Cybernetic Theory and Cybernetic Practice
Analysis and modeling of cybernetic systems tends to be extremely
computationally expensive. Even attempting to do cybernetic theory before
the advent and computational technology would have been practically
impossible. Therefore, just as cybernetics grew out of the earliest
developments in computer science \cite{VOJ56,MCW65}, so the development of
Cybernetics and Systems Science have always been tied to computer technology)
and computer modeling.
It is therefore not surprising that the use of this same technology is the
bedrock of practicing cyberneticians, and further holds the promise to
resolve some of these conflicts between the objects and nature of
cybernetic theory and the nature of academic work. In particular, it is now
possible to develop representational media which share the characteristics
of the systems being studied:
 Complexity:
 The miniaturization and speed of computer components
allows the representation of models and systems of great complexity, with
many interacting elements at a variety of scales.
 Complementarity:
 Not only automated indexing and lookup mechanisms,
but especially the recent developments in hypertext and hypermedia have allowed representations of complex systems which can have
multiple orderings, and thus a nonlinear structure.
 Mutuality:
 There is a great deal of current research in parallel
processes and cooperative work
amongst researchers. Such systems allow realtime, simultaneous
interaction among many agents (either programs or people). The nonlinear
structure of hypermedia allows for the representations of the work of all
cooperating agents.
 Evolvability:
 A hallmark of electronic representations is their
plasticity. Dynamic memories (such as electronic RAMs) are designed for
minimal time to change their state; while even more static memories (such
as tape drives) are easily modified. Furthermore, the multiple orderings
available through hypermedia allow for easy location of information to be
changed. This results in systems which can easily be changed and modified
to reflect conditions or the desires of their creators.
 Constructivity:
 Again, partly due to these nonlinear
representations, maintaining dynamically changing representations which
record and preserve the history of their development is quite feasible.
Edits, updates, and general change and growth can be represented directly,
and revealed or concealed as desired.
 Reflexivity:
 Another hallmark of computer technology is that it is
fundamentally reflexive. The ability to treat a given piece of
information as either an object for manipulation or as representing
something is the essence of the program/data distinction which allows for
programmable machines. Some computer systems (e.g. Lisp, Smalltalk, and Refal) make this reflexivity
explicit, representing program as data, or a data type as a data
object, yielding programming environments which are extensible.
Furthermore, the mathematical bases of computational theory in Turing
machines and recursive functions are also inherently reflexive. Recursiveness
in formal systems is used to represent feedback in cybernetic systems.
Copyright© 1992 Principia Cybernetica 
Referencing this page


Author
C. Joslyn,
Date
Jan 1992

