Thursday, April 12, 2018

"The purpose of a system is what it does"


Backgrounder at wiki here.

This is good to keep in mind when you are tempted to attribute non-optimal outcomes to a "neo-liberal conspiracy!" theory.

From Systems Theory:


The purpose of a system is what it does (POSIWID) is a systems thinking heuristic coined by Stafford Beer. 
This is a basic dictum. It stands for bald fact, which makes a better starting point in seeking understanding than the familiar attributions of good intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment, or sheer ignorance of circumstances. 
The term is widely used by systems theorists. It is generally invoked to counter the notion that the purpose of a system can be read from the intentions of those who design, operate, or promote it.







21 comments:

Tom Hickey said...

Obvious what neoliberalism does as a system, that is, what it is designed to do.

Greece is a good example.


Where has neoliberalism produced a different result from enriching the elite and their cronies sea minions, and beggaring the rest?

Matt Franko said...

Where is the neoliberal design documentation Tom?

Ryan Harris said...

What Tom said.

https://neoliber.al/
Adam smith institute
There are lots of well know charitable and political action committees that support neoliberal agendas.

Buh Bye Paul Ryan!

Tom Hickey said...

where is the neoliberal design documentation Tom?

Documentation and institutional arrangements of the following are representative.

Maastricht Treaty

IMF

World Bank

Bank of International Settlements

Council on Foreign Relations

TPP

TTIP

Citizens United

Also the unstated policy of the GOP and Democratic Parties oriented toward fundraising from big donors who contribute for access and thereby capture the state.

There is nothing unclear about this. These are subsystems in the overarching system of the m.o. of the power elite that is written into policy, law, and institutional arrangements that favor capital and especially transnational capital.

Backed by security forces, militaries, and intelligence services that operate jointly to enforce the system.

The mode of production is capitalism (favoring capital as a factor over workers and the environment) and these are the relations of production in this stage of development of capitalism.

Calgacus said...

Stafford Beer spent a couple of years as an adviser to Allende in Chile before the 1973 coup - their 9/11. I think he discerned the purpose of the neoliberal system from what it did. From his Cybernetics of National Development Evolved from Work in Chile (1974)

"If I had not been proud and dedicated about the work in Chile, I ought not to have done it. If, given the nature of that work, I had not been aware of the foreign intent to bring the government down; I should have been a very poor operational research man and advisor. If, as I try now to report to you what happened, I were to leave out the most relevant facts of all, it would be most contemptible for us both."

Tom Hickey said...

Stafford Beer, Cybernetics Of National Development Evolved From Work In Chile. (The Zaheer Lecture, 5th December 1974)

Matt Franko said...

What the system DOES is it creates a periodic output that is adverse to “the stated intentions of those who ..... operate, or promote it.”

Call these people anything you want, “neoliberal” or wtf... it doesn’t matter...

Beer is not talking about “the purpose of neo liberals!” ... he’s talking about the purpose of the SYSTEM... separate from any human “intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment, or sheer ignorance”... you have to strip out all of that human garbage in order to properly examine what the system is DOING....

The MMT people are stuck on this and continue to get nowhere.... they can’t discern between results(output) and process (function) because they think all of this is somehow a big “neo liberal conspiracy!”...

Matt Franko said...

Ryan,

Paul Ryan is Political Science major.... ie not qualified...

Jeff65 said...

This principle doesn't even support your thesis Matt. In fact it supports the conspiracy view. You have it back to front.

What it says about a system producing suboptimal outcomes is that the system is purposed to produce suboptimal outcomes. The intentions of the designers, operators or promoters are of no consequence. This is exactly what the conspiracy view says.

It does not say you can't make any inferences about the intentions of designers, operators or promoters by observing the outcomes, which is what you apparently believe it says.

All one has to do to see past the "incompetence" argument you are fond of is to understand that the selection of operators is part of the system.

Maybe you should have a second cup of coffee today, Matt. Definitely off your game with this post yesterday.

Matt Franko said...

Jeff see my comment above...

Dont confuse my technical criticisms of the MMT elites with advocacy for the current arrangements...

They are like the coaching staff of the Cleveland Browns of Economics... I want to coach for the Patriots not the Browns...

Matt Franko said...

Jeff,

Ask Bill Mitchell what basis of accounting the CBO uses he wont be able to tell you... so he is supposed to write this big screed taking down the CBO and I'll guarantee he doenst even know what basis they use... which is step 1 in any forensic accounting...

Or no I got it... Ask Kelton what basis of accounting the CBO uses even she wont be able to tell you...

These people are stuck in failure mode and cant get out of it... so they are attributing it all to politics which is anti-scientific...

Jeff65 said...

You're confused about what is meant by the principle, Matt. All it says is that the purpose of the system is what it does. I can read.

YOU are reading it as a restatement of Hanlon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

This is not what it says, AT ALL.

Matt Franko said...

