What is Cybernetics?

Cybernetics is the science that deals with the study of control processes and communication in biological, electronic, and mechanical systems. Cybernetics emphasizes how a digital, mechanical, or biological system consumes information, reacts to it, and changes or is altered for improved performance. It also studies how individual systems can attain set goals and objectives by planning and responding to all the circumstances and stimuli that they encounter in their environment, in other words, the information and feedback within their environment. 

Background of Cybernetics

The concept "cybernetics" is derived from the Greek word for "steersman" which was used in ancient Greece, particularly by the great philosopher Plato, to denote governing systems. Norbert Wiener, a 20th-century American engineer, and mathematician coined the term in the 1940s to describe the science of communication and control in animals and machines. Numerous additional interpretations quickly appeared and continued to rise, which is why cybernetics is often regarded as vaguely defined. Some experts consider cybernetics to be the study of a successful organization, while others believe it concentrates on form and pattern.

The Components of Cybernetics

In some cases, cybernetics is based on systems theory, systems science, and systems thinking. System approaches influenced by cybernetics are critical system thinking, system design, and system dynamics.  

The cybernetic theory comprises four key components: variety, process, circularity, and observation. 

  • Variety: This refers to all possible configurations of input and output in a particular system – the circumstances that might arise and the results that could occur based on the decisions taken. 
  • Process: This essentially refers to how different systems operates.
  • Circularity: This refers to self-regulation based on feedback. 
  • Observation. It entails decision-making within the system. 

Uses and Applications

As a multidisciplinary subject, Cybernetics is employed in various fields of science, such as mathematics, biology, engineering, and psychology. Cybernetics best-known application is in computer science, where it has helped build technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, information theory, computer science, simulation, etc. Even though the term "cyber" has evolved to refer to computers or, more often, the Internet, cybernetics is concerned with more than mechanical or electrical systems. The human brain, the environment, society, and economies are among the non-mechanical techniques to which it has been applied, in short, any system in which feedback is utilized to make changes to reach the desired result. Cybernetics is also used in earth system science to examine earth systems from system dynamics. Geocybernetics seeks to understand and regulate the intricate co-evolution of the ecosphere and anthroposphere, for instance, to address world issues like anthropogenic global warming.

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