I think what people haven't realised is that for Wiener - though not necessarily the successive generations of Cyberneticians per se - cybernetics names not only a transdisciplinary field of study, not only a primitive form of control engineering, but a philosophical system that contends directly with GW Leibniz's monadology. Wiener considered it to be a kind of monster, a 'golem', since whereas the monadology posits universal beneficence throughout nature and humankind, Wiener's cybernetics is, when applied to human societies, structurally, infinitely, conflictual. Moreover it points towards awesome consolidations of power.
Generations of readers of cybernetics have completely missed or disregarded this aspect of his thought, conveniently mistaking a system of regulation in nature for a system of regulation in artificial human societies. For Wiener there is no self-regulation in the body politic, societies are fundamentally anti-homeostatic, and the techniques that his generation had bequeathed to the world would only exacerbate its positive feedback loop.
This is why, for me, Wiener is still so compelling, despite the unfathomable equations, the desperate arrogance, the stuffy air of cigars. He was the first to see the world that Snowden brought to the public's attention. And it's all there, systematically in 1948 (and even, sort of, earlier).
I would LOVE to hear how Wiener might interpret today's world.
As a total noob, I'm often delighted by the insights of earlier commentators. The people who lived thru great transformations, so can remember the before times, allowing them to see the now more clearly.
Like your lament about Wiener's ignored analysis and insights, rereading McLuhan was very fruitful. His concept of autoamputation seems to have been completely ignored. (Over stimulation leads to shutting down that sensory input.) But it's such a great way of describing the impact of modern rhetoric.
Sometimes I wonder if it's like Steve Jobs' visit to Xerox PARC. Jobs admits they (Apple) were so captivated by GUIs they totally missed other breakthrough concepts like object-oriented.
Besides predicting to a T multiple aspects of the world we're now experiencing, this book is full of insinuations about several conditions yet to arise (or maybe risen but yet to be discovered!). He doesn't explicitly lay them out, but leaves you to identify and connect the dots. This occultation of ideas is somewhat common in early cybernetics works.
Needless to say, the vision of Wiener will be seen by many who understand it as supremely negative.
An alternative is explored in 'Steps to an Ecology of Mind' by Bateson.
I suspect (not having yet read the above beyond the preface) the root issue is, as usual, the nature of consciousness. My own views on that subject are fringe per du jour orthodoxy which states that 'mind arises from structure'. Weiner seems to take it for granted that an algorithm "learned" something. Does an algorithm even have a "self" that would "learn"? I personally think we're being careless with word usage.
Once you contest the implicit equivalence made between 'form' and 'meaning' which occurs when one asserts that a mechanical/causal device has "learned" something -- all we have observed is form in -> form out -- then the 2 remaining "points in cybernetics" are "[machine] self-reproduction", and, "man-machine coordination".
These last two are difficult topics -only- if generously attribute "consciousness" to machines that auto-extend their state transition map. Otherwise, they are interesting but not cosmic questions. And further, one can still entertain a 'Universal Mind' and speculations such as Leibniz's monadology, happily coexiting with a science of cybernetics.
I was really disappointed when I first learned about Cybernetics, to read that it had fallen out of favor, breaking into a thousand discrete disciplines.
"Cognitive Science" seems to be the closest modern inter-disciplinary topic. I suppose it comes down to the reality that the practical applications of a true "cybernetics" discipline would be so narrow that it would be a tiny field.
Cybernetics also reintroduced teleology into the sciences, which is philosophically deeply controversial.
I also like the fact that he describes this teleology as reducing local entropy .
I presented my tenure midterm today on "AI for Wellbeing" which I based on Cybernetics .
 "while the universe as a whole, if indeed there is a whole universe, tends to run down, there are local enclaves whose direction seems opposed to that of the universe at large and in which there is a limited and temporary tendency for organization to increase. Life finds its home in some of these enclaves. It is with this point of view at its core that the new science of Cybernetics began its development."
I was one of the authors and it might have some valuable concepts you could use.
I imagine the solution to every problem can be found lying on a shelf, untranslated in a research lab in the middle of nowhere in Russia
> a theory which defines generalisable patterns in the nature of inventive solutions and the distinguishing characteristics of the problems that these inventions have overcome
It's been used by Samsung and other orgs.
Looking at that cheat-sheet, it's interesting how you can recognize elements of one's own process. I bet almost everyone can check off a few of those boxes as "I do this all the time".
Also interesting to note there are no interaction principles. "19 Pulsed Action Periodic Action" can be mapped in software systems to PUSH+Timer, but that's it. TRIZ apparently lacks the vocabulary to explore the space of interacting components [as first class "principles"].
(For a tiny glimpse of the USSR "feel", watch the BBC movie "Afghan experience" where some USSR soldiers from other republics than Russia proper speak.)
In contrast, in soviet states, everything was centrally organized and ran, which meant zero freedom to innovate at the ground level. This resulted in incredible inefficiency, as better ways of doing thing couldn't possibly be invented (unless the bureaucrat in Moscowwho controlled a given sector of the economy had a genuinely good idea, but that was rare).
