“Intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society, in the belief that they will be in charge of it.” – Sir Roger Scruton
To the credit of our readership, the only objections I have seen to this series are points where I was factually rather than ideologically wrong. It is a true mark of clown world that we alleged murderers and book burners on the right have more intellectual and expressive freedom than the shrieking harridans of the left’s cancel culture. I have seen it pointed out on Twitter that I was unfair to Beer, for subsuming cybernetics under the Taylorist branch of management thought, and for not discussing his Viable System Model.
I have been exiled thrice by the Blue Cheka so I shall respond here: hey, when you’re right, you’re right. Cyberneticians worked against the constraints of Taylorism and sought what they hoped would be a liberating process, in short, putting the “automated” into “fully automated luxury gay space communism”. But although cybernetics was not meant to be used in a top-down way, it all too often has been used thus.
So I should rather have contended with the ongoing dreams of socialists regarding Beer’s adventures in Chile. The only episode of the San Francisco-based podcast 100% Invisible that I have listened to was their episode on Project Cybersyn, which was the work Beer did for Allende. That episode, as well as its recounting in the book “Towards a New Socialism”, make the project sound a lot more viable than Beer himself related at the time.
These people have a golem in mind, and they want it to succeed. Instead of defending people from pogroms, however, the modern “Communist” wants this golem to protect him from work itself. This ignores Lenin’s admonition, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” – setting the Holodomor aside, when the fruits of people’s labor was stolen from them.
Golems invariably get out of control. I think Wiener was trying to warn us when he called the new machines being built to survive the Cold War and prop up the welfare state a “golem”. He saw that the system can and does run amok.
Beer recognized the political hurdles that he and his fellow cyberneticians faced, and he acknowledged that these systems they were creating could be used against the people. I posit that that is exactly what we have seen, unfortunately – that they have been implemented to the point where the oligarchy benefits, and adjusted and adapted to keep them in power.
Bertrand Russell, notably, expected systems such as Project Cybersyn to cause technocracy to flourish, especially once the “stupid” oligarchs who set the wheels in motion passed away. He did not expect the technically skilled people to trade their souls for rum, sodomy, and “programmer socks” – all sold to them by the oligarchs.
Beer’s Viable System Model is something which I shall have to grapple with more in order to understand. However, one thing I have gleaned is that it is a system which can replicate itself, akin to the von Neumann universal constructor. I would like you to note that John von Neumann and Stanisław Ulam began working on cellular automata at Los Alamos, during the Manhattan Project.
This brings me to the last two cyberneticians I shall explore, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Both are biologists. Maturana often worked with von Foerster. Varela left Chile for America for seven years after Pinochet took power.
In 1972, they introduced the concept of autopoiesis, literally self-production. I am familiar with the craft of poetry, but not as familiar with the biological processes in poiesis, although both derive from the Greek for “to make”.
I have a lot more reading to do on the subject, but consider that an autopoietic system must create itself by having the qualities of what it wants to create within itself. Setting aside any debate of whether a cell or system “wants” to recreate itself, and thereby continue to survive and even proliferate, we know that we, as a people, would like to survive.
This leads me to a point I have already made, in part, earlier in this series and in my article on Katie Hill. We have to examine who we are and who we want to be, and align the two with nature.
The playwright Philippe Néricault Destouches stated “Drive the natural away, it returns at a gallop.” There is no altering nature, not without considerable pain and sorrow. That which is against nature cannot last for long.
Evil relies on the torture of the good. We see forms of such torture all around us, promoted by the oligarchs and their mouthpieces. However, we must not despair. Such horrors cannot and will not last.
We need only strengthen ourselves and one another and remain truly true to ourselves. It will be much easier said than done, but if we are not seduced by the freakshow, then we’re all gonna make it. Once again, I bid you good luck, gentlemen. God be with you.