Article ID: CBB689593174

Building the Black Box: Cyberneticians and Complex Systems (2020)


In the 1950s and 1960s, cyberneticians defined and utilized a concept previously described by electronic engineers: the black box. They were interested in how it might aid them, as both a metaphor and as a physical or mathematical model, in their analysis of complex human-machine systems. The black box evolved as they applied it in new ways, across a range of scientific fields, from an unnamed concept involving inputs and outputs, to digital representations of the human brain, to white boxes that might be used to replicate black boxes. The diversity of understandings of the black box reflected the diversity of scientific perspectives and goals brought under the label of cybernetics. In this paper, I examine how cyberneticians drew upon the black box in their personal writings and publications. My goal is to unpack what the black box meant to these theorists as a starting framework from which we may understand the initial shape of the black box.

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Article Matthew Shindell (2020) Outlining the Black Box: An Introduction to Four Papers. Science, Technology, and Human Values (pp. 567-574). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Alexandra Coso Strong
Asaro, Peter M.
Barrow-Green, June
Bokulich, Alisa
Heymann, Matthias
Loettgers, Andrea
Engineering Studies
Social Studies of Science
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
Historia Mathematica
History and Technology
Amsterdam University Press
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Science and technology studies (STS)
Models and modeling in science
Mathematical models
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Maxwell, James Clerk
Stachowiak, Herbert
Firestone, Floyd A.
Henrici, Olaus
Rosenblueth, Arturo (1900-1970)
Time Periods
21st century
19th century
20th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
New Mexico (U.S.)
Santa Fe Institute

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