Psycho Cybernetics

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (a plastic surgeon)

ISBN 0671700758


The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

ISBN 0735202850
The later edition appeared, even though the original author is long dead. Classic self-help book... "an easy and enlightening read and includes many exercises to complete which reprograms your cybernetic mechanism" Amazon reviewer

So, remind me, what is my "cybernetic mechanism" again?

It sounds exactly like Dianetics. Wait no, it is. Moreover, "Psycho-Cybernetics (tm)" has nothing to do with psycho-cybernetics (the enhancement of the human mind using implantable hardware) which makes it a really bad name.

Reminder: cybernetics doesn't mean "implantable hardware". You've got it confused with Major Steve Austin, the $6,000,000 man (again).

So what in bloody hell does this have to do with programming again?

I haven't read it since I was about 10 years old, so my memory is fuzzy, but as I recall it's similar to (the self-describing) The Power of Positive Thinking, and portrays the brain as a computer that we can reprogram to better achieve our goals.

It's a self-help book that talks about computers and programming metaphorically; literally speaking, it has nothing whatsoever to do with actual real life non-metaphorical programming.

The problem with that is that it is flat wrong. The human brain is nothing like a HarvardArchitecture computer, yet many people think it is. To the extent that this book perpetuates that myth, it is indeed dangerous nonsense.

The key characteristic of the Harvard architecture is that information flows in only one direction between processing units. It comes from input devices, is processed centrally, and then flows out to output devices. The human brain is nothing like that.

In the human brain, information backflows constantly to such an extent that there is no such thing as a pure "input device" attached to the central nervous system. What the lowest level of neurons attached to the eyes detect is affected by whether the higher levels pay attention and even what they expect.

Discussion moved to HumanMemory.


I have no idea about how this book uses the term, but I've seen "cybernetics" used in an economics discussion. For example, one way to judge an alternative to capitalism/communism is to observe its "cybernetic burden" -- how much bandwidth and meetings does it require? (Fortunately, it seemed to be a red herring in the discussion; technology tends to increase with a more developed economy. And plus contemporary economies use communication heavily, for things like advertising; doesn't that whole ad/marketing industry account for 1/6 of US GDP, for instance?)

To the extent that "cybernetic" is used meaningfully (as opposed to being used as an empty buzz-phrase) in today's era, I would think that it would have to do with positive and negative feedback loops, since that was pretty much the heart of NorbertWiener's usage, so if someone said "cybernetic burden", and I tried to read sense (rather than nonsense) into that phrase, I would take it to mean "the overhead resulting from the positive or negative feedback loop" in the given context -- which is vague enough that it might or might not mean something useful.

I'm not sure what you are referring to with the ad/marketing accounts, but it sounds potentially interesting.

Similarly, I am interested in what you are saying, not challenging you. -- DougMerritt

He means that distribution of goods and services in a capitalist economy is controlled by advertising and marketing. Since these make up some large fraction of GDP, it follows that the capitalist economy has a very large cybernetic burden. As opposed to the vastly smaller cybernetic burden of having an hour-long meeting with all your neighbours every single day to decide who gets what when in what amount.

And note that those hour-long meetings which any sane person would consider intolerably expensive (and yet are cheaper than what a capitalist economy squanders) would settle not only distribution issues but allocation issues. There's a whole sector of the capitalist economy devoted solely to allocation; the financial sector with its banks, central bank, stock markets, insurance companies, and so on and so forth.

When you count the total overhead in a capitalist economy (politics, military, finance, marketing, redundancy & other inefficiencies, plundering & destruction) you find that most of it is cybernetic. Politics is about deciding who'll be in power to decide distribution and allocation. Military is to coerce people and maintain power differentials. Of the 6 areas I can think of, only the last 2 (redundancy, outright waste & wasted opportunities due to competition; plundering & destruction of human, economic, ecologic and other capital) are not cybernetic.

When you add it all up, the cybernetic burden of a capitalist economy is easily some large fraction like 1/3 or 1/2. The total burden can add up to more than 100% since as anyone who's kept up with GPI, the USA has been liquidating all of its capital at an accelerating rate for more than a decade.

The ad/marketing was transparent. What wasn't obvious, and which I still don't understand, is how technology fits into it at all. Unless by bandwidth you mean literal communication bandwidth instead of proportion of cash used up for control in the metaphorical Pipe of Cash. -- RK


FebruaryZeroSix

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