Professor Andrew Pickering is chair of sociology at the University of Exeter. He has a PhD in theoretical elementary particle physics from University College London and another in science studies from the University of Edinburgh. He was for many years professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has also held distinguished fellowships at MIT, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Princeton University, the Guggenheiim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. His latest book, The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future, explores the history of cybernetics as an alternative paradigm for grasping the world from that of the modern sciences. http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/sociology/staff/pickering/
“The Next Macy Conference: A New Synthesis” – Andrew Pickering
Pickering: Okay, I think we’re in business. It’s a great honor to be asked to speak at this meeting. It’s a bit of a poisoned chalice to be asked to do is at 9:30 in the morning, it’s not really my favorite time. Thank you for the introduction. If it possibly gives my talk a bit of weight I’m not just a sociologist, I’ve got a PhD in elementary particle physics; I’d push the other equation around if I have to. All right. [Norbert 00:00:38] [Weiner 00:00:38] was a rich and complicated man. He was also the author of the worst novel I’ve ever read. Here I want to think of him as the leading spokesman and missionary for the cybernetics movement. I want to talk about the past and future of cybernetics.
The past is easy and inspiring. Once upon a time, from the late 40s to the 1960s, everybody was excited about cybernetics. It was seen as a new paradigm that was going to change the world. Since then, no one talks about it anymore. Oddly enough I think this is a product of it’s success. The seed sown by cybernetics have grown into all sorts of sub-fields and micro-disciplines, many of which have become more or less, self-supporting. For example in recent years, I’ve spoken at meetings on interactive architecture, radical psychiatry, the arts, the environment, complex systems, and robotics. Branches of which all quite evidently owe their inspiration to the early cyberneticians and often to Wiener himself, but something has got lost along the way. All these fields and more are technically challenging and fascinating, but the sense of a world changing paradigm has gone. To put my cards on the table, I think this is a shame and I’d like to bring it back; a new paradigm I think is what we need.
How could this go? As probably everyone knows, cybernetics grew around the famous Mace conferences held in the states between 1946 and 1953. That’s the picture of the worst novel in the world. A couple of pictures of the Mace attendees. I don’t know where the spectral picture comes from, if anybody could tell me, I’d be very interested.
In Britain, cybernetics took root a midst much eating and drinking under the rubric of the racial club. In Europe, it propagated far along running series of [na-mu-re 00:03:19] conferences named after their venue. These meetings all shared 2 things; first they were inter-disciplinary implosions of many fields; maths, engineering, brain science, psychology, psychiatry, the arts, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, they were wonderful meetings. Representatives of all these fields talked about their own work and hoped to learn from the others. Second, there was a sort of meta-discourse, a reflection on what was special about cybernetics; what distinguished it from other approaches to the field at issue. What glued cybernetic approaches in different fields together and mark them out as especially cybernetics. It was at this meta-level, rather than the level of specific technical projects and results that the revolutionary promise of cybernetics was articulated and elaborated. This meta-discourse is what has died over the years. The children of cybernetics still talk about their own work, but almost never about what the other offspring are up to and how their [inaudible 00:04:45] projects hang together; what it all means and the revolutionary upshot of it all.
In historical perspectives, this looks to me like a shacking or responsibility or a shriveling of ambition. [Norbert 00:05:04] Wiener, the great anti-disciplinarian who followed his ideas wherever they took him, from prosthetic limbs to social critique and the depths of philosophy would not be pleased with this. Bad children, he might say. The title of my talk is serious. I would like to organize something like the next Mace conference. The problem wouldn’t be figuring out who to invite. That’s easy. There are neo-cyberneticians scattered right across the landscape. The problem would be to get the participants interested in the idea that they are part of a shared revolution. Unnecessary, though not sufficient condition for this I think would be to start articulating or re-articulating some meta-discourse that could glue the parts back together and display their singularity as a new paradigm.
Let me just mention some ideas from the good old days to clarify what I’m talking about before turning to my own suggestions. Here is a list of meta-discourses. One, cybernetics offers us a universal language in which all other languages including those of the other sciences could be subsumed. It’s a new paradigm in the sense of engulfing and digesting everything else. Two, cybernetics is the science of feedback and circular causality. It’s a new paradigm because feedback systems lack the comforting linear and predictable cause and effect relations that have spread from physics to all the other disciplines since the enlightenment. Three, there is no such thing as an independent observer in cybernetics; the observer is part of the system observed. This is the key insight of second order cybernetics and departs entirely from the idea of the scientist as a neutral and detached external observer that characterizes modern science. Though this idea does resonate with ideas in the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Four, Wiener’s favorite meta-discourse, cybernetics is the science of information. Information is weightless and invisible. It escapes the purview of the traditional sciences. Therefore, cybernetics is a new paradigm with a new important, but hitherto to unrecognized subject matter. End of list.
