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What we should have learned from Cybersyn: An epistemological view on the socialist approach of Cybersyn in respective of Industry 4.0.

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Abstract

Currently, a major topic is what changes will digitalization and the fourth industrial revolution bring to our society. It is clear that digital transformation of society and the introduction of new technologies will make many jobs obsolete. This process logically leads to the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). In this respect, the socialist project, Cybersyn, is of great interest because it constituted a prototype of a data- and people-related idea to solve this problem. The aim was to increase the country's production, while counteracting rising unemployment through a socialist paradigm, which is obviously pertinent to the development of Industry 4.0. Although Cybersyn can be considered as an early prototype and catalyst, today's exponentially greater computational power has made such systems real, and humans are often excluded from them. Human beings are also positively affected by digital transformation. Herein, the current work contributes to the ethical debate concerning the digital transformation of society.
Responsible AI and Ethical
Issues for Businesses and
Governments
Bistra Vassileva
University of Economics, Varna, Bulgaria
Moti Zwilling
Ariel University, Israel
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Names: Vassileva, Bistra, 1966- editor. | Zwilling, Moti, 1969- editor.
Title: Responsible AI and ethical issues for businesses and governments /
Bistra Vassileva and Moti Zwilling, editors.
Other titles: Responsible artificial intelligence and ethical issues for
businesses and governments
Description: Hershey, PA : Engineering Science Reference, [2021] | Includes
bibliographical references and index. | Summary: “This book is aimed at
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artificial intelligence out of the ‘narrow’ technical perspective to a
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Identifiers: LCCN 2020021023 (print) | LCCN 2020021024 (ebook) | ISBN
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Subjects: LCSH: Artificial intelligence--Moral and ethical aspects. |
Artificial intelligence--Industrial applications.
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This book is published in the IGI Global book series Advances in Human and Social Aspects of
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Chapter 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4285-9.ch005
ABSTRACT
Currently, a major topic is what changes will digitalization and the fourth industrial
revolution bring to our society. It is clear that digital transformation of society and
the introduction of new technologies will make many jobs obsolete. This process
logically leads to the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). In this respect, the
socialist project, Cybersyn, is of great interest because it constituted a prototype
of a data- and people-related idea to solve this problem. The aim was to increase
the country’s production, while counteracting rising unemployment through a
socialist paradigm, which is obviously pertinent to the development of Industry 4.0.
Although Cybersyn can be considered as an early prototype and catalyst, today’s
exponentially greater computational power has made such systems real, and humans
are often excluded from them. Human beings are also positively affected by digital
transformation. Herein, the current work contributes to the ethical debate concerning
the digital transformation of society.
What We Should Have
Learned From Cybersyn:
An Epistemological View on the
Socialist Approach of Cybersyn
in Respective of Industry 4.0
Dietmar Koering
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1390-428X
Arphenotype, Germany
Copyright © 2021, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
69
What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
INTRODUCTION
We live in a time where the digital transformation is causing a massive transformation
of life as we know it (Stowasser, 2019). Technology has converted mankind into a
real-time sensor that can measure almost everything and collect large amounts of
data (Tegmark, 2017, pp. 23-31). This leads to a new evolutionary step, as promoted
by Max Tegmark in Life 3.0 (Tegmark, 2017). In fact, this would mean that data
and humans would form a new symbiosis, in which the distinction between man and
machine would be removed. In addition Yuval Harari declares in his book Homo
Deus, that Homo Sapiens will be replaced by a new entity (Harari, 2017). If this
constitutes a desirable future is not yet clear and is ultimately up to each individual
to decide. However, this symbiosis, which has not yet occurred, is based on human-
machine relations and its evolutionary process. This addresses the ethical problem
of the relation of man and machine in the 20th Century.
An interesting difference in approaches of understanding the relation between
humans and machines has been identified by Thomas Lamarre (Lamarre, 2012).
Lamarre perceives two different types of relations of man to machine, one which
refers to Martin Heidegger and the other to Norbert Wiener. Heidegger promotes
a deconstructionist understanding of an “essence of technology” from a linguistic
perspective, which considers everything through the lens of law (as a moral view)
and being. Andreas Luckner writes that technical thinking and acting are therefore
already contradictory forms of work, to the extent that they concern making use
of available means to transcend labor (Luckner, 2008, p. 45). On the other hand,
historically, the development of more efficient machines has aimed to increase
commodification in order to make existing work more effective. Only the development
of an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) would finally succeed in the goal set
by Andreas Luckner, i.e., to overcome the labors of work. Whether or not human
beings would then achieve happiness constitutes a different question. Especially, the
definition of happiness presents challenges, as different cultures probably possess
different understandings of happiness, which leads to a general ethics problem in
developing the goals for an AGI. For further exploration of Heidegger and his ideas
about human-technical relations, please see Luckner (2008).
