Informing for Operations: The First Principia

Article excerpt

Foreword and Background

Many streams of research deal with informing, a real interdisciplinary mix: cybernetics (a study of communication and control processes), operations research (analysis of processes for decision making), operations management, systems theory, systems analysis, praxiology (a study of human action with regard to effectiveness and efficiency), ethics, psychology, sociology, political science, etc. The 20th century has become known as the century of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics in physics, nuclear energy, electronics, aviation, computing, and space exploration. The 21st century emerges at least as the century of information, microbiology, bioengineering, nano technology, and quantum computing.

Information--anything in form that can be communicated, similarly to factors in substance, operates among all of the at least partially autonomously acting entities. Information (broader knowledge as data, information, and rules of reasoning and proceeding) is a factor of power similar to other resources under one's control. Studies of the role of informing, information, and information quality shed a new light on many issues. Operations conducted by humans or robots depend on available or obtainable operation factors in substance or in form. In decision making, factors are represented by variables. Decision makers assume and act as if the knowledge available to them represents the reality they deal with.

A wide spectrum of operations exists if assessed by complexity. At the lowest end, actions may be purely reactive to changes of the environment such as it occurs in physical inert objects and primitive forms of life. At the highest end, operations may follow sophisticated patterns of behavior or reasoning, which may be related to remote future goals and purposes of complex hierarchical systems that consist of interacting entities that may be complex on their own.

The more complex a system of operations is, the higher the level of making decisions, the fewer contacts decision makers have with factors of substance; and the higher their reliance is on factors in form, the less they are in direct contact with the reality they seemingly control. Political or corporate leaders actually act within a virtual reality of representations made available to them by others of influence; this was in antiquity and is now, with no visible end in the future.

Despite the virtual nature of such realities, information, informing, and operations are physical. They are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the physical world. Operations conducted by humans also manifest aspects of a psychological, sociological, and political nature. This paper does not understate their significance but limits its scope. The physical aspects of data, information, knowledge, and informing in operations should be studied first. Only on top of solid physical foundations one may successfully add other aspects. Informing for operations offers an insight into the subject with results of lasting theoretical and practical validity. The explosive pervasiveness of computing and information technology has obscured the fact that the ultimate purpose of informing is to contribute to more effective and efficient operations. A broader view encompasses the role of information and informing in extending our knowledge and, subsequently, our control of the environment. This view deserves a separate study.

The presented approach to informing for operations is philosophically grounded in the Aristotelian approach to quality as distinguishing features, Schopenhauer's worldview as interplay between "will and representation," Nietzsche's perspectivism, the contributions of the pragmatists (Dewey and Pierce) to the theory of inquiry, and decision making with bounded rationality as defined by Simon (1956) and Kotarbinski (1961). It uses the concept of inertial frames borrowed from theoretical physics with the postulate of teleological relativity of views, observations, measurements, and assessments while, at the same time, accounting for the quantum nature of reality and the information that should map it one to one. …