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Cybernetics is the science of control and communication. All systems can be analyze with formalized descriptions of how they process and store messages and especially feedback loops, the output of which is re-used as inputs. Cybernetics is now rarely used in discourse, having been replaced by its many avatars such as complexity theory, artificial life, network dynamics, cognitive science, robotics, which are all part of a broader 'systems theory'.
"Cybernetics was born in the mid-nineteen-forties, as scholars in various disciplines began noticing that social, natural, and mechanical systems exhibit similar patterns of self-regulation. Norbert Wiener’s classic “Cybernetics; or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine” (1948) discussed human behavior by drawing on his close observation of technologies like the radar and the thermostat. The latter is remarkable for how little it needs to know in order to do its job. It doesn’t care whether what’s making the room so hot is your brand-new plasma TV or the weather outside. It just needs to compare its actual output (the temperature right now) with its predefined output (the desired temperature) and readjust its input (whatever mechanism is producing heat or cold).
Wiener held that a patient suffering from purpose tremor—spilling a glass of water before raising it to his lips—was akin to a malfunctioning thermostat. Both rely on “negative feedback”—“negative” because it tends to oppose what the system is doing. In a way, our bodies are feedback machines: we maintain our body temperature without a specially programmed response for “condition: bathhouse” or “condition: tundra.” The tendency to self-adjust is known as homeostasis, and it’s ubiquitous in both the natural and the mechanical worlds. For Beer, in fact, corporations are homeostats. They have a clear goal—survival—and are full of feedback loops: between the company and its suppliers or between workers and management. And if we can make homeostatic corporations why not homeostatic governments?" (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/13/planning-machine?)
- Cybernetics of the Commons
- Cybernetics Valuable to the Commons and for Understanding AI. By Jan Krikke.