Skip to content
Create an account for full access.

Functional and Constructive Considerations of the Same System

The concept of "function," as we discussed in the first section, has many different meanings. Very often, role behavior/action (behavior for a certain purpose) is called a function. For example, in everyday language, "the function of a hammer is to drive in nails." If a gerund noun is used (the -ing form in English, referring to the continuity of the action) instead of a verb, then most often it refers to functions/processes/methods.

The work items (instances of processes) that are considered as instances of performing "work method" ("system's role play"), involving resources/modules, are usually expressed as a verb in an indefinite form or (if it's a plan) in the imperative mood for the resource performing the work. The work (what needs to be done specifically with instances of objects at a particular moment) will be planned as "drive nail number three into board number four no later than 4 pm," and the expected result is not "the nail number three is driven into board number four by 4 pm." Later, the method by which the work will proceed can be discussed. Reference to the method (what needs to be done in general) will be - "hammering a nail into a board," and again, it will be necessary to discuss the options of how to do this; usually, the name of the method alone is not enough, it usually needs to be specialized to a clearly understood variant (from the genus to the species - it is not good to say "animal" because for the genus "animal," species "tiger" and "mouse" will be simultaneously). For example, "hammering a nail into a board" can be specified as "hammering a nail into a board with an automatic nail-driving machine" - here, in addition to knowledge/theory/explanations of the most general method of "driving," the instrumentation that a specific specialization of the "driving" method will use is included in the method's name.

We will distinguish between work items and work methods in our course because work items require consideration of resources, i.e., material/constructive objects. Therefore, the work items as "resources of work" will be performed by systems::modules, and the methods of these works will be performed by systems::roles (and it can be discussed whether to include objects of the work method into these systems, objects that will need to change their state, and the instrumentation that extends/completes the agent body performing the work according to the method while in the role).

Identifying functional and constructive systems with their works and practices will be like for "warm object" and "orange object," as well as "object by the window," which are just descriptions of the same physical "kettle" through 4D extensionalism.

Systems::roles (functional objects as a subtype of physical objects) are interesting because they can disappear from the physical world and reappear completely different - at the moment they have a new affordance as an "executing role." The "hammer" disappears when we stop hammering with a stone, and suddenly appears as a microscope when we start hammering with a microscope.

Again, systems as roles are quite physical. Although some philosophers insist that roles (role/functional objects) should be considered abstract objects, engineers and managers listen to other philosophers who point out that most people consider functional/role objects to exist when some material/constructive objects play their role and not exist when no objects play those roles.

We can think of Hamlet, assuming that he exists when his role is played by one of the actors (for example, the famous artist Vasily Pupkin). Hamlet can be conditionally "knocked" at this moment, he can be pointed to (his place in space), and he occupies not only a place in space but also a place in space-time. Hamlet as a functional object/role somehow behaves, that is, he is needed as part of a performance. And when does Hamlet have lunch? Answer: never, because Vasily Pupkin has lunch, and Hamlet does not exist while Vasily Pupkin is having lunch - he ceases to exist at that moment because he "does not play a role" / "does not perform functions" / "does not function" / "is not in use." And if Vasya Pupkin gets sick? Then another actor will play the role of Hamlet.

The same reasoning applies to a pump::constructive and a beater::role. The "pump for watering the third floor" is a functional/role object that exists when a pump with a serial number plays this role. Then it disappears from the world when the pump breaks down and is disassembled, and when it is replaced by a pump with a different serial number and starts working, the functional object reappears in the world, but it is embodied with completely different substance molecules. Remember, the phrase "starts working" is important: all functional/role considerations are only during operation/use. And if you think that the functional consideration of the creator system (some locksmith, realized by Peter, then by Bogdan) relates to the time of creation, for the locksmith as a creating system - it is the time of his locksmith’s usage, the time of performing locksmith works by methods (performing locksmith function/method/practice/labor/culture). No confusion: always remember in which time frame you are considering the target system: if it is a functional consideration (benefits, results of use), then it is the functioning/operation/use, and if it is a constructive one (searching for affordances, processing them to change states from raw material to a finished operational system), then it is the time of creation and development. And, yes, there can be long chains of such considerations (creators creating other creators, and so on for multiple steps until the target system - if you are creating game sessions, then someone from the engineers must produce game software in the data center, and then someone must organize the engineers who will later produce this game software, and somehow someone must create organizers of engineers, all these chains and even graphs of creation in life are quite long).

