4th Wave Cybernetics
The Three Waves of Cybernetics
Cybernetics is often categorized into three waves. But we argue that a 4th wave of cybernetics is needed. This wave comes out of a logical, self reflectivity brought on by the idea that what was discussed during the 3 waves of cybernetics has manifested itself in the real world. Now we are at a point where we can look back on it and consider how it is affecting the ways humans interact.
1st Wave Cybernetics
Characterized feedback loops, the extension of the metaphor of information, entropic decay, etc.
2nd Wave Cybernetics
The second wave is defined by reflexivity and Gregory Bateson by understanding everything through the cybernetic metaphor the human brain becomes as cybernetic system, and thus the system ceases to be a closed system. and recursive loops that we're in the system we're studying. This moment is analogous to Heisenburg's uncertainty in physics: the object can not longer be effectively separated from the subject and the analyst must now take into account how they function within the larger cybernetic system. Matura and Valera, "structural coupling", the infinite recursive loops
Heinz von Foerster, one of the central Macy Conference participants, describes the significance of this shift to the observer:
… a brain is required to write a theory of a brain. From this follows that a theory of the brain, that has any aspirations for completeness, has to account for the writing of this theory. And even more fascinating, the writer of this theory has to account for her or himself. Translated into the domain of cybernetics; the cybernetician, by entering his own domain, has to account for his or her own activity. Cybernetics then becomes cybernetics of cybernetics, or second-order cybernetics.
3rd Wave Cybernetics
Defined by the enterprise of artificial life - setting the initial condition of watching things evolve. Decentralized aspects and bottom-up computing. chaos theory, complexity theoy, self-organizing systems, etc.
The Fourth Wave
The 4th wave is defined by a logic and self reflexivity. Now all of the technolpgices have prowess so it's not as much of a theoretical approach and discipline as one that provides a toolset for understand the current human and technological structures in the system. How humans are relating to the cybernetic systems of society. It brings cybernetics to a whole new level. It also recognizes this strand within cybernetics that has always been there. The idea that cybernetics have always functioned as an ideological principle. Like with stuart brand and the whole earth society. His ideas on computers as a connecting mechanism instead of a separating mechanism.
The fourth wave of cybernetics borrows from the previous 3 waves in different ways:
1. It is the self-reflexive study of how cybernetics has infiltrated society and interacted with humans.
2. It studies cyborgs
3. It recognizes the influence of cybernetics in continental philosophy and anthropology and seeks to bring these disciplines back into the fold.
4. It studies the technologies that were theorized by the first three waves of cybernetics. Cybernetics was mostly a theoretical meta-science, a scientific philosophy that was massively prolific and mutated into many sub-streams that now define our world and the future (information science, computers, genetics, cog. science, nano-tech, AI, etc.). 4th wave cybernetics is the next logical self-reflexive turn.
There is no real study of the history of computing from a societal perspective in a unified field (Molly Steenson may be one of the first to embark on these studies at Princeton University). The cyborg could really be the link to the 4th wave. it's progressed up until this point. Now these technologies have manifested up to this point, and they can be seen in every new interface revolution; these revolutions that are happening all the time.