Heinz von Foerster’s Demons The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory | Clarke (2009)

h/t Harish Jose

Heinz von Foerster’s Demons The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory

(PDF) Heinz von Foerster’s Demons The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory | Bruce Clarke – Academia.edu

Heinz von Foerster’s Demons The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory

Bruce Clarke 2009, Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory (Duke).65 Views14 Pages1 File ▾Constructivism,Cybernetics,Systems Theory,Niklas Luhmann,Second-Order Cybernetics …more ▾Show more ▾“Heinz von Foerster’s Demons: The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory” examines some of the prehistory of neocybernetics by reading von Foerster’s key 1959 paper on self-organization through the hindsight of his early-1970s work that launched second-order cybernetics proper. Not one but two Maxell’s Demons bind thermodynamic to informatic self-organization in the 1959 paper, and his own creation, the Man with the Bowler Hat, links that earlier paper with “On Constructing a Reality” of 1973, by way of contrasting the singularity of metaphysical solipsism with the multiplicities of epistemological constructivism. Not only does it take multiple Demons to conceptualize negentropy in informational systems; it also takes the co-construction of at least two operationally-closed observers to produce a reality: “reality appears as a consistent reference frame for at least two observers.” The concluding section of the essay unfolds this powerful statement from the 1959 paper as a prefiguration of the neocybernetic concept of reentry, by which the systems/environment dyad recurs upon and ramifies within the system itself. In Luhmann’s theory, the dyad of mutually closed psychic and social systems is capable of interpenetration and meaningful resonance just because they share this same paradigmatic operation, becoming “two observers” that construct out of their coupled autonomies the world as a reference frame for psychic and social realities.

Models, networks and algorithmic complexity – Ruffini (2016)


[1612.05627] Models, networks and algorithmic complexity

[Submitted on 13 Dec 2016]

Models, networks and algorithmic complexity

Giulio Ruffini

I aim to show that models, classification or generating functions, invariances and datasets are algorithmically equivalent concepts once properly defined, and provide some concrete examples of them. I then show that a) neural networks (NNs) of different kinds can be seen to implement models, b) that perturbations of inputs and nodes in NNs trained to optimally implement simple models propagate strongly, c) that there is a framework in which recurrent, deep and shallow networks can be seen to fall into a descriptive power hierarchy in agreement with notions from the theory of recursive functions. The motivation for these definitions and following analysis lies in the context of cognitive neuroscience, and in particular in Ruffini (2016), where the concept of model is used extensively, as is the concept of algorithmic complexity.

Subjects:Machine Learning (cs.LG)
Report number:STARLAB TECHNICAL NOTE, TN00339 (V0.9)
Cite as:arXiv:1612.05627 [cs.LG]
 (or arXiv:1612.05627v1 [cs.LG] for this version)

Submission history

From: Giulio Ruffini [view email]
[v1] Tue, 13 Dec 2016 00:54:03 UTC (1,693 KB)

Beyond the Great Reset – Systems Change Alliance, May 15, 2021 FREE LIVESTREAM

Beyond the Great Reset The Systems Change Summit May 15, 2021 FREE LIVESTREAM

Beyond the Great Reset – Systems Change Alliance
imagem_2021-03-22_172754Beyond the Great Reset:
The Systems Change Summit
Dear friends,

Beyond the Great Reset: the Systems Change Summit is happening tomorrow! To those of you who have registered, thank you for your vote of trust, and to those who haven’t, today is the last opportunity to join us for a day of great talks by some of the best thinkers and activists of our time, and to participate in creating a joint Declaration for Planetary Systems Change!The Full LineupHear from this great lienup of speakers on how we can create a world beyond “corporate sustainability” and move toward regenerative cultures and needs-based economies.
First Session
7.00-8.00 UTCHelena Norberg-Hodge

Strengthening Local Economies worldwide – The path to healing ourselves and the planethnh

8.00-8.45 UTC
Sohail Inayatullah

Alternative Futures for Capitalismsohail
8.45-9.30 UTCByron Joel

The Great Reset: Sovereignty and Servitude in the Age Of SurveillanceByron Joel

Discussions and Networking Event
11.00-13.00 UTCSpeed Networking

Get paired up with a different systems changemaker every few minutes, or use the gather.town space freely to start conversations on your own!gather town

Second Session

15.00-15.45 UTC
Clare Politano

Technology as a Commons: Why Systems Change Requires Cooperative TechnologyClare-Politano-headshot
15.45-16.30 UTCDaniel Christian Wahl

