Archive for May 2nd, 2015

Logic and Nonlinearity

The crucial passages from this reconstructed conversation have already been cited over at the other place, but it’s important enough to pick over here, too. The maximally-compressed take-away: cybernetic processes are naturally registered as logical paradoxes (with consequent affinity between paradox and — dynamic — reality).

[The] whole fabric of living things is not put together by logic … when you get circular trains of causation, as you always do in the living world, the use of logic will make you walk into paradoxes. Just take the thermostat, a simple sense organ, yes? […] If it’s on, it’s off; if it’s off, it’s on. If yes, then no; if no, then yes. …

So the isomorphy between the most basic cybernetic control loop and classical logical paradoxes (for e.g.) is exact. The significance of this is surely beyond need of defense.

Capra asks, alluding to the Epimenides Paradox, “Do thermostats lie?” To which Bateson replies:

Yes-no-yes-no-yes-no. You see, the cybernetic equivalent of logic is oscillation.

It seems to me that something of vast importance was discovered here, and subsequently almost entirely lost.

(For anybody following the link, it’s worth noting that surgical extraction is in this case ‘steelmanning’. The retreat to ‘metaphor’ as a substitute for logical formalism is disastrously inadequate. The alternative that matters is not figurative language, but the circuit diagram, and recursive code.)

May 2, 2015admin 25 Comments »
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