Principia Cybernetica Web

Gathering a variety of contributions

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The first difficulty with the practical development of a Principia Cybernetica is that something as large and as complex as a full cybernetic philosophy, integrating all the different scientific disciplines and domains of human endeavour, cannot be elaborated by a few individuals. We clearly need a large variety of contributors from many different backgrounds (the traditional scientific disciplines, but also e.g. philosophy, technology, religion, art, ...). These people will typically be scattered over many geographic regions, countries, or even continents. The only way for them to collaborate efficiently is by means of the new telecommunication media (Joslyn, 1990).

Though we could imagine the exchange of information by the more traditional mail and the publication of journals or newsletters, these printed media are very slow with respect to the amount of information exchange that is to be done. In midterm future we may expect the development of broadband ISDN: the Integrated Services Digital Network, which would provide immediate electronic communication through all different media: text, sound, images, and even video. Though we cannot rely on this in the present situation, we can already start with the practically functioning electronic media of today: fax and electronic mail. Especially electronic mail (email), which allows the almost immediate transmission of electronic text files at virtually no cost between different continents, is directly useful for our project (Joslyn, 1990). Fax, though it is presently much more widespread, has the disadvantage that is does not provide a format for storing texts on computer, but with the spreading of optical character recognition and the integration of fax and computer, we may expect that both media will be interconnected in the very near future.

The communication of text files through computers allows much more than just a faster exchange of letters: it offers a whole array of techniques for electronic publishing (Gardner, 1990). The simplest of those is the "mailing list": a computer stores a list of addresses of people interested in the same subject. Every message that is sent to the computer by one of those people is (possibly after evaluation by a list administrator) sent further to all others on the list. This is a more dynamic form of a newsletter, where everybody can read the information almost immediately after it was written. It allows much more direct discussion than the traditional printed media. In first instance the Principia Project would be implemented through such a mailing list, similar to the list on Cybernetics and Systems (CYBSYS-L) which already exists at the SUNY-Binghamton computer center. People who do not as yet dispose of electronic mail facilities could in a preliminary stage send their contributions to an intermediary who would convert their telexed, faxed or posted messages to email. The main contributions received on the electronic list would be redistributed in a printed form through a traditional newsletter which can also be read by people without email connection.

Electronic publishing offers even more facilities. For example all information received on the list could be stored somewhere on a central computer, and everybody connected to the network could require specific information from this "file server". In this way the whole body of knowledge gathered to date can be selectively consulted by all people involved in the project.

Copyright© 1993 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Aug 1993


Project Organization

Collaborative Knowledge Development

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