Quality and free energy

I stumbled upon this post that I wrote in 2009 about the definition of quality and was inspired to write this short and admittedly speculative Chautauqua. The post refers to a definition of quality by Robert Pirzig:

Quality is the response of an organism to its environment

Robert M Pirzig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I have read Pirzig’s book three times but not, perhaps until now, quite understood his (or Phaedrus’ to be more precise) definition of quality. I now realize that the active inference framework may provide a definition of quality that is in line both with Phaedrus’ definition and ISO 8402 (now replaced by ISO 9000):

Quality is the inverse of free energy.

The most fundamental form of quality for an organism is that which ensures its integrity. According to the active inference framework, an organism ensures its integrity by minimizing free energy. Free energy is therefore the ultimate response of an organism to its environment. The better the quality of the organism’s environment in relation to the organism’s (homeostatic and allostatic) expectations, the lower the free energy.

ISO 9000 defines quality as “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirement”. This is a rather dull definition but if we assert that it talks about the the characteristics of the organism’s environment (for humans including all artefacts of varying quality that we have to our disposal) and interpret requirements as the organism’s expectatations or preferences, then the ISO 9000 definition of quality is also quite consistent with the free energy principle.

Maybe quality management can be added to the already large number of areas in which the free energy principle has already been applied. What do you think?


[1] Robert M Pirzig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
[2] ISO 9000:2015. Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary.
[3] Changing the world. Ostrogothia blog post.

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *