Doing Time: the emergence of irreversibility

Title: Doing Time: the emergence of irreversibility
Author: Philip Boxer & Bernie Cohen
Category: Published
Publication Year: 2000
Where Published: In Jerry L.R. Chandler and Gertrudis Van de Vijver (eds) “Closure: Emergent Organisations and their Dynamics”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 901.

By considering an enterprise to be a system of agents that observe and construct theories about themselves immediately raises issues of closure. These in turn pose questions about the identity and evolution of that which is exhibiting such closure. We address these questions by assigning enterprises to a class of systems whose models are triply articulated. The existential articulation provides an account of the possible behaviours of the enterprise’s agents and of their interoperation; the referential articulation specifies outcomes that its agents are required to satisfy; and the deontic articulation imposes constraints on the composition of the other two articulations sufficient to ensure that the enterprise effectively implements its specified requirements. Any of these articulations may be ‘under-determined’ in that they admit more than one elaboration. The behavioural closure of an enterprise is a kind of composition (formally, a category theoretic limit construction) of its three articulations. If the enterprise is its own observer, then the articulations are its models of itself. The enterprise has many opportunities for error in constructing this model. In particular, it may find that it cannot choose among its under-determined articulations in such a way that their composition is internally consistent. Such errors necessitate changes to its model which may be denoted as steps in an irreversible trajectory through a space of such models. This approach seems to provide a conceptual bridge across the gulf between systems theory and psychoanalysis, and has provided valuable insights into strategy formulation within large enterprises.

Download the full article