The ASC Panel
American Society for Cybernetics
The American Society for Cybernetics was founded in the year of Norbert Wiener death. Thus, the IEEE’s honoring of Wiener, marking the 50th anniversary of his death, is also the year we celebrate our 50th birthday.
There are two views about cybernetics that are commonly held but which are mistaken. One is that modern cybernetics was invented by Norbert Wiener, and the other is that the subject effectively died around 1970.
The ASC offers a panel that will explore the emergence (with the publication of Wiener’s book in 1948) of modern cybernetics from its origins in the interactions amongst two groups of workers interested in exploring across subject boundaries; Wiener did not claim to have invented the subject (although he made great contributions to its founding), but to have given a name to a collection of ideas on which he and several people were working at the time, often together.
We will also discuss what has happened to cybernetics since its “apparent” death in the late 1960s. We will look at probable causes of this myth and at how cybernetics has developed to take the form it does, now: what it offers, the insights it gives, its methods and values. Although not in the spotlight as it was in Wiener’s time, cybernetics is a still developing subject, especially in the following areas:
Human consequences of an information society (and how to think about it)
Insights that support prospects for extended and expanded views of science and scientific activity, such as Science II
Alternative approaches to engineering and to design, considered as activities
How current cybernetic thinking encourages creativity and offers an alternative to classical problem-solving approaches
These seemingly separate developments actually relate closely to each other. However, a lack of communication between key players and professional organizations (which, ironically, Wiener intended to facilitate through the creation of the cybernetics label) has kept the connections hidden.
The panel will welcome questions, particularly about cybernetics now.
Dr Thomas Fischer
Thomas Fischer is the Director of the newly-established Design Research Institute at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China, where he works as an Associate Professor, teaching Architecture as well as Industrial Design. Thomas is a Fellow of the Design Research Society and received the American Society for Cybernetics’ Warren McCulloch Award in 2011. Thomas holds a PhD in Education from the University of Kassel in Germany and one in Architecture and Design from RMIT University in Australia. Thomas previously researched and taught at the School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University as an Assistant Professor and as Discipline Leader of Product and Industrial Design. He was a Visiting Associate Professor at the College of Planning and Design at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan from early 2010 to mid-2011. Thomas’ research is focused on computer-aided architectural design, on cybernetics as well as on design education in China and in Sino-foreign contexts. His expertise and contributions in these areas are concerned with the relationships between Chinese and Western philosophical traditions as well as with the relationships between formal and informal approaches to design.
Dr Ranulph Glanville
Ranulph Glanville is current president of the American Society for Cybernetics. He holds a diploma in Architecture, PhDs in cybernetics and in human learning, and a higher doctorate in cybernetics and design. He describes himself as a “vagrant, itinerant professor of odd jobs”, which role he occupies in universities around the world. He is also Research Senior Tutor and professor in Innovation Design Engineering at London’s Royal College of Art. He is on the editorial board of 10 journals and has more than 350 publications to his name.
Dr Laurence D Richards
As Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Larry Richards serves as the Chief Academic and Enrollment Officer for Indiana University East, one of the eight campuses of Indiana University. In 2012-13, he served a one-year term as Interim Chancellor. He is also Professor of Management & Informatics. Previously, he was the Founding Chair of the Department of Engineering Management at Old Dominion University and the Founding Dean of the School of Management and Aviation Science at Bridgewater State University. His degrees are in Electrical Engineering (B.S.), Aeronautical Systems (M.S.), Management (M.B.A.) and Operations Research (Ph.D.). He served as President of both the American Society for Engineering Management, where he was elected a Fellow in 2002, and the American Society for Cybernetics, which awarded him the Norbert Wiener Medal in 2007. His areas of interest include policy-level decision-making; technology, the arts and society; and, social transformation and design.
Dr Stuart A Umpleby
Stuart Umpleby is a professor in the Department of Management and Director of the Research Program in Social and Organizational Learning (www.gwu.edu/~rpsol) in the School of Business at The George Washington University. He has taught courses in operations research, organizational behavior, process improvement, systems thinking, and the philosophy of science. He has published many papers in the fields of cybernetics and systems science. He is a past president of the American Society for Cybernetics whose Norbert Wiener he was awarded in 2007, and Associate Editor of the journal Cybernetics and Systems. The address of his website is www.gwu.edu/~umpleby.