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.



1) The non-causal correlation between successive events

2) The character of any collection of objects that cannot be simplified through any ordering device.

J. CASTI defines randomness as "maximally complex" (1994, p.9). This does not seem to be adequate, as complexity most generally evoques order in systems. It would be better to consider "random" as maximally complicated, i.e. algorithmically incompressible, as CASTI himself states (Ibid).

The 19th century French philosopher A. COURNOT defined it as "the crossing of independent causal series". Independent, that is, within the limits of our knowledge.

In efect, this generic term covers various different meanings, as shown by M. BODEN who distinguishes at least three: "Absolute randomness (A-randomness, for short) is the total absence of any order or structure whatsoever within the domain concerned, whether this be a class of events or a set of numbers (It is notoriously difficult to define A-randomness technically, but for our purposes this intuitive definition will do).

"Explanatory" randomness (E-randomness) is the total lack, in principle of any explanation or cause… If an event is A-random, it must be E-random too. (Since explanation is itself a kind of order, A-randomness implies E-randomness) It follows that it is often unnecessary to distinguish between them…

"Relative" randomness (R-randomness) is the lack of any order or structure relevant to some specific consideration. Poker-dice, for example, fall and tumble R-randomly with respect to both the knowledge and the wishes of the poker-players… In practice, R-randomness is always identified by reference to something people might have regarded as relevant" (1990, p.223).

In other words, randomness, like determinism seems to be an explicative categorization (not much explicative, at that). This appears clearly in the following comments.

J.von NEUMANN (as quoted by B. HAYES) wrote (in 1951!): "Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of production random digits is, of course, in a state of sin" (1993, p.114). von NEUMANN insisted that there are no such a thing as random numbers "per se" and that the production of a series of so-called random numbers through some "strict arithmetic procedure" was in fact equivalent to the use of an algorithm, which is of course entirely deterministic.

As shown by HAYES such algorithms may in fact generate series of "pseudo-random" numbers. However, after a sufficient number of runs, the algorithm will start to repeat the same numbers.

The objective reality of randomness in itself may even be debatable. J. BONITZER observes: "… in order to find a probability or a distribution of probability in a random series of observations, such a series must unavoidedly have been constituted in some way or other (it is not simply given) – and by whom, if not by the observer, who must at least, consciously or not, decide to accept it? It cannot be helped, seemingly, that the observer pops up, precisely where he was supposedly be eliminated" (1988, p.49).

From this viewpoint, it is noteworthy that all random games (dice, roulette, etc…) are constructed and produce quite predictable probabilities, for the major profit of any games organizer.

No phenomenon is without causes – in plural. The complex mix of numerous concurrent causes at any moment in the behavior of complex systems generates deterministic chaos, which offers the general apparance of random behavior.

In D. BOHM and F.D. PEAT's words: "Randomness is thus understood as the result of the action of the very small elements on each other, according to definite orders or laws in an overall context (1987, p.131).

Complexity (Algorithmic); Random Number


  • 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).

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