Monday, 20 November 2017

Technology, Objects and Dialogue: Using technology to keep things simple

Technology usually makes things complicated... Over the last couple of weeks, the power of simplicity in education has impressed itself upon me.

First up, I organised a conference on "healing organisations" (see http://healingorganisations2017.org) for the Metaphorum group - a research group formed around the work of Stafford Beer. Beer warned about the "Homo Faber" mode of being where innovation is seen as the answer to problems. During the conference, there were a number of "innovative" approaches to the problems of health which were suggested: each innovation would ultimately lead to increased complexity. In other words, it would feed the pathology from which the innovation attempted to escape. This kind of positive feedback is symptomatic of the "iatrogenic disease" (healer-induced sickness) which Illich (and John Seddon, who spoke at the conference) warn about. Education suffers from its own disease of complexification through innovation.

The conference was organised over three days, with day 1 focused on critique ("what's wrong with the system?" - there was a lot of that); day 2 on possible solutions to address problems; and day 3 focused on conversation. For both days 2 and 3 I asked presenters to do activities with delegates rather than simply talk. The best presentations did precisely this. Day 3 was particularly great - we sat in a circle and explained the meaning of various objects which we had brought to the conference (I asked people to bring an object which illustrated their understanding of "healing organisations").

For a while now, I've been interested in how objects illuminate the understanding of the individual talking about them. Since conversations (con-versare - "to turn together") depends on our understanding of each other, objects are a powerful prop to self-revealing. The conversation was visceral, and the revealing of one another was in some cases deeply emotional. There were tears.

Maturana said (in a conference at Asilomar in 2012) that "What we learn, we learn about each other". It is a beautiful summary of things which he has said before - but never so clearly. I don't think he's ever written it down! But it's right.

We learn maths... we learn about a maths teacher or somebody else who does maths. We learn the piano, we learn about a pianist (or a number of them). We learn sociology, we learn about other sociologists.... and so on.

The key to teaching and learning is self-revealing of the teacher. This self-revealing is usually accompanied by objects. Bad teachers will hide behind their powerpoints. Good ones will reveal who they are as people through them. Such teachers embrace a critical principle: that any object is subject to multiple descriptions. There are always many possible interpretations.

A teacher may generate many possible descriptions of an object: "you can think about quadratic equations like this... or like this... or alternatively...". Equally, they may invite descriptions of others: "what do you think?". The point is that the truth of any object - whether a body of knowledge or skilled performance is that it is a multiplicity of different descriptions. To understand is to acquire the capacity to generate multiple descriptions. Teaching is a performance of understanding.

Last Thursday, I led a session at the Ragged University on Objects, Perception and Communication (see https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/2017/11/08/16th-nov-2017-objects-perception-and-communication-by-mark-johnson/). It was, in many ways, the same idea as the conference. I asked people to take a photograph of something in the room which revealed something about themselves. We sat in a circle and presented our photographs to each other. Then I illustrated the point about multiple description with music. Using a real-time spectrum analyzer, I showed how a single note is a patterned multiplicity of frequencies like this:

I think this patterned multiplicity is what occurs in the communicating around objects. In illuminating the understanding of each individual, they create the conditions for a "resonant polyphony" of alternative descriptions. Quite simply, we get to know each other better. I followed the singing with Augusto Boal's human statue exercise - another example of objects where people are the objects. Multiplicity of description can be investigated in many ways - with many descriptions!

Now I'm planning something bigger with the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia (Vladivostok). We are developing a course in "Global Scientific Dialogue" drawing on the ideas of David Bohm. 300 students in the University will participate in it next year. This is a radical experiment - and weirdly, something that could possibly only happen on the other side of the planet where the pathologies of EU/US education are less marked. In the 60s, we went to California to do new cool things. Now I think it's 10 hours flying the other way... (actually, it's 13 to Vladivostok).

Why Bohm? Well, he knew about multiplicity of description. This is very powerful:





Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Information and Syncretism: from Floridi to Piaget

Luciano Floridi has appealed for an "ethics of information" (he has written a book about it: http://www.philosophyofinformation.net/books/the-ethics-of-information/). His basic argument is that since we all live in an "information environment", information ethics should be seen as a variety of environmental ethics. So putting out "wrong" information onto social media is like dumping mercury into a river. I wouldn't be surprised if Floridi has been consulted with regard to the UK's stance on Russian hacking (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41983091). But whatever the Russians (plus quite a few others) have been doing on social media, I think there's a ontological error in Floridi's argument. Information is not mercury: unlike mercury, information's effects depend on the beliefs of those receiving it.

