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.


HOMEOSTASIS: its ways and costs 1)

Homeostasis is obtained through regulation.

W.D. GROSSMANN and K.E.F. WATT explains: "A feedback loop is the classical example of homeostasis. Two types of homeostasis exist. One happens within the existing structures and is actually generated by these structures, in particular by feedback processes" (1992, p.10).

Repeated feedback processes implies the existence of a regulator.

The same authors pursue: "The other is a reaction by the system which causes a change in the systems structures" (Ibid).

This case corresponds to the progressive institution of the regulator.

Still: "The capability for homeostasis is enhanced, the shorter the time-lag from the moment the system experiences a perturbation or threat to its viability, to the moment it respond appropriately… The speed with which systems can respond depends on the availability of resources to perform the response" (Ibid). This corresponds to VENDRYES' concept of "reserve".

Homeostasis does not of course come free. The different needed types of regulations have an energetic cost.

H. ODUM expresses it this way: "Some energy must go into storages which may be necessary for structure of for smoothing out fluctuating power supplies. Some energy must go into the work of gathering input flows, and some energy must insulate and control the relation of other circuits. Special energies overcome special limiting factors, such as material shortages, poisons or the seasonal fluctuations. Finally, special energies may be required to pump out excess wastes. (1971, p.88).

However, homeostasis is merely the behavior of dynamically stable systems, generally mature ones. Systems in course of differentiation, dissipative structuration, bifurcation, emergence, etc… are definitely not homeostatic, and the use of the concept in these cases lead to gross misunderstandings. This point was already made by L.von BERTALANFFY in his book "General Systems Theory" (1968)

Two other concepts complement homeostasis. One, which did not become widely accepted, was W. CANNON's heterostasis. The other one is C. WADDINGTON's homeorhesis, applied to systems in their period of growth towards maturity.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

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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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