Cybernetics - So much more than robots


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This is a brief introduction to Cybernetics, created for my Interdisciplinary Studies 500 class at Royal Roads University, Winter 2013. If you have questions, feel free to comment here!

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Cybernetics - So much more than robots

  1. 1. Cybernetic Theory: So much more than robotsCatherine NovakINDS 500March 17th 2013
  2. 2. From “steersman” to self-organizing systems Kybernetes (Greek def.) − Person at the wheel of ship, with their eye on the horizon “steersman” − Latin version: gubernator Cybernetics − the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine (Weiner, 1948) 2
  3. 3. Key concepts: Cybernetics focuses on systems which adjust automatically to feedback A cybernetic system includes organism/machine/organization AND its environment Recursion: cyclical process of reproduction; e.g. chicken and egg, opposing mirrors Autopoeisis: the system can self-replicate. Applied to biological systems, language and more. 3
  4. 4. Origins of cybernetics Idea of cybernetics dates back to time of Aristotle Automated systems have been in existence for hundreds of years With industrial revolution, the idea of cybernetics resurfaces, although it wasnt called that until the 1940s 4
  5. 5. The Macy Conferences (1942-53) Numerous specialists met to find interdisciplinary solutions to W.W. II, then to explore other collaborative ideas − Anthropologists − Computer scientists − Mathematicians − Neuroscientists − Physicists From their work, Norbert Weiner coined the term for the modern study of cybernetics. (1948) 5
  6. 6. Entropy vs. Self-Organization Newtons Second Law of Thermodynamics − Entropy: matter becomes more chaotic, varied Information, acted upon, reverses this law − Computer Code − DNA − Mind Self-organization limits possibilities, reduces entropy A self-organizing system is cybernetic 6
  7. 7. Relationships, activities, feedback  Cybernetic theorists are more interested in what a system does than what its components are  Information is the “electron” of a cybernetic circuit − Can be active or quiescent − Flows from origin to environment and back − Maintains or alters the system  Bateson defined information as “differences that make a difference” (1971, 2000) 7
  8. 8. Second-order cybernetics “Cybernetics of cybernetics” (von Foerster) Second-order cybernetics “Studies the role of the (human) observer in the construction of models of systems and other observers” (Heylighter, 2001) “No data are truly raw, and every record has been somehow subjected to editing and transformation either by man or by his instruments” (Bateson, 1971, 2000 p. xxvi) 8
  9. 9. Applications Cybernetics involves studies of goal-oriented, functional systems − Machines (Weiner) − Animals − Computers − Machine/Animal hybrids − Ecosystems − The Mind (Bateson) − Communication (Pask) − Societies (Beer) − Creativity (Iba) − etc. 9
  10. 10. More applications than theory Interdisciplinary cybernetic research reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s Much cybernetic research is now specific to applied research such as robotics, AI, meteorology, biology, neuroscience General systems theory has adopted many of the tenets of cybernetics 10
  11. 11. The last word “The characteristic of a non-trivial system that is under control, is that − despite dealing with variables too many to count, − too uncertain to express, − and too difficult even to understand, something can be done to generate a predictable goal.” (Beer, 2002) 11
  12. 12. ReferencesAmerican Society of Cybernetics. (n.d.) Foundations: History of cybernetics. Retrieved March16th, 2013 from, G. (2000). Steps to an ecology of mind, with a new foreword by Mary Catherine Bateson. Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press.Beer, S. (2002) What is cybernetics? Kybernetes, 31(2), 209-219. doi:10.1108/03684920210417283Heylighten, F. & Joslyn, C. (2001). Cybernetics and second-order cybernetics in R.A. Meyers (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Physical Science & Technology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Academic PressLeaning, M. (2002). The person we meet online. In Convergence, 8(1) 18-27. doi:10.1177/135485650200800103Rudall, B.H. (2000). Cybernetics and systems in the 1980s, Kybernetes, 29(5/6), 595-611.doi:10.1108/03684920010333071Takashi Iba, (2010). An autopoietic systems theory for creativity. Procedia - Social andBehavioral Sciences, 2(4). 6610-6625 Retrieved March 16th 2013 from, N. (1950). The human use of human beings: Cybernetics and society. Retrieved from 12
  13. 13. Image credits1. Cirius Cybernetics: Creative Commons attribution license by Bryan K. Ward2. Steersman: Creative Commons attribution license3. Droste cocoa package: public domain4. Dipping bird: Creative Commons attribution license Wikimedia Commons5. Weiner cover by George Giusti: Creative Commons attribution license by Crossett Library Bennington College6. Information superhighway Creation Commons attribution license7. From Heylighter & Joclyn, 2001, p. 168. Second-Order Cybernetics: Creative Commons attribution – share alike license Wikimedia Commons9. From Iba, 201010. Rudall, 2000, p. 59811. By Joachin Stroh. Retrieved March 16th 2013 from 13