Cybernetics

Cybernetics: (derives from the Greek word for steersman, which was used by Plato in the sense of "government."):The technology of process control was developed by Norbert Weiner into "the field of control and communication theory (based on statistical information) , whether in the machine or animal" . The terms was first introduced in 1947. See Wiener Cybernetics.

One of the most significant dimensions of cybernetic thought was its claim to apply equally to living organisms and machines, and its ambition to describe the behavior of both in terms of mathematics. (see cyborg for the joining of the two) (It is also interesting to observe that communication and control are paired in the first place.) The description of purposive behavior of organisms in the images and language of engineering meant that, notwithstanding the traditional opposition between teleology and mechanism, one could henceforth speak explicitly and concretely about "teleological mechanisms."

Cybernetics had its origin in Wiener's war-related work on the control of anti-aircraft fire. An anti-aircraft gun must fire, not at the current position of the aircraft, but at the spot to which the aircraft will have moved during the flight of the shell. Wiener and his colleague Julian Bigelow realized that it was important to collect information about the deviations between predicted motion and actual motion. These deviations could the be fed-back as input to the predictor and as corrections to further predictions. (see feedback for discussion of sensitivity of controller mechanisms.)

Because of the central role of feedback in cybernetics, the "cybernetic paradigm" is described as having a fundamentally circular logic.

Wiener believes that the human sciences are a poor proving ground for mathematical technique. While he agrees that"It is true that the social system is an organization like the individual, that it is bound together by a system of communication, and that it has a dynamics in which circular processes of a feedback nature play an important part," (Wiener, p. 24) he nontheless points out that the fluctuations and changing conditions of a society make statistical data less reliable than under essentially constant conditions.

But for Gregory Bateson, applying cybernetics to the human psyche, "the human being is like any self-correcting system which has lost its governor; it spirals into never-ending, but always systematic, distortion." (pp 211-212) (see schizophrenia )