Metasystem Transition Theory
Metasystem Transition Theory (MSTT) is the name we have given our particular
cybernetic philosophy. Its most salient concept is, of course, the Metasystem Transition (MST), the evolutionary process by which higher levels of complexity and control are generated. But it also includes our views on philosophical problems, and makes predictions about the possible future
of mankind and life. Our goal is to create, on the basis of cybernetic concepts, an
integrated philosophical system, or "world
view", proposing answers to the most fundamental questions about
the world, ourselves, and our ultimate values.
Our methodology to build this complete philosophical system is based on a "bootstrapping" principle: the expression of the theory affects its content and meaning, and vice versa. In this way we aim to apply the principles of cybernetics to their own development.
Our philosophy too is based on cybernetic principles. Our epistemology understands knowledge as a model, which is constructed by the subject or group, but undergoes selection by the environment. Our metaphysics asserts actions as ontological primitives. On the basis of this ontology, we define the most important concepts and organize them in a semantic network. At a higher level, we also lay out the fundamental principles of cybernetics in terms of these underlying concepts.
One of the central concepts is that of evolution in the most general sense, which is produced by the mechanism of variation and selection. Another is control, which we define in a special cybernetic sense, and assert as the basic mode of organization in complex systems. This brings us to the central concept for MSTT, that of the metasystem transition, or the process by which control emerges in evolutionary systems.
On this basis we then reconstruct the
complete history of evolution, from the Big
Bang to the present, as a sequence of MST's. An extrapolation of this sequence
provides us with a first glimpse of what the future
might bring. Finally, the possible dangers and opportunities of our evolutionary
future direct our attention to the need for formulating an ethics,
based on evolutionary and systemic principles, that could guide our actions.
Background of the theory
The concept of the metasystem transition was
introduced in Turchin's book The
Phenomenon of Science, which was followed by
Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview.
The basic tenets
of MSTT were formulated by Turchin and Joslyn in "The
Cybernetic Manifesto". As Heylighen joined the Editorial Board, the work on MSTT
intensified, and the Principia Cybernetica
Web was created. A major collection of papers on MSTT by the three
editors and invited authors was published in a special issue of the journal
World Futures entitled "The Quantum of Evolution". MSTT is also being applied to computer science and the foundations of mathematics by Turchin and his colleagues.
The bibliography of PCP includes most publications on MSTT.
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