Publication 2787

Richards L. D. (1993) Why I am not a cybernetician. The Newsletter of the American Society for Cybernetics 1993(September): 2–5. Fulltext at
Excerpt: For a number of years, I have been thinking about what I might say if I were to give the opening address at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cybernetics. When engaged in this contemplation, a certain story persistently recurs. The story involves three prisoners on death row, each of whom is scheduled to be executed the next day. Each is asked if they have one last request. The first prisoner, a good Catholic, asks to talk with a priest. The second prisoner, a senior professor at a prestigious university (to be left unnamed), asks to give one last lecture on “What is Cybernetics? ” The third prisoner, a graduate student at the same university, pauses a second and then asks if he can be executed before the professor gives his lecture. The recurrence of this story has led me to apply a twist on the theme that dominates opening addresses. Hence, I wish to speak on “Why I am not a cybernetician (nor even a cyberneticist). ” By doing so, I am shifting attention from definitions to labels and categories – in particular, the labels I apply to others and to myself and the categories I fmd myself and others locked into as a result. I have become very sensitive to the labels that I apply to myself or that I will let others apply to me without challenge. The label “cybernetician” is one I think deserves some close scrutiny.

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