Sunday, May 24, 2015

Korthre Script - A Rihannsu (Romulan) Writing System


This is probably the craziest document I've ever written, but it also has been a lot of fun composing. As there is no 201x Trek-series, some fan contribution is due. Romulan writing has been much phantasized about. In this document I briefly review the factual history of Romulan writing, coming up with a solution to the common two-font problem, and elaborating on a beautiful handwriting system.

If you know additional Rihannsu writing resources I did not cover, feel free to contact me. Credits in image titles and references.


Gwiuu ir-Raal t'Aieme: Korthre Script - A Rihannsu Writing System.pdf

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Networking Social Security: The Effects of Prolonged Uncertainty in Restructuring Programs on Reconstruction of Employees’ Work Experience

Employees at Deutsche Telekom/T-Systems were undergoing prolonged periods (several months) of job insecurity after having preliminarily been selected into groups with quotas for retrenchment during annual waves of mass-layoffs. Prolonged uncertainty, owing to organizational and legal constraints, placed considerable strain on the emotional experience and mental well-being of the employees and limited their perceived options to structure, attributing primarily externally with almost no perception of agency (contingency). Hierarchies have been found as a central element that dominates the individual reconstruction of the workplace experience after being notified of the preliminary selection, limiting both cognitive experience and execution of agency. Advanced epistemological constructions of self (independent-event, homeostatic or morphogenetic thinking) have either been absent, or have been dependent on increased levels of individual social security. Networked, interdependent approaches at social security may alleviate mental well-being on the level of societies.

Mindscape Discrepancy. Structure, Agency, and Attribution in the Light of Job Loss--A Critique


Anaf, Baum, Newman, Ziersch and Jolley (2013) researched the “consequences of job loss for retrenched workers’ mental health,” (p. 1). Drawing from their discussion of mental health consequences in the light of structure and agency theory and starting with a methodological critique, this article discusses their findings in the light of attitude and attribution, developing perspectives on subsequent research.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the Light of Modern Psychology

Buddhism cherishes its Three Jewels, which are keys on the path to enlightenment. They are the Buddha (a particular sublte, centered experience of self), the Sangha (the spiritual community), and the Dharma (the spiritual path and practice together with its knowledge).

Modern Psychology pursues a tripartite model of attitude change, that is mediators that facilitate an internal, cognitive reconstruction (adaption): consistent or favourable evaluation of self, satisfactory relationships with other people, and informational accuracy (know-how). Attitude change is key to changes dealing with emotional facticism, or samsaric roots. Abstract concepts only appear real to us because the invoke the same emotions that are evoked by other phenomena that we have experienced and classified as real at an earlier point in time.

There is a striking similarity between the Buddha Jewel and a favourable evaluation of self. The Buddha Jewel, as an ideal, propagates a completely centered ideal of self that no longer display samsaric roots. There are two relevant samsaric roots: physical matter (i.e. body, biology), thus in Buddhist terms it is favorable to give up identification with the body (and any physical phenomena beyond). Secondly, mental constructs, that most commonly includes concepts of a soul. Being free from both one resides as observer, experiencer, or in terms of acceptance and commitment therapy: as self-as-context. This detached form of observation ensures constistent and favourable evaluations of self that are independent from external circumstances and perceptions.

There is another similarity between the Sangha Jewel and satisfactory relations to others. It is much more likely that people will experience satisfactory relations to people who are on the same path as themselves. As spiritual seekers on a Buddhist path obviously are a minority, positive experience is more likely to be found in a Sangha than in the open public. However, today, with a huge industry of spiritualism, hierarchical thinking has been widely reintroduced into Sanghas, deviating form the Buddhist ideal of sameness in nature of all individuals. These misconstructions of Sangha reintroduce concepts of competition to realms that are supposedly devoid thereof.

Thirdly, the Dharma Jewel and the informational accuracy seeking, the knowledge how a goal can be achieved in a non-contradictory canon, strongly relate to each other. Cognitive progress will only arise from internalization of concepts, each step building upon prior experience. Thus the next step will have to be within the vicinity of the before, in a zone of proximal development (Vygotsky) or a zone of influence (when seen from an external perspective). This strongly suggests consistent syllabi like Buddha's Dharma or modern scientific theories are facilitators in this progress.

Buddha's teachings in many ways appear to be more psychological than spiritual. If one reduces spiritual commerce and religious ritualism, Buddhism appears as a sophisticated, more than 2000 year-old psychological syllabus based on introspection whose findings are astonishingly often confirmed by modern scientific studies.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Loadbalancing WebSphere-Servers with URI-sensitivity and sticky sessions: Apache vs. IBM Edge

Today, most users will probably use hardware-loadbalancers. However, the rising use of virtual server farms does make software-loadbalancing convenient.
     
Some sites disallow the use of hardware-loadbalancers in serverfarm-installations (once traffic passes the outter rim of the installations, it may not leave it again within the same request). Thus, more sophisticated balancing will have to be done within the serverfarm. Using a multitude of worker nodes, it is convenient to have the nodes as similar as possible. In an ideal world, workers are aware of their peers and pass traffic on to their neighbors that can handle them. However, COTS or custom built software may have that kind of sophisticated session handling. A software-balancer on each node that handles all incoming traffic can do this job even if the application can not.

There are two widespread possibilities to do software loadbalancing on AIX: the IBM Caching-Proxy/Edge-Component with Context-Based-Routing, and Apache Webserver. This article compares the two required configurations for Java applications running in WebSphere servers.

