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Enhancing AMITY through Knowledge Architecture

Yitzhaq I. Hayut-Man 06.08.2012 01:06
Enhancing AMITY through Knowledge Architecture - Ethics - net games

… we are.. dealing with actors who interact and their evolving meshes ... The quality and quantity conserved and generated in this interaction is AMITY, or, if you prefer it, LOVE…. Gordon Pask.

Enhancing Amity through Knowledge Architecture

Dr. Yitzhaq I. Hayut-Man, cyber-architect


Introduction: This short essay outlines a possible intercultural conversational cooperation aimed to enhance amity. It was initially written in India as proposal for Amity University. This did not bear fruits and  two sections about Indian-Israeli relations were taken out. The essay is dedication to the late Gordon Pask, the great cybernetician and inventor of Conversation Theory (CT). 

I was working at Gordon's Systems Research Ltd. Lab in the mid 1970's, when he developed his work on "Conversation Theory" (CT) peaked with the publication of two books (Pask 1975 & 1976). CT was an attempted comprehensive theory of human interaction, individual and collective. "Amity" was not mentioned explicitly at that stage, but it was lurking there in the detailed specifications of events of mutual understandings. Then in his last years Gordon Pask endeavored to develop a more general and yet simpler "Interaction of Actors (IA) Theory", in which "Amity" became one of the major key axioms.

Some similarities between Jewish and Indian religious-intellectual practices

Both these two modern states are based on rich traditions that have constantly evolved for thousands of years. In both there have developed religious and spiritual practices, some of which are peculiarly and strongly akin to programming and algorithmic work of the highest degree. The examples below are just random samples of a vast domain.

For example, the characteristic mode of Jewish religion practice is the conversational study of disputations about the Law – which is very similar to programming to handle all eventualities (see work of Nobel Laurent Robert Auman of the Hebrew U. Etc.). There is a stream of Jewish mysticism (in which Abraham Abul’afia is paramount) that, rather than quieting the mind, send it spinning like a supercomputer.

Likewise I am told that Jnana Yoga and other systematic works of Hindu mysticism were devised to develop the mind (or beyond mind) to the highest levels. This is the area for me not to cite but to listen and learn. But below I offer some definition of that “higher level” information, or wisdom, which the various esoteric practices intend.

One peculiarity of both Hebrew and Vedic mysticism is the firm belief in the efficacy of letters and sounds, of which the whole universe was (and is being) assembled. Again, I can only be a student to the Sanskrit operations, but I could explain the chemical combinations like of the Hebrew letters in the Sefer Yetsirah (the root text of the Qabbalah) and its later refinements in “The Gate of Unification and Belief” of the founder of the Ḥabad (Chabad) movement.

While religious Jews done phylacteries on their arm and forehead to aid their adhering to God, Indian teachings speak of “opening the third eye” and this concept seems most popular on the symbolic level. Yet it is possible that what technology is offering now is the functional acquisition of “the Third Eye” in the form of the screen of the personal computer – be it of a desktop, laptop, and palm or Smartphone computer. This “eye” could potentially reveal much about self and other’s souls.

·         Challenges of personalizing Information and of treating Values.

At present, the network is getting increasingly personal (blogs, Facebook, Seconf Life and their likes) and there are continuing developments of personal agents – often borrowing the Indian word "Avatar" – for touring and navigating in cyberspace. There comes the challenge of designing such agents that reflect back from the vast network resources back to the individual, the screen becoming "opening of the Third Eye". These suggest possibilities of developing to the hyper-personal/trans-personal (trance-personal?), likely inspired by the esoteric traditions, such as cited above. This is also where Pask's Interaction of Actors - IA Theory - comes into the fore, as possibly the hallmark of personal information and inter-personal information exchange.

In a more general manner, the challenge is that of values. As Pask's senior colleague, Professor Gerard de Zeeuw, explained: "What the Interaction of Actors Theory aims to do is to translate values into observations and vice versa… like many others, Gordon had noticed the difficulty of scientifically improving on values — and developed his Interaction of Actors Theory as a tool to deal with this difficulty. He used it to identify forms of interaction which satisfy criteria of ‘outward’ (rather than ‘inward’) stability".[1] As professed by Pask himself, the ultimate motive for developing this theory was the conservation and nurturing of Amity, regarded operationally as “willingness to interact” within appropriate support systems. On the whole, he explained, "I.A. is chiefly a theory of understanding, especially your understanding of me, mine of you, both of us, our shared understanding of those universes in which we live and have our being".

Complementary meanings of the word "Amity".

Allow me to bring a word-pun, which suggests an analogy that exemplifies the growth of understanding of an issue - here of the topic of Amity. We have seen meanings of the word Amity in English. In India the country's foremost private university is called "Amity University". This is in English, yet what is "Amity" in Sanskrit and Hindi? As I’m told, the very common Hindu name “Amit” means “appreciative”.

