Von-foerster’s conjecture—trivial machines and alienation in systems

Moshe Koppel, Henri Atlan, J. P. Dupuy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this paper, we demonstrate how the proper modelling of general systems allows us to address the question of how the actions of many independent but inter-connected agents contribute to a global behaviour. In particular, we apply the techniques of information theory to probabilistic automata to formalize and prove what has come to be known as the “Von-Foerster conjecture”. In the first part of this paper we describe Von-Foerster’s conjecture in its historical context. In the second part we restate it using formal definitions and we prove it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-264
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of General Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1987


  • Alienation
  • cooperation
  • environment
  • information theory
  • probabilistic automata


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