Principia Cybernetica Web

The Nature of Cybernetic Systems

While as a meta-theory, the ideas and principles of Cybernetics and Systems Science are intended to be applicable to anything, the "interesting" objects of study that Cybernetics and Systems Science tends to focus on are complex systems such as organisms, ecologies, minds, societies, and machines. Cybernetics and Systems Science regards these systems as complex, multi-dimensional networks of information systems. We will generally call such systems "cybernetic systems" (see also "complex adaptive systems"). Cybernetics presumes that there are underlying principles and laws which can be used to unify the understanding of such seemingly disparate types of systems. The characteristics of cybernetic systems directly affect the nature of cybernetic theory, resulting in serious challenges to traditional methodology. Some of these characteristics are:

Cybernetic systems are complex structures, with many heterogeneous interacting components.
These many components interact in parallel, cooperatively, and in real time, creating multiple simultaneous interactions among subsystems.
These many simultaneous modes of interaction lead to subsystems which participate in multiple processes and structures, yielding any single dimension of description incomplete, and requiring multiple complementary, irreducible levels of analysis.
Cybernetic systems tend to evolve and grow in an opportunistic manner, rather than be designed and planned in an optimal manner.
Cybernetic systems are constructive, in that as they tend to increase in size and complexity, they become historically bound to previous states while simultaneously developing new traits.
Cybernetic systems are rich in internal and external feedback, both positive and negative. Ultimately, they can enter into the "ultimate" feedback of reflexive self-application, in which their components are operated on simultaneously from complementary perspectives, for example as entities and processes. Such situations may result in the reflexive phenomena of self-reference, self-modeling, self-production, and self-reproduction.
(see also Cybernetic Theory and Cybernetic Practice)

Copyright© 1992 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

C. Joslyn,

Jan 1992


Reference material

Cybernetics and Systems Theory

What are Cybernetics and Systems Science?

Prev. Next


Add comment...