Navigating Three-dimensional Problem Space


Discovering and Representing A System Of Rules:  Programming Binary Logic Gates

Dynamic Interaction Of The Brain And Its Environment Trumps Brain Alone        

Distributed Processor (S3) Programming Network:  Optimizing Multiple Simultaneous Paths 

Come Fly With Me:  Hand Flying -- Use it or lose it  

Innovation -- Not Doctrine    

What Ever Happened To Systems Thinking, Really?

Come Drink With Me:  Big Brother Is Watching


Navigating Three-dimensional Problem Space


                                                                            Necessary and Sufficient

"As a mathematical discipline travels far from its empirical source, or still more, if it is a second and third generation only indirectly inspired by ideas coming from "reality" it is beset with very grave dangers. It becomes more and more purely aestheticizing, more and more purely I'art pour I'art. This need not be bad, if the field is surrounded by correlated subjects, which still have closer empirical connections, or if the discipline is under the influence of men with an exceptionally well-developed taste. But there is a grave danger that the subject will develop along the line of least resistance, that the stream, so far from its source, will separate into a multitude of insignificant branches, and that the discipline will become a disorganized mass of details and complexities. In other words, at a great distance from its empirical source, or after much "abstract" inbreeding, a mathematical subject is in danger of degeneration."

                                                                                             John von Neuman, "The Mathematician”, 1947 

The Sis about navigating three-dimensional problem space (like flying), with Hands and Mind:

A simple block and ball networking system which leverages full-spectrum cognitive / perceptual processing, learning algorithms, and the art of design, with an emphasis on advanced thinking and intuition -- and its reflection upon itself (not "mere facts", but principles):  functional relations, particularly goals and feedback (What are my assumptions? Are they justified?).

The sense of touch overrides the human interaction with complex cognitive and perceptual content in paradoxical ways.  S3’s robust integration of haptics / Hands and Mind, mental and manual rotation, is missing, from early childhood computer learning to joint pilot computer management of aircraft (elimination of hand-flying).  Dynamic interaction of the brain and its environment trumps brain alone.  

Hence, S3.  Use it or lose it.  Fly me.

Sis about the original intersection, before academic turf compartmentalization, of Synthesis of Cybernetics and Systems Thinking  (and Artificial Intelligence) -- functional relations, particularly goals and feedback -- and its tangible, lucid, demonstration:

Pattern.  Machine.  Animal.


"Cybernetics deals with all forms of behavior insofar as they are regular, or determinate, or reproducible.  The materiality is irrelevant …."

                                             Ashby, W. Ross, An Introduction To Cybernetics (1956)  

Sis about demonstration of Norbert Wiener’s ANIMAL  /  MACHINE cooperation in DYNAMIC SITUATIONS -- fields which can change (or seem to change) autonomously:  "pattern blocks", which create porous polyhedron "chains" formed by distinct collections of figurative elements.

Sis about “operationalizing” the collapse of our expectation of a logical universe, and how we adapt by advanced thinking and intuition -- and reflect upon those processes -- in an eminently researchable and simple form. 

Sis about dynamic interaction of the brain and its environment, which trumps brain alone, be it joint pilot / computer management of aircraft (uneasy subordinate partnership with machine environment) or Smanipulation:

 Wieners’s oscillatory response to Russell's paradox: "pathological oscillations”:  an oscillating, intermittent restriction of cognition and perception within a dynamic logic hierarchy;  

Heinz von Foerster’s "Cybernetics of Cybernetics” with its necessary hierarchy of feedback loops and consequent evolution of change agent and object of change;

Ross Ashby "ideal machine" of requisite variety (states) of choices / planning, working in a paradoxical environment;

Minsky / Shannon's “Ultimate Machine" (an Ashby “Incompletely Observable Box” / "Black Box”, whose job is to turn itself off (one switch) -- sort of purposeful.


(S3 turns four switches on / off differentially, unpredictably, with each rotation:  again, sort of purposeful, cellular automaton which reconfigures / “randomizes” routing with each rotation (note intermittent reinforcement of manipulator).

S3 rolling ball switches provide the observer / manipulator with nested and evolving contradictions, a topology of paradox, and the opportunity to control them:  a cognitive / perceptual partnership of Animal and Machine: each is both change agent and object of change:  

In Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics-Teleology parlance, a technological mechanism employing non-linear feedback controlled purpose:

"automata ... coupled to the outside world both for the reception of impressions and for the performance of actions.”

