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What is Cybernetics, how is it useful, does it relate to agent based models?

posted 20 Feb 2012, 04:54 by David Sherlock
Weekend notes

Cybernetics is by no means restricted to the world of Science Fiction. It is not the attempt of a humanoid race to self-preserve, as they add more and more artificial parts to their bodies.  Which results in them becoming coldly logical killing machines and the most persistent of Doctor Whos enemies. 

The word cybernetics comes from a Greek word that means “The art of steering” a word that led to the Latin word for Governor.  Cybernetics is mentioned in the First Alcibiades where Plato is talking about the relationship between cybernetics and government and is mentioned by Andre-Marie Ampere when talking about sciences of government in 19834.  Just the history of the word itself gives us insight into how cybernetics is about steering and regulation in any type of system. No robots in sight; although they can be; if you fancy being the next Davros (or Ichiro Mihara for the lovers not fighters), 

In the 20th century there has been a few explosions in cybernetics where a sudden large array of different disciplines can be seen starting to use the core principles of control and systems to gain better understanding of their discipline. During these explosions cybernetics has evolved somewhat and given birth to a meta-cybernetics style discipline dubbed Second-order cybernetics.

In agent based models I am interested in analysis of information to spot patterns of activity over time. I am also interested in building visual representations of what is happening at the mirco level, how this builds up to the macro effect and how that feeds back into micro level. This in its self feels very cybernetic but I feel there is lots of scope to get confused here. Lots of work has gone on in computer science to apply concepts of cybernetics to the analysis of information, in particular the decision support systems and it may be worth looking at these, but making sure that I do not confuse the systems I am looking at. 

Worth of note in particular is Project Cybersyn. What would a modern day cybersyn for the university look like?