International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.


ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS (Basic characters of) 1)

To begin with, as observed by L.A. ZADEH, "… all systems are adaptive, and the real question is what they are adaptive to and to what extent" (in G. KLIR, 1991 , p.143). Indeed, a nonadaptive system could not survive at all.

KLIR observes, furthermore, that even a goal-oriented system must maintain its goals within a range allowing for its own survival, "which implies that the (very) goal-seeking element must be capable of adaptation" (1991 , p.149)

It is also difficult to conceive an adaptive system that should not be endowed with at least a modicum of anticipatory behavior.

A. WILDEN establishes the following list of characteristics of adaptive systems, inspired by M.C. MARNEY and N.M. SMITH (1964):

1. Auto-differentiation or growth

2. Characteristic response: A response or a set of possible responses constrained by the limited semiotic liberty of the system. This response could be modified at the "learning to learn level" and also by evolution

3. Selectivity: The capacity of distinguishing stimuli information from noise, the form from the background.

4. Learning: Capacity of modifying the characteristic responses

5. Homeostasis: Synchronic stability within limits

6. Homeorhesis: Diachronic stability, of first order also within limits.

7. Redundancy: Protection of the system against random perturbations (implied in 5 and 6).

8. Memory: The sine qua non of communication, depending of the clues.

9. Simulation: Some form of behavior, mediatized by memory, application, reduction, semiotics, language, including the capacity of reproduction.

"This enumeration is not supposed to be absolutely complete, nor to establish ordered priorities among the mentioned characteristics" (WILDEN, 1972 ,p.61)

It may be objected that homeostasis, as well as homeorhesis, is diachronic, if one admits that the first word is synonym of dynamic stability. The difference between homeostasis and homeorhesis is that, while homeorhesis characterizes the growth period of the system, homeostasis is proper to its maturity (specially in biological systems), when the system only maintains, without wide modifications, its structures and functions within more or less narrow and invariable limits.

As to redundancy, it only protects the system if it can be used to enhance its variety or at least to reveal it.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

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