How discourse about cybernetic pervaded other fields
Having just read last night "L'Empire cybernÃ©tique : Des machines Ã penser Ã la pensÃ©e machine" by CÃ©line Lafontaine. In this essay, the author aims at showing how the "cybernetic" paradigm (Wiener) as well as the vision it promoted, has influenced the scientific and intellectual worlds. Starting from Norbert Wiener's work and Macy conferences, she describes how these notions and visions pervaded psychology (Bateson, Palo-Alto group), Systems Theory, french structuralism, postmodernism (okay: Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard, Derrida and Foucault), neo-liberal economic theories and eventually the general discourse about cyberspace (Kevin Kelly, Pierre Levy who use reference to Pierre Theilard de Chardin). For the latter, it's funny that she stopped to this references and not pay attention to more recent developments about this issue (in which Levy has been slightly forgotten, even tough the ideas proposed are still the same). The book is also a critical overview of how this influence has anti-humanist underpinnings: by advocating for a "sujet informationnel" ("informational subject") and an inescapable progress, a reductionist vision of the world is at stake and lead to a very determinist view of society.
Why do I blog this? enjoy reading this kind of book, easy to read and some criticisms are fair as as important to keep in mind. Although it's a good read, I am quite skeptical about some aspects such as the methodology and/or a somewhat over-focus on surface traits of the theories influenced by cybernetics. As a matter of fact it's a very theoretical discussion, rather philosophical than empirical (in terms of content analysis I mean). I would have liked to see more elements about the "humanist" arguments (sorry for my ignorance) and some more conclusive statement at the end of the book about how to get back to a more humanist paradigm in science and technology (how would this look like?). Anyway, perhaps proposing solutions is not the point of this sort of books.