Cybernetics

Shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, a group of doctors and scientists began holding weekly debates on various subjects of common interest.

Two of the participants, A. Rosenbluth, a physiology specialist, and Norbert Wiener, a mathematician and designer of electronic systems, developed an entirely new field of study which they called cybernetics. Their theory was based on the observation that communication systems developed by animals, and the human nervous system itself, could both be compared to an electronic machine.

As they tried to create what they called 'servo-systems' and synthesize the process of controlled action, they rediscovered the laws governing human reflexive behavior. In-depth studies showed that human behavior and automated systems fit into the same schema.

"Of course we must be careful not to consider humans as nothing more than complex machines. The human brain is vastly more complex than a computer. It is impossible to reproduce all known human biological functions, not to mention those we still don't understand. With that in mind, we could say that the great advantage of cybernetics is that it gives us a clear working model on which to base further research."

Cybernetics attempts to explain how and why machines - and human beings - function, by synthesizing widely varied psychological theories into a single system. Maltz predicted that cybernetics would revolutionize the whole field of psychology, stating that we should not be surprised if answers to questions about the human psyche could be found in other disciplines, namely physics and mathematics. Specialists who think they know everything there is to know about a given subject often have great difficulty coming up with innovative ideas and solutions, limited as they are by the conformity of their acquired knowledge.

The word cybernetics was invented by the ancient Greeks, and is found in a number of Plato's Dialectics. The term refers to the art of directing, controlling or governing. Directing or controlling anything - for example manipulating the rudder of a boat - first requires the choice of an objective or goal.

In his theory of psycho-cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz shows that how human beings make use of an incredible machine - the human brain and nervous system - in order to achieve specific goals. The fact that we are free to choose our goals separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. This freedom of choice is what gives humanity its grandeur and privileged place on the evolutionary scale. On the other hand, we still have to know how to program our brain, once a choice has been made, in order to attain what we desire. When programming is carried out effectively, all our cerebral and nervous functions work together to help us achieve what we have set out to accomplish. In other words our mind becomes a machine geared to success. If, on the other hand, our mental programming is ineffective, then our own mind works against us, forcing us to act in ways that result in failure.

The first law of psycho-cybernetics is that, in order to succeed, we must act in accordance with our own self image. Trying to do things that run counter to our self image will inevitably result in failure.

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