Cybernetics, Warfare, and Discourse
The Cybernetisation of Warfare in Britain
Palgrave Macmillan 2017
New Books in British StudiesNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in National SecurityNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in Systems and CyberneticsNew Books Network March 6, 2018 Tom Scholte
On this episode, we will be talking to Anthimos Alexandros Tsirigotis about his book Cybernetics, Warfare, and Discourse: The Cybernetisation of Warfare in Britain (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017). Given the significant efforts of the field’s founder, Norbert Wiener, to distance cybernetics from military research and application, as well as the ethical stances of some of the field’s later leading lights such as Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana, Herbert Brun, Ranulph Glanville and Larry Richards, it should not be surprising if some contemporary cyberneticians might find the particular combination of words in the books title somewhat disconcerting. However, far from producing a strictly first-order technological study or strategic “how to” manual, Greek military officer Tsirigotis has carried out a decidedly second-order examination of the subject that supplants the mainstream assumption of cyberspace as a set of technologies with a notion of cyberspace as a set of social practices produced, and reproduced, autopoietically through what he calls “cyber discourse.” Grounded in notions of emergence and complexity and employing digital tools of corpus linguistics on policy documents from over the past seven decades, Tsirigotis traces the transformation of such notions as “security” and “threat” in British military circles. The result is a conception of the state, not as a particular bounded geographical region, but as a network of autopoietic social practices; and of a world in which such states do not seek to extinguish external threats through the deployment of hard military power but rather seek to use their networks to adapt to the constant presence of threats in their environment. Along the way, Tsirigotis provides a striking example of what a truly second-order social science, capable of engaging with all manner of social practices beyond the military sphere, might look like.