Interestingly, there are a number of significant Hebrew meanings of that same phoneme – Truth (Emet), genuine (Amiti), Non-mythic (a-mithi) as well as (with more glattoral Ạ), Collegiate (Ạmiti). These are related to processes of verification (Imut) and of confrontation (Ịmut). All these meanings suggest characteristics for dialectical-conversational processes.

·         Levels of Information and of Knowledge

The challenge of the information sciences (including cybernetics) is moving up, from "Data Processing" to "Information Technology" and on to "Knowledge Engineering", while pioneers are tacking concepts of "Wisdomes" and "Wisdom Agents". This development was predicted since the 1960's in the observation of a meta-organization of Information in three or four distinct "Universes of Information" – of Classification, Relational, "Relevantial" and "Revelational" (Maruyama 1966; Maruyama, 1974; KhayutMan (Hayut-Man) 1981), which are somewhat akin to the levels of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom.

In exploring the challenges of handling Knowledge and Wisdom, or of treating "Relevantial" and "Revelational" information, it will be increasingly important to relate to levels of the soul as are found in Indian and Hebrew esoteric traditions (Qabbalah). Interestingly, both claim tapping on revelational information or "Akashic Records". A characteristic Talmudic expression is, "If all the skies were parchments and all oceans ink and all trees pens – they would not suffice to write all that I have learnt from my master". Such perhaps enigmatic expressions were echoed in the diverse techniques developed by Rabbi Abraham Abulafia (13th century) for "Prophetic Qabbalah" (and "Qabbalah" means, literally "Reception"). These means bear much similarity, and may be the predecessors, to Ramon Lull's “Ars Magna” that dominated late European medieval science and was revived and consciously applied in Gordon Pask’s CT and Lp theories.



Cyber Gnosis

The novel approaches brought by cybernetics into science since some 60 years ago were in new integrations that bridged entrenched distinctions and disciplines – like between mechanical and biological systems – and in introducing purpose and teleology back into the scientific endeavor. Central from the start to the cybernetic endeavor was the question of "The embodiments of Mind" (McCullough, 1965). It was in these circles that Gordon Pask became recognized a genius scientist of self-organization and founder of Cognitive Cybernetics (and incidentally as the founder of Cyber-Art). While cybernetics (often disguised as "Information Science") became instrumental in the development of computer systems, the Internet etc., there was a group of cyberneticians, who may be compared to the Gnostics of the First Century and often known as "Second Order Cybernetics", who were engaged in the study (with intended application) of Mind, Consciousness and Values. One characteristic of this school is the prevalent interest in mystical or esoteric traditions and their implications to modern technology and world issues. (To give but one example: perhaps the most known application of managerial cybernetics is in Stafford Beer's "Viable System Model" (VSM) expounded by several books (Beer 1972, 1979), was (covertly) modeled upon the traditional Indian concept of the Chakras.)

Entailment Meshes, the Indra Net, and "Endearment Networks"

The strict specification of events of mutual understandings was characterized in CT by synchronization and a temporary collapse of distinction of linguistic levels. These events would occur between two "a-priori independent Psychological Individuals" who discuss and jointly learn a topic within a structured "Conversational Domain".

CT included a technology of knowledge engineering, called "Entailment Meshes" for building coherent "Conversational Domains". Thus CT was offering at the time an alternative to Ted Nelson's "Hypertext". Hypertext (being more technically advanced and far less ambitious and complex) was adopted by Xerox and then by the whole world, while Entailment Structures were practically forgotten. Yet there are indications they begin to resurrect in diverse forms. Certainly the biggest impediment for Entailment Structures at the 1970's – namely excessive demands for computing power – is almost trivial by now. Moreover, noting the more cumbersome features of Entailment Meshes, Pask has been developing a refined notation and logic scheme, which he called "Protolanguage Lp" (or "Proto-logic Lp") which could facilitate the production of coherent (even potentially self-organizing) "Bodies of Knowledge".

I am told there is Vedic tradition of cosmology that sees the universe as made of networks, "The Indra Net". Allow me to bring another such word pun (as sample of inter-linguistic analogy building) and speak of designing "Endearment Networks", as integrated social-informational networks in which participants grow in Amity. Pask did not use such a term, but he has been building the theory (IA) and methods (Lp) for just that.



What does IA Theory say about Amity?

It is not possible to give a comprehensive survey, let alone full explanation, of IA at this context. But we can give here some quotes that pertain to Amity and Amity Generation [in the following, "P-Individual" can be regarded as "Mind" and "M-Individual" as "Brain" or sufficient agglomeration of computing power]:

"86. There are many reasons why participants converse, for example because there is some kind of conflict, requiring conflict resolution and because of a fundamental affinity, an interaction of P-Individual and M-Individual, which amounts to a willingness to speak to and hear from, to interact mutually, existing between [P-Individuals indexed as] A and B. This propensity I called amity but Humberto Maturana has the courage to call it love, its rightful name."

