I've Got You Under My Skin : Syston Boundaries and SIOS [MT104]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

Morality knows nothing of geographical boundaries or distinctions of race
-- Herbert Spencer (1851)

Danged Furriners from Lunnon

In the earlier years of my life I lived in a tiny village in the English countryside. It was an area with its own strong local dialect and traditions. Public transport was very limited -- one bus a fortnight came to take people to market day at the nearest market town.

In a sense the village was very isolated, and its inhabitants sometimes had isolated outlooks. I remember one old local, born and brought up in the village, complaining about the bad effects of visitors from the outside world."They danged furriners comes down yere from Lunnon and ruins everythun", he said.

I recently looked up a map and measured the distance from this village to the despised London and its malevolent visiting 'foreigners'. It was 40 kilometres. Yes, a mere 25 miles away from Tower Bridge in the heart of London.

Now, of course, the perimeter fence of one of London's airports backs up right against the village houses. The new generation of locals, many of whom were 'foreign migrants' themselves from 30 km away a generation ago, complain about being overrun by city folk from the sprawling 'new town' 15 km away, built beyond the London 'Green Belt' to house some of the overflow from the capital. And who can blame them, or say they are acting unreasonably? Their way of life is under attack.

Here, in a microcosm, is a picture which is repeated all over the world, at every sort of scale. The essence of the picture is the boundary of a syston -- what we might call the 'syston skin'.

The Skin Game

The skin is said to be the largest organ in the human body. Far from being a simple impermeable covering, it is a marvel of complexity, responsible for such vital functions as temperature regulation, food storage, and a host of sensory input/output functions. And it can have great decorative value!

The skin is the very obvious human-individual syston boundary. In the model we are building, every syston will have a skin, and the properties of this skin will be fundamental in determining the behaviour of the syston.

First You Dress Like Them

My grandfather once gave me this advice: "If you want to get on with people, first you should dress like them; then you should talk like them". Everybody will be able to recall situations at work, in business, or in clubs where this advice was good advice. I remember reading an article about business overtures to the founder of a huge British electronics retail chain, a man who had been brought up in humble circumstances in the East End of London.

The tycoon was suspicious, rejecting all emissaries, until one arrived who swore ferociously in good End End style. The two got on together immediately."He talks my kind of language" was the tycoon's comment.

Why is the man with a pony-tail and wearing an open-necked checked shirt not taken seriously at board-room levels? He "doesn't fit". He's not wearing the expected de facto 'uniform'.

This is another way of saying that he is not putting out the right visual signals to identify himself as a member of the current group.

The Immune System

Human beings have highly-developed immune systems. Possession of an immune system is a characteristic shared, according to Lyall Watson [Reference 25], with all vertebrates, from the humble hagfish up. In fact, he regards this feature, and its accompanying feature of being able to recognize individuals, as basic to the concept of 'self-awareness' in a creature.

As we go on we will come up against instance after instance of immune systems, operating in systons at every level. Although in humans many of these immune functions are not actually in the skin, in our general model we can place these immune functions just under the syston skins and regard them as part of the protective/selective/sensory functions of the syston boundaries. We can then go on to extrapolate and generalize these skin functions for all systons. But first we should mark our position with a formal Proposition:

Proposition 104A****. Systons possess boundaries or 'skins' which operate protective, sensory, selectively-permeable, and immune functions for their good functioning

This Proposition is, of course, closely related to Proposition 103E, which stated that 'All systons continually seek to monitor and define their boundaries'. But now we are at the stage of looking at the operations which go on at the syston skins, and how they are carried out.

As usual, we can start with an example based on the human idiosyston, that of transplant rejection mechanisms.

A Feeling of Rejection . . .

Just as a member of a human group is very quick at recognizing an 'outsider', someone who does not 'fit' into the group, so is the human body capable of picking up intruding 'foreigners'. And the body possesses an incredibly complex and extensive series of mechanisms to do this, the extent of which is only now being seriously explored.

Of course we all know about the white cells in the blood which pick up intruding 'germs' and destroy them (usually by eating them). The idea of 'inoculation' against diseases with a weakened or killed strain, to build up 'antibodies' against a future attack by the full disease, goes back to the English doctor Lister, over a century ago. Lister noticed that milkmaids who had had a dose of a mild disease, cowpox, were protected against attack by its far more virulent relative, smallpox.

In modern times we have had the onslaught of AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, now known to be caused by a virus (or viruses) which directly affects the body's immune systems and make them less effective against the waves of potential invaders continually washing up against the walls of our idiosystons.

As well as the invaders from without, the immune system is also set up to deal with the infiltrators from within -- previously 'loyal' cells which have gone 'bad' through poisoning or some other reason, and have started to misbehave. Cancer. Slowly the realization is growing that the dreaded afflictions called cancer are not 'caused' simply by attack by organisms or pollutants or radioactive substances. Instead it seems that one, or a combination, of these or other factors is sometimes able to make particular immune systems less effective in their routine work of detecting and neutralizing 'rogue' cells.

Proposition 104B*. Cancers occur when cancer-recognition and -neutralization mechanisms in the body become less effective

Even today, with notable advances in treatments available, cancers are the cause of many deaths -- the idiosyston breaks down and ceases to exist. An interesting area, which we will dwell more on later, is the 'holistic' approach to health, the idea that the smooth functioning of the idiosyston as a whole is important to individual health. Here we will just highlight an implication of this, which is that the concept of 'rogue cells' as the focus of cancers is too simplified for accuracy; instead, as when a metal structure is overstressed, these places are just the points where the overstress finally becomes visible.

