On Anticipation: Going Beyond Forecasts and Scenarios

On Anticipation: Going Beyond Forecasts and Scenarios


From Anticipation.Info of Mihai Nadin

A Second Cartesian Revolution

For about 400 years, humankind, or at least the western world, has let itself be guided by the foundation set by Descartes and Newton. The cause-and-effect, deterministic model of the machine became so powerful that every thing and every being came to be considered a machine. As a description of the material world and as an expression of the laws governing its functioning, deterministic-based physics and Cartesian reductionism (of the whole to its parts) proved to be extremely powerful instruments in the overall progress of humankind. But neither Descartes nor Newton, nor most of their followers, could have envisioned the spectacular development of science in its current depth and breadth.

The physicist Erwin Schrödinger concluded that organisms are subject to “a new physics,” which he did not produce, but rather viewed as necessary. This new physics might well be the domain of anticipation. Indeed, from within physics itself—that is, quantum mechanics—a possible understanding of some aspects of anticipation can be derived.

The realization that the world is the unity of reaction and anticipation is not new. What is new is the awareness of the limits of our understanding a dynamics of change that transcends the deterministic view. The urgent need for such an understanding is probably best expressed in the spectacular development of the life sciences.

The perspective of the world that anticipation opens justifies the descriptor “a second Cartesian Revolution.” Instead of explaining complexity away, we will have to integrate it into our existence as the informational substratum of rich forms through which anticipatory processes take place.


From Anticipation.Info of Mihai Nadin

Anticipation: Why is it a subject of research?

Anticipation occurs in all spheres of life. It complements the physics of reaction with the pro-active quality of the living. Nature evolves in a continuous anticipatory fashion targeted at survival. The dynamics of stem cells demonstrate this mechanism. Through entailment from a basic stem cell an infinite variety of biological expression becomes possible.

Sometimes we humans are aware of anticipation, as when we plan. Often, we are not aware of it, as when processesembedded in our body and mind take place before we realize their finality. In tennis, for example, the return of a professional serve can be successful only through anticipatory mechanisms. A conscious reaction takes too long to process. Anticipation is the engine driving the stock market. Creativity in art and design are fired by anticipation.

“The end is where we start from,” T. S. Eliot once wrote. Before the archer draws his bow, his mind has already hit the target. Motivation mechanisms in learning, the arts, and all types of research are dominated by the underlying principle that a future state—the result—controls present action, aimed at success. The entire subject of prevention entails anticipatory mechanisms.


From Anticipation.Info of Mihai Nadin

Research into anticipation revealed various aspects that suggested a number of definitions.

Robert Rosen, Mihai Nadin, Daniel Dennett and others who approached particular aspects of anticipation contributed to some of these definitions. Mihai Nadin (cf. Anticipation – A Spooky Computation) attempted an overview of the various angles from which anticipation can be approached if the focus is on computation. This overview is continued and expanded in the integrated publication (book+dvd+website) to which this website belongs. The following 12 definitions, or descriptions, of anticipation should be understood as working hypotheses. It is hoped and expected that the knowledge community of those interested in anticipation will eventually refine these definitions and suggest new ones in order to facilitate a better understanding of what anticipation is and its importance for the survival of living systems.

  • An anticipatory system is a system whose current state is determined by a future state. “The cause lies in the future,”. (cf. Robert Rosen, Heinz von Foerster)
  • Anticipation is the generation of a multitude of dynamic models of human actions and the resolution of their conflict. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • An anticipatory system is a system containing a predictive model of itself and/or of its environment that allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model’s predictions pertaining to a later instant. (cf. Robert Rosen)
  • Anticipation is a process of co-relation among factors pertaining to the present, past and future of a system. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipation is an expression of the connectedness of the world, in particular of quantum non-locality. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipation is the expression of natural entailment. (cf. Robert Rosen)
  • Anticipation is a mechanism of synchronization and integration. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipation is an attractor within dynamic systems. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipation is a recursive process described through the functioning of a mechanism whose past, present, and future states allow it to evolve from an initial to a final state that is implicitly embedded in the mechanism. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipation is a realization within the domain of possibilities. (cf. Mihai Nadin)
  • Anticipatory mechanisms can be reinforced through feedback. Feedforward and inverse kinetics are part of the integrated mechanism of anticipation. (cf. Daniel Dennett, Daniel Wolpert, Nadin)
  • Anticipation is a power law-based long-range interaction. (cf. Mihai Nadin)


