Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing perspecive for an IT architecture specialist, 18 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems (Economies of Asia; 14) (Paperback)
Disclaimer: I'm not a philosopher, nor am I a physicist, so I can't really appreciate merits of harsh reviews from these perspectives on American Amazon. But I consider myself being a specialist in enterprise software and a systems engineer, so what follows would be probably relevant only to people of my trade.

In his book Paul Cilliers explores various aspects of complex systems, in particular self-organization and capacity to reflect the external world. What makes it interesting from my perspective is that the author postulates that a neural network is superior model for a complex system when compared with predicate-based models. This may sound odd, but the use of this rather surprising approach is well-justified and enables the author to make interesting conclusions from the wealth of theoretical and practical results available in the field of neural networks.

The property of self-organization is said to be enabled by the system being on the verge between active (self-inducing) and passive (balancing) stances, and the true self-organization is only possible when there's a proper balance between cooperation and competition among elements, which is exactly the case for large scale neural networks, such as, arguably, our neural system.

However, the most interesting part of the book is the discussion about representation of the external world within a complex system. It is deemed to be a critical property of any complex system. An open system without representation capacity is unable to anticipate and react to upcoming changes that would eventually tear it off.

Paul Cilliers argues that a predicate-based approach is inferior for representing complex reality. Instead, the author looks at the problem from the perspective of post-modernist (in particular, post-structuralist) philosophical school. In particular, he drew a lot from the understanding of a natural language that is pioneered by Jacques Derrida, who opposed the school of structural linguistics, originating from works of Ferdinand de Saussure. Derrida denied the existence of an independent and abstract semantics layer within a natural language, and according to him a meaning of a word could only be defined by (deferred to) the sum of relationship with other words in a language. It is demonstrated that Derrida's model of the way natural language represents the reality is analogous to the way a neural network solves a problem. The author draws an analogy between predicate-based modelling approach and structural linguistics and then concludes that post-structuralist approach based on the distributed representation is superior to the former for the purpose of representing complex and ambiguous reality.

This is quite interesting perspective with a lot of practical implications. For example, a prominent corollary for post-structuralist view is that it is impossible to construct a single consistent description of the reality (meta or grand narrative). That gives a new rather refreshing perspective on systems integration approaches based on a grand narrative of unified semantics such as ISO 15926, which may actually fail to deliver not because of some technical issues that eventually will be resolved, but because of violating the laws of the representation of reality.

Surprisingly, despite addressing sophisticated matters the prose of the book is easy to follow, well though-out, and rather convincing, but to be honest, I've skipped most of the last chapter that covers various aspects of the philosophy of science, as I'm lacking background that is necessary to make sense out of it.

In summary, being deeply anchored in IT, the book is definitely well worth reading for any IT specialist, especially those who deal with applications integration and architecture.

(This review was originally posted on Enterprise Systems Engineering blog -- see profile for URL)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details


4.7 out of 5 stars (3 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
£27.99 £22.15
Add to basket Add to wishlist

Location: London, United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,512,458