Glanville’s ‘Black Box’: what can an observer know?
A ‘Black Box’ cannot be opened to reveal its mechanism. Rather, its operations are inferred through input from (and output to) an ‘observer’. All of us are observers, who attempt to understand the Black Boxes that are Minds. The Black Box and its observer constitute a system, differing from either component alone: a ‘greater’ Black Box to any further-external-observer. To Glanville (1982), the further-external-observer probes the greater-Black-Box by interacting directly with its core Black Box, ignoring that Box’s immediate observer. In later accounts, however, Glanville’s greater-Black-Box inexplicably becomes unitary. Why the discrepancy? To resolve it, we start with von Foerster’s archetype ‘machines’, that are of two kinds: ‘Trivial’ (predictable) and ‘Non-Trivial’ (non-predictable). Early-on, Glanville treated the core Black Box and its observer as Trivial Machines, that gradually ‘whiten’ (reveal) each other though input and output, becoming ‘white boxes’. Later, however, Black Box and observer became Non-Trivial Machines, never fully ‘whitenable’. But Non-Trivial Machines can be concatenated from Trivial Machines, and are the only true Black Boxes; any greater-Black-Box (Non-Trivial Machine) may (within its core Black Box) involve white boxes (that are Trivial Machines). White boxes, therefore, could be the ultimate source of the greatest Black Box of all: the Mind.
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