by Carson Reynolds
Homeostasis is “The ability and tendency of certain systems to maintain a relatively constant internal state in spite of changes in external conditions.” The idea originates from the work of 19th Century physiologist Claude Bernard who said “La fixité du milieu intérieur est la condition de la vie libre.” This translates as: “The fixity of the internal environment is the condition for free life.” The actual word homeostasis is attributed to Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon and his text The Wisdom of the Body.
Cannon, W. (1941). The Body Physiologic and the Body Politic. Science(93:2401).
This text discusses homeostasis in a manner suitable for a general audience. The topic is the application of the notion of homeostasis to economic and political issues. Written in 1941, much of the introduction addresses issues of interest to wartime readers. Consequently, it might be expedient to skim until the first paragraph on the second page. The conclusion following page 9 may also be skimmed.
Henry, J. (1955). Homeostasis, Society, and Evolution: A Critique. Scientific Monthly (81:6).
This sociological interpretation of homeostasis provides an excellent digest of The Wisdom of the Body. The section “The Theory of Homeostasis” on pp.300-301 is the most relevant to developing an understanding of homeostasis. The remainder is work interesting, but not directly related to the topic at hand.
Richards, D. (1953). Homeostasis Versus Hyperexis: Or Saint George and the Dragon. Scientific Monthly (77:6).
Taking a pathological perspective, Richards critiques homeostasis and its excess which he terms “hyperexis.” This paper also provides a brief discussion of homeostasis but extends it to describe bodily processes related to disease.
Arkin, R.C., Homeostatic Control for a Mobile Robot: Dynamic Replanning in Hazardous Environments. Journal of Robotic Systems, 1992. 9(2): p. 197-214.
Arkin discusses modeling homeostasis by simulating an endocrine system. This is applied to the domain of route planning for mobile robots.
Ashby, W.R. (1958). Design for a Brain. London, Chapman & Hall. Chapter 8.
In this chapter of Design for a Brain, Ashby discusses a device called the “homeostat” that he built to explore homeostasis and “ultrastability.”
Breazeal, C. (1998). A motivational system for regulating human-robot interaction. In Proceedings of AAAI-98, pages 54-61, Madison, WI.
The construction of a “drives” system for an autonomous robot is specifically constructed making use of a “homeostatic regime.”
Izizarray, R., Tankersley, C., Frank, R., Flanders, S. (2000). Assessing homeostasis through circadian patterns. Biometrics. 57: 1228-1237.
This technical paper discusses “automated statistical procedures useful for assembling a set of indicators of homeostasis.” The paper discusses the relationship between set-point variables, circadian rhythms, and homeostasis.