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Introduction to Neocybernetics

There are (more or less) eternal mysteries facing us:

A new approach to complex systems, or neocybernetics, seems to give new intuitions into these all-embracing issues.

Cybernetic systems are complex systems with emergent behaviors. They are characterized by mutual interactions and feedbacks among lower-level (faster and more numerous) actors, resulting in dynamic structures. The emergence in such systems is manifested as self-organization and self-regulation.

The key point in neocybernetics is that the emergent models are studied directly rather than the physical first-principles ones. It turns out that the analysis and synthesis tools are based on multivariate statistical methods.

It has been assumed that behaviors in complex systems cannot be analyzed using traditional mathematics: deeply nonlinear and chaotic models are needed. However, when one directly concentrates on the final stochastic patterns, counterintuitively, one can trust on linearity and stability. Rather than studying lifeless algebraic relations or hopelessly complex nonlinear iterations at the edge of chaos – the mainstream approaches today in complex systems research – much broader views can be seen around the dynamic, elastic equilibria.

It turns out that cybernetic systems are based on higher-order tensions among networked processes. Surprisingly, it is control theory that offers the conceptual tools for understanding the behaviors in nature: A cybernetic system implements emergent model-based control of the degrees of freedom of its environment.

Explore

12+3 lectures on video – accompanied with transcriptions in Finnish and in English, and a few hundred slides

Illustration of emergent linear models – Java applet and animations

Simulation of neocybernetic ecosystems – Java applet

Research report on neocybernetics – 283 pages

Publications on neocybernetics – from 1998 to present

Neocybernetics links – locations, networks, and topics of interest

Guestbook


In Brief

I think that cybernetics is the biggest bite out of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that mankind has taken in the last 2000 years. But most such bites out of the apple have proven to be rather indigestible – usually for cybernetic reasons.” — Gregory Bateson. “From Versailles to Cybernetics”, 1966. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. University of Chicago Press, 1972.

As ontological theater, then, a multihomeostat setup stages for us a vision of the world in which fluid and dynamic entities evolve together in a decentered fashion, exploring each other's properties in a performative back-and-forth dance of agency.” — Andrew Pickering. Cybernetic Brain: Sketches for Another Future. University of Chicago Press, 2010. p.106.

Neocybernetics