International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.


BRAIN 3)5)

St. BEER described the brain in cybernetic terms as follows: "We have in the cranium a slightly alkaline three-pound electrochemical computer running on glucose at about 25 watts. This computer contains some ten thousand million (that's 10) logical elements called neurons, operating on a basic scanning rhythm of ten cycles per second. Then this is a high-variety dynamic system all right; but it really is finite. It follows from ASHBY's law that we can recognize patterns up to a certain limit, and not beyond. Thus if something is going on that involves a higher variety than the brain commands, we shall not recognize what it is. This is the old constraint of requisite variety" (1974, p.58).

BEER adds the following: "About a quart of blood (about one seventh of the circulation) flows through the brain every minute, and is heated about one degree Fahrenheit. That takes about 25 watts.

"The resting state of the brain, called the alpha state, is characterized by the alpha rhythm, which tends to be stable at around ten cycles" (p.67).

Of course, in 1974, research on networks and connection machines was just starting. The analogies between the brain and the computer (digital or parallel, or both?) surely needs still more careful scrutiny.

From another angle, related to the general organization of the brain, it would seem that it is at the same time localized (with specific perceptive and active areas), distributed (even a seemingly global function, as for instance sight, is the global result of a synchronic synthesis of distinct perceptions of limits, position, shape, motion, depth, colors, etc.)… and hierarchical, in the sense that, admitting the modular character of brain organization, brain works in a coordinated way (Philippe LAMBERT on Xavier SERON's cognitive neuropsychology - 1999. p.39-43 - Hemai PARTHASARATHY, 1999, p.29-31).

However "hierarchical" does not imply an all powerful and precisely localized organizer. It seems to respond to a kind of chaotic determinism through multiple simultaneous neuronal interactions, within diffuse limits, leading to autopoiesis

This could better explain creativity, learning, and also partial readaptation after some disability (as a stroke, for example).

Algorithm (Back propagation); Algorithm (Framing); Algorithm (Iterative refinement); Algorithmization by selection; Information; Nervous system and brain, Memory (Distributed); Taxon memory


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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