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.


SEQUENCE (Life) 1)

The succesive states of a system from its beginning or birth to its final dissolution.

Very different types of systems show quite similar life sequences.

When a new system or type of system appears it starts to grow or multiply slowly. However the growth process generally gathers momentum, accelerating until some kind of negative feedback appears, which first decelerates growth and later on stops it completely.

Thereafter, the system enters in its maturing phase and becomes homeostatic (or acquires dynamic stability) and starts to fluctuate between a lower and an upper limit of stability.

After a more or less long time, the system loses its adaptative capacity (generally rather suddenly) and since it is not anymore able to maintain itself, its elements escape from its control and the system disappears or dies.

These life sequences have been observed in very diverse settings, as for example:

- in individual living beings in animal and vegetal species

- in the production of ecological systems

- in business or industrial firms

- in economic sectors

- in political systems

(See for example F. MEYER in his "Problématique de l'Evolution" (1954) or Howard T.

ODUM's "Systems Ecology: an Introduction" (1983).

The life sequence can be explained in the following way, at least in general terms:

1. The new system has a significant potential for innovation, due to its new combination of information (genetical or technological for example).

2. However, it must first learn and adapt to its environment. Thus its beginnings are slow and sometimes difficult. In some cases it must undergo wide restructuration during this period.

3. When sufficiently trained or adapted, it becomes able to develop its potential for growth. If it is really innovative, it will find for itself an important niche in its environment, many times at expenses of older systems.

4. After a period of nearly unfettered growth it starts to meet a growing resistance, from older competitive systems which try to regain ground, from new ones which enter the field, or even because of its own activity, as for example saturating its environment with its products or waste.

5. Finally these limiting factors overwhelm its drive and growth stops. The system is now well adapted and pass through a succession of up and downs due to temporary rekindling of its innovative capacity and, on the other side, bouts of sluggish routine or resistance in its environment.

6. The system's basic potential is finally spent and its loses adaptability to its environment and, even control over its own elements and subsystems, becoming thus exposed to a final destructive crisis.


  • 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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