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This page last updated 21 September 2003


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CybCon 2003

Recent Topics in Cybernetics

The conference began with Dr Bernard Scott FCybS on "Topic Maps and Learning Design" concerning his development with Gordon Pask of Topic or Concept Maps or entailment meshes, as they are sometimes known, and their appliction to Learning and Design. In particular we saw the photographs of Pask's early learning machines SAKI and the later CASTE with its associated Belief Opinion Sampling System (BOSS)! Dr Scott pointed out that even today's products failed to use analogy in the sense of teaching one discipline from the perspective of another better matched to a student's previously acquired skills. In a separate development much of Pask and Scott's work is now subject to an International Standard on Topic Maps and an XML approach, XTM, is under development.

Mr Tony Wilkes of Organum Ltd came on to ask "Moores Law: a Boon or a Burden?". The current constraints of the software industry were most authoritatively described. Mr Wilkes held these were largely liberal because Moores Law permitted cycle eating in implementing safer techniques. A change might come as the CMOS end-point is approached. Software would have to become adaptive. At this point a wave of visible approval was seen as members considered how they might implement such an approach. Runtime, distributed, a new kind of scheduler with more supervision to detect common calls? Mr Wilkes opened an interesting door.
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Dr Angela Espinosa from the University of Hull spoke to us about some of her work in Colombia with "The VSM as criteria for developing an Eco-regional approach to sustainable development- A Colombian experience". Her presentation was much appreciated by many in our audience who are using VSM and the citizen focus given to the design of an information system was widely appreciated by all. We look forward to future contributions from Dr Espinoza.
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Dr. John St.Quinton from Zetetic Systems gave us his "Analysis of Meaning: a technique for Machine and Man”. His theory based on conceptual reference provides a means for analysing the written or spoken semantic components involved. The resolution of semantic ambiguity, paradox and sophistry becomes possible. We wish good luck to Dr St Quinton in implementing his algorithms and heuristics and trust he will come and discuss any difficulties with members. Dr St Quinton's wife Jacqueline took on the role of videogapher of our day for those members that wished. We hope in due course to present edited moments from the day in mpeg format on the website.

Dr Ranulph Glanville FCybS addressed the question of "Cybernetics: Ethics: Behaviour" Cybernetics can be considered to be based on behaviour. Observing behaviours, we construct machines based on state transitions. Nothing could seem more mechanical or less concerned with ethics. But the extension of early cybernetic studies into second order cybernetics has changed how we evaluate behaviour, raising questions of responsibility that lead to the appearance of ethical considerations

Dr David Dewhurst FCybS Secretary of the Cybernetics Society spoke on "Games Theory, monopoly and the vivarium: default limitations of simulation models" Von Neumann and Morgenstern showed non-zero-sum optimisation may be reconstrued as zero-sum games in such fields as socio-biology, economics, management, military and political strategy and individual values. Widespread misapplication of this leads us to miss crucial features of real complex systems. We were introduced to Drama Theory and altruistic strategy. Particularly memorable was David's demonstration that equal allocation of resources can lead to richer Variety in Interaction. This is a particularly interesting result in view of the later discussions on the subject of distributive Justice implicit in overcoming conflict.
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Mr Karl-Gustav Hansson of Statistics Sweden opened our afternoon session. His topic "Improving National Accounts" was thought deterministic and not immediately appreciated by some members as subject to the kind of differences so readily analysed by the cybernetic method. The sampling of the domestic, private and public sectors, the statistical inference approach and fixed price base were introduced. A most interesting critique of the arbitrary nature of National Accounts was presented and the difficulties with International Standards and the consequent vulnerability to political interference. Karl-Gustav's analysis required authentic and understandable National Accounts free of ambiguity. Preparing National Accounts it turns out to be a potentially rough and ready discipline often influenced by the convenience of the clerks and politicians rather than the demands of strict regulation. There is much to be done here when we see the corruption of the unaccountable leading to instability and terrorism. Karl-Gustav has suggested a course at University level teaching National Accounts might be a useful first step.
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Overhead Foils from the lecture.

Dr Petros A.M. Gelepithis FCybS gave us his "Towards an Axiomatic Theory of Mind". The approach features an own language independent Representational System and situations, both internal and external, which can be simplified. Thoughts within entities are defined as n-tuples. The meaning of something to an Entity at a given time is defined by its context and the prevailed formations of the representational systems. From there a treatment of communication, in terms of understanding, was made and a further programme of work suggested including a mechanism for essence preserving simplification. The model was presented in high relief with no issue fudged as members' differing perspectives were circumvented or incorporated. We look forward to further development here.
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Dr John Chandler, our Treasurer, promised us an easier time with his paper "Iraq" focusing on the origin of Saddam Hussain's power. Here we saw the nature of the dictatorial oppressor writ large.This was no easy time. Now we see why such diverse activities as improving National Accounts and the therapies discussed by Dewhurst and Barnes can create States where the violent oppression of the masses can become a ghastly memory of a bygone age. John gave us an historical analysis and comparison of the differences and similarities to Hitler. John considers we need to find axioms that can better predict outcomes of intervention in such circumstances. In a Europe still emerging from the terror of Franco, Mussolini, Ceausescu and Milosevic a full-blown Cybernetic Analysis of Terror is long overdue. The newly formed group Metaphorum Group and the Group on Contemporary Problems have much to consider from this years conference.
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The climax of the day came with the Cybernetician and Hypnotherpist Dr Graham Barnes putting us all in a trance-like state as he played a recording of Freud describing his early work. His paper "What Theory does to Practice and Practice does to Practitioners" was conceived whilst working with conflict in his practice of an interpersonal kind and an international and intranational kind with his work in collapsing Yugoslavia particularly in Croatia. He made an eloquent and gentle plea for us to avoid theories diagnosing a self-fulfilling pathology and urged us to listen to the wounded and encourage their skills for further self-development. To see this as a strategy for producing better brains in machines, individuals, organisations and countries is key to understanding the wide applicability of his approach as he showed in his ground-breaking book "Justice, Love and Wisdom".

The Society is happy to make any reasonable amendments should members and contributors feel an inadequate representation of their work has been made. Also written comments and further detail and clarifications are encouraged.