Soviet Cybernetics and Planning

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Elena Veduta:

"The Soviet cybernetics scientist Nikolai Veduta developed a dynamic model of intersectoral balance, presented in the form of a system of algorithms for coordinating planned input-output calculations, taking into account feedback, and including a control parameter – production investment.

The subsequent voluntarist reforms aimed at increasing the financial resources remaining at the disposal of enterprises, ministries and republics intensified the chaos in management and, ultimately, led to the collapse of the USSR and the State Planning Commission in 1991, and the handover of the country’s economy to global financial management, which turned us into a raw materials appendage. Today, Russia, like all developing countries, faces a much more sinister threat – to submit to the emerging global digital governance, using a “non-dormant” AI with the destruction of its history.

The problems of the former USSR in creating AI for economic planning have already become problems of global governance, which have neither the experience of living planning of the USSR, nor the knowledge of economic cybernetics."


On the role of Anatoly Kitov

"The previous publication in Cosmonaut of Gluskhov’s biography, the Soviet designer on OGAS, attracted a lot of attention, and has inaugurated a discussion on planning. But before Gluskhov, there was another idea of a “big computer”, made by the pioneer of cybernetics in the USSR, Anatoly Kitov.

The popular scholarship on Kitov (and Gluskhov) is rather lacking, with only the recent books From Newspeak to Cyberspeak and How Not to Network a Nation providing some background, albeit flawed, to these thinkers. There are also shorter works in the specialized literature but behind heavy paywalls. On the internet, there is little material and his wikipedia page is unlegible, despite his rightful position as the pioneer of computation in the USSR. He was expelled from the party, and his texts were held as military secrets until rather recently.

To address this gap, inspired by the Spanish speaking group Cibcom, here we present two new translations. The first, is a short biography of Kitov, previously published in Novosti RIA. This piece talks about Kitov’s upbringing, education, scientific achievements as well as his plans to build computing systems that would plan the economy and warfare, and how his personality led to his conflict with the Soviet hierarchy. With this piece, we hope to reintroduce Kitov to unfamiliar readers.

The second is Kitov’s seminal paper, “The Key Features of Cybernetics” which was the first positive reference to this field published in the USSR. It contains three sections, which combine a scientific description of the basic concepts in information theory, as well as a critical analysis not only of cybernetics but of science in general that is very illustrative of the approach taken by Soviet scientists. Kitov approaches cybernetics critically, from a communist perspective, highlighting where “bourgeois” philosophy becomes too mechanical and must be enriched by dialectical materialism. As mentioned in his biography, Kitov authored the paper years before it was published, and later added two co-authors to this work.

When taken together, both documents give a good picture of what the reception of cybernetics in the late 50s/early 60s was, and they also recapitulate some of the political debates around planning in the USSR."