Cybernetics and Ecological Ethics - Gihan Soliman

Page 1

Cybernetics and Ecological Ethics “The Real-living-system” approach Gihan Sami Soliman [*] University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences g.ssoliman@hotmail.co.uk Submitted to the United Nation Post2015 Preparatory publication to the

Sustainability Cybernetics Journal© ISSN 2057-0430 http://icea-academic-resources.co.uk

It’s impossible to go through ecological

- leaves no space for environmental

ethics debate without ever wondering;

ethics. One of them, respectively, is

but what is nature? In an attempt to

reductional of species and landscapes

reach a balanced position that would

while the other might deem all ethical

work

ethics,

choices as morally “good” in a “natural

Peterson (1999) suggested a sort of

fallacy”. The solution according to

“productive tension between realism

Peterson would be a “constrained”

and

For

realism" which, as attractive as it

constructivists, nature is appreciated

seems, lacks justification through a

as a cultural product. It is either

mono-speciality perspective.

for

environmental

constructivism”.

structured linguistic

exclusively interpretation

through of

the

All systems according to James G.

objects,

or

Miller’s (1978) Living System Theory

physically structured by and through

(cited in Umpleby, 2004) process data,

human cultures. Naturalists, on the

energy and/or matter. This applies to

other hand, regard human beings as

biological systems; such as cells,

one species among millions of other

molecules, organs and organism, as

living organisms and natural objects

well as self-regulatory machines and

contributing to the structure of life on

social entities such as corporates and

earth. Peterson did not challenge any

nations (Umpleby, 2004). Energy and

of such “appreciations” in principle but

matter are inter-reversible and often

rather in praxis: Adopting any of such

treated as “one entity” in biology, while

views in their extremes - as she notes

in physics the law regulating them is

correspondent

natural


E=mc2. Information however is the

video for Stafford Beer while he

“difference

explained the control system of the

which

makes

the

difference” and - unlike energy and

Watt's Engine. I then

matter - is known to be the “role of an

students to write down the verbs they

observer” (ibid). This is where the huge

get to hear - in their exact tense:

difference

between

a

asked my

biological

perspective of systems and a physical

My students came up with a list that

one comes. Biology while trying to

included two verbs describing actions

commit itself to objectivity, ignores the

which were not performed by the

role of the observer which defines the

system

relationship

“operate” and the other was in the

between

matter

and

energy and provides information that is

components.

One

was

passive voice: “has been built”.

beyond them both that constructs such a perceivable whole. This means that

This logically meant that the system -

biology

an

in spite of its autonomy - was not

incomplete image of the reality in the

running totally on its own accord; some

absence

spatiotemporal

students proposed that maybe the

dimension. It seems that biological

system is actually controlled by the

sciences tend to consider information

person “operating” it. The mind-game

as the matter/energy while physics

was a successful introduction to a rich

admits it is above them both as

discussion on cybernetic layers and

obvious from the equation. Addressing

the role of the observer. For decades,

this gap in cybernetic layers may

science

produce a new realistic constructivist

separating the observed system from

(cross-speciality)

the observer to comply with the

will

always

of

the

produce

approach

to

has

ecological ethics and help locating our

fundamental

position from nature.

(Forester,

been

founded

“objectivity” 1991)

on

principle

characterising

scientific inquiry, but such objectivity in career

handling real-life systems has finally

development as an educator, I wanted

turned out to be unrealistic (Corning,

to share my vision on Cybernetics with

1997).

At

some

point

of

my

some colleagues - who were kind enough to be my “volunteer” students

In other terms, Glaneville (2004) stated

for an hour. I displayed a one-minute

that control is in neither the controller


nor the controlled, but actually “in

generation

between”. It is in the communication

conservationists as a representation of

between

the

their progenitors while represented in

controller. But more precisely, control

their progeny (Ruggiero et al.,1994);

cannot be only be “in between”; it is

the structure of the gene with its DNA,

rather in the wholeness of the system:

RNAs and protein (Johnson &Raven,

i.e. the alignment of such natural

2002)

elements in such a manner which

phenotype correlations (Encyclopedia

allows such intrinsic and extrinsic

Britannica);

communication to occur under such

organisations. A macro-organism is

natural forces at such a time and such

evidently the perceivable total of an

a position in the space as perceived by

entire

an

cooperating

the

controlled

observer.

Such

and

wholeness

is

studied

world

treated

in and

of

its

by

genotypein

social

micro-organisms

constructively

(beyond

producing such dynamics of self-

their perception) to function as a whole

governance is always “greater than the

(Corning, 1997) while an aggregation

sum of its fragments” (Aristotle cited in

of individual hive-bees constituting a

Corning, 1997).

bee-caste seem to function as a singularity, beyond the perception of its

Autonomy in machines occurs through

constituent members (Corning, 1997;

provided

provided

Nowak et al, 2010; West et al, 2006)

purpose; the purpose of the observer.

and regardless of the Natural selection

Such observer may be the designer or

mechanism

the operator as informed by the design

demeanour. That all in addition to

or both. In the case of natural systems,

“Nature” as “the aggregation of natural

this

the

laws” manifesting themselves through

and

the natural elements and constructing

energy/matter is mainly "perceived" by

the amazing variety of life systems;

observation. This can be inferred in the

what Wilson also describes as “the

addition of Planck's (1949) constant

forces of the natural selection” (Wilson,

(cited in Umpleby, 2004) indicating that

1998).

