Verso un’ecologia generale. Per una cibernetica delle differenze
The present paper investigates different ways of employing cybernetics to define a general ecology. In An Introduction to Cybernetics, Ross Ashby distinguishes between a pragmatic, a therapeutic, and an encyclopedic function of cybernetics. Pragmatic and therapeutic functions are generally used as a homeotechnic approach to understand and regulate complex systems. The encyclopedic function refers to the ways in which cybernetics considers the modes-of-relation between different branches of knowledge. In §1 and §2, I focus on some improper uses of the expression “general ecology”. Associated with images such as Spaceship Earth and Gaia, general ecology involves a global, holistic and totalizing point of view, based on the binary codes local/global and part/whole. Concerning this global approach, cybernetics is used only pragmatically and therapeutically. Notwithstanding the reference to general ecology, this approach remains restricted to an economy of nature. In §3 and §4, I sketch a different path toward general ecology by passing through the encyclopedic function of cybernetics. Cybernetics thus becomes a way to compose branches of knowledge without implying a general systems theory, using instead operations of transduction – abstract machines – in order to mediate between different branches. In this perspective, the composition between systems is no longer regarded in the light of the binary codes local/global and part/whole, rather, it is based on the “ecological difference” (recursive and multiscale differentiation between system and environment).