Norbert Wiener, however, employs a different approach. With his cybernetic
model, Wiener explores the distinction between animal and machine. This, in
the view of the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon, is dangerous as it reduces
human beings and society to a machine (Lamarre, 2012). Simondon’s contention is
probably related to a tactical mistake (Glanville, 2012) made by Norbert Wiener, who
published the book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and
the Machine (Wiener, 1948) prior to his publication of The Human Use of Human
Beings (Wiener, 1954). Ranulph Glanville assumes that if Norbert Wiener had
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
published his two books in reverse chronological order, cybernetics would be more
appropriately valued as an ethical discipline (Fischer, 2019, p. 297). On the other
hand, it is also possible that Wiener deliberately chose this order, as it was just at
the end of the 2nd World War, and people may have had no time or will to engage in
an ethical discussion of the man-machine relation. Today, we understand, however,
that ethical implications are requisite, even in war time. Nevertheless, both views are
currently important, and the boundaries between the differentiation are becoming
blurred. Indeed, both views support understanding the relation of man and machine.
It is questionable, if this is a future for human beings, we should aim for. From
the point of view of a digital utopist (Boguslaw, 1968), this enables a positive
optimization of society and industry, if a consciousness about this transition exists to
the human being. Norbert Wiener wrote in Human Use of Human beings, that “We
have modified our environment so radically that we must now modify ourselves in
order to exist in this new environment. We can no longer live in the old one. (Wiener,
1954, p. 46). Of course, we might even ask why we have to modify ourselves? In
today’s context it is not about the optimization of the body, far more it’s about the
optimization of mind, our consciousness. Adaption itself, of course, is a central
human ability, and also occurs in our interactions with software. According to Max
Tegmark, human adaption can only take place by developing knowledge, which is
expressed in the theory of Life 3.0 (Tegmark, 2017). Thomas Fischer expresses the
process in another way, stating: “In our efforts to maintain our well-being, we adapt
to given circumstances and adapt our circumstances to our needs.” (Fischer, 2019,
p. 281). Fischer also writes that, from the perspective of cybernetics, human beings
as a whole form a closed loop. Specifically, our environments, and specifically our
living conditions, make adjustments within us and we make adjustments to our
environments. We need to be aware about the changes and possibilities enabled by
the digital transformation. Hence we focus on new jobs, which won’t be replaced by
the digitalization or assists this process, to have a certain job guarantee. To master
the complexity of new data, interactive and responsive environments, as well as
new academic courses, to create knowledge for this complexity especially in urban
environments are required (Koering, 2019). The remaining questions are: Who
will steer this environment? Will it be a human or artificial general intelligence
(AGI)? Is fair participation with AGI even possible? This addresses quite clear the
ethical problem, why we as humans have to adapt to our modified environments.
Stephan Kaufmann very critically assumes in his text “Digitization, class struggle,
revolution” that digitization and Industry 4.0 are not unproblematic constraints,
but a project of those who refer to themselves. It depends on these interests, what
becomes reality and what remains only reverie. On the contrary, the workers and
wage earners in the Industry 4.0 scenarios are scheduled as dependent variables.
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
They have to adapt to the “change”. They live in the passive: their leisure time and
their work are digitized (Kaufmann, 2016, p. 2).
One early interactive and responsive environment was Cybersyn and/ with
Cyberfolk in the 1970’s, with the Opsroom (Figure 1). Even if the project could not
predict its political end and thus went under, due to the military coup, which resulted
in the dead of Allende and Cybersyn, the basic ideas from today’s perspective are
of enormous interest. Long before Industry 4.0, Cybersyn was an attempt to obtain
information directly from the production front using state-of-the-art communication
methods (Borchers, 2018, p. 77). However important is, that the decisions were
still made by human beings. The operation room had seven chairs in total, which
relates to a paper by George A. Miller with the title “The Magical Number Seven”
(Miller, 1955). Essentially, it asserts that humans are in the position to remember
seven plus or minus two “chunks” of information in short-term working memory.
