The Soviet Internet that never was | TheArticle – Solymar

Much as celebrities appear on all the podcasts I have subscribed to when they have something to promote, now the Soviet internet – founded on cybernetics – is appearing all over…


The Soviet Internet that never was | TheArticle

The Soviet Internet that never was



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Norbert Wiener’s book Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine was published in the US in 1948. He called this new subject “Cybernetics”, resurrecting the Greek word kybernetes meaning governance, steerman, pilot. The term first appeared in an essay by Andre Marie Ampere (the same man after whom the unit of electric current is called) on civil government that he believed did need some control. Wiener was of the same opinion, but his interests were much wider. With today’s terminology we could call his vision the communications, control, computer symbiosis.

The book, in due course, reached the Soviet Union, where it fell into the hands of philosophers. They were not amused. They could recognise an assault on the fundamentals of Socialism when they saw one. The titles of some of their articles clearly demonstrated their disapproval: “Cybernetics, an American Pseudo-Science”, “Cybernetics, a Science of Obscurantists,” “The Science of Modern Slaveholders”. An extract from the Concise Dictionary of Philosophy, as late as 1954, retains this scepticism: “Cybernetics clearly reflects one of the basic features of the bourgeois worldview — its inhumanity, striving to transform workers into an extension of the machine, into a tool of production, and an instrument of war.”ADVERTISINGAds by Teads

It was never easy to rebut Soviet theories based on ideology. Trofim Lysenko managed to ruin Soviet genetics and agriculture by his theory of the inheritability of acquired characteristics, supported strongly by Stalin. Lysenko flourished for nearly three decades and was discredited only after Stalin’s death. Fortunately for Soviet science the philosophers’ stronghold on cybernetics was weakened by scientists and engineers eager to get involved with that “Obscurantist” science.

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The Soviet Internet that never was | TheArticle