Prerequisites

Three jobs need to be implemented and properly coordinated to balance traffic content-aware and session-aware:
  1. A load-balancing component that distributes all non-aware traffic evenly across the nodes
  2. Session-stickiness so sessions maintain on a node once the session has been initiated
  3. Content-awareness that overrides the above so that requests that require particular nodes will be routed there independent from a current session (a new session on a different node will be required).
For Java applications, session-stickiness is best done via JSESSIONID. This is called a passive cookie configuration, because the application server sets the cookies, the load balancer just reads them. The advantage of this method is that you can react on whatever the application server does. If it deletes the cookie, you're back to a  round-robin situation. However, different JVMs use different ways of attaching the node to session cookies. Tomcat appends its node ID separated with a dot ("."). IBM WebSphere servers append their CloneIDs with a colon (":"), and if several WebSphere servers may handle the same request that path may even stack with additional colons as the session passes those nodes. We will not cover that scenario in this article.

In an active cookie configuration on the other hand, the load balancer sets its own cookies, no matter what the application server does. Thus clients usually stay sticky within a whole browser session, if no URI-dependent rerouting is done (or any other span of time you want the cookie to be valid). Conveniently, you can decide on the cookie and its values within the load balancer configuration.

Apache (2.4) Configuration

For apache httpd loadbalancer configuration with URI sensitivity and session stickiness one needs mod_proxy, mod_proxy_balancer and mod_rewrite. Using WebSphere server, you should prepare the CloneIDs of your server instances. This can be done in the WebSphere admin console:

Middleware servers --> <server name> --> Web container --> custom properties.

Add one custom property for each host. This example uses nodes appnode1, appnode2 and appnode3:


Name: HttpSessionCloneId
Value: appnode1
Comment: Second part of JSESSIONID: CloneId

Passive Cookie Configuration


Here is a sample proxy configuration in httpd.conf:

Listen 80
ServerName http://www.ourapp.com
UseCanonicalName=on

<Proxy balancer://mycluster>
    RewriteEngine On

    # Rewrite Requests
    #

    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=1.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www1.ourapp.com%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L]

    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=2.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www2.ourapp.com%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L]

    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=3.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www3.ourapp.com:1234%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L]

    ProxySet stickysession=JSESSIONID stickysessionsep=:

    BalancerMember http://www1.ourapp.com       route=appnode1
    BalancerMember http://www2.ourapp.com       route=appnode2
    BalancerMember http://www3.ourapp.com:1234  route=appnode3
</Proxy>

<Location /balancer-manager>
    SetHandler balancer-manager
    Order deny,allow
    Allow from all # You may want to restrict this to your local subnet
</Location>

ProxyPass /balancer-manager !

ProxyPass /ourapp         balancer://mycluster:/ourapp
ProxyPassReverse /ourapp  balancer://mycluster/ourapp

Step 1: Sending URI requests directly to target hosts

In this example, rewrite rules will send all URIs containing tag/value useNode=1 in their query string to host http://www1.ourapp.com on port 80. Server 3 listens on port 1234 in this example just to make a difference. The RewriteRule option [P] (proxy request) already includes [L] (last request), so this L is redundant and just for the sake of illustration. No further rules are being processed. So any requests that contain the above pattern will never be balanced but proxied prematurely.

Step 2: Balancing the requests

By adding the BalancerMembers and with the ProxyPass statement below, apache httpd will send any requests that do not satisfy one of our RewriteConds through the balancer. It will do so in a round-robin fashion and based on the number of requests already sent, as no other arguments have been specified. There are more modes you may want to check out.

Step 3: Adding sticky sessions

By naming each BalancerMember with route=appnodeX the balancer can decide which route to take. How to make that decision is specified by the stickysession tag in the ProxySet command. Stickysession reacts on cookies. In this example BalancerMembers use cookie JSESSIONID. For use with WebSphere servers, specify stickysessionsep=:

Apache httpd will then only use the part behind a colon to obtain the route. This route is compared with the contents of the route argument in the BalancerMember statement. If the cookie contents after the separator match the value of the route argument, then this BalancerMember is selected. Otherwise the requests are routed via default distribution mechanism. So this configuration satisfies all three above prerequisites.

Setting a server name and using the canonical name can be handy, especially if a balancer is running behind a gateway server that might terminate HTTPS requests, authenticaiton host, maybe even another shared load balancer within a serverfarm setting, or all of the above.

Active Cookie Configuration


An active cookie configuration with WebSphere may look like this. In this case the CloneID does not need to be changed, as it is not used anywhere in this configuration.

Header add Set-Cookie "ROUTEID=.%{BALANCER_WORKER_ROUTE}e; path=/" env=BALANCER_ROUTE_CHANGED
<Proxy balancer://mycluster>
    RewriteEngine On

    # Rewrite Requests
    #
    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=1.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www1.ourapp.com%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L,CO=ROUTEID:.appnode2:;]

    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=2.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www2.ourapp.com%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L,CO=ROUTEID:.appnode2:;]

    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING}        ^.*useNode=3.*$
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www3.ourapp.com:1234%{REQUEST_URI} [P,L,CO=ROUTEID:.appnode3:;]

    ProxySet stickysession=ROUTEID

    BalancerMember http://www1.ourapp.com       route=appnode1
    BalancerMember http://www2.ourapp.com       route=appnode2
    BalancerMember http://www3.ourapp.com:1234  route=appnode3
</Proxy>

<Location /balancer-manager>
    SetHandler balancer-manager
    Order deny,allow
    Allow from all # You may want to restrict this to your local subnet
</Location>

ProxyPass /balancer-manager !

ProxyPass /ourapp         balancer://mycluster:/ourapp
ProxyPassReverse /ourapp  balancer://mycluster/ourapp

In this example, we have to set cookies on our own. This is done (in Apache 2.4) with the "CO" option of the RewriteRule statement. Cookies will be valid for the duration of the browser session by default, unless you want to specify otherwise. Also, we deliberately add a leading "." just for the sake of demonstration (and to never obtain an empty ROUTEID cookie via the Header statement). Apache httpd will only use the part after the dot. The rest of the httpd configuration is equal to the passive configuration example. There is no need to set a stickysession-separator as a separator can be chosen deliberately, and apache httpd already uses a dot by default.

