Friday, 30 November 2012


"Giddy futurity": The Cybersyn Operations Room

A first for me: I have a piece in the New York Times, relating David Cameron's "Number 10 Dashboard" app to Stafford Beer's "Cybersyn" system for democratic socialism, as proposed for Salvador Allende's Chile. It's a welcome chance to point people to Eden Medina's recent book on the subject, which I reviewed for Icon earlier this year (Icon 106).

As well as Medina's book, here's a full accounting of my sources:

“Turn off your iPad, David Cameron, and start dealing with Britain's debt”
Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2012

“Fast Stream Case Study 4: Improving Digital Capability”
Cabinet Office website, November 2012

“David Cameron tests real-time economic data app on iPad”
The Guardian, 8 November 2012

“David Cameron tests iPad 'government dashboard' app”
Daily Telegraph, 8 November 2012

"Apple's iPad saves Greece from $140b debt" [sic]
Macworld, 23 May 2012


Arek Fressadi said...

I knew Stafford and learned of his work back in the 80's when I created the development plan for Arcosanti. As a fellow writer, I'd like to suggest a slight change in your wording which significantly changes to the tonality of your article. First, Allende was elected. the Chilean people choose to be governed under socialism. Allende's experiment in cybernetic governance, though short lived had enormous viability. Yes, it looks futuristic from a 2012 perspective, but clearly in keeping with the times. Allende's experiment was considered so dangerous from Nixon's paranoid perspective, that he told Kissinger to kill it ultimately ending the life of Allende and placing Chile under the Pinochet with the help of the CIA. Omitting this vital element of information amounts to a form of fraud upon the reader, intended or otherwise. For years, the Allende / Beer project has been the silent secret of the cybernetics / systems communities such that real systems work avoids politically sensitive projects, a travesty to our planet. ciao, Arek Fressadi. see

Unknown said...

Hi Arek,

Within the constraints of a short piece of writing it's rarely possible to cover every aspect of a project as far-reaching and fascinating as Cybersyn, and I don't claim to. I do say that the system was democratic in intent and that Allende was deposed in a CIA-backed coup. Certainly much more could be said on the subject, and I hope my piece directs anyone interested in it to Medina's much more thorough book. I certainly do not believe that any kind of fraud has been perpetrated; nor do I suggest that the system was inviable. It's very interesting to hear that the cybernetics/systems community might avoid politically sensitive projects out of fear of what happened to Allende.