           Wiener, Norbert,  Cybernetics:  Or Control And Communication In The Animal And The Machine (1948) 

Sis an architecture of nested dichotomies:  contradictions of reason and perception, frames of reference, of logic, pattern and process, motion and stasis -- self-referential. An organic and reciprocal switching cycle of cognitive development.  A “strange loop." In Buckminster Fuller’s  Tensegrity (tension / compression) terms:  Synergy -- a "coordination of thought and physical action, the genesis of geometry, system, and structure.”

S3 is about pattern,                                          


the rule which governs a system or phenomenon, exactly like numeric, musical, or visual relationships -- and its simultaneous mental and manual rotation.


Consequently, S3 demands recognition of sequence / pattern of repeating events formed in accordance with a definite rule(s) -- but different individuals can perceive the same pattern differently, reach different generalizations.  It’s mysterious.

Instead of viewing space as fixed, a passive arena (simple games, puzzles and mazes), the S3 network architecture uses space and geometry as active participants in the problem universe.

S3 is about awareness of environment, modifying self-behavior on the basis of experience, through the optimization of multiple simultaneous paths, in a constant stream of evolving problems, within a topology of paradox. 

As the Pythagorean logical universe collapsed when faced with the irrational (not logical or reasonable) number with their right angle triangle -- contrary to their belief that the integer, and its logic, was inviolate (necessary and sufficient), S3 demonstrates the collapse of our expectation of a logical universe, combined puzzle and maze and rolling ball device, where intuition is a prerequisite (logic is necessary but not sufficient -- note the Quad Problem).

Operationally, S"combinatory play" simultaneously requires a spiral of pattern recognition (inductive - abductive / deductive flip-flop) while impeding it (gestalt figure / ground illusion flip-flop) introducing active resistance, error (in “new” Cybernetic terms, overcoming entropy by using noise as positive feedback), exciting curiosity:  a topology of paradox; a cognitive development tool.  While Rubik’s Cube “exercises” logic without that paradox -- Sdevelops logic and intuition.

S3 is about Distributed Communication Network -- regulatory switching:  synchronizing concurrent communication / interference among S3s (each a three axis rotation problem space):  continuous synchronous switching:  nested, dynamic, switching of cognitive and perceptual and mathematical dichotomies, where the manipulator must constantly re-examine reigning assumptions, transcend and control nested and evolving recursion and contradiction, by inventing new propositions.



Thus, S3 is a programmable logic component (In Field Programmable Gate Array terms) a combinational logic block which contains four tunnels, effectively an array of unconnected switches to be programmed by the user as the block is rotated in space, which can be connected to other logic blocks to create multiple adaptive, simultaneous, routes by reconfigurable interconnects.

                       S3 AMPLIFYING INTELLIGENCE


"Another test asks the child how it would find a ball in a field: out of all the possible paths the child must select one of the suitable few. Thus it is not impossible that what is commonly referred to as “intellectual power” may be equivalent to “power of appropriate selection”.  Indeed, if a talking Black Box were to show high power of appropriate selection in such matters — so that, when given difficult problems it persistently gave correct answers — we could hardly deny that it was showing the behavioral equivalent of “high intelligence”.  

If this is so, and as we know that power of selection can be amplified, it seems to follow that intellectual power, like physical power, can be amplified.  Let no one say that it cannot be done, for the gene-patterns do it every time they form a brain that grows up to be something better than the gene-pattern could have specified in detail. What is new is that we can now do it synthetically, consciously, deliberately."

                                                                         Ashby, W. Ross, An Introduction To Cybernetics (1956)

             Discovering and Representing A System Of Rules

                        Programming Binary Logic Gates


"… the logic of dichotomies ….  A container shall be provided with holes in such a way that they can be opened and closed.  They are to be open at those places that correspond to a 1 and remain closed at those that correspond to a 0.  Through the opened gates small cubes or marbles are to fall into tracks, through the others nothing.  It [the gate array] is to be shifted from column to column as required."

                                                                            Leibniz, G.W., "De Progressione Dyadica -- Pars 1", 1679


                                                                                                                       Binary Processor (0/1)






CAVEAT  --  What follows, at the risk of belaboring what is obvious to the expert, is the claim / exposition of isomorphism between Sand Cybernetics / Systems Thinking (Ross Ashby's fundamentals) -- in Cognitive Science terms, Sas unequivocal demonstration of “amplified intelligence” through Mental and Manual Rotation.  (Note, in that partnership, tandem work of manipulator and S3, each is both change agent and object of change.)  This issue is nontrivial.  For example, advanced joint pilot / computer management of aircraft should learn from that demonstration -- create a human focused artificial intelligence partnership, less soporific, more developmental / variety increasing.

