Transdisciplinary field concerned with regulatory and purposive systems
Principle diagram of a cybernetic system with a feedback loop
Complex systems
Collective behavior
Social dynamics

Collective intelligence
Collective action
Self-organized criticality
Herd mentality
Phase transition
Agent-based modelling
Ant colony optimization
Particle swarm optimization
Swarm behaviour

Collective consciousness
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Cybernetics is a wide-ranging field concerned with regulatory and purposive systems. The core concept of cybernetics is circular causality or feedback—where the observed outcomes of actions are taken as inputs for further action in ways that support the pursuit and maintenance of particular conditions, or their disruption. Cybernetics is named after an example of circular causality, that of steering a ship,[a] where the helmsperson maintains a steady course in a changing environment by adjusting their steering in continual response to the effect it is observed as having.[1] Other examples of circular causal feedback include: technological devices such as thermostats (where the action of a heater responds to measured changes in temperature, regulating the temperature of the room within a set range); biological examples such as the coordination of volitional movement through the nervous system; and processes of social interaction such as conversation.[2] Cybernetics is concerned with feedback processes such as steering however they are embodied,[3] including in ecological, technological, biological, cognitive, and social systems, and in the context of practical activities such as designing, learning, managing, conversation, and the practice of cybernetics itself. Cybernetics' transdisciplinary[4] and "antidisciplinary"[5] character has meant that it intersects with a number of other fields, leading to it having both wide influence and diverse interpretations.

Cybernetics has its origins in exchanges between numerous fields during the 1940s, including anthropology, mathematics, neuroscience, psychology, and engineering. Initial developments were consolidated through meetings such as the Macy Conferences and the Ratio Club. At its most prominent during the 1950s and 1960s, cybernetics is a precursor to fields such as computing, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, complexity science, and robotics amongst others. It is closely related to systems science, which was developed in parallel. Early focuses included purposeful behaviour,[6] neural networks, heterarchy,[7] information theory, and self-organising systems. As cybernetics developed, it became broader in scope to include work in domains such as design,[8] family therapy, management and organisation, pedagogy, sociology, and the creative arts.[9] At the same time, questions arising from circular causality have been explored in relation to the philosophy of science, ethics, and constructivist approaches, while cybernetics has also been associated with counter-cultural movements.[10] Contemporary cybernetics thus varies widely in scope and focus, with cyberneticians variously adopting and combining technical, scientific, philosophical, creative, and critical[11] approaches.



Cybernetics has been defined in a variety of ways, reflecting "the richness of its conceptual base".[12] One of the most well known definitions is that of Norbert Wiener who characterised cybernetics as concerned with "control and communication in the animal and the machine".[13] Another early definition is that of the Macy cybernetics conferences, where cybernetics was understood as the study of "circular causal and feedback mechanisms in biological and social systems".[14] Margaret Mead emphasised the role of cybernetics as "a form of cross-disciplinary thought which made it possible for members of many disciplines to communicate with each other easily in a language which all could understand".[15]

Other definitions include:[16] “the art of governing or the science of government” (André-Marie Ampère); "the art of steersmanship" (Ross Ashby); "the study of systems of any nature which are capable of receiving, storing, and processing information so as to use it for control" (Andrey Kolmogorov); "a branch of mathematics dealing with problems of control, recursiveness, and information, focuses on forms and the patterns that connect" (Gregory Bateson); "the art of securing efficient operation" (Louis Couffignal);[17][18] "the art of effective organization." (Stafford Beer); "the science or the art of manipulating defensible metaphors; showing how they may be constructed and what can be inferred as a result of their existence" (Gordon Pask);[19] "the art of creating equilibrium in a world of constraints and possibilities" (Ernst von Glasersfeld); "the science and art of understanding" (Humberto Maturana); "the ability to cure all temporary truth of eternal triteness" (Herbert Brun); "a way of thinking about ways of thinking (of which it is one)" (Larry Richards);[20]


Simple feedback model. AB < 0 for negative feedback.

The word cybernetics comes from Greek κυβερνητική (kybernētikḗ), meaning "governance", i.e., all that are pertinent to κυβερνάω (kybernáō), the latter meaning "to steer, navigate or govern", hence κυβέρνησις (kybérnēsis), meaning "government", is the government while κυβερνήτης (kybernḗtēs) is the governor, pilot, or "helmsperson" of the "ship".

