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From Versailles to Cybernetics
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Read: 2017-08-07
Last Update: 2017-08-07

Five Sentence Abstract:

The most important things in Bateson's life, as he tells it, were the Treaty of Versailles and the cybernetic "breakthrough". All mammals, and thus humans, are concerned only with the patterns of relationship that give rise to abstractions like love, hate, and trust. The Treaty of Versailles was full of deceit to demoralize the Germans and should have been seen to provide the foundation for with WW2 sprung from. We must understand how we got to the present to have any chance at understanding the present. The "rules of the game" that were laid down with the Treaty of Versailles and the advent of cybernetics need to be changed before the computers lead us into a more rigid world.

Thoughts:

Bateson uses many analogies to make what I see as one central point in his speech: human relations can be fiddled with in such the same way as you set the bias on your house thermostat. He, like many of his kind, couch their views as warnings that computer dictated decisions may have unforeseen consequences and could be leading us to a maladjusted world. He concludes that, in spite of these dangers, cybernetics may allow for a "more human outlook". Nothing could be farther from the truth in a world where the human organ is played masterfully by an oligarchical class.

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Notes:

(Lecture, April 21, 1966, to the "Two Worlds Symposium" at Sacramento State College.)

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