Re: virus: Metasystem Transition

Dan Plante (
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 15:58:43 -0800

At 08:51 PM 1/30/97 GMT, you wrote:
>At 16:53 29/01/97 -0800, you wrote:
>>At 04:22 PM 1/28/97 -0800, Lior Golgher wrote:
>>>I excerpted:
>>>> > control of position = movement
>>>> > control of movement = irritability (simple reflex)
>>>> > control of irritability = (complex) reflex
>>>> > control of reflex = associating (conditional reflex)
>>>> > control of associating = human thinking
>>>> > control of human thinking = culture
>>>And Dave replied:
>>>> Everyone check this out. They're NEARLY right...
>>>As far as I understand, they posted it as a vague model intended to


>>Even more interesting is speculating on how the "next step" would
>>manifest itself. Why don't we inject some life into this group and
>>try one out:
>>The year is 2050. The pace of scientific and technological progression


>The big interesting points for me are:
>1 The one you're posting: developing technology accelerates and
>intensifies the tendency of information to be memetically encoded across
>more and more brains.
>2 The way that bigger and bigger memetic structures, and
>metastructures, form over historical time, like (I believe) bigger and
>bigger (meta)groups of neural linkages form in individual brains over
>ontological time. I mean that in young brains, there's lots of ideas that
>are fairly limited in scope (limited in their ability to guide that person's
>actions), and over time, these ideas interact and give rise to broader, more
>useful, meta-ideas. Just like species interact to give rise to emergents we
>call ecologies; just like little ecologies interact to give rise to big
>Here it is again: elements in a system interacting, and from that system a
>metasystem emerging.
>But what I'm saying is that all your cognitive development is a process of
>metasystems emerging. And... I suppose, memetically speaking, I'm saying
>that the future process that you're proposing (and I think your prediction
>could be close to what happens) is nothing qualitatively new... it'll just
>be the natural extension of a process that has its roots back when nerved-up
>animals first started to learn about and from each other.
>Dave Pape

I agree. It's quite often a matter of perspective and perception. I often
take the perspective, when thinking about fundamentals, of stepping back
and looking at the "big picture", that is, all facets of our existence. The
cornerstone of human intellect, "pattern recognition", allows us to percieve
more profound and basic facets of that existence from that vantage, assuming
the view isn't obscured by the filters of preconcieved notions and vested
emotional interest in any particular idea. It's from this view that I've
come to see the process of evolution gradually producing what I initially
tagged an "emergent systems stack", but I think I like the term "metasystem
transition history" better. It more closely describes the process as well,
not just the end result.

I also agree with your previous post about the "control" aspect within
the metasystem transition history table extracted from the Principia
Cybernetica Project site. The assertion of "control", in the sense used
on those pages is obviously in error, especially when viewed within the
context of a series of emergent systems. To be fair though, they do go
on to refine the idea, with reference to /feedback/ and control systems
(one of my areas of expertise), which, /eventually/, do have validity
in a changing (mutation and selection) system.

The pattern I percieve, in every (logically consistant) transition
postulated, is this:

Start with a system of (usually but not neccessarily) identical, self-
reproducible components. Observe that there are no higher levels of order
(there are, as yet, no emergent properties related to the interaction of
the components). Change (mutate) some small facet of the nature of the
components. Large, sudden changes in the system /typically/ result in
instability of an extent that has a significant detrimental affect
on the member components, and therefore do not sustain and/or propagate.
Observe the system again. Sometimes, the small addition/change, given
time to reach a critical number/density through component reproduction,
will affect the mutual interaction of the components such that a
previously non-existant order can be percieved in the system as a whole.
This, as I understand it, is a meta-system transition.

Where I think the PCP people may be going wrong, is in mistaking an
emergent property as "control". Influence may be a better term, but
even that is not semantically precise. An emergent property is just
that: an emergent property. Implicit in the term "control", especially
in feedback and control systems theory, is a controller function /not/
implicit in emergent properties.

For instance, if I wanted to build a telerobotic arm, I would build a
robot arm, a matching controller sleve for my own arm, then design a
feedback and control system such that every movement of my arm is
reflected in the robot arm. The arm is controlled by the sleeve and
the associated controller function (in this case positional,
typically involving a PID, or Proportional/Integral/Differential
control function. The problem with the word "control" is that an
/external/ influence and/or purpose is implied.

A more accurate electronic analogy for a metasystem transition would
be an oscillator. Connect random transistors and electrical power in
various configurations, and nothing much happens (the configuration
burns out some components, or the system is driven into a steady-state
saturation or cutoff mode; nothing remarkable. But make one or two minor
changes, so that the components are connected in a /positive/ feedback
configuration, and so that the gain of the system is greater than
unity, and something remarkable does happen. The whole system begins
to oscillate at a frequency determined by the amount of inductance,
capacitance and resistance in the system. A property emerges, a complex
behaviour that is completely dependant upon, but whose existence or
behaviour is not implicit in, the nature of any single component.
And, as a matter of fact, oscillation is the /last/ thing you want in
a feedback and control system. Emergent properties /may/ be included
in a more strict and generalized concept of control systems theory,
but in specific application to metasystem transition theory, I think
it's more confusing than anything else. But I agreed with the gist of
the postulate, so I did't feel like picking nits at the time.

If I may take some license with your previous post:

>Dave Pape said:
>I was massively excited by the steps in the table you posted, because I
>think that:

Me too. That's why I decided to make my sig out of it, upon coming
across it at the PCP site (after playing around with it a bit :-)

>atomic phenomena arise from subatomic interactions
>molecular phenomena arise from atomic interacttions
>genetic phenomena arise from molecular interactions

>cognitive phenomena arise from genetic interactions


>memetic phenomena arise from cognitive interactions

Atomic phenomena arise from sub-atomic interactions (the stable isotopes)
Molecular phenomena arise from atomic interactions (chemistry)
Self-reproducing structures arise from molecular interactions (life)
Self-aware structures arise from self-reproducing interactions (mind)
Memetic structures arise from self-aware interactions (culture)

Comparing our two tables, it becomes apparent that a formal, rigorous
definiton of a metasystem transition is needed, as well as a self-
consistent rationale for that definition. There could be only a handful
of true transitions in our history, or there could have been thousands.
I believe the PCP site acknowledged this need.

Any thoughts?

The Metasystem Transition History of the "Dan Plante" System

initial conditions = data (conception)
control of data = information (conception to puberty)
control of information = knowledge (puberty to marriage)
control of knowledge = wisdom (marriage to divorce)