H.von FOERSTER persistently denounces the sloppy use of terminology in systems and cybernetics.
He gives some glaring examples:
"When engineers talk about a computer's "memory", they really don't mean a computer's memory; they refer to devices or systems of devices, for recording electric signals which when needed for further manipulation can be played back again. Hence, these devices are stores of storage systems… The content of these stores is a record" (1981, p.236).
As von FOERSTER once observed in a lecture, we thus come to believe erroneously that the electronic engineers know what memory "is" and, adopting the false analogy, we look for stores of data in some precise place in the brain.
Another example is the term "problem solver" applied to computers: "Of course, they are no problem solvers, because they do not have any problem in the first place. It is our problem they help us solve like any useful tool, say, a hammer which may be dubbed a "problem solver" for driving nails into a board. The danger in this subtle semantic twist by which the responsability for action is shifted from man to a machine lies in making us loose sight of the cognition problem" (Ibid., p.237).
Another example widely developed by von FOERSTER are the numerous semantic abuses on the term "information", principally originated in the common delusion that data are information, while only their understanding and ordering by our brain in interrelations clustered in reference frames becomes information.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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