cybernetics. Primarily an epistemological stance, cybernetics is informally characterized as "the science of describing," a formal approach to the purpose and nature of this universal human activity. The term 'cybernetics' was introduced by the American Norbert Wiener in his Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1949) to describe feedback and control mechanisms in systems using computers. The prefix 'cyber' is from the Greek meaning to steer, pilot or guide and is now widely used in a number of combinations, among them 'cyberpunk', 'cyborg', and 'cyberspace'.

There are many definitions of cybernetics and many individuals who have influenced the definition and direction of cybernetics. Norbert Wiener, a mathematician, engineer and social philosopher, coined the word "cybernetics" from the Greek word meaning "steersman." He defined it as the science of control and communication in the animal and the machine. Ampere, before him, wanted cybernetics to be the science of government. For philosopher Warren McCulloch, cybernetics was an experimental epistemology concerned with the communication within an observer and between the observer and his environment. Stafford Beer, a management consultant, defined cybernetics as the science of effective organization. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson noted that whereas previous sciences dealt with matter and energy, the new science of cybernetics focuses on form and pattern. For educational theorist Gordon Pask, cybernetics is the art of manipulating defensible metaphors, showing how they may be constructed and what can be inferred as a result of their existence.

Cybernetics takes as its domain the design or discovery and application of principles of regulation and communication. Cybernetics treats not things but ways of behaving. It does not ask "what is this thing?" but "what does it do?" and "what can it do?" Because numerous systems in the living, social and technological world may be understood in this way, cybernetics cuts across many traditional disciplinary boundaries. The concepts which cyberneticians develop thus form a metadisciplinary language by which we may better understand and modify our world.

Several traditions in cybernetics have existed side by side since its beginning. One is concerned with circular causality, manifest in technological developments--notably in the design of computers and automata--and finds its intellectual expression in theories of computation, regulation and control. Another tradition, which emerged from human and social concerns, emphasizes epistemology--how we come to know-- and explores theories of self-reference to understand such phenomena as autonomy, identity, and purpose. Some cyberneticians seek to create a more humane world, while others seek merely to understand how people and their environment have co-evolved. Some are interested in systems as we observe them, others in systems that do the observing. Some seek to develop methods for modeling the relationships among measurable variables. Others aim to understand the dialogue that occurs between models or theories and social systems. Early work sought to define and apply principles by which systems may be controlled. More recent work has attempted to understand how systems describe themselves, control themselves, and organize themselves. Despite its short history, cybernetics has developed a concern with a wide range of processes involving people as active organizers, as sharing communicators, and as autonomous, responsible individuals.{from: The American Society for Cybernetics,]

See also:
Heinz von Foerster: "Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics"
Cybernetics and Conversation
Principia Cybernetica WEB