Dynamic Modeling States of Life


Another interesting short text, written early in his Norwegian sojourn, showing how techniques of computer modeling can be repurposed to serve the working class and not just the managers. Original is in the Brodey archives in Vienna.

States suggested for use in dynamic modelling of “Quality of Life”

Requirements (1) Moral: The model being a control model must use as its utgangspunkt (a) The modeller and his context (b) the user and his context (c) the capability of the persons/groups etc. being modelled to become the modellers, and to improve the model from the standpoint of their values. If the model is but another description by the experts - gods peeping through heavens' keyholes and writing notes back and forth about the public, while man's struggle continues to be manipulated by the priests (technocrats bureaucrats - the leading few) then such an attempt to rationalize merely adds to priestly myths.

(2) Contextual: A model that realizes its context has boundaries that are themselves actively dynamic. The state descriptors in such an active system had best apply to a range of time/size/rhythmic and relative organizations. In dynamic modelling this is possible because there are more well described relational possibilities (functions) that we are used to managing. Generality in the State descriptors, reduces their number while making use of the variety of functions in all their depth, helping us to gain a new competence in social mapping, and by trial and error to find better state descriptors. It is easy to get bogged down initially with low generality state descriptors out of line with simply finding the social shapes we wish to explore further.

(3) Communicative: The organizations that initiate and follow from the initial modelling must be grossly intuitive and easily communicable to the many. This will have occurred if when the symbols are taken from their abstracted code form (mathematical form) back to the phenomena again - the mapping made will be intuitively correct and yet will provide new information. “Yes I see that now, I knew it before, but I never could have figured out how I came to that conclusion or what to do about it.”

(4) The user must be able to participate in the modelling - in fact the model must be itself finally evaluated in terms of its own state descriptors, and then remodelled!

The States Suggested for Use Initially:

1. Challenge

2. Participation

3. Variety

4. Discontinuous control

5. Emenative Capacity

6. Insulation

Some notes describing what is meant for each state using metaphors coming from factory relations - the relations of production. From each state, others can be easily derived; they are not interchangeable.

(1) Challenge (as an illustration of generality). A worker, a group, a society is challenged over an industrial season, a pay period, a time of single management, a resources crisis, a fascist political period. Each of these size groups and time period identifiers has rhythmic subsets that interact among themselves - each is context to the others. This way of formulating is true for each of the states to be enumerated. 

Challenge has to do with, e.g., the relation of a production group's actual production as a function of their history of production both past and future (expectation). Challenge is high when meeting the expectation requires increasing skills to the degree that this is rhythmically related to the history of previous acceleration of skill and to a multiply determined direction of thrust that crosses the boundary of expectation leading the group to face unknown and unexpected experience - to a degree that refreshes the total system.

(2) Participation has to do with engaging recursively in the control system that creates the consequences of the group's own behavior, and being able to interrupt its cycling in order to explore the means of achieving a set of purposes. Are the workers in control of the means of production that turns their work into products? Or are they like a horse drawing a plough for oats at the end of the day. The horse may work hard, but his participation in the control that gives consequence to his work is low. The state of participation is lower if the driver of the team (the foreman) is merely following directions from a more central superior having no knowledge of the consequences of his efforts, or from a more centrally located IBM machine (Kongsberg). Thus the degree of participation for any size/time/rhythmic unit is the degree to which that unit can freely choose a size/time/rhythm location for its response and also choose the response or interrupt that allows it to interact with the return of consequences reflected from its previous behavior - thereby learning still at maintaining optimal quality of life - as discussed in these 6 steps for example.

(3) Variety has to do with not only the degree of unexpectedness but also the degree to which this unexpectedness has a spread of consequences which on return to the controller creates dynamically relevant unexpectedness which changes the list of purposes which has served to organize the system. Optimal variety leads to highly flexible self-organization.

