October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

Computer Professionals

Embedded in the text of The Closed World is a little history of cybernetics and artificial intelligence, as well as theories of cognitivism and behaviorism (yes, as in B.F. Skinner1s stimulus-response experiments), and the information sciences. The hope was that by "scientizing" fields of social knowledge and practice -- through empirical quantitative methods, armed with the logical power of computers -- we could "hope [for] a technical control of social processes to equal that achieved in mechanical and electronic systems."

Norbert Wiener's cybernetics and information theory was critical to successful command and control at a distance due to the complexity of the devices needed to receive accurate information about the world, and to transmit orders for actions to be taken on the world. As Edwards explains: "Should any of these information linkages fail, a cybernetic weapon could be totally disabled. The limits of communication under noisy conditions formed, therefore, ultimate limits to their effectiveness." ^

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