Posts Tagged ‘systems’

The Model

25 April 2012


In engineering and science, objects of study or design are called systems. This is a very general word that you have probably seen used in expressions such as: “computer systems,” “the solar system,” “star systems,” “power systems,” “weather systems,” etc.

As the social sciences have moved towards engineering paradigms, they have also used this concept in their work. So, not only can you have a “nervous system,” you could also have a “habit system,” an “economic system,” or a “political system.”

Engineering and the sciences rely on a feature of physical and biological systems that they have noticed: predictability. Prediction is a big part of human life and survival in general, so there is little wonder that the sciences would be concentrating on technologies of prediction. One such technology is computer simulation. But for computer simulation to work, the system being simulated must first be turned into a mathematical model. Thus, this term – used with this meaning – has also entered the modern vocabulary.


In this discussion, we don’t need to take up the technical details of how models are constructed. I just want to go over how they are used, and how we tend to use them without even thinking about it.

Ordinary people use models all the time, but don’t always call them that. The rules for polite conversation could be considered a model. The rules for impolite conversation could be another model. A word could be considered a model for what it represents, though it would be more correct to call the definition of the word the model, and the word just the name for the model.

Broadly, a model is our concept of something. Take evil. One person’s model for evil could be “the work of the Devil.” Another person could see evil as the result of operating on disastrously incorrect data. A third person could see evil as the result of accidents or mistakes.

When you ask these three people “what should be done about evil in the world?” you will get three very different answers. What you should really ask them first is: “What do you think causes evil in the world? Then, they’d give you their models. Their answers to the other question would probably make sense relative to the model each was using.

Thus, the decision-making process can be greatly influenced by the model being used for the system that is being discussed. For good communication and better understanding, we want these models openly stated. Secret models will cause trouble.

The Human Problem; the Human Model

Is the human a problem? Many people think so. Many people can’t even understand themselves, much less their spouse, their children, their boss, or politicians. They make bad predictions based on their imperfect understandings (like: Obama will end the war in Afghanistan if he becomes president) and then regret the decisions they made based on those predictions. Most people would love to have a better understanding of “human,” and this relies, to some extent, on having a better model for “human being.”

body-brain model

Body-Brain Model


We can think of a person as just an animal body. This has worked, to some degree, in medicine. If all medicine wants to do is fix bodies, then it can do a lot based on the body model. The details of this model are incredibly complex, but the upper-level definition of this model is simple: The human is a biological machine (organism).


The body model only takes us so far. Philosophers have always spoken of the mind, so we are used to talking about it, even though no one has exactly “seen” one. Medicine assumes that the mind totally resides in the brain. But this model is insufficient to account for a large variety of non-medical phenomena. Thus the work of Freud, etc., “fills out” the brain model of the mind into something more conceptual but more useful.

Though neurology, strictly speaking, continues to reject the Freudian and other concept-based mind models, the Freudian model is the basis, I have been lead to understand, for the whole field of modern marketing and PR. We have a nephew of Freud’s, one Edward Bernays, to “thank” for this “revolution” in the business world. You can tell, no doubt, that I doubt the wholesomeness of this development. I cannot, however, deny the fact that it has worked. And that workability gives the Freudian model some validity.

According to Freud and his followers, the mind has parts. The neurologists have tried to map these parts to locations in the brain. But the psychologists and others don’t care about that. They just want a model that will predict human behavior better.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics

robot and controller

NASA remote-controlled work robot.

Computer scientists, spurred on by science fiction writers and god knows what else, have always been interested in the possibility that a computer could be programmed to “act more human.” This is artificial intelligence. In its more limited application, all AI is trying to do is to get machines to figure out how to learn. Now, strictly speaking, all animals can learn, not just humans. But, this has been one of the AI goals.

