Thea,

Hello…so many ideas are running through this conversation…a synthesis would be a good thing, but I'm not yet up to that task, so this will ramble a bit…and be quite long…

I agree that Piaget, and also Bateson, were limited by the tools that were available, tools that really just started becoming available in the mid- to late-1980s. Some of the early attempts were available to Bateson, but he seems to have resisted the ideas of chaos theory and complexity just a bit. I don't fully understand why, or even if my impression is correct, but there were ideas that he could have taken from but didn't.

Your take on evolution, epigenetics, and the possibility of saltatory evolution is very much in line with what complexivists are saying. (I'm reading a book, "Phase Transitions" by Sole and someone and they make such a point when discussing viruses). As for how the levels interact, I don't really know, but Kampis talks about this to some extent. (Kampis' idea of component systems is well worth the struggle, and given that I believe he is German by birth, there might be something of his in German…all of our discussion probably makes this a good time for me to revisit Kampis.) In physics there is the concept of "impedance matching" that probably applies across levels. For example, when I look at the wall of my office, I cannot see through it because the frequency (colors, if you wish,) of electromagnetic (EM) waves that my eyes can see don't penetrate the walls. However, the frequencies of EM waves that the wireless internet connection uses will pass right through (fortunately!). This is because there is, at the visible frequencies, an impedance mismatch between the air and the paint, so the waves bounce off. However, at the wireless frequencies, there is (nearly) an impedance match, so the waves are transmitted. I don't think that wave frequency is necessarily the piece that determines communication across levels, but there is probably something analogous.

Kampis also in his big book (free online) in section 7.6 explains some of the limitations of autopoiesis. I don't know exactly how I can shorten his explanation or make it more accessible, but I'll think some more about that.

I am familiar with some of Kolb's work, and I think he fits in reasonably well with what we have been talking about. You might be, along these lines, interested in a paper by Proulx - and the response by Doll to that paper - that appeared in the journal Complicity. (https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/complicity/issue/view/563)

Part of where math is helpful to me is in examining equilibrium and living systems; almost all living systems are NOT steady-state, and NOT near equilibrium. This is part of where the linear maths we generally teach in school (e.g., solving LINEAR equations, like 3x + 2 = 8,) leads us astray. The maths of complexity are anything but linear, and the intuition we develop from our school maths is pretty useless in the study of complex systems.

While we keep looking at epistemology, one of the things that keeps popping up for me is that Bateson really didn't distinguish between epistemology and ontology; this will be a bit at odds with Piaget (as the Doll piece mentioned above points out different logics between the learner and the expert). I mention this because it can cause lots of problems when we approach the idea of changes.

I think that algorithms are models; someone once said that all models are wrong, but some are useful.

I think the better question than how we move the epistemology of someone without the shock is how do we support people through their shocks? Some changes - those that Piaget would call assimilation or accommodation - can be made without shocks. Some, however, require shocks. This is a very practical (and pressing) question for me right now. We have a relatively new college President, and sadly, despite having moved up to such a lofty position, he is a very insecure person. Hence, although the college needs him to change in substantial ways, he is afraid to do so, and so reacts in anger when his world view is critiqued. Regardless, I do agree that the need for changing is always bigger than we might initially intend, and how does one link countries/cultures/religions to address this?

I might have to practice my German for Cramer; can you say more about "Symphomie des Lebens"? (I might also have to practice for Varela's small book; it doesn't seem like he ever translated it into English.)

Aesthetics? I still don't feel comfortable with that part of Bateson; clearly he means more than Einstein's "It must be beautiful" or the "elegance" sought by mathematicians, but I haven't yet been able to wrap my head around it - maybe Jeff can help.

I'd be interested to know more about the body-therapy approach that you mentioned; like most things in complexity, it sounds as if it is either rather crazy or very insightful.

A couple definitions: "Stability": The ability of a system to return to its previous state after a perturbation. "Robustness": The ability of a system to remain functioning (perhaps in a different state) after perturbation. We actually want the latter, but usually encounter only the former (because perhaps people are afraid to change, fearing that they will lose themselves?).

Group theory: Well I'll give you a semi-formal definition of a group and some examples. A group is a set of elements along an operation that satisfies these properties:

1. "Closure"

2. An "identity" element

3. "Invertibility"

4. "Associative"

The set of all integers (…, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, …) , along with the operator addition (+) forms a group because:

1. If you add any two integers, you always get another integer.

2. Zero is the identity element: Add zero to any integer, and the result is the original integer.

3. Each integer has an inverse: 5 + 3 + (-3) = 5. Hence, 3 and (-3) are inverses.

4. The sum 3 + 2 + 6 can be found by doing (3+2) and then adding 6 to the result, or by adding (2+6) and then adding 3 to the result.

The set of integers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) is NOT a group "under addition" because 2+4 is not part of that set, and because 1 + 2 has no inverse element.

So, groups are relatively easy to define, but have some very far reaching consequences. For example, you are likely familiar (or were at one point) with the "quadratic formula", which is used to solve quadratic equations. There is a similar formula for cubic equations and quartic equations, but no such formula for equations that have higher powers. How do mathematicians know there is no such equation? Group theory provides a means for the proof.

However, symmetries are also groups. For example, consider a plain old square. We say that the symmetry group of the square consists of the following:

- flip it horizontally

- flip it vertically

- rotate it 90 degrees

- rotate it 180 degrees

- rotate it 0 degrees

- rotate it 270 degrees

Try it: For example, if rotate 90 it degrees and rotate another 90 degrees and you'll get a 180 degree rotation. the "inverse" of rotate 90 degrees is rotate 270 degrees.

OK, so we have a symmetry group. Now, however, stretch the square into a rectangle. You just "broke" the symmetry because the rectangle does not have a 90 degree rotation in its symmetry group; it is "less" (in some sense) symmetric.

(Incidentally, everything I just said about groups and symmetry breaking is true, but mathematicians would laugh at us because we weren't formal enough. So be careful hanging out with mathematicians!)

I agree that we really do miss systems thinking in our education system; I'm trying to address this in a small way, as I'm currently scheduled to teach an introduction to systems theory course this fall. (We're still waiting on the final enrollment numbers, as it is right on the cusp of having enough students to remain on the schedule.)

I'm not sure I follow this part of your last post: "It is, that that lack of playful and also same time systematically reflected expieriential learning at university has been a shock for me, and seeing that the insights of cybernetics are only proofed technically….but not social, ….and it is that artificial intelligence is something I really have respect of, I guess we can t see all the possibilities that are opened….with a better understanding…but the insights are needed in the social sciences, and that is were Jeffs approach comes in, with deeper learning and appropriate questions…and epistemological shock…". Perhaps you could try to clarify again. (You could also try the German there; I might be able to piece your good German and less-good English together with my good English and poor German to come up with better understanding.)

Whew! Enough for now…

Barney

P.S. Where in Deutschland are you located? I'm going to be in Amsterdam in September for a complex systems conference, and may have an unoccupied day. If you are far enough north and west, I might be able to meet you for lunch or something….