[The following informal comments are expanded via links to my personal Web pages. I strongly encourage response and commentary of others for the continuing development of the Society and its activities.]
Cybernetics was coined as a term in the late1940s in order to set it apart from other disciplines (such as "objective science" and otherwise), which were concerned with specific domains of application; for example, physics for the physical domain, biology for living systems, and the "soft sciences" for social systems. In distinction to these established domains, cybernetics began by considering information, system boundary and system purpose independently of what the system in question is made. The field arose as a named discipline around a time of great trans-disciplinary conversation, and a fresh term was coined in part to recognize the value of those interactions.
Because of its initial applications in electrical circuits for controlling responses through feedback (a term originating in cybernetics and now in everyday use) the field became associated with robots through references in science fiction. Its prefix has been incorporated in a vast array of neologisms which leave behind the meaning and intention of the original term. Cybernetics is usually confused with artificial intelligence, which emerged from cybernetics and is quite different.
Beginning in the 1960s the work of cybernetics turned explicitly to the nature of our shared reality and the role of subjectivity in scientific discourse. As such it places a human experience at the center of all descriptions and interactions. Its tools are unique in their ability to help bring forth useful descriptions of human and human/machine systems when language and purpose are involved. Cybernetics has had wide influence throughout the scientific world, and is construed by some as the culmination of 20th century science (Einstein, Heisenberg, Gödel, Bateson, von Foerster, Maturana). It is actively being applied to fields such as software user interface design, commerce, business, family therapy, biology, and others, and it touches on a diverse community of discourse.
Meeting in the city where Norbert Wiener taught for many years, the Cambridge Cybernetic Society invokes this history as a platform from which to interpret and to extrapolate the nexus of technology, commerce and society which is becoming the 21st Century.
- Paul Pangaro, September 1995
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