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On Systems and Observers

Louis Hirsch Kauffman – 2014 – Mathematics and the Real

Search for the right conceptual match between mathematics and phenomena, physical and computational. Understand that mathematics is distinct from its instances. And yet our understanding of the abstractions is utterly dependent on knowing more and more about their instantiations. The domains of the physical and the conceptual are distinct and they are mutually supporting.

It is very hard to take this point of view because we do not usually look carefully enough at our mathematics to distinguish the abstract part from the concrete or formal part.  The key is in the seeing of the pattern, not in the mechanical work of the computation. The work of the computation occurs in physicality. The seeing of the pattern, the understanding of its generality occurs in the conceptual domain.

Conceptual and physical domains are interlocked in our understanding.

The citation above is in line with how W.R. Ashby defines Machine, System and Model. The Machine and the Model are in the same concrete or formal (Physical / Computational) domain, while the System is part of another (not intersecting) Conceptual domain (see next quotation).

Humberto Maturana Romesín – 2011 – Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart

All systems are composite entities that exist in two not intersecting operational-relational domains, the domain of the operation of their components, and the domain of their operation as totalities. Due to this the totality does not operate as an argument in what happens with its components, and the components do not operate as arguments in what happens with the totality

The so-called Kantian notion of natural purpose appears as acceptable when one does not see, and cannot see due to cultural circumstances, the spontaneity of natural processes.

The operational value of a mathematical formalism lies in the initial conditions adopted because they are arbitrarily chosen by the observer from his or her vision of the situation that he or she wants to illuminate or manipulate with it. A mathematical formalism formalizes what the observer thinks about what he or she thinks that he or she is observing, not that which he or she thinks is happening with independency of his or her observing it.

We human beings in our reflections create meta-domains in which we easily make historical correlations between non-intersecting processes, but if we are not aware of this we sometimes commit the mistake of treating correlations between non-intersecting domains as logical relations of contiguity. The greatest difficulty in understanding the worlds that we human beings generate in our living and our explanations of what we do in our living, arises from the confusion of experiential and explanatory domains.

Molecular autopoiesis does not include or entail humanness, but as humanness arises when living in languaging begins, we may be tempted to think that molecular autopoiesis should somehow include humanness, which is something that does not and cannot happen because humanness occurs in a non-intersecting domain.

On Living (Autopoietic) Systems

Humberto Maturana Romesín – 2011 – Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart

When one speaks of the autonomy of living systems, one is saying that their operation as discrete living entities follows regularities determined by the manner they are made, and not by any external organizing factor.

…The processes that take place or may take place in the domain in which the living being operates as a totality cannot be deduced from the processes that take place in the domain of the realization of the molecular autopoiesis of the realization of the living of the living being because those two kinds of processes occur in not intersecting operational-relational domains.

a living system is a discrete self-contained molecular dynamic system that produces itself as a closed network of productions of molecules that in their interactions produce the same network of molecular productions that produced them as a stationary dynamics sustained in a continuous flow of matter and energy through it.

Autopoiesis is not a definition, not a postulate or an a priori proposition; it is an abstraction of what happens in the actual realization of the living of a living system.

life is not a property of living beings, the word life only evokes or names an invented abstract entity that we claim that must be there to sustain the living of a concrete singular living being. Living does not need any theory to occur; it is the occurring of a molecular autopoietic system.

… a particular substance is not a nutrient but we say it is a nutrient when it participates in some metabolic process in a cell, and some particular behavior is not adaptive in itself, but we say as observers that it is adaptive when we see it to participate in a particular kind of processes that we call adaptive.

… even though living systems may operate as ultrastable and dissipative systems, it is not ultrastability or dissipative processes which makes them living, it is their continuous self production as discrete self producing dynamically closed molecular entities: that is, molecular autopoiesis

Living beings live only while they operate adapted (in operational coherence) with their niche, otherwise they die. So they are never adapting, and they slide in their living in the conservation of adaptation. The processes of the living systems are not goal oriented, although an observer may say that they occur as if they were goal oriented. And cognition is what an observer says that occurs when he or she sees an organism behaving in a manner that he or she considers adequate to the circumstances in which he or she observes it.

There are several fundamental repercussions from the above selection of HMR’s thoughts:

  1. All living systems are dynamical (cybernetic) systems open to the flow of matter and energy, but closed to information/control from the environment. However, not all dynamical systems are
  2. All notions about downward causation are fiction. There is no explicit (or implicit) purpose in natural processes. Emergent properties such as cognition of a system are generated from the bottom up, depending on the organization and functions of its components.
  3. Words like autopoiesis, life, adaptation, hierarchy, etc. are just labels used in the Cognitive (Conceptual) domain of the observer(s) used to explain its experiences.

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