One more statment is needed in this configuration. When the server sends requests to BalancerMembers by default distribution rule, a cookie needs to be set. The server indicates this route selection by setting environment variable BALANCER_ROUTE_CHANGED. The actual route is written in BALANCER_WORKER_ROUTE. A Header add Set-Cookie statement is added to the server configuration to set that cookie. Subsequent requests will thus be sent to the same node as long as that cookie is not deleted (for example by evil users in their browser).


IBM Edge Configuration

The same configuration can be done with IBM Edge with content based routing (CBR). This example only provides a passive cookie configuration following the example above (the one the author really has seen in a  working live server configuration ...).

Again, you need to setup your CloneIds in WebSphere configuration as described above for appnode1, appnode2, and appnode3. Secondly, you need to setup a stub in ibmproxy.conf to tell the caching proxy, that hosts the cbr component, to proxy its requests.

proxy     /*    http://www.ourapp.com/*    www.ourapp.com


The actual rewriting is done in the configuration of the cbr component:

# Start executor
#
cbrcontrol set loglevel 5
cbrcontrol executor start
cbrcontrol executor set nfa 10.0.0.1

This sets loglevel to its highest setting, starts an executor, and sets the non-forwarding address of the server to 10.0.0.1. Set this to the interface your proxy runs on. You may want to do this if your first network interface is some admin LAN and you don't want to bind your proxy there.

# Add the cluster
#
cbrcontrol cluster add www.ourapp.com
cbrcontrol cluster set www.ourapp.com proportions 49 50 1 0

The names in this configuration must be real hostnames and addresses, they are not symbolic names. I recommend using the FQDN for your host you want your proxy to be reachable at. The cluster needs a port where your users can reach it. This port needs to be defined in your config next.

# Define a port for the cluster
#
cbrcontrol port add www.ourapp.com@80
cbrcontrol port set www.ourapp.com@80 stickytime 0

In a passive cookie configuration, the stickytime on cluster ports needs to be set to 0 by convention. If you set a stickytime on the cluster port, you will immediately enter a sticky round-robin setting, ignoring cookie configurations, which does not solve the above prerequisites. 

Next, worker bees need to be added. In this example, all worker bees are running on the same host, for example, when.distributing requests between several instances of a JVM that share the same host. You can define the worker bees in /etc/hosts with their IP address, if you don't want to add them to a DNS:

Sample /etc/host entry:
10.0.0.2   www1 www2 www3

Then, define the balanced nodes in your cbr configuration. This example assumes that the WebSphere servers are listening on ports 10000, 10001 and 10002:

# Define the balanced nodes
#
cbrcontrol server add www.ourapp.com@80@www1 address 10.0.0.2 mapport 10000 weight 9 cookievalue appnode1
cbrcontrol server add www.ourapp.com@80@www2 address 10.0.0.2 mapport 10001 weight 9 cookievalue appnode2
cbrcontrol server add www.ourapp.com@80@www2 address 10.0.0.2 mapport 10002 weight 9 cookievalue appnode3

This setting now should already do round robin distribution between the nodes (non-sticky). Now add rules for content based routing:

# Define rules on the cluster
#
cbrcontrol rule add www.ourapp.com@80@rule1 type content pattern "URI=*useNode=1*" priority 1
cbrcontrol rule add www.ourapp.com@80@rule2 type content pattern "URI=*useNode=2*" priority 2
cbrcontrol rule add www.ourapp.com@80@rule3 type content pattern "URI=*useNode=3*" priority 3

The syntax of attribute pattern is proprietary. Please consult IBM WebSphere documentation (see links below). You can basically match against http headers with <headername>=..., wildcard with asterisk (*), and do some Bracketing with (), & and |. As these commands are shell commands, quoting is essential. With these rules, all direct links are sent to their respective hosts once rules are bound to them. However, all URIs that do not match will still be distributed round robin. Therefore, a default rule needs to be added that is always true and implements session stickiness.

cbrcontrol rule add www.ourapp.com@80@rule4 type true priority 4 affinity passivecookie cookiename JSESSIONID

As apache httpd knows about the dot-separator that tomcat uses, IBM EDGE CBR components already know about the colon that WebSphere servers use.

# Map rules to the nodes
#
cbrcontrol rule useserver www.ourapp.com@80@rule1 appnode1
cbrcontrol rule useserver www.ourapp.com@80@rule2 appnode2
cbrcontrol rule useserver www.ourapp.com@80@rule3 appnode3
cbrcontrol rule useserver www.ourapp.com@80@rule4 appnode1+appnode2+appnode3

Next, it is advisable to start manager and advisor on your cluster for better balancing and to check for non-responding sites. However, advisors are optional.

# start manager and advisor
#
cbrcontrol manager start manager.log 10004
cbrcontrol advisor start http www.ourapp.com@80 advisor_80.log

Now you should be all set. You can check the fire ratios of your rules:

cbrcontrol rule report www.ourapp.com@80@rule1
cbrcontrol rule report www.ourapp.com@80@rule2
cbrcontrol rule report www.ourapp.com@80@rule3
cbrcontrol rule report www.ourapp.com@80@rule4

Some useful links and references:


Good luck!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Science, Buddhism and Causality

Kurt Lewin was brilliant to distinguish systematic from historical causality. When people think of causality today, most of the time they are thinking of cause and effect within some artificial, abstract reference system. That's because their education trained them to think within these reference systems. They work like transparent maps that are superimposed onto perceived phenomena that structure the otherwise chaotic experience below. Those reference systems in modern, scientific terms most commonly share one important property: they reside within Gaussian space with its independent-event models. Within this type of thinking, cause is always linked to an effect, most commonly within a dimensional reference frame.  If a projectile travels in your general direction with a certain speed, you can calculate the time until impact. You're hit because a projectile travels toward you. Even if there are exceptions, the Gaussian assumption guarantees the explanation to hold true for at least a significant amount of cases. What is significant, then, goes by consensus. (Lewin, 1936, ch. 5)

When reading and thinking about classical Ionian and Buddhist philosophies, systematic causality is not very helpful. It is tied into our modern, scientific thinking whose models were not established yet. Apart from "everyday" causality, i.e. that which is apparent to our rudimentary thinking, ancient causal chains were free from the predictive notion of effect. They were retrospective, explanatory models of phenomena that emerge upon each other, where the subsequent phenomenon may arise on these causes non-predictably, but it may not arise without these causes. Probabilities, equal and other distributions were not "scientifically" available yet.

