This nOde last updated February 26th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
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noun (used with a sing. verb)
The theoretical study of communication and control processes in biological, mechanical, and electronic systems, especially the comparison of these processes in biological and artificial systems.
[From Greek kubernętęs,
governor, from kubernan, to govern.]
- cy´bernet´ic adjective
- cy´bernet´ically adverb
- cy´bernet´icist or cy´berneti´cian (-nî-tîsh´en) noun
science dealing with communication and control systems in living organisms,
machines, and organizations. The term was first applied in 1948 to the
theory of control mechanisms by American mathematician Norbert
Wiener. Cybernetics developed from investigations into how information
is transformed into desired performance. The science arose out of problems
that were encountered in the development of so-called electronic brains
and of automatic-control mechanisms for military apparatuses. According
to cybernetics, the human brain and nervous system coordinate information
to determine which actions will be performed; control mechanisms for self-correction
in machines serve a similar purpose. This principle, known as feedback,
is the fundamental concept of automation. One of the basic tenets of cybernetics
is that information can be statistically measured in accordance with the
laws of probability. Purposive behavior in humans or in machines requires
control mechanisms that maintain order by counteracting the natural tendency
Consciousness and the Subconscious
The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable,
of what has been expelled from the land of language,
removed as a result of ancient prohibitions.
Italo Calvino (1923-85), Italian author, critic. "Cybernetics and Ghosts," lecture, delivered in Turin, Nov. 1969 (published in The Literature Machine, 1987).
"...in perfecting feedback and the means of rapid data manipulation, the science of cybernetics was gaining a deeper understanding of life itself as being, at its core, the processing of information."
- Theodore Roszak, _The Cult of Information_
60GCAT: You've said that UFOs represent a form of alien intelligence that is actively manipulating human society. How and toward what end?
Jacques Vallee: A new computer analysis of historical trends, compiled in the 1970s, led me to plot a striking graph of "waves" of UFO activity that was anything but periodic. Fred Beckman and Dr. Price Williams of UCLA pointed out that it resembled a schedule of reinforcement typical of a learning or training process: the phenomenon was more akin to a control system than to an exploratory task force of alien travelers. There are many control systems around us, and some are a part of nature: ecology, climate, etc. Some are man-made: the process of education, the thermostat in your home. If the UFO phenomenon represents a control system, can we test it to determine if it is natural or artificial, open or closed? This is one of the interesting questions about the phenomenon that has never been answered.
Synopsys: cybernetics studies organization, communication and control in complex systems by focusing on circular (feedback) mechanisms Cybernetics, deriving from the Greek word for steersman (kybernetes), was first introduced by the mathematician Wiener, as the science of communication and control in the animal and the machine (to which we now might add: in society and in individual human beings). It grew out of Shannon's information theory, which was designed to optimize the transmission of information through communication channels, and the feedback concept used in engineering control systems. In its present incarnation of "second-order cybernetics", its emphasis is on how observers construct models of the systems with which they interact.
The main emphasis of cybernetics is on the circular mechanisms that allow complex systems to maintain, adapt, and self-organize. Such circularity or self-reference makes it possible to make precise, scientific models of purposeful activity, that is, behavior that is oriented towards a goal or preferred condition. In that sense, cybernetics proposes a revolution with respect to the linear, mechanistic models of traditional Newtonian science. In classical science, every process is determined solely by its cause, that is, a factor residing in the past. However, the behavior of living organisms is typically teleonomic, that is, oriented towards a future state, which does not exist as yet.
Cybernetics has discovered that teleonomy (or finality) and causality can be reconciled by using non-linear, circular mechanisms, where the cause equals the effect. The simplest example of such a circular mechanism is feedback. The simplest application of negative feedback for self-maintenance is homeostasis. The non-linear interaction between the homeostatic or goal-directed system and its environment results in a relation of control of the system over the perturbations coming from the environment.
W. Ross Ashby - psychiatrist; one of the founding fathers of cybernetics; developed homeostat, law of requisite variety, principle of self-organization, and law of regulating models.
Henri Atlan - studied self-organization in networks and cells.
Gregory Bateson - anthropologist; developed double bind theory, and looked at parallels between mind and natural evolution.
Stafford Beer - management cyberneticist; creator of the Viable System Model (VSM).