Regenerative Cultures and Economies of Placedcw

16.30-17.15 UTC
Richard Heinberg

Clean Energy Shiftrh

Discussions and Networking Event
17.30-19.30 UTCDiscussions and Speed Networking

Participate in the discussion rooms to help co-create the Planetary Declaration for Systems Change, or join the networking rooms if you are in a more social mood!gather town

Third Session

20.00-20.45 UTC
James Quilligan

The Global Shift to Distributive Value: From Supply-Side to Needs-Based EconomiesJames-Quilligan

20.45-21.30 UTC
Emily Kawano

Solidarity Economy and System ChangeEmily

21.30-22.30 UTC
Priscella Kinney

Environmental and Community Stewardshippk
All the talks will be livestreamed and are free to watch, but you can also opt to join the gather.town virtual space, which will be open for 24 hours, to freely interact with other summit participants, join discussions and participate in structured networking!Learn More and Register Here

Talking Systems – Organisational Design in a Systems Context (Dr Naomi Stanford)- NHS Leadership Academy, 15 July 2021 2-3pm BST

source and booking at:

Talking Systems – Organisational Design in a Systems Context

Talking Systems – Organisational Design in a Systems Context

15 July 2021 2:00pm – 3:00pm BST (+01:00)

Location TBC


We are delighted that Dr Naomi Stanford has agreed to launch our Talking Systems series of events for 2021-22.

Naomi is a leading light in her field, as her biography amply demonstrates. She is an internationally recognised organization design practitioner, teacher, and author.

During her earlier UK career, Dr Stanford was an employee of large multinational companies, including Price Waterhouse, British Airways, Marks & Spencer, and Xerox. She then moved to the US working as an organization design consultant to a range of organizations in the government, non-profit and private sectors.

Six years ago she returned to the UK work in the government sector as a Civil Servant. Naomi is now free-lancing as an organization design consultant.  Currently she is writing a third edition of her Economist book A Guide to Organization Design.  Additionally, she writes books, articles, speaks at conferences, and tweets regularly on organization design.

Her website can be found at http://www.naomistanford.com; she tweets from the following account – @naomiorgdesig

For this session, Naomi will be addressing the challenges of practising “organisation design” in a system context – and will touch upon the highly topical issue of org design in relation to “hybrid working”.

As ever with these hour-long sessions, Naomi will initially be invited to offer some insights into her recent experiences in the field and her latest thinking on her topic. Thereafter, we will engage her in conversation, using themes and questions submitted by the audience in advance of the session. We will also use the chat box in real-time to channel further questions to Naomi in the course of that exchange. Just before the end, we will invite her to sum up on the basis of the discussion that we have had.

We hope that you are able to find the time to join us for what promises to be a fascinating session.

Festival of Complexity 2021 – Complexity Institute 14 May-11 June 2021

Starts tomorrow!

Complexity Festival 2021 – Complexity Institute

Festival of Complexity 2021

Complexity Festival

Festival of Complexity 2021:
“Between certainties and uncertainties”

Festival disseminated online on complexity and systemic approach

The Complexity Festival is the national event, completely self-financed, dedicated to deepening, debating and disseminating the issues of complexity and the systemic approach

The new edition of the Complexity Festival is now at the starting blocks. From mid-May to mid-June 40 events are scheduled to discuss the theme chosen for the 2021 edition: “Between certainties and uncertainties”. After 2020, the watershed year between a before and after pandemic, 2021 is the year of awareness, not only to ask ourselves what to do, but also to “map new territories” with the support of the complex paradigm.

How to interpret the dynamics we have and are going through in all fields of human life? What compasses do we have? How to move in that gray area between certainties and uncertainties, inspired by the principles of complexity to build new paths and ask new questions?

The events of the Festival will be an opportunity to debate, starting from the logic of complexity and the systemic approach.


From 14 May to 11 June 2021, in two time slots: from 18 to 19:30; from 9pm to 10.30pm.


The events will all be held online; each promoter will make its web meeting platform available, providing access information in time.


Within the 2021 theme “Between certainties and uncertainties”, the themes explored will be many, such as neuroscience, psychology, law, health, anthropology, online disinformation, algorithms, polarization, environment, counseling, social sciences, uses of technology, geopolitics , learning, leadership, literature, artificial intelligence.


The promoters are numerous also this year: In addition to the Complexity Institute, there will be Sipre Parma, Dedalo ’97, Complexity Education Project, Pordenone Design Week, Circle of women – Misterbianco, UDI – Catania, CHANGE Institute, SOLE Committee (Health, Opportunities, Jobs, Ecology), Complexity Circle Padua, The Talking Hands Parma, Giada Li Calzi, Speira Association, Chiara Veneri, Sum Project, Rebecca Silvia Rossi and SIPRe.

