Cybersyn – metaphorum

Source: Cybersyn – metaphorum

The Cybersyn Project (1972, 1973)

On July 13th 1971 Stafford Beer received a letter from Fernando Flores, then President of the Instituto Technologico de Chile, and Technical General Manager of Chile’s equivalent of the National Enterprise Board, which had been charged with the wholesale nationalisation of the economy.  Flores spoke of the “complete reorganisation of the public sector of the economy and said he was “in a position from which it is possible to implement, on a national scale –  at which cybernetic thinking becomes a necessity – scientific views on management and organisation”.

They met in London the following month and Flores filled in the details.  Chile had recently elected Salvadore Allende, a Marxist, and was committed to a program of worker empowerment rather than the Soviet approach of absolute centralisation, and workers obediently following rigid national plans. Flores wanted Beer to take charge of this project, and he agreed to visit Chile in November 1971. During this visit Beer established a small team and over 8 days they had agreed a plan for the cybernetic regulation of the social economy of Chile:  it was named Cybersyn.

In Beer’s words: ‘the Cybersyn project aimed to acquire the benefits of cybernetic synergy for the whole industry, while developing power for the workers at the same time’ (see How Many Grapes, 1994, p. 322).

The entire story has been told on several occasions, but some accounts miss the essential nature of this, and indeed all VSM applications:  the key is to enhance and encourage autonomy at all levels (as the only way of dealing with environmental variety) but to ensure that the autonomous parts work together in a harmonious, coherent fashion and thus enjoy the synergy which comes when parts join together to create a whole-system.  Beer calls this the “explosion of potential” which happens in teams, and collaborative projects of all kinds.

…continues in source