Psybernetics ?


Never really approved of neologisms as a way of avoiding the baggage of perfectly serviceable existing words and language. Two reasons:

First, that it implies some “invention” of the concept not just the word, and that invention implies some proprietorial – copyright – interest in its use, even if the idea is as old as the Greeks. (Nothing new under the sun, but it’s a big deal in academia that people get “credit” for their own work, just look at the politicisation of the “plagiarism” wars. The “Open” movement is more concerned that humanity’s real interest is that we get the value of the greater understanding, whoever coined the term to join up existing concepts.)

Second, even if the coiner of the term has no proprietary intent, tribes form silos under banners naming their schools of thought – sometimes literal disciplines, departments and schools – with the terms that distinguish them from neighbouring tribes – the book title of their founding or inspirational hero. Coining a new term just creates an additional unnecessary competing silo, when the existing tribes already cover 99% of the same intent.

Get over it, I say. Focus on the value of the ideas and their application, to humanity that is, not to your – terminologically branded- funding stream.

Anyway, I couldn’t help notice I’d kinda already coined a term, incidentally in giving the name 20+ years ago to my own on-line research & blogging project “Psybertron”.

As well as the recent synergy vs emergence (non-)question, we’re mired in the whole branding of approaches under “systems”. Systems Thinking, Systems Science(s), Complexity Science(s), Systems Theory(ies) Systems Engineering, Operations Research, Systems Methodology(ies) each with their own qualifiers Living, Viable, Critical, Social, Community, you name it, literally. Whichever, they’re all multi-discipline and yes they all arose with some distinguishing feature – a good fence – a focus on one important aspect (eg Requisite Variety say?) among many shared features. They have their distinctions and distinct intended scopes of applicability, but they 99% overlap.

Having concluded in 2002 that the original coining of Cybernetics around Macy 1946 was already aimed at the maximum application of systems thought for humanity, life before machine, control in not control of, in Wiener’s title and in Dupuy’s own summary, I had already coined “Psybertron” in 2001 deliberately to rhyme with “Cyber” but to emphasise that human psychological focus. I already knew. Clearly, most people in the late 20th C heard cybernetics as control systems engineering even though it was never the intent of the word – not just engineered machines, but all systems, natural, human and social, involve information communications, internal and external, feeding backwards, forwards and every which way.

More recently I’ve tended to use “Systems Thinking” as the most general, neutral, innocuous abstract expression of the topic (whilst acknowledging it was already the intent of Cybernetics itself) – it just avoids unnecessary word-game-wars.

Maybe it could be Psybernetics © … 😊

Seriously, I really don’t care. I just want people to focus on all the how and why questions, the understandings and explanations, and their applications – not what we call things. And remember that “we” are humans not machines.


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, and there is a logical dialectic in the argument, so in order, do not pass go, etc.)


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