Requisite Variety, Cognition, and Scientific Change

AbstractMultiple theories of scientific change have been prominently promulgated since Kuhn. A quasi-discipline “Scientonomy” has even been proposed to formalize these theories. The cybernetics principle known as “The Law of Requisite Variety (LRV)” when combined with cognitive science insights regarding categorization, like kinds glomming, and choice can be used to chart one such formalism. LRV holds that control/prediction can only be assured when the internal complexity of a system matches the external complexity it confronts Scientific change happens when the cognitive conceptualizations describing the subject of a given scientific explanation are broadened to achieve requisite matching between the variety of such subjects and the processes used/explanations attached which give them meaning as determined by an observer. Normal science is a reductive activity – limiting the variety encountered. Innovative science is the process of expanding such variety, and scientific change is what happens when the innovative crosses the threshold for normal.

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