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Herbert Simon (1916 – 2001)


American political scientist whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychology, computer science, public administration, economics, management, philosophy of science and sociology and was a professor, most notably, at Carnegie Mellon University.
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Herbert Simon
"All that most economists know about Herbert Simon is that he wrote about bounded rationality and organizational behavior."
Simon quotes
Since my world picture approximates reality only crudely, I cannot aspire to optimize anything; at most, I can aim at satisficing. Searching for the best can only dissipate scarce cognitive resources; the best is the enemy of the good.
Simon
... administration is not unlike play-acting. The task of the good actor is to know and play his role, although different roles may differ greatly in content. The effectiveness of the performance will depend on the effectiveness of the play and the effectiveness with which it is played. The effectiveness of the administrative process will vary with the effectiveness of the organization and the effectiveness with which its members play their parts.




Simon Herbert quotes
A number of proposals have been advanced in recent years for the development of ‘general systems theory’ which, abstracting from properties peculiar to physical, biological, or social systems, would be applicable to all of them. We might well feel that, while the goal is laudable, systems of such diverse kinds could hardly be expected to have any nontrivial properties in common. Metaphor and analogy can be helpful, or they can be misleading. All depends on whether the similarities the metaphor captures are significant or superficial.
It may not be entirely vain, however, to search for common properties among diverse kinds of complex systems... The ideas of feedback and information provide a frame of reference for viewing a wide range of situations, just as do the ideas of evolution, of relativism, of axiomatic method, and of operationalism... hierarchic systems have some common properties that are independent of their specific content...
Simon Herbert
Definition of design = Everyone designs who devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes remedies for a sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state
Herbert Simon quotes
[Even Darwin’s] natural selection only predicts that survivors will be fit enough, that is, fitter than their losing competitors; it postulates satisficing, not optimizing.
Herbert Simon
The true line is not between “hard” natural science and “soft” social sciences, but between precise science limited to highly abstract and simple phenomena in the laboratory and inexact science and technology dealing with complex problems in the real world.
Simon Herbert quotes
First, most producers are employees of firms, not owners. Viewed from the vantage point of classical [economic] theory, they have no reason to maximize the profits of firms, except to the extent that they can be controlled by owners. Moreover, profit-making firms, nonprofit organizations, and bureaucratic organizations all have exactly the same problem of inducing their employees to work toward organizational goals. There is no reason, a priori, why it should be easier (or harder) to produce this motivation in organizations aimed at maximizing profits than in organizations with different goals. If it is true in an organizational economy that organizations motivated by profits will be more efficient than other organizations, additional postulates will have to be introduced to account for it.
Simon
If we accept values as given and constant, if we postulate an objective description of the world as it really is, and if we assume that the decisionmaker's computational powers are unlimited then two important consequences follow. First we do not need to distinguish between the real world and the decisionmaker's perception of it: he or she perceives the world as it really is. Second we can predict the choices that will be made by a rational decisionmaker entirely from our knowledge of the real world and without a knowledge of the decisionmaker's perceptions or modes of calculation (we do, of course, have to know his or her utility function).
Simon Herbert
"The capacity of the human mind for formulating and solving complex problems is very small compared with the size of the problems whose solution is required for objectively rational behavior in the real world—or even for a reasonable approximation to such objective rationality .
Herbert Simon
"Herbert A. Simon's scientific output goes far beyond the disciplines in which he has held professorships: political science, administration, psychology and information sciences. He has made contributions in the fields of science theory, applied mathematics, statistics, operations research, economics and business and public administration (and), in all areas in which he has conducted research, Simon has had something of importance to say."




Herbert Simon quotes
It is not my aim to surprise or shock you – but the simplest way I can summarize is to say that there are now in the world machines that think, that learn and that create. Moreover, their ability to do these things is going to increase rapidly until – in a visible future – the range of problems they can handle will be coextensive with the range to which the human mind has been applied.
Herbert Simon
"In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."
Simon quotes
Over Christmas, Allen Newell and I created a thinking machine.
Simon Herbert
"Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves."
Simon Herbert quotes
"... the first consequence of the principle of bounded rationality is that the intended rationality of an actor requires him to construct a simplified model of the real situation in order to deal with it. He behaves rationally with respect to this model, and such behavior is not even approximately optimal with respect to the real world. To predict his behavior we must understand the way in which this simplified model is constructed, and its construction will certainly be related to his psychological properties as a perceiving, thinking, and learning animal."
Herbert Simon
The world you perceive is drastically simplified model of the real world. (p.xxvi)
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