"141. (6). In I.A. theory, it is also important to recognise that the P-Individual evolution and the M-Individual evolution are inextricably coupled, since this is where we MUST, not only may, implicate AMITY or LOVE, as a willingness to engage in interaction, to socialize… [this is] required for personal affection and sentience, the main qualities/quantities, conserved and perpetually evolving/developing, in the dynamic of C.T. or I.A theory."

"241. Underlying all this, there is a more fundamental reason why the usually distinct adaptation types and rates of the P-Individual and the M-Individual aspects of an actor and participant, must be respected. It is that the internal interaction between the P-Individuated and the M-Individuated facets of a participant interact, in a subtle and possibly unique-to-the participant manner [acts] to create the essential quality of amity, because of which actors are willing to speak to each other and to listen to each other.

242. Whatever the particulars of internal-to-participant interaction, it seems clear that the quantity of this commodity, amity, is conserved in any interaction between actors. Perhaps this is most lucidly demonstrated in "An Algebra of Conscience", due to Vladimir Lefebrve.[2] "

249. (v). …At least one such point of view must be that of a participant in the observed system. That is fortunate, since it commits the observer. Without that status, namely, participant observer, it would neither be possible to garner meaningful information from the system, to interact with other actors, or to influence what takes place.

250. (vi) In particular, it would neither be possible for an observer to understand the quality of amity,... nor for the observer to foster its conservation and development.

253. … we are, in fact, dealing with actors who interact and their evolving meshes are BOTH themselves, however incarnated, or embodied, and so are the ROLES they play in the courtly masque of life. The quality and quantity conserved and generated in this interaction is AMITY, or, if you prefer it, LOVE….

254.  … A and B may learn about a concept of T, or of each other, more effectively, just insofar as their internal interactions produce or become part of an existing iso-inter-family. Given these caveats [the NO DOPPELGANGER edict, with the entire ENOUGH DISTINCTION to counter coherence], I maintain that the main PURPOSE of life is the generation and conservation of AMITY, or, if you will take it, of love.

·         How does IA propose to enhance Amity?

All the above pertains in particular to system designers of organizations, where their increasingly automated communications and information systems become the "M-Individuals" that facilitate the operation of teams of human participants, the P-Individuals" – among which Amity can be conserved and enhanced.

The development of Lp and IA was intended to specify most of the axioms and principles for building such support systems (what I called above "Endearment Networks"). It has, further, developed an adequate formalism and identified the mathematics that would allow programming the appropriate algorithms.  

It would not be true to say that IA has solved all the problems of building these support systems, but it has done enough to start the work of a coordinated program. This work may proceed under the aegis of a major university or the R&D team of a major company or an energetic start-up, to come up with the functioning product for great many worthy and profitable ventures.

For fuller accounts of IA Theory:


Green, Nick: "Axioms from Interaction of Actors Theory", at 

Some Related references on Cybernetics and Ethics:

Barnes, Graham: "Justice, Love and Wisdom - linking Psychotherapy to Second-order Cybernetics". Zagreb 1994. ISBN 953-176-017-9

Beer, Stafford: "The Brain of the Firm" McMillan 1972.

Beer, Stafford: "The Heart of Enterprise" McMillan 1979 & 1990.

von Foerster, Heinz: "Ethics and second-order cybernetics", 1995.

KhayutMan (Hayut-Man) Yitzhak: "The Cybernetic Basis for Human Reconstruction". Ph.D Dissertation, dept. of Cybernetics, Brunel University 1981.

Lefebre, Vladimir: "Algebra of Consciens, various artices", at

Maruyama, M.: "Metaorganization of Information". General Systems Yearbook 1966.

Maruyama, M.: "Paradigmatology and its application to cross-disciplinary, cross- professional and cross-cultural communication. 1974 Cybernetica , 17, p. 135-156, 237- 281;

McCullough, Warren: "Embodiments of Mind". MIT Press, 1965.

Pask, Gordon: "Conversation, Cognition and Learning. Elsevier 1975.

Pask, Gordon: "Conversation Theory, Applications in Education and Epistemology". Elsevier 1976.

de Zeeuw, Gerard: "Interaction of Actors Theory". Kybernetes 30.

Zukav, Gary: "The Seat of the Soul". The Free Press Paperbacks, 2007.


[1]  de Zeeuw, Gerard: Interaction of Actors Theory. Kybernetes 30: 7-8.

[2] Pask adds, more technically "This masterly but much neglected work deals with ethical systems, under the polar opposites of good and of evil which, rightly, remain undefined, just as the particulars of internal-to-participant interactions remain, quite properly, undefined. But the calculus, introduced by Lefebrve is exact, a form of Boolean algebra which is enhanced by the adjunction of an exponential notation and, in the immediate context, would be further enriched by the use of a modal logic.".

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