Evaporation + Condensation
• Water cycle
second system measures the effect of the first system on the environment and adjusts the first system’s goal according to how well its own second-order goal is being met. The second system sets
the goal of the first, based on external action. We
may call this learning—modification of goals based
on the effect of actions. Learning systems are also
called second-order systems.
Some learning systems nest multiple self-regulating systems at the first level. In pursuing its own
goal, the second-order system may choose which
first-order systems to activate. As the second-order
system pursues its goal and tests options, it learns
how its actions affect the environment. “Learning”
means knowing which first-order systems can
counter which disturbances by remembering those
that succeeded in the past.
A second-order system may in turn be nested
within another self-regulating system. This process may continue for additional levels. For convenience, the term “second-order system” sometimes
refers to any higher-order system, regardless of
the number of levels, because from the perspective of the higher system, the lower systems are
treated as if they were simply first-order systems.
However, Douglas Englebart and John Rheinfrank
have suggested that learning, at least within organizations, may require three levels of feedback:
• basic processes, which are regulated by first-order loops
• processes for improving the regulation of
• processes for identifying and sharing
processes for improving the regulation
of basic processes
Of course, division of dynamic systems into
three types is arbitrary. We might make finer distinctions. Artist-researcher Douglas Edric Stanley
[ 10] Debatty, R.
“Interview with Douglas
Edric Stanley.” Weblog.
We Make Money Not
Art. 5 June 2006.
January + February 2009
• Linear system
• Self-regulating system