Circular causality and indeterminism in machines for design

Thomas Fischer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Presenting a hard-to-predict typography-varying system predicated on Nazi-era cryptography, the Enigma cipher machine, this paper illustrates conditions under which unrepeatable phenomena can arise, even from straight-forward mechanisms. Such conditions arise where systems are observed from outside of boundaries that arise through their observation, and where such systems refer to themselves in a circular fashion. It argues that the Enigma cipher machine is isomorphous with Heinz von Foersters portrayals of non-triviality in his non-trivial machine (NTM), but not with surprising human behaviour, and it demonstrates that the NTM does not account for spontaneity as it is observed in humans in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-375
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers of Architectural Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Design
  • Enigma
  • Predictability
  • System boundaries


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