Artificial Intelligence - How Is AI Contributing To Cybernetics?


The study of communication and control in live creatures and machines is known as cybernetics.

Although the phrase "cybernetic thinking" is no longer generally used in the United States, it pervades computer science, engineering, biology, and the social sciences today.

Throughout the last half-century, cybernetic connectionist and artificial neural network approaches to information theory and technology have often clashed, and in some cases hybridized, with symbolic AI methods.

Norbert Wiener (1894–1964), who coined the term "cybernetics" from the Greek word for "steersman," saw the field as a unifying force that brought disparate topics like game theory, operations research, theory of automata, logic, and information theory together and elevated them.

Winer argued in Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948), that contemporary science had become too much of a specialist's playground as a consequence of tendencies dating back to the early Enlightenment.

Wiener envisioned a period when experts might collaborate "not as minions of some great administrative officer, but united by the desire, indeed by the spiritual imperative, to comprehend the area as a whole, and to give one another the power of that knowledge" (Weiner 1948b, 3).

For Wiener, cybernetics provided researchers with access to many sources of knowledge while maintaining their independence and unbiased detachment.

Wiener also believed that man and machine should be seen as basically interchangeable epistemologically.

The biological sciences and medicine, according to Wiener, would remain semi-exact and dependent on observer subjectivity until these common components were discovered.

In the setting of World War II (1939– 1945), Wiener developed his cybernetic theory.

Operations research and game theory, for example, are interdisciplinary sciences rich in mathematics that have previously been utilized to identify German submarines and create the best feasible solutions to complex military decision-making challenges.

Wiener committed himself into the job of implementing modern cybernetic weapons against the Axis countries in his role as a military adviser.

To that purpose, Wiener focused on deciphering the feedback processes involved in curvilinear flight prediction and applying these concepts to the development of advanced fire-control systems for shooting down enemy aircraft.

Claude Shannon, a long-serving Bell Labs researcher, went even further than Wiener in attempting to bring cybernetic ideas to life, most notably in his experiments with Theseus, an electromechanical mouse that used digital relays and a feedback process to learn how to navigate mazes based on previous experience.

Shannon created a slew of other automata that mimicked the behavior of thinking machines.

Shannon's mentees, including AI pioneers John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky, followed in his footsteps and labeled him a symbolic information processor.

McCarthy, who is often regarded with establishing the field of artificial intelligence, studied the mathematical logic that underpins human thought.

Minsky opted to research neural network models as a machine imitation of human vision.

The so-called McCulloch-Pitts neurons were the core components of cybernetic understanding of human cognitive processing.

These neurons were strung together by axons for communication, establishing a cybernated system encompassing a crude simulation of the wet science of the brain, and were named after Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts.

Pitts admired Wiener's straightforward analogy of cerebral tissue to vacuum tube technology, and saw these switching devices as metallic analogues to organic cognitive components.

McCulloch-Pitts neurons were believed to be capable of mimicking basic logical processes required for learning and memory.

Pitts perceived a close binary equivalence between the electrical discharges produced by these devices and the electrochemical nerve impulses generated in the brain in the 1940s.

McCulloch-Pitts inputs may be either a zero or a one, and the output can also be a zero or a one in their most basic form.

Each input may be categorized as excitatory or inhibitory.

It was therefore merely a short step from artificial to animal memory for Pitts and Wiener.

Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, made even more significant contributions to the research of artificial neurons.

These were detailed in his book The Organization of Behavior, published in 1949.

Associative learning is explained by Hebbian theory as a process of neural synaptic cells firing and connecting together.

In his study of the artificial "perceptron," a model and algorithm that weighted inputs so that it could be taught to detect particular kinds of patterns, U.S.

Navy researcher Frank Rosenblatt expanded the metaphor.

The eye and cerebral circuitry of the perceptron could approximately discern between pictures of cats and dogs.

The navy saw the perceptron as "the embryo of an electronic computer that it anticipates to be able to walk, speak, see, write, reproduce itself, and be cognizant of its existence," according to a 1958 interview with Rosenblatt (New York Times, July 8, 1958, 25).

Wiener, Shannon, McCulloch, Pitts, and other cyberneticists were nourished by the famed Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in the 1940s and 1950s, which attempted to automate human comprehension of the world and the learning process.

The gatherings also acted as a forum for discussing artificial intelligence issues.

The divide between the areas developed over time, but it was visible during the 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on ArtificialIntelligence.

Organic cybernetics research was no longer well-defined in American scientific practice by 1970.

Computing sciences and technology evolved from machine cybernetics.

Cybernetic theories are now on the periphery of social and hard scientific disciplines such as cognitive science, complex systems, robotics, systems theory, and computer science, but they were critical to the information revolution of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In recent studies of artificial neural networks and unsupervised machine learning, Hebbian theory has seen a resurgence of attention.

Cyborgs—beings made up of biological and mechanical pieces that augment normal functions—could be regarded a subset of cybernetics (which was once known as "medical cybernetics" in the 1960s).

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Dartmouth AI Conference; Macy Conferences; Warwick, Kevin.

Further Reading

Ashby, W. Ross. 1956. An Introduction to Cybernetics. London: Chapman & Hall.

Galison, Peter. 1994. “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Weiner and the Cybernetic Vision.” Critical Inquiry 21, no. 1 (Autumn): 228–66.

Kline, Ronald R. 2017. The Cybernetics Moment: Or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Mahoney, Michael S. 1990. “Cybernetics and Information Technology.” In Companion to the History of Modern Science, edited by R. C. Olby, G. N. Cantor, J. R. R. Christie, and M. J. S. Hodge, 537–53. London: Routledge.

“New Navy Device Learns by Doing; Psychologist Shows Embryo of Computer Designed to Read and Grow Wiser.” 1958. New York Times, July 8, 25.

Weiner, Norbert. 1948a. “Cybernetics.” Scientific American 179, no. 5 (November): 14–19.

Weiner, Norbert. 1948b. Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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