Principia Cybernetica Web

Francis Heylighen: home page

fheyligh at (Francis Heylighen)
(replace " at " by "@")
Postal Address:
CLEA, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,
Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Physical Address:
Center "Leo Apostel", Vrije Universiteit Brussel,
Krijgskundestraat 33, B-1160 Brussels, Belgium
(map and directions)
+32-2-640 67 37
+32-2-644 07 44
If you wish to contact me, please note that I prefer email to phone, fax or letter. However, take into account that I get lots of messages. Therefore I may not be able to reply soon. To make sure your message would pass through my spam filters and be duly noticed, please use a clear subject and include my full name (not just the email address)in the address field.

While I have pages on the social networks Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, ResearchGate and Academia, I do not actively maintain these pages. I also have the policy to link only to people I really know, so don't be surprised if your kind invitation to become a "friend" or "connection" on such a network is not accepted...

I am a research professor at the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), where I direct the transdisciplinary research group on "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition" and the Global Brain Institute. I am affiliated with the Center "Leo Apostel" and the Department of Philosophy. I was an editor of the Principia Cybernetica Project, an international organization for the collaborative development of an evolutionary-systemic philosophy, which is now essentially dormant after the death of its founder, Valentin Turchin .

The main focus of my research is the evolution of complexity: how do higher forms of organization originate and develop? How do systems self-organize, adapt and achieve some form of cognition? I have worked in particular on the development of collective intelligence or distributed cognition, and its application to the emerging "global brain". More recently, I have been looking at how individual agents tackle challenges via action, exploration, and learning, and how their interactions give rise to coordinated organizations via stigmergy.

I use this evolutionary-cybernetic approach as a framework for the integration of ideas from different disciplines into an encompassing "world view". This broad evolutionary view, together with its practical applications on the Internet, has helped me to develop a broad, but concrete vision on the future of the information society. I teach an introductory course on this topic at the VUB. My lecture notes are being turned into a textbook, available in both Dutch and English. I also teach a more advanced course on Cognitive Systems (lecture notes available in English).

As a true interdisciplinarian, I have moreover done research and published papers about various subjects in various scientific disciplines, from mathematical physics, and computer support systems to humanistic psychology, including:


Check my list of some 150 publications for more details about my work (including downloadable versions of most of my papers). To find my most cited publications and the papers that cite them, here is Google's numerical analysis of my citations, including my H-index (39: getting better and better...). (Microsoft Academic Search produced a more limited coverage of my publications and citations.)

The most recent (unpublished work) can be found in our ECCO working papers archive.

A little more about myself

For a more detailed, formal description of my activities, check my biographical sketch or my (rather outdated) Curriculum Vitae. I have also started to collect "Notes for an intellectual autobiography". As an amateur, I have produced some artwork (photography and painting) and poetry. To get an idea of my character, check my personality profile according to the "Big Five" psychological dimensions, and my Myers-Briggs personality type. For an idea of my tastes, here is a Youtube playlist of music I like. I am an enthusiastic adept of the paleolithic lifestyle: maximizing health and happiness by living more like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

If you would like to see me in action, here are some videos:

If you're curious how others see me, you can find references to my work on other web pages, such as an entry on me in Wikipedia, a satirical interview in "Wired",the list of "Great Thinkers and Visionaries on the Net", "Francis Heylighen: pioneer of the global brain" by Ben Goertzel, or a rather sensationalist feature article in New Scientist. On the web, you can also find a couple of interviews with me.

Copyright© 2014 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Sep 30, 2014 (modified)
Aug 1993 (created)


Project Organization

Contributing to the Principia Cybernetica Project

List of contributors

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Biographical Sketch


PhD. thesis "Representation and Change"

Cursus "Complexiteit en Evolutie"

Cursus "Cognitieve Systemen"

Curriculum Vitae (long)


Heylighen's PhD Students


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