Cybernetics and Systems Research (CSR) were developed in the mid-twentieth century, offering the possibility of describing and comparing different phenomena using the same language. The concepts, which originated in CSR have spread to practically all disciplines, many now used within the scientific study of complex systems. CSR has the potential to contribute to the solution of relevant problems, but the path towards this goal is not straightforward. This paper summarizes the ideas presented by the authors during a round table in 2012 on the past, present and future of CSR.
CSR have strongly influenced all scientific disciplines. As an example, the term “system” is used commonly in daily language. One of the breakthroughs of CSR involves the attempt to find commonalities across disciplines. Even when this was achieved to a certain degree, there is still a lack of a common language to communicate successfully, especially between the natural and social sciences. Currently, the scientific study of complex systems has several commonalities with CSR. It could be argued that complexity has inherited many of the aims of CSR, and they can be distinguished roughly by complexity being dominated more by natural sciences and CSR more by social sciences, although there is a strong overlap. One of the aspects that has propagated complexity has been its ability to contrast its theories and dispose those that do not match observations. This is a challenge for CSR, where theories should also be contrasted with real data. Nevertheless, this is becoming feasible due to the increased accessibility to several sources of information and methods for analysing this data.