The program of the first week of the Festival of Complexity

(14 – 21 May):

Friday 14 May 2021 – 9:00 pm – 10:30 pm

The turning point, from absolute certainty to the relationship between certainty and uncertainty, in scientific knowledge

Opening event of the Complexity Festival with Giuseppe Gembillo

Monday 17 May 2021 – o re 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Space bales and talking crickets

Organized by the Staff of the Festival della Complessità and by Fulvio Forino

Hours 21:00 to 22:30

White Privilege

Organized by SIPRe Parma

Tuesday 18th May 2021

18:00 – 19:30

Surfing or drowning in information overload . An aperitif with a little chat about complexity – #AperiCep 1: the power of digital infrastructures

Organized by the Complexity Education Project

Hours 21:00 to 22:30

From Boccaccio to complexity: crazy stuff!

Organized by the Dedalo ’97 Association and 20 cents of psychiatry

Wednesday 19th May 2021

18:00 – 19:30

The health you expect: Fulvio Forino interviews Pippo Noto

Arranged by Giada Li Calzi

Hours 21:00 to 22:30

Certainties and uncertainties between mind and body. Dialogue between neuroscience, psychotherapy and law

Arranged by Rebecca Silvia Rossi

Thursday 20 May 2021

18:00 – 19:30

Design and Complexity. A look at the contemporary post-industrial project in the light of the complex scenarios in which we live

Organized by Pordenone Design Week and Complexity Education Project

Hours 21:00 to 22:30

The iridescent mirror: paths and experiences to educate to complexity

Organized by Cerchio delle Donne – Misterbianco and UDI Catania

Friday 21st May 2021

Hours 21:00 to 22:30

Between certainties and uncertainties in our complex era

Event organized by the Staff of the Complexity Festival with Pierluigi Fagan


Find all the events of the 2021 edition at this link:


Watch the presentation video of the Festival of Complexity 2021:

Complexity Institute
Global Enaction Manifesto
Benefit Society Texture
Nested Benefit Company

Complexity Institute – Recognize the present to explore the future


Complexity Institute – Recognize the present to explore the future


The Complexity Institute is a social promotion association founded in 2010 whose purpose is to spread complex thinking and ethics in behavior to help people and organizations to better understand the context in which they live in order to be an active and co-generating part. .The Scientific Committee includes scholars and experts in complex systems, including: Edgar Morin, one of the greatest philosophers of complexity, Pier Luigi Luisi, professor at ETH Zurich and internationally renowned scholar on the emergency of life, Alberto Felice De Toni, former rector at the University of Udine, President of the CRUI Foundation and professor of Management of Complex Systems. The President of the Complexity Institute is Marinella De Simone and the Vice President is Dario Simoncini.to know more


The Complexity Institute has organized for six years, from 2013 to 2018, the Complexity Management Summer School and the Complexity Management Winter Lab, with the active participation of teachers, experts, managers and professionals from all over Italy on the issues of complexity applied to organizations. Since 2014, it has organized the Complexity Literacy Meeting every year, a three-day national event in which books are presented by authors and readers in a complex perspective, with dialogues and discussions between all the participants.

In March 2020, during the lockdown, he published an instant e-book online with the contribution of 18 authors entitled “The complexity of a pandemic”, which in a few days exceeded 3000 downloads from the site.

Between April and July 2020 he organized 12 weekly web-meetings dedicated to the complexity of the future that awaits us, and from October to December 2020 he organized the Complexity Literacy Meeting “Readings for a new world” with 10 web-meetings, to which a total of more than 5000 people are registered.

From March to April 2021 it held a series of web-meetings dedicated to the theme “Complexity in action – 8 levers to change the world”. The themes of the 8 evenings are inspired by the 8 principles of the Global Enaction Manifesto.The Complexity Management Executive Master 2021/2022 will take place from September 2021 to April 2022.

Systems Thinking in the wild; some examples

Critics are right; so much of systems thinking out there in the wild is still Peter Senge / systems dynamics / stock-and-flow / naive systems mapping. Not that I’m critical of all these examples, but it’s good to do a survey occasionaly.

Modern materials handling:

COVID-19, Systems Thinking and Preparing for the Next Pandemic

We now know that disruptions are inevitable. To handle the next pandemic effectively, decision makers need to grasp what worked, what didn’t and why


“Systems thinking posits that managers make better decisions if they know how a system works; that is, if they pull lever “Y” what happens to the rest of the system? Systems thinking presupposes three prerequisites: An understanding how elements in a system interact to affect performance, access to information to assess tradeoffs, and insight into constraints. When managers fail to use systems thinking, they tend to make myopic decisions with costly, even painful, outcomes.”


