Ronald R. Kline, The Cybernetics Moment: or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age

Lukas Miller
2017 Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship  
There is no question that war has led to some of the greatest technological developments and scientific advances for all of humankind. Many of the tools we use today are taken for granted, and some underestimate the contribution that military science and research have brought to enhancing the everyday lives of billions. The highly complex and ubiquitous Global Positioning System (GPS), for example, was once solely a military technology with limited availability. Today, nearly every modern
more » ... hone bought and sold has the capability to access a shared satellite network for the benefit of businesses, governments, militaries, and consumers alike. From aiding the precision targeting of missiles to mapping the ocean floor to planning a bicycle route to and from work, GPS (first introduced in 1978) is now a staple of twenty-first-century life. According to Robert Kline-historian of technology at Cornell University and author of two other volumes concerning society and technology-the problem of developing another military technology (albeit one less ubiquitous than GPS) set the stage for the conceptualization of the so-called "information age": the automated anti-aircraft weaponry and control systems that emerged out of World War II. The pressing military need to understand control and communication systems that consist of human (organic) and machine (technology) elements led to envisioning the anti-aircraft gun, its human operator, and the highly mathematical targeting computer as a singular cohesive entity. This new way of thinking and looking at the world enabled a new conceptualization of organisms and machines (or technology) as information-feedback systems, each with varying methods of communication and control between internal components and the external environment. The study of these communication systems came to be known as cybernetics. A more holistic understanding of cybernetics is expressed via (Kline's) analogy "that the principles of information-feedback machines, which explained how a thermostat controlled a household furnace, for example, could also explain how all
doi:10.33137/cjal-rcbu.v2.27267 fatcat:lesoygazs5cphplrat6hzydycu