Information Theory and Feedback Loops

General Systems Theory & Information Systems Theory

General Systems Theory (GST) developed over time based on the premise that all systems could be abstracted so that general properties, regardless of the system, can be determined. The goal(s) of GST as described by Skyttner (2006) is:

  • To formulate generalized systems theories including theories of systems dynamics, goal-oriented behaviors, historical development, hierarchical structure, and control processes.
  • To work out a methodological way of describing the functioning and behavior of systems objects.
  • To elaborate generalized models of system.

GST can be applied to many scientific and technological disciplines. Over time man’s capabilities to communicate have grown more robust and advanced. With the advent of electronic communications such as the telegraph Communications Theory was developed. Later as our communications technology advanced, more complex systems grew and Information Theory and Information Systems Theory were developed.

Information systems are generally the orderly arrangement of systems dedicated to producing information to support the functions of a business or entity. Information systems are used to communicate, process and store data, make forecasts, and much more.

Feedback Loops

In systems theory there are often forces that affect how systems act or perform. These forces, called feedback loops, are the changes in the input or output of a system that have an effect on the other. Using a thermostat as an example, when the desired temperature in a room is reached, the furnace or air conditioning input is reduced. There are many types of feedback loops that affect systems in different ways. A few of the most common feedback loops include:

  • Positive feedback: This type of feedback is one where a change in a system variable, input or output, results in the same type of change in the other.
  • Negative feedback: This type of feedback loop is one where a change in a system variable, input or output, results in an opposite change in the other.

Feedback loops are constantly used in information systems theory and development. Software development can be used a very good example of how systems theory incorporates the use of feedback. Software development is often an iterative process in which a solution is created based on discovery, analysis, design, and testing. In the testing phase, the programmer often receives feedback either from automated testing procedures or human interaction.


Skyttner, L. S. (2006). General systems theory, problems, perspectives, practice. World Scientific Pub Co Inc.