French physicist and mathematician André-Marie Ampère first coined the word "cybernetique" in his 1834 essay Essai sur la philosophie des sciences to describe the science of civil government.[21] The term was used by Norbert Wiener, in his book Cybernetics, to define the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine. In the book, he states: "Although the term cybernetics does not date further back than the summer of 1947, we shall find it convenient to use in referring to earlier epochs of the development of the field."[13]

Closely related fields

Systems science, systems theory, and systems thinking

Cybernetics is sometimes understood within the context of systems science, systems theory, and systems thinking.[22][23]

Systems approaches influenced by cybernetics include:

Other intersecting fields

Cybernetics' broad scope and tendency to transgress disciplinary norms[25] means its own boundaries have shifted over time and can be difficult to define. Many fields trace their origins in whole or part to work carried out in cybernetics, or were partially absorbed into cybernetics when it was developed. These include:

Key concepts

Key concepts in cybernetics include:

Black Box


George Spencer Brown's Laws of Form became influential in cybernetics, including in the work of Francisco Varela, and Louis Kauffman.


The notion of eigenform is an example of a self-referential system that produces a stable form. It plays an important role in the work of Heinz von Foerster[26] and is "inextricably linked with second order cybernetics".[27]

Feedback and circular causality

Feedback is a process where the outputs of a system are taken as new inputs for the same system.


Law of requisite variety


Notable subfields and theories

Notable subfields and theories of cybernetics include:


Double bind theory

Double binds are patterns created in interaction between two or more parties in ongoing relationships where there is a contradiction between messages at different logical levels that creates a situation with emotional threat but no possibility of withdrawal from the situation and no way to articulate the problem.[28] While the theory was first described by Gregory Bateson and colleagues in the 1950s with regard to the origins of schizophrenia,[29] it is also characteristic of many other social contexts.[28]

Conversation theory


Cybernetics is associated with the enactive approach to cognitive science through the work of Francisco Varela.

Good regulator theorem

Perceptual control theory

Radical constructivism

Radical constructivism is an approach to epistemology developed initially by Ernst von Glasersfeld. It is closely associated with second-order cybernetics.[30]

Second-order cybernetics

Second-order cybernetics, also known as the cybernetics of cybernetics, is the recursive application of cybernetics to itself and the practice of cybernetics according to such a critique. It has seen development of cybernetics in relation to family therapy, the social sciences, the creative arts, design research, and philosophy. It is associated with Margaret Mead, Heinz von Foerster, the Biological Computer Laboratory and the American Society for Cybernetics.

Viable system model



Ctesibius' water clock, as visualized by the 17th-century French architect Claude Perrault

The word cybernetics was first used in the context of "the study of self-governance" by Plato in Republic[31] and in Alcibiades to signify the governance of people.[32] The word 'cybernétique' was also used in 1834 by the physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836) to denote the sciences of government in his classification system of human knowledge.

The first artificial automatic regulatory system was a water clock, invented by the mechanician Ktesibios; based on a tank which poured water into a reservoir before using it to run the mechanism, it used a cone-shaped float to monitor the level of the water in its reservoir and adjust the rate of flow of the water accordingly to maintain a constant level of water in the reservoir. This was the first artificial truly automatic self-regulatory device that required no outside intervention between the feedback and the controls of the mechanism. Devices constructed by Ktesibios and others such as Hero of Alexandria, Philo of Byzantium and Su Song are early examples of cybernetic principles in action.

James Watt

In the late 18th century James Watt's steam engine was equipped with a governor (1775–1800), a centrifugal feedback valve for controlling the speed of the engine. In 1868 James Clerk Maxwell published a theoretical article on governors, one of the first to discuss and refine the principles of self-regulating devices. Jakob von Uexküll applied the feedback mechanism via his model of functional cycle (Funktionskreis) in order to explain animal behaviour and the origins of meaning in general. Electronic control systems originated with the 1927 work of Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer Harold S. Black on using negative feedback to control amplifiers. In 1935 Russian physiologist P. K. Anokhin published a book in which the concept of feedback ("back afferentation") was studied.

Other precursors include: Kenneth Craik and Ștefan Odobleja.


