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Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  21 reviews
In Cybernetic Revolutionaries, Eden Medina tells the history of two intersecting utopian visions, one political and one technological. The first was Chile's experiment with peaceful socialist change under Salvador Allende; the second was the simultaneous attempt to build a computer system that would manage Chile's economy. Neither vision was fully realized--Allende's gover ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published November 4th 2011 by MIT Press (MA) (first published January 1st 2011)
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4.24  · 
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 ·  129 ratings  ·  21 reviews


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George
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I found out about project Cybersyn from the 99% invisible podcast and thankfully they recommended this book at the end of the episode.

OK, now what was Cybersyn (Cybernetics - Synergy)? Put simply it was an attempt of Allende's government to manage newly nationalized factories using Cybernetics (computers, teletype machines, mathematics and new management techniques). I have to compliment the author for the thoroughness and quality of research on this topic. She managed to beautifully cover the
...more
Malini Sridharan
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
The story and research here is fascinating and right up my alley-- cybernetics, management, mainframe computers!!! Flowcharts!!! I am very glad that I read this book.

However, the analysis was not particularly interesting. Rather than either letting events speak for themselves (which they easily could have done) or going deep into the ideas around the project, the author makes statements that, to be honest, reminded me of everything that is wrong with grade school research essays-- statements tha
...more
Stephen Thompson
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this! It's a neat mix of history, applied mathematics, and leftist politics.

Allende, after running on a platform that called for a peaceful and constitutional transition to socialism, was elected president of Chile in 1970. In order to manage the newly nationalized sectors of the economy, the Allende government brought in Stafford Beer, the founder of “management cybernetics.” Cybernetics is a branch of applied math concerned with the control and regulation of complex systems, and is oft
...more
Nico
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En serio:
Este libro debería ser al menos en parte, de lectura o conocimiento obligatorio en las escuelas de ingeniería, sobre todo porque es un estudio de un caso chileno de cómo la ciencia y la tecnología no son neutrales ni apolíticas, de cómo se puede hacer innovación (de la de verdad, no ese mamarracho que se vende en todos lados ahora) con baja tecnología, y cómo la inclusión de la tecnología afecta a un grupo social, ya sea alterando o reforzando las relaciones que existen.
Ray
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good history; interesting look at the relationship between mathematical cyberneticism, economics, and government.
Kate
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book — it's a great mix of socialist thought, Latin American politics, applied mathematics, economic theory and cybernetics. Medina does a great job of teasing out the connections between systems organization and socialist thought from a wide variety of primary sources. The included images and diagrams also all really added to the text.

The narrative and analysis portion of this book was not particularly in depth or political. I read this book with a reading group, so the p
...more
Juan C.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Lo más entrete es que alguien que leyó sobre Synco al pie de página en Estados Unidos se tomó 10 años en hacer un libro sobre el tema
Paulo
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Uma história incrível muito bem contada.
Ro
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technopolitics
This was a fascinating look at the intersection of technology and politics in early 1970s Chile, and the intellectual evolution and work of the great British technologist Stafford Beer. The book does a great job of revealing the political and social influences of Project Cybersyn, and how this might apply to engineering and technological development processes in general.

The narrative and analysis was a bit simplistic and repetitive at times (I'm guessing the target audience was engineers and pr
...more
Robharries
Dec 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Now because of GRs stupid personalized rating system on how much you enjoyed/loved/liked a book I must say this deserves a four out of five for quality of content, however, I liked it but hardly an overly interesting read from a personal perspective, hence three stars.

A pretty good overview of the history of project cybersyn, weaving the life of beer, the Allende government, flores and other characters in this somewhat obscure (although becoming more well know) story of cybersyn. A good academic
...more
Graham Lee
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting history on the inextricable link between technological and political models of a system, using the cybernetics and democratic socialism of Chile's cybersyn project as its working example. The author's bias is generally leftist and sympathetic to the project in the face of external factors blocking its success.

If you know someone who thinks that the design and construction of a software (or other technological) system is apolitical and it's other people who choose how
...more
Vasil Kolev
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, tech
The whole information from the book could've fit in 1/2-1/3 of the size. There is no need to have paragraphs telling what's the paragraph is about.

The described system never got into a production stage, so its modeling capabilities never got tested, but it would've been very interesting if it could get something right. All in all modeling such a complex and most probably chaotic system is a futile exercise, but the close-to-realtime detection of problems is something that should be pretty ubiqui
...more
Leah
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Lucid history of Fernando Flores and Stafford Beer's collaboration in Allende's Chile; useful for thinking about how utopias dovetail with technology in a socialist context (my reading: the accusations of technocracy ultimately brought down Flores & Beer's efforts, but, uh, they weren't doing so well at implementing their cybernetic central planning anyway), and for a practical counterexample (or example) to marxist debates about the role of technology in history's ends.
Michael Grasso
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern
A riveting and approachable read. The almost-but-not-quite cybernetic reorganization of the Chilean economy under President Salvador Allende and cybernetician Stafford Beer is a story of the history of cybernetics, Cold War brinksmanship, Aquarian idealism, and lots and lots of Telexes. Medina's account of the first meeting between Beer and Allende had me literally holding my breath. Fantastic stuff.
Jackie Mccarthy
Oct 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I learned about this book from the New Yorker; I think it's actually a dissertation. Super wonky, but interesting to think of data-driven economic policy 20 years before the Internet. Big Data, 1970s style, complete with a groovy-looking control room.
D Schmüdde
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating, well researched graduate thesis published as a widely distributed book. Although it is not always concise, the information contained inside is a valuable look into the politics and culture that every powerful technology inherently embodies.
Kyle
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: synco
heres a spirited exchange from a few years ago on this very subject:

http://www.rhizzone.net/article/2011/...
http://www.rhizzone.net/article/2011/...
Zara Rahman
Nov 28, 2014 rated it liked it
The story behind this book is truly fascinating, and Medina goes into a great deal of detail in recounting the history behind Project Cybersyn. I found the book quite dry in places, perhaps due to the detail, and longer than I expected - that said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it!
Adam
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent work on the history of technology, with thought given to alternative and non Global North paths.
Ben
rated it it was ok
Apr 28, 2018
Jeremy
rated it it was amazing
Sep 21, 2018
Adam LoBue
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Feb 05, 2015
Daniel Berry
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Apr 16, 2017
Rodrigo Vera
rated it it was amazing
Oct 12, 2018
Robert Lamb
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Jan 23, 2018
Steve
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Jun 08, 2019
Hanan
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Oct 11, 2018
Joe
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Oct 29, 2014
Alice
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Mar 13, 2018
nathaniel tkacz
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Aug 08, 2016
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