So cause in this sense is retrospective: It is not possible that the latter may be there without the former. Thus, the chain of dependent-origination as translated by Walshe (1987) must be understood in that particular epistemology:

  • Aging and death may not be there without Birth.
  • Birth may not be there without a concept of Becoming (something).
  • Becoming may not be there without a concept of Clinging (to the concept that is the target of Becoming).
  • Clinging may not be there without a concept of Craving (the desire to experience the target of craving).
  • Craving may not be there without Feeling (sensual experience conditions desirable and non-desirable concepts)
  • Feeling may not be there without Contact
  • Contact may not be there without the Six Sense Bases (that which smell, taste, touch, sound, feeling and thought emerge from)
  • The Six Sense-Bases may not be there without Mind-and-Body (the biology and the emerging phenomenon of a mind)
  • Mind-and-Body would not exist without consciousness (there was nothing that could take notice of it as Mind-and-Body)
  • Consciousness would not exist if there were no Karma-formations (a cosmic momentum that drives the evolutionary and autopoietic processes and produces awareness, being conscious of being conscious)
  • Karma-formations were not possible without Ignorance (the illusion that phenomena are something special that need conscious recognition and appraisal; Walshe, 1987, p. 34)

So this causal chain is a cognitive rather than an ontological one, from an introspective first person perspective that does not assume any outside phenomena that exist apart from consciousness thereof. From today's perspective this chain is not deterministic. Only because there is craving, there must not be clinging. Each stage is constructed on the prior one. So this model of the world is perceptional, not a cosmology. This is understandable, as it serves the purpose to deal with and rearrange internal, perceptional phenomena of the mind. Buddha aims at the deconstruction of mental phenomena in the sense of Derrida, who stated that there is no thing outside of context, "Il n'y a pas de hors-texte" (Derrida, 1967, p. 219). All things reside within the the perceptional context of the now. Thus, deconstruction aims at the above-described schemata that are superimposed on the perception of what we project as "outside" world. John Locke distinguishes these two modes of perception as sensation (direct perception) and reflection (internal perception of thoughts; Locke, 1690, Book II, ch. I-5).

Thus reflection is the target of the chain of deconstruction that is done by bracketing mental constructions to understand their nature and thus transcend them. Buddha  explains these stages to his disciple Ananda in the Mahâparinibbâna Sutta that describes Buddha's last days:


  1. Realize, that everyday consciousness produces internal perception of external forms that are limited and judged beuatiful or ugly.
  2. Realize that there is judged internal perception of external forms, but the external forms are really unlimited.
  3. Giving up internal forms, one sees external forms that still appear to be limited and judged.
  4. Giving up notions of limitation, one realizes that external phenomena are not limited but everything is expresison of one context, however there is still judgment of the perception. This stage creates the awarenes of an observer of observation.
  5. -7. When the perception of forms are given up there is still the perception of colours that makes a difference (blue, yellow and red).
     8.  One transcends the perception of colors and realizes everthing is light ("white")

Thus, the final realization is one of a blank slate of light, the consciousness where every phenomenon appears in (Walshe, 1987, pp. 248-249). As with the above causal chains: Every realization is only possible if the stage before has been established as a foundation where further realization may form upon. Thus, an early notion of causality is explanatory, retrospective and non-empirical. Modern notions of cause and effect are limited to homogenistic, hierarchical and independent-event epistemologies. The early chains of causation were describing complex effects that are heterogenous and reside outside of these models. Maybe the drive to judge and model arises from a preference of many people for predictability over ambiguity. However, it is the chaos and ambiguity that brought them forward in the first place. Pondering this predictability, many people are concerned with next lives, past lives and afterlife. So from a perceptional point of view Buddha is not wrong when he emphasizes that this mental deconstruction is good for people in "all of their lives". Very likely concepts of past and subsequent lifes will fade once this deconstruction has been made. Of course, there is a human tendency to reintroduce them at any time.



References

Derrida, J. (1967). De la grammatologie. Prais, FR: Minuit.

Lewin, K. (1936). Principles of topological psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Locke, J. (1690). An essay concerning humane understanding, Volume 1 MDCXC. London: Eliz. Holt.

Walshe, M. (1987). The long discourses of the Buddha: A translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Four Definitions of Agile

According to Maruyama (1980), human thinking progresses in four roughly generalizable categories, in this particular order: hierarchical, independent-event, homeostatic and morphogenetic. These epistemologies can be roughly mapped to an understanding of oneself and one's environment as has been done in the Cynefin model. Chaotic environments call for morphogenesis, complex environments go along with maintaining homeostasis, in complicated envirnoments independent-event models can be drawn, and in simple environments hierarchical models prevail. Thus, although hierarchical thinking is at the beginning of understanding, it may only be applied to those environments where simple understanding has been established. Each of these four epistemologies has its own definition and understanding of the concept agile, expressed in its respective cognitive context:


1. Hierarchical: Agility is seen in terms of non-looped control theory where steering is possible. Agility, from the point of view of the person who steers, is seen in the ease of the steering process. The prevailing metaphor is the military. Steering is simplified, if the underlying ressources are more tightly coupled with the one who steers and at the same time follow his commands in an easier fashion, so the helmsman can produce his own result more effortlessly. Particularly, this understanding of agile includes:
    • Subordinates follow commands with less resistance.
    • Subordinates work faster.
    • Reprioritization can be done as seen fit.
    • New jobs can be thrown in at any time.
    • Status can be obtained at any time and flows back from self-driven systems whenever it is needed.
    • Subordinates read the wishes from their superior's lips.

2. Independent-Event: Agility is compared to viscosity in an equally distributed environment. Being agile in this epistemology means to show a tendency towards the mean, thus a lack of agility is blamed on people's insising to be different or unique. The prevailing metaphor is the steam engine. High potential translates to high velocity, thus agility has to do with speed. Particularly, this understanding of agile includes:
    • The Gaussian end-tails of anything eliminate themselves and magically revert to the mean.
    • People who deviate from the norm work their ass off to conform to standard.
    • Self-optimizing process frameworks excel, delivering high gloss auto-documentation to those who are in authority.
    • Everybody concentrates on what is most important in a joint effort at any time.
    • The output of the engine is always routed into the most important task that is defined by management.
    • If a subject needs to be penetrated, its viscosity becomes liquid, and if energies need to be concentrated, they become hard like a crystal.
    • High potential translates to high velocity, just as the steam engine does.
    • There is no environment, our model simply has a couple of blind spots left.
    • Everything leaves without traces left behind.

3. Homeostatic: Agility is seen as the capability to maintain an equilibrium. Those who are agile can perform the necessary actions so they can never be thrown off balance, no matter what influences from the environment are hitting on them. The prevailing metaphors are organisms. Thus, agility is rated in terms of survival of the individual, its immunity, which enables conservative strategies. Stable trends emerge as eigen-values. Particularly, this understanding of agile includes:
    • Redundancies magically eradicate any malfunction.
    • Subsystems function so robust and self-repairing they are virtually unbreakable, and rendundancies are available wherever that is not possible.
    • Any environmental perturbation will immediately be compensated and equilibrium regained.
    • Maintaining an equilibrial steady-state is the highest ideal.
    • Everything immediately drifts towards an organic optimum. 
    • People work like organs: Internally with perfect cohesion, externally with seamless collaboration.
    • Cells that die are instantly replaced (apoptosis and regrowth).
    • Heroes never fail.
    • To direct all the organism, a small group of highly intelligent, exceptional managers orchestrate these organs. A notion of agility is felt, if the organism as a whole complies to the managers' intended strategy.

4. Morphogenetic: Agility is seen as the ability to change and adapt, along with a shift from "agility as velocity" to "agility as rapid learning". Change and failure are necessary for learning. Change and deviation create the necessary variations upon which new possibilities emerge. Learning means to find out which alternatives are able to survive, on a cultural rather than individual perspective. Thus change and deviations are cherished, and failure marks the necessary boundary of that which works. If that what does not work has been eliminated, whatever is left does work and its combinations yield the material for subsequent attempts. Processes are usually combinations of closed and open causal-loops. Trends form as non-equilibrial steady-states that are stable for a certain span of time and subsequently may fundamentally rearrange. Particularly, this understanding of agile includes:
    • Change is cherished, as it creates opportunities.
    • Failure is necessary, as it constantly re-evaluates the boundary of that which does work.
    • Heroes fail more often than everybody else, but get back up one more time than they fail.
    • More learning steps in a shorter time guarantee survival.
    • Constant communication of individual players is necessary.
    • Teams form temporary as topics dictate the need.
    • Everybody can orient themselves in an automagical way.
    • Every contribution is equally valued, cherished and important.
    • Things and issues inherently manage themselves.
    • There is no directive, command, control, restraining process or organistic pressure to comply.
    • What are managers?
    • A harmony of diversity flourishes in the Garden of Eden.

Apparently, in any particular organization, there will be people of all these epistemologies. Their mutual definitions of agile vastly differ. The more pressure one exerts on one particular organization, the more a regression towards the hierarchial end can be expected, as it is the easiest available strategy of thinking. Maintaining morphogenetic strategies even in times of high strain is a skill that has to be trained. It does not come natural for human instincts that are biologically rooted in anxiety driven fight or flight reflexes. Mindfulness meditation may help develop the mind to be able to keep one's composure even in highly turbulent and volatile environments, to be able to see clearly through the fog.

Live long and prosper
Dana


References

Maruyama, M. (1980). Mindscapes and science theories. Current Anthropology, 21(5), 589- 608.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thinking in Loops: Basic Building Blocks of Causal Loop Networks in the 5-Node-Model

The study of neural networks’ dynamic properties that in part show chaotic behavior focuses on two major areas. Cognitive sciences try to understand the mental system acting as a whole, which can be investigated by understanding the brain from a holist point of view. Neuroscience, on the other hand, attempts to analyze specialized circuits that can be modeled as causal loop networks. These circuits may in part be mapped out by sophisticated investigation of the electric and physiologic activity in the brain, taking on a reductionist perspective. However, their dynamics does not build on sequences of cause and effect. They show emergent eigen-behavior. To work with recurrent systems (organizations, brains, societies, groups, cultures, etc.), it is important to understand both causal loop dynamics between individual nodes that produce emergent behavior and subjective experience of individual nodes within a network that cannot be seen from outside. This article discusses an ancient model that can be used to investigate and characterize closed-loop systems, shifting back and forth between holistic and individualistic perspectives to promote integrative thinking.