MECHANISM:  Determinate Machine / vectors  >>  Machine with Input  >>  Stability  >>  Black Box (opaque S3)  >>  VARIETY:  >>  Quantity of Variety  >>  Transmission of Variety  >>  REGULATION:   Requisite Variety  >>  Error-Controlled  Regulator  >>  Amplifying Regulation (intelligence).

         Dynamic Interaction Of The Brain And Its Environment 

                                    Trumps Brain Alone

To repeat, instead of viewing space as fixed, a passive arena (typical games, puzzles and mazes), the S3 network architecture uses space and geometry as active participants in the problem universe.

Sis a demonstration of  ANIMAL / MACHINE cooperation in DYNAMIC SITUATIONS -- fields which can change (or seem to change) autonomously.  

It is a technological mechanism, a dynamic router, which employs corrective feedback (non-linear feedback controlled "purpose”) which generates oscillating, intermittent restriction of cognition and perception within a dynamic logic hierarchy, a topology of paradox (properties and relations unaffected by continuous change -- symmetry under transformation):  the cognitive mechanics of Gregory Bateson's Double Bind paradox (Zen koans employ the same mechanics):  contradictory communication at different levels, where acknowledgement of that contradiction is forbidden) and Wieners’s oscillatory response, "pathological oscillations”, to paradox (Russell’s). 

In other words, the S3 (Animal/ Machine) leverages cognitive / perceptual processing to a higher level of abstraction through robust integration of Hands and Mind (mental and manual rotation) 

"Nature appears to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it.

                                                           (Daniel Dennett’s ReviewAntonio Domasio,, "Descarte’s Error”, 1995

in a paradoxical problem-solving environment"Strange Loop” process which suggests opportunities for improved Animal / Machine modification of self-behavior on the basis of experience (feedback), across the range of early education computer learning to advanced joint pilot / computer management of aircraft.

                 Distributed Processor (S3) Programming Network

                     Optimizing Multiple Simultaneous Paths 

The Sis about the optimization of multiple simultaneous paths, in a constant stream of evolving problems, within a topology of paradox (contradictory cognitive and perceptual signals / messages at different levels, with a negative injunction forbidding acknowledgement of that contradiction).

S3 is all about regulatory switching (synchronizing concurrent communication / interference among rotating S3s); a heuristic routing (ball or vector) system (in Paul Baran’s Distributed Communications - Adaptive Message Block Network terms):  


seeking best paths (optimization) in an unfriendly (blocking) network / environment of switchable links, where dynamic programming is required to optimize incompletely understood and changing systems (using locally implemented full switching at all nodes, not a hierarchy of routing control centers).  


Think of the ball as “ping”:  a network monitor / troubleshooting tool testing reachability.

In Field Programmable Gate Array terms, S3 is a programmable logic component, a combinational logic block which contains four tunnels, effectively an array of unconnected switches to be programmed by the user as the block is rotated in space, which can be connected to other logic blocks to create multiple adaptive, simultaneous routes by reconfigurable interconnects.

Thus, S3 is a Cybernetic switch, encompassing the Systems Thinking idea and the operation of wholeness, and the relation of whole and parts, structure of systems and their behavior, laws of regulation, and recursive processes of self-observation and self-reference in the service of reasoning.   

A tangible demonstration of basic behaviors (consciousness) of the brain through mechanical concepts (switches); a cubical maze module (four tunnels = four binary (0/1) switches = gate array) offering a development of choices (control flow) to create linearly independent / dependent paths, using a ball, or symmetry in mathematics (symmetry under arbitrary changes of coordinate system).

Unlike the Claude Shannon Information / Switching Theory device (an Ashby “Incompletely Observable Box” / "Black Box”; a Minsky / Shannon “Ultimate Machine”) whose job is to immediately, regularly, switch itself off, S3 switches multiple tunnels differentially, unpredictably, with each rotation:  sort of a cellular automaton which reconfigures / “randomizes” routing with each rotation (note intermittent reinforcement of manipulator).

 Thus, S3 is transformative, a kick-start, a self-generating, self-sustaining, escalating causal loop, a cycle of cognitive development where the manipulator is both change agent and object of change.  

A Leibniz "germinis machinea rationcinatrix."

