The Past, Present and Future of Cybernetics and Systems Research

Summary of "The Past, Present and Future of Cybernetics and Systems Research"
Symposium M at European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research (EMCSR), Vienna, Austria, April 12, 2012.
Organizer: Carlos Gershenson

This guided reflection on the challenges and opportunities of cybernetics and systems research (CSR) included initial interventions by panelists Peter Erdi, Helena Knyazeva, Stefan Thurner, Peter Csermely, and Alexander Lazlo. Afterwards, the floor was opened to interventions from the general public and further interventions by panelists.

Commentaries were made from a broad variety of perspectives, but several general ideas can be distilled from the discussion. CSR have strongly influenced all scientific disciplines. As an example, the term "system" is used commonly in daily language. One of the breakthroughs of CSR lies in the search of commonalities across disciplines. Even when this was achieved to a certain degree, there is still a lack of a common language to communicate successfully, especially between the natural and social sciences.

Currently, the scientific study of complex systems has several commonalities with CSR. It could be argued that complexity has inherited many of the aims of CSR, and they can be distinguished roughly by complexity being dominated more by natural sciences and CSR more by social sciences, although there is a strong overlap. One of the aspects that has propagated complexity has been its ability to contrast its theories and dispose those that do not match observations. This is a challenge for CSR, where theories should also be contrasted with real data. Nevertheless, this is becoming feasible due to the increased accessibility to several sources of information.

It was suggested that CSR researchers should be humble (since our knowledge and cognitive abilities are limited), cautious (not to believe blindly in our models), an open minded (towards other disciplines and approaches). As our future unfolds, CSR has the opportunity to solve big problems of our globalized society. This makes CSR an ambitious endeavor. However, in order to find our limits we have to go beyond them.

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