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    On the Shoulders of a Giant:

    Eigen-Stories of Uncle-Heinz

    [Pseudo-abstract of a talk for the American Society of Cybernetics Meeting in Chicago, April 1995, in honor of Heinz von Foerster. the actual talk was an explanation of the graphic below, in which the works of von Foerster, Pask and Maturana were coordinated.]

    This talk will begin, have a middle, and through to its end be about Heinz von Foerster. If it were Heinz talking, he would start by saying something like that. Since it will be me talking, the talk will say something about me as well. (About which Heinz would agree.) He's the Giant, and I'm standing on his shoulders.

    I couldn't say much about Heinz von Foerster without telling a story. (Neither could he.) I will say he prepared the way, in theoretical concept and intellectual salon, for Pask and Maturana, to say the very least. All this says something to me about the evolution of 2nd order cybernetics, a history which is not-yet-written. But, in a setting such as this, some of it can be spoken.



    Mai von Foerster says, "Heinz has a mind like a crystal!" His works have added immeasurably to the field; we can't say how much until we have a measure (as he would be the first to point out). So many clarifying ideas, and so many collaborations among towering individuals, have been his creations. These, and his panache, are overwhelming contributions to science in this century. (There is also a way in which he brings the distinction that is you, the plusses and the minuses, to your awareness like the gift of an important relative on your intellectual birthday.) Every day, Heinz the Storyteller, Cybernetician, Impresario: Heinz my Uncle-Heinz.


    Paul Pangaro was first exposed to concepts of cybernetics during lectures by Jerry Lettvin at MIT. On meeting Gordon Pask, Pangaro pursued Pask's theories, leading to a Ph. D. and a consulting practice applying 2nd order principles to software design and management science. His personal interactions with Lettvin, Pask, Beer, von Foerster, Maturana and Geoghegan, whether conversational or contractual, have been the fuel of his passion for the field of cybernetics. He is presently fulfilling the role of Chief Methodologist at Xerox's Object Technology Competency Center, whose charter is to harness the knowledge of the corporation in service of its goals, using "information technology" as the expressive medium.

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