In other words, Sis simply a combinational logic block with “purposefulness", each tunnel with twenty-four possible attitude combinations (impede (0) / allow (1) ball flow): 


a two-state rolling ball "tilt-switch”, 


a binary logic gate with forty-eight states which are incommensurate, with multiple threads of execution; each S3 attitude change  simultaneously reprograms the four "gravity feed" chiral tunnels differently.


(e.g., overlapping subproblems / optimization — straight line:  single path; wavy line:  shortest path between two nodes; bold line:  overall shortest path from start to goal).  Multiple simultaneous paths, but no paths can share an input or output (with the exception of AIR BALL).

The Sexterior, has six faces (three sets of opposing faces), each "quartered" face with one or two holes (mismatched hole quadrants block path exit between S3s), the S3 interior has four intertwined chiral tunnels (each tunnel with independent  “logic gate” orientations) with eight entrance / exits.

Thus, Sis a three axis rotation problem space (physical and mental) of nested uncertainty (uncertainty of environment, and cognitive flip-flop and perceptual flip-flop -- "unknown unknowns"), of constant and unexpected contradiction, recursive abstractions and relationships; opposing systems, domains of expectation / reference frames, which exhibit completely different properties and changing order of operations:

AHegelian logic hierarcical (holistic -- Thesis / Antithesis / Synthesis) space a, topology of paradox, where the the manipulator must simulate the future, conceptually "drill down” through nested coordinate systems to optimize multiple simultaneous paths.   

"The matching process which decides whether a proposed frame is suitable is controlled partly by one's current goals and partly by information attached to the frame; the frames carry terminal markers and other constraints [S3 confusing distinctive-feature information:  squares / cubes, circles / tunnels, illusory / real symmetries], while the goals are used to decide which of these constraints are currently relevant."

                                                                                        Marvin Minsky, "Frames Systems Theory", 1975

S3 illustrates Michio Kaku’s, The Future of the Mind“self awareness; the ability to put one’s self inside a model of the environment.” 

In other words, with each rotation (precession of the rotational axis of each tunnel), and each additional S3, the manipulator must focus on the binary issues (0/1) of a given tunnel (part), proceed up the logic hierarchy to the S3 (whole), then to the ever expanding universe of S3 (overarching whole / system of systems).  Then go back down the hierarchy of nested coordinate systems, and repeat the process (while coping with contradiction of action and environment).

A dynamic cycle of recalibration and reflection.

CUBICAL exoskeleton (six faces)  >>  

HOLES quadrant (eight holes)  >>  

TUNNELS gate array (four binary switches)  >> 

TUNNEL (binary switch). 


                                  Binary Processor (0/1)  /  three axis rotation problem space    


Because the S3 (Animal / Machine) experience leverages cognitive / perceptual processing to a higher level of abstraction in a clearly intended paradoxical problem-solving environment, it is a useful tool for illuminating its opposite, the unintended paradoxical environment, for example, the manned artificial intelligence aircraft cockpit (a classic cybernetics Animal / Machine dialogue problem:  functional relations, particularly goals and feedback)

These ideas are related to issues from beer brewing industry marketing, and aviation command / control: the first studied formally and implemented by Michael Sommer in the late eighties, the latter still lacking clear public "statement / formulation of the problem” ("systems blindness”).  More about this below. 

It’s all about contradiction of action and environment:  an illogical universe.

                                           Come Fly With Me 


                                                                              Use it or lose it.  

Both aviation and S3 present a topology of paradox, providing the pilot / manipulator with nested and evolving contradictions and the opportunity to control them:  a cognitive / perceptual partnership of Animal and Machine:  each is both change agent and object of change. 

The critical issue is, What kind of change?  Sobviously creates independence of action and thought; the question is, Does fly-by-wire, AI system, etc., create passivity and diminution of skills?   Is Cybernetics on top of the problem?

Remember, S3 and flying are about pattern (spatial awareness of key factors in the environment: pattern recognition and conflict detection) and its simultaneous mental and manual rotation.

                                           locally implemented full switching


                                                                    (checkered paths allow exit)


1)  Law of Gravity

2)  Law of Lowest Exit

(Given that a ball must exit at the lowest Slevel and obey gravity, exit is possible in all orientations.)

In choosing patterns and networking the S3s chiral tunnels (each with its independent set of twenty-four “logic gate” orientations) there are no absolute choices, only relative choices -- the nested, interactive possibilities of the S3 change with each rotation. Everything must be questioned. 

Sis about reference frame: egocentric (location with respect to perspective of perceiver vs. allocentric (location within frame external to and independent of perceiver) -- spatial processing switching.

