John:
 
> The submersion (perversion!) of much general systems 
> thinking into the cybernetic/military-industrial was an 
> unfortunate result of crossovers between all these people 
> (and others) at the time. 
 
As I emphasized to Brian, when you look at any of this with "perversion"  
and "unfortunate" in mind, you will have a MUCH more difficult time sorting 
out  what was useful and what was BULLDADA in this material.  You need to 
check  your "morals" at the door, if you want to understand what was going on.
 
The context for all this was the COLD WAR -- as you know from your family  
history.  Very few could resist the *temptation* of getting involved and  
even fewer had a "principled" stance they could maintain in the face of what 
was  a very effective and all-encompassing "propaganda" onslaught.  
 
It seemed that there were two "rival" global SYSTEMS fighting for the  
future of humanity and the "systems" people were deeply committed to  winning.  
Telling yourself that you were the "good guys" and that the  Soviets were 
the "bad guys" was exactly what happens when you insist on  "moralizing" the 
situation . . . and when you insist on viewing everything as a  "complex 
system" in which "progress" (i.e. the good vs. the bad) is easy to  choose.
 
Those who could resist -- which includes Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan  
and (to some degree) Kenneth Boulding -- seem to have been able to do this  
because they had *religious* reference that superceded the apparently  
earth-shattering conflicts of the day.  Wiener was a "Tolstoyian," McLuhan  a 
Catholic and Boulding a Quaker.  Take this away from them and you wind up  with 
people who have no "image" of man -- which was Boulding's primary  concern.
 
> But certainly some of the ideas are extremely powerful 
> (as illustrated by the fact that our social system as it is 
>  rests largely on a technocracy constructed from that 
> worldview!).
 
This is exactly what we need to sort out -- NOW.  Were these ideas  really 
powerful?  Did they "succeed"?  Is there an  important "technocracy" that 
somehow emerged with this world view?   Indeed, is there even something that 
can be meaningfully be called a "social  system"?
 
I have my doubts.  My guess is that these ideas "failed" -- which  makes 
them even more important to understand today, because, as far as I can  tell, 
the "systems approach" is the ONLY "new" way of thinking about  society that 
developed in the past 50+ years.  
 
The reason for this failure is the same one that pointed Coase/Wang to  
issue their "Man and the Economy" challenge -- humans are NOT  systems!
 
As historian of science George Dyson puts it in the Preface to his 1997  
"Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence," "In  the 
game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human  
beings, nature and machines."
 
Trying to apply "machine" or "nature" thinking to the HUMANS might work as  
an "approximation" for a limited time and for a limited purpose but it  
cannot sustain itself -- or so I suspect.  It's time that we figured it  out!
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nett...@kein.org

Reply via email to