Anticipatory Systems (don’t) make the news | April 2013 | rosen listserv

On the public listserv discussing Robert Rosen’s work for April, anticipatory systems defined by a journalist reflects incomplete background research by citing Daniel Dubois.  The discussion opened with:

In a very typical example of how rhetoric, marketing, and computational politics work, the computing industry types have now glommed onto the phrase “anticipatory systems” and are using it to pretty much describe just what RR was *not* talking about in his book of that name. About which I suppose there is nothing to do but sigh.


That leads to the article on “How The Internet Will Tell You What To Eat, Where To Go, And Even Who To Date” | Owen Thomas | April 10th, 2013 on ReadWrite Social, with the definition:

What Is An Anticipatory System?

Here’s a simple definition of anticipatory systems. Think of them as artificially intelligent services that are aware of external context — including ambient inputs like time of day, social connections, upcoming meetings, local weather, traffic and more. Taking all of that into account comes naturally to humans. But for computers, it’s hard.

The big challenge in artificial intelligence isn’t that computers are stupid. It’s that they’re ignorant. We haven’t given them enough data, nor the tools and rules to process it all. But that’s rapidly changing.

The notion of anticipatory systems in computing dates back at least to the late 1990s. Daniel Dubois, a professor at the University of Liège in Belgiumdefined an anticipatory system as one “that computes its current states [by] taking into account its past and present states but also its potential future states.”

That’s a bit vague, and the practical application of anticipatory systems has proven accordingly tricky. But all of the trends we’re kind of bored with now — social, local, mobile, big data — have laid the groundwork for the realization of anticipatory systems’ promise.

Judith Rosen responded to David’s forum post:

Daniel Dubois delayed the publication of the expanded second edition of Anticipatory Systems, by quite a bit. He had been asked, unbeknownst to me, to give Springer Verlag an opinion on whether Dad’s book was “worth publishing”– for over a year. Who knows how long that would have continued?  I finally started asking questions about the hold-up and I was told “the reviewer was taking a long time” to give them an answer. So, I suggested a different reviewer. As I told the editor of the series, George Klir, there are several people that would not be qualified to speak to that question in my opinion, based either on ignorance or on personal conflict of interest, and listed them. That list included Dubois and I got a sheepish response back from George saying, “Sorry! I didn’t know!” So Mihai Nadin was brought in as the new reviewer and he sent his opinion in to the publisher within a week. I’ve had dealings with Dubois… and as a result don’t think very highly of him. At ALL.


I notice that Mihai Nadin has a web site at , including some slides from a lecture on March 6, 2013 on “What is and what is not anticipation? Issues of complexity”.  This content has diagrams familiar to people who know Robert Rosen’s work.

John Kineman also responded with the comment:

Why I enjoy the term “artificial stupidity”  — how do we tell it apart from “artificial intelligence”?  What distinguishes them is the intelligent part.

The discussion on artificial stupidity shows up on the C2 wiki.

People who are unfamiliar with the work of Robert Rosen and (an authentic) view on anticipatory systems might refer to .  Ongoing work can be found in the Relational Science community at


David Ing blogs at , photoblogs at , and microblogs at . See .

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