The Cybernetics reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Cybernetics is a theory of the communication and control of regulatory feedback. The term cybernetics stems from the Greek kybernetes (meaning steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder). Cybernetics is the discipline that studies communication and control in living beings and in the machines built by humans.

A more philosophical definition, suggested in 1958 by Louis Couffignal, one of the pioneers of cybernetics in the 1930s, considers cybernetics as "the art of assuring efficiency of action" (see external links for reference).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Scope
3 See also
4 References
5 External links


The word cybernetics is found in the Gorgias by Plato, it also had a French usage, though Wiener, who later developed the modern form, wasn't aware that the physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836) had already used it for his classification of the sciences to define "how the citizens can enjoy a peaceful time".

In the late 1700s James Watt's steam engine had a governor, a simple feedback mechanism, a cornerstone of cybernetic theory. In 1868 James Clerk Maxwell published an article on governors. In the 1940s the study of regulatory processes became a continuing research effort and two key articles were published in 1943 ( "Behavior, Purpose and Teleology" by Arturo Rosenblueth, Norbert Wiener, and Julian Bigelow and "A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity" by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts).

Cybernetics as a discipline was firmly established by Norbert Wiener (in Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and machine, 1948) and others such as William Ross Ashby and Grey Walter. While cybernetics is generally thought to have American origins, the book itself was actually published in France where information theory was hailed as a new general discipline which included cybernetics. When asked why he had chosen the name cybernetics, Wiener replied, "I didn't know what else to call it."

In the spring of 1947, Wiener was invited to a congress on harmonic analysis, held in Nancy, France and organized by the bourbakist mathematician, Szolem Mandelbrojt (1899-1983), uncle of the world famous mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

During this stay in France Wiener received the offer to write a manuscript on the unifying character of this part of applied mathematics, which is found in the study of Brownian motion and in telecommunication engineering. The following summer, back in the United States, Wiener decided to introduce the neologism cybernetics into his scientific theory.

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).

Cybernetics is somewhat erroneously associated in many people's minds with robotics, due to uses such as Douglas Adams' Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and the concept of a cyborg, a term first popularized by Clynes and Kline in 1960.


In scholarly terms, cybernetics it is the study of systems and control in an abstracted sense - that is, it is not grounded in any empirical field. Its emphasis is on the functional relations that hold between the different parts of a system. These include in particular the transfer of information, and the circular relations that define feedback, self-organization, and autopoiesis. The main innovation brought about by cybernetics is an understanding of goal-directedness or purpose as a negative feedback loop which minimizes the deviation between the perceived situation and the desired situation (goal).

See also


External links

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