Graham Berrisford on Beer and Ashby

I haven’t included Graham’s attempts to – I guess – reconceputalise – much of systems thinking at http://grahamberrisford.com/, although he often comments and posts in the systems thinking groups. This is principally because I don’t usually feel I understand them, but tend to think of his content as obtuse and a bit off – a combination which tends to be the most effective in preventing me from posting. If I don’t agree but understand, I can post (with or occasionally without comment – my view is that everything intellectual has to be ‘buyer beware’), and if I agree – even if I don’t understand – I’m ok to amplify the signal…

However, there’s no doubt Graham’s efforts are sincere and I think there are some good challenges and interesting interpretations in these two pieces, in particular, which are worth a look. They also led me – with Graham’s voiced suspicion that the 1974 Hayek Nobel Prize Lecture might be a direct response to Cybersyn – to that interesting piece.

 

 

Link – Beer’s ideas: Overview

Beer’s ideas – applying cybernetic ideas to management science

https://bit.ly/2uPxFn5

Copyright 2017 Graham Berrisford. One of more than 100 papers on the “System Theory” page at http://avancier.website . Last updated 16/09/2019 12:59

Thinkers like Ackoff, Beer and von Foerster were wise men with good advice to offer people.

Arguably however, they and other thinkers in 1970s undermined the concept of a system.

Many today refer to ideas found in Beer’s work, especially his attempts to apply classical cybernetics and Ashby’s ideas about variety.

In my view, Beer stretched cybernetics beyond what Ashby would have regarded as science.

And stretched his analogy between the central nervous system and business management beyond rational analysis.

To say Beer succeeded in applying Ashby’s law to a nation’s economy, or in applying the structure of the central nervous system to the management of a business, seems pseudo-scientific.

Empirical evidence that Beer’s VSM is a useful reference model is better put down to the experience of Beer as a manager, and the experience of consultants who use it.

Contents

Beer’s inspiration

Ashby’s cybernetics

Ashby’s “variety”

Project Cybersyn

The five systems of the Viable System Model (VSM)

Beer’s use of the biology-sociology analogy

Conclusions and remarks

Further reading and references

Link – Beer’s ideas: Overview

 

Link – Ashby’s introduction to cybernetics with respect to Enterprise Architecture: http://grahamberrisford.com/AM%204%20System%20theory/SystemTheory/ChallengingSystemsThinkers/06%20An%20introduction%20to%20cybernetics%20(Ashby).htm

Ashby’s introduction to cybernetics

With respect to Enterprise Architecture

Copyright 2017-9 Graham Berrisford. One of a hundred papers on the System Theory page at http://avancier.website. Last updated 12/03/2019 21:17

TOGAF says EA “regards the enterprise as a system, or system of systems.”

A general system theory was developed in the1950s by Bertalanffy, Wiener, Ashby and others.

This discussion includes several quotes from Ashby’s Introduction to Cybernetics (1956).

  1. Ross Ashby (1903-1972) was a psychologist and systems theorist.

“Despite being widely influential within cybernetics, systems theory… Ashby is not as well known as many of the notable scientists his work influenced.”

Understanding Ashby’s ideas helps you to understand much else in the field of systems thinking.

The discussion that follows relates Ashby’s ideas to Enterprise Architecture (EA).

 

For example:

“Cybernetics was defined by Wiener as “the science of control and communication, in the animal and the machine” in a word, as the art of steersmanship.

Co-ordination, regulation and control are its themes, for these were of the greatest biological and practical interest.” (1956)

One may say coordination (or integration), regulation and control are the themes of Enterprise Architecture (EA).

This paper copies some sections from Ashby’s book.

It paraphrases some sentences, replacing Cybernetics by EA, and added comments presenting EA as a branch of Cybernetics.

Note that this is Cybernetics in its classical form – before sociologists messed with it by speaking of second-order cybernetics.

Contents

Chapter 1: WHAT IS NEW

Chapter 2: CHANGE

Chapter 3: THE DETERMINATE MACHINE

VECTORS

Chapter 4 THE MACHINE WITH INPUT

THE VERY LARGE SYSTEM

Chapter 5: STABILITY (intro only)

Chapter 6: THE BLACK BOX (intro only)

Chapter 7: QUANTITY OF VARIETY (intro only)

Chapter 8: TRANSMISSION OF VARIETY

Chapter 9: INCESSANT TRANSMISSION (intro only)

Chapter 10: REGULATION IN BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS (intro only)

Chapter 11: REQUISITE VARIETY (intro only)

Chapter 12: THE ERROR-CONTROLLED REGULATOR (intro only)

Chapter 13: REGULATING THE VERY LARGE SYSTEM

Link – Ashby’s introduction to cybernetics with respect to Enterprise Architecture: http://grahamberrisford.com/AM%204%20System%20theory/SystemTheory/ChallengingSystemsThinkers/06%20An%20introduction%20to%20cybernetics%20(Ashby).htm