The Cybernetics’ Difference! CybSights—The President’s Series

Written by Angus Jenkinson · 4 min read >

January 27


05:39 pm - 05:39 pm

Event Category:

CybSights President's Series

The President’s Series features distinguished speakers on issues of our time. This explores purposefulness and the ‘world we want to world’

Hosted by our President, Dr. John Beckford FCybS, the CybSights President’s Series is a new programme that will bring interesting people together to explore the relevance and contribution of cybernetics to addressing important challenges.

Each event will consist of contributions by two different speakers. Each will be followed by individual Q&A. These are then brought together by the President in a lively and engaging plenary discussion. Each will seek areas of convergence and divergence between the ideas explored.

Events will be held via Zoom on the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 1700 to 1900.

Meetings are open to members of the Cybernetics Society and also the general public. Non-members are invited to join or give a donation. Booking is required.

The Cybernetics Society has been hosting conversations and lectures since the late 1960s.

#PS3 : December 9: The Cybernetics Difference & our Future World

Addressing the distinct “go” of cybernetics and its value for contemporary and future science and society. The two speakers, both fellows of the Society, speak about transformations in thinking: the inverted scientific logic of causality that cybernetics brings, recognising purpose, and the question of what we humans want to do with our purposefulness in the making of the world.

Introduction and Welcome: Dr. John Beckford, FCybS, President of the Cybernetics Society

John Beckford is a partner in Beckford Consulting, Non-Executive Chair of the Board of Rise Mutual CIC, a Non-Executive Director of both Fusion21 and CoreHaus (social enterprises) and Visiting Professor in both the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London and the Centre for Information Management, School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University. John holds a PhD in cybernetics from the University of Hull, is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and of the Royal Society for the Arts and a Member of the Institute of Management Services. He is President of the Cybernetics Society.

Angus Jenkinson, FCybS, Secretary of the Cybernetics Society and Director of the Centre for Thinking Futures

Why is cybernetics so important?

So important that it should become a major curriculum subject and essential for every senior manager, policymaker, designer, engineer, or ecologist — and many other disciplines? Angus will argue it does four things that change our understanding of the world. 4 ‘things’ that no other generally accepted science addresses so clearly. 1. Active instead of passive causality. 2. Tame instead of wicked problems. 3. Sensitive solutions to problem situations. 4. Active learning and dynamic design. These lead to the understanding that the world has two great orders of nature.

1 > When science rejected goal-driven behaviour in the 1600s it lost the ability to explain the behaviour of every living creature and every social institution. When cybernetics brought it back in the 20th century it provided the foundation for understanding and resolving the most difficult challenges of our time and times to come.

Conventional science until then — and still for many — thought the world operated on passive causality. Things happen to things and so energy and motion were transferred. Whatever happened was because of something that had already happened being transferred to it. By forces. As cause. Then cybernetics proved and demonstrated that there was active causality. All living creatures actively produce what they do. And do their best to make sure that nothing prevents it. That turns our understanding of the world inside out. And restores common sense.

2 > It turns wicked problems into tame problems. The advanced cybernetic designer knows how to filter the supposed problem to the real issues that will produce the desired outcome. It can do that with exquisite precision. There are many wicked problems. Such a technology is invaluable.

3 > Cybernetics runs on the experience that organisms have of the world. It knows how that works — whether it’s a butterfly or a global enterprise. It’s founded on the join between people and their world, living creatures and their world. That’s why it can help with ecological, social, and design challenges, from AI to saving butterflies and forests.

4 > Cybernetics is the science of living behaviour, achievement of success, and crucially of learning. It is the science — and discipline — that deals with a dynamic world. Old ideas do not work in new situations. Cybernetics explains how the very process of living is a process of learning and how we can turn that into the design of learning and adaptive behaviour.>> The world of the 21st-century therefore has two great orders of nature. The first is the world of passive causality, mechanical objects and technologies, things. Scientific technology has been mostly brilliant at this. (But they can do harm to the living.) The second is the world of active causality, the living, and the technologies that reflect this. Scientific technology has varied from the so-so to the awful at this. This century we need to solve the problems of the past for the sake of the future. The problems and ways to deal with them are social, technical, and eminently practical.

Angus Jenkinson is the Secretary of the Society, a former business professor, tech entrepreneur, systems and thinking tools designer, consultant and CEO/company chair He is an organisational philosopher.and is developing a new scientific theory of organisations, called propriopoiesis. He has had a solo exhibition of photographic artworks.

Followed by discussion and Q & A


Professor Peter Kawalek FCybS

Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene – Cybernetics, Wellbeing and the Future of the Planet.

Synopsis: Central to Donna Haraway’s “Staying With The Trouble” is the reconceptualization of autopoiesis as sympoiesis; one of a number of concepts through which she calls the Anthropocene to its end and articulates the Chthulucene – a higher variety, multi-species, ecologically conducive era of diverse relationships. This is not my normal territory as Professor of Information Management but I once sat with Stafford Beer as he expounded on failures of thought, curricula and teaching, and expressed how he felt the impoverishment of thinking impoverished the world. I have reflected on that conversation several times whilst engaging with Donna Haraway’s work and felt, similar to my first reaction to Stafford’s work, a surge of excitement at the complexity and the potential. As Haraway puts it, it is important to consider what worlds world worlds. Look out for the variety expressed in kin, plantations and string figures as I grapple with her latest work.

Bio: Professor Peter Kawalek FCybS is Director of the Centre for Information Management at the School of Business & Economics in Loughborough University. He has additional visiting positions at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland, and Deusto Business School, Basque Country. Previously of Manchester Business School, Warwick Business School and School of Computer Science at Manchester. He also has wide experience working with organizations including Siemens AG., SAP, IBM, Office an Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in Dublin, the Department of Communities and Local Government (London), City Council, Salford City Council, Lancashire Constabulary, Greater Manchester Police. Peter has held and managed over £2m in research grants from government and research councils. What Peter hopes to be known for is actual contribution – that maybe there is something to show on the ground for his various ideas and projects.

Followed by discussion and Q & A

Plenary Discussion

The aim of this session, moderated by John Beckford, is to draw out the complementary and competing ideas emerging from the two sessions.

Cybernetics Society – a learned society

The Cybernetics Society promotes and offers education and research opportunities in the rich field of cybernetics. In the CybSights series, including the President’s Series, we offer isghts conversations, lectures, case studies, analysis, education, and thoughtful entertainment.,

The Cybernetics Society – – is a specially authorised learned society regulated by the FSA and established by a 1974 Act of Parliament. To join visit our membership system or pick the Join ticket.

Cybernetics plays into and strongly influences many scientific and practice fields including design, epistemology, ecology, biology, psychology and living behaviour, technology and engineering, social policy, and business practice. Many feature in the wonderfully aware and successful designers and thinkers of this series.

Cybernetics offers a distinct “go” — techniques — to address local and global challenges of the 21st century.

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