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The Sciences of the Artificial

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Continuing his exploration of the organization of complexity and the science of design, this new edition of Herbert Simon's classic work on artificial intelligence adds a chapter that sorts out the current themes and tools -- chaos, adaptive systems, genetic algorithms -- for analyzing complexity and complex systems. There are updates throughout the book as well. These tak ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 248 pages
Published September 26th 1996 by MIT Press (first published February 28th 1970)
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Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone in the world, ever.
Recommended to Chrissy by: my advisor
Short version: absolutely, 100%, fucking brilliant.

Long version: this book is a brief glimpse into the incredibly well-organized mind of a genius, a man who could deftly tie together fields as diverse as biology, psychology, economics, design, computer science, and social science (and show with infuriating casualness how well he understands each of them) into a single grand exploration of a theme that pervades them all: apparent complexity emerging from simplicity in a complex environment. The e
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: systems-thinking
In a nutshell, what is this book with a rather mysterious title about?

The task of an adaptive organism is to find the difference between an existing state and a desired state and then find the correlating process that will erase the difference. This is a means-end analysis. Simon’s ‘Sciences of the Artificial’ proposes a generic theory of ways in which humans conduct this means-end analysis. It is a theory of human problem solving. For Simon, problem solving is design, is tinkering with artifac
Emre Sevinç
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Depending on your background, different parts of this book will strike very different chords. In any case, it's not easy to do justice to a great intellectual whose remarkable breadth and depth still resonate with readers in 21. century. Therefore, suffice it to say that his crystal clear language is like a breath of fresh air when it comes to technical writing, and every author should aspire to that level of standard in their own writing (which is easier said than done because it requires not o ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone, really. Not just for the technical mind!
A classic and a must read for anyone interested in complexity. Dr. Simon is well-recognized as a brilliant thinker with a wide interest in topics. Wider than I knew of, for sure! I have always thought of him as a pioneer in Artificial Intelligence and it wasn't until reading this book that I learned he's more known as an economist and political scientist.


All of that is quite obvious in this book. His study of the sciences of the artificial is wide-ranging, covering topics such as social ord
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is daring to write a review from such a low starting point of knowledge as mine about one of the most renowned and influential works in the world of complex systems, computer science and design. I genuinely enjoyed the most the first and fourth chapters of the book, Understanding the Natural and the Artificial Worlds, and The Architecture of Complexity, respectively, since they cover the topics I am most engaged in, and I have adequate understanding.

Overall, I truly enjoyed the clear structu
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. If it had been written today it would be impressively insightful, but it was written 40+ years ago - truly an incredible achievement.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a good introduction to some of the topics in the field of complexity. However, the book seems to be written for a reader who loves tracking developments in science. This is true even for a reader in 2015. The author proceeds with each topic very carefully. Several times I found myself correctly predicting what author will be saying in a following paragraph. This, I attribute to the author's writing. The book is a good starting point for someone who wants to dwell into reading about artif ...more
Josh Preuss
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my first exposure to "systems thinking" from a member of the generation which kicked that term off, along with its sister term "cybernetics". The book reads not so much as a thesis, but as a way of thinking applied to a variety of closely related systems. He uses his new theory of the artificial to exploring his research on the internal environment of the human brain, and how it makes decisions, as well as the economy, and government.

The book includes a window into the research going on
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ai, design

This was a tedious read. The book starts off so great. The first 50 pages are pure gold about what design is in the name of problem solving. And how all that is artificial is so perticular, because it is something we have created. And if it's created by us: should've we study it as what it should be and not as what it is?

But then the last 200 pages. They are not bad at all. On the contrary, they are very well thought out and intellectually challenging. Too challenging I would say.

Where as H
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be extremely thought provoking & empowering.
This book & its author, by & far, lived up to their reputation, providing well thought-out practical principles to both question & reconstruct one's perception of thought itself, setting a clear agenda based on sound logic as how one may construct & advance thinking.
The subject matter I found to be predominantly technical based, but I urge all whom possess an interest in thinking & decision-making to overcome any sense of finding t
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I don't really feel up to the task yet of describing my feelings about this book, but I absolutely love it and highly recommend it. If you're interested in psychology, economics, or science of just about any kind, this is worth reading.
Masatoshi Nishimura
Jun 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: business, half-read
I read this book after Kurzweil's "Singularity is near", and found Herbert's argument extremely under-researched and weak. Nothing to gain.
Stuart Macalpine
Utterly brilliant...
Gints Dreimanis
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shit's good, it's just that I am a bit too uneducated to appreciate it fully.

Apr 20, 2020 added it
stopped reading at 11%.
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simply, rather, Complexly Fascinating...

