Evoking a new way of thinking.

      Key Vocabulary: Reflexive Anticipation

           An anticipatory system is "... a system containing a predictive model of itself and/or its environment, which allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model's prediction pertaining to a later instant."  (Rosen, 1985)  "An anticipatory system is a system whose current state depends not only on previous states, but also on possible future states." (Nadin 2003)  ‘I change my present course of action, in accordance with my model’s prediction.’ (Rosen, 1985)

           Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a situation that does not render both functions causes and effects. Reflexivity thus means an act of self-reference where examination or action "bends back on", refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination.   The ‘heart of recursion is the conversion of the present to the future.’ (Rosen 1991)

            When we combine reflexivity and anticipatory systems we get a process familiar to all of us: reflexive anticipation.  In living systems, the current state is determined not only by past and present, but also by their possible future states. Reflexive anticipation is the mental modeling process we engage in when considering whether or not take an action.  We anticipate potential outcomes.  We then model the consequences of taking or not taking the action and compare potential results.  This is done in light of our personal histories and in light of the present as well the forecast context.  It is important to note that reflexive anticipation occurs only with respect to those elements of the present or forecast context which we have consciously or unconsciously paid attention to.  Unattended to aspects of the context are not included in the anticipatory modeling unless the reflexive circularity of such modeling brings attention to that which had been previously unattended to.

            "One word of caution: within my understanding of anticipation as always expressed in action, and of anticipatory processes as the unity of deterministic an nondeterministic processes, anticipation is not necessarily successful all the time – it can fail." (Nadin, 2011a)

            The world of non-sentient things does not include a concept of reflexivity and thus of reflexive anticipation, instead has probabilistic prediction.  It is a rare circumstance which allows the substitution of one for the other unless one is attempting to forecast the behavior of a large assemblage.  Despite the inapplicability of probabilistic prediction to individuated agents, common sense and physics both suggest that this substitution is an effective simplification.   Many a strategic error has followed from this bad heuristic.

            Jay Forrester wrote: "In his penetrating discussion of the learning process, Jerome Bruner states, "the most basic thing that can be said about human memory… is that unless detail is placed into a structured pattern, it is rapidly forgotten" (Bruner, 1963). For most purposes, such a structure is inadequate if it is only a static framework. The structure should show the dynamic significance of the detail—how the details are connected, how they influence one another, and how past behavior and future outcomes are influenced by decision-making policies and their interconnections." (1991)


See:  (1)  Nadin, M., (2003). Anticipation – the end is where we start from. Basel: Lars Muller Verlag
        (2)  Nadin M. (2011a): Rich evidence: anticipation research in progress, International Journal of General Systems, DOI:10.1080/03081079.2011.622087
        (3)  Rosen, R., (1985). Anticipatory systems. Philosophical, mathematical, and methodological foundations. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
        (4)  Rosen, R., (1991). Life itself: a comprehensive inquiry into the nature, origin, and fabrication of life. New York: Columbia University Press
        (5)  Nadin (2011b): The anticipatory profile. An attempt to describe anticipation as process, International Journal of General Systems, DOI:10.1080/03081079.2011.622093
        (6)  Ehresmann A. (2007) Memory Evolutive Systems; Hierarchy, Emergence, Cognition (Studies In Multidisciplinarity)
        (7)  Forrester J. (1991) System Dynamics and the Lessons of 35 Years