Publication 890

Umpleby S. A. (2011) Second-order economics as an example of second-order cybernetics. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 18(3–4): 173–176. Fulltext at
Heinz von Foerster proposed that the observer should be included in the domain of observation. He suggested that this approach to cybernetics be called second-order cybernetics. Heinz was primarily interested in understanding cognition, based on neurophysiology and mathematics. But there has also been strong interest in cybernetics as a theory of social systems. Using the “second order” idea for existing social science fields would focus attention on the role of the observer and on reflexive phenomena such as the effect of theories on what is being studied. This article considers how the field of economics might adopt the second order idea. Relevance: Second-order cybernetics, by interpreting self-reference as occurring in time, can serve as a guide to the social sciences for how to include reflexive phenomena in their theories.



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