Cybernetics as a Trait of Living Organisms
The feedback look, sensation and response to it, are a crucial characteristic of living beings. We feel that cold is a punishment, prompting us to find warmth, while learning skills involve feedback loops of rewarding.
One of the most characteristic properties of all living organisims, from the smallest to the largest, is their capacity to develop, operate, and maintain systems which set a goal and then strive to achieve it through the cybernetic process of trial and error. The discovery of such a system, operating on a global scale and having as its goal the establishment and maintenance of optimum physical and chemical conditions of life, would surely provide us with convincing evidence of Gaia's existence.
Cybernetic systems employ a circular logic which may be unfamiliar and alien to those of us who have been accustomed to thing in terms of the tranditional linear logic of cause and effect...
The attainment of any skill, whether it be cooking, painting, writing, talking, or playing tennis, is all a matter of cybernetcis. We aim at doing our best and making as few mistakes as possible; we compare our efforts with this goal and learn by experience; and we polish and refine our performance by constant endeavor until we are satisfied that we are as near to optimum achievement as we can ever reach. This process is well called learning by trial and error.
...Human and other animals intentionally seek a warmer or cooler environment, as the case may be, in their ceaseless pursuit of the goal of maximum comfort. If necessary, the local environment is modified to reduce exposure to bearable limits. We wear clothes and build houses; other animals grow fur or seek and make burrows. These activities constitute and additional mechanism of temperature control, which is vital when conditions pass beyond the capacity of internal regulation.
Let us turn for a moment to the philosophical aspect of the subject and consider the problem of pain and discomfort. Some of us are so conditioned to regard unendurable heat, cold, or pain of any kind as in some measure of a punishment or visitation from on high for sins of omission or commission that we are inclined to forget that these sensations are all essential components of our survival kit. If shivering and cold were not unpleasant we would not be discussing them, since our remote ancestors would have died of hypothermia.