Elements of a cybernetic epistemology: preprogrammed adaptive systems

Helmut Nechansky (Nechansky‐Engineering Efficiency, Vienna, Austria)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Publication date: 16 March 2010



The purpose of this paper is to investigate different cybernetic structures of simple adaptive systems and their cognitive and behavioral options.


Using a functional approach, two basic forms of adaptive systems are constructed, which process data on one level respectively two hierarchical levels. Based on that complex combinations of such one‐level and hierarchical structures are investigated.


It is shown how different cybernetic structures enable simple forms of adaptive behavior. A basic blueprint for the controller structure of animal species is derived from them, with a simple “brain” and a unit for “motion control” as subsystems. Four paths of evolutionary growth are identified that allow a widely independent development of these subsystems.

Practical implications

The paper provides a typology of simple adaptive systems and discusses the forms of behavior they can develop with preprogrammed – i.e. evolutionary given or technically programmed – decision‐rules. It discusses the requirements that these decision‐rules can form models enabling adaptive behavior. It is suggested that these requirements hold for the models of more complex adaptive systems, too.


This paper is the first in a series of three on a cybernetic theory distinguishing systems able of preprogrammed adaptation, system‐specific adaptation, and learning.



Nechansky, H. (2010), "Elements of a cybernetic epistemology: preprogrammed adaptive systems", Kybernetes, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 55-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/03684921011021273

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