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.


MEMORY (Distributed) 2)

The redundant sharing among numerous elements interconnected in a complex system of parts of the total available information present within the system.

Better than to speak about memory as a global function, we should consider different types of memories: visual, auditive, lexical, semantic, etc…, which work in different conditions and at different time scales.

This type of distributed memory is found in complex systems under the form of intercommunicated nets among numerous elements.

The brain, or human organizations and societies, or populations from the genetic viewpoint seem to be good examples.

No single element does possess the total stock of information of the system, much less so. However numerous elements do share some data, or characteristics, or knowledge. The positive aspect of this kind of holographic or heterarchic arrangement is that the destruction of a part, even important, of the system does not lead to the loss of much information, since the surviving elements (neurons, genes or individuals) still possess most of it and are able to retransmit it within a reconstructed net.

In order to maintain (or create) coherence in such type of distributed memory, some kind organization in levels is however needed. We have thus a mix of heterarchic and hierarchic order.

von FOERSTER introduced the concept of "memory without a record ". Memory is not a set of records stored in some specific place in the brain: the computer memory is an incorrect metaphor.

L. M. ROCHA comments: "By utilizing functionals to change the functions of state-determined systems, von FOERSTER formalized the idea that memory can be observed in systems which are able to change their own structure and therefore its dynamics and attractor behavior. Today we name this kind of memory distributed, and the kind of models of memory so attained as connectionist. The categories that a distributed memory system classifies are not stored in any particular location, they are nowhere to be found since they are distributed over the entire dynamics established by some network of processes (van GELDER, 1991). They exist however in the form of attractors (eigenstates) which are nonetheless discrete" (1996, p.377)

This model of memory is closely related to organizational closure, characteristic of autopoietic systems.

It leads to "distributed memory selected self-organization" (Ibid)

Distributed meaning (Principle of)


  • 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]

We thank the following partners for making the open access of this volume possible: