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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future
Article Type: Book report From: Kybernetes, Volume 39, Issue 7
Andrew Pickering,The University of Chicago Press,Chicago, IL,2010,536 pp. (60 halftones, 28 line drawings),ISBN 978-0-226-66789-8,$55.00, £35.50 (cloth),
Keywords: Cybernetics, Systems theory
Many readers will already recognise the author Professor Andrew Pickering of the University of Exeter as the author of a number of books which include: Constructing Ouarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics, and also The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science.
Cyberneticians and systemists who are of a certain age will like the first part of this book because “it explores a largely forgotten group of British thinkers […] and their singular work on a dazzling array of fields”. The list includes all the leading lights of the period: Grey Walter, Ross Ashby and many more. Pickering follows the history of cybernetic’s impact on the world from contemporary robotics and complexity theory to the Chilean economy under Salvador Allende. The author believes that “what underpins this fascinating history is a shared but unconventional vision of the world as ultimately unknowable, a place where genuine novelty is always emerging”. Professor Pickering says that “the history of cybernetics provides us with an imaginative model of open-ended experimentation in stark opposition to the modern age to achieve domination over nature and each other”.
The two parts of the book are:
Part I – psychiatry to cybernetics. This has sections concerned with the contributions of Grey Walter, Ross Ashby, Gregory Bateson and R.D. Laing.
Part II – beyond the brain. Sections included are:
– Stafford Beer: from the cybernetic factory to Tantric Yoga;
– Gordon Pask: from chemical computers to adaptive architecture; and
– finally, sketches of another future.
The book benefits from a set of comprehensive notes on each chapter which at some 75 pages are a text in their own right. In addition, there are some 24 pages of full references together with a 24-page index.
A full review of this important text will be published in later issues of this journal. The book had a domestic publication date (USA) of 1 May and worldwide 10 May 2010. More information from the publishers at: Tel.: (773)702-0279 or e-mail: email@example.com
C.J.H. MannBook Reviews and Reports Section Editor, Bangor University, Bangor, UK