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.


FITNESS: rigid, adaptive, evolutive or what ? 1)3)

The concept of fitness of the organization or behavior of systems has been discussed by various authors.

B. BANATHY for example advocates the necessity of a good fit for any project, while G. BROEKSTRA writes "… the rationality of equilibrium became associated with the order-through-fit principle. It was understood that fluctuations in the form of misfits, inconsistencies, paradoxes, or contradictions, had to be damped or suppressed. In this way, the fit paradigm became a unitary approach driving an organization toward a particular stable attractor state (configuration)" (1992, p.1025).

Within this frame the concept of fitness can carry two different meanings:

- the first one, strong and even absolute, does not admit any "deviation". This is the hallmark of authoritarian bureaucracy and it sometimes ends with the destruction of the system.

- The second one, weaker and more realist, admits some fluctuations in order to maintain dynamic stability within more or less narrow limits. This is the adaptive approach.

BROEKSTRA goes further and writes: "However, although a tight fit may lead temporarily to excellence… in the long run fit may lead to failure. Therefore a new way of thinking about organizing is called for, one that encompasses this paradox. The old fit perspective does not disappear, but is absorbed in a more comprehensive theory…

… the non-equilibrium, evolutionary paradigm of self organization as represented by chaos systems theory, and in particular PRIGOGINE's theory of dissipative structures, in short, the Chaos hypothesis, constitutes a powerful change of language…" (Ibid.).

While individual systems may survive long time only by adapting, collective systems as species or organizations do survive in the long run only if they evolve.

Fitness becomes than an ever provisional result of the capacity to construct working higher complexity and restaure dynamic stability when, after wild fluctuations due to massive inputs (of energy or information) coming from a changing environment, the system undergoes dissipative structuration, bifurcations and an emergence process.

This leads to the chaos and criticality viewpoint, thus stated by St. KAUFFMAN, (quoted by R. RUTHEN): "It turns out that in a wide variety of coupled systems the highest mean fitness is at the phase transition between order and chaos … The bold hypothesis is that complex adaptive systems adapt to, and on the edge of chaos … It now begins to appear that systems in the complex regime can carry out and coordinate the most complex behavior, can adapt most readily and can build the most useful models of their environment" (1993, p.117).

It finally seems that fitness is quite elusive and ever changing, confirming BROEKSTRA's understanding and BANATHY's concept of coparticipative and necessarily permanent design.

Equilibrium (Punctuated)


  • 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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