Anticipation Across Disciplines


Dr. Dorothe Poggel (HWK)


Prof. Dr. Mihai Nadin /University of Texas at Dallas, former HWK-Fellow


2013 - 2019

Statement of Problem

While physics and physics-based disciplines adequately describe the non-living, there is a need for a complementary perspective that captures the essence of life: the specific causality characteristic of life that is accounted for by integrating past, present, and future. Experimental and empirical knowledge attest that there is no intentionality in the realm covered by physics and physics-associated disciplines. However, the living is always characterized by what an observer could only describe as goal-oriented behavior.A large body of empirical evidence, in the form of observations ranging from anecdotal to systematic recordings, has been accumulated through time immemorial. Classic texts (of philosophic intent at the beginning, later of scientific focus, mainly in medicine, biology, zoology, botany, etc.) make reference to anticipatory behavior However, until the beginning of the 20th century, few attempts were made to articulate hypotheses and to verify them experimentally. This state of affairs started to change through the publication of Robert Rosen’s Anticipatory Systems, and Mihai Nadin’s Mind – Anticipation and Chaos. Currently, there is a rapidly growing interest in understanding how anticipatory processes take place and what the practical implications of this understanding might be.Prof. Dr. Mihai Nadin, the Director of the Institute for the Research of Anticipatory Systems at the University of Texas at Dallas, contributed to the early foundations of the discipline. . During his Fellowship at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK), he was exposed to a variety of presentations that were almost begging for an anticipation dimension. He met colleagues from various disciplines, and his work profited from this exposure. At the same time, he heard from many other Fellows regarding their genuine interest in what anticipation can afford for their particular research. In very simple terms: Anticipation as a characteristic of the living expands the nature of scientific inquiry from the re-action model to one that integrates pro-action. Thus, it recommends itself as a subject for a Study Group.

Currently three major fields of work are planned, and scientific meetings will be held to cover those topics:

  •  Anticipation: Learning from the Past
  •  Anticipation: The Interdisciplinary Perspective
  •  Anticipation and Medicine


Indeed, the need for a proactive approach to matters of energy, sustainability, and public health is almost unanimously accepted. In defining a Research Agenda for the 21st Century, the National Science Foundation stated: “It is no overstatement to suggest that humanity’s future will be shaped by its capacity to anticipate….” The Study Group that emerges is a virtual association around the subject of anticipation across disciplines. It will create a shared knowledge base on the Internet, associated with the HWK and the Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems. More information:

Areas of Work

1. Anticipation: Learning from the Past

Workshop: September 1-3, 2014

This session covers the Soviet/Russian contributions to a science of anticipation and will offer a unique opportunity to deal with the suppressed science of a number of distinguished researchers, partly known through their contributions to other subjects. The context is simple to define: the only accepted model of science in the Soviet Union was a trivialized understanding of causality. This was the” official science.” The so-called Marxist-Leninist dialectics accepted only cause-and-effect explanations even in areas of very subtle relations among various variables.

This limitation affected the freedom of those studying what we today call the motoric system (human performance), thinking, and human interaction. In short neuroscience and cognitive science – of interest to many distinguished scientists – were forced to trivialize and ignore complexity. The most distinguished of them did not accept the dogma. In reality, more than their colleagues from the West, they advanced hypotheses based on notions either ignored in the USA and Western Europe, or considered too broad. Excessive specialization returns valuable knowledge but also falls prey to the danger of missing the broader picture.

Those who did not succumb to the pressure of the system distinguished themselves not only through scientific integrity, but also through an originality that was rarely recognized. The session on these pioneering efforts will address the work of distinguished scientists such as P.K. Anokhin (the theory of functional systems, the early definition of feedback, in 1935, i.e., before Norbert Wiener); V.B. Schvrykov (goal-directed behavior and learning); L.E. Tsitolovsky (nervous system plasticity); A.A. Ukhtomsky (the dominanta principle , higher systems of the brain); D.N. Uznadze (formation of concepts, fundamentals of experimental psychology information processing); L.A. Orbeli (evolution in nature and informational systems), among others.

The focus is not on history, but on scientific relevance, especially on writings yet to be made known, from which present research can benefit.

2. Anticipation: The Interdisciplinary Perspective

Cross-modal validation is of extreme importance. If anticipation were only a tempting theoretic perspective, chances are that it will not continue to attract researchers or justify funding (private or public). But this is clearly not the case. The major crises of the last ten years (financial, ecological, social, and even moral) illustrate the urgent need for an anticipatory perspective. We cannot afford to ignore the questions pertinent to sustainability – a major global challenge. So far, the possibility of this session has triggered the interest of leading scholars in economics, energy research, oceanography, engineering, and behavioral sciences.

3. Anticipation and Medicine

Neurology, neurosurgery, psychosomatics, and psychotherapy, gastroenterology, and psychology are medical endeavors in which the anticipatory perspective has been adopted to a certain extent. For instance, anticipation of stressful situations accelerates cellular aging; anticipation of back pain (extremely frequent) seems to predispose to back trouble (anticipatory postural adjustments are affected); neuroticism (the tendency to experience negative emotions) affects brain processing during the expectation of pain; fibromyalgia is an expression of pain anticipation; the pathophysiology of autism (in infants) or of Alzheimer’s disease evinces the role of anticipation.

These are only examples of research subjects currently pursued. In the area of brain activity and cognitive functions, there is a broad consensus that anticipation cannot be ignored if we want to make progress in addressing the changed condition of the human being. The action-reaction type of medicine (of “spare parts”, e.g. knee and hip replacements, liver and kidney transplants) is being re-evaluated in view of progress in genetic methods and genetics-based medicine. The reactive procedure of treating various behavioral problems (attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, schizophrenia) through drugs can also be re-evaluated from the perspective of anticipation (proactive treatments that avoid the dangerous side effects of drugs and withdrawal from them).

A. Network for Interaction

Future fellows, young scientists, and entrepreneurs should find in the Study Group fast and scientifically sound access to opportunities for their own work. Anticipation is a promising perspective. No effort should be spared to disseminate new knowledge and to stimulate original research from the anticipatory perspective. Robots (and other technologies) will no doubt help humankind to achieve new levels of productivity. Anticipation can suggest new ways to better utilize human creativity (and avoid major breakdowns). In the spirit of anticipation, the Study Group is not only about possibilities, but also about risks, and avoiding costly consequences.

Dr. Dorothe Poggel
Head of Program BRAIN & MIND