[WIRED published a review of a recently-found bookby Norbert Wiener, to which I replied the following text.]
In his review of Wiener's _Invention-_ ("The Care and Feeding of Ideas", _Wired_ 3.08, page 146), Alan Rapp says it was Wiener, co-coiner of the term "cybernetics", who doomed us to see its "prefix slapped upon every new technological trifle." Trifle-ization is unavoidable until the meaning and value of cybernetics is examined.
Wiener and his collaborators consciously invoked a neologism because they thought it necessary to carry new meaning into established sciences. Given the resistance to the adoption of cybernetics (and all that it implies), they were right. Word-craft aside, their spectacular innovation was to bring meaningful rigor to a science of subjectivity without erasing the subject (us). They birthed a discipline that would show relationships of purpose to mechanism, language to living. Cybernetics caps the revolutions of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Picasso, the barest list of those epistemologies that affirm a world constructed out from our selves, rather than out of an external "reality."
In the form of disciplined systems practices, the tools of cybernetics become more visible as our engineers and businesses recognize them. Though the original term may not survive bastardization, the concepts and value of cybernetics remain. In a world confused by technology promoted for its own sake, and the clichés that come with that, I feel we can only benefit from a science that holds human purpose as the source. In that sense cybernetics is about the "us" in our consciousness.
Paul Pangaro Cybernetics
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