How systems thinking is guiding El Tímpano’s reporting on health & overcrowded housing

“We convened reporters and editors from KQED, El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, Reveal, The Mercury News, and Bay City News, using a systems thinking tool called the “iceberg model” to collaboratively map the structures, policies, and ideas fueling Oakland’s overcrowded housing crisis. Participants broke into small groups and brainstormed examples for each layer of the iceberg, pictured below.”

“From there, we began to create what systems thinkers call “feedback loops” — visual representations of self-perpetuating patterns, in this case, those related to overcrowding and poor health outcomes among Oakland’s Latino and Mayan immigrant communities. Through this process, we were better able to understand how different factors, such as access to rent relief, can have a domino effect, either improving tenants’ ability to live in healthy conditions, or driving further overcrowding.”

That course: an intro to systems thinking for journalists



A health-data ecosystem to protect against public-health threats May 6

“The health industry is a complex socioeconomic-technical enterprise with numerous disparate and intertwined entities, which is why it has been particularly difficult to institute the types of structural changes that benefit other sectors. Achieving better health outcomes from more efficient care using a health-data ecosystem is going to require concerted and collaborative efforts from a wide range of public and private entities. A requirements-driven systems engineering approach that couples systems thinking and the systems engineering life cycle is required to marshal this effort’s focus and energy.”

“The key first step in this approach is the designation of a lead organization to shepherd its design.”


Steven Woodsmall·TEDxLakeJunaluska

Systems Thinking is Not Optional: Lessons From a Pandemic

Applying Senge’s ‘laws’ of systems thinking from the Fifth Discipline

Klaus Krippendorff: Why Problem-Solving Becomes A Problem? – YouTube

Klaus Krippendorff: Why Problem-Solving Becomes A Problem?

Klaus Krippendorff: Why Problem-Solving Becomes A Problem? – YouTube

A Club of Remy session

Relating Systems Thinking & Design (RSD10) symposium, 3-6 November 2021, partially on-line/Delft University of Technology – and call for papers

Relating Systems Thinking & Design Symposium Playing with tensions Welcome! Welcome to RSD10, the 10th Relating Systems Thinking & Design Symposium, which will be hosted by Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. RSD10 offers a platform for discussing ongoing work with peers and presents the state-of-the-art in the systemic design field. The theme of this year’s symposium is Playing with Tensions.   Dates Nov 3 — Nov 6 2021 Location Delft, The Netherlands

Relating Systems Thinking & Design

Relating Systems Thinking & Design Symposium

Playing with tensions


Welcome to RSD10, the 10th Relating Systems Thinking & Design Symposium, which will be hosted by Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. RSD10 offers a platform for discussing ongoing work with peers and presents the state-of-the-art in the systemic design field. The theme of this year’s symposium is Playing with Tensions.  

Nov 3 — Nov 6 2021

Delft, The Netherlands

Playing with Tensions

Embracing new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design

The fate of all complex adapting systems in the biosphere – from single cells to economies – is to evolve to a natural state between order and chaos, a grand compromise between structure and surprise.

Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe

Complex systems do not lend themselves to much simplification. Systemic designers have no choice but to embrace complexity, and in doing so, embrace opposing concepts and the resulting paradoxes. It is at the interplay of these ideas that they find the most fruitful regions of exploration.

The main conference theme explores design and systems thinking practices as mediators to deal fruitfully with tensions. Our human tendency is to relieve the tensions, and in design, to resolve the so-called “pain points.” But tensions reveal paradoxes, the sites of connection, breaks in scale, emergence of complexity. Can we embrace the tension, the paradoxes as valuable social feedback in our path to sustainable and just futures?

We invite you to come and play with tensions in systemic design at the forthcoming Relating Systems Thinking & Design (RSD10) symposium. This hybrid symposium will take place 3-6 November 2021 and will be partially on-line and partially happening at Delft University of Technology. You can find more information about the Call for Papers here.

Restricted Complexity, General Complexity Morin (2016)

Restricted Complexity, General Complexity Edgar Morin Why has the problematic of complexity appeared so late? And why would it be justified?

[cs/0610049] Restricted Complexity, General Complexity

Requisite Agility UnMasterclass Webinar Tickets, Thu, May 20, 2021 at 1:00 PM | Eventbrite

Requisite Agility UnMasterclass Webinar

Requisite Agility UnMasterclass Webinar Tickets, Thu, May 20, 2021 at 1:00 PM | Eventbrite



Requisite Agility UnMasterclass Webinar

by Requisite Agility FollowFree

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Event Information

You are invited to attend a Webinar about the RA UnMasterclass on Thursday, 20 May, 2021, between 1pm – 2pm EST (7pm – 8pm CET).

