10 May 2011 /

cybernetics: or control and communication in the animal and machine

By Norbert Weiner

Norbert Wiener’s seminal work of 1948 extends the study of the operation of systems (‘whether in the machine or in the animal’) to the entire field of control and communication and revolutionizes an understanding of complex interactions that take place within those systems. The link to controlling mechanisms can be found in the etymological roots of the term "cybernetics", from the Greek word meaning 'steersman'.


“We have decided to call the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or the animal, by the same Cybernetics, which we form from the Greek ‘’ or steersman. In choosing this term we wish to recognize that the first significant paper on feedback mechanisms is an article on governors, which was published by Clerk Maxwell in 1868, and that governor is derived from a Latin corruption of ‘’. We also wish to refer to the fact that the steering engines of a ship are indeed one of the earliest and best-developed forms of feedback mechanisms.”

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