Thus, Stafford Beer chose seven seats to manage the incoming data and to make
decisions in a participative way (Bonsiepe, personal communication, 2016). Things
are different nowadays and the question is, where is the human being? In an interesting
interview, Andreas Syska points out, that Industry 4.0 has been bypassed by human
beings (Syska, 2015). Quite often decision are made by algorithms, which were
of coursed programmed by human beings, but do not reflect human beings in the
decision process, which is very effective, but on the other side creates a huge ethical
problem. It leads to the fear that drives the digital transformation of the economy to
job losses is real, especially as the debate over the universal basic income (UBI) is
pursued. There is a risk that the UBI will become an industrial donation degenerating
to combat poverty (Schwartz, 2010, p. 93). If there are no real opportunities offered,
what human beings can acquire with an UBI, it won’t help the society. Far more we
can assume that also an UBI will result in higher rents, living costs, and so forth.
Hence a political action is required. Eden Medina asserts about Cybersyn that “It
was a system designed to help the state regulate the nationalized economy and raise
production without unemployment.” (Medina, 2011, p. 211). This is indeed a very
interesting quote, and is probably linked to the socialist ideas Allende, as it would
be premature to talk about the effectiveness of Cybersyn in reducing unemployment,
since the system has hardly been used (Bonsiepe, personal communication, 2019).
Unemployment was a socialist thought desired by the project but not related to
any specific policy (Espejo, personal communication, 2019). However, raising
awareness in a timely manner can eliminate the risk of unemployment by making
a career choice in advance and seeing what is needed in the future. Nevertheless,
Industry 4.0 will also offer new jobs, perhaps even jobs that we have not previously
considered. Other jobs will disappear in the near future. Additional details can be
found in an interesting study: “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
to computerisation?” (Frey & Osborne, 2013). This is due to the fact that robotics,
new ways of production, and AI will replace workers.
INDUSTRY 4.0
Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution (Schwaab, 2017) is becoming a
common term. It is interesting that the term revolution is used, as a revolution is an
uprising of the masses, which results in a regime change. As the fourth industrial
revolution is led by big global players, we can state, that this was not initiated by
the masses. This is again in line with that, what Stephan Kaufmann, also with a
socialist attitude, expressed. Maybe “Coup” would be an appropriate term, as it is
a regime change, without considering the masses, the human beings. Nevertheless
“coup” has a negative association. Quite interesting to this is, that Google initiated
an AI ethics board in 2019, which was the dissolved just one week after forming
it (Levin, 2019). But it has to be said, that the ethics board was dissolved as the
employees called for the removal due to the composition of the advisory board.
Stafford Beer has shown this already in an interesting graphic (Figure 2). Figure
2 illustrates the homeostatic relationship of data and their exploited sources. It is
critical to understand that exploitation in computer science simply means gathering
information. Indeed: “Exploitation is often negatively termed…meaning in computer
science: Gathering Information.” (Christian & Griffiths, 2016, p. 32). Hence it is
about the exploitation of the masses by the well organized global players, which
results in a class war.
Essentially for a well-organized Industry 4.0 is, that all becomes connected in
real-time; everything can be optimized and traced. Clearly, commodification also
constituted an integral part of the industrial revolution, in which the steam engine
largely replaced human labor (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014, pp. 6-7). Brynjolfsson
and McAfee extend this, however, to claim that it is even more important to have
machines that can complete cognitive tasks, and not solely physical ones (Brynjolfsson
& McAfee, 2014, p. 91). This can be observed in the current development of Smart
Cities and Industry 4.0, which are enabled by sensors that deliver massive real-time
data from their environments to augment productivity. We might then ask, when
the steam engine was replacing the muscle power, and later the computers the brain
power, what is then replaced by the Industry 4.0?
The increases of the productivity with ideally fewer resources is only possible
with Industry 4.0, which links to the concept of the IoT and Industry 4.0 (Nascimento
Marques Junior, 2018) or the “Industrial Internet” (Evans & Annunziata, 2012),
which has its roots in computerized manufacturing processes, or maybe even in
Cybersyn (Clancey, 2017). It describes conscious production methods enabled
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
through networks, e.g., the “smart” factory. But while we talk about ethics, we need
to admit that ethics is something, which needs a brain, a brain has intelligence and
therewith consciousness. But we do not know, how consciousness is generated or can
be expressed in an algorithm, or when AGI or Singularity will happen. Hence how is
it possible then to speak about conscious production methods, if we not link human
beings as main driver to this, something what has been already done in Cybersyn?
