Oguntede, The Dialectic Interpretation of Cybernetics, 4/1/1989

Science of regulation in real life

What then is the contribution of cybernetic thinking to science or philosophy?

The most obvious characteristic of all cybernetic writing, be it Wiener or Beer, or any of their acolytes and successors, is its inherent struggle: a self conscious disciplining of highly abstract powerful symbolics into a heavy encompassing psuedo-worldview. Very little is elegant, very little is indeed readable.The struggle is to tie down those elusively fecund concepts, which exist only in cybernetics and are otherwise without weight, to the turbulent ‘real world’.

The message of cybernetics is still, as it was for its originators: if you are going to sensibly understand the totality of controllable existence – not just the controlled microsystems of categorical science, nor even the harmonised synthesis of general science, but the waring totality of all that goes on, and of which we are part, then you need to investigate the phenomena and laws of complexity and of control; in and of themselves. You need to believe that these are worthy objects; and as fully real as their physical [manifestations] components

A corollary is that attempting to understand by [the medium of ] extension of particulate knowledge is [ineffective] inappropriate, inefficient if not classically false.

Cybernetics must then be understood outside the pervasive, scientific ideography assigning a gross social value to the accumulation of scientific knowledge, and the externally-to-that-knowledge dominance of instrumental human control.

It is a thin strand surviving from the march of the more reserved discrete scientific philosophies flowering in the afterglow of the Encyclopediasts and the Naturalists of the Enlightenment .

Nature was not a (romantic) object of wonder, still less was it a subject for control. Rather there exists a necessary incompleteness to any Natural subjectivism; which is the key to a relativistic principle in all knowledge. Furthermore this [is] a discovered principle, the product of a non-categoric phenomenalistic study.

Knowing that knowledge is relative – relative to the engendering process – we avoid the drift into closed systems of thought; we may observe the subjectivism of the observer, and the subjective quality to the universe of observation.

It is this frightening specificity to experience [that] science has been retreating from, controlling the enclosed spaces of particulate systems, but not taking responsibility for general understanding: in short instrumentalism.

Why cybernetic writing is so struggle prone is through the containing influence of instrumentalism, a science of control – [  ] never emerged, but it was certainly attempted; systems theory applied for [totalising] military purposes – leading to grotesque misrepresentations of some political situations: artificial intelligence, aimless model building.
The absurdity of instrumentalism has been recognised by more persipient contributors who have refused to indulge it; and by those who have taken it with irony to its whimsical conclusions {Stafford Beer comes to mind]. 

Science as an instrument of humanity

It is fashionable to see science thus, in these days where we are lead by ‘the science’ to accept constraints never dreamt of in more ordinary times. As we edge to the realisation that the constraints of experts reach beyond the circumstances of a natural disaster, or catastrophic accident, into constraint on freedom of action in the world – by individuals affecting the material economy of everyday life, we are challenged as to our primitive beliefs. The core of our religious faith is stripped or exposed or reinterpreted by a universality in scientifically anchored knowledge ‘about everything’. Only science in this broad sense can give us the cohesion to face existential crises crossing all systems of belief.