Intelligence is Improvement.

The development of Plan B and the Plan A to Plan B passage was greatly supported by concepts derived from intelligence amplification (IA) work, especially by Starkermann and Franceschi. This page covers boosting intelligence (appropriate selection) by knowledge development (Ross Ashby) and boosting innovation by recruiting and synchronizing more contributors.It is not necessary to know about boosting intelligence by computer-assisted knowledge development in order to profit from what it enables. The interventionist knows that IA was the distinguishing difference between fixing Plan A and not. It is in the unfathomable dynamics of social behavior where intelligence amplification is supreme. Anything governed by control theory, where feedback loops are continuous, cannot be understood without IA assistance. Starkermann’s IA work was central to validating the 2½ rule.
Intelligence is Appropriate Selection (Ashby)

Increasing your intelligence: scope and implementation effectiveness

Intelligence amplification is increasing your personal span and depth of intelligence by harnessing computer power to add to your knowledge bank. W. Ross Ashby defined intelligence, once and for all, as “appropriate selection.” He also postulated that intelligence is a function of knowledge developed. The core idea is that folks who develop a lot of information to help in selecting appropriate task action are more intelligent than those equipped with inferior or GIGO information.

Before 1955, intelligence amplification was impractical even for the government. Marchant mechanical calculators and humans set the upper limit. Dynamic simulation of real-world systems was impossible.

Around 1960, mainframe improvements enabled increasing the limit of dynamic simulations of systems in step with increasing computational capacity. Starkermann began using the mainframes at the University of New Brunswick, Canada to run his social-system models.

Around 1985, invention of “modular modelling” and the powerful PC allowed anyone to dabble in the dynamic simulation of real-world systems.

In 1990 Starkermann entrusted us to augment his work in social system dynamics using modular modelling software. In 1994 we completed a research program designed by Starkermann that investigated the hierarchical social system. The goal was to identify those situations where adding the perfect manager would add to group productivity.

A years’ worth of running the possibilities of configuration and parameterization, we had to face the fact that it is impossible to add a manager to a democratic, effective work group and increase group productivity. Basically, the added communications load he brings is always higher than any useful work he can do. Everyone already knew that adding a manager to a dysfunctional social system makes it worse.

Plan B is an all-conscious-mind show, featuring creativity and intelligence.

What William Ross Ashby Says…

On Science

  1. Science is the Observer’s Digest.
  2. The Cyberneticist observes what might have happened but did not.
  3. A System is a set of variables sufficiently isolated to stay constant long enough for us to discuss it.

On Man

  1. Division of the world’s system into Natural and Man-made died with Darwin.
  2. Man is not the measure: first comes the measure, then we see where he falls; so far the result has always been humiliating.
  3. Man pays for his knowledge with humiliation.

On Self Repair

  1. The fault cannot be in the part responsible for the repair.

On Creativity

  1. The scientist does not believe in events without causes, not even when they happen in the brain.
  2. Introspection is the output of the verbalising mechanism.

On Evolution

  1. By the time sexual reproduction has been achieved, the main difficulty of evolution is past.
  2. The brain is merely Nature’s latest means of self-preservation.
  3. The goals of a species, such as Homo, are what natural selection has driven it to.
  4. The species is fundamentally aimless (it finds its goals as it goes along).

On Goals

  1. The goals in evolution are what a species has been forced to.

On Essential Variables

  1. Poor M. Jourdain! He now has to understand that he has been behaving homeostatically all his life, when he thought he was merely minding his business.

On Psychology

  1. For two thousand years psychology was a simple description of Man’s highest faculties–most of which he does not posses.
  2. The scientist does not believe in effects without causes, not even when they happen in the brain.

On Introspection

  1. That homo has a brain, no more entitles him to assume he knows how he thinks than possession of a liver entitles him to assume that he knows how he metabolises.
  2. A man no more knows how he thinks, just because he has a brain in his skull, than he knows how he makes blood, because he has marrow in his bones.