Norbert Wiener

The study and mathematical modelling 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 –based on the research on living organisms that Arturo Rosenblueth did in Mexico–; and the paper "A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity" by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts. In the early 1940s John von Neumann contributed a unique and unusual addition to the world of cybernetics: von Neumann cellular automata, and their logical follow up, the von Neumann Universal Constructor. The result of these deceptively simple thought-experiments was the concept of self replication, which cybernetics adopted as a core concept.

The foundations of cybernetics were developed through a series of transdisciplinary conferences funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, between 1946 and 1953. The conferences were chaired by McCulloch and had participants included Ross Ashby, Gregory Bateson, Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead, John von Neumann, and Norbert Wiener.

In the spring of 1947, Wiener was invited to a congress on harmonic analysis, held in Nancy (France was an important geographical locus of early cybernetics together with the US and UK); the event was organized by the Bourbaki and mathematician Szolem Mandelbrojt. 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, coined to denote the study of "teleological mechanisms", into his scientific theory: it was popularized through his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.[13] In the UK this became the focus for the Ratio Club. In 1950, 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). Published in 1954, Qian Xuesen published work "Engineering Cybernetics" was the basis of science in segregating the engineering concepts of Cybernetics from the theoretical understanding of Cybernetics as described so far historically.

The Biological Computer Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, under the direction of Heinz von Foerster, was a major center of cybernetic research for almost 20 years, beginning in 1958.

Cybernetics in the Soviet Union

Cybernetics in the Soviet Union was initially considered a "pseudoscience" and "ideological weapon" of "imperialist reactionaries" (Soviet Philosophical Dictionary, 1954) and later criticised as a narrow form of cybernetics.[33] In the mid to late 1950s Viktor Glushkov and others salvaged the reputation of the field. Soviet cybernetics incorporated much of what became known as computer science in the West.[34]

The design of self-regulating control systems for a real-time planned economy was explored by economist Oskar Lange, cyberneticist Viktor Glushkov, and other Soviet cyberneticists during the 1960s.

Split from artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was founded as a distinct discipline at the Dartmouth workshop in 1956. After some uneasy coexistence, AI gained funding and prominence. Consequently, cybernetic sciences such as the study of artificial neural networks were downplayed; the discipline shifted into the world of social sciences and therapy.[35]

Further development and new directions

In the 1970s, new cyberneticians emerged in multiple fields, but especially in biology. The ideas of Maturana, Varela and Atlan, according to Jean-Pierre Dupuy (1986) "realized that the cybernetic metaphors of the program upon which molecular biology had been based rendered a conception of the autonomy of the living being impossible. Consequently, these thinkers were led to invent a new cybernetics, one more suited to the organizations which mankind discovers in nature - organizations he has not himself invented".[36] However, during the 1980s the question of whether the features of this new cybernetics could be applied to social forms of organization remained open to debate.[36]

In the 1980s, according to Harries-Jones (1988) "unlike its predecessor, the new cybernetics concerns itself with the interaction of autonomous political actors and subgroups, and the practical and reflexive consciousness of the subjects who produce and reproduce the structure of a political community. A dominant consideration is that of recursiveness, or self-reference of political action both with regards to the expression of political consciousness and with the ways in which systems build upon themselves".[37]

One characteristic of the emerging new cybernetics considered in that time by Felix Geyer and Hans van der Zouwen, according to Bailey (1994),[38] was "that it views information as constructed and reconstructed by an individual interacting with the environment. This provides an epistemological foundation of science, by viewing it as observer-dependent. Another characteristic of the new cybernetics is its contribution towards bridging the micro-macro gap. That is, it links the individual with the society".[38] Another characteristic noted was the "transition from classical cybernetics to the new cybernetics [that] involves a transition from classical problems to new problems. These shifts in thinking involve, among others, (a) a change from emphasis on the system being steered to the system doing the steering, and the factor which guides the steering decisions; and (b) new emphasis on communication between several systems which are trying to steer each other".[38]

Recent endeavors into the true focus of cybernetics, systems of control and emergent behavior, by such related fields as game theory (the analysis of group interaction), systems of feedback in evolution, and metamaterials (the study of materials with properties beyond the Newtonian properties of their constituent atoms), have led to a revived interest in the field.[39]

Practice and application

Cybernetics' transdisciplinary origins have led to a wide variety of applications, approaches and associations.

