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.



The elimination of a problem or difficulty affecting some issue.

However "there is no free lunch". Any so-called "solution" implies some costs. Moreover, as no issue can be isolated from context or environment, many solutions imply some new problem within the affected entity, its environment… or both. In many cases, so-called "problem solving" is in fact mere "problem shifting". The problem solver may be either unconscious of the shift or, in some cases, cynical about it.

In short no solution is such if it is merely a zero-sum game (or in cases a negative-sum one)

B. BANATHY Sr. once said: "You cannot solve a problem, you only can manage it".

He did not elaborate on his idea, but many contemporary "solutions"are clearly significant examples of bad global understanding and management

J. WARFIELD made a similar observation and objected to this use of language as "a form of linguistic pollution ". (pers. comm.)

Moreover, what we do understand as a "solution" depends largely of some implicit assumptions, nearly never clearly outlined, nor even at all conscious in many cases.

1. The linear solution :corresponds to a linear view of causality and can be legitimally used in simple problems of the type: "the left front tyre is punctured. We must change it with the spare one". This remits normally to a sequence of causally simple operations

2. The interdisciplinary solution: Two interconnected simple problems can frequently be solved through consultation between two (or more) specialists. But there is a basic condition: the specialists must understand each other, i.e. each must have at least some knowledge of his interlocutor's trade and the way it is relevant for his own work

3. The systemic solution :To begin with, any systemic solution is merely circumstancial and most generally provisional. In this case, "solution"should be understood in a conditional way: the quality of what we understand and decide to do cannot be better than our general grasp of the situation within its context

4. Solutions in time dimension :Most of the so-called solutions are merely "for now". The ignorance of the time dimension and nonlineal change leads in most cases to new problems (whose costs are generally paid by somebody else) The time-bomb problem should be taken care of.

Magic bullet; Management; Problem set; Spillover effects; Time; Trial and error; Underconceptualization


  • 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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