The term cybernetics derived from the Greek word kybernetes (steersman).
The term was introduced in 1948 by the mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894â€“1964)
to describe how systems of information and control function in animals and
machines (steersman ship). Cybernetics is inherently interdisciplinary; it is
related to systems theory, chaos theory, and complexity theory, as well as
artificial intelligence, neural networks, and adaptive systems. It developed as
a con- sequence of multidisciplinary conversations among thinkers from a
variety of disciplines, including economics, psychiatry, life sciences,
sociology, anthropology, engineering, chemistry, philosophy, and mathematics.
Cybernetics contributed greatly to the development of information theory,
artificial intelligence, artificial life, and it foresaw much of the work in
robotics and autonomous agents.
After control engineering and
computer science became independent disciplines, some cyberneticists felt that
more attention needed to be paid to a systemâ€™s autonomy, self-organization, and
cognition, and the role of the observer in modeling the system. This approach
became known as second-order
cyberneticsin the early 1970s. Second-order cybernetics emphasizes the
system as an agent in its own right and investigates how observers construct
models of the systems with which they interact. At times, second-order
cybernetics has resulted in the formulation of philosophical approaches that,
according to some critics, are in danger of losing touch with concrete
Cybernetics moves beyond Newtonian
linear physics to describe and control complex systems of mutual causalities
and nonlinear time sequences involving feedback loops. It seeks to develop general
theories of communication within complex artificial and natural systems.
Applications of cybernetic research are widespread and can be found in computer
science, politics, education, ecology, psychology, management, and other
disciplines. Cybernetics has not become established as an autonomous discipline
because of the difficulty of maintaining coherence among some of its more
specialized forms and spinoffs. There are thus few research or academic
departments devoted to it.
Because of the diffuse
interdisciplinarity of cybernetics, theological, religious, and philosophical concerns
and engagements are multiple. Some conversations concern the social and
economic impact of computer networks, such as the Internet, on culture and
nature. Others concern the development of artificial life and artificial
intelligence and its impact on how human intelligence and life is understood.
Other theological and philosophical concerns of cybernetics include the shape
of divine activity in the world, the â€˜constructedâ€™ nature of knowledge and of
ethical values, the boundaries between bodies and machines and the implications
for creation, the promises of salvific technology, and a tendency to strive for
a metanarrative or grand unifying theory.
(Author has done PG in Bio
Technology and is a blogger)