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Systems explained by Humberto Maturana

Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021

In May 2021, Humberto Maturana, a Chilean Biologist, died aged 92. In these videos he explains the differences between information transfer within biological and non-biological systems.

In this set of YouTube videos based on material filmed at The Open University in 1997 the late Prof. Humberto Maturana discusses some of his key ideas. The segments come from an edited conversation between Humberto Maturana and Prof. Ray Ison, Professor of Systems at the OU. Prof Raul Espejo who worked with Humberto in Chile during the Allende years and later held chairs at Aston and Lincoln Universities and is the current Director General of WOSC (the World Organisation of Systems & Cybernetics) was also present and contributes to the conversation. The original filming was probably on Wednesday 12th March 1997. Humberto then presented a three-day workshop at Walton Hall from the 13-15th March. His visit to the OU is described in this Press Release

Humberto was a guest of The Open University and the SPMC (Systems Practice for Manging Complexity) Network again in 2004. At St Anne’s College Oxford on 6th September he led a one day workshop entitled ‘Fundamentalism, Ethics and Leadership’ and on the same evening participated in a facilitated public conversation about ‘Biology, Love and Social Responsibility’ with the OU’s Professor Stephen Rose. We hope to be able to present on this site some recordings from these events in the future.

1. Humberto Maturana's understanding and use of the term 'System'

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2. Distinctions between organisation and structure applied to a university

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3. How does an object differ from a system? How boundary creates a system-environment relationship?

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4. Is an organisation a system?

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5. The Santiago School of Cognition / Epistemology

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6. What is it to experience?

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7. Epistemology and ontology

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8. What are the implications for your distinctions between epistemology and ontology for practice?

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9. Exploring implications of the different pathway choices - Objectivity and responsibility

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10. Our history - Structural coupling and structure determined systems

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11. Relational dynamics - Conversations as the braiding of language and emotions.

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12. Information: The false turn by attempting to quantify meaning; Belongs to engineering not biology; Dynamics of structural change

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13. Triggering change in human social system; Escaping traps; Totalitarian system

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14. Reflecting on the use of his ideas; Education systems grounded in love

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