Cybernetic Epistemology: How machines gain knowledge

Cybernetic Epistemology

The two seemingly different domains of cybernetics and epistemology have an intriguing fusion in the concept of cybernetic epistemology.


Cybernetics we know is the study of self governing and self-organizing Systems. See Cybernetic Theory.


Epistemology is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature and scope of of knowledge. So for example in epistemology we ask questions like what knowledge is, how it is acquired, what are the structures and limits of knowledge, what makes beliefs justified and whether justification is internal or external to our mental experience.

Cybernetic Epistemology

The key figure to link these two domains and formulate the concept of cybernetic epistemology was soviet theoretical physicist and cyberneticist Professor Valentin Turchin.

He was a pioneer in the development of AI language and developed one of the first artificial intelligence languages REFAL. He also developed the theory of MetaSystem Transition.

MetaSystem Transition:

This is a view which states that the integration of elementary objects leads to an evolution of higher level organisation and control i.e. an emergent phenomena occurs. Pertinent examples of this are the origin of life and the origin of symbolic thought.

In an article he wrote in 1993 Valentin Turchin stated:

“it was his belief that to succeed in transferring to the machine our ability to understand natural language it is necessary to break down the meaning of the language into some Elementary units”.


Valentin Turchin had a stance on epistemology (which I incline towards as well) called constructivism.


The constructivist view is that learning and acquisition of knowledge is a constructive process. We construct subjective representations of objective reality by personal experience and hypothesis testing. New information is related to and compared against previous knowledge. That no one is a blank slate when acquiring new knowledge. Hence everyone has their own unique construction and mental representation of the world.

He was also a proponent of the global brain hypothesis and that is where the above ideas related to the concept of cybernetic epistemology kind of tie in together.

Global Brain Hypothesis:

global brain

What this hypothesis suggests is that the increasing use of the Internet connects people all over the world together. In a way this connection and communication serves a function similar to neurones in our brain. And by this integration there is an emergent phenomena that is happening i.e. there is a super intelligence present at the Planetary level and we are only components to it.

What is cybernetic Epistemology then ?

What cybernetic epistemology is asking is the nature of knowledge in integrated machines / artificial intelligence or super intelligence. What it means to know something that is outside the human experience and is in these systems. What is the structure, justification and limits of this knowledge. Is it similar or different from our own. Are these integrated machines able to construct their own representations of the external world by the means / senses available to them.

By developing the philosophy and understanding of cybernetic epistemology we might be able to better understand how integrated machines understand things and how they might use this understanding. This might be important in the development of more intelligent and human like language abilities.

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