The Anastomotic Reticulum (Stafford Beer) – an incomplete note in search of further elucidation

This is an incomplete note about an important and interesting concept, in the hope that it will create an attractor for more explanation!

Image from this weird notes page (incomplete): Norm-Critical Innovation | Knowledge Management Research Group


I came across this in

The detection of bullshit is a crucial feature of our lives: we are, after all, drowning in it. If you think anastomosis probably IS bullshit, go to the bottom of the class. Anastomosis seems to be little known about but is a crucial structure for bullshit filtering. Nassim Taleb, in his latest popular book, Skin in the Game, says his whole series of books including the Black Swan and Antifragile amount to a life project of bullshit detection. Spoiler alert: he finds no shortage of BS, especially in government functions.

Anastomosis? I have three pillars. Stafford Beer, whose Viable Systems Model I have used extensively, describes the cybernetic function of our brains as an anastomotic reticulum. Alan Rayner, in The Origin of Life Patterns, has anastomotic flow forms as how reality happens. And in a recent article which we will explore a little, Wired into Pain, Tom Jesson explains how our nervous system uses anastomotic patterns to separate the pain we need to pay attention to from all the other signals that are not as significant in preserving our life. Yes, our pain has bullshit filtering built in.

In James Scott’s wonderful new book Against the Grain, it seems that the cradle of civilisation itself was the system of marshes and braided distributory channels in lower Mesopotamia (Greek — between the rivers). Our very being is anastomotic whether we know it or not. The complex ecologies that surged back and forth, our ability to partake of multiple food webs, the social structures that were played with and developed. How far we have fallen.



This article gives part of an explanation (pdf):



An anastomosis (plural anastomoses) is a connection or opening between two things (especially cavities or passages) that are normally diverging or branching, such as between blood vesselsleaf veins, or streams. Such a connection may be normal (such as the foramen ovale in a fetus’s heart) or abnormal (such as the patent foramen ovale in an adult’s heart); it may be acquired (such as an arteriovenous fistula) or innate (such as the arteriovenous shunt of a metarteriole); and it may be natural (such as the aforementioned examples) or artificial (such as a surgical anastomosis).