On The Brain

  1. The brain is natures latest and ferocious instrument of self preservation.
  2. Remember: The brain has no brain inside to guide it.

On Thinking

  1. To think is to act–inside the brain.

On the Brain as controller

  1. The brain controls nothing–it transmits.

On Organisation in the Brain

  1. The brain organizes nothing–it acts.
  2. The brain has no gimmick, just five billion years of research and development.
  3. The brain knows nothing of how it ought to act it knows only what it does.
  4. The test of a brain is its achievement of a goal.
  5. Note for the sociologist: The brain uses compulsion throughout.

On the “absolute” Brain

  1. Every brain is also an anti-brain.

On the “brain-like” mechanism

  1. No system is brain like – every system is brain like – as you please.

On Neurophysiology

  1. Natural selection insists that neuronic details shall be irrelevant for whole behavior.
  2. Natural selection insists that the nature of the parts shall be irrelevant for the behavior.
  3. The neurone is the one unit that, in psychology, is quite devoid of interest, it is too small to be visible in the man’s action, and too large to be sufficient in memory.
  4. The neurone is the one unit that, in behaviour, is quite devoid of interest today it is too small to be noticeable in a man’s action, and too gross to carry a trace of memory.
  5. No mammal will ever understand the mammalian brain completely.
  6. The man who talks today of probability in the brain is usually trying to return to the days when everything in the brain was so delightfully vague.

On Learning the unforseen

  1. No man knows what to do against the really new.
  2. All wisdom is wisdom after the event.
  3. When a machine breaks, it changes its mind.
  4. Every system changes its mind by breaking.
  5. The educated brain is the wreckage left after the experiences of training.

On Adult Adaptation

  1. The adult brain is the wreckage left by the experiences of childhood.

On Memory: the value of Experience

  1. Don’t appoint, as the President’s driver, an Englishman who has spent thirty years learning to drive on the left.
  2. A system that stores its memories away from their site of action must do much work remembering where it put that memory.
  3. There is no memory in the present – only a state of affairs

On the “brain like” control mechanism

  1. A mechanism is “brain-like” so far as it is effective: there is nothing more.
  2. The only people who talk today of “real” intelligence are those who hope to find a meaning for the adjective later.
  3. Intelligent is as intelligent does.
  4. The drive to equilibrium forces the emergence of intelligence.
  5. That the brain matches its environment is no more surprising than the matching of the two ends of a broken stick.
  6. Change the environment to its opposite and every piece of wisdom becomes the worst of folly.
  7. For every bump of the phrenologist there exists an environment that demands a depression.
  8. Everyone is World Champion at some game (although some of the games have not yet been recognized).
  9. An Intelligence Test measures the degree to which Tester and Subject think alike.
  10. Is there a general intelligence? A universal weapon is as likely.

On Wisdom

  1. Every piece of wisdom is the worst folly in the opposite environment.


  1. The test measures only the degree to which Subject and Composer think alike.

On Logic

  1. A man can be a pure logician only if it makes him feel good.
  2. Every skilled dramatist understands the inexorable logic of the emotion.

On Artificial Intelligence

  1. He who would design a good brain must first know how to make a bad one.
  2. Pattern-recognition is a throwing away of information.
  3. Any device that can lose information can generalize.

On Deduction

  1. Deduction is the running-down of a determinate mechanism.
  2. Newton arrived at F = ma after a part-random search, the apple arrived at the ground by pure deduction.

On Computers

  1. The general purpose computer is freer than the trained brain.
  2. Whether a computer can be “really” intelligent is not a question for the philosophers: they know nothing about either computers or intelligence.
  3. Today’s digital computer is organized like an army of a million men that can only get two into action at a time.
  4. Today’s digital computer has a group velocity that is about a millionth of its wave velocity

On Organization

  1. It is an open question which has the richer organization: a living cow or a working silo.
  2. Which biological organization proved more resistant to the Spaniards: the Aztecs of Mexico or the jungle of the Amazon?
  3. Can a system be self-organizing? No system can permanently have the property that it changes properties.

