On the 6-th of December 2012 Nikolai Amosov would be 99 years old | History of Computing in Ukraine

On the 6-th of December 2012 Nikolai Amosov would be 99 years old

Author: Dr.Alexander Kasatkin, Dr.Lora Kasatkina International Research and Training Center of Information Technologies and Systems of National Academia of Sciences of the Ukraine

The Master

Until the last days of his life, Nikolai Mikhailovitch continued to take active interest in the work of the Department and in its fate.

Scientific seminars, which he participated in, were held, as a rule, in an informal setting - at the house of Nikolai Mikhailovitch or one of the Department's members. Current issues were discussed, as well as Nikolai Mikhailovitch's books "in progress " or recently published ones, plans for the future were made.

The last time that Nikolai Mikhailovitch visited the Department was in the spring of 2001. By that time the Institute of Cybernetics had divided into a number of autonomous institutes, which comprised the Center for Cybernetics, and the Department became part of the International Research and Training Center for Information Technologies and Systems.

In his time (mid-1970s) the academician V.M.Glushkov conditionally divided all cyberneticists into "dry " ones and "wet " ones - by the extent to which they utilized rigorous mathematical methods. N.M.Amosov had always been a "wet " cyberneticist. The romantic idea of creating "real " artificial intelligence, which meant so much in Nikolai Mikhailovitch's life, not only has been not forgotten by the scientific society, but has started to revive actively. In discussions of perspectives for computer technology development, side by side with the words "the computer of the 21st century " people increasingly mention "comprehension " (for active collaboration with a human the computer must comprehend the goals and tasks of the human, must be able to handle conceptual information and so on). And this means that "wet " cybernetic theories and hypotheses on the mental activity of the brain are once again in demand. On the current level of computer technology development, they may present a new opportunity for understanding the brain's activity as well as for creating its artificial counterpart.

Modelling in sociology

N.M.Amosov expressed great interest in interrelations of man with society and in social order. Through modelling he looked for the solutions of problems related to social structure. What are the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and socialism? What is an "ideal society"? These are the questions N.M. Amosov intended to answer by creating heuristic models.

The method of heuristic modelling lies in creation of a mathematical model of some complex system, using a hypothesis of its structure and functionality. Such a model is, actually, a means of linking the variety of qualitative and quantitative information available from literature into a uniform system. And qualitative information should also be presented in the form of quantitative values.

A heuristic model, in the first place, allows verifying the consistency of the model's hypotheses. This is done by comparison, under various conditions, of model's behaviour and that of the object being modelled, and, if necessary, the hypotheses can be corrected. Secondly, joint research of the object and its model permits purposefully planning experiments (or experimental observations) with the object and form new hypotheses, what leads to a deeper understanding of characteristics of the system.

Existing models of social systems almost exclusively reflect only economical interrelations of social groups and do not take psychology and ideological factors into account. However, a society is a complex, self-organizing system and self-organization roots exactly in people's psychology. N.M.Amosov believed, that incorporating psychological aspects into the model of society would help to understand social tendencies better.

N.M.Amosov proposed to use generalized personality models, reflecting basic characteristics of different social groups, as bearers of man's psychological features in the society model.

In the figure, the functional layout of the generalized personality model is depicted. It shows the relations of feelings, labour efforts and the "reward" for labour. All major psychological features of a personality and society's response actions in the model are expressed by non-linear functions with saturation, where limited human physical capabilities and limited resources of a society are considered. Models' adjustment consisted in balance coordination of labour distribution and movement, and the "reward" together with closing through motives. Ideology influence was set through specially developed scales: labour - reward, labour - fatigability, pretension level (curves "reward - feeling").

Models built by N.M. Amosov and his collaborates - "Socion" (1972), "ÌÀÍ" (1977) made it possible to research social and psychological aspects of group behaviour, individual and social motivations of labour activity, and to obtain several non-trivial conclusions concerning optimal combination of personality's and society's interests.