In the natural sciences and technology


Many early cyberneticians worked in neurophysiology, including Grey Walter, Warren McCulloch, and Arturo Rosenblueth. This remained a focus as cybernetics developed.[40]

Other applications of cybernetics in biology include the physicist George Gamow's article in Scientific American called "Information transfer in the living cell", and biologists Jacques Monod and François Jacob use of cybernetics as a language for formulating their early theory of gene regulatory networks in the 1960s.[41]

Engineering and computing

Medicine and medical technology

Cybernetics has been used as a general reference for the science between the interjection of disciplines Medicine and technology. This involves sciences such as Bionics, Prosthetics, Neural network, Microchip implants, Neuroprosthetics and Brain-computer interface.


In the social and behavioural sciences


Anthropologists working in cybernetics include Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, Mary Catherine Bateson, and Genevieve Bell.

Economics and economic planning

Psychology and cognitive science

Concepts from cybernetics spread throughout psychology from the 1950s onwards.[45][46] The psychological theory, reversal theory, was rooted in cybernetics[47] and continues to be the basis of research and practice.[48]


By examining group behavior through the lens of cybernetics, sociologists can seek the reasons for such spontaneous events as smart mobs and riots, as well as how communities develop rules such as etiquette by consensus without formal discussion.[citation needed] Affect Control Theory explains role behavior, emotions, and labeling theory in terms of homeostatic maintenance of sentiments associated with cultural categories.

The most comprehensive attempt ever made in the social sciences to increase cybernetics in a generalized theory of society was made by Talcott Parsons. In this way, cybernetics establishes the basic hierarchy in Parsons' AGIL paradigm, which is the ordering system-dimension of his action theory. These and other cybernetic models in sociology are reviewed in a book edited by McClelland and Fararo.[49]

In creative, practical, and therapeutic disciplines

Architecture and design

Cybernetics was an influence on thinking in architecture and design in the decades after the Second World War. Ashby and Pask were drawn on by design theorists such as Horst Rittel,[50] Christopher Alexander[51] and Bruce Archer.[52] Pask was a consultant to Nicholas Negroponte's Architecture Machine Group, forerunner of the MIT Media Lab, and collaborated with architect Cedric Price and theatre director Joan Littlewood on the influential Fun Palace project during the 1960s.[53] Pask's 1950s Musicolour installation was the inspiration for John and Julia Frazer's work on Price's Generator project.[54]

The cybernetic study of design has contributed to design methods research[55] and to the development of systemic design practices.

Creative arts

Cybernetic art is contemporary art that builds upon the legacy of cybernetics, where feedback involved in the work takes precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. The relationship between cybernetics and art can be summarised in three ways: cybernetics can be used to study art, to create works of art or may itself be regarded as an art form in its own right.[56]

The prominent and influential Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1968 curated by Jasia Reichardt, including Schöffer's CYSP I[57] and Gordon Pask's Colloquy of Mobiles installation. Pask's reflections on Colloquy connected it to his earlier Musicolour installation and to what he termed "aesthetically potent environments", a concept that connected this artistic work to his concerns with teaching and learning.[58]

The artist Roy Ascott elaborated an extensive theory of cybernetic art in "Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision" (Cybernetica, Journal of the International Association for Cybernetics (Namur), Volume IX, No.4, 1966; Volume X No.1, 1967) and in "The Cybernetic Stance: My Process and Purpose" (Leonardo Vol 1, No 2, 1968). Art historian Edward A. Shanken has written about the history of art and cybernetics in essays including "Cybernetics and Art: Cultural Convergence in the 1960s"[59][60] and From Cybernetics to Telematics: The Art, Pedagogy, and Theory of Roy Ascott (2003),[61] which traces the trajectory of Ascott's work from cybernetic art to telematic art (art using computer networking as its medium, a precursor to

Others in the creative arts who are associated with cybernetics, include Herbert Brun, Brian Eno, Ruairi Glynn Pauline Oliveros, Tom Scholte, and Stephen Willats.


Cybernetics has been influential in the development of educational technology, notably in the work of Gordon Pask, and in theories of teaching and learning, including Pask's Conversation Theory, Ernst von Glasersfeld's Radical Constructivism, and Gregory Bateson's conception of deuterolearning.

Management and organisation

Management as a field of study covers the task of managing a multitude of systems (often business systems), which presents a wide natural overlap with many of the classical concepts of cybernetics. Management cybernetics includes approaches such as Stafford Beer's Viable System Model and Syntegration.