The nine pillars for the fourth industrial revolution are Big Data, Autonomous
Robots, Simulation, System Integration, Internet of things, Cloud Computing,
Additive Manufacturing, Augmented Reality and Cyber Security (Erboz, 2017).
These pillars create a new complexity, which need to be managed in control-rooms, as
these control-rooms somehow offer the possibilities of control and steering processes
by human beings, as humans should be the most important part to these systems;
maybe the human being presents the architrave, which is resting on theses pillars.
CYBERSYN
The Project Cybersyn (Figure 3) was one of the first, if not the first, digital decision
support system. Furthermore, it was a rare project that combined social responsibility,
novel technologies, and design (Bonsiepe, 2009, pp. 35-62) realized in 1970 to 1973.
Theoretically, the project was far more advanced than the resources of a peripheral
country allowed at that time, especially in a period of political confrontation, when
the government’s political project was directed against geopolitical hegemonic
interests, which then regained their upper hand as part of a military coup. Also
important in the debate over the theoretical background of Cybersyn was the thesis
of the physician and neurologist Ross Ashby about the requisite variety, which states
that a system to survive must produce a larger variety than the environment from
which disturbances emanate (Bonsiepe, personal communication, 2016). It can be
seen as a version of a “proto-internet”, an interactive and responsive environment.
The common English name was Cybersyn, while the Spanish title of the project
was SYNCO, as Cybersyn was not euphonic in the Spanish language. Actually,
Cybersyn referred to a computer system that was connected to a network of telex
and radio connections, termed “Cybernet” (Pias, 2007). Cybernet, was supposed to
transmit daily the production figures from the nationalized companies in the six main
sectors of Chile (energy, steel, copper, petrochemical, fishing and transport) to the
headquarters. The data should be fed to the Cyberstride software and calculated in
simulations to detect delivery bottlenecks and other issues early on. Another module
called Cyberfolk was planned (Espejo, 2017, p. 43), where the Chileans, workers
and employees report on terminals with their own happiness in real-time with the
government (Medina, 2011, p. 89), production and distribution ideas (Borchers, 2018,
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
p. 77). Cyberfolk ideas were tested as part of INTEC’s (the Institute for Scientific
and Technological Development) contribution to the Project Cybersyn. Stafford’s
son, Simon Beer, designed the electronics of the Algedonometer. A group of the
Cybersyn team had a weekly meeting to discuss longer term developments of the
Cyberfolk project. Raul Espejo asserts, that: “These electronics were tested in a
couple of these meetings, one I remember well with Heinz von Foerster, in which
us, the participants had a small device with a knob in our laps which we could
individually move in a positive or negative direction, to express our views about
the progress with the speaker’s talk.” (Espejo, personal communication, 2019).
The idea was, that the speaker could see the integration of the individual ‘votes
(positions) in a device in the front of the room, which naturally was seen by the
team, the observer and by the speaker at the same time. This was the most concrete
design the team had at that time of an Algedonometer. Nevertheless, the idea of
Cyberfolk to include peoples insights in real-time, shows again, that the people are
bypassed in the fourth industrial revolution; human being became an accessories.
This shows, how advanced the idea of an democratic governance already was. If
we compare this to the latest judgment by the European Court that companies must
systematically record working hours (Feldforth, 2019), it is obvious, that we need an
ethical discourse about the inclusion of the people. However, this judgement links
directly to Frederick Winsor Taylor, the founder of ergonomics. The aim of Taylor
was to identify the “best way” of performing a work step in order to make the work
measurable and to ensure machine-like, error-free, and efficient execution (Hessler,
2014). Human labor became, though Taylor’s work, measurable and therewith
humans could be “optimized” and perhaps even replaced by the usage of machines.
Martina Hessler further notes that knowledge was transcribed and thus made into
an objectified form of the individual body, whereby the workers were, to a certain
extent, living machines. Hence, the idea was born already with Cyberfolk, but with
a human friendly attitude, as it was about the democratic inclusion of the people,
which was in addition also important for Allende (Espejo, 2017, p. 42).