The recent advances in transplanting organs from one person into another have been based on a better understanding of why transplants are rejected, or how the immune systems operate. The rejection-suppression drugs used are able to reduce the body's ability to recognize and reject tissues from another person. Clearly these recognition abilities have a strong genetic basis, as they scarcely operate in transfers between genetically identical twins.

The downside to rejection-suppression drugs is that invading disease organisms, as well, may not be rejected as they should. Hence the need for a transplant patient to be shielded from exposure to such diseases as much as possible in the early stages.

There is another area where normal rejection mechanisms need to be suppressed, and this is not a recent development, but one going back almost a hundred million years into the past.

Giving Baby a Good Start

Human beings are, of course, members of a highly-evolved animal group, the mammals. Mammals are animals which produce milk for their young. Most mammals are placental mammals, where the newly-fertilized and developing egg cell in the female attaches itself to the womb lining and grows a structure called the Placenta. Through the placenta the growing embryo continuously receives a stream of nutrients and services (such as removal of waste products), right through from the time when the placenta is first formed, up until birth, when the placenta ceases operating and is itself expelled (the 'afterbirth').

Animals which produce eggs, such as the birds, and those primitive Australian mammals the Platypus and the Echidna, clearly do not form placentas. Nor do other lower animals which give live birth, like the Bobtail Goanna, one of the many Australian lizards.

When you look at it, the mechanisms evolved to produce placentas are really quite unique in animal physiology. The fertilized egg in a female is genetically a mixture from both its parents, and in the ordinary course of events would be recognized as a foreign invader by its mother's body and rejected. Instead it is not only accepted by the womb wall, but is actually hooked in to function as part of the mother's physiological system, sharing a supply of blood and other body fluids.

Moreover, experience with artificial insemination in cattle and with in-vitro fertilization in humans shows that there is no requirement for even some of the mother's genes to be present in the attaching embryo. It seems that any womb from a member of the same species will do, perhaps even a womb from a related species. And the possibility has been raised that a working placenta may be formed if an embryo is attached to a tissue within a male of the right species.

Not Only Interesting -- Useful Also

This excursion into studies of animal physiology has been undertaken for a purpose. As we progress in this book, we will find that there are analogues to the body's immune systems operating and forming essential parts of other systons, systons at every level.

As already mentioned, one of the approaches used in Matrix Thinking is to generalize experience from one syston and see how it is applicable to other systons throughout the matrix. In the MT suite of articles, we will often be able to recognize immune systems operating in the different areas we look at. In some instances we will be able to recognize the operation of placenta analogues, especially when we look at how systons reproduce, as in MT110, on syston budding and merger.

The SIOS Concept

In what follows, we will find example after example of how important it is for a syston's immune system to function 'correctly' if the syston is to remain 'healthy'. Because the immune system is really a sort of selective filter arrangement, letting some things in and blocking others, it is really a matter of observation as to whether the filtering is correct -- is the syston working well? And will it continue to operate as well, in the future, or is it in the process of falling back?

It seems to me that a common feature of many systons is that their immune systems reject more than they might do, if the longer-term good of the systons was considered. We call this reaction by different terms for different systons -- racial and sexual discrimination, bigotry, vested interests, chauvinism, selfishness.

We need a term to generalize this feature for any syston. I will use the acronym SIOS, for Syston Immune Overreaction Syndrome. We can mark the situation with a Proposition.

Proposition 104C. Syston immune systems may reject more than is desirable for the future good of the syston, displaying a Syston Immune Overreaction Syndrome (SIOS)

Now here is a Proposition which, for once, is undoubtedly true. But it is a bit of a cop-out. Logically, it is only saying that something which is overdone is overdone, it doesn't tell us when that point is reached. For the moment, it may be best just to accept the possibility that a syston feature which we will call SIOS can exist, and try and bring out more about its nature and effects from looking at real circumstances.

The reader will have noticed that most of the usual attitudes classed within SIOS have a negative tone -- discrimination, bigotry, selfishness. But we started off from the view that SIOS was a manifestation of an immune system, a desirable and perhaps vital part of a syston's makeup. So where do we draw the line?

Well, as always with Matrix Thinking, there is no line -- there are only a number of weak and fuzzy tracers, each one based on a different underlying assumption. Each assumption may have the basis that some particular action will be to the good of the syston, at a given period. Alter the action, the period, or your definition of 'good', and the tracers will move too.

Something to Work With ...

The danger in trying to work with a situation like this is that if you are uncertain as to how to make a decision, you may bog down in doubts and make no decision, and that can be the worst decision of all. So I will will put forward another Proposition, to provide at least a working basis.

Unlike the previous one, this a real Proposition. I do not know whether it is valid or not. I think it at least merits some trying-on for size, in the situations we will encounter later in the book.

The suggestion is that the basic function of what corresponds to an immune system in human systons is to hold the syston together, to enable it to retain its identity as a functioning entity. But, like eating more than you need, because you need to eat anyway and it is hard to know when enough is really enough, the immune mechanisms can be overdone, leading to SIOS. So the dividing line comes where you are doing more than the minimum necessary to achieve the main purpose.

Proposition 104D*****. For best operation, a syston will reject only the least amount of outside influence, the minimum needed to enable it to retain its identity as a functioning syston

Clearly this Proposition, if accepted as valid, has far-reaching implications over every aspect of human society -- migration, foreign loans, federal/state control, business financing, everything. An underlying assumption of it is that foreshadowed in Proposition 102B, that society contains a substance called infocap, and that this substance generates its own dividends which bankroll human activities. The implication is that the more infocap you have, the better.

This does give a natural lead-in to halting, for the moment, consideration of systons, and looking a little deeper into the other major component of the Matrix -- into infocap.

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(Full list of references at MTRefs)

[25]. Lyall Watson. Lifetide. Coronet, UK, 1980.

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