Al of these 4 meta-discourses has something going for it. All of them once generated great excitement, but I think they’ve lost their edge and few people are bothered by them any more. Hence the estrangement between the children of cybernetics, they’ve lost their currency of exchange. My idea is simply to invent a new currency by re-visiting the past and present of cybernetics and it’s offspring. I will first try to lay out my own vision of what’s special about cybernetics and why it genuinely is a new paradigm. Then I’ll think a bit about a couple of examples for what I have in mind and I will finish with some discussion of the value of the cybernetic paradigm thus understood.
Okay. Now for the difficult bit my friends tell me not to use the word because it sounds intimidating and strange to some people, but I want to talk about ontology, by which I mean something very straightforward. Ontology is a general understanding of what the world is like. What kind of a place is it? That’s it. That’s what I mean by ontology. My argument is there is an interesting way of getting the grips with the singularity of cybernetics is by looking at it’s odd ontology. Cybernetics has an ontology radically different from that of the traditional sciences and western common sense and that’s the sense in which I want to see it as a new paradigm. To see what this means, we can go back to cybernetics’ origin. The key object for early cybernetics was the brain. Many of the [fan-zes 00:10:18] came from psychiatry and psychology; Warren McKeller, Ross Ashby, Grey Walter. There is the famous picture from [de-la-tus 00:10:30] book, labelled the 4 pioneers of cybernetics and it goes, Ross Ashby on the left, Warren McKeller, Grey Walter and of course Norbert Weiner on the right.
Wiener’s famous world war II anti-aircraft predictor was nothing, but an electrical brain Wiener too plunged deeply into psychiatric topics like epilepsy. It’s not much of an exaggeration to describe early cybernetics as brain science, but this was the brain understood in an unusual way. Since [de-ca 00:11:08] it comes naturally to us to think of the brain as the home of the mind and the mind as the center of knowledge, reason, thought, and cognition. The cognitive brain, we could call it. Part of the singularity of the cybernetic ontology was that it had a very different account of the brain. The cybernetic brain was a performative rather than a cognitive organ. Understood as geared directly into doing and performance rather than cognition “The brain is not a thinking machine,” Ashby wrote in 1948, “It’s an acting machine.” As far as conceptualizing the human is concerned, the shift of reference from cognition to performance was a defining aspect of the singularity of cybernetics and we can take this line of thought further. Cybernetics was most interested in the performative brain as the organ of adaptation. The organ [inaudible 00:12:11], that helps us to get along in situations we’ve not encountered before.
It’s worth reflecting on this from, so to speak, the outside. The outer counterpart of the adaptive brain is a world that is ultimately unknowable and exceedingly complex system as [Stafford-Bier 00:12:36] described it in his 1959 book, cybernetics and management. Something either so complex that we can never master it cognitively or something ever changing so that our knowledge is always going out of date. Something emergent which either way can always disrupt our rational expectations and surprise us. I was quoting [Stafford-Bier 00:13:06], here is Stafford in the mid 1960s on the left after 1972 on the right, failure of the cyber sign project. I was trying to find a low [res 00:13:21] picture of him and I looked on the web and I found these pictures, they are actually from a paper that I’d published. My [inaudible 00:13:27].
The world view or ontology of cybernetics was an image of both the human and the non-human worlds as endlessly emerging, always unpredictably becoming something new and performative, not cognitive interactions. This is my claim. This ontology of unknowability and performative becoming stalks the history of cybernetics. Sometimes explicitly, but usually implicitly and unrecognized. Though it hasn’t until now been at the forefront of cybernetic discourse, this ontology is what I want to thematize as the glue that can re-unite the children of cybernetics. Very clearly it does what we need. It marks out cybernetics as a new and distinctive paradigm. A science with revolutionary potential; something that can help change the world we live in by changing our understanding of what sort of a place it is. The ontology of the modern sciences which is also the ontology of western common sense, is that the world is built from fixed and knowable entities like [quags 00:14:56] or DNA. In fixed, causal and knowable relations with one another. Cybernetics then conjured up a completely different world from the one that we teach our children about and you can’t get much more radical than that.
