Publication 2788

Richards L. D. & Young R. K. (1996) Propositions on cybernetics and social transformation: Implications of von Foerster’s non-trivial machine for knowledge processes. Systems Research 13(3): 363–370. Fulltext at
Heinz von Foerster’s distinction between trivial and non-trivial machines is extended by identifying three types of non-trivial machine. These distinctions are used to weave together 19 propositions on cybernetics and social transformation. The propositions offer a foundation for research on knowledge processes and the technology of knowledge. This research is characterized by questions that von Foerster has referred to as ‘undecidable questions’: questions which only we can decide; and the propositions are stated in such a way as to emphasize that. It is suggested that everyone has the ability to participate in social transformation and that cybernetics points to an opportunity to do so in a particular way. Heinz von Foerster, through both his work and his persona, has made this perspective possible.

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