World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics
WOSC Congress 2021
Moscow, 27. to 30. September 2021
Systems approach and cybernetics, engaging the future of mankind
The significance of systems and cybernetics in the future of societies
Important world institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are publicly recognizing the highly interconnected nature of our world, and therefore the relevance of systemic thinking and cybernetics as leading knowledge foundations to deal with the complexity of economic, social and environmental issues.
The aim of the WOSC 2021 Congress is to offer a platform for conversations and debates about societal issues from a CyberSystemic perspectives, reflecting upon aspects relevant to humanity’s current and future viability. WOSC and the Russian Academy of Sciences organised an online event for people from different parts of the world last September. Its focus was on climate change, water resources, immigration, health problems and other global and local strategic issues.
These conversations were underpinned by a cybernetic manifesto, driven on the one hand by the citizens’ rights to possess freedom, autonomy, and privacy and, on the other hand, by their responsibilities to create, regulate and produce fair social, ecological, and economic social systems. People’s rights and responsibilities emerge from their complex web of interactions as they constitute organisational systems.
We wish that the overall content of WOSC 2021 relates to these complex webs. Citizens contributions to society need more than information; they require communications. We believe this is an important distinction that this Congress wants to highlight. Messages exchanged by people are more than information bullets going from an origin to a destination through an empty space; the meanings of these messages emerge from the communication media underpinning these interactions (cf. Marshall McLuhan). Historically these media have been hierarchies and technology controlled by the few with power in society. Our proposal in WOSC 2021 is to learn to how produce these networks through heterarchies, that is, by non hierarchical networks, controlled by the power of the commons. It is through these kind of interactions that people can propose, co-create, and produce social systems and construct better societies. To achieve societies of the commons, we are proposing to overcome fragmentation and to learn more about how to develop holistic and socially responsible societies in the context of our current socio technical developments.
Research communities are establishing, one way or the other, international networks, something that is enabling the exchange of research results and thus the sharing of knowledge. Nevertheless, the research itself is often constrained by national, regional or local organisations, restricting researchers to follow the limited agendas of their leaders and managers. Even with the desire to cooperate, global research teams serving humanity are hard to establish, manage and above all, finance. Thereby, in WOSC 2021 we are advocating the support of global research collaboration, to enable researchers the formation of international research teams in pursuing goals beyond national, regional or local interests.
Since the postponement of WOSC 2020 last September was triggered by the huge impact of COVID-19, from the global society to the local individual, we think that we must highlight it in our conversations in WOSC 2021.
Focus on crises: COVID-19
COVID-19 is not only a global crisis for humanity, exposing the geopolitical weaknesses of nation/states to respond to a pandemic, it has also heighted a universal crisis by exposing individual people’s weaknesses to cooperate, share resources and exhibit empathy in their daily behaviours. Similarly to the response to climate change, COVID-19 is making apparent that policies and mechanisms for global governance need much improvement at all levels. COVID-19 experiences are modifying social interactions and will profoundly alter the post-COVID-19 responses to current and future crises, such as climate change, unequal distribution of resources, different forms of discrimination, impact of digital technologies and others.
The lack of capabilities of the global and local communities to effectively fight against the pandemics has contributed to the awareness of wide sections of the population to their vulnerability in front to even relatively minor threats. And, we cannot ignore that the increase of interstate and civilizational tensions may be contributing to the emergence of new, potentially, devastating global threats.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides a cruel, but crucial lesson for understanding the readiness of humanity, and more widely of individual actors to adequately respond to global crises, as well as to study the relations between individual behaviours and their interests for the sustainable development of humankind. The pandemic is convincingly proving that the world community is lagging behind producing decisions to respond to emerging global threats. This leads to inappropriate waste of resources, the formation of unstable economic and political processes, and to the emergence of undesirable longer term consequences. The conclusion is obvious, humanity itself is in a state of crisis.
Researchers should offer new models of the consolidation of civilizations, states, corporations and society for joint organizations to act in the elimination of global threats. Can the perspectives offered by systems and cybernetics make a difference? What might be the role for new digital technologies and artificial intelligence? Can mankind find a means to overcome its reluctance to cognize and confront long-term systemic risks?
We are inviting to discuss in WOSC 2021 these crises from the viewpoint of the four themes that were presented in the WOSC 2020 programme and discussed in September of this year.
For a more enlightened crisis governance, it is fundamentally important to find the root causes of our societal lack of preparation to respond to crises. Various models have already been developed. We can draw our perspectives from the models that have been proposed in psychology, cybernetics, biology, law, economy and many others.
The analysis of the current situation starts with agents, which reflect the regulatory and interactive aspects of their activities (Lepskiy 2019, Espejo & Lepskiy 2020). We invite contributors to WOSC 2021 to explore five essential characteristics of CyberSystemic systems: purposefulness, reflexivity, communicative competence, networking capabilities and the ability for social development in complex environments.
Purposefulness. COVID-19 has convincingly shown that humanity lacks strategic goal-setting mechanisms. Humanity has not formed adequate mechanisms for aborting its outdated plans, for identifying global threats and for ensuring readiness to prevent and mitigate their effects. Systems thinking and cybernetics can provide mechanisms for the design and governance of inclusive interlinked purposeful systems.
Reflexivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown that humanity lacks mechanisms to ensure adequate reflection related to the threats that have arisen, the methods of protection and neutralization of their consequences. We are lacking global institutions for scientifically grounded operational reflection of emerging global threats and the mechanisms for developing a consolidated reflexive position of the world community on the emerging global threats. The systems approach and cybernetics can provide numerous studies on reflexivity related to the governance of social systems (Heinz von Foerster, Vladimir Lefebvre, Vladimir Lepskiy, Stuart Umpleby, Karl Müller, Dmitry Novikov and others).
Communicative competence. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, communication problems in the world community have clearly manifested themselves at a wide variety of levels from the state to the level of individual organizations and communities. The systems approach and cybernetics build on the early research and modelling of communications and media processes (cf. Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan, Gordon Pask and others).
Social networking. In the context of the social orientation of humanity, the following aspects are most relevant: identity, freedom, social responsibility, ethics, spirituality of agents. We may be facing the disregard for these social dimensions in the process of overcoming the current crisis, which may continue way into the post-crisis period. Systems thinking can support aspects of social behaviour in works on social responsibility, participatory approaches and others.
Development in complex environments. In the context of the emergence of global threats to humanity, humanity must have the ability to self-organize, to form adequate types of agents. Systems thinking and cybernetics can provide models of self-developing, which would increase the ability to develop various types of social systems. It is fundamentally important to note the need to assemble agents into wholes based on a systemic approach that will integrate their characteristics beyond fragmentation (cf. Stafford Beer, Raul Espejo, Vladimir Lepskiy and others).
Taking into account the management and the consequences of COVID-19, the pandemic should guide the content of urgent problems to be discussed in WOSC2021. These guides are the proposed in the following four themes for this Congress: