At first, cybernetics had a completely different meaning than the one we attribute to it today.
In fact, in 1834, in Essay on the Philosophy of Science, Part I, Synoptic Table of Sciences and Arts, cybernetics meant “the study of the means of government “.
But what we must remember about cybernetics today is the meaning given to it by the founding work: “the entire theory of control and communication, both in animals and in machines”.
Wiener describes in his book that the idea came to him with an interdisciplinary approach, during a series of meetings that took place over a period of 10 years at Harvard Medical School between medical scientists and physicists on the one hand, and mathematicians, physicists and engineers on the other.
Norbert Wiener himself makes the link with the digital world in his chapters Time Series, Information, and Communication, then Feedback and Oscillation, or Computing Machines and the Nervous System for example.
In this last chapter, he explores the differences between analog and digital computers, as he calls them.
For Wiener, digital machines are more relevant, electronic implementations will be superior to mechanical or electro-mechanical ones.
Moreover, the binary system is also according to him preferable to other digital scales.
Cybernetics, as a science of communication and control mechanisms, whether in living beings or in machines, is a new approach ready to revolutionize society.
The measurement of the information provided by a series of messages – the message being defined then generally by the whole of the electrical, mechanical or nervous means -, and the possibility for a system to correct itself, was indeed a new idea, which knew a craze always of topicality.
Norbert Wiener’s book allowed for significant advances and influences in the digital domain, but also launched philosophical and ethical discussions on the consequences of cybernetics.
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