The development of family therapy was significantly influenced by cybernetics through the work of Gregory Bateson, as was the work of R. D. Laing and his work Knots.[62]

The method of levels is an approach to psychotherapy based on perceptual control theory where the therapist aims to help the patient shift their awareness to higher levels of perception in order to resolve conflicts and allow reorganization to take place.

Notable devices and projects

A distinctive quality of cybernetics, especially as developed by British cyberneticians, is that it was often progressed through experimental devices and social projects.[63] Notable examples include:

Colloquy of Mobiles

Colloquy of Mobiles was an installation by Gordon Pask at the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in 1968.

Elmer and Elsie

Elmer and Elsie were a pair of robot "tortoises" developed by William Grey Walter.

Fun Palace

The Fun Palace was a radical architectural project developed in the 1960s by the architect Cedric Price, theatre director Joan Littlewood, and cybernetician Gordon Pask.[64] Although unbuilt, the project was widely influential, notably on the design of the Centre Pompidou.


The Homeostat was a device built by Ross Ashby that was capable of adapting itself to the environment, exhibited behaviours such as habituation, reinforcement and learning through its ability to maintain homeostasis in a changing environment.


Musicolour was an interactive light installation developed by Gordon Pask during the 1950s. It responded to musicians' variations and, if they did not vary their playing, it would become 'bored' and stop responding, prompting the musicians to respond.

Project Cybersyn

Project Cybersyn attempted to apply cybernetics to the economy at large scale during the early 1970s.[65]

School for Designing a Society

The School for Designing a Society is a project of teachers, performers, artists, and activists, influenced by cybernetics, where the question “What would I consider a desirable society?” is given serious playful thoughtful discussion.[66] Founders and guests include Susan Parenti, Mark Enslin, Herbert Brun, and Larry Richards. A premise of the school was that social change can be realized in a transformation from the current to a new society (a change of system), not only in improvements to the current society (changes in a system).

Philosophical concerns

Ecological aesthetics

Gregory Bateson saw the world as a series of systems containing those of individuals, societies and ecosystems. Each of these systems has adaptive changes which depend upon feedback loops to control balance by changing multiple variables. He saw the natural ecological system as innately good as long as it was allowed to maintain homeostasis, and that the key unit of survival in evolution was an organism and its environment.[67]

Bateson, in this subject, presents western epistemology as a method of thinking that leads to a mindset in which man exerts an autocratic rule over all cybernetic systems and in doing so he unbalances the natural cybernetic system of controlled competition and mutual dependency. Bateson claims that humanity will never be able to control the whole system because it does not operate in a linear fashion, and if humanity creates his own rules for the system, he opens himself up to becoming a slave to the self-made system due to the non-linear nature of cybernetics. Lastly, man's technological prowess combined with his scientific hubris gives him the potential to irrevocably damage and destroy the "supreme cybernetic system" (i.e. the biosphere), instead of just disrupting the system temporally until the system can self-correct.[67]

Epistemology and the philosophy of science

Second-order cybernetics is associated with a radically constructivist approach to epistemology and the philosophy of science.


The critique of objectivity developed in second-order cybernetics led to a concern with ethical issues. Foerster developed a critique of morality in ethical terms, arguing for ethics to remain implicit in action.[68] Foerster's position has been described as an "ethics of enabling ethics"[69] or as a form of "recursive ethical questioning".[70] Varela published a short book on "ethical know-how".[71] Glanville identified a number of "desirable" ethical qualities implicit in the cybernetic devices of the black box, distinction, autonomy, and conversation.[72] Others have drawn connections to design[73][74] and critical systems heuristics.[75]


Logicians working in cybernetics include Gotthard Günther and Lars Löfgren.

Wider influence

Counter culture

Cybernetics was influential on the development of countercultural movements through figures such as Stewart Brand and publications such as the Whole Earth Catalogue and Co-Evolution Quarterly.[10]

Deleuze and Guattari

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari were influenced by the work of Gregory Bateson.[76]


Ideas from cybernetics have influenced feminisms through the work of Margaret Mead, Mary Catherine Bateson, Donna Haraway, and Sadie Plant.

