The politics of cybernetics

"Go on," Smythe urged. "How strongly does she equate cybernetics with Communism?"

I looked at him in surprise. "She quotes Nemchinov pretty strongly on that," I said. "Her argument--I suppose she was carrying the Nemchinov philosophy--is that only the Communist system gives sufficient room to apply the combination of mathematics and cybernetics to the national economy. Pretty dry phraseology, but not the way it sounds when Tamara is talking." I grinned self-consciously. "Okay, okay, so I've got a thing about the girl."

He waved me on to continue.

"Well, according to Nemchinov," I said, "public ownership--the Communist system--is essential to setting up a single electronic network. I mean, a net that includes cybernetic systems for industry, commerce, agriculture--the works."

"And capitalism?"

"Nemchinov--according to Tamara--has it thumbs down on private enterprise."


I shrugged. "Something about there being an inherent barrier in private enterprise to creating the true cybernetics system on a national scale. The framework of companies, corporations, syndicates--all these spell out unacceptable interference from conflicting interests. The way Nemchinov puts it, you need almost the equivalent of ant society to create a really meaningful cybernetics system."

"Do you think his point is valid?"

I thought that one over for several moments. "Not really, I suppose. I haven't made any effort," I added, "to weigh the pros and cons of one system against the other, Tom. In the cybernetics sense, I mean."

The quoted passage is taken from chapter five of the science fiction novel The God Machine by Martin Caidin. It was published in 1968 and isn't all that good.

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