For example, a social system or group may use an organization that fosters low variety. Bureaucratic centralism, for example, requires low variety, e.g., reduction of unexpected happenings in order to maintain linear planning. Linear planning is necessary so that the center is only dealing with highly repetitive similar events (mass production) and is not being forced beyond this limited command capability. A series of outpost (branch) factories or government agencies, or local branch banks may be centrally or peripherally controlled. If it is peripherally self-controlled, it is difficult to maintain central accountability through bookkeeping, taxes, common-laws-of-great-detail. With more ease, a peripherally self-controlled factory may be after-the-fact co-ordinated. Goals may be set for next year's production in relation to last year's, and needs which would be locally unknown. But the accountability is of low detail. With more ease he autonomous peripherals can form themselves into networks whose shared but discontinuous interests illuminate the same geographic territory, providing potentially a high variety of purposeful organizations, and a low vulnerability from the failure of any single organization. Accountability is of a different quality.

It is important to note that we are not speaking of variety in simple information theory terms, in our use of the term as reflecting a state - high variety is not achieved by randomness. Its degree rests within the contradiction between randomness and the need for harmonic spread before variety in the message sense becomes variety in the meaning sense - changing the behavior of the system of participants in a manner that allows a wider spectrum of consequences to behave than could have been anticipated, yet not beyond the information metabolizing capacity - knowledge making capacity - of the group.

(4) Discontinuous control has to do with the need for a multiplicity of separate but rhythmically communicating control systems if high quality of life is to be maintained. The periodic communication may simply be changes that each control system produces in relation to a common context.

This need for separation and communication is an apparent contradiction. Let us examine an example. If in a factory what is defined - in a particular time period - as high quality of production becomes the primary organizer of the production of that factory, and if this organizer is successfully prevented from being interfered with by other unrelated interests, (e.g., the workers interested in quality of life is kept inactive except by more pay for better quality of goods) then the pursuit of this ideal-quality of production will be altered in a significant way by its very primacy. It will by its purity disrupt, rather than climbing smoothly to a higher peak. That this is intuitively evident is a confirmation of its importance. More theoretically, we are, when we speak of this state, differentiating complicated from complex systems. Any form of maximizing one element of a complex system is self-defeating - it is growth without development.

Degree of discontinuous control is not commonly appreciated as a descriptor of “quality of life”. Bureaucratic centralization attempts to reduce such discontinuity or to render the discontinuities into a condition of non-rhythmic subordination centrally controlled.

There is a correct size/time/rhythmic unit needed for achieving the level of discontinuous control that organizes the required possibility for participation, for example, the possibility of using agriculture/fishing or wage job cycles allowed marginal resource areas to optimize the resources they had into a good way of life. When automation changed the cycles in these activities so they no longer matched, urbanization occurred.

(5) Emenative Capacity: The emenative capacity of an industry or a factory or a person has to do with the system's capacity to transform itself in part or entirely into something it was not previously. Emenation does not refer to slowly building up in an additive way a new capacity as planned, but rather to being so organized that there is skill in realizing in itself a potential previously unknown and leaping into a territory that may not have existed before. This becomes important when the complex reality that contexts a factory is realized and the worker functions to gain control and maintain it even as his context changes - so as to optimize quality of life. Emenation in its early stages requires playfulness - the opportunity to experiment without serious consequences.

(6) Insulative Capacity: The need for insulation and capacity to choose the degree of insulation the person, group, society, area needs over a particular kind of time period (reason, rhythm, event, etc.) as a quality often forgotten during our epoch when centralization idealizes open communication (actually passive information up the centralizing hierarchy and active control down). But if, for example, everyone in a town knows about everyone else and must respond, the response system soon becomes tired. Thus a production unit search for better quality of life can be blocked by not being able to choose or use channels and codes that are relatively exclusive.

The interplay of relatively insulated systems that periodically resonate by means of a common context (still other systems) is necessary to self-organization. And self-organization in turn maintains complexity, though aspects of the complex system of which man is a part tend continuously to degrade into irrelevant meaninglessness.