Rules, principles, belief and faith

Following on from the previous post ‘Rules, principles and the Inverse-Einstein Test‘, there’s an important corollary about real-time sensemaking and and decision-making – it was in my notes for the post, but I forgot to include it, so I’ll do it as a separate post here.

This connects back to the previous work on SCAN, and, in particular, relates to how sensemaking and decision-making work at the point of action:

This probably also relates to the ‘considered’ sensemaking and (would-be) decision-making that come into play when there is more separation-in-time from the moment of action itself:

(In that diagram above, ‘Assertion’ is closely related to analysis, and ‘Use’ to experiment.)

In both those diagrams, the green horizontal-axis represents the modality of the context – the extent to which the context ranges from certain-repeatability and predictability (‘simple’) to an increasingly-ambiguous and uncertain realm of possibility and necessity (‘not-simple’). The black dot where the red vertical distance-in-time axis crosses the modality-axis is, in effect, the boundary-condition of the Inverse-Einstein test: to the left (‘simple‘, a context of order), doing the same thing will always lead to the same result; to the right (‘not-simple‘, a context of unorder), doing the same thing may lead to different results, with the probability of different-results increasing as we go further to the right.

[Or, to put it another way, over on the left, the variety-weather is calm enough that ‘control’ will seem to be achievable; over to the right, the variety in the context is greater than that of the would-be control-system, and hence certainty of control is not possible. Note that the variety of variety itself means that the notion of ‘control’ is rarely more than a questionably-convenient fiction whose nominal validity will itself vary over time. In reality, in almost all real-world systems, indefinitely-guaranteed certainty of control is not achievable even in theory, let alone in practice. But I digress… again… 🙂 ]

Another way to view this in terms of perspectives, as in my post ‘Inside-in, inside-out, outside-in, outside-out‘:

  • belief and assertion (‘analysis’) tend to take an inside-out view: they apply rules or algorithms – predefined, closed-logic, and often self-centric sets of assumptions – onto the overall context, and in effect attempt to force the context to fit the assumptions
  • faith and use (‘experiment’) tend to take an outside-in view: they use preselected values, principles, patterns and guidelines as open-logic, externally-aware filters onto the overall context, and in effect attempt to adapt to the context, often in real-time
  • heuristics – semi-open filters such as ‘best-practice’ or past-experience – tend to straddle the boundaries between these two modes

The core advantage of belief is that it enables us to proceed, often at very high speed, with absolute certainty – if the belief-logic is valid for the context. The catch with belief is that it is very prone to circular-reasoning, in part because the ‘inside-out’ view precludes visibility of any information (or anything, really) that does not fit its predefined assumptions. (Hence, for example, the frustratingly-persistent predominance of IT-centrism in much of so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture…) Also, almost by definition, belief-based decision-making has no means within itself to verify the validity of its own logic or assumptions – which is why it is so prone to circular-reasoning.

The core advantage of faith is that it can cope with almost any potential variation in the context – dependent on skill-level. The catch with faith is that it can easily become ‘blind faith’, based on principles that may actually have little or no connection with concrete reality. Also, almost by definition, it can be all but impossible to demonstrate a repeatable chain-of-reasoning in faith-type sensemaking and decision-making: this often renders reliability of action within the system highly dependent on individual skill.

Given those respective advantages and disadvantages, it should be clear that neither belief-based decision-making nor faith-based decision-making would be sufficient on its own for acting on any real-world system: we need a balance between belief and faith to guide real-time decision-making.

4 Comments on “Rules, principles, belief and faith

  1. My first reaction was some push-back, being a Christian Zealot and all. But, what you have written deserves deeply serious contemplation, which I hope I have applied, especially since I am now in complete agreement with you. So, let me share an illumination; a revelation, if you will. Referencing John Boyd’s OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), coupled with a certain understanding of Faith, results in a repeatable process through the quadrants. First: about Faith – Hebrews 11:1 (Young’s – literal Greek translation) And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction,… (Amplified – elaboration on Greek nuances) Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

    OK –
    1. Start with Belief (epistemologically speaking, has a role in Knowledge) as Observation, in that a Belief is formed that an Observation has occurred.
    2. Insert the Belief into Use, as an Orientation process, as in a set of abstract positionings, an analysis of alternatives, with heuristic pressures.
    3. Then Decide on the most useful and trustworthy alternative from Use for implementing as fact in Faith, which will result in the Hope formed from the Belief.
    4. The Act of Assertion, which is that which was initially sought at Belief.
    4=>1. Belief formed from Observing the results from the Assertion.
    Therefore, Belief=>Use=>Faith=>Assertion=>Belief… Puzzling:: I have seen this particular quadrant pattern before, but on something else. It is from quite some time ago – can’t seem to place it.

    Well, after that, my brain feels a little exercised. What do you think, Tom??

  2. @Myron – “My first reaction was some push-back, being a Christian Zealot and all”

    Understood. 🙂 As you know, I don’t come from that tradition, but I am trying to be very careful here not to tread on Christian sensibilities (or anyone else’s sensibilities, for that matter), so if I do make a mistake on that please let me know?

    I know it’s a bit risky using the terms ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ here, but unfortunately they are the terms that fit best for this.

    Your Biblical description of faith is interesting here, not least because it matches up with the distinctions I’m trying to draw.

    To try to put it another way, what I’m labelling as ‘Belief’ seems to have this inside-outward self-centric element: “I believe”, or kind of like “I am the one who knows how the world should be”. By contrast, what I’m labelling as ‘Faith’ has a much more outside-inward feel to it: “not my will but Thine, oh Lord”, to use the classic Christian phrase.

    Belief imposes predefined assertion on the world (and, when truly self-centric, often complains loudly that the world is wrong when it fails to match up to those expectations); Faith is much more able to accept the world as it is – which makes it more possible to hear that “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13 KJV, apparently?).

    I like that figure-of-eight / infinity-sign pattern across the frame! 🙂 Note, though, that in SCAN the moves outward to Assertion or Use would both involve time for reflection (re-analysis, re-experiment); what I’ve labelled Belief and Faith are all that are available at the exact moment of action.

    And yes, jumping back a para or two in your comments above, a fair part of this draws its inspiration from Boyd’s OODA. Very important.

  3. So, I figured out what the ‘infinity’ loop reminded me of – the process of matrix inversion, which, in this case, is a 2×2 matrix. So, what would happen if such a process is applied? This becomes fascinatingly complex. Belief goes negative, which would be Doubt. The Use, if defined in terms of Creation and Destruction (reference a John Boyd thesis(!)), would be Creation, if Destruction was the positive Use. Faith and Assertion would exchange corners. Then each of the corners would be divided by (using Boolean Algebra (assuming Sets)) ((AssertionFaith)(BeliefUse)). But, the arrows used in your diagram suggest Fuzzy Sets (degree of membership). This is somewhere over-the-top complex. BUT, if there is something reasonable about the inverse matrix, then a Proof by Contrapositive (I’m thinking – given that that is what I am doing ~~) is possible which would provide a vetting exercise for your diagram. Well, anyway, at least it is a marvelous mental contortion.

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