Among the central presuppositions of belief in society today is a view of logic which upholds the principle of the "excluded middle": either the statement "it is raining" is true, or the statement "it is not raining" is true. Both statements cannot be true. What this means is that a collection of statements which are taken to be true or false can be taken together to leave the impression of an indisputable fact. By virtue of this principle, the more facts which can be brought to bear to support other statements, the more "objective" or "scientific" the conclusions drawn from their combination.  For example, the demand for "evidence" in social science is rather like this: the demand for more statements whose truth or falsehood can be established to more precisely identify the truth or falsehood of a more complex statement.

Some medieval philosophers puzzled over the excluded middle because this aspect of Aristotelian logic did not fit their theology. It occurred to John Duns Scotus that something could conceivably be true and false at the same time. He called his principle "synchronic contingency": Antonie Vos has brilliantly explored this (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-John-Duns-Scotus/dp/0748624627) - personally I am indebted to Prof. Dino Buzetti for drawing my attention to it. What's so fascinating about this is that in Quantum Mechanics, exactly the same principle has a name: super-position. Scotus saw synchronic contingency as a co-existing dimension to what he saw as Aristotle's "diachronic contingency" - which is where something may be true and one moment and false at the next, but never both at the same time.

In the world of synchronic contingency, information looks very different. I think it also looks much more like our deeper human creative processes and spirit.

In my reading of Ehrenzweig's Hidden Order of Art, I've been struck by the emphasis that he places on another theological word: syncretism. Actually, Ehrenzweig cites Piaget as the originator of the use of the word in a scientific context:

Piaget has given currency to the term "syncretistic" vision as the distinctive quality of children's vision and of child art. Syncretism also involves the concept of undifferentiation. Around the eighth year of life a drastic change sets in in children's art, at least in Western civilization. Whilst the infant experiments boldly with form and colour in representing all sorts of objects, the older child begins to analyse these shapes by matching them against the art of the adult which he finds in magazines, books and pictures. He usually finds his own work deficient. His work becomes duller in colour, more anxious in draughtmanship. Much of the earlier vigour is lost. Art education seems helpless to stop this rot. What has happened is that the child's vision has ceased to be total and syncretistic and has become analytic instead. (p6)


In theology, syncretism refers to the holding of many contradictory ideas at the same time. Ehrenzweig argues that the creative process is precisely a process of holding many contradictory ideas at the same time. When he talks about dedifferentiation (see my previous post) he is describing the process of blurring the boundaries between true and false so that something new may be brought into being.

Our problem with "information" - whether its in big data, learning analytics, or the stock market - is that we don't consider the creative potential of a syncretic approach to it whereby such machine generated information could be a powerful spur to more authentic creativity. Instead, we uphold the excluded middle, and seek "triangulation" between different "truths" and "falsehoods". It is because we are so bound to this that our social media networks have become so vulnerable to "wrong" information - whether it's placed there intentionally or by mistake.

The world of creativity and the wold of "data" feel very different. One enlivens the soul and warms the heart. The other tightens the stomach muscles and ties us in knots - both as individuals and as a global society! Syncretism is the difference between the artistic mode and the analytic: the distrust of syncretism is the root of the pathologies of management and government.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Ehrenzweig on Objects and Creativity: Symmetry and Entropy at the heart of the heart

Objects are important in education. Institutions sometimes seem to believe that objects are the things which they "sell": the learning content, notes, powerpoints and other media... the manufactured products of education, contact with which it is sometimes believed produces learning.

Constructivists might deny the importance of objects, but the concreteness of a cool video or a text book is hard to deny: "this is a great video!" we say. Others lose sight of the fact that it is the making of such an utterance which is the beginning of where the learning which is intrinsic to human coordination happens. Like anything of fascination or beauty, the expression of emotion, feeling, intellect or curiosity is a fundamental human reaction which is communally shared. In the art gallery, we gaze at pictures often together. In the concert hall, we all have emotional experiences which somehow in the silence and ritual of the place, we manage to convey to others, in the cinema we gasp together as somebody escapes imminent death, and so on. Today, media objects get shared online: the common expression of feeling happens diachronically (sequentially) rather than synchronically... but it still happens. "A cool game! What's your score?", and so on.

