Cybernetics is a science that ‘navigates navigation’: it explains and guides in the domains of autonomous directive activity, including living, learning, organizing, designing, changing, responding, teaching, and making. It is appropriate to do this with the greatest of respect for others in all their diversity and variety.
As a respected and leading learned and scientific society we accord respect to members and society and expect the same from others, both to the Society and to each other. ‘Leading’ refers to aspects of size and influence. ‘ Respected’ derives from our and cybernetics’ ability to foster distinguished insight, thinking, and theoretical breakthrough along with outcomes through innovation and learning in many fields — getting to grips with the go of things. As a learned society supporting the objects of science, we esteem both theory and responsible praxis.
Cybernetics can be used to design mechanisms that work inimically. The discipline must reject this. It matters that our contributions are related to important social and ecological issues of the time and an ethical interpretation of human life and earthly existence. The Society and its community aim to make a difference (that makes a difference) as a service in partnership with others.
Respect as a principle
Membership at all grades implies a connection with and fostering of such goals. As members move into Associate membership or join MCybS (Member) and FCybS (Fellow) grades we aim that they gain and contribute to this respect, so that in Groucho Marx’s iconic insight we are a Society worth joining. To have the respect and gain the leading status requires that we maintain and develop a thick ‘cream’ of eminence. But it also requires a thriving buzzing community sharing knowledge in all directions putting this into practice. It requires the next two generations to be active. It requires a requisite variety of experience, talent, disciplines, practice fields, and perspective. There is much to do to achieve and maintain this. Too many rotten applications of cybernetics have been used from cybercrimes to unconsidered smart technologies. At the same time, remarkable achievements that we would not dream of losing have also been achieved.
This leads to goals of a wide, diverse, and extensive membership, one that fosters not only insightful and clear appreciation of the scientifically rigorous, pure and applied, but also varied design praxis. Societies are formed by many kinds of institutions and disciplines and there are few that cannot benefit from cybernetics nor contribute to it. Knowledge and knowhow disseminates through the membership and their activities into society and its enterprise, institutions, and policy.
The practice of cybernetics is frequently if not always a kind of scientific art, since all (good) decisions and all (good) design involves an aesthetic and technical judgement merged with a thorough understanding of the go of the relevant situations, the lawful ordering and working of the world under consideration according to its own principles. Whether it is Grey Walter modifying the use of valves in the design of simple robots or an analytic intervention into a complex organizational problem, it is a dynamic not a divide between science and art that functions. Science is regularly beautifully parsimonious and may use this as a test; art commonly richly precise. Darwin’s success depends also on the brilliance of his descriptive writing and coining of rhetorical phrases that fitted the cultural context of the time. Jackson Pollock’s action painting has been shown to have regular ‘chaotic’ patterns.