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Why Do We Want To Live In Cybernetics?

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From the inception of the American Society for Cybernetics in 1964, its members have asked periodically, 'Why this society? What is its purpose? What should it do?' Most pointedly, these questions arise in the face of today's global challenges: energy and global warming, water and food, health and social justice. Designing for these challenges demands systems literacy as well as cybernetics, the science of purposive systems, to help society steer toward a world that it wants. Most recently, these questions arise after a significant increase in strength for the ASC under the leadership of Ranulph Glanville, president of the society from 2009 through 2014, and his executive team. As a scholar and as the society's president he emphasized the theme of 'living in cybernetics,' that is, embodying cybernetic ideas and ethics in everyday life. As designer and teacher he beautifully articulated the relationships of cybernetics to design. With tribute to Glanville's contributions to our community and our discipline, I call upon the ASC to move beyond shared interests and accumulated knowledge to become a force of action. From first-hand history with the society since the 1980s, I highlight specific 'clarities' expressed by the society's participants from that time, while calling for greater currency for our time, in the form of new members and new actions. I propose a rationale for using second-order cybernetics for the design of a better world, the Designers' Imperative. Lastly I encourage every member to approach today's vast design challenges by tackling focusing problems through which progress can be made.
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Keywords: cybernetic curricula; design; focusing problems; global challenges; second-order cybernetics; variety

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2016

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