Alexander Riegler, Karl H. Muller, Stuart A. Umpelby
New Horizons for Second-Order Cybernetics
World Scientific 2017
In their volume, New Horizons for Second-Order Cybernetics (World Scientific, 2017), editors Alexander Riegler, Karl H. Muller and Stuart A. Umpelby have assembled almost 60 articles, including their own analyses, in order to test what they have dubbed the Klein-Martin-Hypothesis that: “As a research program, second-order cybernetics was a) insufficiently developed, b) has had no sustainable consequences for other scientific disciplines in the past, and c) will remain mostly irrelevant in the future.” Surveying the expansive terrain covered by the contributing authors, from scientific domains such as mathematics, psychology and consciousness research, and non-scientific ones such as design theory and theatre studies, they conclude that, while the first two claims of the Klein-Martin-Hypothesis must be confirmed, the third, regarding its future prospects, can be confidently rejected. By recreating, for the first time, second-order cybernetics “in a systematic way as a comprehensive and trans-disciplinary research program” and introducing the notion of endo-research, or research from within a domain of study, this volume positions the field to amplify its potential for facilitating increasing degrees of reflexivity across all fields of inquiry and endeavor in the twenty-first century. In my conversation with editor, and master story-teller, Karl Muller, we revisit the two separate, and often confused, foundation moments of second-order cybernetics, tangle with grumpy students of Ross Ashby, celebrate Heinz von Foerster’s eightieth birthday in a crowd of over a thousand at Vienna’s city hall, and celebrate the virtues of being a “slow learner.” I hope you find your time with Karl as entertaining and stimulating as I always do.