Cybernetics Essay

Cybernetics Essay-62
The whole thrust of cybernetics as a study is to point up the resemblances between sciences superficially dissimilar, and the attempt by neurocyberneticians to analyse the mind as a system has led to impassioned attack from people who believe that humanness mystically transcends its own physical constituents.

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The system in question can be a machine or, equally, a human body.

The trouble, Wiener found, was that the terminology with which engineers discussed machines led to a very mechanistic approach when applied to human systems, and, conversely, biological terminology led to an over-anthropomorphic approach in discussion of machines (or economic or ecological systems, two other areas where cybernetics is useful).

If we use the broad, scientifically accepted definition of "cybernetics", it cannot be delimited as a separate theme in this encyclopedia.

Most of the stories discussed under the entries Androids, Automation, Communication, Computers, Cyborgs, Intelligence and Robots will, by definition, be cybernetics stories also.

The word first passed into general usage with the publication of his Cybernetics (1948; rev 1961), subtitled "Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine".

Cybernetics was cross-disciplinary from the beginning; it developed when Wiener and others noticed that certain parallel problems persistently arose in scientific disciplines normally regarded as separate: statistical mechanics, Information Theory, electrical engineering and neurophysiology were four of the most important.

For example, Kurt Vonnegut Jr's Player Piano (1952) has at its heart an image of humans incorporated in and subject to an impersonal, machine-like system (see Automation); they effectively become components or "bits" in a cybernetic system.

However, in sf the term "cybernetics" is most often used to mean something narrower – generally the creation of artificial intelligence, or AI.

Although Jones probably used the term more because it was fine-sounding than for any other reason, this is nonetheless a legitimate cybernetics subject, and is also deployed notably in Wolfbane (October-November Galaxy; 1959) by Frederik Pohl and C M Kornbluth, Catchworld (1975) by Chris Boyce and many other stories. The reverse progression, of human into machine, occurs in the vignettes of Moderan (coll of linked stories 1971) by David R Bunch.

A number of stories about the development of consciousness in computers carry cybernetic implications, though few as far-ranging as those in Destination: Void. Already-developed machine consciousnesses appear in Roger Zelazny's story "For a Breath I Tarry" (March 1966 New Worlds), Cyberiada (coll of linked stories 1965 Poland; trans as The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age 1974) by Stanisław Lem, all the Berserker stories by Fred Saberhagen (see Berserkers), The Siren Stars (1971) by Richard and Nancy Carrigan and The Cybernetic Samurai (1985) by Victor Milán.


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