Lanny Lin’s Entry

Applicational Cybernetics

Introduction and Background:

Cybernetics as a discipline and practice has tremendous potential for resolving broad based problems and improving the effectiveness of institutional performance. The more complicated and difficult the context, the more relevant and helpful Cybernetics can be because of the general systems nature of the techniques and understandings involved.

Further, Cyberneticians, in general, are smart, capable people with sharp minds and excellent backgrounds. So, why has Cybernetics and its basic ideas not become more commonly understood and practiced, particularly in organizations where purposeful accomplishments are essential to survival? Arguably, there could be several answers or elements of the answer to this question. But, one major emerging theme would likely be that Cybernetics is primarily an academic endeavor with a limited number of people having the background or interest to move out into other endeavors.

Given the current state of the world, and particularly all of the economic difficulties besetting governments throughout this country and the world, this would seem to be an ideal time to pursue new initiatives aimed at Cybernetic applications. The purpose of this “new Cybernetic idea” is to describe one possible approach for carrying out such an initiative.
An Applicational Initiative:

The author suggests that a good formative or starting point for such an initiative would be for the ASC to convene and support a “Cybernetic Applications Council” composed of a few people with a combination of methodological expertise and outside (i.e. non-academic) contacts. This should be led by someone with understanding, experience, and capabilities for making contacts with organizations where Cybernetic applications could be most worthwhile.

After being organized and appropriate references and resources developed, contacts with outside organizations could be initiated. Ideally, this could be in locations where there might also be local Cybernetics support available such as in places where there is currently a school with some systems related courses or degree offerings.

An example of a good initial contact with very high potential for particularly worthwhile Cybernetic applications would be to Mr. Jeffrey Immelt, President & CEO of General Electric Co., who has recently been appointed by President Obama to head a national council on competitiveness. Our CAC members would describe how well-placed and experienced Cyberneticians could utilize Cybernetic applications to improve the competitiveness of this country.

Of course, such a contact would have to be planned and executed carefully to have any chance for a positive reaction, but the author has some basis for thinking that there might at least be an audience for such a contact. And, lacking a positive response for this as an initial project, there could certainly be many other contact possibilities that a well-organized Cybernetic Applications Council (CAC) could likely come up with to pursue further.
Based on the author’s experience while working at a major electric utility company, where he was partly engaged in carrying out such Cybernetic applications, about a dozen specific organizational conditions emerged which he used as a basis for judging the potential for success with the results from such projects. Of course, he would be happy to share these and other details of his experiences with a formative CAC; and the experiences of others who have launched applications should also be sought.

A key aspect that will need early consideration is how to fund the activities of the CAC. An obvious answer would be for the ASC to support it, at least to some extent, but this would presumably require an increase in dues for ASC members. Another key aspect is the development of an appropriate array of methodological resources as well as identifying those with experience and capabilities for applying them. And, there will be many other questions and aspects to pursue; good and careful initial planning would be required to make this idea workable and achieve results.

Conclusion and Follow-on:

The important challenge for this idea would be to get something going and achieve an initial success. Once past a first step with well-recognized results, other applications could likely be launched in many other places, utilizing, for example, the understandings and resources of existing Cyberneticians at their institutional activity bases. Might the author even suggest that if this idea becomes embedded and spread widely to many places and organizational activities in this country, it could become the spark for the development of, say, third order Cybernetics, i.e. the Cybernetics of applying Cybernetics?

Author is elegible for HvF Prize (aged under 35): NO

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