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The human face of cybernetics: Heinz von Foerster and the history of a movement that failed…

Peter Krieg (Pile systems Inc., Berlin, Germany)

Kybernetes

ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 March 2005

Abstract

Purpose

To discuss the concept of cybernetics, and to point out its complexities.

Design/methodology/approach

Cybernetics can be seen as a scientific concept of harnessing complexity as a feedback phenomenon and a project aimed at establishing a new control science and adaptive technology based on the formalization of complexity. Today, we still do not have adaptive or complex computers.

Findings

Cybernetics has failed both as a concept and a project, and is becoming a case for historians. But before it is classified as just a short scientific episode between the atomic bomb and cyberwar, a closer look will show that it was not only a military sponsored project driven by the cold war of the 1950s but also a rebellious movement inspired by the visions of the 1960s. Heinz von Foerster more than anyone else represented this human face of cybernetics.

Originality/value

Considers some of the thought‐provoking ideas of Heinz von Foerster in the history of cybernetics.

Keywords

Citation

Krieg, P. (2005), "The human face of cybernetics: Heinz von Foerster and the history of a movement that failed…", Kybernetes, Vol. 34 No. 3/4, pp. 551-557. https://doi.org/10.1108/03684920510581729

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited