Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cybernetics of Cybernetics—a competition

Ranulph Glanville, President, of ASC (the American Society for Cybernetics ) and his committee are delighted to announce a competition (open to all, prize fund up to US$ 1500) to propose cybernetic ways in which a Society for cybernetics might be organised and behave. This follows a suggestion from Margaret Mead, the founding mother of cybernetics summarised below. Submissions should be received by noon, GMT, on 31 January 2011. Full details can be found on the ASC website.

The ASC welcomes your interest and your suggestions!

Brief Background Description

In 1967, Margaret Mead, one of the original attendees at the Josiah Macy Jr. conferences and the founding mother of cybernetics, presented a paper (published in 1968) called “Cybernetics of Cybernetics” to the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). Following on from a suggestion by Gregory Bateson, at the end of her address Mead proposed that the ASC should consider itself as a cybernetic body, and apply cybernetic insights and techniques to its own organisation and operation.

Although Mead proposed a number of specific questions the ASC could ask about how it might be run (see full quote here), her suggestion received little attention. Rather, the title of her paper (given to her by Heinz von Foerster) became used more generally in the application of cybernetics to cybernetics, or second order cybernetics.

The “Cybernetics of Cybernetics” paper thus leaves two legacies. The ASC has come to recognise the need to take up Mead’s original challenge and address the conflict that occurs when a cybernetic society is not run according to cybernetic principles. The ASC can be seen as convention-bound in its operation, which is particularly odd for a cybernetic society.

The ASC (and no doubt other societies) needs ideas and renewal, and we are looking to competition entries for inspiration and direction developed from cybernetic principles. As the established home of second order cybernetics, these cybernetic principles should reflect, preferably, second as well as first order cybernetics.

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