The world isn’t the way we are brought up to think it is. That’s the pitch for today. Okay, a few examples might help now to put some flesh on what I’m trying to say and perhaps make it more comprehensible. My book, the cybernetic brain, is in fact just one long historical catalog of how one can see distinctively weird and wonderful cybernetic projects as ways of bringing this ontology of unknowability and becoming down to earth of making the ontology concrete in artifacts and social relations. I talk for example about the little robots built by Grey Walter and Ross Ashby as models of the performative brain adapting to the unknown. About [Stafford-Biers 00:16:10] viable system model as a way of making organizations adaptive in an unknowable world. About the so called fan palace in London as a early example of interactive architecture in which the building and it’s users were intended to engage in open-ended performative adaptation to one another.
I even talk about the anti-psychiatry movement that’s focused of reciprocal performative transformations of the sane and the mad. That’s Grey Walter’s robot tortoise finding it’s way around the world looking for lights going up to them and away from them. Ashby’s homeostats 4 of them interconnected with one another, randomly re-configuring themselves to try and find a state of collective equilibrium, this is the principle of a viable system model on the right modeled under human nervous system on the left. This is [Bier’s 00:17:13] formal diagram of the viable system model. That’s the design for the fan palace with all sorts of movable elements so the building can re-configure itself. This is the anti-psychiatry movement, [inaudible 00:17:25] one of the leaders of the [inaudible 00:17:27] Kingsley hall; the great epicenter of anti-psychiatry in the bottom right.
So on and so on. If you want to get the hang of the anthology that I’m talking about, just think of a world built out of Ashby’s homeostats all adapting to one another or built out of fun palaces in which the human and the non-human are experimentally coming into equilibrium with one another. These sorts of artifacts act out the ontology of becoming just like [inaudible 00:18:02] stage of clockwork, Newtonian universe. The picture on the left is an [a-u-re-ri 00:18:09], is a little model of the knowable [inaudible 00:18:11] universe and it’s being eclipsed by the picture at the bottom right which the homeostats of Ross Ashby.
Historically then, my ontological spin on cybernetics I think has a lot to recommend here though it’s not been at the forefront of conscious cybernetic reflection thus far. Since we are looking to the future, I want to mention a couple of examples of how the story plays out at least in the present. I should start with my own field, whatever it is, science and technology studies, social theory, philosophy. Cybernetics was plugged into the social sciences from the very start, especially in Gregory [Bateson’s 00:18:57] work in anthropology and psychiatry. It’s just a picture of Bates. I imagine we’ll hear more about all that from Mary Catherine very soon.
Too bad. As I mentioned, [Stafford-Bier 00:19:20] exported general insights from cybernetics into organization theory and decision making structures. More recently all of the interesting action in social theory and philosophy has been centered precisely on this paradigm shift I just described. A shift from the epistomological concerns that characterize the 20th century to ontology and ontological term that emphasizes performance and emergence. The vanguard of all these has been the act to network theory of [Brunno-Letto 00:19:56], [Michelle-Kalon 00:19:56], [John-Lo 00:19:57], [Edel 00:19:57] since the 1980s, the point of act to network theory has always been to recognize the agency of things as engaged with the agency of humans and to see the world as ever-emerging networks of humans and non-humans evolving together. From a socialist feminist angle, [Donna-Harroways 00:20:19] very famous 1983 manifesto for cyborgs, again, thematized transformative couplings of people and things and their open ended becoming anti. Finding in this open endedness a hope for the emergence of a genuinely [novile 00:20:39] future in which the tired all day symmetries of race, class, and gender would no longer matter.
The cybernetic roots of [Letore 00:20:53] and [Halloways 00:20:52] work are I think clear especially in [Batesons 00:20:58] work for [Haroway 00:20:58]. Though they aren’t much discussed and I think I picked up my own cybernetics instincts from them. In fact, this talk is backwards from my own perspective. My attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to develop a general analysis of scientific research practice are what led me to the anthology of unknowability that I’m talking about today. After that I discovered cybernetics and I realized that the cyberneticians actually acted out what I previously regarded as just scholarly analyses. Cybernetics shows me where my thinking was going which is why I find cybernetics so interesting. Even so, I’m still trying to convince the cyberneticians in their unacknowledged offspring to see this ontology as an umbrella in which they could flourish together.
