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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet
Theo Honohan on Mon, 20 Oct 2008 02:55:50 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet

2008/10/16 t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>:

> brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr (Thu 10/16/08 at 12:20 AM +0200):
> You mention that Wiener coined the term without noting how strange
> his choice was, naming his new science -- a very old utopia -- after
> a steersman. Good PR but a bad choice maybe, because it suggests some
> sort of extrinsic intelligence rather than an immanent principle.

It's not a strange choice at all, given the work of Elmer Sperry.
Around 1910, Sperry developed the gyrocompass, which was first used in
navigation and automatic pilots, and later in gunnery control and
other "cybernetic" roles.  Rather than a situation of relativity with
respect to a target, the gyrocompass deals in absolute orientation.

The fact that this device, a governor (kubernetos), whose first
function was congruent with the term cybernetics, only later developed
into something used offensively would seem to torpedo (ahem) Peter
Galison's assertion, taken up elsewhere by Brian Holmes, that there is
a fundamental split -- "the ontology of the enemy" -- in cybernetics.

There is a relativity of vehicle and terrain in systems such as
gyrocompasses and autopilots, but it is not a relation of aggression.

What is extraordinary to me about cybernetics is the dissolution of
second-order cybernetics into metaphysics.  As second-order
cybernetics postulates that every system that can be described is
observed by an "extrinsic intelligence" it simultaneously guarantees a
stack of such intelligences in infinite regress.  There is perhaps an
understandable parallel in the functioning of the gyrocompass.  It
relies on rotational inertia for its stability, which is itself
justified by the somewhat vague Mach's principle, calling on all other
objects in the universe to provide context.


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