Re: [pcp-discuss:] New Paper: Definitions

From: Alexei Sharov (sharov@VT.EDU)
Date: Thu Mar 01 2001 - 14:48:55 GMT

  • Next message: Francis Heylighen: "[pcp-discuss:] Goal-directedness, control and freedom"

    Dear Shann and Francis,

    I am glad you discuss definitions of control and regulation because these
    terms remain very confusing to me. First I would prefer to avoid the word
    "goal" in the definition of control. I agree with Shann that control can exist
    without a goal (unless we stretch the meaning of a goal beyond its limits).

    I view control as an ability of an agent to change its behavior. Neither
    deterministic nor stochastic systems are agents because they have no
    control of their behavior. Watt's regulator is not an agent, and it has no
    control of its behavior. The pressure in the tank is regulated but there is
    no control here. It is an engineer who has control of Watt's regulator, and
    he has a goal of maintaining the pressure.

    A goal is a preferred state of the system. But societies and biological
    populations have no preferred state. Nevertheless they can improve their
    performance (adaptation and adaptability) without setting goals.

    >Can you or anybody else on this list provide references in the cybernetic
    literature >which makes these distinctions, and defines the concepts and
    language, that I find >useful to analyse the information and control
    systems (cybernetic architecture) of >social organisations?

    Traditional cybernetics is most successful in its application to man-made
    mechanisms. Biological and social systems require a more sophisticated
    method which Francis calls "second-order cybernetics". But the term "goal"
    and comes from the first-order cybernetics; thus I am not
    comfortable with it. On page 13 Francis mentioned evolutionary systems
    that attempt to maximize their fitness or reproductive value. I think that
    these terms are more relevant for "2-order cybernetics".

    I am a biologist and I am interested in the area that is known as biosemiotics
    (see my web page ).
    I wrote a paper on the differences between cybernetics (1st order) and
    semiotics (which is very close to what Francis calls 2nd order cybernetics)


    Dr. Alexei Sharov Research Scientist
    Dept. of Entomology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061
    Tel. (540) 231-7316; FAX (540) 231-9131; e-mail
    Home page:

    Posting to from Alexei Sharov <>

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