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Shall And Shall Not


For a controlled system to remain viable and stable, Ashby’s law of requisite variety requires that the system controller(s) exhibit a wider variety of behavior than the system controllee(s). This can be accomplished by either the controller increasing its variety of responses to controllee disturbances, or by decreasing the variety of controllee disturbances relative to its own variety of control responses, or both.

In order to comply with Ashby’s law (in conjunction with several other natural laws – 2nd law of thermo, control theory, Turing’s infallible/intelligence thesis, etc), Bill Livingston asserts that membership in any institution requires the internalization, either consciously or (more likely) unconsciously, of the following set of “shall” and “shall not” rules:

As you can see, suppressing variety in the controllee population is the preferred method of a controller aiming to satisfy Ashby’s law. The alternative, increasing its own variety of response relative to controllee variety of disturbance, requires learning and development. By definition, infallible controllers don’t need to learn and develop. They stopped learning when they achieved the status of “infallible” – either by force or by illusion.

So, what do you think? Did Mr. Livingston hit the bullseye? Miss by a mile?

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  1. August 17, 2012 at 6:04 am

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