In spatial processing terms, the ability to imagine object rotation is limited by an ambiguity of rotational motion of egocentric, object-intrinsic (S3 dynamic hierarchy) and allocentric reference frames, a perceptual "relativity” of local and universal coordinate systems (moving backgrounds create the illusion of self-motion).

In celestial motion terms, the S3 manipulator (unlike the computer mouse manipulator) feels “inherent retrograde motion”, a dynamic, immersive, mental and manual rotation of nested and interdependent frames.  It becomes increasingly confusing to formulate the 0/1 characteristics of each tunnel (not to mention the difficulty of planning multiple simultaneous paths). 

That is, Sis an engine of paradox which generates continuous ambiguous, bi-stable stimuli, cognitive and perceptual, such that the brain cannot commit to just one interpretation, but must switch back and forth, providing best guesses, unconscious inference ("unbewusster Schluss) in Helmholtz's 1867 terms.  (seminal hand-flying issues)

Kant addressed the same key Animal / Machine issue.

"… Copernicus, who, when he did not make good progress in the explanation of the celestial motions if he assumed that the entire celestial host revolves around the observer, tried to see if it might not have greater success if he made the observer revolve and left the stars at rest.”

                                                                           Kant, I., Critique of Pure Reason, (Preface to B)


                                                 allocentric / egocentric switching / spatial processing

Everything is recursive / self referential: solutions depend on chains of solutions to smaller, and smaller, etc., sub-problems; part always requires reference to whole, over and over again. 





In aviation terms, the pilot’s (manipulator’s) cognitive / sensory workload of planning and controlling each individual 0/1 within the hypothetical demands of multiple, simultaneous, nested reference frames:  reference frame (airplane attitude) roll / pitch / yaw, within another frame of roll / pitch / yaw, within yet another frame of roll / pitch / yaw.  But unlike the S3, which transmits its “feel” (S3 flight control surfaces are proportionally linked to flight control forces), modern computer / AI managed “glass cockpit” aircraft do not provide the pilot with the cognitive / sensory Hands and Mind (mental and manual rotation) experience -- "hand-flying”.  (Pilots use hands and feet and inclination of body to control flight surfaces -- which control roll, pitch and yaw.)

In other words, S3 manipulator and aircraft artificial intelligence system (with its Internal Measurement Unit  -- velocity, orientation, and gravitational forces sensor) enjoy situational awareness denied to the glass cockpit pilot (despite numerous visual display / audio warning work-arounds “compensating" for that deficiency).  

Thus, the cockpit, like S3, can operate as a topology of paradox for the pilot:  topology (properties and relations unaffected by continuous change -- symmetry under transformation) of paradox (contradictory cognitive and perceptual signals / messages at different levels, where acknowledgement of that contradiction is forbidden).  

Both are paradoxical environments, but one, S(and hand-flying) elevates human capabilities, while the other “diminishes” them (pilots are trained to trust not their senses, their instincts, but their flight instruments). 

A terrible example is the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River in Washington DC in 1982; subsequent investigation, and the testimony of a passenger / pilot survivor, indicated that it was likely that the crash would not have happened if the pilots had followed their instincts, ignored the faulty instrumentation, and applied emergency power earlier.  As an experienced pilot himself, he testified that he could clearly feel the abnormal behavior of the aircraft before the plane lifted off, and immediately and without instruction tucked down into the crash position, saving his life.

This is an unnecessary denial / lack of 

"appreciation for the perspective of the body, and the shared balance of powers from which we emerge as conscious persons.” (Daniel Dennett’s Review) Antonio Domasio, "Descarte’s Error”,1995)

Is this diminution necessary?  Should hand-flying be allowed to disappear?  Can the glass cockpit learn from S3?  Can pilots be enhanced by routine hand-flying engagement by AI supervised / graded in-flight virtual training drills underway?  Why not? -- Norbert Wiener addresses seminal issues in  The Human Use Of Human Beings (1950). 


                    US Navy Submarine Drill  (Hands and Mind)  --  simulation / evaluation while underway.


                                                    allocentric / egocentric switching:  spatial processing 

More about this later.

                             Innovation -- Not Doctrine    

“A too restricted view of human nature … even though only briefly ascendent, can significantly alter the expectations and, hence, the behavior of men and societies and may thus provide its own bogus validation.”

                                                                                                Geoffrey Vickers, The Art of Judgement, 1965

“A guru produces disciples, and a discipline, and a doctrine, …. If you are a follower of a guru, you don’t go beyond his thoughts, you accept his thoughts.  He gives you the questions and the answers – it’s an end to thought.” 

