Transcomputability, (Glanville’s corollary of) Ashby’s law of requisite variety and epistemic processes

Thomas Fischer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Ranulph Glanville has argued that ambitions of strict control are misplaced in epistemic processes such as learning and designing. Among other reasons, he has presented quantitative arguments for this ethical position. As a part of these arguments, Glanville claimed that strict control even of modest systems transcends the computational limits of our planet. The purpose of this paper is to review the related discourse and to examine the soundness of this claim. Design/methodology/approach: Related literature is reviewed and pertinent lines of reasoning are illustrated and critically examined using examples and straightforward language. Findings: The claim that even modest epistemic processes transcend the computational means of our planet is challenged. The recommendation to assume out-of-control postures in epistemic processes, however, is maintained on ethical rather than on quantitative grounds. Research limitations/implications: The presented reasoning is limited in as far as it is ultimately based on an ethical standpoint. Originality/value: This paper summarizes an important cybernetic discourse and dispels the notion therein that epistemic processes necessarily involve computational demands of astronomical proportions. Furthermore, this paper presents a rare discussion of Glanville’s Corollary of Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-804
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2019


  • Ashby’s law
  • Bremermann’s limit
  • Control
  • Glanville’s corollary
  • Variety


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