Skip to main content

Über dieses Buch

The "world" is becoming more and more intractable. We have learned to discern "systems" in it, we have developed a highly sophisticated math­ ematical apparatus to "model'" them, large computer simulation programs handle thousands of equations with zillions of parameters. But how ade­ quate are these efforts? Part One of this volume is a discussion containing some proposals for eliminating the constraints we encounter when approaching complex systems with our models: Is it possible, at all, to design a political or econom­ ic system without considering killing, torture, and oppression? Can we adequately model the present state of affairs while ignoring their often symbolic and paradoxical nature? Is it possible to explain teleological concepts such as "means" and "ends" in terms of basically 17th century Newtonian mechanics? Can we really make appropriate use of the vast a­ mount of systems concepts without exploring their relations, without de­ veloping a "system of systems concepts"? And why do more than 95% of all system modelling efforts end in just a heap of printed paper, and nothing else? Leading scientists from different disciplines, who have different viewpoints and use very different styles in presenting their message were invited to present their approaches to these and to other problems of equal importance: Either as Plenary Lectures at the Seventh European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research at the University of Vienna, Austria, (Professors Stafford Beer, Helga Nowotny, and Robert Rosen (Ross Ashby Memorial Lecture)) or as Invited Lectures to the Austrian Society



Part One


Recursions of Power

Without Abstract
Stafford Beer

Not Quite Human: Science and Utopia

While preparing for this contribution I went to see a film: Sans Soleil by Chris Marker. In 100 minutes a dense collage of visual poetry is presented to the spectator, accompanied by an equally dense essay of impressions collected in Japan and Africa. Japan has been chosen as one possible society of the future, representing what the film pictured to be one extreme in the art of survival of a civilization yet to come. What fascinated me was the Utopian touch that was carefully and yet emphatically, read out of the present: the music of video-games, for instance, as the constant, underlying musical theme of a buzzing metropolis; a description of how these games were programmed and how a new collective language of imageries was in the making, coding memories and thus providing the essence of a future collective unconscious. Interspersed with everyday scenes, celebrating their banality and uniqueness at the same time, the film cautiously proceeded to construct an imagery of a future, in which humankind continues to evolve, guided by the computer and computational thinking. The emphasis was put on the collective mind, and not the individual, in the making, and how this new form of technology-based consciousness would interact, shape and be shaped by what the film-maker sought to single out. Japanese society was predisposed, in his view, to serve as a model for survival, because it knew how to balance high technology with the mechanism essential for survival-social ritual.
Helga Nowotny

The Physics of Complexity

Ashby Memorial Lecture
I was privileged to have known W.Ross Ashby personally, albeit briefly. We had the opportunity to interact rather intensively over a six-week period in the mid-1960’s, when we both participated in a Summer Colloquium on Theoretical Biology, sponsored by NASA, which then had an interest in such things. I have very vivid memories of those days, and of Ashby himself, and accordingly I am most honored to be invited to present this Ashby Memorial Lecture.
Robert Rosen

Knowing Natural Systems Enables Better Design of Man-Made Systems: The Linkage Proposition Model

How does this article fit into the set of loosely related articles and the umbrella title of this book? The Linkage Proposition Template Model (hereafter LPTM) has some interesting relationships with the future of words such as Power, Autonomy, and Utopia, as well as to understanding the inner workings of the complex systems found in nature.
Len R. Troncale

Guidelines for Influencing Social Policy through Strategic Computer Simulation Models

My university studies first started in the field of chemistry. However, after working for half a year as a student intern in a chromatographic laboratory, I concluded that I did not wish to pursue a career in that field. I began then to search for alternatives, and I soon discovered at MIT a curriculum within the management school based on a new computer modeling technique, ‘system dynamics.’ The group developing this technique was led by Professor Jay W. Forrester, and I went to MIT to earn my PhD under his direction. After completing my degree, I joined the faculty at MIT. There my wife, Dr. Donella Meadows, and I directed a major international project that used system dynamics techniques to create a model that clarified the long-term implications of physical and demographic growth on the planet.
Dennis L. Meadows

Reducing International Tension and Improving Mutual Understanding Through Artificial Intelligence: 3 Potential Approaches

This paper
  • gives a short definition of Artificial Intelligence,
  • explains briefly its main applications for commercial and especially military purposes, and
  • shows its potential as a means to reduce international tension and to increase mutual understanding, especially in the situation of crises, by sketching 3 specific approaches.
Robert Trappl

Part Two


Steps In The Construction Of “Others” And “Reality”: A Study In Self-Regulation

The author advocates a change of perspective concerning the concept of knowledge. He suggests that the experiential reality in which we live and in which our sciences operate is the result of a self-regulating organism’s construction and should not be confounded with the ontological reality that philosophers have vainly searched for throughout the history of Western epistemology. The notion of viability gives a new slant to an instrumentalist theory of knowledge that serves as a basis for the cognitive construction of Others and may ultimately provide a starting-point for the development of a constructivist ethics.
Ernst von Glasersfeld

Steps to a Cybernetics of Autonomy

In the context of this panel on some fundamental guidelines for cybernetics and systems theory I would like to present today a very specific point of view: that of a biologist. I came upon these issues because I was involved in studying things like nervous systems or immune systems. In cybernetics and systems theory, important notions have been shaped by empirical research dealing with complex biological systems. It is well known to all of you that in the pioneering days — in the 40ies and the 50ies — biology played a fundamental role in asking the questions that then led to the full development of these disciplines.
Francisco Varela

Second Order Cybernetics in the Soviet Union and the West

In the early 1960’s, cybernetics underwent surprising changes: an investigator studying Universum suddenly turned into the object of investigation. The languages of systems representation and cognitive research procedures themselves became the objects of investigation - just as morphological and functional structures were before. The process of “self—objectification” began independently in the Soviet Union and in the West. This shows that cybernetics develops according to its own immanent logic and independent of current fashions, the individual priorities of particular scientists or cultural stereotypes. On the other hand, the differences between Soviet and Western approaches make it very interesting to compare them. Their integration will allow us to see more clearly the general structure of the set of problems, methods and schemes which is called cybernetics.
Vladimir A. Lefebvre

Methods for Making Social Organizations Adaptive

In Robert Trappl’s opening remarks on the first day of this conference he raised the issue of the usefulness of the theories that we debate with each other at these conferences every two years. Stafford Beer in his address made a similar point when he suggested that we confront the way things are. I follow their lead by suggesting that we really know quite a lot about how to solve social problems and how to make social organizations more effective. But for some reason we are not using the knowledge we have. Why we do not make better use of our current knowledge is the issue that I would like to explore. My method of exploring will be to investigate the history of ideas in the field of cybernetics and general systems theory.
Stuart A. Umpleby

Discussion: Guiding Questions and Conceptual Structures in Cybernetics and General Systems Theory: Comparative Studies

Without Abstract
Stuart A. Umpleby


Weitere Informationen