Cybernetics Essay

The study of cybernetics is, at bottom, the study of just such devices, whether they be servo-mechanisms or the messages that travel between eye and hand when we pick up a book from a table.Much of the book's terminology is borrowed from Wiener's nonfiction God & Golem, Inc. Interestingly, the question "In what respect can a machine be said to have free will?" engenders a parallel question about humans themselves, at least for readers and writers who take the materialist view that the human mind is itself no more than a complex cybernetics system; this "anti-vitalist" view of humanity is common among cybernetics writers.The first important sf work to use the terminology of cybernetics was Bernard Wolfe's Limbo (1952; vt Limbo '90 1953); he used its basic ideas (sometimes with hostility) in the wide sense, as they relate to computers, war-games, industrial management and the workings of the brain.Cybernetics terminology is used very loosely by Raymond F Jones in The Cybernetic Brains (September 1950 Startling; 1962), which tells of human brains integrated with computers. was One (Release 2.0) 1988) by David Gerrold and "Synth" (in New Writings in SF 8, anth 1966, ed John Carnell) by Keith Roberts.The trick was to construct a new science which would not be biased towards either the mechanical or the biological.In his An Introduction to Cybernetics (1956), W Ross Ashby remarked that "cybernetics stands to the real machine – electronic, mechanical, neural or economic – much as geometry stands to a real object in our terrestrial space"; that is, cybernetics is an abstracting, generalizing science.If we use the broad, scientifically accepted definition of "cybernetics", it cannot be delimited as a separate theme in this encyclopedia.Most of the stories discussed under the entries Androids, Automation, Communication, Computers, Cyborgs, Intelligence and Robots will, by definition, be cybernetics stories also.In sf Terminology this is a word so often misused that its real meaning is in danger of being devalued or forgotten.The term "cybernetics", derived from a Greek word meaning helmsman or controller, was coined by the distinguished mathematician Norbert Wiener in 1947 to describe a new science on which he and others had been working since 1942.


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