The purpose of this paper is to set out some ideas about how sociocybernetics can contribute to understanding possible world futures. A central concept in cybernetics is “governance”, the art of steersmanship. As conceived by Ashby, Beer and others, this art is concerned with the management of variety. How do we face the challenge of managing all the variety that makes up “possible world futures”?
The paper uses the distinction between first and second order cybernetics as a way of bringing order to the wide variety of disciplinary studies that are relevant for the understanding of possible world futures.
Sociocybernetics is concerned with applying theories and methods from cybernetics and the systems sciences to the social sciences by offering concepts and tools for addressing problems holistically and globally. With its distinction between first order studies of observed systems and the second order study of observing systems, sociocybernetics provides a unifying epistemological and methodological conceptual framework. Within this framework, sociocybernetics accommodates a wealth of specialisms in the social sciences, ranging, for example, from the drivers and effects of technological development to sustainability to justice. The shared framework facilitates communication between social science specialisms and also between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the applied, technological sciences.
The paper will be of interest to anyone keen to see how ideas from cybernetics and the systems sciences can facilitate interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of complex social systems.
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