Feedback control and the arrow of time

Tryphon T. Georgiou, Malcolm C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to highlight the central role that the time asymmetry of stability plays in feedback control. We show that this provides a new perspective on the use of doubly-infinite or semi-infinite time-axes for signal spaces in control theory. We then focus on the implication of this time asymmetry in modelling uncertainty, regulation and robust control. We point out that modelling uncertainty and the ease of control depend critically on the direction of time. We also discuss the relationship of this control-based time-arrow with the well-known arrows of time in physics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1338
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Control
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Jan Willems for helpful comments on an earlier draft. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments. This work was partially supported by the NSF and AFOSR.


  • feedback control
  • reversibility
  • robust control
  • stability
  • thermodynamics
  • time-asymmetry


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