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Born in 1960 in Vilvoorde, near Brussels, Belgium.

University degree in mathematical physics in 1982, Ph.D. in 1987 from the Dutch Speaking Free University of Brussels (VUB). He is presently a research professor at the VUB, and co-director of the Transdisciplinary Research Center "Leo Apostel".


He has been working since 1982 on the foundations of physics (quantum mechanics and relativity theory). The focus of his research then turned to the evolution of complexity, which he studies from a cybernetic viewpoint. He has worked in particular on the evolution of knowledge (including memes). More recently, he has extended the underlying principles to understand the evolution of society, and its implications for the future of humanity. Together with J. Bernheim, he has shown how progress can be objectively measured by using socio-economic indicators of happiness in different nations. The theoretical framework being developed by Heylighen intends to integrate knowledge from different disciplines into one encompassing "world view".

Some of the implications of this framework have been empirically tested, in the domains of psychology and linguistics. Together with his collaborator Johan Bollen, Heylighen has applied this framework by implementing a self-organizing knowledge web, that "learns" new concepts and associations from the way it is used. As such, it forms a simple model for a future intelligent computer network, the "global brain".

Fundamental in the work of Heylighen and his coauthors is the concept of Metasystem Transition, elaborated by one of the co-editors of the Principia Cybernetica (Turchin). This metasystem transition theory describes how systems of the same level of complexity can be grouped to form a meta-system, i.e. a system of a higher level of complexity.


Since 1990, he is an editor of the "Principia Cybernetica Project", an international organization which attempts to consensually develop a cybernetic philosophical system, with the help of computer technologies for the communication and integration of knowledge. The Project's website, which is administered and largely implemented by Heylighen, was created in 1993 as one of the first large, interactive webs in the world.

To study the technological and social implications of his vision, in 1996 Dr. Heylighen founded the "Global Brain Group", an international discussion forum that groups most of the scientists who have worked on this issue.

Francis Heylighen has authored some 80 scientific publications, in a variety of disciplines, including a monograph and four edited books.

(Adapted from the Website of the Principia Cybernetica Project:


The Principia Cybernetica Web

Metasystem Transition by Turchin and Joslyn

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