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Copyright © Chérie Phillips

Diamondhead Mountain
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

 

 

Feedback Philosophy 

Systems of Feedback

by Stuart Wells, Geologist

 

Any system has its own unique (and complex) feedback equation, with the principle behind each being the same. All inputs and outputs of the system both from internal and external sources are combined to form a net result.

The portion of the net flow of energy relating the output of the system which, in turn, acts as an input back to itself is the process of feedback. It is not just input-output like a machine.

Put more plastic and fasteners in and add more power and out come more shelving units. You won't find a machine which can take off on its own. All of its input is controlled.

The machine on the scale of self-organizing behavior is more like a cell on the scale of our body.

Evolution is tied into the mechanism of biology to together create a self-organizing system, which neither of them equals individually. Of course if an organism eats more it can do more and will be healthier than one that is starving but this is still too simple.

A good example of historical organization in evolution is the evolution of the brain and its relation to omnivorous and carnivorous behavior.

Because genes are modified over generations, an understanding of evolutionary advancement must come from a perspective spanning many generations and involving long term environmental pressures for change.

The health of an individual organism, while it may play a key part along the path of advancement, is not a major component, in terms of scale, to the system.

Back to the brain: consider two scenarios:

Let's say for this example that we are talking about newly bipedal primates in far prehistoric Africa.

Scenario 1:

a. It takes increased intelligence to learn how to hunt meat and to catch animals that would otherwise either be too dangerous to catch or too fast to pursue;

and

b. The consumption of meat (specifically the proteins therein) enhances brain development among the primates.

Scenario 2:

a. The same scenario exists as in Scenario 1 for 'a', however:

b. This time, material in river grass roots increases cognitive ability to hunt, while consumption of meat does nothing.

SCENARIO 1

Scenario 1 lays the groundwork for positive feedback. The behavioral deviants who pursue hunting are genetically rewarded as their short term boost in hunting ability from meat gives evolutionary guidance to those born with the best brains to start with.

SCENARIO 2

Scenario 2 is an evolutionary dead end. Any one who chooses to hunt may get some food and nothing more. The difficulties involved in hunting will never be overcome in the long term if there is no survival pressure against those who do not try.

The predisposition to eating grass roots negates any increased cognitive ability to hunt, as there is neither inclination, nor direction toward the practice of hunting in those individuals.

Be cautioned not to infer (although it may seem intuitive at first) that individuals will eat more grass roots and then be able to hunt.

The nutritional benefit of the food source in these scenarios only lays a foundation for which long-term cognitive change can more easily occur.

Those who receive the nutrition they need from roots are divergent from those who would benefit from the advantage for hunting. That is why that system does not move in that direction.

© copyright 2004, Stuart Wells.
All rights reserved.

 

 

 
 
 

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