About this event

You are invited to attend a Webinar about the RA UnMasterclass on Thursday, 20 May, 2021, between 1pm – 2pm EST (7pm – 8pm CET). This event is invitation only and at no cost.

There are as many Masterclasses available online today as there are days in the year. How do you determine which Masterclass is that matter the most to you? Every Masterclass contains something useful that you can apply in your life, but they will only stick if you are a Conscious Leader.

Be honest now, how many articles, conferences, presentations, books, coaching sessions and online posts have you been through over the past 2 years? How many changed your life? We are in an era of information overload. Stuffing your mind with more and more can create a traffic jam in your mind.

The RA UnMasterclass begins with who you are How you think, feel and make decisions.

If the Masterclass pours petrol (content) into your engine (mind) to make it go further and faster, then the RA UnMasterclass cleans your engine (mind), removing excess, allowing you to think – for yourself.

Requisite Agility means doing only what is required, without excess cost, time, waste or burden.

This webinar will show you how Requisite Agility can enable you to be a Conscious Leader.

Conscious Leaders apply Requisite Agility to develop conscious leaders, conscious teams, conscious organisations and through this, ultimately to shape the transitions of a conscious society.

Conscious Leadership is the opposite of following scripts, templates and change management checklists.

Conscious Leaders stay ahead of changes occurring around them. Instead of ‘managing change’ that has occurred through prescribed patterns, Requisite Agility is about Shaping Transitions, being attuned to what is going on, creating the conditions in which the necessary or requisite changes can flourish.

Conscious Leaders sense and respond to their ever-changing environment. They dance, hold space, balance, they are Synchronous, continuously matching the demands and conditions of their external environment with the organisations capacity to create choices within.

Conscious Leaders break out of the mind controlling constraints of IQ and EQ. They tap the infinite natural intelligence that exists within themselves and between the people around them. Collaborative Intelligence is the only form of intelligence there is. Without connections between our mind-body, the synapses of our brain or relationships with other people, there is no intelligence.

Conscious Leaders apply Transcendence. They refuse to be a slave to a prescribed methodology, framework or model of thinking. They are trans-disciplinary. They are not stuck in the latest trends and fashions. They are present in their own naked thinking. They are not afraid of their own boundaries. They seek out what they do not know or cannot do. Vulnerability and ambiguity is their friend.

Conscious Leaders are in self-less service of humanity. Ancient scriptures in Sanskrit call this “Seva”.

Seva reaches beyond compulsive wants, needs and ego. Their ethos is to do good regardless of compliance or popularity. Diversity and inclusion are not a program they run; it is who they are.

Join us on Thursday, May 20th 2012. The Requisite Agility UnMasterclass will take you on a journey into the mastery that already exists within you. You are the most important Masterclass of your life.


Jan De Visch

Jan De Visch has more than 30 years of experience managing transformational change processes and general HR functions. He coaches teams and companies towards exponential growth and more fluid organizational structures. He refined the Work Levels Model, which helps your organization to stay relevant to its customers and to enable you to achieve sustainable breakthrough levels of performance year after year.

Kashmir Birk

Kashmir Birk brings global experience of complex change from the front line to executive work across all major sectors, such as mining, financial services, retail, CPG, digital transformation, transportation, energy, utilities, construction, manufacturing, food services, healthcare, government, non-profits, NGO’s and associations. He is a certified in coaching and agile management. He teaches leaders how to assess and develop potential by enabling them to see how the architecture, environment and systems constrain or shape thinking, values and behavior.

Systems Thinking Ontario – 2021-05-10


Systems Thinking Ontario – 2021-05-10

[Slides now up from what sounds like a really really interesting session, that I missed!]

May 10 (the second Monday of the month) is the 90th meeting for Systems Thinking Ontario. The registration will be on Eventbrite at https://humanistic-social-systems.eventbrite.ca .

Humanistic Principles and Social Systems Design

Proponents of Socio-Technical Systems design refer back to the 1960s-1980s research of Fred Emery and Eric Trist of the Tavistock Institute. Calls to reinvent approaches to organization design for hyper-turbulent environments may be better viewed through the whole systems view of three perspective for sensemaking:

  • social-psychological systems;
  • socio-technical systems; and
  • socio-ecological systems.