What happens in these human reactions? I think the answer is simple: we understand something more about each other. Maturana made the point that "what we learn, we learn about each other". Yes, that's it. I will refine this: "What we learn, we learn about the symmetry that exists between us". Why is learning about each other important? Simply because we cannot communicate successfully unless we do know more about each other. The better we know each other, the more effective our social coordination will be. I took two friends visiting from Russia to see the "The Death of Stalin" this week. It was a case in point - as we revealed much about ourselves in our different responses to the film.

Alfred Schutz calls this revealing process "inter-subjectivity", and Talcott Parsons (and later Niklas Luhmann) calls it "double contingency". Despite Parsons's and Schutz's disagreemnents, there is a core principle at work, but an important difference in how they understand it. In double contingency, we communicate because we have some idea of who we are communicating with, how they will respond to our utterances, and so on. Parsons is different from Schutz in that he emphasises the importance of selection of communications (what we mean to say) and the selection of utterance (how we choose to say it). Luhmann developed this further.

I've been re-reading Anton Ehrenzweig's "The Hidden Order of Art" recently (after nearly 20 years). What an amazing book! Ehrenzweig is interested in artistic communication, and he believes that artistic creation does not emerge out of selection.  Ehrenzweig draws his inspiration from the Freudian concept of the primary process - the undifferentiated formless state of consciousness from which conscious experience (distinctions) emerge. He introduces a concept called dedifferentiation where "the ego scatters and represses surface imagery" in creative acts. He also draws on Paul Klee's distinction between two kinds of attention, one on the figure and the other on the ground. Ehrenzweig argues:

What is common to all examples of dedifferentiation is their freedom from having to make a choice. Whilst the conscious gestalt principle enforces the selection of a definite gestalt as a figure, the multi-dimensional attention of which Paul Klee speaks can embrace both figure and ground. Whilst vertical attention has to select a single melody, horizontal attention can comprise all polyphonic voices without choosing between them. Undifferentiated perception can grasp in a single undivided act of comprehension data that to conscious perception would be incompatible. 

I'm interested in this from a more technical perspective - which is certainly not how I would have read it 20 years ago. From a technical perspective, the central issues is the symmetry of relations. Whilst the perception of figure - or rather the identification of the distinction between figure and ground - is an epiphenomenon, there are symmetries in deeper mechanisms which underpin perception which might become better known to us.  Parsons and Luhmann took the epiphenomenon as the phenomenon. But if we think like them, we lose all creativity (and in the process, we risk our humanity). This is however, not to put anyone off from engaging with their ideas: they are powerful - but they flatten the symmetry.

Schutz, on the other hand is much closer. His "pure we-relation" - where human beings communicate face-to-face - is a different kind of coordination which is not based on selection. Ehrenzweig calls the alternative to selection, syncretism - but that, I think, is another word for symmetry. Symmetry emerges in the space between multiple descriptions of things. It emerges in the space between my understanding (and my descriptions of my understanding) and your understanding. It emerges in the ways that a melody, a harmony, a timbre, or a rhythm all draw out the same form.

Sometimes, different descriptions adopt similar patterns. Sometimes the change in their complexities coincides: for example, at the end of a piece of music, final chords eliminate rhythmic complexity, tonal complexity too disappears with the repetition of a tonic chord, alongside the melody which now emphasises a single note. Then, everything is silent. Another way of putting this is that the change in entropy of different descriptions coincides; their relative entropy increases. Now imagine a rich and busy counterpoint: ideas are thrown from one voice to another, different things are happening. There is a rich interplay between the entropies of description.

Ehrenzweig's mode of thinking is fundamentally musical: syncretism happens across the diachronic domain of counterpoint, and the synchronic domain of harmony. Schutz, also a musician, also thought about social relations musically. The syncretic is the same as the coordination of Schutz's "pure we-relation": it is a recognition of symmetrical relations.

The more we engage with objects, the more we reveal ourselves to others, and the more we recognise the symmetry the lies between us.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Illich and the Experts: Whose fake news do you want?