It isn’t easy to see this ontological point. We are all so deeply embedded in the enlightenment paradigm [inaudible 00:22:18]. The linguistic turn of the 20th century and the obsession with cognition and of histomology, as in Wiener’s idea of cybernetics is the science of information. The ontology talk is just hard to grasp and hence this talk today. At any rate this sort of post-humanist philosophy in social theory needs to be a part of the new synthesis that I have in mind. Two further areas of contemporary neo-cybernetics that interest me a lot are arts and environmental management. We’ll hear more about this in the session on cybernetics and art this afternoon, but somewhere below the horizon of the mainstream media, is the flourishing and imaginative arts theme that I think of as ontological theater; meaning that it stages non-linguistically and non-cognitively emergent performative couplings of the human and the non-humans, the inner and the outer.
Just to give you a couple of examples, Simon Pennis work from 1993 called [inaudible 00:23:35] is a mobile robot that moves in response to the pence and motion of visitors encouraging the spectators to react to the robot’s movements back and forth in what I call a dance of agency. A beautiful dynamic staging [inaudible 00:23:55] of what scientists do in their labs. The robot there, that’s [inaudible 00:24:01]. I could have tried to show you a video of what it does, but I decided it might waste about 10 minutes of my thought time, but you can see the little girl moves up to the robot, it spins around, goes backwards. She moves around in response to that. It moves around till the response of the last energy and so on. I’ll try and show a video in the session at 4:00 this afternoon. From a different angle, [Chris-Sulta’s 00:24:26] current dynamic and interactive installation displays started off … Displays takes aim at the inner being of participants by disrupting their senses with flickering strobes, low frequency sounds, and weird tastes, this exploring the open ended malleability and becoming of the human. What our senses can do, how we could be?
In fact, [Soltran 00:24:59] has collaborators started off aiming to mimic the effects of the cycodelic drug, [inaudible 00:25:06]. There is a lot of these sort of artwork going on there, usually not calling itself cybernetic, but which easily fits under the ontological umbrella for the next Mace conference. Solta is in fact collaborating with anthropologist, David Hass, in this displace project who understands the sort of training ground for the senses of anthropologists than to strange location.
Environmental management is likewise interesting. Our usual way of dealing with the environment is often described as command and control; an attempt to dominate the world through knowledge, damming and straightening rivers, draining swamps, building hard barriers and levees which of course goes with the usual ontology, [Katuism 00:26:00] ontology of know-ability. As Bateson argued back in the 60s, command and control is in the end an ontological mistake about how the world is which simply invites an emergent backlash from nature. I once argued much the same way about attempts to manage the mississippi river in the name of preserving New Orleans and then the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I couldn’t help seeing this as a successful prediction on my part; one of a very short list of times that I’ve been right. That’s a matter of fact.
Engineers are themselves beginning to recognize the shortcomings of commands and control and the developing approaches often referred to as adaptive, but acknowledge emergence, a famous example of adapted ecological management as being the formative experimentation on the Colorado river, staging experimental floods to see how the river and the downstream ecosystem will respond and often being surprised by what terms are. My favorite example of this approach to nature is an old one from Japan, I’ll just read you a quote, “Erosion control in Japan is like a game of chess, the forest engineer after studying his eroding valley makes his first move, locating and building one or more check-dams. He waits to see what nature’s response is. This determines the forest engineer’s next move which may be another dam or two, an increase in the former dam or the construction of side retaining walls. Another cause for observation. The next move is made and so on until erosion is check-mated. The operation of natural forces such as sedimentation and re-vegetation are guided and used to the best advantage to keep down costs and to obtain practical results.”
For me this is another beautiful example of a performative de-centered emerging dance of agency between the human and the non-human. Here turn to our advantage, this environmental engineering. We have social theory and philosophy, art, and the environment. These examples were intended to bring out what I mean by the ontology of neo-cybernetics. Approaches in all thees fields trade on an understanding of the world is endlessly and performatively emergent and surprising. They show us the cybernetic ontology and at the same time they act it out in different areas. The ontology is what ties them all together. Absent ontology it’s pretty hard to discern any connection between say, [inaudible 00:29:18] robot and traditional Japanese approaches to soil erosion. Given the ontology and only given the ontology, the connection and the commonality is clear. I think the success of the next Mace conference depends on grasping the sort of interconnection. Now, where are we?