Stoll, J. D. (2015). Thinking in Loops: Basic Building Blocks of Causal Loop Networks in the 5-Node-Model (PDF)

Friday, January 30, 2015

First and Third Person Religion. Or: Compassion and Hate


Hello S.,
        You supposed that many people here probably were not religious. In my opinion, once human beings start to think there is no way not to be religious. Religion deals with questions of existence, which can be asked as thinking develops.  Let us assume, for a moment, I define myself as not religious. Let us also assume, in opposition to religion I define myself as scientific empiricist. As such, I cut experienced phenomena in parts and assign names to them. Then I combine, cut and combine again. As long as my combinations follow the rules of logic, I add to them. If they do no longer fit, I tear them down and reassemble them in a different way. Empirically, I can only handle observed phenomena. Observations do not answer questions of existence. So as an empiricist, I follow Popperian falsification as a method to satisfy my thirst for truth. What has been falsified is false; everything else has a vague chance to remain true. This definition is an explanatory principle. It simply means that scientifically I will not be able to come any closer to existence than observing, modelling and falsifying. As I know I cannot do any better, I may leave it at that. My tormented mind is appeased as I know that's how far I will ever be able to reach out. It is obvious that the boundary drawn around things, which this ontology builds upon, takes up infinitely small space the more I magnify. At the same time, existence itself takes up the infinitely large space in between. So in terms of existence, this method ultimately explains nothing, but only defines how to handle nothingness.
       Science appears to go well with book religions or thoughts of creation. Science is third person perspective. Approaching the question of existence, one simply remains in third person, externalizing the cosmic principle and producing a third person God as supreme principle of existence that creates. Or one calls them natural laws that produce a big bang. Then, one can argue about whether God is or caused the Big Bang, until that question becomes irrelevant and peace of mind is back or both parties are dead.
        Now let us assume I'm a Yogi. So I don't apply external but internal empiricism. I observe on the inside, name phenomena, like sensation, form, thought, mind, and integrate. I observe again, and integrate. In the end, I will end up with some perceptional model. With this attempt, one also cannot reach beyond observation. With the awareness that everything is observation and existence appears to manifest as observation (consciousness), nothing is left to achieve. There is no further insight available. Again, an explanatory principle remedies the situation. One can assume this most integrated first person perspective and leave it at that, with the mind appeased. Or one may call it God-perception, or Buddha-mind, self-as-context, or whatever. In the process, a first person supreme principle is created that cannot take any further step of integration.
        Both need to leave the existential question unanswered. Upon noticing this fact, the first illogical argument one can possibly start is asking which of the journeys will lead to peace of mind more quickly. Both have been used as a justification for violent behavior, because this question of appropriateness has been argued. However, violence is a matter of ethics, not existence. Not separating questions of existence from questions of ethics, people become violent about violence.
        Becoming trigger-happy in psychology and applying self-discrepancy theory, one could argue that the internal way is one of ideals and the external is one of norms (Higgins, 1997). Therefore, comparing own behavior with external norms, third person religions operate in concepts of guilt, fear and anxiety. Approaching a third person god happens as a relief of norm discrepancy, preventing failure to comply. They are full of ritual, because norms define behavior. There is equanimity, in the best case, if compliance is attained. If nothing changes, things appear to be in order. Change means a need to adjust, which causes discrepancies for the followers. Therefore, religions with third person Gods may attempt to delay change as long as possible, and define themselves in terms of status (quo). This view also promotes conservatism. First person religions, on the other hand, compare own behavior with one’s ideals. They operate between equanimity and joy. Their vocabulary is one of compassion, as fear in this ontology is something that has to be left behind to approach the eternal principle. Relieving the discrepancies of this path leads away from anxiety. Change is the only constant in these ontologies, so everything is defined in doing, not being. Status means being trapped, hardening out where the natural flow of things must go on. Not to be caught in this trap, change has to be embraced no matter in what form it reveals itself.
        There is one hypothesis that I dare to formulate. Third person religions, in their anxious attempt at compliance, tend to declare everything that is noncompliant as their foe. Similarly, science declares anything that does not follow empiricism and logic invalid. Compliance, taken to the extreme, will try eradicate everything that is outside of its system in a logic fallacy of including external people as noncompliant members. Outside phenomena are really irrelevant for religious systems, and their attitude toward them should be indifferent. This fallacy has a higher chance for violence than its first person counterpart. Pursuing first person Gods comes along with the insight that the inside is easier to change than the outside. Thus, Yogis or Buddhists usually develop compassion to people who do not follow their system, suggesting that they are chasing third person ghosts. However, there is no reason to annihilate them. On the contrary, outsiders, strangers, foreigners, differents are the best practice on the path one can get. In any practice, no matter what perspective is taken. 

References


Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist 52(12), 1280-1300.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Cognitive Hierarchy of Wholes. Or: Yoga's Perceptional Model in Terms of Modern Psychology.

The biopsychosocial model, as proposed by George Engel, models trajectories of biological and social wholes. Biologically, the causal chain contains molecule, organelle, cell, tissue, organ (system), nerves (system) and person. Socially, this person participates in two-person interacts, family, community, culture, society and biosphere. However, the psychological axis of the person is reduced to “experience and behavior”. This article expands on the biopsychosocial model in the psychological dimension. It demonstrates levels of cognitive closure, comparing E. Tory Higgins’ theories that build upon each other. Drawing from a model of perception it develops a cognitive chain of subsequent wholes and shows how it can be used to fit psychological conditions with contemporary therapies, concluding with its soteriological limits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Cognitive Integral

As this article is too long and probably also too theoretical to be posted as a graded paper, I may as well publish it here, so I may later on refer to the idea. Have fun. -- JDS

The Cognitive Integral

The biopsychosocial model as proposed by George Engel models trajectories of biological and social wholes. Biologically, the causal chain contains molecule, organelle, cell, tissue, organ (system), nerves (system) and person. Socially, this person participates in two-person interacts, family, community, culture, society and biosphere. However, the psychological axis of the person is reduced to “experience and behavior”. I suggest that there is a causal chain along the psychological trajectory missing that is independent of the other two. To demonstrate this, the evolution of E. Tory Higgins’ Theories shall be investigated. (Engel, 1980, p. 537)

Beyond Regulatory Fit
First, there is Self-Discrepancy Theory. If ones own behavior does not match one's ideals, then there is depression. If it does not match one's oughts, there is anxiety. (Higgins, 1987)
Second, there is Regulatory Focus Theory. One either has a tendency to promote goals (the ideal axis), with joy in the success case, and depression in case of stand-still. Or one has a tendency to prevent failure (the ought axis), with a comfortable feeling in the positive case, and anxiety if one closes in to undesired states. (Higgins, 1997)
Third, there is Regulatory Fit. People are supposed to feel better about actions and decisions that match their regulatory focus. So if a person is in goal oriented promotion focus and an idea is presented in promotional terms, that person is said to spend more effort and feel better about choosing that alternative. The same applies to prevention focus. (Higgins, 2000)

Therefrom, a couple of questions arise:
  • What if one does not feel better about a decision, but feels better about feeling better in a decisional situation, i.e. one feels good about the regulatory fit that one is aware of?
  • What if one feels bad about feeling better in a decisional situation, i.e. is aware of the decision (a rational situation) and about how one is feeling (an emotional state), but deliberately wants to separate the two, no matter whether there is regulatory fit or not?
  • What if in one instance one likes to conform to one’s regulatory fit, and in other instances takes care to stay equanimous?
Maybe in one situation, where one feels good about a decision that is presented according to one’s regulatory focus, one will stop and suddenly feel bad about feeling good. One caught oneself exhibiting an emotional response in a rational situation and wants to eliminate the bias, voluntarily countering the associated emotion. Grown-ups are expected to be able to do this. Or if I for some reason am in an avoiding mood, and somebody presents me ideas of racial bias, I will suddenly feel bad about my avoiding bias and counter it with a wave of empathy. These alternatives are common behavior. The first case exhibits common sense for anybody who does not constantly want to be fooled by merchandise marketing. The second case is necessary to create even minimally worth-while societies. People who cannot exhibit that behavior may be considered ethically questionable.

Cognitive Differential
The connecting element between the above steps, their transition, in all cases is done by the same. The prior dichotomy becomes an object of observation in a cognitive transformation. First, behavior/idea discrepancies produce feeling. Then, promotion-prevention biased feeling produces feeling. Then discrepancies between promotion-prevention biased feeling and experienced feeling produces feeling. In all these examples the production of feeling stems from cognitive judgment of the perceived discrepancy. Cognition in the process advances from idea and behavior (that produces emotion) to the more integrated view of emotions themselves.
As these dichotomies span a potential of behavioral tendencies, one may illustrate this principle by producing the cognitive differential:


E' = dE / dc

Here, a new experiential state E’ emerges from a prior state E once its dynamics have been transcended by the razor blade of intelligence turned upon c (cognition). In this process, the dichotomy itself, not its contents, becomes an object of observation. This differential is likely the most intrinsic function of human intelligence. The elements of E’ are new knowledge, new perspectives. With new differentiations, also new integrals become available in the chain of construction: new wholes that have been created by the re-entrant process of cognition. Thus an integral represents the now, after differentiation of phenomena has been performed, and the form of their differentiation has been comprehended. The elements of E at this point become irrelevant with regard to context E’. They can be seen as underlying constituents of a dynamic when concentrating on them, but they are not part of E’s directly experienced phenomena. Transitioning from one experiential state to another thus is a discrete step, not a continuous function.
These experiential states can be seen as produced by cognitive closure, the re-entrant cognitive process. Thus, because of the causal forward-loop within experiential states, self-similar, but also periodic and chaotic phenomena may arise.

The Conscious Hierarchy
Reviewing the ancient Samkhya model of perception, we can get a decent picture of what meditators observed as mental phenomena upon introspection. Starting from the senses, with the operation of cognitive closure described above, we can draft a psychological (experiential) hierarchy of conscious emergence:
  1. There is sensation (in eye, nose, ear, tongue, body)
  2. Form arises as sensation of sensation (shape, smell, sound, taste, touch, internal tone).
  3. Idea (thought) arises as form of form (items, scent, tone, food, affect).
  4. Mind arises as idea of ideas.
  5. Identity arises as mind of mind.
  6. Person arises as identity of identity.
  7. Actors arise as persons of persons.
  8. Observers arise as person of person.
  9. Buddhas arise as observers of observers.
Following Vygotsky’s developmental approach, each transition comes with a shift in experiential gravity, which changes the way we perceive the world and in turn produces a profound progression in epistemology. (Vygotsky, 1978, pp. 28-36)
External stimuli are always brought by sensation, the biological cause on which conscious experience can arise from. Each epistemology within this causal chain of construction displays a different way of reacting to sensational stimuli. Within few cognitive differentials from sensation, conscious beings react associatively. The higher order one’s current cognitive closure, the less one is driven to react but may rest centered. So, cognitive integrals characterize cognitive contents that have been made comprehensible by prior cognitive differentiation. Cognitive differentiation produces states that are “mindful” of their prior cognitive contents. This cognitive integral is also called consciousness. Mindfulness meditation aims at this cognitive integration by first becoming an observer and subsequently observing observation. Concentration aims at the opposite, i.e. to absorb conscious awareness into one particular phenomenon that may reside on any level.
For Buddhas, every other suitable explanatory, transcendental principle, or God may be substituted. At this stage, further integration is not known to be achievable for human beings. It is the highest integrated state known and produced by the subtlest differentiation of cognitive phenomena. Beyond, there can only be myth.





References

Engel, G. L. (1980). The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. American Journal of Psychiatry 137(5), 535-544

Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review 94(3), 319-340.

Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist 52(12), 1280-1300.

Higgins, E. T. (2000). Making a good decision: Value from fit. American Psychologist, 55(11), 1217-1230.


Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Rooms of Consciousness

Here is a first attempt at a paper on clarifying the mind-body problem. It was never turned in and I've completely rewritten it as the chosen path was too figurative. As the metaphor I developed helped a lot sorting my thoughts, I'm happy to share.