From An Introduction to the Ontology of Anticipation

Recent years have witnessed the growth of significant interest in theories and methodologies which seek to foresee the future development of relevant situations. Studies of the future fall under many different denominations, and they employ a huge variety of techniques, ranging from forecasting to simulation, from planning to trend extrapolation, from future studies and scenarios to anticipatory systems. Widely different conceptualisations and formalisations have been proposed as well.1 This remarkable variety may be partly simplified by making explicit the main underlying assumptions of at least some of them. Two of these assumptions are that (1) the future is at least partly governed by the past, and (2) the future can be better confronted by opening our minds and learning to consider different viewpoints. According to (1) the future is part of a structured story whose past and present are at least partially known. The claim is defended that the forces that have shaped past and present situations will still be valid while the situation under consideration unfolds. The core thesis is that the future is embedded in the past; it is the projection of the past through the present. Time series analysis, trend extrapolation, and forecasting pertain to this family. Any of the mentioned methodologies may be further supplemented by computer-based simulations. On the other hand, instead of directly addressing the problem of searching for the seeds of the future in the past, (2) considers the different problem of preparing for the unforeseeable novelties awaiting us in the future. Learning about widely different outcomes is now the issue: one must be ready to consider and address possibly unfamiliar or alien scenarios. The main outcome of this exercise is an increased capacity to distinguish among possible, probable, and preferred future scenarios. These activities come under the heading of future studies, while scenario construction is the best known methodology adopted by practitioners. For now on I shall refer to (1) and (2) as respectively the forecasting and the scenario viewpoints. Forecasts and scenarios are not contradictory one to the other. They may and usually do coexist, since they address the future from two different standpoints. Furthermore, experience shows that both are useful. This paper introduces a third, different viewpoint, here termed the viewpoint of anticipatory systems, which can be profitably synthesized with forecasts and scenarios; i.e. it is not contradictory with the claims of either the forecasting or scenario viewpoint. Recent years have witnessed the growth of significant interest in anticipation.2 Anticipatory theories have been proposed in fields as different as physics, biology, physiology, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economy, political science, computer science and philosophy. Unfortunately, no systematic comparison among the different viewpoints has so far been developed. It is therefore fair to claim that currently no general theory of anticipation is available. Generally speaking, anticipation concerns the capacity exhibited by some systems to tune their behaviour according to a model of the future evolution of the environment in which they are embedded. Generally speaking, the thesis is defended that “An anticipatory system is a system containing a predictive model of itself and/or its enviroment, which allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model‟s predictions pertaining to a later instant” (Rosen [19: 341]). The main difference between forecasting and scenarios on the one hand, and anticipation on the 1 See, among many others, Adam [1], Bell [4], Cornish [5], Godet [7], Lindgren and Bandhold [8], Retzbach [16], Slaughter [22], Woodgate and Pethrick [23]. 2 Starting from the seminal Rosen [19]. See also [20], [21]. 2 other, is that the latter is a property of the system, intrinsic to its functioning, while the former are cognitive strategies that a system A develops in order to understand the future of some other system B (of which A may or may not be a component element).



Key Terms

  • Hyper Sets
  • Hyper Incursion
  • Hyper Recursion
  • Recursion
  • Incursion
  • Anticipatory Systems
  • Weak Anticipation
  • Strong Anticipation


Key People

  • Roberto Poli
  • Mihai Nadin
  • Riel Miller
  • Robert Rosen
  • John J Kineman
  • Daniel M Dubois
  • John Collier
  • Loet Leydesdorff



Key Sources of Research:


Systems and models with anticipation in physics and its applications

A Makarenko




Anticipatory Viable Systems

Maurice Yolles

Daniel Dubois






Anticipatory Kaldor-Kalecki Model of Business Cycle

Daniel M. Dubois





An Introduction to the Ontology of Anticipation

Roberto Poli





Towards an anticipatory view of design

Theodore Zamenopoulos and Katerina Alexiou





The role of anticipation in cognition

Alexander Riegler





SDA: System Dynamics Simulation of Inter Regional Risk Management

Using a Multi-Layered Model with Delays and Anticipation

Daniel M Dubois1, Stig C Holmberg






Anticipatory Modeling and Simulation for Inter Regional Security

Daniel M. Dubois, Viveca Asproth, Stig C. Holmberg

Ulrica Löfstedt, and Lena-Maria Öberg





Attentional and Semantic Anticipations in Recurrent Neural Networks

Frédéric Lavigne1 and Sylvain Denis





Not Everything We Know We Learned

Mihai Nadin





Anticipation in the Constructivist Theory of Cognition

Ernst von Glasersfeld





The Communication of Meaning in Anticipatory Systems: A Simulation Study of the Dynamics of Intentionality in Social Interactions

Loet Leydesdorff




Information Systems and the Theory of Categories: Is Every Model an Anticipatory System?

M. A. Heather, B. N. Rossiter





Anticipation.Info of Mihai Nadin





Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems




Robert Rosen’s anticipatory systems

A.H. Louie





Computing Anticipatory Systems with Incursion and Hyperincursion

Daniel M. DUBOIS




Anticipatory Systems: Philosphical Methematical and Methodological Foundations.

Rosen R.

Springer; 2014.




Judith Rosen





The Many Aspects of Anticipation

Roberto Poli

University of Trento




Being Without Existing: The Futures Community at a Turning Point? A Comment on Jay Ogilvy’s “Facing the Fold”

By Riel Miller





Roberto Poli

Balkan Journal of Philosophy. 2009;1(1):19-29.



The Discipline of Anticipation: Exploring Key Issues

Riel Miller, Roberto Poli and Pierre Rossel



Author: Mayank Chaturvedi

You can contact me using this email mchatur at the rate of AOL.COM. My professional profile is on Linkedin.com.

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