Digital Themes


What is cybernetics?

The term cybernetics refers to an approach for exploring and understanding different systems and how they interact, particularly in regard to circular causality. Circular causality, or a feedback loop, is when the results of one part of the system are taken as inputs for a following part. The field of cybernetics has been around for many years, and it continues to grow and develop, although it has been described in many different ways by many different people. In 1948, mathematician Norbert Wiener famously defined cybernetics as the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” Cybernetics has been applied to many fields, including psychology, engineering, and architecture. While there are many ways of thinking about cybernetics, at its most basic it is the study of control systems and their interactions.

Cybernetics is frequently used to better understand the function of a process, and often includes developing an algorithm or model that optimizes the inputs while minimizing delays or overshoots, and thereby helps to ensure stability. This particular aspect of cybernetics is called control theory and is often utilized in order to improve performance while still ensuring that the goal is achieved. Understanding processes allows them to be optimized and refined, and cybernetics is especially helpful when trying to decipher and comprehend different processes. This particular use of cybernetics is one of the most common, and this type of thought process is what enables its usage across different fields.

In recent decades, cybernetics has often been overshadowed by artificial intelligence, even though artificial intelligence was influenced by cybernetics in many ways. Recently, cybernetics has been returning to the public conscience, and is once more being used in multiple fields, including:

  • Biology: Cybernetics has been used to analyze biological systems found within living organisms. It can help provide information regarding how genes are passed from generation to generation and has been used to look at ways of combining biological and artificial systems. This includes utilizing artificial sensors as part of a prosthetic leg or having brain implants that can help treat certain types of blindness.

  • Law: Cybernetics is often utilized within a law system to understand regulations. It can be helpful both for the understanding of different laws and regulations, as well as understanding ways that it may or may not apply to individual cases.

  • Sociology: Sociologists can look closely at the systems of interactions between different groups of people to better understand social structures as a whole. This has real world applications for better understanding mobs and riots, and the reasons behind their formations, as well as ways to prevent them in the future.

  • Businesses: Cybernetics can be useful for improving management decisions. By looking at the way the company runs as a whole, it is possible to identify systems, or employees, who are hindering processes, and then take steps to rectify the situation.

  • Economic systems: Economists have explored designs for economies based on self-regulation. It has been used to look at different economies that exist, and to then create theories around how to improve these systems.
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