Functions/"role behavior"/practice/method of performing works are assigned to the works of the system based on patterns of system behaviors during works, i.e., achieving resulting changes in the environment. For example, even a stove changes its state from "cold" to "hot," that is, it performs the work task of "warming up well all night on January 15, 2054 in room five" only to make the area around it warm (i.e., make the environment warm), and a hot stove isolated from its environment is not useful. Therefore, as a "stove" (functional object), a specialized electric heater with a good convection radiator and sufficient power (constructive affordance - the selected constructiveness) will be chosen, not any kind of spot heat source well-insulated from the room (for example, we won't declare a "thermos with a liter of hot water" as a stove). Further, it can be debated whether an electric heater, a gas heater is called a "stove." "Stove" - is it a "role" or "constructive"? Since the function is primary, "heating," then "stove on wood" would be called a "wood stove" today, and if the main use is for cooking, then "stove on the kitchen range" (even with the understanding of the historical word "range," indicating not the function but the constructiveness of a "flat surface").

In all these considerations, one needs to move away from definitions (stop arguing about terms, names, etc., it's just "chains of symbols," they will be different in different languages, it's not that important) and discuss the question of the place the discussed objects hold in space-time, "grounding." Role/functional object and its playing constructive/material object will indeed occupy the same place in space-time. The role object may disappear from the physical world at any moment when its role ends - when the constructive/material object stops playing its role. A material object (that is, an "object made of matter") cannot just vanish - the law of conservation of matter applies, a material object can be changed, but it cannot suddenly disappear; it simply changes its states and the roles it plays.

For example, in my life I can highlight "my favorite toy"::role. Then, selecting from numerous constructives one affordance/suitable entity as "my favorite toy" happens based on the expected results from the execution of this constructive in its role, which changes in the environment (i.e., within me) the constructive-in-role will cause. Thus, "my favorite toy"::role, the suitables were for it a "soft teddy bear"::constructive 55 years ago, a "toy airplane"::constructive 50 years ago, and a "coffee machine"::constructive today. In between, there might have been times when I was not into playing, and during this period, this role/functional object "my favorite toy" did not exist at all. The physical individuals of the constructives, playing the role of the functional object "my favorite toy," changed several times, but the function "priority participation in my games, entertaining me" remained the same.

"My favorite toy" (interesting, if the distinguishing quotation marks are removed from the term - do you recognize it as a system-in-role? In real life, your systems will not have such hints!) at the moment it exists, fully occupies a place in space - you can knock on it, sniff it, talk about it as a physically existing object. However, you will knock on and smell the constructive/material objects playing that role at various moments. If you want to sniff Hamlet, you would only smell Vasya Pupkin playing his role. Or you would smell Bogdan, if Bogdan plays it. Or you would detect nothing if Vasya Pupkin or Bogdan is not playing that role - without the role player (constructive!) there would be no Hamlet. But in fact, the smell of Vasya Pupkin or Bogdan will be the smell of Hamlet, just as their appearance will be the appearance of Hamlet, and their function - "behavior during role play" will be the sequence of actions of Hamlet.

Why are role/functional objects needed? To separate in thinking the execution of actions (goal: to change one state of the target system to another) from the objects performing the actions (creator systems with their tools). There are not many actions in the world (the number of their types can be compared in an approximate way with the number of verbs in a language - several tens of thousands), but there is a huge diversity of functional objects suitable for actions (just like there are hundreds of thousands of nouns in a language). Therefore, it is possible to discuss the method/activity/practice/function of the "agronomist" (engineer role for plants::systems) or the "manager" (organization engineer role::systems) and accumulate knowledge about this method/activity/practice/culture/"type of labor"/engineering - regardless of who currently performs this role, Vasya or "AI agent Thomas."

Likewise, a role "water pump"::role and its function "increasing water pressure" can be identified, and then used either the pump::constructive with a particular serial number produced by the Murmansk factory in this role (this will be an affordance), or the "water tower"::constructive, which will have to be built by the efforts of some contractor or DIY (then it will be an affordance). The reasoning here is the same for roles and instances of "homeland," "tree," "internet provider," and "water pump." All role/functional considerations and the selection of affordances (affordance selection - is an invention! You still have to realize using an amplifying triode in a key mode to create a computer, a motorcycle engine as a motor for an airplane!) are structured absolutely the same. And the selection of affordances is multi-level (remember about system levels! The reasoning is repeated at each level, "recursively"). And this reasoning is the same for people, animals, artificial intelligence systems, and even completely inanimate systems.