On Requisite Variety

  1. Man adapts by conquering the reducible, the irreducible is impregnable.
  2. We have broken into the Aladdin’s cave of brain-like mechanisms; we find we can have anything we like–provided we pay for it!

On Localisation of Memory

  1. Any system that stores its memories away from the site of action must do much work in remembering where it has put that memory.

On “Genius”

  1. A magician is a man who does not show all that is significant.
  2. Every prediction is an operation on the past [Wiener]
  3. A “Genius” is a man who shows the public only the results of his labours.

On Things

  1. To be a thing is to behave in a certain way when explored with mechanical forces.
  2. No man knows what to do against the purely new.
  3. A long sequence of symbols each form a ????
  4. On the self-organising system:
    • No locomotive can be self-pushing.
    • No cat can be self-washing
    • No animal can be self-observing
    • No man can be self-punishing

On Intelligence

  1. Today, those who don’t know what “intelligence” means must give way to those who do.
  2. From every faculty there is an environment that pessimises it.
  3. We cannot read the book of God, only the observer’s digest.
  4. Random choice is an abrogated choice.
  5. “Random” means “you do the choosing”.
  6. We show only the intelligence there is in the environment.
  7. The computer can do more than the trained brain.
  8. The rule for decision is: Use what you know to narrow the field as far as possible: after that, do as you please.
  9. Any system that achieves appropriate selection (to a degree better than chance) does so as a consequence of information received.

On Generalisation

  1. To recognise a class is to throw away information

On” Brain-like” mechanisms

  1. Some say that a first requirement is that it shall weigh 45 ounces.

On adapting to a changing world

  1. No system adapts to the changing: it can adapt only to what is constant.
  2. To speak of human behaviour, and then to speak of the neuron, is to show that one has not yet developed a sense of proportion.
  3. Only the environment can design a brain.

On making an artificial brain

  1. Man’s brain contains no blue print for brains against non-human environments.

On the brain’s secret

  1. The secret of the mammalian brain is that it has long and slavishly fashioned itself to its environment.
  2. To refer to the head-ganglion of Homo sapiens as “Man’s brain” is to appeal to our lowest prejudices
  3. Only the incorrigibly sentimental speak of “Man’s brain”. Those who wish to stay clean – headed speak of the “head ganglion of Homo sapiens”.
  4. The liver is the brain of the inner world. Brain to the inner world is the liver.

On the ethics of a system

  1. A computer knows no ethics, only its set goal.
  2. It is only within the memory of living men that psychology turned from studying how man ought to think, to how he does actually think.
  3. Any gibbon, as it throws itself on parabolic arcs from branch to branch, demonstrates its knowledge of Newtonian dynamics.

On Prediction

  1. What Homo knows at any moment, of the actual future is absolutely nothing.

On Selection

  1. As every machine goes to equilibrium, it selects.
  2. Functionally, the behaviour is the brain.

On Altruism

  1. “Help one another” is the selfishness of the species.
  2. “Logic” and “logical” are so degraded today that they convey no useful information. They are still used chiefly because they look well, either by the **** or by the unthinking

On Music

  1. Every dynamic system has its preferred modes of vibration, perhaps simple, perhaps complex.
  2. Rhapsodize as you will, a law of nature is just a constant.

Instincts of Homo

  1. This species is peculiar in that members make an ever-increasing habit of attacking and exterminating weaker groups of their own species.

