Today's hottest technologies are descendants of cybernetics: 1940s defense research into neurology, electronic networks, and logical models. Since its inception, cybernetics has split into diverse camps from Esalen to the Rand Corporation. Today it provides the foundation for many popular and disruptive technologies. These systems foster the formation of like-minded communities, reverse the economics of scarcity, and make global mindshare available to individuals. We will consider the benefits and risks of social networks, giving special attention to their nascent defense ideologies.
This class will be conducted as a lecture/seminar. every week you will be expected to read short essays, attend classes, and participate in discussions. Note that each person in the class will be expected to introduce the week's theme by presenting the reading. You will pick a theme during the first class. additionally you will prepare a short description of a final project. After comments and discussion with me and your peers you will prepare this project to show the class in one of two final classes. Squeezed into a nutshell you must:
Cybernetics started in WWII as a branch of mathematics to calculate the trajectories of missiles. It developed further during cross-disciplinary conferences in the late 1940's that included Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Norbert Wiener and Kurt Lewin with the ambitious goal of producing a general science of the human mind. You could say that cybernetics' cultural context is dyed in the wool. Personal computers have been described as the perfect manifestation of cybernetics.
Each class will address a theme that will be supported by readings and investigations of relevant research. each student will make two presentations to the class: one to present the reading and the other to present research. this research subject may be aesthetic, conceptual, historical, or historical. for example, assuming the topic is the economy, research could be made into compression technologies, environmental concerns, deregulation, or Ponzi schemes. this wide range of interests will be encouraged, but only as it relates to cybernetic systems.
Most of the readings are milestone documents that pushed cybernetics in new directions. I have chosen them for maximum punch, i.e. they are short and sometimes outrageous. you are expected to read these before class each week and come prepared to discuss them.
This is where things become interesting! Read these if you are making a presentation or if the theme intrigues you and/or is relevant to your research.
Like most research, the advance of cybernetics has depended on thought experiments. We will propse experiments to perform as a group.
Make something! It is difficult to understand these ideas without material and/or kinetic participation. Your final project is an investigation into some cybernetic concept or principle. That may sound opaque, but nearly any investigation of a system (be it natural, cultural, or technical) should be relevant. Grab an idea that intrigued you in class and try it out.
How does the Flickr community imagine cybernetics? slideshow
|01.introduction||metaphor, thermostats, living systems, machine intelligence, recommendation systems, social networks, folksonomies|
|02.command_and_control||smart bombs, smart buildings, neural networks, management, software design, learning theory, therapy|
|03.ai_is_the_brain_a_computer||Cognitivism, Homunculus Fallacy, information, Strong AI vs Weak AI, emergence|
|04.observers||2nd order cybernetics, observers and systems, light in the fridge|
|05.virtual_bodies||virtual identity, virtual physicality, secondlife, reputation systems|
|06.biomimicry_and_gaming||gaming, mimicry, mimesis, characters, empathy, action|
|07.politics_of_digital_representation||representation, ideology, politics, power, persuasion|
|08.second_order_cybernetics||week 11, artificial intelligence, expanding the loop, architecture of conversation|
|09.hypertext_and_databases||week 12, digital representation, ASCII, linking, Ted Nelson, Project Xanadu, data normalization|
|10.self_organizing_systems||emergence, self organization, attractors, business models, social insects|
|11.gaming_the_end_of_the_world||week 14, gaming, simulation, war, military|