Another direction for AI has been the subject of human replacement. In some situations, it has been argued, a robot could do a better job than a human. This might be because a machine could be built to withstand environmental factors that would be fatal to humans. Or it might be because the machine would not “get scared” like a human might, or might not “get tired” or “get bored.” Though much of this work has led to machines with human-like body capabilities, there has been another branch of this work that has gone in the direction of care-giving and education. In these applications, emotional awareness, even emotional expression, is desirable. But how do you get a machine to learn human emotions? Believe me, folks; they are attempting this!

robot human

Human look-alike robot.

Remote-controlled Robots

So far, the biggest advances have been made in the field of remote-controlled robotics. A recent example, as ominous as it is, is the drone bomber. But there have been many such devices designed, built and used. So we know their model is workable.

The high-level parts of this model are diagrammed below.

remote control diagram

Basic remote control model.

They consist of:

1. The robot as a machine only. This would correspond to the human body, alive but unanimated.

2. The local machine control system. This would correspond to the brain. It is essentially an electronic computer. It runs on “firmware” (semi-permanent software).

3. A communication link. We have no name for this in any human model, except maybe for some mystical models which speak of a “silver thread.”

4. A remote control console. This would correspond to the mind. Note that the mind runs on a combination of software and input from a control person. Also note that the mind contains a copy of the brain’s “firmware.” Ideally, every single perception, command, action, and result is recorded for possible later analysis and software improvement. Thus, the mind also needs a memory system.

5. The control console operator. Not pictured in the diagram, this is in some ways the most important part of this model. This guy is supposed to be in control of the entire system, determining its every waking move.

The following diagram gives a more fanciful depiction of this model.

robot ape

Remote-controlled fighting monster from Japanese magazine.

Practical Considerations

There is still something missing in this model. What if something happens to the console operator? What if he has to go to the bathroom? What if somebody sneaks up behind him and bops him on the head? What if he gets so emotionally involved in the activity that he passes out? What if the hardware is damaged?

For a “mission critical” application, the console operator needs some sort of backup system. By empirical observation it has been found that such a backup system exists. It is more or less attached to the body. Its exact nature is not totally known. Conceptually, it can be thought of as another console and console operator, but one designed to never go offline. This console operator is not responsible for any high-level decision-making. It is designed only to protect the hardware in the event of loss of higher-level control. In exchange for not being “brainy” this operator must stay alert 24-7. It monitors all vital body functions. It sends warnings when the bladder or gut are full, or when the stomach is empty. It has certain override powers in the event that the higher level does not respond to repeated warnings.

In general, this operator has capabilities similar to the high-level operator. But it plays (usually) a subordinate role in the system. Its console also has recording capabilities, but they do not necessarily include all data from the higher level operator. The higher-level operator has access to all the data in the lower-level console, but it is protected. Access is only granted under certain special conditions.

So there is a certain amount of autonomy between the senior and junior control systems. This is a significant advance over a one-controller system, but is gained at some cost.

The Proposed Model

proposed model

This, then is the high-level system model for a human being that I propose; except, I didn’t really propose it. I just gave it the name “model for a human being.” This is mostly Hubbard’s work. He knew about robotics when he began writing about the human mind in the 1950s. Asimov’s Three Laws, for example, were first published in 1942. He also had ties with ONI; but that’s another story.

My illustration attempts to give the Scientology terms for the main parts of this model, along with analogous New Age terms. I cannot guarantee that all these terms are correctly matched. If you read this and see obvious mistakes, let me know!

Here is the list in text form, expanded to include the engineering terms mentioned above:

  • Thetan; spirit; senior console operator; higher self.
  • Analytical mind; senior control console; higher mind.
  • Control beams; communication link; silver thread.
  • Genetic entity; junior console operator; lower self.
  • Reactive mind; junior control console; subconscious mind; lower mind.
  • Brain; embedded controller; 6th & 7th chakras.
  • Body; machine; lower chakras.

I will not take up the ramifications of this model in this article. But needless to say, at the expense of some increased complexity, it predicts a far broader range of observed human behavior and capability than does a simpler model. We have not even explored the most obvious ramifications of the probable fact that both the thetan and the genetic entity are immortal spiritual beings.