Kenneth E. Boulding - economist; one of the founding fathers of general system theory.
Peter Checkland - creator of soft systems methodology.
Jay Forrester - engineer; creator of system dynamics, applications to the modelling of industry development, cities and the world.
George Klir - mathematical systems theorist; creator of the General Systems Problem Solver methodology for modelling.
Niklas Luhmann - sociologist; applied theory of autopoiesis to social systems.
Humberto Maturana - biologist; creator together with F. Varela of the theory of autopoiesis.
Warren McCulloch - neurophysiologist; first to develop mathematical models of neural networks.
James Grier Miller - biologist, creator of Living Systems Theory (LST).
Edgar Morin - sociologist, developed a general transdisplinary "method".
Howard T. Odum - creator of systems ecology.
Gordon Pask - creator of conversation theory: second order cybernetic concepts and applications to education.
Howard Pattee - theoretical biologist; studied hierarchy and semantic closure in organisms.
William T. Powers - engineer; creator of perceptual control theory.
Robert Rosen - theoretical biologist; first studied anticipatory systems, proposed category theoretic, non-mechanistic model of living systems.
Claude Shannon - founder of information theory.
Francisco Varela - biologist; creator, together with H. Maturana of the theory of autopoiesis.
Ludwig von Bertalanffy - biologist; founder of General System Theory.
Ernst von Glasersfeld - psychologist; proponent of radical constructivism.
Heinz von Foerster - one of the founding fathers of cybernetics; first to study self-organization, self-reference and other circularities; creator of second-order cybernetics.
von Neumann - mathematician; founding father in the domains
of ergodic theory, game theory, quantum logic, axioms of quantum
mechanics, the digital
computer, cellular automata and self-reproducing systems.
Paul Watzlawick - psychiatrist; studied role of paradoxes in communication.
Norbert Wiener - mathematician; founder of cybernetics.
The weakness of conspiracy theory is that human nature is to fuck up. Yeah, of course! I said that in _The Invisibles_, the idea that no matter how many surveillance cameras you put up, the guy in the surveillance screen room is jerking off. He's not watching; he's playing computer games and looking at some magazine or whatever it is he's doing. You don't have to worry about it. I think we live in a self-perfecting system and we just don't know it. Everything is fine. It's working perfectly; just let it correct itself, and do what you can to help it correct itself when you become aware of it.
Isn't that a justification for apathy? It only looks like apathy. It's why Buddhist monks seem apathetic to us. I think it's because they've figured it out. But it's the kind of system that perfects itself. Even if you become apathetic, there's always someone else who'll come up who hasn't reached that stage yet and will do all of that.
- Grant Morrison re: the comic series _The Invisibles_
film _Matrix: Reloaded_
Councillor Hamann: Almost no one comes down here,
unless, of course, there's a problem. That's how it is with people - nobody
cares how it works as long as it works. I like it down here. I like to be reminded
this city survives because of these machines. These machines are keeping us
alive, while other machines are coming to kill us. Interesting, isn't it? Power
to give life, and the power to end it.
Neo: We have the same power.
Councillor Hamann: I suppose we do, but down here sometimes I think about all those people still plugged into the Matrix and when I look at these machines, I.. I can't help thinking that in a way, we are plugged into them.
Neo: But we control these machines, they don't control us.
Councillor Hamann: Of course not, how could they? The idea's pure nonsense, but... it does make one wonder just... what is control?
Neo: If we wanted, we could shut these machines down.
Councillor Hamann: Of course... that's it. You hit it! That's control, isn't it? If we wanted, we could smash them to bits. Although if we did, we'd have to consider what would happen to our lights, our heat, our air.
Neo: So we need machines and they need us. Is that your point, Councillor?
Councillor Hamann: No, no point. Old men like me don't bother with making points. There's no point.
Neo: Is that why there are no young men on the Council?
Councillor Hamann: Good point.
Neo: Why don't you tell me what's on your mind, Councillor?
Councillor Hamann: There is so much in this world that I do not understand. See that machine? It has something to do with recycling our water supply. I have absolutely no idea how it works. But I do understand the reason for it to work. I have absolutely no idea how you are able to do some of the things you do, but I believe there's a reason for that as well. I only hope we understand that reason before it's too late.