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June 1972

Kybernetics of Mind and Brain.

Author Affiliations

Newton Lower Falls, Mass

Arch Intern Med. 1972;129(6):998. doi:10.1001/archinte.1972.00320060146026

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If the appearance in 1948 of Norbert Wiener's "Cybernetics" was not in itself a major biologic breakthrough, it did confer a sort of ontologic and semantic validity on a concept long known to workers in nonbiologic sciences. Indeed, it helped pave the way for an interdisciplinary approach to biology long before that adjective had lost its respectability. Cybernetics—"control and communication in the animal and the machine," as Wiener would have it—concerns itself with self-regulating feedback systems. The fly-ball governor of a steam engine is a classic example of a negative feedback arrangement. So, too, is a thermostatically regulated electric oven—the hotter it gets, the less current is supplied—thus, negative feedback. And, of course, such systems are at the heart of the newer computer technology. Biologically, cybernetics constitutes an approach to understanding integrated function in living organisms—someting evident to the ancients but awaiting modern insights before earning a scientifically reputable name

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