For the May session of Systems Thinking Ontario, Douglas Austrom and Carolyn Ordowich will share some reflections developed jointly with Bert Painter (Vancouver, BC) on some draft humanistic principles, the three Tavistock perspectives, and a meta-methodology.

Those who live and work in a given social system should be given the voice and and choice in designing their system. Calvin Pava’s notion of deliberation design applies not only to non-linear knowledge work. It can serve as a meta-methodology for dialogic design of organizations, networks and ecosystems. The role of designers shifts from designing the social system itself, to co-designing the deliberations by which key stakeholders can dynamically design their own systems.


Doug Austrom has four decades of consulting experience, having co-founded three change consultancies: Turning Point Associates, Adjutant Solutions Group, and People Powered Innovation Labs. He is an adjunct professor with Indiana University’s online MBA program, Kelly Direct.

  • Doug was introduced to Eric Trist and STS at York University in 1981 during a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. From 1982-1985, he was a member of York University’s Quality of Working Life Center and taught in Brock University’s School of Business.

Carolyn Ordowich is founder and president of STS Associates, Inc., since 1976, first in Montreal and Toronto, and then in Princeton, New Jersey. Her career has included three greenfield state-of-the-art designs, including a long-running example of 36 years for Canadian General Electric Aviation in Bromont, Quebec. Her most recent work is focused on the co-creation of programs and services on digital platforms, with growers, their farm management and workers, increasing value at the farm and downstream into the supply chain with participating retailers.

Doug and Carolyn have been active members of the STS Roundtable.


Suggested pre-reading:

The more recent Austrom Ordowich article follow from the classic Trist 1981 publication.

Systems Science Working Group (INCOSE)

Systems Science Working Group

Systems Science Working Group


This is the Wiki site for the Systems Science Working Group (SSWG) of INCOSE. The SSWG is led by Javier Calvo_Amodio (Javier.Calvo at oregonstate.edu), with James Martin (martinqzx at gmail.com) and Swami Natarajan as co-chairs (swami.n.natarajan at gmail.com). The purpose of the SSWG is to promote the advancement and understanding of Systems Science and its application of Systems Theories to SE.  We have the following objectives:
Encourage advancement of Systems Science principles and concepts as they apply to Systems Engineering.
Promote awareness of Systems Science as a foundation for Systems Engineering.
Highlight linkages between Systems Science theories and empirical practices of Systems Engineering.
The WG has about 250 members who have access to the Discussion List at syssciwg@googlegroups.com, which can be reached through the hyperlink on the lower left. If you wish to become a member of this WG, please send a request to systems-science@incose.org, or you can join directly from our discussion list page.

The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1990. Our mission is to share, promote and advance the best of systems engineering from across the globe for the benefit of humanity and the planet.  This WG is a joint activity of INCOSE and the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS). See the joint agreement MOU here.

Here is our WG page on the INCOSE website.

The Part-of-the-World Position of Heinz von Foerster (Bröcker, 2004)

pdf: http://www.brieftherapymalta.com/web_3.0/publications/eng/broecker.pdf

Brief Strategic and Systemic Therapy European Review N. 1 – 2004

Arezzo, 2004 – 19 –
The Part-of-the-World Position of Heinz von Foerster
Monika Bröcker
Among many other fields such as that of learning and teaching, the that of
management, etc., Heinz von Foerster has been of enormous influence on
the development of systemic family therapy. Paul Watzlawick, for example,
was very much influenced by Heinz von Foerster’s thinking and has in his
own work, in his writings and his lectures about family therapy and
philosophy, often referred to Heinz’s ideas, particularly those concerning
constructivism, cognition, communication and second-order cybernetics.
Today, many family therapists around the world refer to Heinz von
Foerster’s insights. This paper sheds light on the position of Heinz von
Foerster in the field of psychotherapy

Anarchy and complexity – Maldonado and Mezza-Garcia (2016)

I was introduced to this paper by Bojan Radej who in a LinkedIn comment said:

In my view, the concept of a ‘complex system’ has a rather limited focus. One can, of course, identify and study phenomena that are in the same instance systemic and complex, such as transport systems or the system of public governance. Yet, systemic approaches do not possess the ability to delve into the essence of complex matters that are *equally systemic and antisystemic”. Maldonado and Mezza-Garcia (2016) explicitly claim that the sciences of complexity are sciences of the anarchic, in the sense that they deal with non-governable matters that cannot be meaningfully framed as systems. The fact that a given complex phenomenon contains systemic characteristics does not mean that complexity can be best explained as a system.

