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Ternary Analysis

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The place of machines and of human beings

We can now return to questions about future allocation of function. Is there any theoretical limit to what human work artefacts could take over, or collaborate in? If there is such a theoretical limit, then what is it?

In all of the foregoing discussion, it can usually be assumed that most of the primary components of the work required of any unit of the social system can, if thought fit, be provided by appropriate machinery.

Similarly, the secondary components can also these days usually be provided by appropriate information technology.

It is only the tertiary component that can so far be provided only by the human beings who are the links in the system.

These considerations suggest guidelines as to where primary and secondary machinery are best placed in the system. It also follows that the human beings should always be, as it were, at the top of each unit of the system. A possible corollary of this is that a well-designed system will not require much machinery, either primary or secondary, at its highest levels.

Tertiary work and management

However, the answers to those questions about the future depend on what Ternary Analysis ultimately has to say about tertiary work.

For example, most discussions of managerial work in the literature concentrate on the perceptual and cognitive aspects of what they call 'management decision'. The implication drawn is that the difficult part is to see the need for intervention and to decide what to do.

The approach through Ternary Analysis differs from its predecessors in emphasising that management is not mainly a secondary process. If it were, it could eventually be dispensed with.

In the field of management it is has been said that calculating and reasoning abilities can be bought by the yard, but that taste and judgement are rare commodities. For us today, the special application of that maxim is that calculating and reasoning are abilities that can eventually be handed over to computers, Expert Systems or other cybernetics-based technology.

But to incorporate the tertiary component of work into such technology is a different sort of project altogether, and is one that is still entirely in the future.

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© Copyright D J Stewart 1999, 2003. All rights reserved.

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