Someone asked me this.
The official definition from Wiener is ‘the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” (This gets us into a lot of trouble with people for whom ‘control’ is a bogeyman).
…the study of purposeful (or goal directed) behaviour
(Sometimes adding ‘in complex situations’ though in fact it’s in any situation)
…’the art of steering’ or ‘steersmanship’ from the Greek root in kubernetes (it’s still the best metaphor, I think)
…this links to various definitions around ‘governance’ or governing etc
…the study of circular causality (also sometimes self-directed control)
..the study of recursion
…the study of what might have happened, but didn’t
…or versions using regulation or self-regulation as the key…
Self-correction is also central, as is explorative creation and maintenance of meaning.
Wikipedia has Umpleby’s list of definitions which is good:
Pangaro’s is good too: https://www.pangaro.com/definition-cybernetics.html
Britannica cites unusual ‘key people’ but is good https://www.britannica.com/science/cybernetics
Principia Cybernetica offers a good one: ‘organization independent of the substrate in which it is embodied.’
(Principia Cybernetica describes itself as philosophy, seeking to answer the big questions of life; I think thereby it might fall foul of not seeing the circular, embodied and self-referential nature of language – which usually means these are not meaningful ‘questions’ – this is why I think Wittgenstein was a cybernetician and why I get such a big kick out of https://meaningness.com/metablog/bongard-meta-rationality which I think is on the same tracks)
And Clemson’s ‘What is management cybernetics’ (www.barryclemson.net/what-is-management-cybernetics/) cites Beer: “the science of effective organization”. Effective, of course, relates to viability, to ‘independent of the substrate’, to steering, governing, and to *intentional* behaviour (which I’d prefer to goal-directed or ‘purposeful’).
For ‘what is science’, I get “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
So science can only be achieved through cybernetic means, of course, being purposeful, but I’d say that cybernetics is a particular type of science focused on effective behaviour (using the above), and here effective includes the second-order cybernetic concept of seeing the observer as an intervener in the system, and the potential of self-reflection.