Editorial: The cybernetic return in human factors and ergonomics

Ergonomics has always been concerned with the study of systems and has developed over the course of fifty or so years a range of methods which allow systems to be described and analysed (Edwards and Lee, 1974; Kleiner and Hendrick, 2002; Wilson, 2014). However, we would argue that perennial problems relate to the study of systems that change with time and to systems which have many interacting components. These issues, of dynamics and complexity, becoming increasingly relevant to contemporary concerns with large-scale transport, safety-critical or medical systems, but are equally applicable to smaller systems. Consequently, there is a need to develop and extend methods which allow analysts to describe, analyse and make predictions about complex, dynamic systems. Such a concern is not new, however, and its roots can be traced back to the cybernetics movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Human Factors shares these roots and associated concerns with the notion of ‘system’ but has either lost touch with some of the quantitative approaches that developed from cybernetics, or has failed to grasp the implications of new analysis techniques that have developed from the studies of complex systems in other domains.