With so much concern about truth and falsehoods in social media, and the role of Universities in defending knowledge or fighting fake news (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41902914), the defence of the "experts" by Universities should be seen for what it is: a defence of existing hierarchy.

Ivan Illich was on to this in the 1970s - particularly in his book "Disabling Professions":

The Age of Professions will be remembered as the time when politics withered, when voters guided by professors entrusted to technocrats the power to legislate needs, the authority to decide who needed what, and a monopoly over the means by which those needs should be met. It will be remembered as the Age of Schooling, when people for one third of their lives were trained to accumulate needs on prescription and for the other two-thirds were clients of prestigious pushers who managed their habits. It will be remembered as the age when recreational travel meant a packaged gawk at strangers, and intimacy meant training by Masters and Johnson; when formed opinion was replay of last night's talk-show, and voting, an endorsement to the salesman for more of the same.
Illich's recipe is to overturn the hierarchy. We need to think about what that means for "experts", and particularly the difference between the "declared experts" by institutions (who are often merely the product of institutional management - "professor" has become a synonym for "manager"), and "intellectual authority", which is something different: the community elder who has read more, thought more, and often is more uncertain and open in their thinking than anyone else.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Education is simple. Why have we made it so complex?

I've been taking stock of the range of things that I've been doing as part of my role as an educational technologist. Much of it involves struggles with software to do things which the institution believes are necessary in modern education. So there are technologies for assessment, technologies for analysis, technologies for content delivery and so on. Each of them can (and does) go wrong, and each of them demands considerable labour in keeping the system going. From an educational perspective, none of them are particularly effective.

Learning itself is an inter-human activity which involves conversation. Without conversation, there is little learning - a fact which I have to keep reminding those who believe somehow that "content" will "deliver" learning. The only real value of content (Powerpoints, videos, etc) is that it illuminates the understanding in another human being, and that might be the precursor to a conversation. However, if we believe content to be some kind of magical "learning producer", it creates all sorts of chaos and complexity in its production: huge amounts of time are invested in creating sexy animations, vast resources put into audio and video post-production, and whilst what results looks pretty, it inevitably represents the understanding of a committee - not the easiest thing to have a conversation with!

Content, then, is a path to complexification. But it is not the only one.

What inevitably makes content complexify is that it is inherently hierarchical. It is the joint product of expertise and quality audit: the first a result of the academic status machine which manufactures "professors" (who are not always representative of intellectual authority), and the other, a function of the university's bureaucracy. These two functions are related.

The university hierarchy is both a mechanism for apportioning blame for things that might go wrong (like all hierarchies), and a mechanism for dividing knowledge. One of the principal barriers to inter-disciplinary working is the negotiation as to who is responsible (i.e. who can be blamed) for which bit. The quality processes of the university, which are another arm of the hierarchy, uphold these structures. With technology, the university has reinforced its mechanism.

Now there is a curious thing about communication in hierarchies. Hierarchies have "lines of command" - even in their loosest form. These are channels for communicating simple messages from top to bottom: "assessments must be marked by....", "the timetable is published...", etc. These are not conversations, although they might be the cause of conversations further down the system. Sometimes education exploits this for learning: the command "your assignment is to..." is the cause of conversation among students. In these conversations students will often learn about each other. They won't necessarily learn about the teacher, whose utterance might only be "your assignment is to..."

By virtue of the hierarchical structures the teacher find herself in, the conversational utterarances are sometimes restricted to particular forms of delivery: lectures, seminars, assessments, etc. The teacher's position is upheld by compliance with the institution's rules, not the learner needs (although the institution pretends that it represents the learners' needs, it does nothing of the sort - it represents its own needs!).

This all gets incredibly complex. How could it be simpler?

The alternative to hierarchy is either heterarchy (many leaders) or anarchy (no leaders). Both I believe are preferable. In order to achieve them, we have to deal with the twin structural problem: on the one hand, expertise and the status mechanism which gives rise to it; and on the other hand, the institutionalised apportionment of blame and the carving up of knowledge to fit institutional structures.

