West Churchman used the I Ching as an example of management information in a quantitative methods textbook. Finding this material written by a philosopher who advocated rational techniques gave me comfort presenting the material to students. At least another business scholar had accorded the Chinese classic recognition. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 160)

A Historical Example

Quantitative methods are not a new discovery that emerged with the advent of the computer. They may not be as old as all the hills, but certainly as old as some of them. It will be helpful to recount one quantitative method of using management information that dates back at least to 2000 B.C. in China because the reasoning and experience that were combined in this technique are very similar to that which we still apply today. The origins of the I Ching, The Book of Changes, probably go back to prehistoric times, and the book was certainly in use during the second millennium B.C. Its purpose was to provide decision makers with advice about their situation, and especially advice about how things will change. . . .

What a breath of fresh air to find a business academic skilled in mathematical methods who also honored the wisdom of the ages. Finding this material in a quantitative methods book encouraged me to give the I Ching serious consideration. This helped satisfy the rational operations researcher in me that nonrational methods were worthy of consideration.

The method employed the technique of "throwing" stalks made from a yarrow plant. By a fairly elaborate counting procedure, the final results of the throws end in one of four possibilities: an old or new "yang" or an old or new "yin." Whichever occurs, the result is written on a piece of paper. A yang is represented by an unbroken line, a yin by a broken line. "Old" is represented by a circle around the yang or yin line. This process of throwing and counting is repeated five more times, and each time the resulting line is placed above the one that came before it. . . .

My sympatheties were drawn to the I Ching in part because of the built in duality that I had found to be characteristic of all cultures in all times. I made those discoveries exploring the left hemisphere right hemisphere differences through the work of Robert Ornstein. Here was the masculine (yang), feminine (yin) complementarity forming part of every figure from the creative all yang lines to the receptive all yin lines hexagrams. The hemispheres of the brain were reflected in the underlying form of a Chinese classic.

The six resulting lines are called a "hexagram," meaning a six place figure. In the I Ching you look up the hexagram you obtained; the appropriate passage associated with your hexagram essentially describes the situation you are in, and gives some advice and commentary about what it is wise to do. . . . Change is indicated by old lines; new lines indicate no change in the present situation. The book is not a fortune telling gimmick, since it is never specific, but rather is analogous to an expert who comments on the general situation - without telling you which choice to make. . . .

Academics who dismissed such techniques did not pause long enough to discover what was behind a method that played an important role in a culture for thousands of years. That endurance suggested there was more than met the eye. This meant considering a deeper level beyond the limited perspective of the rational mind. By throwing the coins for issue after issue, I discovered there was profound meaning distilled in the obscure text. It was as if a wise person were speaking from across the ages about my problem today.

Besides being a book of great wisdom, the I Ching provides us with a very important lesson about the use of quantitative methods and management information. The management information consists of the book, which interprets each of the 64 hexagrams. But why should throwing yarrow sticks and counting lead us to the right hexagram, when "clearly" the whole operation is random? We'll see throughout this text that the meaning of random events is very important in decision making and that this meaning depends on what assumptions you are willing to make about how so called random events take place in the whole world.

I had to come to terms with the meaning of "random" in my life. In the larger perspective, was it really randomness or my inability to see meaning because I lacked sufficient breath to grasp the whole behind apparent randomness? If I could stand with the gods, I might see randomness was only my ignorance of the larger fabric of existence.

For example, you might want to say that when you throw a coin the chances are exactly equal that the coin will come up heads or tails. But why? What do you assume about the world that justifies this belief? The Chinese sages would disagree with you. They believed that the whole world consists of two worlds, one of ideas, one of our everyday affairs. The events of the world of ideas "precede" the everyday events and influence their occurrence. Someone practiced in wisdom can succeed in getting the world of ideas to influence the yarrow sticks or coins so that they portray what is imminent in our everyday lives.

Here was a quantitative methods person suggesting an M-3 world view - mind (the world of ideas) was the primary stuff of the universe. This gave my rational self permission to see the world in what some colleagues considered an irrational way. From the perspective of the Chinese sages, this was non rather than irrational. Perhaps recognition of the soul was not incompatible with a complementary rational attitude.

To the Chinese sages "random" means a kind of mystical influence that occurs in the "real" world of ideas. None of this appears to be very scientific to our Western minds, which do not particularly appreciate such hidden explanations. But we'll see later, when we discuss the use of randomness for decision making purposes, that even modern experts have to make strong assumptions about what is hidden in the natural world. So this need to make strong assumptions in using quantitative methods in preparing for decisions is the important lesson to be drawn from the ancient I Ching.

Having been trained in a philosophical tradition along with rigorous quantitative preparation, scholars like Churchman brought a breadth of view to operations research almost totally absent in the artificial intelligence community except for those like Stuart Dreyfus. There was a hidden world, and I did not know what meaning lay buried there. To assume it did not exist because I could not experience it with my five senses was folly to my expanding view of existence.

Reasoning as Deduction

We said that the method of the I Ching uses reason and experience; reason was used to develop and explain the theory of ideas which precede physical events, and to develop and explain the theory which ascribes a description of a situation for each hexagram. Experience was used to match the throws of the yarrow sticks with the appropriate description of the state you are in. Hence the methodology of the I Ching is an example of how reasoning and experience are combined to serve a decision maker. All quantitative methods are some combination of these two elements, reasoning and experience.

Although Churchman acknowledged unseen meaning and its role in decision making, it was anchored in experience. In this writing, there was no recognition of access to meaning beyond that accounted by experience. Clearly intuition in the small had a role, but intuition in the large was not recognized in decision making, at least not overtly.

Sometimes reasoning is the dominant element, sometimes experience, sometimes the two are intricately combined. When reasoning predominates, we call the quantitative methods used deductive: the information is primarily in the form of assumptions, and the quantitative method used essentially involves deducing results from these assumptions. If experience predominates, the quantitative method is called inductive: the quantitative technique tries to generalize from the data that experience provides, and the information is primarily empirical data. There is an intricate and richer combination of reasoning and experience called the systems approach.

Generalizing from experience with the I Ching, I discovered meaning in randomly selected passages associated with a personal issue. Since my experience was not sufficient for the situation, I relied on the experience of others codified in the text of the Chinese classic. The question remained how could I reach beyond all experience to create what did not exist? I had to entertain the notion of an acausal order transcending the pages of the I Ching or other classic source of wisdom. I had to find the wisdom of The Intuitive Self.