Edited by Charles Francois

1997. 423 pages. Hardbound. DM 398.00 ISBN 3-598-11357-9

The International Encyclopedia of Systems and cybernetics presents, for the first time, a complete overview of the field of systems and cybernetics and its development from its beginnings more than forty years ago up to the present.

It includes both general and well-known basic concepts and specific and detailed information on the subject. Much of this information was, until now, scattered among hundreds of papers presented in international or national meetings, most of them completely out of the reach of the majority of scholars.

The work contains nearly 3,000 entries, listed in alphabetical order, with numerous verbatim quotes from hundreds of authors and more than 1,200 specific references as well as general information about Systems and Cybernetic Societies in the world and about the principal journals in the field.

The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics is an indispensable tool for any scientist, librarian, student or researcher seeking to establish better transdisciplinary comunication with specialists in other disciplines. Leaders with economic, political or social responsibilities will want to consult it regularly as will any member of the general public who has questions on this subject. This is a book that should be on the shelf of every university library and in the faculties of philosophy, economy, history, politics, sociology, and communications.

About the Author.

Charles Froncois is a Belgian citizen, born 1922 and retired from the Belgian Foreign Service since 1987. He was educated in Belgium and lived in Central Africa from 1945 to 1960, first as an administrative officer and later on as owner of hi own business. His first contact with Cybernetics was in 1952 through Wiener's foundational 1948 work on Cybernetics. In 1958 he become a member of the former Society for General Systems Research (now ISSS). Participant from 1970 on in numerous meetings of various Systems and Cybernetics Societies, he is member of the board Of some of them, and integrates the editorial board of four of foremost journals on Systems and Cybernetics; He is also author of numerous papers and books on systemic topics.

Francois lives in Argentina since 1963 and created the Argentine National Division of the ISSS in 1976, being presently its Honorary President.


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The use - by a facilitator - of a array of material, computer and/or intellectual and behavioral techniques in order to help a group to overcome difficulties in grasping complex situations and designing.
Facilitation is a practical necessity in any group concerned with the evaluation of complex issues and situations, design and management.

However, the facilitator needs a specific training in Group technique, Interactive Management or Co-participative Design. He/she should not, as facilitator, interfere with the group's actions, and still less acting as an overpowering "leader'.

FACTOR (Co-)')

A secondary cause or circumstance that contributes to the permanence or change of some process or situation.
Go-factors should be monitored because they can nudge the process or system toward a. critical threshold, while they are frequently ignored, overlooked or underrated.


K. KRIPPENDORFF defines a fact as 'Anything described and held to be true'. He also contrasts facts with statements that may be 'untrue, surmised' or hypothetical, or reflect fantasies or beliefs (1 986, p.30).
Coincidently G.BATESON states: 'There are, in a sense, no facts in nature; or, if you like, there are an infinite number of potential facts in nature, out of which the judgment selects a few which become truly facts by that act of selection' (1 973, p.456).
It could be said that a fact is something that can be observed, perceived and understood within a conceptual frame of reference, which serves mainly to define facts in function of contexts (which can be shifting in time, as shown for example by astronomical 'facts' from Ptolemaic to Einsteinian viewpoint, through Keplerian and Newtonian ones). I SANDOZ writes: "A fact becomes observable at the moment that it becomes interpretable"... and interpretations can be variable: an earthquake is a disaster for the affected people, but for the geologist, it is a manifestaton of plate tectonics. Moreover, 'A fact is nothing without a theory' (199j-l P.1544)... i.e. any 'fact' contains an implicit theory. That would be true also for archaic myths, considered as explanations based on a class of proto-theohes.

Now, how do we select our facts?
What we call 'facts' are merely constructs of our brains elaborated from our perceptions of 'things' or events " outside' and their processing by our neural @s. Moreover, anyone selects his/ her facts according to the personal organization of his/her cerebral networks, as it resulted from training and leaming.
As argued by P.DERNING@ 'Science is a process of constructing facts' (1990, p.102). It is not the only one, but it is the most reliable, because it is solidly based on non-contradictory coherence and possible refutabon (POPPER). -
Facts are thus merely "facts": They are basically a possibly provisional consensus on some representation of "something out there" and should not be given an absolute and definitive value. In the words of the French physicist B. d'ESPAGNAT 'reality is veiled'(1979). This caveat is a much needed self-protection against many delusions.


"Capacity of a theory to generate a test which, if failed, refutes the theory' (R. FIVAZ, 1991, p.32).
This epistemological concept - also known as "refutability" - has been introduced by K. POPPER.
D. BOHM and F.D.PEAT explain: 'Repeated experiments, made on the basis of a theory's predictions, will certainly increase its credibility among the scienfific community, but they can never prove its correctness in any absolute sense. All theories are in some way limited, and while a series of experiments may confirm the theory in some limited domain, they cannot rule out the possibilities of exceptions and novel behavior. The best that science can do, therefore, is to falsify a theory by establishing some significant point of deviation between experiment and prediction" (1987, p.58).
R.FIV@ observes however: "General theories such as thermodynamics, often do not specify completely how they are to be applied; therefore, they are immune to test by reality and consequently unfaisifiable" (lbid).

