Cybernetics and epochs

It is often useful, in reasoning, to have a model of a possible world that displays the behaviours that we are interested in. At the least it can give us some credible candidate hypotheses.

W.R. Ashby noted that his theory of Cybernetics had a formal correspondence with Whitehead’s theory of processes. Thus an epoch is a region of the field in which a polystable system displays a particular stability, and Ashby’s model gives a possible explanation for changes in epoch.

Brain activity has multiple possible equilibria, which a stimulus might upset.

Ashby's illustration of polystability in the brain.

Thinking of economies, the conventional (pre-Keynesian) view was that theories were ‘ultrastable’, necessarily tending to an equilibrium unless upset by an external event (e.g., war). Keynes noted that there were multiple possible equilibria, so that an economy that was growing had a potential to be in a depression, and if it flipped into a depression then it may have a potential for growth that it might need some stimulus to achieve. In the simplest version, as in much of Ashby’s work, one might have a closed polystable system that could be explored. In the more general case there might be ’emergent, creative, evolution’ in which nothing was necessarily fixed forever. In this case Whitehead’s formulation seems more natural.

David Marsay


About Dave Marsay
Mathematician with an interest in 'good' reasoning.

2 Responses to Cybernetics and epochs

  1. Pingback: Evolution and epochs | djmarsay

  2. Pingback: Critical phenomena in complex networks | djmarsay

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