                                                                                                        Russell L. Ackoff, et al., Management f-Laws

Suncertainty:  It’s the beginning of thought.

"Thus it is that an 'interdisciplinary study' often consists of a group of disciplinarians holding hands in a ring for mutual comfort.  The ostensible topic has slipped down the hole in the middle…."

                                     Stafford Beer, Preface to Autopoiesis And Cognition,  Maturana, H. R. and Varela, F. J.


                What Ever Happened To Systems Thinking, Really?


The fixed-in-stone Systems Doctrine of today, and it’s consanguinity with a logical universe is exactly what Russell Ackoff and Fred Emery worried would happen (personal communications):  uncritical acceptance of past thinking, a "New Reductionism.” 

It’s time for conceptual house cleaning / evolution in the face of paradox (Gödel, Escher, Bach).  First step, agreement on Synthesis of Cybernetics and Systems Thinking (and artificial intelligence).  

As mathematician Lewis Carroll’s Alice faced numerous logical paradoxes in Wonderland, Spresents advanced thinking and intuition -- and its reflection upon itself.  



                                                                                                                               Necessary and Sufficient

S(as dubious Cheshire Cat), described here at length in multi-disciplinary terms, answers that question:  "Where do you want to go?”, with "Go back to basics”; focus as well on the collapse of our expectation of a logical universe (ike the Frame Problem:  no boundary for what information is relevant, what will change, what will remain the same), and how to adapt (we don't know the rules until the game evolves).

If it ain’t definable, if you can’t formalize it -- unambiguously -- you can’t trust it.  Ask Humpty Dumpty and the Cheshire Cat:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." 

"The question is, “ said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." 

"The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

                                                                                                Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass, 1872

                                                                                                                                Alice In Wonderland, 1865         

Thus, S3 as tangible, lucid, elementary demonstration of a topology of paradox (a Wonderland), within the original Synthesis of Cybernetics and Systems Thinking (and Artificial Intelligence)Sexemplifies Animal and Machine at the intersection of philosophy and regulation of things with “purpose”, before academic turf refinements "evangelical and constrained by gurus.” 

"I agree that constant innovation is necessary, which is why we must accept methodological pluralism.  However, that leaves us with a dilemma.  Actually the variety of systems thinking approaches is so great (as a community, I don’t think we are in the land of dogma at all, even if some small parts of the community have become rather evangelical and constrained by gurus) that we are almost incapable of offering any introductory ‘story’ about systems thinking to people coming to it for the first time: 

either we pretend that a small part of the discourse is systems thinking (the tactic that most system dynamicists use) or we lose people by trying to explain ten or more different approaches. 

"I have been trying to work on a simple framework that can portray a bite-sized story of systems thinking, but that can be used to ‘hang’ a variety of methodologies on, so we can offer a simple introduction leading to a respect for the plurality of ideas later on."

                                              Gerald R. Midgley, President ISSS, Systems Thinking, Volumes I - IV (mss 7/9/14)

S3 topology, like Alice’s world, is a conundrum of dynamic boundaries, demanding adaptation in the face of an Emery and Trist "Type V” Environment (personal communication) / chaos; Norbert Wiener’s Animal / Machine paradoxes (“paradoxical oscillations”); or Michael Sommer's consulting work with Strategic Planning paradoxes (e.g. "Open Systems Listening: Conversation As a Research Tool”, Ph.D. Diss.,1988:  cognitive research methodology), with Ackoff / Emery / Trist at Wharton.  

Yes, Russ worked with S3s. 

Picture my office, filled with a large kite hanging from the ceiling, a large working, randomized, turnpike stoplight, working neon advertising from various clients, numerous Platonic solids, etc. -- once Russ actually brought the head of the Federal Reserve into my doorway and said, abruptly, "Do it.  Make it happen."; when I finally understood what he was talking about, I turned all the devices on for the visitor.  

Chaos as partner.  

                                                             Come Drink With Me

                                      Big Brother Is Watching

Unlike the S3, a deliberate paradoxical environment, the marketing research / strategic planning work above, with its “Listening Post” research methodology describes the discovery and avoidance of an unintended paradoxical environment: the inherent research bias (the system of rules, the blocking environment of paradoxical verbal / nonverbal messages) of what is called the Focus Group.  "What people hear is not what is going on.”  The “ Listening Post" was employed to understand and regain Anheuser Busch's (Budweiser) plummeting share of market -- losing it to Millers, among 18 - 25 year olds (the future of AB brands).  

