Publication 4752

Leydesdorff L. (1997) Sustainable technological developments and second-order cybernetics. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 9(3): 329–343.
Using second-order systems theory, the concept of ‘sustainability’ shifts from a normative starting point to a probabilistic expectation that is open to investigation. While first-order systems can be considered as observable translations of input into output, second-order systems theory adds the perspective of evolution to networks of first-order systems. Complex and dynamic systems are not instucted by incoming signals, but disturbed. They are able to adapt the cycles of their behaviour. Consequently, second-order delineations are not ‘given’ but are continuously reconstructed. These systems have no ‘natural’ delineations, and their ‘limits to growth’ remain a provisional hypothesis. The likelihood of the various progresions can be specified only in terms of a model. Among other things, changes betwen technological trajectories within the current regrime can be distinguished from the possible transition to a regime of sustainable technological development.
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