Goal-Oriented Systems

  • George J. Klir
Part of the International Federation for Systems Research International Series on Systems Science and Engineering book series (IFSR, volume 7)


Literature dealing with various issues that emanate from recognized categories of goal-oriented systems is voluminous and growing rapidly. The subject of goal-orientation does not always appear in the literature under this general and neutral term. More frequently, it is discussed under other names, which designate special types of goal orientation. Typical examples are: regulation, control, self-organization, learning, autopoiesis, self-reproduction, self-correction, adaptation, evolution. No attempt is made in this chapter to cover this broad subject comprehensively since each of the special types of goal-orientation alone could easily occupy a whole book. Instead, the focus here is on a few key concepts and issues pertaining to goal-oriented systems.


Performance Function Adaptive System Goal Orientation Replacement Procedure Autopoietic System 
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  1. A classic work on adaptive systems is a monograph by Holland [1975]. Properties of adaptive systems are thoroughly examined by Gaines [1972]. Methods for designing adaptive control systems are well overviewed in a book by Landau [1979]. Conrad [1983] shows that adaptability is essential for the life process at all levels, from the molecular and cellular levels to the ecological levels, and develops a general framework for dealing with adaptation at these various levels. Ideas regarding anticipatory systems have been pursued primarily by Rosen [1979b,1985b]. Although regulation has been studied extensively, general principles of regulators are primarily due to Ashby and Conant [Ashby, 1956; Conant, 1969; Conant and Ashby, 1970].Although it is quite natural to view decision-making situations as goal-oriented systems, this view has rarely been pursued in the literature on decision making. One of these rare exceptions is a book by Kickert [1980]. The possibility of self-organizing systems was first demonstrated by Farley and Clark [1954], when they published their successful results of computer simulation of a self-organizing system. After this publication, interest in self-organizing systems increased rapidly, resulting in three edited volumes devoted to the subject in the early 1960s: Yovits and Cameron [1960], Foerster and Zopf [1962], Yovits, Jacobi and Goldstein [1962]. As well summarized by Ashby [1962a],basic principles of self-organizing systems were already known at that time. Except for some engineering applications [Ivakhnenko, 1970], research on self-organizing systems became considerably less visible after the active period in the early 1960s. It reappeared with full strength only in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s. The following books are representative of this new wave of interest in self-organizing systems: Nicolis and Prigogine [1977], Prigogine [1980], Jantsch [1980], Farlow [1984], Krinsky [1984], Yates [1987], Haken [1988], and Dalenoort [1989]. Autopoietic systems, which belong to the general class of self-organizing systems, have lately become an independent subject of research. The idea of autopoiesis was proposed in a classic paper by Varela, Maturana, and Uribe [1974]. Various aspects of autopoietic systems are well covered in four books: Varela [1979], Zeleny [1980, 1981], and Maturana and Varela [1980]. The idea of self-reproducing systems, which also belong to the broader category of goal-oriented systems, is due to John Von Neumann. He presumably formulated the idea in the early 1950s, but it was published only posthumously [Neumann, 1966]. A good discussion of the notion of self-reproduction was published by Ashby [1962b].Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • George J. Klir
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New York at BinghamtonBinghamtonUSA

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