What is Cybernetics ?

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Cybernetics is a theory of the communication and control of regulatory feedback. The term cybernetics stems from the Greek kybernetis meaning "steersman". Cybernetics as a discipline was developed by Norbert Wiener (in Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and machine, 1948) and others such as William Ross Ashby.

Wiener popularized the social implications of cybernetics, drawing analogies between automatic systems such as a regulated steam engine and human institutions in his best-selling The Human Use of Human Beings : Cybernetics and Society (Houghton-Mifflin, 1950). When asked why he had chosen the name cybernetics, Wiener replied, "I didn't know what else to call it."

Clynes & Kline popularized the term amongst the masses.

Cybernetics is associated in many people's minds with robotics, due to uses such as Douglas Adams' Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and the concept of a cyborg. In scholarly terms, however, it is the study of systems and control in an abstracted sense - that is, it is not grounded in any empirical field.

(From Principia Cybernetica Web)

Cybernetics studies organization, communication and control in complex systems by focusing on circular (feedback) mechanisms

Cybernetics, deriving from the Greek word for steersman (kybernetes), was first introduced by the mathematician Wiener, as the science of communication and control in the animal and the machine (to which we now might add: in society and in individual human beings). It grew out of Shannon's information theory, which was designed to optimize the transmission of information through communication channels, and the feedback concept used in engineering control systems. In its present incarnation of "second-order cybernetics", its emphasis is on how observers construct models of the systems with which they interact (see complex systems to maintain, adapt, and self-organize. Such circularity or self-reference makes it possible to make precise, scientific models of purposeful activity, that is, behavior that is oriented towards a goal or preferred condition. In that sense, cybernetics proposes a revolution with respect to the linear, mechanistic models of traditional Newtonian science. In classical science, every process is determined solely by its cause, that is, a factor residing in the past. However, the behavior of living organisms is typically teleonomic, that is, oriented towards a future state, which does not exist as yet.

Cybernetics has discovered that teleonomy (or finality) and causality can be reconciled by using non-linear, circular mechanisms, where the cause equals the effect. The simplest example of such a circular mechanism is feedback. The simplest application of negative feedback for self-maintenance is homeostasis. The non-linear interaction between the homeostatic or goal-directed system and its environment results in a relation of control of the system over the perturbations coming from the environment.

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