The Nature of Processes

by | Apr 8, 2018

The Nature of Processes

A process is defined as as series of actions to achieve an end.  Petroleum processing plants probably comes to mind for most people, because the term “process” is normally associated with the phrase.  However, just about any task is a process.  Each has a beginning and an end.  Fortunately the Life Process has not ended yet!

Processes Require Means to Sense, Process, and Act

To run a process, there must be means to sense conditions and to intelligently process the information to determine the action required. The instructions to do the required work are relayed to the actuators. The system must have a power source capable of being controlled with the correct form and amount to accomplish the specified intelligent work. In addition, suitable power must be supplied to the sensors, processors, and signaling means. Continous power is required because the sensors and processing must be active when the process is working. This power that is not recovered – it increases the entropy of the universe. Natural causes have no analog to this functionality and do not spend any energy for logical functionality. In either case, the change in the entropy of the system and the relationship to the energy expended do follow the laws of physics when all actions, including those involved with implementing embedded intelligence, are accounted for. 

Natural work and resulting outcomes occur as a result of initial conditions, free energy availability and the laws of physics. Intelligent work and resulting outcomes are the result of inital conditions and machinery that follows the laws of physics. These are different paradignms. Intelligent work requires additional energy to power the intelligent functionality.

Our Brain Shields Us From the Complexity of Processes

Think of the process of cooking a meal.  Your first level of planning is to design a menu, gather the food, cook, set the table and serve the meal.  The second level is to write out the menu, listing each ingredient, the amount, the steps of preparation before cooking, the method, temperature and time and so on.

If you had to write a program for a robot to do this work, you would eventually get to a level of detail that provides instructions such as: position both arms, shoulder angle 180 degrees y-z plane, 5 degrees x-z plane, and elbow joint 90 degrees, palm up.  Move from coördinates: x1, y1, facing θ1 to coördinates: x2, y2, facing θ, etc.

And it gets worse.  At an even lower level, commands must be supplied to the actuators that perform the work required in a form that the actuator “understands,” e.g.: relax interior shoulder actuator, extend exterior shoulder actuator to position 22.2, relax exterior elbow actuator, retract interior elbow to position 13.4, with similar instructions for legs and all finger joints.  Each such instruction is a process step. There are probably thousands of individual carefully orchestrated process steps that must be executed by the robot to fix breakfast.

The reason for going through this exercise is to emphasize we are unaware of the individual actions required by a complex machine such as ourselves to accomplish even the simplest tasks as they are being executed unconsciously.

An engineer designing process control systems quickly aware of the minute detail step that must be executed.  Doing intelligent work is far more complex and involved than an outsider realizes.  Think of all the computations required to determine out how hard to squeeze, which direction to turn, how big of a step to take, then convert this into commands to each muscle, etc., etc.  One simply cannot appreciate the gap between  perception and reality of complexity of doing intelligent work. Here are a few videos of engineered robots that now exist and involve hundreds of man-years of development time.

DNA appears to be the database for the parts (proteins & RNA), and it, in conjunction with proteins, must also act as the “operating system.”  From it, RNA and proteins, are constructed, and apparently, these parts end up being the control processor, sensors and actuators that do the physical work.  The proteins/RNA involved with some functions have been identified, very little is understood1.  Very likely the ratio of “learned” to “to be learned” is probably about equal to “protein expression DNA” to “non-protein expression DNA”.  Upon learning the “what and how” of the rest of the DNA will most probably be surprises; technology we have not discovered analogous to the discovery of neural networks in the body.  Until the detail functionality, both of the cell and organisms is reverse-engineered, for the most part, we will be in the dark.

Processes Cannot Result From Natural Causes.

Processes (exclusive of natural processes) require intelligent choices.  The simplest example is a binary input that is processed to provide two output choices, 0 or 1, X or Y, Yes or No.  This means that someplace in the process system, there has to be matter that can be set to one state or another based on some external condition.

Natural causes have only one input state, its environment, and one output, the state of highest entropy of the system (or the most stable equilibrium point, lowest potential energy).  A logically driven system must have the ability to hold matter away from the environmentally driven equilibrium in order to carry the logical information. Therefore, natural causes cannot conduct an intelligent process. 

© 2016 Mike Van Schoiack


  1. Or so it seems to this engineer
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