Some Cybernetics & Systems Theory
An eighteenth century French automaton
Reconciling the living with the inanimate world
- Most of us are familiar with some principles of cybernetics and systems theory, even if our understanding is hazy.
- James Lovelock's famous Gaia Hypothesis is a good example of a systemic concept.
- Systems Theory and Cybernetics are sometimes seen as synonymous. They both enable us to reconcile different systems in a unified way.
- They share important terms such as System and Feedback.
- Feedback refers to the process whereby observations of a given action can be continuously 'fed back' to modify its ongoing progress.
- The word cybernetics derives from the ancient Greek word for oarsman on a boat.
- In the 1940s we took the principle behind the human ability to 'steer' and applied it to produce automatic gadgets that are self-correcting.
- All steering processes apply what is called negative feedback to respond to detected errors.
- This approach is now known as first order cybernetics. It reflects an interest in systems of 'control'.
Beyond First Order Cybernetics
- First order cybernetics is still used to make steering systems for ships but it informs countless other applications.
- These include interactive video games, missile control devices, the regulation of economic systems, bio-feedback systems.
- Many people interpret this with respect to stable system state first order cybernetics.
- With respect to Communication it has been called second order cybernetics which is more akin to Systems Theory.
- They emphaisize the importance of relationships affecting the system statenegative feedback processes.
- They showed that isolated systems do not occur in nature, therefore feedback is more essential than we realized.
- Much of this feedback may also be in the form of positive feedback, that may drive systems into a saturation state.
- It also emphasized the importance of many more relations among the parts, their interactions, and their relationships to the whole.
- This approach enables us to describe and monitor different levels of complexity in any system.
- It enables us to describe the system in question, whilst reflecting how it behaves within the wider context.
- Although this is not, intrinsically, a mathematical principle, many cyberneticians have used mathematical equations.
- The biologist (e.g. Ludwig von Bertalanffy) used equations to understand how living 'systems' work.
- Living Systems Theory is especially relevant to our research into metadesign and Attainable Utopias.
- Third Order Cybernetics takes this understanding one step further: of the relationships affect the system state, then the type of relationshop must develop the stability of the system.
- Third Order Cybernetics deals with the stability of the system; with respect to itself and with respect to the context.
- Third Order Cybernetics is therefor about interfaccing, and regards the effect of the interaction on both sides.It means that it goes beyond the definition of the system.
- Fourth Order Cybernetics takes this one step further: if the system is determined by its contact with its context, then the reverse applies also.
- Fourth Order Cybernetics deals with, simultaneously, the system and its context. The principles involved are already implied in First Order Cybernetics.
Four Orders of Cybrnetics
|#||Level||The kind of systems that are applicable at this level||Defining characteristics|
|1||First Order Cybernetics||'Self-steering' is assumed to be isolated from the act of observation||Negative feedback functions as part of a mechanical process to maintain homeostasis|
|2||Second Order Cybernetics||The process of 'self-steering' is now understood to to be affected by observer/s but this is insufficiently complex to encourage new values emerge||Positive and negative feedback can lead to morphogenesis|
|3||Third Order Cybernetics||The process is understood as an interaction that affects / is affected by the observer. but does not address what this means for the response-ability of the participant observer||Values emerge|
|4||Fourth Order Cybernetics||Multiple realities emerge by the freedom of choice of the creative observer, that determine the outcome for both the system and the observer.||This puts demands on the self-awareness of the observer, and responsibility for/in action|