History of Cybernetics Bibliography


2012–2013

This is a bibliography of historical and sociological works on cybernetics, a science of “control and communication in the animal and the machine” which flourished from World War II into the 1970s. It’s limited in three ways: It includes only books and articles which focus on cybernetics rather than the related histories of cyborgs and information theory, and only those in English, though there are substantial French and German literatures on the subject, and excludes articles and dissertations superseded by books. Within these limitations, I welcome references to additional books and articles.

If you’ve come here after asking yourself (or Google) what cybernetics is, I recommend starting with Bernard Geoghegan and Benjamin Peters’ encyclopedia article “Cybernetics” and Geoffrey Bowker’s “How to Be Universal: Some Cybernetic Strategies, 1943–70.” William Aspray’s “The Scientific Conceptualization of Information: A Survey” places cybernetics in the context of developments in computing and information theory, while Peter Galison’s “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision” is a classic account of the field’s military origins. The texts listed below survey the many forms cybernetics took in the decades that followed.

The Big Picture
(but mostly Anglo-American)

Origins

Norbert Wiener

Soviet and Comparative Studies

Biology

Ecology

Social Sciences

Gregory Bateson

Sciences of Mind

Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts

Politics and Planning

Art and Popular Culture

French Theory