All & Sundry ...
Here's some thoughts on the concept of “constraint” I wrote up
a few years back. I had planned to follow up with a discussion
of the related concept of “indication” but all I've found so far
is the figure I drew to show their relationship, so maybe I'll
actualize that intention in the present time frame if I can
remember how it went.
• Constraints and Indications : 1
The system-theoretic concept of “constraint” is one that unifies a manifold of
other notions — definition, determination, habit, information, law, predicate,
regularity, and so on. Indeed, it is often the best way to understand these
Entwined with the concept of constraint is the concept of “information”,
the power signs bear to reduce uncertainty and advance inquiry. Asking
what consequences those ideas have for Peirce's theory of triadic sign
relations led me some years ago to the following thoughts.
• Semiotic Information
Here I'm thinking of the concept of constraint that constitutes one of the
fundamental ideas of classical cybernetics and mathematical systems theory.
For example, here is how Ashby introduces the concept of constraint
in his Introduction to Cybernetics (1956).
A most important concept, with which we shall be much concerned later,
is that of “constraint”. It is a relation between two sets, and occurs
when the variety that exists under one condition is less than the variety
that exists under another. Thus, the variety of the human sexes is 1 bit;
if a certain school takes only boys, the variety in the sexes within the
school is zero; so as 0 is less than 1, constraint exists.
(1964 edition, p. 127).
At its simplest, then, constraint is just an aspect of the subset relation.
The objective of an agent, organism, or similar regulator is to keep within
its viable region, a particular subset of its possible state space. That is
the constraint of primary interest to the agent.
Incidentally, Ashby's book, in my estimation still the best introduction
to classical cybernetics going, is available online in PDF form:
• Ashby, W.R. (1956), Introduction to Cybernetics, Methuen, London, UK.
inquiry into inquiry: https://inquiryintoinquiry.com/
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