Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile

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* Essay: Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile. By EDEN MEDINA. . Lat. Amer. Stud. 38 , 571–606

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"This article presents a history of ‘Project Cybersyn’, an early computer network developed in Chile during the socialist presidency of Salvador Allende (1970–1973) to regulate the growing social property area and manage the transition of Chile’s economy from capitalism to socialism. Under the guidance of British cybernetician Stafford Beer, often lauded as the ‘father of management cybernetics’, an interdisciplinary Chilean team designed cybernetic models of factories within the nationalised sector and created a network for the rapid transmission of economic data between the government and the factory floor. The article describes the construction of this unorthodox system, examines how its structure reflected the socialist ideology of the Allende government, and documents the contributions of this technology to the Allende administration."


Eden Medina:

"Beer acknowledged the difficulties of achieving real-time economic control, but emphasised that a system based on a firm understanding of cybernetic principles could accomplish technical feats deemed impossible in the developed world, even with Chile’s limited technological resources. Once Allende gained a familiarity with the mechanics of Beer’s model, he began to reinforce the political aspects of the project and insisted that the system behave in a ‘decentralising, worker-participative, and anti- bureaucratic manner’.

When Beer finally reached the top level of his system- atic hierarchy, the place in the model Beer had reserved for Allende himself the president leaned back in his chair and said, ‘At last, el pueblo.’

With this succinct utterance, Allende reframed the project to reflect his ideological convictions and view of the presidential office, which often equated his political leadership with the rule of the people. By the end of the conver- sation, Beer had secured Allende’s blessing to continue the project."