Humanistic Cybernetics

Hold that thought.

I have held the view that Cybernetics (since 1946 Macy Conference) was always primarily about human systems involving the “Psyche” (hence my naming my efforts “Psybertron”) The fact that so much visible effort since then has focussed on automation and control of man made systems and “machines” – the easy bit – has completely skewed the wider conception – to the point of no return I fear – that anyone defending humanistic values in the 21st C would automatically (heh!) reject the language of Cybernetics (or Systems Thinking as I prefer it these days).

Someone (in the systems domain) suggested my view – and views of Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics generally – were somehow contentious? Here I need refer only to his title.

or Control and Communication
in the Animal and the Machine”

Animal before Machine, and control IN not OF the animal (or machine). He’s clearly talking about self-organising, living (self-sustaining) systems where control and decision-making arise internally.

By the time he came to write a new preface 13 years after his original work it is clear that the new discipline of control theory OF mechanistic (albeit complex non-linear) systems had taken centre stage, although he nevertheless reminds us he still has biology, psychology and sociology in his scope.

The original work had arisen within the Harvard Medical School. Despite the shift of focus in the preface to the second edition, the additional chapters in that edition are explicitly about learning, self-reproduction, brains and self-organisation, in addition to the original explicit topic titles of the nervous system, gestalts, psychopathology, language and society.

There is absolutely no doubt this topic was created with the understanding and well-being of the human animal in mind.


More on Psybertron:
This post is effectively one of a connected set of 4.

1 More than (Orthodox) Science ?

2 Humanistic Cybernetics ?

3 Synergy or Emergence ?

4 What’s in a name (Psybernetics) ?

(All my posts are connected, obviously, but these 4 specifically form a linked thread. They reflect a real-life developing dialogue, but there is a logical dialectic in the argument, so in order, do not pass go, etc.)


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