Ok so your saying that this latest bunch of Hoover econo-morons out there Boskin, Cochrane, Cogan, Shultz and Taylor understand Beer here?

Keep dreaming....

Matt Franko said...

Hanlon's razor is a concept from Philosophy, POSIWID is from System Science...

YOU are conflating Philosophy with Science....

Jeff65 said...

Not what I'm saying. I'm saying you don't understand Beer.

Matt Franko said...

Well what I am saying is you’re not qualified...

Matt Franko said...

You’re too political Jeff...

Tom Hickey said...

We've discussed Hanlon's Razor without naming it here previously — a lot. Matt and I have had a running argument about it.

Matt contends that it is all stupidity rather than malice.

I have contended it probably not possible to distinguish between malice and stupidity in many cases. The possibilities are 100% stupidity, 100% malice and some combo thereof.

Arguments can be mounted in both direct and circumstantial evidence that it's not all stupidity.

Cognitive-affective bias plays a part. Self interest and group interest play a part. And groupthink plays a part. There are likely other factors.

For example, an underperforming system wrt to the whole may perform very well for a subsystem that the designers of the system favor.

Then it becomes a question of how this bias was introduced in to the system that reduces effectiveness, efficiency and resilience overall and produces poor outcomes for most while lavishly bestowing results on a part.

Neoliberalism is an attempt to answer that question based on expert analysis in relevant field such as economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology and evolutionary theory, for example.

Many of the links posted here at MNE relate with this.

Tom Hickey said...

Life is social and therefore political. Politics is about power.

A wise man that was a mentor of mine used to say, if you want to understand life and the world, study power.

Everything that is social is affected by power, right down the family.

From the spiritual and moral perspectives, it is also about power — self-control > self discipline > self-mastery. Aristotle investigates this in Nichomachean Ethics, for example.

Those that have mastered themselves are mighty even though they may appear to be weak. Those that have not are weak even though they may appear to be strong.

jrbarch said...

”Those that have mastered themselves are mighty even though they may appear to be weak. Those that have not are weak even though they may appear to be strong.”

Worth unpacking a bit more: - in man there are two egos – the personal ego and the ‘spiritual’ ego or higher self. The personal ego is the ‘I’ – a wave in the mindstuff and therefore vapour. ‘A few golden balls are rolled through the world’ and most ‘I’s chase them: - this is conditioning, hypnotism, mind at it blindest. World events are the same as individual events – often ‘I’s in conflict; scrambling for supremacy over materials. Every ‘I’ seeks to be fulfilled and follows the formulas it has been conditioned by. Worldly power corrupts, and the ‘I can easily descend into absolute selfishness, greed, violence, sociopathy and psychopathy. This ‘wheel’ is self perpetuating and will go on and on, until as Kabir says – ‘everything including the sun, moon and stars is ground between the miller’s grinding stones’. Greed begets greed, revenge begets revenge, anger begets anger and on it goes (Mahabharata) – love and clarity beget love and clarity. Only forgiveness begets forgiveness. Around and around we go.

The only way off is this wheel is to become conscious. But conscious of the higher self and all that that entails. It is a peculiar fact in nature that this higher self in man is hypnotised, slumbering, a ‘child’, a prisoner of the planet and the personal ego. The only way it can awaken is to connect itself to its Atma, its essence; and the Self or Flame of which atma is but a spark. Then the higher self stirs and takes command of the personal ego far below; but not before the greatest battle is fought (Bhagavadgita). The spiritual ego has no sex, no country, no ideology – it is pure gnosis (knowledge) at some level or another – it is truly human, untrammelled by the lower nature. Compared to the personal ego, it is incredibly wealthy. When this light is turned on, the world is Shakespeare’s stage – and but a stage.

This is the Ageless Wisdom, and just because we are in modern times, nothing, absolutely nothing (on the inside), has changed.

The greatest materially competent person on the planet was your mother – and she didn’t need training if she knew how to listen to her heart.

Jeff65 said...

I'm not making any political argument. I'm not debating the validity of Beer's POSIWID or Hanlon's Razor.

The only argument I've made is that Matt has made an error to cite Beer's POSIWID as supportive of his view as stated here:

"This is good to keep in mind when you are tempted to attribute non-optimal outcomes to a "neo-liberal conspiracy!" theory."

If anything Beer's POSIWID supports the conspiracy view. The purpose of a system that results in endless war is to sustain endless war. The purpose of a system that results in injustice is to sustain injustice. The purpose of a system that creates inequality is to create inequality. These statements are in perfect alignment with Beer's POSIWID, yet these are exactly the kind of statements Matt disagrees with, preferring to blame incompetence of the operators.

You've totally blown it here Matt. And now instead of making any kind of defense of your own statements you kick up a bunch of bull dust and attack my competence. I'm an software systems engineer Matt, FYI. I think about systems all day every day. Get over yourself.