I have heard very interesting things about project-cybersyn.

Alex Tabarrok claims it was a fraud.  Does anyone have any further information?

5 comments so far

  1. Alex Tabarrok on

    Actually, Axelrod and Borenstein claim that the control room was a fraud. The project, however, was more than the control room. Most of the rest of the project didn’t work but neither I nor Axelrod and Borenstein claim that it was a fraud.

  2. Sparrow on

    Cybersyn was a project by which workers’ committees would be able to manage the Chilean economy.

    Anthony Stafford Beer conceived of the economy as a machine, and the state as a “liberty machine.” He sought to apply a complex neurological model to social organization that would eliminate typical hierarchical relations.

    In the Chilean case, management would be ad hoc. Appropriate information would be accumulated and collated day-by-day from factory committees to branch committees to national committees. The information would then be processed, projections would be developed, and redistributed back to the committees. By the proper distribution of information, workers could make their own cooperative decisions.

    Furthermore, the aforementioned meters would be distributed for use at public meetings. People’s Assemblies would watch the conduct of committee meetings on television, and adjust their meters according to their approval or disapproval. The collective approval or disapproval would show up in the control room, where the both the committee and the Assemblies would be able to see the change. The committee would have both information and incentive to change the direction of their discussions.

    The control room was not a fraud. The screens were not intended to be anything more than they were, with plastic sheets drawn and updated as information came in. The room was designed by an Italian designer in what was then “the style”, so often seen in sci-fi of the time. The structure of the room was replicated with blackboards in public factories throughout Chile.

    Beer used technology available to Chile at the time, combined with software of his own design. Hence, Telex machines were distributed to state factories for their workers’ committees to send in production information on a daily basis.

    The purpose of management, in his view, was to ensure that the right information was getting to where it needed to go. Each production unit would make its own local decisions from there on the basis of what was going on. If a unit was failing, then the next managerial unit up (in the socialist case, a higher workers’ committee) would directly intervene to make corrections.

  3. mperelman on

    Sorry. I have heard very positive reports on the project. I was (am) understandably resistant to abandoning cherished ideas. In defense of my beliefs, I am asking for more input.

    At least you know that I am a enthusiastic reader of your blog.

  4. Sparrow on

    I forgot sources.

    More information on Project Cybersyn can be found in various works of Anthony Stafford Beer, including his book on management cybernetics, “The Brain of the Firm,” which includes his experience of the Chilean Revolution, as well as articles available on the Internet, “Designing Freedom” and “Fanfare for Effective Freedom.”

  5. Dub Turbo Review on

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