The project Cybersyn was initiated under the Chilean President, Salvador
Allende, with an socialist ideology1. It was managed by Fernando Flores, who was
the political director, Raul Espejo as technical director and the British cybernetician
Stafford Beer, who was the scientific director. The main discussion between Beer
and Allende was about how such a cybernetic system would enable control. For
Beer it was about the possibility which would enable Allende to take decisions,
while for Allende this higher “stage” of the system was clearly for the people, as
it was implicit to the socialist ideology of Allende. Having Stafford Beer as a lead
scientist on the project probably relates to his book “Decision and Control – The
meaning of Operational Research and Management Cybernetics” published in
1966 (Beer, 1966). In this book, Beer describes cybernetic systems to analyze
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
inventory systems in order to reach optimal decisions and to handle large complex
and hazardous situations that might arise in industry, government, and business
environments. Hence the idea was, to manage and steer the production, somehow
close to the idea of Industry 4.0, but decades earlier. These keywords for a project
in 1973 demonstrates further the actual link to today’s Big Data debate and IoT. It
is obvious that the digital transformation will change the environment - and there is
a well-founded fear of high unemployment. Industry 4.0 does not contradict this, it
is more about creating a basic income to overcome this problem. Hence we need to
discuss the role of human being in this environment. The role of being in interactive
and responsive environments alongside algorithms.
Cybersyn ended after three years on 11 September 1973, as Allende’s regime was
overthrown. The new installed dictator Pinochet did not need real-time centralized
planning or to monitor the moods of citizens. However, Beer had already noted the
importance of this project, stating that: “…information is a national resource” (Beer
in Morozov, 2014). With this estimation, Beer was ahead of his time, examining the
actual context and ownership of data, as well as the open data policies of certain
cities. Here, we have to agree with Morozov regarding his question about the means
of data production that cannot be reduced to its technological dimensions.2 Georg
Jochum frames it quite nicely, by asserting that “In view of the further development of
cybernetic technologies, his (Stafford Beer) project of emancipatory cybernetics could
not only be feasible, but even made necessary to prevent the triumph of cybernetic
capitalism which comes along with the digital despotism.” (Jochum, 2017, p. 543).
CONCLUSION
While Cybersyn was designed to regulate the economy and raise production in
accordance with socialist ideology, Industry 4.0 increases production in accordance
with a capitalist ideology. The key aim of Industry 4.0 is to free human beings from
processes in which computers can make faster and better decisions in production
and elsewhere. Of course, this new situation automatically results in massive
unemployment. Interestingly, Cybersyn held quite the opposite ideology, in which
human beings constituted the central part of Cybersyn. Specifically, decisions were
made by people in a participative manner, and not by algorithms. The problem of
rising unemployment cannot be effectively addressed by Cybersyn, as the project
ended relatively quickly. In addition, in the socialist approach, a core goal is the
prevention of unemployment. Currently, the issue of widespread unemployment
due to digitalization is addressed with UBI. Consequently, Cybersyn, Cyberfolk,
and the democratic inclusion of people is instructive, since a basic income does
not solve the problem, but only constitutes a transitionary state. In fact, interactive
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What We Should Have Learned From Cybersyn
and responsive environments are requisite, which are steered by human beings, to
understand the complexity of today’s manufacturing practices under the conditions
of Industry 4.0 in terms of the impact on our environments and the way that we,
as human beings, participate in an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven transition.
A fear recently exists that human beings are bypassed by this transition, and we
live along-side algorithms. In other words, human beings have lost control over
their lives and critical societal processes. The issue of what kind of control can be
enabled by Cybersyn forms the primary discussion between Allende and Beer. This
also constitutes an ethically significant debate, as digital transformation will affect
our everyday lives and environments. Interactive and responsive environments are
certainly necessary in order to receive qualitative benefits from digitization, but
humans must be the objects of focus, and not only what AI enables humans to
accomplish. Especially, scientists are tasked to develop and implement a universal
code of ethics. Although this issue presents a wicked problem, a great need exists
to begin a fruitful debate.
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ENDNOTES
1 Which of course contradicts the ideology of Industry 4.0, and maybe it might
not be even fair, to compare Cybersyn to Industry 4.0, as they have different
roots.
2 Information regarding SYNCO and its theoretical foundations relates to personal
communication with the interface designer, Gui Bonsiepe, in March 2016 and
onwards. Also relevant is the essay by Gui Bonsiepe, “Der Opsroom – zum
Eigensinn der Peripherie.”
... Through this stigmergic coordination, 31,32 the Blockchain becomes both the infrastructure but also the neural system for the architectural design process providing a robust system for governing the design, construction and operation of buildings. 33 It further allows the development and implementation of new business models for architectural and computational designers. ...
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Cybernetic Argument for Democratic Governance: Cybersyn and Cyberfolk
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