration of a renewed cognitive revolution -- a more interpretive approach to cognition concerned with "meaning-making," one that has been proliferating these last several years in anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, literary theory, psychology, and ... wherever one looks these days.

Note "objectivity" Foerster attacked and "objectivism" Bruner did, as done by Pirsig (1974), Polanyi (1975), Gadamer (1976), Schumacher (1977), and many others, in consilience, in concert, in context, around this time, all of a sudden! Why?

  1. See the comment above.
  2. The observer is the observed. -- Jiddu Krishnamurti (c. 1975), as cited by David Bohm (1980).

Notes[edit]

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Gradient-optical-illusion.svg
The shade of the bar looks invariant in isolation but variant in context, in (favor of) sharp contrast with the color gradient background, hence an innate illusion we have to reasonably interpret and overcome as well as the mirage. Such variance appearing seasonably from context to context may not only be the case with our vision but worldview in general in practice indeed, whether a priori or a posteriori. Perhaps no worldview from nowhere, without any point of view or prejudice at all!

Ogden & Richards (1923) said, "All experience ... is either enjoyed or interpreted ... or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation."

H. G. Wells (1938) said, "The human individual is born now to live in a society for which his fundamental instincts are altogether inadequate."