An enchanting journey through the sciences of the artificial, or put simply, a journey through what man knows about its creation with reflections about the current state of the boundary between the known, and the still mysterious lands of curious questions. We learned a lot, invented a lot, and destroyed a lot since the write up of the book; yet, the content is still relevant, and the boundary of what we know does not seem to have changed a lot.

The Science
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
While I'm glad to have this book now, I can't help but think how my life might be different if I had it at age 17, 22, or 25. As I grew into adulthood I became interested in computer programming, AI, engineering, architecture, economics, geography, and complexity science which over the years have been tempered with psychology, foresight, social science, design, and governance. What is it these subjects have in common? These are all the study of what human beings choose to build for themselves. T ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Design-oriented research studies artificial as opposed to natural phenomena. The scientific basis for this type of research is grounded in Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon's classic work "The Sciences of the Artificial" (1996, first published in 1969). Simon's findings link natural world, social world, and artificial world.

Simon's work together with the findings of some later scholars form the roots of knowledge called design science which is concerned with the construction and evaluation of techno
Jul 16, 2011 rated it liked it
"The central task of natural science is to make the wonderful commonplace: to show that complexity, correctly viewed, is only a mask for simplicity; to find pattern hidden in apparent chaos." (3)

"Economics is a theory of human rationality tha must be as concerned with procedural rationality -- the ways in which decisions are made -- as with substantive rationality -- the content of those decisions." (57)

"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into pr
Deiwin Sarjas
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Artificial, i.e. man-made, systems and their design. How design is dealing with how the world ought to be, as opposed to what it currently is. A description of complex systems and how many complex systems are nearly decomposable, that is the behavior of their subcomponents is largely independent of the other subcomponents, and depends mostly only on the other subcomponents' aggregate affect, not their inner details. How human thinking is likely limited by just a few fundamental limits of the mem ...more
Jan D
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the book since it was criticized in other literature I read in design theory (e.g. "The reflective Practitioner", Schön). While I get the criticism, namely that design activities are not easily formalized in Simon’s suggested steps, goals and methods, the book itself is interesting. It spans many topics, including economics, society and biology and outlines common principles which can serve to understand them. Much literature that I read because it is criticized by works I read primarily, ...more
Woodward Library
Kellogg Booth, Professor, Computer Science recommends . . .
The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon

Why is this a favourite book?

We increasingly live in an invented world that, while not immune to the laws of nature, is largely shaped by our imagination. Simon examines how the process of design, which creates new artifacts and behaviors, differs from a classic view of science as the discovery and cataloging of natural artifacts and behaviors. First written at the dawn of the digital age,
Franck Chauvel
I came to this book while searching about Complexity, but it offers a broader discussion about complexity in artificial systems. Topics are diverse: economics, psychology, biology, etc. and, finally, I am not so sure what take away. I think this is a difficult piece — I haven't probably understood all — maybe because the very academic style. Regarding complexity, I liked the perspective on "hierarchies" and the contrast with Chaos and other theories.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
On problem solving in the context of society/complex systems that are man-made - different examples of contexts and analysis of the problem solving process.

Some good ideas on handling complexity, particularly studying the property of near decomposability.

I also remember a study of the learning/skill aquisition process - long term and short term memory and how the problem solving process uses this sort of representation.

Overall interesting perspective
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'll have to read this again because honestly, I have no clue what this was about. He jumped from subject to subject and I think that perhaps one day when I have time to sit and read most of it in one sitting it will make more sense to me, but stopping and starting over and over again just caused confusion.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, germinal discussion of the nature of computer science in constructing artificial systems, including "intelligence." Herb Simon, Nobel laureate for Economics, and a great computer scientist, makes excellent arguments for the encapsulation of scale in complex systems.
Sep 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I wanted to really like this book, but it didn't capture the attention of my inner geek like I hoped. I think it is because there was too much discussion of economic and organizational systems and not enough of computer and engineering systems. Still, it was heady and full of interesting ideas.
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Everything humans create is artificial say Economics and Computer Science. Here we got this ingenious guy exploring our bounded rationality; he runs widely but with good depth. By the end, you will feel acquainted with the structure of the most models out there. The artificial is also wonderful.
Jun 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Especially insightful for the year it was written. This book basically includes artifical intelligence with the other deductive sciences. Good for science geeks.
Dr. Kat
Oct 06, 2007 added it
Shelves: infoscitech
designs of complex (artificial) systems
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6 likes · 5 comments
“Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.” 40 likes
“It is true that humanity is faced with many problems. It always has been but perhaps not always with such keen awareness of them as we have today. We might be more optimistic if we recognized that we do not have to solve all of these problems. Our essential task—a big enough one to be sure—is simply to keep open the options for the future or perhaps even to broaden them a bit by creating new variety and new niches. Our grandchildren cannot ask more of us than that we offer to them the same chance for adventure, for the pursuit of new and interesting designs, that we have had.” 2 likes
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