Homeostats and cybernetic regulation – GentlySerious – Medium


Homeostats and cybernetic regulation – GentlySerious – Medium

Homeostats and cybernetic regulation

Jun 23 · 8 min read

One of the very few things I remember from school is a visit to the local trading standards people. I can remember two stories. A mouse was baked into something sold in Marks and Spencer, and M&S would not allow the story to be linked to them, letting the baker take all the flak. The other was about farmers who had watered down their milk, saying things like “the cows have been eating wet grass”.

Now when you think about it, the fact that all milk from all cows is similar enough in its composition, and constant enough over time, to allow trading standards to prosecute cheating farmers is truly remarkable. It means that there are few if any factors in the farming environment that can distort the milk a cow makes for its calf. That is a good model for a homeostat: something that keeps things pretty much constant, no matter what.

As a slightly edgier, more policy-oriented example, take John Adams and his work on accidents at road junctions. If there is an accident blackspot and you put in extra warning signs and a high-friction road surface what happens? The accidents happen at the next junction down.

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Homeostats and cybernetic regulation – GentlySerious – Medium