Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints, and possibilities. In the 21st century, the term is often used in a rather loose way to imply "control of any system using technology." - wikipedia
Cybernetics is relevant to the study of systems, such as mechanical, physical, biological, cognitive, and social systems. Cybernetics is applicable when a system being analyzed incorporates a closed signaling loop; that is, where action by the system generates some change in its environment and that change is reflected in that system in some manner (feedback) that triggers a system change, originally referred to as a "circular causal" relationship.
- Paul Pangoaro on vimeo
System dynamics, a related field, originated with applications of electrical engineering control theory to other kinds of simulation models (especially business systems) by Jay Forrester at MIT in the 1950s.
Concepts studied by cyberneticists include, but are not limited to: learning, cognition, adaptation, social control, emergence, communication, efficiency, efficacy, and connectivity. These concepts are studied by other subjects such as engineering and biology, but in cybernetics these are abstracted from the context of the individual organism or device.
Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine." The word cybernetics comes from Greek κυβερνητική (kybernetike), meaning "governance", i.e., all that are pertinent to κυβερνάω (kybernao), the latter meaning "to steer, navigate or govern", hence κυβέρνησις (kybernesis), meaning "government", is the government while κυβερνήτης (kybernetes) is the governor or the captain.
Contemporary cybernetics began as an interdisciplinary study connecting the fields of control systems, electrical network theory, mechanical engineering, logic modeling, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology in the 1940s, often attributed to the Macy Conferences. During the second half of the 20th century cybernetics evolved in ways that distinguish first-order cybernetics (about observed systems) from second-order cybernetics (about observing systems). More recently there is talk about a third-order cybernetics (doing in ways that embraces first and second-order).
Fields of study which have influenced or been influenced by cybernetics include game theory, system theory (a mathematical counterpart to cybernetics), perceptual control theory, sociology, psychology (especially neuropsychology, behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology), philosophy, architecture, and organizational theory.
The term ''cybernetics'' stems from κυβερνήτης (w:el:Κυβερνήτης) (''kybernētēs'') "steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder". As with the ancient Greek pilot, independence of thought is important in cybernetics. Cybernetics is a broad field of study, but the essential goal of cybernetics is to understand and define the functions and processes of systems that have goals and that participate in circular, causal chains (causality) that move from action to sensing to comparison with desired goal, and again to action. Studies in cybernetics provide a means for examining the design and function of any system, including social systems such as business management and organizational learning, including for the purpose of making them more efficient (efficiency) and effective.
French physicist and mathematician André-Marie Ampère first coined the word "cybernetique" in his 1834 essay ''Essai sur la philosophie des sciences'' to describe the science of civil government.
Cybernetics was borrowed by Norbert Wiener, in his book ''Cybernetics (Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine)'', to define the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine. Stafford Beer called it the science of effective organization and Gordon Pask called it "the art of defensible metaphors" (emphasizing its constructivist epistemology) though he later extended it to include information flows "in all media" from stars to brains. It includes the study of feedback, black boxes and derived concepts such as communication and control (control theory) in living organisms (life), machines and organizations including self-organization. Its focus is how anything (digital, mechanical or biological) processes information, reacts to information, and changes or can be changed to better accomplish the first two tasks.[ Out of control: The new biology of machines, social systems and the economic world]
A more philosophical definition, suggested in 1956 by Louis Couffignal, one of the pioneers of cybernetics, characterizes cybernetics as "the art of ensuring the efficacy of action." The most recent definition has been proposed by Louis Kauffman, President of the American Society for Cybernetics, "Cybernetics is the study of systems and processes that interact with themselves and produce themselves from themselves."
However in the Greek of the time the word simply meant "helmsmanship".
The first artificial automatic regulatory system, a water clock, was invented by the mechanician Ktesibios. In his water clocks, water flowed from a source such as a holding tank into a reservoir, then from the reservoir to the mechanisms of the clock. Ktesibios's device used a cone-shaped float to monitor the level of the water in its reservoir and adjust the rate of flow of the water accordingly to maintain a constant level of water in the reservoir, so that it neither overflowed nor was allowed to run dry. This was the first artificial truly automatic self-regulatory device that required no outside intervention between the feedback and the controls of the mechanism. Although they did not refer to this concept by the name of Cybernetics (they considered it a field of engineering), Ktesibios and others such as Heron (Hero of Alexandria) and Su Song are considered to be some of the first to study cybernetic principles.
James Watt - wikimedia
The study of ''teleological (Teleology) mechanisms'' (from the Greek (Ancient Greek) τέλος or ''telos'' for ''end'', ''goal'', or ''purpose'') in machines with ''corrective feedback'' dates from as far back as the late 18th century when James Watt (James Watt (inventor))'s steam engine was equipped with a governor (governor (device)) (1775-1800), a centrifugal feedback valve for controlling the speed of the engine. Alfred Russel Wallace identified this as the principle of evolution in his famous 1858 paper. In 1868 James Clerk Maxwell published a theoretical article on governors, one of the first to discuss and refine the principles of self-regulating devices. Jakob von Uexküll applied the feedback mechanism via his model of functional cycle (''Funktionskreis'') in order to explain animal behaviour and the origins of meaning in general.