Coördination for Understanding

The Technology of Intelligence and The Intelligence of Technology

  • This abstract describes a performance given at the University of Victoria in 1988, at a meeting called CyberNET '88 that was co-sponsored by the American Society for Cybernetics. Humberto Maturana, Herbert Brün and Gordon Pask were in attendance, and part of my goal was to knit their concepts and focus into an integrated whole. An unfinished 80-page monograph was prepared afterward as a record of the performance.
  • This use of the term “coördination”, to describe what must take place to achieve understanding and shared models, was typical of my consulting work of that period. Similarly the format of the sub-title was often useful, a habit which has since played out.


For a general audience concerned with the role of technology in social interaction, Dr Pangaro will use performance techniques and everyday metaphor to convey how concepts from cybernetics can be powerful tools for shaping this role. In keeping with the theme of the CyberNET '88 Conference at the University of Victoria, this public lecture will focus with the following issues:

  • To hope that a machine can possess intelligence is to invest in notions of reality, knowledge, and inside/outside
  • To prefer that intelligence is an attribute of a conversation is to invest in notions of subjectivity, agreement, and experience

These latter notions need not sacrifice the goals of science or artificial intelligence; they merely focus attention on human-defined needs. In an era when human purposes can be instrumented and distributed to vast proportions, we risk the creation of telematic technologies within which human purpose is subordinated (witness “corporate culture”).

It is crucial to adopt a science such as cybernetics where purpose and relativism, and hence individuality and ethics, are central.

A framework for understanding how technology coordinates human activity, and hence facilitates (or, indeed, allows) for intelligent interaction, will be presented. The nature(s) of intelligence can be characterized, and guidance for technological design can be obtained.

© Copyright Paul Pangaro, 2013.