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Heinz von Foerster 100
Organizing Institutions:
Heinz von Foerster Gesellschaft / Wien
ASC – American Society for Cybernetics
WISDOM – Wiener Institut für
  sozialwissenschaftliche Dokumentation und Methodik

Institut für Zeitgeschichte | Universität Wien
AINS – Austrian Institute for Nonlinear Studies
Stuart A. Umpleby

Second Order Science: An Example of Emergence in Social Systems

Department of Mangement
The George Washington University
Washington, DC

Presently there are several efforts to redefine science in more general terms. There are several underlying causes. First, a great deal of research and many experiments have been done, leading to a desire to combine and synthesize what we have learned. Second, the internet creates opportunities for cooperation both in integrating past results and in conducting future experiments. Third, there is increased interest in the role of the observer in the scientific process and in the effect of theories on the systems being studied, at least in the social sciences. This paper will focus on the third factor.

In the social sciences it is clear that theories affect the phenomenon being studied. Indeed, we create theories in the hope that the theory will be accepted, acted upon, and the social system will perhaps function better. However, traditionally social science research is based on the assumption that the theory does not affect the phenomenon. The result is a gap between our assumptions about social systems and the way we do research. Closing this gap is leading to new methods for both research and practice.

Creating a second order science is presently impeded by logical difficulties involving self- reference. This problem can be solved by reinterpreting the implications of some parts of mathematics. Assuming there is an interaction between ideas and society, new ideas are continuously being added to science. This is an illustration of emergence. Due to the limited capacity of the human brain, increasing complexity requires reinterpretation through transdisciplinary theories, in order to achieve requisite variety.