The argument is that cybernetics has lost it’s edge since the days of Wiener and the Mace’s the inter or anti disciplinary synthesis of the 40s and 60s has just fallen apart. My feeling is that a new meta-discourse is needed to put the parts back together and restore cybernetics’ radical potential. My suggestion for the new discourse is an ontological one. We should take seriously what I regard as self-evidently the case; cybernetics lived and continues to live and shows the rest of us how it’s possible to live in a world different from the one that we take for granted. That’s the most important thing I know. There are issues here that need to be thought through a bit further. I’ll describe my ontological interpretation as a kind of axis of assembly or re-assembly for the children of cybernetics; something that can gather them together and make their inner unity visible. Such an axis is needed and valuable, but it can easily stand as a if it’s just some sort of an add-on, a meta-story that draws on specific practices that returns little to them. If that’s the case, the project won’t get far. The story needs to engage constitutively with the practice and they need to grow together.
Let me talk about that for a bit. I get onto logical reflection inform the future of technical practice. One thought is that it might facilitate not just shared understandings, but productive cross overs between the descendants of cybernetics just as the old stories did in the old days. I can’t really see say what these might be, the point of staging the next Massey conference will be to start finding out, but I can give you a couple of examples of the sorts of thing I have in mind.
To put my money where my mouth is, I should start with my own word. There is an obvious and worrying problem with the ontology I want to ascribe to cybernetics, namely the [inaudible 00:32:12] obvious that we live in a world of endless becoming. Plenty of things seem to be fixed and knowable. The classic cybernetic response to that explicit in [Stafford-Biers 00:32:23] early writings is that there are just different sorts of things in the world; simple or complex systems which have a special described by physics or operations research respectively and then the exceedingly complex systems which are the special subject matter of cybernetics. Complexity theorists today make the same division, they claim to address most of the world in a kind of quasi-quantitative sense, but not the little bits that to described by Newton’s laws of Motion and whatever.
I’ve recently been trying to do without this differentiation. From a performative perspective, we’d have to say that they are what I call islands of stability in the flats are becoming zones where feedback effects become more or less unimportant and where reliable linear relations of cause and effect more or less hold. I say more or less because I have footing on this island is only tenuously retained by maintenance work and standard operating procedures. Sometimes we just fall off these islands. What I mean by this is factories explode, nuclear power stations melt down, oil wells leak spectacularly. I was going to have real pictures of factories exploding, here are some very suggestive artworks by a couple … There is always a performative excess too. We are great at producing energy, but we are also inadvertently great at producing carbon dioxide and destabilizing planetary equilibrium at the same time. All of this seems to be a genuine insight into the human and planetary condition which arises from cross-overs from cybernetics into social theory and philosophy, cross-overs made possible by the ontological connections on which might feed back again into say safety engineering.
From a different angle, thinking about island’s stability, returns me at least to [inaudible 00:34:43] work on autopoiesis and living systems and work on self-organizing systems more generally. More of the pieces start to fit together. From yet another angle it helps me focus on the idea that stability is actually hard to find. The news is saturated these days with stories of continuing and ramifying social failures to achieve stability and equilibrium. Running from the county culture of the 1960s to movements like occupy today and more violently in the continuing fallout from the so called war on terror and what was once optimistically described as the Arab spring. I’ve recently tried to work out the social and political theory of all this by drawing on Ross Ashby’s work on hemostat in the late 1940. In particular his drawing on his experiments in calculations showing that the time to reach equilibrium in multi-homeostatic arrays like the one I showed you, increases astronomically with the number of homeostats that are trying to find equilibrium with one another.
This finding strikes me as illuminating; an unrecognized, but foundational socio-political phenomenon associated with any multiplicity to performative agents continually perturbing each other and eliciting new performances and more disturbances and never ending emergent dances of agency. As it happens, this was also [inaudible 00:36:30] psychiatric analyses of destructive [inter-actual 00:36:35] hurricanes as he called them in inter-personal relations, dynamic and open ended-versions of [inaudible 00:36:43]. There are quite a few productive possible cross-overs that I would like to think between social theory, philosophy, psychiatry, robotics, safety engineering and brain science, all of which could be elaborated much further.
Switching briefly to another area, we can go back to connections between art and the environment and just know that under the ontological interpretation one can make a productive connection between the strange artworks that I mentioned before and adaptive approaches to environmental engineering. Works like [inaudible 00:37:26] and [Solta’s 00:37:29] displays just are micro-environments in which the public can directly experience the sort of emerging lively and unpredictable macro-environment that adaptive engineering imagines and tries to cope with. I think this sort of direct artistic, ontological education could be very important in modifying our dealings with the world and in de-naturalizing taken for granted stance of command and control.
