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.



"An exchange between systems in which a part of each system's autonomy is sacrificed in order to enhance a superordinate system relationship" (Ch. SMITH, 1986, p.209).

The term symbiosis was introduced by the german mycologist A. De BARY (1879)

In symbiosis, "one or more system may benefit and none are harmed" (UNESCO-UNEP, 1983, p.26).

Ch. SMITH comments: "The stronger superordinate relationship ultimately increases each of the original system's resilience… "and…

"Systems are observed to be more symbiotic and more communicative with other systems in their environment after a dissipative transformation process"

According to E. JANTSCH: "The emergence of pre-cellular, self-reproducing life forms is an example of a dissipative change that resulted in a symbiotic relationship. Two classes of molecules catalyzed each other's development by combining. Each molecule offered something that the other molecule did not have: the best information carriers joined with an excellent catalyst to make possible the preservation of a system and the development of a means of transfering complex information" (in SMITH, 1986, p.209).

M. MARUYAMA's deviation-amplifying mutual causal process is possibly a workable model of symbiosis, which has to see with opposite complementarity in growth processes (1963).

MARUYAMA also states: "… the basic principle of the biological and social universe is increase of diversification, heterogeneity and symbiotization. What survives is not the strongest, but the most symbiotic" (1976, p.202).

C. BRESCH has given a good embracing outline of symbiosis by catalysis in his book about evolution (1977).

R. DAWKINS makes the following – and somewhat startling – comment: "I speculate that we shall come to accept the more radical idea that each of our genes is a symbiotic unit. We are gigantic colonies of symbiotic genes" (1978, p.196).

The tendency to symbiosis may well be a generic feature of any sociogenesis, including for human societies.

Symbiosis is not to be confused with commensalism, nor parasitism.

Global homeostasis in very complex meta systems (e.g. in economy, in ecology) may be understood as a result of the symbiosis of numerous participant systems.

In spite of the existence of various distinct and sometimes nearly conflicting definitions of symbiosis, P. CORNING states: "Nevertheless, there seems to be general agreement that symbiosis refers to the relationships of various kinds between biological entities and the functional processes that arise from those relationships" (1998b, p. 24). CORNING adds: "Synergy on the other hand, refers to the interdependent functional effects (the bioeconomic "pay offs") of symbiosis- among other cooperative phenomena".

Moreover, while "…all symbioses produce synergetic effects, …many forms of synergy are not the results of symbiosis" (Ibid p. 24-25)

Compare also with V, CSANYI zero-system.


  • 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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