This is also the case of so-called General Systems Theory... insofar as it may really be considered a "theory'.

This is an intriguing point. In fact, it would seem that the falseability criterion can be applied in a strong sense only to classical and narrowly specific deterministic theories. In M. BUNGE's words: "Evidenty, the more general a theory, the wider the domain of facts it refers to, and the less testable it is" (1993, p.221).
True or false is in such a case a too narrow dichotomy and testability in these terms an off the mark criterion.
Could models (as for example catastrophe or chaos ones) be either proved or disproved?

From a strict semantic viewpoint, the very term 'falseability" seems unfortunate, as, for superficial minds, it seems to inUWLice the notion of falseness. However, neither the corpuscLAar, nor the ondulatory theory of light have been recognized as 'false": they merely became integrated vathin a more general embracing theory.


A current in psychology and psychiatry based on systemic concepts, mainly centered on autopoiesis.
Familiar therapists rejects the "Olympian stance', common in their trade, which induces most psychologists and psychiatrists to believe that they can treat their patients only on the bases of Objective Observation; generic concepts about some classes of mental illnesses and some objective guiding of the patents.
Familiar therapists try to better understand what "being an observer' implies and, as a result, they consider that their interactions with the patients are not neutral. Moreover, they believe that no patent can De isolated from her/his personal environment, and, more specifically from herihis family, which generally presents psychological closure.
The therapist interventions aim at a better integration of the whole family group, including a better adaptation of its members behavior.

A synonym for "branching'
FAR-FROM-EQUILIBRIUM CONDITION') - 5)The condition of a system undergoing vadening fluctuations that leads it close to an instability threshold,

FEEDBACK (Anticipatory) 135

1. PRIGOGINE describes it as follows: "Here the fluctuations may be amplified and change the macroscopic pattern of the system. The state of the system extrapolated from the equilibrium state becomes unstable and, through fluctuations, is driven into a new state. Instability means that under these conditions existing structure cannot be maintained: the system has now become open to... a multiplicity of new possibilibes and the phenomenological equations... cannot predict which of the new possibilities will be realized. Evolution of the nonequilibdum structure depends on some singular factor that happens to occur at the right time, at the right place: it depends on chance' (1 984, p.48).

FEEDBACK 1 1 - 2)

1) 'A unilateral power amplifier, with a fraction of the output of the amplifier substracted from or added to the input of the amplifier' (M.D.RUBIN, 1968, p.9).
2) "The use of part of the output of a regulated system to compare with the standard set for its program and produce appropriate change of input' (J.Z. YOUNG, 1978, p.292).
The first definition is an engineer's one corresponding to a host of practical devices. It can be generalized by substituting 'effect' for "power'.
From this definition it is already obvious that any feedback device will have either positive (increasing) or negative (decreasing) effects on the process.
J.Z. YOUNG's definition explains what feedbacks do.
He adds that :"Positive feedback increases the input and negative feedback decreases the input', something whose disequilibrabng consequences on the system are portentous when sustained feedback of one or the other kind are not adequately compensated..
The Italian epistemologist V. TONINI states: "Feedback is the dominant condition for self-regulation, adaptation and automation; this is sufficient within the limits of a well defined control of some variable. Feedback is a typically analogic and conservabve principle. (However) nowadays this certainly very important principle seems insufficient for the cybernetic regulation of complex organisms" (1971, p.288-9).
What is needed in such cases is a compensating and appropriate alternance of positive and negative feedback, in order to secure homeostasis.
The following definition, by G. PASK is more typically cybernetic and, thus, general: "Return of a signal, indicating the result of an action., in order to determine further action" (1 961, p.1 14).
R.L.ACKOFF and FE.EMERY introduce an information as well as psychological connotabon in their own definition: 'Information received by the sender of a message about the receipt of, or response to his message' (1972, p.187).
R. VALLTE points out that H. SCHMIDT (1 894-1968) had already introduced during the thirties an Allgemeine Regelkreislehre, i.e. a "General feedback loops science" (1995, p.13), being thus another forgotten precusor of cybernetics.

FEEDBACK (Anticipatory)

A feedback 'governed by.. response to the antecedents of environmental states that would influence the system unfavorably (or favorably), rather than by response to the state as actually present" (K. SAYRE, 1976, p.58).

This kind of feedback can work only if paired vath a repertory of sequences of events that have influenced the system formerly. This enables it "... to detect precursors of disruptive environmental