Commutation in LO#2 LO12910

Mnr AM de Lange (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 13:18:04 GMT+2

Thomas Benjamin wrote on 15 Mar in LO12899

> A mental bouquet to AT for the effort in communicating the concept of
> commutation and its linkages to human relationships, organisational health
> etc.

Dear organlearners,

Thomas, thank you very much for your kind words. Those words increase the
Cummutation Number CN of this forum (list) by 1. The words also makes me
happy because through them I now know that my contribution on commutation
has increased the list's CN definitely by 1. In other words, we both
managed to increase the CN by 2. (It might have been more, but how will we
know unless we speak up!)

> The theory makes sense. It took me a while to understand the concept. I
> have the following observation and question:

It is not so much a theory as a model. I must confess that every time I
use one of the words 'theory' or 'model', I have to think carefully which
one it must be. Even worse, on each occasion when somebody else uses one
of the two words, it easily confuses me, especially when the person does
not use the words consistently, or in the same way as I use them
(hopefully consistently). However, once I have made sure how they use
these words, the confusion diminishes.

A theory and a model is not the same thing. A model is used to
EXEMPLIFY/INSTANTIATE (not explain or generalise) some parts of a theory.
In other words, the theory is used to EXPLAIN/GENERALISE (not exemplify or
instantiate) a model. A theory may have more than one model because the
various models may exemplify various parts of the theory. In other words,
the theory explains various models. Furthermore, a particular model may be
explained by various theories, some of them doing it better than the

Let me illustrate the above with a two examples.
Example 1
The game Monopoly is a model which exemplifies some part of the
theory of capitalism, but not all of it. Monopoly may be
explained by more than one economical theory, communism or
tribalism being other economical theories.
Example 2
A bridge over a ravine exemplifies some part of the theory of
civil engineering, but not all of it. The bridge cannot be
explained by more than one civil engineering theory.

This 'only one theory for civil engineering' is the result of the legacy
of the basic sciences. Whenever basic scientists are confronted with two
possible theories for a particular PHYSICAL model, they SAY that they will
follow that theory which gives the best explanation, i.e. the least
anomalies. However, they are also human and thus may fail to walk this

In the case of physical bridges, the engineer who fail to walk the talk
will be in serious trouble. Lawyers are quick to take him up because of
his promises that his theory has few, if any, anomalies. But consider
another kind of bridges, namely bridges between the material and the
abstract worlds. Very few such bridges have been built. In fact, the
present era has lead to an abyss of ever increasing proportions between
the material and the abstract world. My commutation model is an attempt to
provide such a bridge.

My forthcoming book will be organised in terms of the bridge as metaphor.
Part 1 is called Creating The Bridge. Part 2 is called Crossing The
Bridge. Part 3 is called Learning Beyond The Bridge. What happens in the
book is that I use entropy production to create a bridge between the
material and abstract worlds. I then use that bridge to create a theory
for creativity as a sort of Theory Of Everything. This theory of
creativity is then exemplified by many models from both the material and
abstract world. I concentrate on one particular model, namely learning. In
other words, my theory of learning acts as a model for creativity. It is
true that there are many theories for learning. This is probably the main
reason why in learning we so frequently do not walk the talk (and
thuslawyers cannot get a hold on us)! Hopefully, my theory of creativity
will make a difference in the long run.

> The concept helps one understand the dynamics of what keeps an
> organisation or relationship charged, dynamic and alive. What may lead to
> the death or decline of relationships and organisational health.

Indeed. But insights do not come immediately. I had to play with the model
in all sorts of situations, doing quick mental calculations of how the CN
changes. After a number of years I got the knack of it.

> However, the questions I have are: the theory appears to assume a tit for
> tat interaction. Positive elicits positive and vice versa. This does not
> explain the renewal process. Does decrease in CN cascade unto zero and
> death? How to arrest or recharge a negetive lust interaction?

Thomas, you are quite right. The MODEL ('theory') concerns ('assumes')
structural order ('tit for tat'). However, I have said a number of times
that it does not model the increase in total entropy, but only models that
entropy which has been manifested as ORDER OF BEING. The model, as far as
my insight goes, does not concern functional chaos (disorder). (I hope I
have not claimed that in my first defunct version, or even by implication
in my second version.) Thus, the commutation model is useful whenever we
apply it to a being (organisation, structure). It even applies to the de
facto emergence of a new level of order. In other words, it may even be
used to identify a new order in terms of the nonlinear increase in the CN.

However, the model cannot be used to exemplify the actual emergence
(happening) of a new order. In other words, it is not useful when we apply
it to a becoming (organising, functioning). Thus it falls victim to
Satre's dilemma. Let us consider the renewal process which you refered to.
We may also include its opposite, namely degeneration. Both renewal
(emergence) and degeneration (immergence) are becomings (processes,
functions). We may refer to both of them as bifurcations. The commutation
model can be used to identify the order before the bifurcation as well as
the order after the bifurcation. Thus it allows us to infer that the
change was a bifurcation, i.e. a change in order because it was either a
renewal (CN increased) or a degeneration (CN decreased).

Why cannot the model be used to exemplify the actual bifurcation
(emergence, immergence) as a becoming? Because I did not create it for
that purpose. I am quite happy to use Prigogine's model called the
Brusselator to exemplify emergences, or my model of the Digestor (see my
forthcoming book) to handle both emergences and immergences. However, I
also felt the immense need of people for a theory which covers being and
becoming, mechanics and dynamics, material and abstract, etc. The result
is my theory of creativity based on the definition: creativity is the
result of entropy production.

The commutation model works just like a snapshot camera. It takes a
picture of the organisation at an instance of time. If we want to use it
as a movie camera, then we have to take (just like a movie camera) various
pictures at various instances of time, usually with a linear increase of
time between the instances. If we then replay these snapshots in sequence,
we may MODEL the becoming (process, function). But we have not yet created
a theory for the becoming. I think that this is what you have sensed.
Prigogine offered such a theory of becoming for the material world in
terms of entropy. I have extended it to also cover the abtsract world - in
other words, all of reality.

Incidently, have all other organlearners ever thought about movies as I
have used them in the example above? The movies indeed try to model some
part of reality. If a movie does it very good, than it ought to get at
least one prize. Think of of the Oscar prizes for modelling elements such
as the soundtrack, the actors, etc. But how many movies theorise on
reality? I do not mean how much theorising we do about a movie after we
have seen it. Furthermore, is it even possible to have a movie which
theorise some part of reality? If it is possible, which movies grip us
most, the modelling ones ot the theorising ones.

> Regards and best wishes

The same to all of you. I hope the complexity of what I have said above
did not confuse or intimidate you. Thus, allow me one final exmaple to
explain what commutation is.

Commutation is about communication without the messages involved. In other
words, commution is intended to be a primarily a grammer (syntaxis) and
not to be a meaning (semantics). It is a novel grammer in the sense that
it only concerns the degree of complexity through the words minor, major
and hyper. In other words, it concerns the degree of complexity of
organisation in communication and nothing more or less. I find its usage
extremely powerful for what it is intended, and utterly useless for what
it is not intended for. In other words, I do find a meaning UPON this type
of grammer. Thus we are free to trace meanings for commutation. How far we
can go, depends on all of us and how much commutation we allow between us.

Best wishes
-- -

At de Lange
Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, South Africa


"Mnr AM de Lange" <>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>