Gaia hypothesis

The Gaia hypothesis was informed by the first wave of cybernetic concepts - homeostasis, self-organization, negative feedback, and self-regulation - and later by the second-order cybernetic theory of autopoiesis.[77]


Friedrich Hayek refers to cybernetics as a discipline that could help economists understand the "self-organizing or self-generating systems" called markets.[78]


Cybernetics' relevance across and between the domains of "the animal and machine" have been an influence on the development of posthumanism, such as in the work of N. Katherine Hayles.




Organisations primarily concerned with cybernetics or aspects of it include:

American Society for Cybernetics

Cybernetics Society

IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society

Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics


The Metaphorum group was set up in 2003 to develop Stafford Beer's legacy in Organizational Cybernetics. The Metaphorum Group was born in a Syntegration in 2003 and have every year after developed a Conference on issues related to Organizational Cybernetics' theory and practice.

RC51 Sociocybernetics

RC51 is a research committee of the International Sociological Association promoting the development of (socio)cybernetic theory and research within the social sciences.[80]

SCiO - Systems and Complexity in Organisation

SCiO (Systems and Complexity in Organisation) is a community of systems practitioners who believe that traditional approaches to running organisations are no longer capable of dealing with the complexity and turbulence faced by organisations today and are responsible for many of the problems we see today. SCiO is the Body of Knowledge in Systems Practice in the UK, delivers a apprenticeship on masters level and a certification in systems practice.[81]

See also

Further reading

  • Arbib, Michael A. (1987). Brains, machines, and mathematics (2nd ed.). New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-0387965390.
  • Arbib, Michael A. (1972). The Metaphorical Brain. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-03249-6.
  • Ascott, Roy (1967). Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision. Cybernetica, Journal of the International Association for Cybernetics (Namur), 10, pp. 25–56
  • Ashby, William Ross (1956). An introduction to cybernetics (PDF). Chapman & Hall. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  • Beer, Stafford (1974). Designing freedom. Chichester, West Sussex, England: Wiley. ISBN 978-0471951650.
  • François, Charles (1999). "Systemics and cybernetics in a historical perspective". In: Systems Research and Behavioral Science. Vol 16, pp. 203–219 (1999)
  • George, F. H. (1971). Cybernetics. Teach Yourself Books. ISBN 978-0-340-05941-8.
  • Gerovitch, Slava (2002). From newspeak to cyberspeak : a history of Soviet cybernetics. Cambridge, Massachusetts [u.a.]: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262-07232-8.
  • Heims, Steve Joshua (1993). Constructing a social science for postwar America : the cybernetics group, 1946-1953 (1st ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts u.a.: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262581233.
  • Helvey, T.C. (1971). The age of information; an interdisciplinary survey of cybernetics. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications. ISBN 9780877780083.
  • Heylighen, Francis, and Cliff Joslyn (2002). "Cybernetics and Second Order Cybernetics", in: R.A. Meyers (ed.), Encyclopedia of Physical Science & Technology (3rd ed.), Vol. 4, (Academic Press, San Diego), p. 155-169.
  • Hyötyniemi, Heikki (2006). Neocybernetics in Biological Systems. Espoo: Helsinki University of Technology, Control Engineering Laboratory.
  • Ilgauds, Hans Joachim (1980), Norbert Wiener, Leipzig.
  • Johnston, John (2008). The allure of machinic life : cybernetics, artificial life, and the new AI. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-10126-4.
  • Medina, Eden (2011). Cybernetic revolutionaries : technology and politics in Allende's Chile. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01649-0.
  • Pangaro, Paul. "Cybernetics — A Definition".
  • Pask, Gordon (1972). "Cybernetics". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  • Patten, Bernard C.; Odum, Eugene P. (December 1981). "The Cybernetic Nature of Ecosystems". The American Naturalist. 118 (6): 886–895. doi:10.1086/283881. JSTOR 2460822?. S2CID 84672792.
  • Pekelis, V. (1974). Cybernetics A to Z. Moscow: Mir Publishers.
  • Pickering, Andrew (2010). The cybernetic brain : sketches of another future ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226667898.
  • Umpleby, Stuart (1989). "The science of cybernetics and the cybernetics of science"[permanent dead link], in: Cybernetics and Systems", Vol. 21, No. 1, (1990), pp. 109–121.
  • von Foerster, Heinz, (1995), Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics.
  • Wiener, Norbert (1948). Hermann & Cie (ed.). Cybernetics; or, Control and communication in the animal and the machine. Paris: Technology Press. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  • Wiener, Norbert (1950). Cybernetics and Society: The Human Use of Human Beings. Houghton Mifflin.


