In cybernetics, theories tend to rest on four basic pillars: variety, circularity, process and observation. Variety is fundamental to its information, communication and control theories and emphasises multiplicity, alternatives, differences, choices, networks, and intelligence rather than force and singular necessity. Circularity occurs in its earliest theories of circular causation or feedback, later in theories of recursion and of iteration in computing and now involving self-reference in cognitive organization and in autonomous systems of production (see autopoiesis). Traditional sciences have shied away from if not exorcised the use of circular explanations. It is this circular form which enables cybernetics to explain systems from within, making no recurse to higher principles or a priori purposes, expressing no preferences for hierarchy. Nearly all cybernetic theories involve process and change, from its notion of information, as the difference between two states of uncertainty, to theories of adaptation, evolution and growth processes. A special feature of cybernetics is that it explains such processes in terms of the organization of the system manifesting it, e.g., the circular causality of feedback loops is taken to account for processes of regulation and a system's effort to maintain an equilibrium or to reach a goal. Finally, observation including decision making is the process underlying cybernetic theories of information processing and computing. By extending theories of self-reference to processes of observation including cognition and other manifestations of intelligence, cybernetics has been applied to itself and is developing an epistemology of systems involving their observers (see second-order cybernetics) qualitatively unlike the earlier interest in the ontology of systems which are observed from the outside (see first-order cybernetics).
The early contributions of cybernetics were mainly technological (see technology), and gave rise to feedback control devices, communication technology, automation of production processes and computers. Interest moved soon to numerous sciences involving man, applying cybernetics to processes of cognition, to such practical pursuits such as psychiatry, family therapy, the development of information and decision systems, management, government, and to efforts to understand complex forms of social organization including communication and computer networks. The full potential of cybernetics has not yet been realized in these applications. Finally, cybernetics is making inroads into philosophy. This started by providing a non-metaphysical teleology and continues by challenging epistemology and ethics with new ideas about limiting processes of the mind, responsibility and aesthetics. (Krippendorff)
|* Next||* Previous||* Index||* Search||* Help|