it’s not Thursday, so…

Time for a non-Thursday music post.

And again:

In other “things that are good” news, I want one of these.

In Cybernetic Revolutionaries, Eden Medina tells the history of two intersecting utopian visions, one political and one technological. The first was Chile’s experiment with peaceful socialist change under Salvador Allende; the second was the simultaneous attempt to build a computer system that would manage Chile’s economy. Neither vision was fully realized–Allende’s government ended with a violent military coup; the system, known as Project Cybersyn, was never completely implemented–but they hold lessons for today about the relationship between technology and politics. Drawing on extensive archival material and interviews, Medina examines the cybernetic system envisioned by the Chilean government–which was to feature holistic system design, decentralized management, human-computer interaction, a national telex network, near real-time control of the growing industrial sector, and modeling the behavior of dynamic systems. She also describes, and documents with photographs, the network’s Star Trek-like operations room, which featured swivel chairs with armrest control panels, a wall of screens displaying data, and flashing red lights to indicate economic emergencies. Studying project Cybersyn today helps us understand not only the technological ambitions of a government in the midst of political change but also the limitations of the Chilean revolution. This history further shows how human attempts to combine the political and the technological with the goal of creating a more just society can open new technological, intellectual, and political possibilities.


  1. I guessed that would be an MIT press book even before clicking the link. Looks good – will have to see if I can nab a copy off a colleague…

  2. dave heasman

    I recall this, following it at the time, Computer Weekly was keen on it. The chief designer was Stafford Beer, itinerant English cyberneticist, and my understanding was that an awful lot was thought-through and very interesting, but very little made it to the hardware/rollout phase. I think they got to monitoring daily output of half-a-dozen industrial sites, when the phone-lines were up, but that was the extent of it. Of course I’ve not read the book

  3. Lukas W

    what’s your handle? I liked your music posts on unfogged, I am lukas_w on, and my lowercased initials where it’s not foggy.

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