Valentin F. Turchin

Valentin F. Turchin books and biography

Valentin Turchin

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Valentin Fyodorovich Turchin (Russian: Валенти́н Фёдорович Турчи́н, born 1931) is a Russian-American cybernetician and computer scientist. He developed the REFAL programming language, the theory of metasystem transitions and the notion of supercompilation. As such he can be seen as a pioneer in Artificial Intelligence and one of the visionaries at the basis of the Global brain idea.



Turchin was born in 1931 in Russia. In 1952, he graduated from Moscow University in Theoretical Physics, and got his Ph.D. in 1957. After working on neutron and solid-state physics at the Institute for Physics of Energy in Obninsk, in 1964 he accepted a position at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics in Moscow. There he worked in statistical regularization methods and authored REFAL, one of the first AI languages and the AI language of choice in the Soviet Union.

In the 1960's, Turchin became politically active. In 1968 he authored "The Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview", a scathing critique of totalitarianism supported by an emerging cybernetic social theory. Following its publication in the underground press, he lost his research laboratory. In 1970 he authored "The Phenomenon of Science", a grand cybernetic meta-theory of universal evolution, which broadened and deepened the earlier book. By 1973, Turchin had founded the Moscow chapter of Amnesty International and was working closely with the well-known physicist and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. In 1974 he lost his position at the Institute, and was persecuted by the KGB. Facing almost certain imprisonment, he and his family were forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1977.

He came to New York where he joined the faculty of the City University of New York in 1979. In 1990, together with Cliff Joslyn and Francis Heylighen, he founded the Principia Cybernetica Project, a world-wide organization devoted to the collaborative development of an evolutionary-cybernetic philosophy. In 1998, he co-founded the software start-up SuperCompilers, LLC. He retired from his post of Professor of Computer Science at City College in 1999.

His son, Peter Turchin, is a world known specialist in population dynamics and mathematical modeling of historical dynamics.


The philosophical core of Turchin's scientific work is the concept of the metasystem transition, which denotes the evolutionary process through which higher levels of control emerge in system structure and function. Turchin uses this concept to provide a global theory of evolution and a coherent social systems theory, to develop a complete cybernetics philosophical and ethical system, and to build a constructivist foundation for mathematics. Using the REFAL language he has implemented a Supercompiler (archive link, was dead; history), a unified method for program transformation and optimization based on a metasystem transition.

Major Publications

  • The Phenomenon of Science. A cybernetic approach to human evolution, Columbia University Press New York, 1977
  • The Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview (ISBN 0-231-04622-7), Columbia University Press New York, 1981
  • "The concept of a supercompiler", ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, 8, pp.292-325, 1986
  • "A constructive interpretation of the full set theory", Journal of Symbolic Logic, 52, pp.172-201, 1987
  • Refal-5: Programming Guide and Reference Manual, New England Publishing Co. Holyoke MA, 1989
  • Principia Cybernetica Web (as editor, together with F. Heylighen and C. Joslyn) (1993-2005)

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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The Phenomenon Of Science

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