Albert Müller, ed.
The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name
Seven Days With Second-Order Cybernetics
Fordham University Press 2014
Between his retirement from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne in 1975 and his death in 2002, many cyberneticians made the pilgrimage to Pescadero, California to unravel the oft-elusive subtleties of second-order cybernetics with the master himself, Heinz von Foerster. Fortunately, for all of those not blessed to have had an audience with the brilliant, playful, and generous man credited with founding the field itself, fellow Viennese colleagues Albert and Karl Müller (no relation besides their mutual devotion to cybernetics as a whole) recorded their seven-day intellectual dance with von Foerster, tailored it into an elegant structure loosely paralleling the Old Testament creation story, and brought it to the reading public as The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days With Second-Order Cybernetics, originally published in German in 2002 and, finally, out in English translation from Fordham University Press in 2014. For those intrigued yet occasionally stymied by the complex mathematics and, at times, eccentric and riddle laden prose style of von Foester’s academic papers, the book is nothing less than a revelation as it clarifies and expands such essential Foersterian notions as the eigen-behaviour, the distinction between trivial and non-trivial machines, and a host of other insights regarding recursivity, genetic epistemology, and more allowing the reader to return to the primary texts ideally primed to fully absorb their profundity, inventiveness and intellectual audacity. There could be no more eminently qualified curator of von Foerster’s thought than co-editor and University of Vienna historian, Albert Müller who afforded me the privilege of discussing the book with him.