The third and last part of an article series on the status of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory (GST) in the history of systems sciences, written by Manfred Drack and David Pouvreau, both Fellows of the Bertalanffy Center, was published recently. All three articles appeared in the International Journal of General Systems, founded by George J. Klir.

The last article focuses on convergences and divergences of GST and cybernetics.

There has been a long debate on the relationship between systems thinking and cybernetic thinking. While several authors like Ranulph Glanville – he was the past President of the American Society for Cybernetics and passed away at the end of last year – insist that both threads are different and that even cybernetics was first in history, Drack and Pouvreau show that there are a number of commonalities though. They cite W. Ross Ashby as one thinker whose position is kind of intermediary one. Bertalanffy himself considered cybernetics as one valuable part of a “general systemology” as Drack and Pouvreau formulate. However, Bertalanffy warned against reductionist, mechanicist, and positivist assumptions that associate with cybernetics – an issue that is still on the table (see e.g. the topics of robots or big data at the current European Forum Alpbach).

Read the whole article here (Manfred Drack & David Pouvreau (2015) On the history of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s “General Systemology”, and on its relationship to cybernetics – part III: convergences and divergences, International Journal of General Systems, 44:5, 523-571).

This article was produced in the framework of the project Systems in Biology.

The other articles:

  • Pouvreau, D., and M. Drack. 2007. “On the History of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘General Systemology’, and on its relationship to cybernetics – part I: elements on the origins and genesis of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘General Systemology’.” International Journal of General Systems 36: 281–337.
  • Pouvreau, D. 2014. “On the History of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘General Systemology’, and on its relationship to cybernetics – part II: contexts and developments of the systemological hermeneutics instigated by von Bertalanffy.” International Journal of General Systems 43: 172–245.