energy

“wholeness”

process

of

and

representing information

which

allows

such

the electromagnetic energy is emitted in bundles or quanta; the genome as

While a system according to Umpleby

evolving across generations of an

is depicted as an IEM, a life-system or

observed population where a current

an ecological system could be -


according

to

the

cybernetic

approach

second-order

options (Darwin, 1871; Glasersfeld,

and

1980; Varese 2001) and secondly to

Holistic

Darwinism - be depicted as: hICEM = observer (I[C

conceptualise, discribe and/or simulate

ex

↔ C

en]X

self regutory systems, transmitting observation

[E]±M-W) = Real-life system

outcomes

through

education and the use of cognitive Where [I] is information/data and [E]

artifacts (Jones and Nemeth, 2005).

is energy, [M] is matter and [C] is the

Such uniqueness is evident in the

aggregation of intrinsic and extrinsic

outstanding human civilisation, culture,

communication among the system

technology [1] “morals” (Darwin, 1991)

components

which

and

with

an

represent

a

phenotypic

environment, while;

extension to our biological existence

[h] A relativity factor relating system

as in illustration (2).

fragments to each other purposefully in a spatiotemporal position to an

Through the capacity of observation

observer.

and “distributing cognition” (Jones and

[Cen]

Intrinsic

communication

Nemeth,

2005)

or

“cultural

depicting the linkage among the

transmission” (Gray, 2011)] humans

system components where control

couldn't avoid manipulating Nature's

basically lies.

fundamentals

[Cex]

Extrinsic

depicting

communication

the

“structural

consequently, phenotype

determinism”.

2001)

that

[W] Work or lost energy according to the

existence

second law of thermodynamics.

capacity

and a

developing,

unique

correlation expands beyond through

genotype(Weathreall,

our its

physical biological

building

self-

regulatory systems. Although humans are also animals, human

societies

distinctive

are

thanks

dramatically the

communication trajectory within our life

cognition-sharing

organisation once such organisation

privilege: That is a unique faculty of

has been established through quality

reason, weighing situational factors

education. This sets quality education

and “selecting” among a variety of

with sustainable development in a

intergenerational

to

Education in this respect is the intrinsic


circular causal relationship (Soliman,

Natural processes and entities

G.S. 2013).

must be seen as real as they are able to cause suffer or

The Cybernetic Phylogeny

cause suffering, set constraints hICEM = h {[I.a + I.a~b + I.a~b~c +

in the way of, or even to

I.a~b~c~d

I.(cognitive

code

decompose the observer at a

I.(cognitive

code

certain point in time and space.

[aeroplane]) + I.(cognitive code [self-

Nature for us then is about the

defence-weapon])+I.(cognitive

code

here-and-now data stamped by

[submarine]) + I.(cognitive code [TV])

the past and reaching out for a

+I.(cognitive

future.

[vehicle])

+ +

code

+I.capacity+I.z]}

([Cex

[agriculture]) ↔

Cen])+

Refutes the human "arrogance”

[E1+E2+E3+E4+E5+E6+ E7+E8+E9+

(Katz, 1997:2012) accusations

[E±]]

persistent

±

in

environmental

(M1XM2XM3XM4~(car)XM5~(aeropla

ethics debates and re-interprets

ne)XM6~(self-defence-

“The Survival of the Fittest”

weapon)XM7~(submarine)XM8~(TV)

paradigm

XM9~(Farm)X(M.capacity)X[M.z])-W

environmental ethics (as called

---------------------------------------------------

for by Naess ( based on the

------------

multi-level selection approach,

Where a, b, c are genetic modification

setting humans as a distinctive

and 1, 2, 3 are biological modification

sociophysiobiological

including an attached physical and

rather

social phenotype correspondent to an

species”! Human "speciesism"

attached cognitive codes (scientific-

would surprisingly be capable of

knowledge heritage).

embracing

in

than

fundamentals Such approach: •Highlights the spaciotemporal

dimension of ecosystems in relation to an observer: Regarding the need for decision making on ecological issues,

relation

“just

all

to

kingdom another

nature's

and

other

species. •

Consequently,

proposes

that

inaction - as “Leaving nature alone” (Katz, 2012) - is not an option; as we are also nature and as everything in nature including us is already changing


by

observation

(Umpleby,

2007). •

and

a

certified

educator with a PGCE from the

Proposes

a

constructivism

(2012-2014)

realistic

approach

to

Teesside

University,

2014;

president of the International

environmental ethics based on

Curricula

“species” survival values. An

Association;

approach potentially capable of

Educating Africa Award, 2011;

lifting humans beyond biases of

affiliate practitioner to the Forum

ethnicities and genders.

UNESCO

Highlights

the

promoting

global

danger

of

Educators a

winner

University

of

and

Heritage and a signatory on the United

Nations

before having a perspective on

Education

Initiative

uniting humans above borders,

Future We Want. Currently an

sovereignty

MSc Environment, Culture and

of

citizenship

states

and

Higher for

the

ethnicities to ensure justice.

Society student at the University

Highlights the role of quality

of

education

Geosciences.

(formal

and

non-

Edinburgh

School

of

formal) as in a circular causal relationship

with

sustainable

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