The purpose of this paper is to present decision making as the decisive activity of controllers, necessary to correct deviations from a goal value in controlled systems by deciding on goal‐oriented actions.
Using a functional approach it is shown how an increasing complexity of controller structures follows an increasing ability to make more complex decisions. Two applications are used to analyze that in detail: first, the controller structures necessary for Miller's living systems and for Beer's viable systems are presented in one comparable scheme. Second, a complex controller structure illustrates the basic requirements for a brain.
Analyzing necessary decisions in Beer's viable systems it is shown how the elementary decisions found in feedback systems can be used as a first approximation for decision making. Hence, it is shown how principles of decision making determine the development of complex controller structures.
The paper provides basic analytic tools to understand the interrelation between controller structures and the content of the decision these structures can make. It shows four different evolutionary paths from feedback systems towards brain structures. Also it emphasizes the role of goal values in decision making and their importance especially for social systems.
The paper seeks to present cybernetics as a science of structures that enable certain decisions. It is suggested that making explicit the goal orientation of decision making gives cybernetics an additional relevance for the social sciences.
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