Andrew Pickering: The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010)

23 November 2010, dusan

“Cybernetics is often thought of as a grim military or industrial science of control. But as Andrew Pickering reveals in this beguiling book, a much more lively and experimental strain of cybernetics can be traced from the 1940s to the present.

The Cybernetic Brain explores a largely forgotten group of British thinkers, including Grey Walter, Ross Ashby, Gregory Bateson, R. D. Laing, Stafford Beer, and Gordon Pask, and their singular work in a dazzling array of fields. Psychiatry, engineering, management, politics, music, architecture, education, tantric yoga, the Beats, and the sixties counterculture all come into play as Pickering follows the history of cybernetics’ impact on the world, from contemporary robotics and complexity theory to the Chilean economy under Salvador Allende. What underpins this fascinating history, Pickering contends, is a shared but unconventional vision of the world as ultimately unknowable, a place where genuine novelty is always emerging. And thus, Pickering avers, the history of cybernetics provides us with an imaginative model of open-ended experimentation in stark opposition to the modern urge to achieve domination over nature and each other.”

Publisher University of Chicago Press, 2010
ISBN 0226667898, 9780226667898
526 pages

Reviews: M. Beatrice Fazi (Computational Culture, 2011), Jon Goodbun (Radical Philosophy, 2011).


PDF (updated on 2020-4-17)

One Response to “Andrew Pickering: The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010)”

  1. Daniel Piedra Herrera on May 8, 2017 5:16 pm

    Dear Prof. Pickering,

    I have been carefully studying some of your papers, as they might prove useful to us Cubans, in the particular situation we have now, if we continue –as I personally do– insisting on building a new kind of society.

    It has not been easy for me, as you probably know of the difficulties we usually face when trying to get hold of literature for which we cannot pay, and it’s really very, very difficult to get it for free in Internet. I was surprised to find a possibility of getting your last book The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future from a website named Monoskop. Twice I could download it apparently without much trouble (except the time I had to devote to it: more than two hours each time), but then it didn’t want to open, so I finally erased it.

    Now in your homepage of the University of Exeter, none of your publications is shown, but I found there your address, and decided to write this email to you, in order to see if it were possible for you to send me the digital copy (preferably as a PDF file). You can be absolutely sure that I will not make any commercial use of the file, and that if I finally decide to translate a part of it (or all) and share it with other colleagues or with my authorities, I will always consult you, and try to get your agreement.

    Excuse me for bothering you, and thank you very much for your kind attention.

    Best regards,


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