Publication 2763

Umpleby S. A. (2005) A history of the cybernetics movement in the United States. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 91(2): 54–66. Fulltext at
Key events in the history of cybernetics and the American Society for Cybernetics are discussed: The origin of cybernetics in the Macy Foundation conferences held in the late 1940s and early 1950s; the pursuit of different interpretations of cybernetics by several professional societies; the reasons why the U. S. government supported or did not support cybernetics in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s; early experiments in cyberspace in the 1970s; conversations with Soviet scientists in the 1980s; the development of second order cybernetics in the 1990s; and increased interest in cybernetics in Europe and the U. S. in the 2000s due at least in part to improved understanding of the assumptions underlying the cybernetics movement. The history of cybernetics in the U. S. is viewed from the perspective of the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). Several questions are addressed. Why was the ASC founded rather late, in 1964, about 10 years after the Macy Conferences ended? Why has the ASC remained small (300 or 400 members at its peak)? Why are there currently no departments or institutes of cybernetics in the US? How has thinking about cybernetics changed during the sixty year history of cybernetics in the US? Since most professionals in the US now spend a few hours a day in “cyberspace,” why do most of them know nothing about cybernetics?

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