This is not to say that we ignore intellectual authority. If anything, it is to say that intellectual authority is privileged over the baubles of job title. Intellectual authorities are the elders in the community. They are the source of the best questions; the best guides towards a conversation. But they offer an articulation of uncertainty, not answers: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as Yeats put it.

Technology today gives us new lines of communication. We haven't yet learnt how to reorganise our social structures to exploit them; we have instead reinforced our social structures with stupid uses of technology. I'm increasingly convinced that hierarchies persist because of impoverishment in communication, and hierarchies exacerbate this impoverishment. Technology gives human beings new ways of coordinating themselves with richer channels of communication. This is what we should be doing. At its heart are the communicative principles of redundancy which characterise the inner workings of the brain: what Warren McCulloch called "the redundancy of potential command". He also coined the term heterarchy.

Education would simple in a heterarchy.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Power, Hierarchy, and the Sexual Harassment Scandal - Bateson's attempt to clarify categories

I'm recovering from organising the Metaphorum Conference on "Healing Organisations" (see http://healingorganisation2017.org). After a lot of anxiety in preparation, it was both an intellectually dynamising and deeply heartfelt conference. It was possibly a lot else too - everyone seemed to enjoy it. I'll say more about the speaker contributions from John Seddon (http://vanguard-method.com), Liz Mear, Gerald Midgley, David Welbourn, David Shiers and Allenna Leonard at a later point. They were all brilliant. There was something cathartic about the whole thing... 

A lot of discussion at the conference concerned the pathology of hierarchy and what we do about it (heterarchy? telephathy?). In the news, hierarchies are in trouble: the sexual abuse/harassment scandal is toppling men at the the top of hierarchies, whose positions have enabled them to behave appallingly towards those they had power over, and become unchallengeable.

Hierarchies have a "top", and the top has 'power' over the rest. It also exercises crap management. It takes courage to challenge it. Universities particularly have become increasingly hierarchical in recent years. Something is in the air at the moment that is giving women (and some men) courage. What it is, I think, is overwhelming environmental uncertainty which has been stoked-up by austerity and other attempts by hierarchies (and those at the top of them) to preserve themselves. At the conference, John Seddon pointed out that every attempt to cut costs ends up raising them. This is probably why the deficit doesn't come down, why the health service is on its knees and why those same hierarchies are under attack. It's a positive feedback loop, and like all positive feedback loops, eventually it goes "snap!".

The power inherent in the hierarchy is a strange thing: Power is a controversial concept - particularly in cybernetics. Behind it lies certain assumptions about the way the world works which may be incorrect. The first one concerns evolutionary dynamics. This has sent me back to reading Bateson. In his paper "The Pathologies of Epistemology" which is  in Steps to an ecology of mind, he moves his argument from Darwin to thoughts about what he calls the "myth of power". On Darwin he says:

In accordance with the general climate of thinking in mid-nineteenth-century England, Darwin proposed a theory of natural selection and evolution in which the unit of survival was either the family line or the species or subspecies or something of the sort. But today it is quite obvious that this is not the unit of survival in the real biological world. The unit of survival is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself. 
If, now, we correct the Darwinian unit of survival to include the environment and the interaction between organism and environment, a very strange and surprising identity emerges: the unit of evolutionary survival turns out to be identical with the unit of mind.
Formerly we thought of a hierarchy of taxa—individual, family line, subspecies, species, etc.—as units of survival. We now see a different hierarchy of units—gene-in-organism, organism-in environment, ecosystem, etc. Ecology, in the widest sense, turns out to be the study of the interaction and survival of ideas and programs (i.e., differences, complexes of differences, etc.) in circuits.
Let us now consider what happens when you make the epistemological error of choosing the wrong unit: you end up with the species versus the other species around it or versus the environment in which it operates. Man against nature. You end up, in fact, with Kaneohe Bay polluted, Lake Erie a slimy green mess, and "Let's build bigger atom bombs to kill off the next-door neighbors." There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds, and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself.
That's the epistemological error: choosing the wrong unit. The critical thing is to include the environment. This is exactly what John Seddon said about the health service (although he was slightly reluctant to be so abstract as to say "environment"). He said "The health system doesn't understand its demand". It assumes demand is ever-growing, where analysis shows that it's stable. The system's increasing inability to cope with what appears to be increasing demand is iatrongenic (iatros = doctor) - a healer-induced sickness, an organisational failure. This is critically important.

