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Autopoiesis and Knowledge in Self-Sustaining Organizational Systems

4th International Multi-Conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics: IMSCI 2010, Orlando, Florida, June 29-July 2, 2010

6 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2011  

William P. Hall

University of Melbourne - Melbourne School of Engineering; Kororoit Institute

Susu Nousala

Aalto University; University of Melbourne

Date Written: June 1, 2010

Abstract

Knowledge and the communication of knowledge are critical for self-sustaining organizations comprised of people and the tools and machines that extend peoples’ physical and cognitive capacities. Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela proposed the concept of autopoiesis (“self” “production”) as a definition of life in the 1970s. Nicklas Luhmann extended this concept to establish a theory of social systems, where intangible human social systems were formed by recursive networks of communications. We show here that Luhmann fundamentally misunderstood Maturana and Varela’s autopoiesis by thinking that the self-observation necessary for self-maintenance formed a paradoxically vicious circle. Luhmann tried to resolve this apparent paradox by placing the communication networks on an imaginary plane orthogonal to the networked people. However, Karl Popper’s evolutionary epistemology and the theory of hierarchically complex systems turns what Luhmann thought was a vicious circle into a virtuous spiral of organizational learning and knowledge. There is no closed circle that needs to be explained via Luhmann’s extraordinarily paradoxical linguistic contortions.

Keywords: Autopoiesis, Organization Theory, Nicklas Luhman, Social Systems Theory, Self Observation, Karl Popper, Evolutionary Epistemology

JEL Classification: B20, D21, D71, D89, L20

Suggested Citation

Hall, William P. and Nousala, Susu, Autopoiesis and Knowledge in Self-Sustaining Organizational Systems (June 1, 2010). 4th International Multi-Conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics: IMSCI 2010, Orlando, Florida, June 29-July 2, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1757247

William P. Hall (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne School of Engineering ( email )

185 Pelham Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053
Melbourne, Victoria 3010
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.orgs-evolution-knowledge.net

Kororoit Institute ( email )

127 Power Street
St Albans, Vic. 3021
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://kororoit.org

Susu Nousala

Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Aalto, FI-00076
Finland

University of Melbourne ( email )

Parkville
Melbourne, 3000
Australia

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