On the evolution of Homo sapiens

  1. For ninety nine hundredths of this time (before any traces of town dwelling) he improved chiefly in his efficiency in killing big game and other branches of his own species.
  2. The specially human part of the brain has been evolved for the chase and for tribal warfare. The final evolution allowed armies of continental size to massacre on a continental scale.
  3. Every one of the faculties boasted of by Man can become a humiliating or fatal embarrassment when the environment is not the usual type.
  4. The man who speaks today of free will is merely a confusionist
  5. The man who talks of free will in the 60’s is trying to pump fog into a situation that he fears is clearing.
  6. Man can remember only those things that natural selection has arranged that he should.
  7. A concept is that which survives, is stable under a sequence of operations
  8. The brain takes information from where it is useless and moves it to where it is useful.
  9. The heart is a mechanical pump – love lies elsewhere- the brain is an information – processor.
  10. When the brain is a convection channel, it is as selfish as the heart is unfeeling when it pumps.
  11. In the 60’s, to introduce the topic of ???? is to introduce fog into a clarifying situation.
  12. The application of quantitative methods to the brain will squeeze the remaining superstitions from our ideas about it.
  13. The whole function of the brain is summed up in error -correction
  14. As God has to monitor his actions*, so must the brain monitor it.
    *And he saw the light that it was good.

On decision processes

  1. The brain decides nothing – it acts
  2. Of what use is the brain? – “To think with” is to reveal oneself as mediaeval and pre-Darwinian.

On the mystery of the brain

  1. “But that”, said Mr Hick contemptuously, “can’t be the explanation – there’s no mystery in it.”

On the laws of thought

  1. The machine that can produce all trajectories has no laws.
  2. The product set has no constraints.

On Brain processes

  1. Life-processes (in species or brains) use only the additive methods – for the combinatorial there has not been time enough.

On adaptation

  1. In this universe, the life-time of a planet is only sufficient to allow its evolved life-form to explore the possibilities of additive adaptation.

On adaptation as a whole to a whole

  1. All our adaptations are collections of nearly independent bits; life is too short to allow us to explore the really holistic.

On Man’s God-like intelligence

  1. Intelligence is a specialisation to the environment.
  2.  An organism should be as intelligent as its environment- no more, no less.
  3. Every mechanism generates improbabilities (Not only natural selection).
  4. Among systems in a net, the struggle for existence is inevitable.
  5. The law of the brain is: What will be, will be.

On long-term planning in the brain: Man’s ability to plan

  1. The brain is wholly opportunist, no less when it proposes a long term plan.

On Progress in adaptation

  1. A brain can improve till it fits in its environment.

On Organisation

  1. Organisation exists mostly in the eye of the beholder.

On Memory

  1. The brain knows only the present and what it can construct from the present.
  2. Man lives by surviving.
  3. Which showed the best power of survival when attacked by the Spaniards: that bio-organisation called the Amazon jungle: or that bio-organisation called the Aztecs?
  4. Which out-fought the Spaniards – the Aztec civil organisation, or that bio-organisation called the Amazon Jungle?
  5. The digital computer of today is like a centipede with a million legs, each of which can go forward in a microsecond but as it can move only one pair at a time the whole animal is easily outrun by the tortoise
  6. When we take the ordinates of a wave function and use them to compute their exact values a moment later, we are
    (1) demonstrating that the science of quantum physics use determinate systems.
    (2) treats the system as determinate.
  7. Every operation seeks the state that makes it impotent.
  8. A “machine” is a shadow of simple succession.
  9. “The time it takes increases exponentially” is a mathematical way of saying it can’t be done.

On Sympathy

  1. If my sympathy with another’s sufferings proves the reality of the other’s feelings then the pattern of light and shade that I call a “weeping heroine” on the cinema screen is genuinely feeling.

On Introspection

  1. A man can report what happens in his brain only so far as the events reach the verbalising center.
  2. Every dramatist knows the inexorable logic of the emotions.
  3. Disorder never proceeds to order so milk can never separate into buttermilk and cream.

On the subjective

  1. How to test whether you’re dreaming – kick the fellow in front of you and see who feels the pain.
  2. I am therefore I think.

On error controlled servo

  1. The error controlled servo – mechanism is a brain without eyes.
  2. Whatever vibrates is a musical instrument: whatever is stable is a mechanical brain – the difficulty lies in making a particular one.
  3. Is your life achieving the full potentialities of carbon?


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