Cybernetics is often thought of as a grim military or industrial
science of control. But as Andrew Pickering reveals in this
beguiling book, a much more lively and experimental strain of
cybernetics can be traced from the 1940s to the present.
"The Cybernetic Brain" explores a largely forgotten group of
British thinkers, including Grey Walter, Ross Ashby, Gregory
Bateson, R. D. Laing, Stafford Beer, and Gordon Pask, and their
singular work in a dazzling array of fields. Psychiatry,
engineering, management, politics, music, architecture, education,
tantric yoga, the Beats, and the sixties counterculture all come
into play as Pickering follows the history of cybernetics' impact
on the world, from contemporary robotics and complexity theory to
the Chilean economy under Salvador Allende. What underpins this
fascinating history, Pickering contends, is a shared but
unconventional vision of the world as ultimately unknowable, a
place where genuine novelty is always emerging. And thus, Pickering
avers, the history of cybernetics provides us with an imaginative
model of open-ended experimentation in stark opposition to the
modern urge to achieve domination over nature and each other.
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