The situation was dire:  the consumers knew more than the experts, but the conventional (self-perpetuating and very expensive) processes of inquiry guaranteed that they would not be heard; AB was driving away its market foundation.  The perceived irrationality (Paradox of Irrationality) of the consumer was the result of conventional, self-fulfilling (ultimately self-contradictory), qualitative research thinking limited by its dependence on its cherished axioms (Focus Group, with its one-way mirror and Chilling Effects of Surveillance": Philip Zimbardo / Gregory White’s “aversive surveillance on opinion inhibition") -- instead of actively embracing the paradoxical world of the new young adult market.

" … request for conversation is … the cornerstone of our misunderstanding …. It implies a simple (means / ends) as opposed to a joint causality [S3] .... Not just a crude, inept version of written propositional statements, e.g., "what they were trying to say is … rather multi-layered messages in which a communication about the nature of the exchange is negotiated on many levels."  

                   M. S. Sommer, "Open Systems Listening: Conversation As A Research Tool", Ph.D. Diss.,1988 

Using that Open Systems Listening "Listening Post” group research methodology, AB's Budweiser brand quickly regained share of market: marketing research efforts were gutted and rebuilt; now the "mind of the consumer" (not the "mind of the researcher”) was in the market planning / strategic intelligence driver's seat, delivering perceptive insights into marketing strengths and weaknesses.  


                                                                            Sommer office truck

As with the Listening Post, the S3 (communication / signal operating in an unfriendly (blocking) environment) embodies the “New Cybernetics, the functionality of machine, the learning of organism: the necessary conceptual fusion of systems thinking and cybernetics. 

 A topology of paradox.

"… a kind of Strange Loop, an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back down towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom level.”    Gödel, Escher, Bach

Sis about puzzling functional relations, particularly goals and feedback:

An interdependent communication environment of rotatory object manipulation and mental object manipulation dynamics, both "imagined and actually performed object reorientation”; also fundamental to aviation, a robust union of Hands and Mind.

For example, returning to paradoxical environment in aviation, in Operations Research / S3 terms, Cockpit Resource Management (a solution) arguably addresses the wrong problem, focusing on rational issues of "Human Factors” (make humans work together like a well-oiled machine, or computer) where that "strange loop” is absent — eliminating the non-rational human factors.  

Instead, the primary focus should be smoothing the way for the artificial intelligence system to assimilate those areas of human performance, probabilistic reasoning / intuition (where the human brain is orders of magnitude superior), leading to Animal / Machine Synthesis, not just collaboration. 

In other words, the original robust synthesis of Cybernetics / Systems Thinking -- Artificial Intelligence is there in that mix -- has been watered down:  Wiener meant what he said with the terms Animal and Machine -- the "improved" concept of Human and Machine (humans are thought to be “beyond” base animal instinct) skews the formulation of numerous problems which need to be examined at a higher level of abstraction (Note Kurtzweil, et. al.).  Humans are no longer the center of the universe, the problem space.  Unwillingness to deal with that issue head on, is the problem.

Since Sis about “operationailzing” the collapse of our expectation of a logical universe, and how we adapt by advanced thinking and intuition -- and reflect upon those processes, S3can shed light on seminal Animal / Machine issues.

"To sum up: the many automata of the present age are coupled to the outside world both for the reception of impressions and for the performance of actions.  They contain sense organs, effectors, and the equivalent of a nervous system to integrate the transfer of information from the one to the other."

         Norbert Wiener,  Cybernetics:  Or Control And Communication In The Animal And The Machine (1948)


That is, the Anima/ / Machine cockpit compromises a “nervous system”, an organism in its own right (Intelligent Flight Control Systems use artificial neural networks to learn how to fly failed / damaged aircraft), but too often, in the face of abnormal events   "automation surprises, airline pilots in particular, engaged in the joint management of an aircraft find themselves in disagreement with the computer (the computer has "saved the day" by taking control away from the pilots -- resulting in a crash; or the pilot [sometimes the pilots disagree with each other] has "saved the day" by taking control away from the computer -- resulting in a crash).  They have not been flying the aircraft -- they have been "flying the computer" (it's called fly-by-wire / necessary joint determination of means and ends) -- but were trained to fly the aircraft (traditionally sole determinant of means and ends).  Sooner or later there is an inevitable argument about common purpose.  In the cybernetic sense, in Ackoff’s terms, the fly-by-wire / "glass cockpit" 

“organization is a purposeful system that contains at least two purposeful elements which have a common purpose relative to which the system has a functional division of labor; its functionally distinct subsets can respond to each other’s behavior through observation or communication; and at least one subset has a system-control function.”

                                                                        Russell Ackoff, "Towards A System of Systems Concepts", 1971

In other words, Animal / Machine, while modifying self-behavior on the basis of experience (a good thing), compete (a bad thing) with each other for the "Alpha Intelligence" role, 


resulting in "pathological oscillations” (“click it off" is current pilot slang for deselecting the artificial intelligence modes -- thus ”winning” the argument, like HAL 9000).

With regard to this sharing of control (unlike S3, glass cockpit sensation of control forces is minimal to none) Pilots have acknowledged "two fears … making a gross error, and loss of manual flying skills”, and furthermore, "new human factors / ergonomics research suggests that pilots’ thinking skills, such as navigating, remaining aware of the status of the flight, and diagnosing troublesome situations, are most vulnerable in today’s automated cockpits. 

Thus, the cockpit, like S3, as a topology (properties and relations unaffected by continuous change -- symmetry under transformation) of paradox (contradictory cognitive and perceptual signals / messages at different levels, where acknowledgement of that contradiction is forbidden).  

Wiener’s Animal (human) cannot fly modern aircraft / space vehicle without Machine (Artificial Intelligence), but Machine does fine on its own, in the air and in space (US Navy drone lands on Aircraft Carrier).

The idealized “Master of the Ship” role conflicts with the actual role of Animal / Machine "Partner of the Ship”, an inevitable cognitive / perceptual / aviation culture paradox -- a lethal quarrel.  ("Freud’s Ego in the Cockpit”Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports"The Cockpit; Where Custom, Tradition, Technology and Humans Collide"Drone Pilot personality issues; "Ironies of Automation.” ; "Towards a cognitive approach to human-machine cooperation in dynamic situations, etc.)

Who is the Boss (known as pilot vs. plane issues)?  Modern Cybernetic Human Factors thinking tells us that the pilot is in charge.  That is obviously “true”, but absolutely wrong.  The problem is Cybernetic (and Artificial Intelligence) and Systems Thinking formalism -- let’s get back to basics.  One first step:  think Animal / Machine, not Human / Machine.     

Such paradox, issues of Animal / Machine conflict, challenge the precepts of von Bertalanfy and the Pantheon of Systems Thinkers that all systems can be controlled by common methods; all phenomena can be seen as a web of coherent relationships, within rational environments.

Scapitalizes on paradoxical environment in an uncommon way and, unlike the cockpit interaction, “rises above it”, to suggest not only what is missing, but what is possible, from early educational computer learning to advanced joint airline pilot / computer management of aircraft.  And it’s fun.



"For people in ISSS the "system" is in the outside world.

People in ASC use Ashby's definitions -- the "machine" is the object in the world.  The "system" is the model in the mind of the observer."  

                                              Stuart, Umpleby, President ASC, Science of Goal Formulation (mss 7/31/14)

S3 Talks / Papers / Demos

“What Ever Happened To Systems Thinking?” 

8 / 3 / 2014, Washington D.C. 

American Society for Cybernetics Conference


8 / 9 / 2014, Washington D.C.

International Society for the Systems Sciences Conference


Answers to ASC President Stuart Umpleby’s Questions (6 / 30 / 14)


"What is S3?

“Game?"  >>  CHALLENGES

"Puzzle?"  >>  IDEA  >>  PUZZLEMENT

"Metaphor?"  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND

"Three dimensional math, etc.?"  (bad term / right idea)  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND  >>  LOGIC

"How did you come up with the idea?” (this is my favorite question)  >>  ARCHITECTURE / GEOMETRY

"How can the S3 be used?"  >>  HOME

"You seem to see them as a metaphor for many phenomena." 

Yes, von Bertalanfy / Norbert Wiener / Ashby did too.

"Please explain the matching between the S3s and the real world situation."  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND  >>  COGNITIVE TOOL  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND  >>  MATH / RATCHET  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND  >>  LOGIC  >>  ECOLOGY OF MIND  >>  RESEARCH  >>  IDEA  >>  BLOCKS / HANDS AND MIND  >>  IDEA  >>  SPACE AS ART  >>  IDEA  >>  QUAD PROBLEM  >>  IDEA  >>  CHALLENGES        


© Michael S. Sommer, Ph.D. 2015