  1. ^ The ancient Greek κυβερνήτης (kybernḗtēs) means helmsperson.

External links

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  1. ^ Gage, S. (2007). The boat/helmsman. Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, 5(1), 15-24.
  2. ^ Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. (2019). Cybernetics and design: Conversations for action. In T. Fischer & C. M. Herr (Eds.), Design cybernetics: Navigating the new (pp. 85-99). Springer International Publishing.
  3. ^ Ashby, W. R. (1956). An introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman & Hall.
  4. ^ Müller, Albert (2000). "A Brief History of the BCL". Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften. 11 (1): 9–30. Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  5. ^ "Cybernetics spilled out all over the disciplinary map. It was a strongly interdisciplinary field, or, better, an antidisciplinary one: it did not aggregate disciplinary perspectives; it rode roughshod over disciplinary boundaries..." Pickering, A. (2010). The cybernetic brain: Sketches of another future. University of Chicago Press. Page 9
  6. ^ Rosenblueth, A., Wiener, N., & Bigelow, J. (1943). Behavior, Purpose and Teleology. Philosophy of Science, 10(1), 18-24. Retrieved August 1, 2021, from
  7. ^ "A Heterarchy of Values Determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets". In: Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, 7, 1945, 89–93.
  8. ^ Fischer, T., & Herr, C. M. (Eds.). (2019). Design Cybernetics: Navigating the new. Springer.
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  12. ^ "It seems that cybernetics is many different things to many different people. But this is because of the richness of its conceptual base; and I believe that this is very good, otherwise cybernetics would become a somewhat boring exercise. However, all of those perspectives arise from one central theme; that of circularity." Foerster, H. von (2003). Ethics and second-order cybernetics, in Understanding understanding: Essays on cybernetics and cognition. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY. P. 288.
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  17. ^ "La cybernétique est l’art de l’efficacité de l’action" originally a French definition formulated in 1953, lit. "Cybernetics is the art of effective action"
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  22. ^ e.g. by Ray Ison: Ison, R. (2012). A cybersystemic framework for practical action. In: Murray, Joy; Cawthorne, Glenn; Dey, Christopher and Andrew, Chris eds. Enough for All Forever. A Handbook for Learning about Sustainability. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing, pp. 269–284.
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  26. ^ Foerster, Heinz von. (2003). Objects: Tokens for (eigen-)behaviors. In Understanding understanding: Essays on cybernetics and cognition (pp. 261-272). Springer-Verlag.
  27. ^ Kauffman, L. H. (2003). Eigenforms: Objects as tokens for eigenbehaviors. Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 10(3/4), 73-90.
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  31. ^ Book VI, The philosophy of government
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  35. ^ Cariani, Peter (15 March 2010). "On the importance of being emergent". Constructivist Foundations. 5 (2): 89. Retrieved 13 August 2012. artificial intelligence was born at a conference at Dartmouth in 1956 that was organized by McCarthy, Minsky, rochester, and shannon, three years after the Macy conferences on cybernetics had ended (Boden 2006; McCorduck 1972). The two movements coexisted for roughly a de- cade, but by the mid-1960s, the proponents of symbolic ai gained control of national funding conduits and ruthlessly defunded cybernetics research. This effectively liquidated the subfields of self-organizing systems, neural networks and adaptive machines, evolutionary programming, biological computation, and bionics for several decades, leaving the workers in management, therapy and the social sciences to carry the torch. i think some of the polemical pushing-and-shoving between first-order control theorists and second-order crowds that i witnessed in subsequent decades was the cumulative result of a shift of funding, membership, and research from the "hard" natural sciences to "soft" socio-psychological interventions.
  36. ^ a b Jean-Pierre Dupuy, "The autonomy of social reality: on the contribution of systems theory to the theory of society" in: Elias L. Khalil & Kenneth E. Boulding eds., Evolution, Order and Complexity, 1986.
  37. ^ Peter Harries-Jones (1988), "The Self-Organizing Polity: An Epistemological Analysis of Political Life by Laurent Dobuzinskis" in: Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 431-433.
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