Fascinating insights. Some specific points which might tempt further reading by some:

Beer's wonderful when he exclaimed - ‘Does it take more courage to be a cybernetician than to be a gunfighter?'.

For me the critical issues to emerge which have bearing on many of the conversations of this forum:

* The schizophrenic response of the world to the project
* Beer's own developing angst
* The continued blindness to embrace Beer's insight that management might be revolutionised; and the constant pressure to turn his insight into 'making traditional management more effective'.
* And, the impossible tensions that developed between the 'technologists' and any intrinsic ideology, leading to the emergence increasingly of an elitist solution rather than the expression (as had Beer espoused) of 'the will of the people'.
* The conclusion - but in a context which is informative rather than depressing:
"Rather than regulating transformation, Cybersyn fell victim to the instability accompanying Allende’s programme for socialist reform. Project engineers found themselves attempting the impossible: modelling an economic system that refused to remain constant using only a subset of the variables needed to understand the system."

for, as Beer commented:"

"The model we were using could not adequately represent changes that had come about during Allende’s term_ because these were changes in economic management that had nothing to do with ownership in the legal sense. "

Interesting conclusion of the author:

"In the light of Beer’s experience of the application of cybernetic principles to the Chilean political situation, his new interpretation of revolution is understandable. However, it seems more plausible that this newfound emphasis on regulation did not stem from a change in world complexity or from an oversight in Marx’s philosophy. Rather it reflects how science and technology can influence and redefine our conceptualisations of political order and the tools available for orchestrating social change. The history of the Cybersyn system further illustrates that political ideologies not only articulate a worldview, but can also contribute to the design and application of new technologies that politicians, engineers and scientists subsequently use to create and maintain these new configurations of state power."

Great stuff, Joe!!


On 24 Mar 2010, at 09:29, Roger Harnden wrote:


This first reference you came across is a wonderful historical document

Absolutely first rate and balanced about the ambitions both of Stafford and Allende, warts and all.

The other references are all useful, but this paper is unique to my about you?


Great reading!

On 23 Mar 2010, at 23:03, Joseph Truss wrote:

Salvador Allende's Internet
March 21, 2010 12:01 AM   RSS feed for this thread Subscribe

Cybersyn(or Synco, in Spanish) was computer network constructed in 1970 by an English/Chilean team headed by cyberneticistStafford Beer (his papers). Cybersyn was an electronic nervous system for the Chilean economy, linking together mines, factories and so on, to better manage production and give workers a clear idea of what was in demand and where. The network was destroyed by the army after the 1973 coup. Later that year Stafford Beer drew upon the lessons of Cybersyn to writeFanfare for Effective Freedom, a eulogy for Allende and Cybersyn, and Designing Freedom, a series of six lectures he gave for CBC, outlining his ideas. Besides the first link in this post, the best place to start is this Guardian article from 2003. If you want to go more in-depth, read Eden Medina's Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile. And if nothing else, just take a look at the amazing Cybersyn control room
posted by Kattullus (32 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

JT selected links on the site:

Santiago dreaming

When Pinochet's military overthrew the Chilean government 30 years ago, they discovered a revolutionary communication system, a 'socialist internet' connecting the whole country. Its creator? An eccentric scientist from Surrey. Andy Beckett on the forgotten story of Stafford Beer

Designing Freedom, Regulating 
a Nation : Socialist Cybernetics 
in Allende’s Chile* 
E D E N M E D I N A 
J. Lat. Amer. Stud. 38, 571–606 f 2006 Cambridge University Press 571 
doi:10.1017/S0022216X06001179 Printed in the United Kingdom

A selection from the papers of Stafford Beer (1926-2002), founder of management cybernetics     

The Stafford Beer Collection consists of the personal library of Professor Stafford Beer, the founder of Management Cybernetics, who was appointed Honorary Professor of Organisational Transformation at LJMU in 1989. 

An international consultant in the management sciences, employed by governments in over 20 countries and by a number of international agencies, Professor Beer, who died in August 2002, was the author of over 200 publications and held a number of academic posts as well as managerial positions at every level. He was also a published poet and held exhibitions of paintings.
Operations Room Chair

For more details or to discover how to see the materials in person please visit LJMU Special Collections and Archives.

There are many other interesting links on the site.


Joseph Truss
Team Syntegrity International AG/ Metaphorum / Abbey North Drummers

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