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The science of the unknowable: Stafford Beer's cybernetic informatics

Andrew Pickering (Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Illinois, USA)

Kybernetes

ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 March 2004

2038

Abstract

This paper explores the history of Stafford Beer's work in management cybernetics, from his early conception and simulation of an adaptive automatic factory and associated experimentation in biological computing, through the development of the Viable System Model and the Team Syntegrity technique for discussion and planning. It also pursues Beer into the fields of micro‐ and macropolitics and spirituality. The aim is to show that all of Beer's projects can be understood as specific instantiations and workings out of a cybernetic ontology of unknowability and becoming: a stance that recognises that the world can always surprise us and that we can never dominate it through knowledge. The thrust of Beer's work was, thus, to construct systems that could adapt performatively to environments they could not fully control.

Keywords

Citation

Pickering, A. (2004), "The science of the unknowable: Stafford Beer's cybernetic informatics", Kybernetes, Vol. 33 No. 3/4, pp. 499-521. https://doi.org/10.1108/03684920410523535

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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