## Form and content – two levels of change

Cybernetic Epistemology

Remember that above I mentioned that it was important to note that the particular content for any situation was identified? The reason this is important is surprisingly deep, and points to something very profound about ourselves, and it is this: all knowing follows an act of distinction. The profundity of this seemingly innocuous statement will require some elaboration., which will take us on a little detour into the strange metadiscipline called second-order cybernetics (the cybernetics of cybernetics), also known as cybernetic epistemology.

Cybernetic epistemology is a form of epistemology (the study of how we know, the structure of knowledge, its limits and genesis) that takes to heart the fundamental (first-order) cybernetic principle of recursion. We’ll need to understand recursion in order to see what’s happening with the relationship between distinction and knowing.

At its most basic level, recursion is a form of looping that has the quality of being self-referential. Mathematically, recursion is easy to understand: it describes a process whereby the output of a given formula is used as the input for the same formula. Each time the equation is “run” it produces an answer that is based upon the previous answer to the last “run”. The process of running through the equation multiple times is called “iteration”. In mathematics-speak, this type of equation is known as a recurrence relation.