The hard-works can’t do this alone, they need some talk to make the connection from the micro to the macro, from art to engineering, which is what my ontological interpretation aims to provide. Finally here on this line of thought, I’m struck by the fact that Gregory Bateson developed more or less the same analysis of on the one hand schizophrenia and madness and on the other, the environmental crisis as it was understood in the 1960s. As both, some sort of bad equilibrium which human and non-human actors get locked into. There is at least one passage in which it refers to the madness of the corn fields. I can’t help thinking this points to a space for surprising and productive cross overs between psychiatry and engineering. This is a bit of a crazy idea I know. Both sides have vast experience in interacting with intractable systems enshrined in their own presently very different theories, classifications, histories and practices. Something interesting and important might happen if the engineers say picks up on the work of the psychiatrists and experiments with translating it into their own field and vice versa. Such translations would of course, first entail breaking down the micro-disciplinary isolation in both fields.
The psychiatrists would have to be interested in the engineers and vice versa. Beyond all that, it seems to me that the ontological story might be productive in it’s own right. Once you start thinking of the world in terms of agency and emergence, new projects sail into view. Using slime molds to solve intractable computational problems is I think cutting edge research these days. That goes back to the biological computing experiments of [Stafford-Bier 00:40:21] and Gordon [Pask 00:40:22] in the late 1950s and early 1960s except that Bier and [Pask 00:40:28] were more imaginative than we are now. They wanted to harness the liveliness of naturally occurring systems to substitute for factory management. Not just to solve difficult problems, but to set in motion, radical adaptive change in he face of changing environments. In the top left the [inaudible 00:40:59] optimizing transportation roots in Canada, that’s [Gordon-Pask 00:41:01] in the bottom right, that’s a swamp described of the real life modular processes which is supposed to control factory.
[inaudible 00:41:15] is the world expert on this sort of thing and he might well talk about it in this session I’ll have this afternoon. At any rate, I can’t see that anyone could have come up with a project like biological computing who hadn’t already grasped the ontological point about the emergent agency of nature and translated it into the idea that everything we need is already there in nature. We just have to find it. That [spomp 00:41:40]. This is [inaudible 00:41:44] departure from the tenets of modern engineering which we could take up a new by recycling the ontological insights of the 1950s back into the present. We are almost there. Can I finish it, it’s just a bit more. We have the idea I hope of the anthology of unknowability as the promise of a neo-cybernetic paradigm with a restored revolutionary edge, uniting the splinters of cybernetics conceptually and practically and generating new and far out problematic. This might be enough for an academic audience as the basis for the next Mace conference. If it isn’t, I don’t know what else to say. It’s time for me to take up gardening.
I want to finish by looking beyond academia. What could this paradigm offer to the world at large? Grace. Paraphrasing [Begson 00:42:43] one last time, grace might not be a bad answer to the question. We live in graceless times, especially in my 2 countries; England and america. Right by fantasies of control, fantasies which are continually intensified by their own failure. If the weather is getting a bit wild, just dredge the rivers and make the sea walls higher. If the followers of Islam aren’t behaving themselves here, bomb them again. Maybe even the bankers will sort themselves out one day too. Underpinning all these and naturalizing it is the modern paradigm and it’s ontology of know-ability. If the world really is knowable, it’s almost our duty to dictate our terms too. There is no alternative as [inaudible 00:43:38] used to say, to command and control. The great virtue of the cybernetic ontology is precisely to de-naturalize this vision by pointing out that there is an alternative, another way to think about the world and to act in it. We can, if we like, engage in ever murder arms races with [inaudible 00:44:06] and other people, but we don’t have to.
Cybernetics as I want to conceive it, offers us an endless list of examples of more graceful ways in which to go on in all sorts of areas. Working with an emergent world and taking advantage of what it has to offer instead of stamping our will upon it. This for me is the key sense in which the cybernetic paradigm really is revolutionary. I don’t mean that we should just abandon all the achievements of modern science and technology, I do mean the 2 paradigms are better than one. We really could be less [inaudible 00:44:50] and more graceful. The prospects don’t look great, but I’d love to leave my children in the hands of a graceful, stylish, and even artistic future; a future I wouldn’t be ashamed of. I’ve been trying to think in this talk about how cybernetics could help it emerge. That’s it, thank you.
Speaker 2: Excellent. A way of being in the world for these emergent and resulting grace wouldn’t that be something, what a focus for the next Macy conferences …