Undergraduate and Graduate Seminar
The Cold War epoch saw broad transformations in science, technology, and politics. At their nexus a new knowledge was proclaimed, cybernetics, a putative universal science of communication and control. It has disappeared so completely that most have forgotten that it ever existed. Its failure seems complete and final. Yet in another sense, cybernetics was so powerful and successful that the concepts, habits, and institutions born with it have become intrinsic parts of our world and how we make sense of it. Key cybernetic concepts of information, system, and feedback are now fundamental to our basic ways of understanding the mind, brain and computer, of grasping the economy and ecology, and finally of imagining the nature of human life itself. This course will trace the echoes of the cybernetic explosion from the wake of World War II to the onset of Silicon Valley euphoria.