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A process is a conceptual scheme (an abstraction of the second level). The concepts we call processes are characterized by the following features:
  1. A process is an action which we see as a sequence of constituting sub-actions. The states of the world resulting from sub-actions are referred to as stages of the process. Thus we see a process as a sequence of its stages.

  2. As is true for most concepts, the stages of processes are abstractions limited in space, i.e. they refer to certain spatially limited part of the world.

    Very often processes have the following additional feature:

  3. The process has definite initial and final stages. Furthermore, there is an abstraction from the initial stage called the input, and an abstraction from the final stage called output, of the process. For example, both stages may be some structures of objects, and some of these objects may constitute input while others constitute output. We then speak of the process as transforming the input into the output.

    Also, there are processes which have a definite initial stage, but may or may not have a final stage, i.e. a process may be infinite. Processes often are contrasted with objects. The most important feature of objects is -- by definition -- their constancy with respect to certain cognitive actions. The concept of a process, on the contrary, represent an ongoing change.

    The most usual way of speaking of objects and processes is a criss-cross between the two concepts: a process, the stages of which are objects not identical to each other. On a smaller time scale we observe constancy with respect to some cognitive actions, which gives us the reason to speek of it as an object. On a larger time scale, this is a process, and we say that the object is changing.

    One can see from this definition that process is a very general concept. An object may be seen as a special kind of process where there is no change. Everything is a process, if we look at it in a certain way.

    See also: process metaphysics

    Copyright© 1991 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

V. Turchin,

Sep 1991


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Action / Basic Concepts of Science

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