THIS CYBERNETIC WORLD: Of Men, Machines and Earth Systems by V. L. Parsegian

THIS CYBERNETIC WORLD: Of Men, Machines and Earth Systems

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Parsegian's intent is to update Norbert Wiener's general work, Cybernetics, written in 1961. Any such endeavor invites comparison with the original and, unfortunately, that is a comparison this book can't stand. Parsegian has broadened Wiener's initial definition of the field -- ""the study of control and communication"" -- to include the study of ""all relationships between things,"" viz. just about all knowledge. He applies cybernetics to physics, engineering, biology, psychology, politics, and economics. At the same time, Parsegian has lost Wiener's profound and flexible ideas in a welter of purely mechanistic notions -- notions which are barely acceptable when applied to thermostats but fail miserably when they are applied to human beings and their societies, as is attempted here. In the author's cybernetic view, the whole world consists either of stability or slow change. Such an outlook eliminates sudden inspiration in human thought, and revolutions in society. In fact, any change in society is looked on as purely destructive ""mass hysteria,"" a view which tells us more about Parsegian's political prejudices than about cybernetics. While Wiener emphasized the way the brain acts as a coherent whole, not just a collection of interconnected cells, Parsegian returns to an older, mechanical model and denies the role of brain waves in coordinating the activities of the individual cells. Sad to say, this book is really no worse than any other in the field written after Wiener's death and simply reflects the remarkable deterioration of cybernetic theory since that time.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday