2013년 12월 22일 일요일

[발췌: Stafford Beer's] What Is Cybernetics? (2002)

출처: Stafford Beer(2002), "What Is Cybernetics?", Kybernetics, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 209-219:


※ Reading note with excerpts:

* * *

WHAT IS CYBERNETICS?

Stafford Beer

Salutation

Magnificent and most excellent Rector of the University of Valladolid

Most excellent and most illustrious Authorities

Members of the University Senate

Ladies and gentlemen


I wish that I could speak to you in Castellian, but it is almost thirty years since I last had occasion to use your beautiful language─and that was in circumstances of such stress that I still find it difficult to speak. On the 11th September 2001 a crime was committed in New York that the world will long commemorate. I hope that the Spanish-speaking world at least commemorates that earlier 11th September in 1973, the day of the Chilean golpe, when my Compañero President Salvador Allende died, and the people of Chile fell subject to decades of brutal suppression.

  Today, however, is a happier occasion. I wish to thank the University of Valladolid which, following the proposal made by the Escuela Universitaria Politécnica, has bestowed on me the high honour of Doctor Honoris Causa.


Popular Notions and Genuine Difficulties

The subject to which I have devoted my professional life is cybernetics. I am all too well aware that most people have no more than hazy idea of what it is all about. I have often been assured that it is about freezing people─but they were thinking of cryogenics. The more informed realize that it is concerned with systems and their regulation. But even then, there are so many ways in which that notion can be approached.

   Some people seem to think that cybernetics is part of engineering─they reckon that feedback loops are involved, and therefore focus on specific devices described by servomechanics. Other have heard of systems of training through behavioural psychology, and think of pigeons, or rats running mazes. Even so, the most advanced type of control machinery we know about is surely found in the central nervous system of the human body. So they may go on to speculate that cybernetics is probably a branch of neurophysiology. All of these intuitions are true enough─but you might think rather localized. Let's face it, the modern world revolves around money and global markets─we might conclude that economics should therefore have the clue to its regulation in econometrics.

  But wait a minute. There might be broader issues. Maeterlinck talked about the spirit of the hive, and Canetti talked about crowds. These anthropological concepts offer a more general and cohesive notion of system. Behind that idea, in turn, is arrayed a whole range of biological facts that certainly deal with regulatory phenomena. They encompass wide-ranging kinds─from the specifics of the potassium-sodium pump, to the generalities of pray-predator balances. They discuss the whole epigenetic landsacpe, which leads in turn to unfolding the course of evolution itself. Mind you, this discussion is still humano-centric: and maybe we should start with ecology─which one can only suppose ought to be a thoroughly systemic science... ...

  It is time to stop. The shocking thing is that there is truth in every one of these notions, and the reason is because cybernetics is an ^interdisciplinary^ subject. It must be complicated. If I may be allowed one joke in a dignified discourse, it concerns three men who are about to be executed. The prison governor calls them to his office, and explains that each will be granted a last request. The first one confesses that he has led a sinful life, and would like to see a priest. The governor says he thinks he can arrange that. And the second man? The second man explains that he is a professor of cybernetics. His last request is to deliver a final and definitive answer to the question: what is cybernetics? The governor accedes to this request also. And the third man? Well, he is a doctoral student of the professor─his request is to be executed second.

  ( ... )

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