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6797404580184498176?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A%28activity%3A6797404580184498176%2C6797483792891170816%29 said:

This is a long piece, which as Barry Oshry says about his workshops, ‘starts off with some good-sized claims’. (In the abstract, anarchy is explicitly applied to both the subject of the science and to the field itself). Then there are some slightly confusing ways of framing the fundamental assertions; ‘Kuhn’s interepretation of the history of science… is a common place‘, and ‘The sciences of complexity, openly or tacitly, are a scientific revolution7,8,9—a new science10. The very concept the sciences of complexity was donned early on at the Santa Fe Institute by the scientists, researchers and theoreticians devoted on the field meaning a radical shift vis-à-vis classical reductionist linear science.’ – I would also note that, rightly or wrongly but without comment, the very extensive citation contains only (along with Kropotkin, Bakunin, Chomsky, Tolstoy, Bookchin, Proudhon) those texts from the systems/cybernetics/complexity field that have been annointed with the branding of ‘complexity’ – so, ok, you know where the paper is coming from. (We know, for example, that ‘heterarchy’ is going to be used in the sense of ‘multiple leadership points rather than a single hierarchy’, instead of in McCulloch’s original terms ‘some way of dealing with circularity of value preferences’ https://stream.syscoi.com/2021/01/24/heterarchy-a-big-concept-with-lots-of-connections-mcculloch-and-onwards/)

Oh, and it’s also got one of those ‘left column good, right column bad’ tables – .

My only actual comments pending a chance to be able to read this properly are:

  • a prior assumption of ‘ordering’, ‘systemicity’ etc would seem to be madness in any approach to a situation, so,there’s that
  • this appears to be lacking a second-order perspective (though I may not have read it closely enough to be right)
  • there seems to be an assumed equivalency here which is explicit but not queried of ‘systematicity’ with ‘top-down hierarchical control’ (and nor is there an exploration of hierarchy in emergence/ecoystems, or any other understanding of ‘hierarchy’ other than top-down control)
  • from the introduction, the claim ‘that there is a strong conceptual and theoretical relationship between complexity and anarchism’ is supported by four arguments:
    • ‘firstly, complexity entails a scientific revolution, hence a radical shift in science. Such a scientific revolution can help manage complex human social systems. We do not dig into the rationale of the epistemology and history and philosophy of science but we focus on the implications of such a radical turn the complexity sciences entail.’ – well, that’s begging a lot of questions but if ‘ Such a scientific revolution can help manage complex human social systems.’ then there’s something there – a claim of organisational principles or structures or systems within anarchism – which is a form of systematicity, just perhaps at a diffeent order (but if you’ve stripped yourself of the concept of levels of order because it feels like ‘hierarchy’, then you can’t see that…) – for me, systems/complexity/cybernetics can equally identify/support/set up structured, command-and-control hierarchies (say, Jacques’ Stratified Systems Theory), and the conditions for ‘pure self-organisation’. The distinction is not a paradigm shift, the paradigm shifts are seeing the organisational potential within the system (from whatever source), seeing the role of the observer, and critical boundary judgements.
    • (the second ‘argument’ is to understand anarchism ‘properly’ – didn’t think I’d be reading Bakunin but one day…)
    • ‘Thirdly, the reasons supporting why complexity is, or leads to, anarchy are offered, that make clear the problematic stance of control when dealing with increasingly complex systems.’ I give you Taylor’s Law: if you expunge control from your theoretical framework, in the next paragraph you will be talking about control, without recognising it. Honestly, there’s something big I’m trying to get at here around mistaking the pointing finger and the moon – the claim there’s a paradigm shift from ‘systems and command-and-control’ to ‘complexity and anarchy’ is not actually an enlarging of thinking, it’s a mistaken narrowing. You can make an assumption of systematicity and choose to focus on ‘hierarchical control’, you can equally make an assumption of non-systematicity and choose to focus on ‘anarchy’ (in each case, two choices, not one). But if you do the latter, you are just applying the thinking forms of systematicity, quite appropriately, at a different logical level – which reveals that the tools of cybernetics and systems were already able to undertake analysis with that framing. If you don’t see that, you won’t explore cybernetics and systems thinkers and see that they were already doing this. https://stream.syscoi.com/2020/04/21/bringing-together-some-reason-and-old-threads-on-systemsthinking-is-complexity-is-cybernetics/ (And often were quite preoccupied with a better question: given hierarchies and control are inescapable in human systems, how can we make them justified, distributed, truly democratic, anarchistic?)
    • Oh, and the fourth argument is ‘Finally, the match is made the other way round as the paper shows why and how anarchy is seeded in complexity science, or also how the various features that characterize complexity can be taken up as features of anarchism.’

I’ll try to return to this, and didn’t expect it to become such a rant. I accept that a lot of systems/cybernetics/complexity is used, naively and with the assumption of systematicity (or a requirement to *enforce it*) to sustain top-down command-and-control. And, even more so, that much of the practice of management, government, organisation, fits many or all of the criteria of *unhealthy* top-down command-and-control.

But the ‘paradigm shifters’ who don’t see the lines of continuity between their ‘new thinking’ and the old thinking will just repeat the mistakes they criticise; from the very beginnings of our field, the subtletly of thinking needed to support human freedom and flourishing in the way they call for have been available, we only have to grapple with the real complexities, not be side-tracked by naive ‘breakthroughs’.

That means, as these authors state, grappling with anarchism, so this is likely an interesting paper to explore!

Anarchy and complexity

Maldonado and Mezza-Garcia: Anarchy and complexity

Journal Information

Title: Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Publisher: Emergent Publications (Litchfield Pk, Arizona, US)

Article Information

Publication date (electronic): 31 March 2016

DOI: 10.emerg/10.17357.fb8bba71f0ea3b9e2159ee2b741a1efe

Funding: Nathalie Mezza-Garcia is funded by Fundación CEIBA under the Rodolfo Llinás Doctoral Fellowship.

Anarchy and complexity

Carlos Maldonado

Universidad del Rosario


Carlos Eduardo Maldonado has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from KULEuven (Belgium). He has been visiting professor and visiting research scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, the Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), and the University of Cambridge. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Timisoara (Romania). He is currently Research Professor at the School of Political Science and International Relations at Universidad del Rosario (Bogotá, Colombia).

Nathalie Mezza-Garcia

University of Warwick


Nathalie Mezza-Garcia is a PhD student at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick and a Rodolfo Llinás, Fundación CEIBA, Doctoral Fellow. She is interested in complexity science and her research studies how can internet-based technologies guide the self-organisation of human social systems and the biosphere. Her proposal is to have political systems with heterarchical topological networks, human decision-making based on interactive computation and automatic responses to real life data gathered with the Internet of Things. She is currently exploring open source legislation and how artificial intelligence and virtual worlds could help prevent crimes in the physical world (n.mezza-garcia@warwick.ac.uk).


This paper draws a philosophical parallel between the characteristics of anarchism with the sciences of complexity. The absence—??, an—of a ruling principle—arche, ????—is the conditio sine qua non, it is claimed, for a further search for ground and fundament. The most basic features common to both anarchism and complexity are the absence or critique to control as well as the importance of self-organization. Embracing the theory of complexity inevitably leads towards the acceptance of anarchy. A spirit of anarchy pervades complexity science even if: a) it has not been explicitly thematized, or b) it has not been the explicit concern of researchers and scholars working in the field.


The future is undetermined, and as Bohr once pointed out, predicting is difficult especially when it is about future. Contemporary world is characterized by a constant fluctuation of events, and increasing uncertainty—in many levels and domains, systems and layers of reality. As it has been said, societies witness an increase in the degrees of freedom—which, by and large, is a positive feature—whilst experiencing transitions away from hierarchical control1. This means that, increasingly, the world is becoming more and more unpredictable—at least by the means of the traditional models of classical science.

Nowadays, cutting-edge science is providing new mechanisms of explication for many types of social phenomena. The sciences of complexity are located within these sciences, and they are responsible for introducing more accurate and sophisticated models for understanding non-linearity and shed new lights on the understating and explanation of phenomena characterized by irreversibility, sudden changes, surprise, turbulence and fluctuations, for instance. To be sure, social interactions in human social systems are characterized by such features, particularly in the current non-zero sum world.

This paper argues that there is a strong conceptual and theoretical relationship between complexity and anarchism that has not been sufficiently seen and worked out in the literature about complexity. The claim is supported by four arguments, thus: firstly, complexity entails a scientific revolution, hence a radical shift in science. Such a scientific revolution can help manage complex human social systems. We do not dig into the rationale of the epistemology and history and philosophy of science but we focus on the implications of such a radical turn the complexity sciences entail. On this basis, the paper concentrates on the proper understanding of anarchism; this is the second section of the paper. Various explanations and levels are provided. Thirdly, the reasons supporting why complexity is, or leads to, anarchy are offered, that make clear the problematic stance of control when dealing with increasingly complex systems. Finally, the match is made the other way round as the paper shows why and how anarchy is seeded in complexity science, or also how the various features that characterize complexity can be taken up as features of anarchism. At end, several (open) conclusions are drawn.


Click to access cem-0078.pdf