New version of “Evolutionary Epistemology”

Chuck Spinney has posted a new version, 2.4, of Evolutionary Epistemology, his explanation in briefing slide format of Boyd’s “Destruction and Creation.”  The biggest change is a new page 4. You can download this version from our Articles page.

Robert Coram captured the problems most of us have when trying to understand what Boyd was driving at in D&C:

Because Boyd spent more than four years researching and writing and then distilling his work down to eleven pages, the result has a specific gravity approaching that of uranium.  It is thick and heavy and ponderous, filled with caveats and qualifiers and arcane references that span theories never before connected. To read “Destruction and Creation” is to fully appreciate the term “heavy sledding.” (Boyd, p. 323)

Yet, as Chuck illustrates, everything Boyd wrote in the remaining 20 years of his life — from Patterns of Conflict to The Essence of Winning and Losing — reinforce the main points of D&C. It is the only thing Boyd produced that he never revised.

Evolutionary Epistemology is more than an explanation, however. It stands as a complement to Boyd’s paper, and, by looking at his concepts from other angles, makes the original more approachable. It takes its place alongside Patterns, Strategic Game, Conceptual Spiral, and the rest of the Discourse as another illustration of message of “Destruction and Creation.”

[Note: the link to “Boyd’s Real OODA Loop” on page 43 has been broken. Please download the latest version from our Articles page.]

5 thoughts on “New version of “Evolutionary Epistemology”

  1. “We Use a Sensor System to Observe Events in the External Environment.
    We Orient Ourselves to the Meaning of those Observations.
    We Decide and We Act
    … and then We Observe the Effects of that Action ….. and Recycle.”
    Really? We Decide and We Act, that’s it? But your outline doesn’t really explain neither the Decision and not really the Act process.
    In other words, if the “The entire “loop” (not just orientation) is an ongoing many-sided implicit crossreferencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.” where, how and why does the decision process project, correlate, and reject? I think Spinney’s Evolutionary Epistemology is the best I have seen yet, but, still, it really only covers Observation and Orientation.
    I don’t think you can have a complete epistemology on the loop without, at least, observing Decision as a process.
    I think Heisenberg was correct about knowing the precise position, but accuracy doesn’t need precision, so my guess is that there are at least one other way of knowing position, and that is to observe the strategy in the position as well as its tactical location, and if that means to keep doing what you do in exactly the same way, to expect the same outcome, then the precise position is known. Of course, with no disrespect intended, that idea is foreign to your epistemology, which is my only point. I mean it is your snowmobile after all.
    Sure there is destruction and construction, but what happens if almost half of the environment observed acts like D&C doesn’t exist? As you say, Act like Observation is closely related to the “real” environment.
    My guess as to what happens is that a knife-edge balance line forms and all those projection, empathies, correlations and rejections climb on-board the scale, and it tips.

  2. Larry,
    My two cents is that all “decisions” as such are a result of and occur in analysis and synthesis. If you are performing a rote or algorithmic decision it’s implicit patter recognition covered in IG&C (think Klein’s slide deck in RPDM), i.e. analytical or deductive. If it is not a procedural decision then it emerges from synthesis and the tempo of decision making is governed by a host of interdependent factors: how novel is the environment (how much uncertainty do you have) and do your existing skill repertoires fit the environment.

    Less novel + minor adaptation to skill sets < Tempo < more novel and/or bad skill matchup. (I think I got the carrots going the right way).

    Decision in the sense of the Loop it self is only a factor when time is not a pressure, when we have such a mismatch that we have to ignore time and create a new repertoire, or when we are in a skill building "non-operational" (training) environment.

    • “Decision in the sense of the Loop it self is only a factor when time is not a pressure, when we have such a mismatch that we have to ignore time and create a new repertoire, or when we are in a skill building “non-operational” (training) environment.” Good point, and I think, if you are not thinking in the context of an OODA loop, it is a very valid point.
      But in the context of an OODA loop, that decision, because of the feedback and feedforward, was actually made somewhere in the past and future, and I think it can exist in the past and future only by the structure it has. What I was looking for was a description of that structure.
      As an example. Structure is what being observed, in the Observational time step of the OODA loop. What is being observed is a force at distance. This structure (a force triangle) is how an OODA loop is tied to the real world on one end.
      The loop is tied to the real world by the “snowmobile” structure on the other end of the loop, acting in the real world. It is a loop but it is an open-ended loop, and there are structures at both ends.
      Orientation has both force and distance the same as structure, but it represents the culture inside the structure, created by observing the environment containing all force and all distances.
      With Observe, Orientation, and Action all having a relationship with structure, I believe Decision is also related to a structure. If there is a relationship, as structure being what it is:Observable, then decision can be described and dealt with on a structural level. As we have seen from past posts, culture can eat structure, but that doesn’t mean structure isn’t equally important as culture and position is to the OODA loop.
      Decision making may mostly be done in a split second, as you suggest, but time is not really relevant to an OODA loop. Time is represented in a OODA loop as a area of a volume of time, i.e. acceleration.
      Acceleration plus mass is force, which we “see” at a distance.

      • Larry,
        I don’t understand “was made somewhere in the past and future.” I accept that our past decisions continue to shape our environment and our observation of it. If by future you mean that we can form a hypothetical decision and run it through the feed back/forward mechanism of simulation, sure. However that is still simulation. Our “decisions” absent action aren’t altering the environment, even if they are altering our impression of it by using simulations as if they were real actions. That use of simulations is likely the biggest internal reason for mismatch. The environment and other people can cause mismatches to be sure but the simulation software plays a huge part in this.

        A decision is always instantaneous in that in a given moment in time you have decide upon a course of action. This may be a decision that leads to an action or it may be a simulation to model potential outcomes, regardless it happens in an instant. In that way it is synthetic (assuming it isn’t algorithmic). Everything else is occurring in Analysis and Synthesis. That is the dialectic engine from which decisions emerge. Prior to the decision being reached it is turning in Analysis & Synthesis. Right?

        Again, I may be completely misunderstanding your point and if so I apologize.


      • No, you didn’t misunderstand my point.
        “However that is still simulation.”
        True, but there are a few who don’t understand the difference, because they don’t know Boyd 🙂

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