Introduction to cybernetics PDF Print E-mail
Technology - Cybernetics

Optimization and the history of cybernetics

Cybernetics is part of the system of Optimization, a field of applied mathematics, consisting of a collection of principles and methods, designed to produce a quantitative result for a number of disciplines including engineering, physics, biology and business.

The idea (theory) is that you can use identical methods to obtain solutions for widely varying problems. This doesn't mean it's the only solution, of course.

Besides cybernetics, optimization also includes linear and non-linear programming, control theory and game theory.

Cybernetic roots

Cybernetics itself is thus not an exact science. It is often used to define automatic control systems of a high complexity, such as our own nervous system or a system of government as was initially suggested by the French Physicist André-Marie Ampère in the 19th century. In his classification of sciences he called the nonexistent science of the control of governments cybernetics. (See below for the definition of cybernetics.)

After World War 2, in 1948, did an American mathematician, Norbert Wiener, define cybernetics as "the science of control and communications in the animal and the machine".


Cybernetics and computers

The development of the computer, and its intrinsic discipline of mathematical logic has greatly increased the use of  cybernetics during the past fifty years because it was now possible to process large amounts of data, better known as information processing.

Western and Eastern scientists defined different definitions for cybernetics. The Western, and more limited, definition described cybernetics as the science of control of complex systems of various types, with emphasis on control systems in technology and living organisms such as the nervous system.

In the Soviet sphere of influence cybernetics was considered to encompass not only the control systems as mentioned above but all information processing of which the computer sciences are only a part.

Personal cybernetics

The application of cybernetics is not limited to the outer world but can, perhaps should, be applied to ourselves as well. It's called personal development. Self-teaching is a key discipline of self-development and of cybernetics. (See also Personal Development.)



Like nanotechnology, neural networking and robotics, cybernetics, defined " the science of control and communication in the animal and the machine" is in the forefront of high tech development.

You can built your robot, define its learning by neural pathways, but to define a control mechanism by which it functions requires the use of one type of cybernetic system or another.


Other, more straightforward applications can be found in industrial robotics, analysis and decision software and in learning projects.

What is Cybernetics?

Main Entry: cy·ber·net·ics
Pronunciation: "sI-b&r-'ne-tiks
Function: noun plural but singular in construction
Etymology: Greek kybernEtEs pilot, governor (from kybernan to steer, govern) + English -ics
Date: 1948
: the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems (as the nervous system and brain and mechanical-electrical communication systems)
- cy·ber·net·ic /-tik/ also cy·ber·net·i·cal /-ti-k&l/ adjective
- cy·ber·net·i·cal·ly /-ti-k(&-)lE/ adverb
Source: Merriam Webster

American Society for Cybernetics - What is Cybernetics?

Heinz von Foerster - Ethics and Second Order Cybernetics
F. Heylighen - Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems
Pangaro Inc. - Cybernetics, a Definition
Alan B. Scrivener - A Curriculum for Cybernetics and Systems Study
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