• Pangaro Incorporated

    2nd-Order Cybernetics and Modeling of Social Constructs

    Abstract of a Talk at the Washington Evolutionary Systems Society
    25 February 93
    Paul Pangaro, President, PANGARO Incorporated, Washington DC

    In the course of consulting contracts concerned with individual learning, corporate organization, cooperative work and the like, it became clear that certain crucial functions of social organizations are not being addressed by software aids, no less by any prescriptive techniques. For example, it appears that there is no commonly used formalism (beyond highly-flawed English) for handling problems of:
    1. Unambiguously expressing goals
    2. Eliciting differences of interpretation from a group
    3. Checking whether proposed actions might actually achieve stated goals
    4. Managing a process whereby goals and strategies were subject to negotiation and evolution
    5. Documenting shared mental models
    Such problems exist squarely in the social domain, whether in interpersonal relationships or collaborations between workers, or across organizations such as corporations. The implications of failure to handle these problems effectively need not be explained.

    Under the encouragement of the pressing need for handling these problems specifically in the corporate context, two fundamental techniques have been developed by direct application of a body of work that has emerged from 2nd-Order Cybernetics:
    • Language Modeler: accepts statements about a domain and does a "structural comparison" to existing statements, based on user-defined nodes or topics of the domain. Not a natural language processor, this software is based on a logic of distinctions that includes a simple conflict detection mechanism. (All semantic processing is performed by the users.)
    • Organizational Modeler: accepts links between stated goals and the stated means to achieve those goals. Provides rules for checking a number of details of the relationship to evaluate whether it is actually consistent. Can be used to plan and track cooperative projects, and interaction with models so constructed can eliminate the need for "management" of the process beyond the collaborators interaction with the model.
    Pangaro will describe how these techniques work, how they emerge from 2nd Order Cybernetics, where they have been applied to date (e.g. at Du Pont) and the features of existing software prototypes.

    © Copyright Paul Pangaro 1994 - 2000. All Rights Reserved.