Marc's Reflection on Aikido & True Play

The Engine of Life: The Humble Homeostat

March 13, 2017 · No Comments


One of three engines of evolution, whether local or global.

The other two are 1) nested recursions, and 2) the small set of functions making up the viable system model.

Homeostats are the little clockworks what make it all possible–make life possible.

Homeostats are the learning machines. They are the trial and error mechanisms that notice errors and rearrange themselves to avoid that specific error, or that type of error, in the future.

Homeostats continuously compile sets of safe playing fields where they recognize the game and quickly abandon one field for a more suitable field, as they approach the side lines. As they are pushed to the side lines they hop to another game, hopefully a safer game, like moving between chess and checkers, football and basketball. They find a game whose playing rules are compatible with the set of players and situations that happens to have shown up.

Homeostats are the ultimate magic that allows any two participants to adjust themselves to one another so that they can continue playing together. The most generic partnership is an individual (generically defined) and the environment that sustains the individual—its ecosystem (and its egosystem).

There must be early warnings—fear, attention, nervousness–involved for this to work. Go to sleep at the wheel and you are immediately off into the ditch or worse.

There must be some way of remembering past experiences, good and bad. This recall mechanism must have evolved or must be installed or developed. Warning signs must be placed near the edges.

As an aside, I think the ability to stay near the dangerous edges is a huge advantage for any learning machine because that is where the learning occurs. Suggestion: Don’t jump to another game before you really have to–understand this one as much as you can before you jump. Inevitably you will want to come back to this game when the situation and the players are right. The more you know about this field and this game, the longer you can operate there.

Homeostats are conversations between people or other homeostaticly capable entities. Environments learn too.

Connections that change a list into a system. Interactions, that is feedback connections, create nonlinear systems from a list of parts. Homeostatic connections create living systems from nonlinear interacting systems.

Complex entities are made up of many homeostaticly connected entities. The homeostats are of course “things” that connect other kinds of things and functions. They are the way interactions learn. Smarter than billiard balls. Smarter than drunken adults or unskilled children playing bumper cars for the delight of the crash. Homeostats are designed (evolved) to avoid the crashes. To anticipate and avoid. Of course, they had to have the initial crash where they reset some parameters, i.e. learned and then began playing again to see if the random resetting of parameters made things better or worse. They remember. They can avoid worse options and choose better ones. Of course, the whole thing can become very nuanced, but that isn’t the problem you might expect. All you need to do is place the best homeostat available in the appropriate situation. You cannot, I repeat you cannot, pre-fill a homeostat with decisions. No, it must learn through experience and then it can be situated to advantage.

Don’t trust teachers to program your homeostats. They can provide some sense of early warning but they are always out of your context and necessarily either over or under worried. Attentiveness, love of attentiveness, is the essence of a successful homeostat. Of course, memory and agility are critical but not motive.

So why do I go on about homeostats? Because they are the moment-to-moment prime movers. The other two magic components are much larger, with much slower clocks. They are structural and the living parts of them are these homeostats and nothing else. No window dressing or ego or textbook replaces homeostats. No, it is just the hyper-attentional mechanism that notices danger, remembers both failures and successes and is always ready for the game–the games it keeps in its bag of tricks, in its collection of phase planes and phase spaces. Always ready for a good game with the environment or any opponent that wants to play. This is what life is all about. This is the self-organizing and ultimately self-creating mechanism of life. This is the actual engine of life. A kind of intelligent Brownian motion, but in this case an Ashbien motion.

Thank you, Mr. Ashby, for uncovering the source of life.

Thank you, Mr. Beer, for showing us how to organize our homeostats to make viable enterprises.




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