Filed under book | Tags: · 1970s, chile, cybernetics, cybersyn, machine, networks, socialism
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. Technologies, Medina writes, are historical texts; when we read them we are reading history.
Publisher MIT Press, 2011
ISBN 0262016494, 9780262016490
Download (removed on 2013-1-29 upon request of the publisher)
related: Miller Medina, Jessica Eden: “Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile” (2006)
Miller Medina, Jessica Eden: Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile (2006)
Filed under paper, thesis | Tags: · 1970s, chile, cybernetics, cybersyn, machine, networks, socialism
This article presents a history of ‘Project Cybersyn’, an early computer network developed in Chile during the socialist presidency of Salvador Allende (1970–1973) to regulate the growing social property area and manage the transition of Chile’s economy from capitalism to socialism. Under the guidance of British cybernetician Stafford Beer, often lauded as the ‘ father of management cybernetics ’, an interdisciplinary Chilean team designed cybernetic models of factories within the nationalised sector and created a network for the rapid transmission of economic data between the government and the factory floor. The article describes the construction of this unorthodox system, examines how its structure reflected the socialist ideology of the Allende government, and documents the contributions of this technology to the Allende administration.
Published in Journal of Latin American Studies 38, pp. 571–606, Cambridge University Press, 2006
Related: Eden Medina: Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile (2011)
Related: The State Machine: Politics, Ideology, and Computation in Chile, 1964-1973 (Dissertation thesis, by Medina and Eden, 2005, PDF)