Here is a shortened abstract:

It appears that science shares a common problem with talking about meditation: The fallacy of trying to recreate observation from that which is observed can be re-entered on every level of understanding, however progressed our understanding may be. The argument about dichotomies of ideas in psychology has been going on since the rise of the discipline. The progress of this mind-body debate is fundamental to human cognition.
 Taking Thomas Kuhn personally, I will illustrate this problem by painting a room of consciousness analyzing different aspects of this argument to show that scientific research and logic alone will not be able to advance us to an integrated view of the mind-body problem. Without a thorough understanding of the contemporary, scientific consensus on consciousness, mind and body we lack a satisfying foundation for scientific studies.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Form of Unmanagement

Towards a Definition of Unmanagement

In the Sutra of Unmanagement I elaborated on what management is not. The fictitious dialogue between manager Wen Bo and the old sage Lao Tse by deductive argument debunks common myths that management is widely constructed upon. The sutra leaves the reader with the somewhat puzzled view that management is not control, not motivation, not planning, not organizing, and is not leadership

        Using the Spencer-Brownian mark of distinction one can formalize the message as follows:

        The mark of distinction separates constructions from their environment, i.e. creates them from the void by distinction, in the above case as mere explanatory principles for the term management. The denoted term is written below the mark, with the empty space across denoting the infinite rest. Strictly following Spencer-Brownian conventions, the mark symbolizes and is read as not, the equal sign as can be confused with. Thus, the above line reads:
"Management can be confused with not control, not motivation, not planning, not organizing or not leadership."

        This exactly paraphrases the content of the sutra. To elaborate, another distinction between management and unmanagement has to be made. Unmanagement is created in relation to management as "not what management can be confused with":

        Substituting management in the above formula one obtains a definition of unmanagement:


        Not control, not motivation, not planning, not organizing and not leadership are the contents of management. As unmanagement is beyond the realm of management, it does not share a common border with management's contents. Thus there cannot be a content relationship between unmanagement and the content of what management is not. Control and the related principles are rather extent of unmanagement. Unmanagement knows and elaborates on these principles as imaginary, virtual contents, but neither are they constituents of unmanagement nor does unmanagement contain them. Additional principles may be added as they appear.

        Instead, to get things done, unmanagement focuses on everything that management can not be confused with.



Monday, January 05, 2015

Forms of Culture

The mind-brain debate by some is extended to a consciousness-mind-brain debate, where the brain can be seen as the biology upon which the mind emerges, and the holistic functioning of the mind gives way to a whole called consciousness. An analog chain of construction could be made in the social, as a culture - society - individual trichotomy. Individuals are the participants on which society emerges, and the holistic functioning of societies creates wholes called culture. 
This reentrant construction of culture could be depicted using Spencer-Brownian Laws of Form:

New wholes of the individual are invented by identification; deconstruction of the known results in new wholes of an individuum. New wholes of society are created by interaction; deconstruction of status quo results in new games. New wholes of culture are created by belonging; deconstruction of the modus vivendi results in rituals. Thus individual, society and culture have their own as well as shared histories.
This trichotomy can similarly be constructed for consciousness:


New wholes of the brain are constructed by sensing and motion; deconstruction of perception results in new forms and actions. New wholes of the mind are construted by combination and repetition; deconstruction of thoughts results in knowledge and skill. New wholes of consciousness emerge from attending; deconstruction of attention results in awareness and volition. 
Culture and consciousness thus have their own developmental trajectories. This model has interesting implications when thinking about societies and culture. I'll attempt a quick discussion.
One, particular groups may never cause "cultural collapses" as is sometimes argued by conservative members, unless they obtain the power to break the society as a whole. Similarly, the causal contribution of elites is questionable. 
Two, a substantial degree of stability ("normal interaction") is necessary for culture to be constructed upon society, or the only remedy is a meta-culture of change (cf. Thomas Kuhn's concept of "normal science").
Three, advances in cultural paradigms will not happen linear, but in stages ("extraordinary ritual" similar to "extraordinary science"), when known rituals repeatedly lead to conflicts of belonging. 
Four, if holistic functioning of society is not achieved, and thus new culture cannot emerge, the system must continuously grow (refine itself) to be stable, and it will oscillate in games of opposing positions once it hits saturation (cf. the dynamics of the Logistic Map).
Many of our societies are or have been entering states of saturation that produce these oscillations. At the same time, globalization rapidly changes societies' compositions pointing towards a culture of change to replace traditional cultures. Wars have often reset the counter in oscillating societies, establishing a new phase of growth. This cut defers real resolutions that transcend to a new, integrated whole, but instead just starts the current game over. Holistic integration without the possibility to destruct the system required for real progress, but also without hierarchical or central control over society. The latter was a big mistake in socialism, actually reducing it to its parts, and increasingly is a problem in capitalism driven republic democracies, reducing them to their oligopolistic subsystems.


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Does Meditation Mean to Go Back to Be a Child?

Sometimes in terms of meditation, or non-attachment, the metaphor is used that one should remember looking at things like a child. People may mistakenly deduct, that the process of meditation tries to reverse thinking. This assumption is grounded in false, mechanistic thinking.

When thinking in mechanical terms, processes need to be reversible. Henri Poincare emphasised this point hi his 1893 treatise on mechanism and experience. However, what we experience as mind does not follow mechanistic premises. The mind is a series of constructions upon our experience that are not reversible. Thus the solution can not be to destruct the mind in a Hegelian fashion, but in Derrida's terms, it has to be deconstructed, to transcend it.

So meditation can be framed as a process of deconstructing the mind so that from its observation an integral perspective can emerge. This integral perspective is no longer bound by many of the phenomena that it brackets and enables child-like vision. While the playful attitude of a child is necessary to make new constructions, all that have already been made from experience remain intact and accessible. More so, one would not be able to transcend the mind without having made these experience in the first place. So although thinking is a human trait that comes with many side effects, including negativity, it also paves the way to transcend itself.