Norbert Wiener

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H O L O T O P I A    P R O T O T Y P E

In the present holotopia prototype Norbert Wiener is an iconic representative of cybernetics, and of the systems sciences in general. We let Wiener represent a large body of academic insights, leading to the conclusion we rendered as the Modernity ideogram, the bus with candle headlights: To be viable or "sustainable", a system must have suitable vision and steering (the name "cybernetics" suggests a scientific study of control and controllability). In the last chapter of his 1948 seminal Cybernetics, of which we provide a copy here, starting from the last paragraph on Page 158, Wiener presents a counterargument to what has to date grown to become the neoliberal dogma—that the best 'headlights and steering' (for which Wiener uses the technical keyword "homeostasis") are provided by "the invisible hand" of the market.

Cybernetics was envisioned as a transdisciplinary scientific field that would provide our society the insights it needed for its now most urgent task—of restructuring our core systems, so that they may become capable of fulfilling their functions in the larger wholes they compose together.

Wiener based part of his argument against "the invisible hand" on the theory of games. A related curiosity will serve to further illustrate our main point. Subsequent to the publication of Cybernetics, research in a subarea of game theory now called "prisoner's dilemma" virtually exploded, resulting in well over one thousand research articles. What we as society, however, needed from this large body of research (but failed to receive) is coded in the story used to define the Prisonner's dilemma (see it in the opening paragraphs of the corresponding Wikipedia page), which needs to be read as a parable.

The story explains why what is still today considered as "rational choice" can result in an outcome that is inferior for all players—compared to the situation that would result if they cooperated.