Of course, at the root of the iatrogenic disease is misused power. So what does Bateson say about this?

They say that power corrupts; but this, I suspect, is non-sense. What is true is that the idea of power corrupts. Power corrupts most rapidly those who believe in it, and it is they who will want it most. Obviously our democratic system tends to give power to those who hunger for it and gives every opportunity to those who don't want power to avoid getting it. Not a very satisfactory arrangement if power corrupts those who believe in it and want it. 
Perhaps there is no such thing as unilateral power. After all, the man "in power" depends on receiving information all the time from outside. He responds to that information just as much as he "causes" things to happen. It is not possible for Goebbels to control the public opinion of Germany be-cause in order to do so he must have spies or legmen or public opinion polls to tell him what the Germans are thinking. He must then trim what he says to this information; and then again find out how they are responding. It is an inter-action, and not a lineal situation. 
But the myth of power is, of course, a very powerful myth and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it. It is a myth which, if everybody believes in it, becomes to that extent self-validating. But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to various sorts of disaster.
I've wondered about this for many years. Is power a myth? It feels pretty real to me... But what Bateson is saying is that power is an epiphenomenon of systemic failure. If you heal the system, power-as-a-myth disappears. In its place, one would hope, we have wisdom.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Is Life Simple or Complex? Some reflections on John Torday's Evolutionary Biology

Recently, I've been studying the work of evolutionary biologist John Torday, after he posted a fascinating contribution to the Foundations of Information Science (http://fis.sciforum.net) mailing list. I wasn't alone among my friends in seeing this as something different, and potentially important: the conversations between friends when they say to each other "do you see...?" are very important indicators of what needs to be investigated further. This has been followed with a rich email exchange with Torday, prompted by my pointing out the similarities between his position and Stafford Beer's arguments for a copernican shift in the way that institutions organise themselves, which he wrote about in Platform for Change (and which I blogged about here: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/beer-and-illich-on-institutional-change.html)

Torday insists:
"Life is simple. We complicate it due to our subjectively evolved senses". 
A more comprehensive articulation of this is contained in http://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/5/2/17 (importantly, this is open access!). The second sentence above might be changed to "We complicate it due to our discursively evolved sense", but I haven't yet encountered a systems view which states that the discursive environment in which we all operate is epiphenomenal to more fundamental underlying mechanisms. Having said this, I suspected that with all the complexity of Luhmann's theory or Pask's conversation theory, etc (and their manifest failure to really make a better world), we were missing something.

Torday thinks that the fundamental thing that we miss is cellular communication. In saying this, he is saying something also articulated by "bio-semioticians" like Jesper Hoffmeyer. But Torday's theory is not the same as Hoffmeyer. He is a physiologist, and the empirical work he cites in support of his argument seems compelling to me. He cites the evolution of cholesterol from lipids carried to earth by asteroids, argues for a fundamental role of cholesterol in consciousness, and the connection between the skin and the brain. He argues that:
"All of the neurodegenerative diseases have skin homologs. And the Defensin mutation that causes asthma also causes atopic dermatitis in the skin."
These claims are referenced in the empirical literature. Torday's basic mechanism of cellular organisation through cell-cell communication is specifically a response to environmental ambiguity. This may be the same as a cybernetician would say: cybernetically, cells self-organise to mop up variety - at least if we can say that variety is ambiguity (is it? - it might be...). 

Doesn't the same thing happen in economics? Don't institutions reorganise their components to mop up the extra variety (new options) created by technological development and a discourse which reflects this? In other words, its not a direct causal connection between increased options and discourse and transformations of practice in institutions. It's an indirect connection where innovation increases options, and institutions self-organise in response to the increased variety (and uncertainty).

Discourse, then, is an epiphenomenon of cellular evolutionary mechanisms which are much deeper than our exchange of messages. Torday says complexity itself is an epiphenomenon: he's theorising at a much deeper level than Luhmann, but in a related cybernetic/mechanistic way. The current state of academic Babel would support his arguments, wouldn't it?

The work marks a scientific advance on the work of Bateson, Maturana and Robert Rosen who are the main cybernetic figures in biology. It's a reminder (to me) of the importance of the systems sciences staying close to field work in biology, physics, maths and technology.