Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2010, Waterloo, Canada, Proceedings of the 54th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

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The Biocybernetic Approach as a Basis for Planning and Governance

Gabriele Rosa Maria Harrer


The last decades, with societies and economies mostly focussing on quantitative growth and at the same time wasting natural resources with linear production processes, are now culminating in a critical situation for our social, ecological and economical systems.

Regardless that general consciousness about the interdependencies in our interconnected global world, caused mainly by the world wide web and effects of globalization, and also the knowledge about ecological contexts have grown, the use of this knowledge in our reality - in politics, governance, economy, education - is still missing. It seems that something constrains fundamentally the necessary change in our modes of governance and planning.

Until now, generations of scientists, politicians, organizations and individuals have been dealing with interdisciplinary questions, with the nature of complex systems, with models of complex problems and their possible solution - an actual example is climate research and the huge international climate conferences.

But we have to recognize, if we want to see it or not, that real systemic and integrated solutions in order to govern our society towards resilient technical, economical and social developments are despite this big efforts not consequently designed or implemented.

The German biocybernetician, leading ecologist and bestseller author Prof. Frederic Vester explains in his lifework the possible reasons: to achieve real change and transformation of our behaviour and governance towards the design of resilient systems to safeguard the only basis of all human existence, which is nature, it is necessary to understand the interconnections and the complexity of the highly complex systems and their likewise high dynamics and rate of change of our environment.

Like many cyberneticians and system researchers before him, Vester analyzed on the basis of his interdisciplinary research on cells, on brains, on ecosystems, on economies and human-created systems of all kind, how these functioning systems are able to work with such great efficiency.

These systems have a few similar and typical patterns in common, which he described as "Eight Biocybernetic Rules", and which can be used as an orientation model for successful and resilient systems: only nature with its feedback processes, independency of quantitative growth, function orientation, self organization, self regulation, adaptation, homeostasis, symbiosis, recycling and biological design gives us the only valid example of a resilient system.

But what we need for a real implementation of these basic rules is a shift from our traditional, mainly linear, causal-effect thinking towards a new thinking what Vester characterized with the expression "interconnected thinking". This means to think in relations, in feedback cycles, in patterns, in networks, in systems. Only this new way of thinking guides towards a real understanding of our complex world. And only the real understanding of the complexity and cybernetic behaviour of these systems can cause the long lasting and effective necessary change in the behaviour of the acting persons and organizations.

To make these findings of his scientific and didactic research easily understandable and applicable in the daily practice in education but also in the concrete planning and management processes Vester developed various media and tools.

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