Systems Theory


Articles and Essays

AI vs. Cybernetics

ai vs cybernetics


In modern times, the term became widespread because Norbert Wiener wrote a book called “Cybernetics” in 1948. His sub-title was “control and communication in the animal and machine”. This was important because it connects control (a.k.a., actions taken in hope of achieving goals) with communication (a.k.a., connection and information flow between the actor and the environment). So, Wiener is pointing out that effective action requires communication.

…where objectivity derives from shared agreement about meaning, and where information (or intelligence for that matter) is an attribute of an interaction rather than a commodity stored in a computer.

Watch zebrafish cells chase each other into patterns!

An amazing article from Ed Yong describes a new mechanism for pattern formation:

Coloured Cells Chase Each Other To Make A Fish’s Stripes

Zebrafish patterns aren’t just controlled by a chemical reaction-diffusion mechanism — the pigment cells actually chase each other! The different color cells sort themselves into stripes, spots, or other patterns depending on their relative speeds.


Today’s Smile by qubibi

<meta property=“og:description” content=
This is a website I created after being affected by the 3.11 Earthquake in Japan,
and the nuclear power plant incidents that followed.”


UPDATE 2012-02-05
Shortly after I’ve posted this The Daily Dot wrote more about
qubibi (Kazumasa Teshigawara), the process and emotions behind this work.

R. D. Laing, Knots (1970)


There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is that I don’t know,
and yet am supposed to know,
and I feel I look stupid
if I seem both not to know it
and not to know what it is I don’t know.
Therefore I pretend I know it.
This is nerve-racking
since I don’t know what I must pretend to know.
Therefore I pretend to know everything.

I feel you know what I am supposed to know
but you can’t tell me what it is
because you don’t know that I don’t know what it is.

You may know what I don’t know, but not
that I don’t know it,
and I can’t tell you. So you will have to tell me everything.

R.D. Laing: Wikipedia, Knots, another excerpt of Knots

See also Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory (Wikipedia; article)


In the ocean, many forces compete in driving convection, including the temperature and salinity of the water. In the laboratory, it’s possible to mimic these characteristics of oceanic circulation using two different fluids driven by temperature and concentration differences. Recently, researchers were exploring this problem—with the added twist of tilting the fluids ~1 degree—when they discovered a surprising result. After an extended time, the convection self-organized into alternating parallel columns of ascending (dark) and descending (light) fluid. The researchers nicknamed this behavior super-highway convection. Read more about it here or in their paper. (Video credit: F. Croccolo et al; submitted by A. Vailati)

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

Image 1: “Scanning electron microscope image of a bryozoan colony” (Source)

Image 2: “This skeleton of a living bryozoan, collected at Bahia de los Angeles, Baja California, clearly shows this typical colonial organiation.

Each individual, or zooid, is enclosed in a sheath of tissue, the zooecium, that in many species secretes a rigid skeleton of calcium carbonate. Each zooid in this electron micrograph is less than a millimeter long and has a single opening, the orifice. Through this opening, the lophophore, a ring of ciliated tentacles centered on the mouth, protrudes to capture small food particles. The lophophore can be retracted very rapidly by specialized retractor muscles, and the opening closed by a doorlike operculum, visible on some of the zooids in the picture at the left.”


Image 3: Membraniporella nitida (source) cc-by-nc-sa

More info:

“Figure 1: Left panel: Chaotic attractor of a driven anharmonic oscillator on the location-position plane of a stroboscopic map taken with the period of the driving. Right panel: Natural measure on the same chaotic attractor. Lighter colors indicate higher local values of the distribution. Both the attractor and the natural measure are fractal. (From T. Tel, M. Gruiz, Chaotic Dynamics, An Introduction Based on Classical Mechanics, Cambridge University Press, 2006, with permission.)”

Via Scholarpedia:

Diagram by Edward Ott, Scholarpedia:

Figure 1: (a) Double well potential V(x) , and (b) the resulting basins of attraction.