Research, on the other hand, is much more prone to centralization, so it was doing quite well in the Soviets. Hence they ended up with a lot of research, but not that much innovation.
Minsky & Rosenblatt's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perceptrons_(book) covers multi-layer neural nets.
Rosenblatt's electronic implementation, the Mark I https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/236965.pdf
Minsky's electronic implementation, SNAC https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stochastic_neural_analog_reinf...
Control theory is just one amongst many splinters, without any implied primacy of control theory.
He did invent plenty of feedback analysis techniques and modern control systems before writing Cybernetics
"[...] general reader could be forgiven for assuming that Wiener was the originator of the idea of feedback control. Significant though these war-time contributions were, they were not the whole story: as I and others have shown feedback control has had a
much longer history"
That text includes more references to papers and books on the history of ideas relevant for control theory and control engineering.
Highly recommend Minsky's application of the theory on computation: Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines
Interestingly, Minsky went out of his way to hide the production of that project without Weiner to avoid his influence on it--whom he disliked at least at a professional capacity.
There's some part where he shows the symmetry of the machine with the environment implies they are are interchangeable and is merely a description of convenience. Of course this trivially flows from the time reversibility.
TIL that's also where Kubernetes comes from.
That's a link to the 'metasystem transition', a concept coined by Russian cybernetician Valentin Turchin (not mentioned in the article).
Cybernetics sounds cool (always has), but I think it lives on nowadays as control theory. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Seems like most control theory guys are working on autonomous vehicles now.
Sure, there was some fun robotics, electronics and math, but also some truly baffling control theory. Thankfully there was also a small amount of Computer Science, which sent me down the programming path that I remain on today...
Side note: I find it interesting that Weiner's book, which was fairly technical and full of rather arcane calculus, was widely popular among general readers. Just goes to show how much reading culture has changed since the 50s.
It’s the most fantastic layman’s introduction to cybernetics, written from the perspective of the economist behind the “Cyber” in the Chilean CyberSyn project (1970-3).
I discovered him reading People’s Republic of Walmart, another fantastic book about how effective socialist strategies for centralized government are applied in piecemeal to the largest corporations on the globe.
Highly, highly recommended—-and yes, I believe it’s valuable to learn about cybernetics. It teaches us that we don’t need more computers, or faster computers—-we need to use computers in different ways. Basically, we’ve already got the solutions to our problems, but we don’t implement them because we’re trapped by classic civilizational barriers (it’s hard to change people’s minds in the face of a culture that doesn’t want their minds to change).
(Mid-1980s conservative economic reform in the US might be an example, although in that case I suspect the Plaza Accord had more to do with it than pure market forces:
Basically, any socialist (sympathizing) government during the under a US magnifying glass. Oil money went into funding far-right fascist / military groups, which eventually caused turmoil in a variety of industries, including a steel worker’s strike.
The entire CyberSyn operation was conducted on a series of glorified typerwriters—-at the time, they were the only computers that the Chilean government could purchase, due to sanctions.
If the US had stopped strangling the nascent Chilean economy, then it would have been better positioned to handle social turmoil and competing political interests.
Instead, on September 11th, 1973, far right militias backed by US money raided Allende’s central command—-he ended up committing suicide rather than ending up a political prisoner.
(Sorry if this was a bit unrelated to the initial reply—it just bugs me how removed from actual market forces these economies are operating in. I feel like it doesn’t matter what you are exporting—-if the US wanted it post-WW2, they came in and took it).
I’ve done some reading on cybernetics but I’ll have to look up Beer.
How well read was Wiener actually though? The historian Ronald Kline compares these books to the status of Steven Hawkins' Brief History of Time upon its release. The books anyone invested in intellectual development needed /to show/ they had a copy of, rather than one they exactly made it through cover to cover.
 He developed automatic reset for bowling alleys, and made bank. For his second system, he thought he'd automate food service. That didn't go (and hasn't gone) so well.
Second-order cybernetics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-order_cybernetics
what is cybernetics? https://vimeo.com/41776276
design for a self-regenerating organization https://www.pangaro.com/ashby+design-for-self-regenerating-c...
notes 358 on the role of leadership & language in regenerating organizations http://www.pangaro.com/littlegreybook-dom.pdf
towards a theoretical foundation for agile development https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7302798
2017 cybernetics conference
2017 cybernetics conference - proxy politics as social cybernetics
how cybernetics connects computing, counterculture, and design http://www.dubberly.com/articles/cybernetics-and-countercult...
a tale of the mirror world, part 1: calculators and cybernetics https://www.filfre.net/2017/06/tales-of-the-mirror-world-par...
Niklas Luhmann: Systems Theory
The overarching, multidiscipline, that subsumes cybernetics, can be summarized here:
AI/robotics are but two of the many fields that cybernetic principles apply to, and arguably not even the most important.
I suggest you look at what people like Bateson, Von Foerster and Glanville were doing, to understand first the scope and ultimately what cybernetics really is at its core.
It explains why some Economics degrees have a course on Cybernetics.
TIL: Where Kubernetes got its name from.