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Applications of the
Cybernetics of Goal-orientated Systems


The basic research on goal-orientated systems shows the interrelation of controller structures, cognitive processes and decision-making. Now we apply these results on the general analysis of goal-orientated behavior, investigating three main topics:

  • The cybernetics of living systems.

Here the aims are general statements concerning the integration of controller structures in the structure of living systems, as well as the role of goal-orientation for individual behavior and interactions.

  • Organizational cybernetics.

Here the focus is on controller structures for realizing set organizational objectives.

  • Social cybernetics.

In social systems questions of goal-setting are of prime interest: Which goal-values and, most importantly, whose goal-values are pursued? Secondarily, questions of the controller structures and controlling methods arise, how to pursue and realize these goals. Finally, resulting interaction patterns are analyzed.

Here we try to develop a big picture, integrating the system-internal cybernetic determinants (controller structures, their goal-orientation and their related cognitive processes and decisions) and the resulting system-external behavior of individuals, organizations, and social systems.


Below we offer links to papers on various applications. If you do not have access via these links, or have any questions or comments, please write us a mail - we will answer shortly: office@nechansky.co.at



Aspects of the Cybernetic of Living Systems:


  • A functional and structural analysis of living systems

The question, if a living system according to Miller's living systems theory is a viable system according to Beer's viable systems theory, and vice versa, haunted system scientists for thirty years. Applying our functional approach to cybernetics we provide the answer.

External Link:
Nechansky (2010a), The Relationship between Miller's Living Systems Theory and Beer's Viable Systems Theory

  • Living systems: Control or self-organization?

Following a famous paper of Ashby, this paper asks if every self-organizing system really has to have an organizing part carring out the 'self-organization' of another part of that system. In a scetchy investigation it is shown that such organizing parts can be identified in almost all physical, chemical, biological and social systems.

Nechansky (2008d), Self-Organization

  • Cybernetic aspects of viability

The paper shows that most living systems are composed of subsystems for matter/energy supply and for control. It emphasizes that an excess of matter/energy supply is a prerequisite for the emergence and maintenance of any controller structures, an aspect missing in all current theories on viability. Based on that it discusses the role of the niche for viability and explains basis patterns of interactions between living systems, which determine social systems.

External Link:
Nechansky (2011b), The Cybernetics of Viability: An Overview

  • Following the material flows needed by living systems

The paper shows that the need for continuous matter / energy supply of living systems determines certain evolutionary patterns, which are repeated in the internal biological evolution of living systems, the external evolution of human production technology, and the dyadic coevolution of humans; there the control of material flows enbles privileged positions in market exchange and offers exclusive evolutionary options.

External Link:
Nechansky (2017a), From Autocatalysis to Markets Relations

  • The four modes of coexistence: Base of organizational and societal cybernetics

A fundamental theoretical paper on the limited options how two (or more) goal-orientated systems - technical, biological or social - can interact. It explains the four modes of coexistence: (1) Conflict, striving for the upper position in a hierarchy, (2) the lower position in a hierarchy,(3) the niche, and (4) cooperation. Provides the theoretical base to study interaction dynamics in social cybernetics (see below).

External Link:
Nechansky (2007), The Four Modes of Coexistence of Goal-orientated Systems


Aspects of Organizational Cybernetics:


  • Goal-orientation and cooperation

A short, sketchy paper disucssing the importance of goal-values for the realization of cooperation within organizations (German only).

Nechansky (2009b), Die Kybernetik der Kooperation

  • The interrelation of knowledge creation and control

The paper distinghushes primary and secondary knowledge creation (from practice to theories respectively from theories to certain appliactions) and shows that all knowledge creation has to lead to decision-rules that enable control. Discusses conditions, when such decision-rules can be considered as 'explicit' knowledge.

Nechansky (2010c), Knowledge Creation

  • Biases in the process of designing a system

System design, not matter if scientific, technical, or social, is often presented as if it would be a value-free and strictly rational step-by-step process leading from an objective towards a final design. Contrary to that, the paper identifies 7 major biases, which are at work in any system design.

Nechansky (2019), Biases in the Process of Designing a System

  • Beyond Beer's viable systems model

The paper presents empirical evidence that viable organizations can have structures, which deviate from Beer's viable systems model. Particularly that holds for (1) newly established firms, and (2) early growth phases; (3) for top-down quality control (like "Six Sigma"), and (4) bottom-up improvement (like "Kaizen"); (5) for "Just in Time" production systems; and (6) for checks and balances of top-level power. Outlines an evolutionary approach to organizational cybernetics.

External Link:
Nechansky (2013c), Organizational Cybernetics and Viability


Aspects of Social Cybernetics:


  • The interaction - matrix

Two persons or goal-orientated systems have four options for setting goal-values in relation to each other. Putting these options in a 4 x 4 matrix leads to the interaktion - matrix. It shows how individual goal-setting leads to certain modes of coexistence. A fundmental paper showing the basic behavioral options of persons and goal-orientated systems.

External Link:
Nechansky (2016a), The Interaction Matrix

  • The dydic utility space and the interaction - utility matrix

Translates the 'digital' interaction matrix, into an 'analogue' interaction - utility matrix, showing the utilities, which two persons or goal-orientated systems can realize in dyadic interactions. The dyadic utility space used to illustrate that can map all possible dyadic “payoffs” investigated in game theory, repeated exchange and resulting accumulation of utility, as well as power relations.

External Link:
Nechansky (2023), Realizable Utilities in Dyadic Relations

  • The application of the interaction - matrix on psychology and group dynamics

Shows how various approaches to individual psychology and group dynamics describe incliniations for certain modes of coexistence. Tries to provide an overarching framework for these approaches derived from the cybernetics of goal-orientated systems.

External Link:
Nechansky (2016b), The Four Modes of Coexistence in Psychology and Group Dynamics

  • The application of the interaction - matrix on social systems

Shows how the four modes of coexistence surface in all forms and on all levels of social systems, from organizations to states. And analyzes how various approaches to organizational theory, sociology, and politics just highlight different aspects of the four modes.

External Link:
Nechansky (2017b), The Four Modes of Coexistence in Social Systems

  • Forms of cooperation

Today many different definitions are used for the notion of cooperation. Therefor the paper suggests an overarching frame to order these different understandings. So, eight forms of cooperation can be identified. The relation to the concept of the dyadic modes of coexistence is explained. And it is shown that game theory deals only with specific forms or cooperation, while market exchange leads to none of them.

Externer Link:
Nechansky (2018), Forms of Cooperation

  • Foundational principles of societal cybernetics

An application of the cybernetics of goal-orientated systems and the four modes of existence to societal organization. Discusses how goal-setting and elementary decisions show in law making, and when hierarchies become a cybernetic necessity.

External Link:
Nechansky (2008a), Principles of Societal Organization

  • Basic cybernetic patterns of societal change

Discusses how the necessity of goal-values for decisions and the four modes of coexistence allow just limited patterns of societal change: Decisive factor for the long term stability of a social unit is agreement on mutual highest goal-values; if this agreement is lost there are just a few ways for the further developments.

External Link:
Nechansky (2008b), The Cybernetics of Social Change - and History


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