Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Cybernetics and Systems Theory

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Cybernetics and Systems Theory (Lawrence Greer)[edit]

Cybernetics is a systems theory which describes the behavior of intelligent systems as a loop. First an action is taken with the intention of furthering progress towards a goal. Then the system observes and evaluates the impact that its action actually had towards achieving its goal. The system then chooses the next action to perform, self-correcting as needed in order to accomplish its chosen goal. Though it started primarily as an analysis of communication in war scenarios during the 1950’s, its use has since been spread to examining games, healthcare, social systems, and even biological systems.

One aspect of this theory which I find particularly interesting is that the loop focuses on working towards a known and chosen goal. I’m curious as to whether or not the goal of an intelligent system could be determined through the study of its actions and self-corrections. If so, then this could prove to be a very useful tool, and help reduce self-reporting bias in some research. For example, say you are trying to do research to see how important it was to Americans to highly invest in public education. If people were to report this as the most important issue to them in polls, but not choose to self-correct actions towards this goal (Perhaps measured by the education decisions of the politicians they vote for, how they vote on taxes which would support schools, views on education reforms, etc.) then researchers might conclude that education is not actually as important to Americans as they self-report in polls. Research could show what a given society truly does consider as its key goals which it is steering towards, and trying to reach equilibrium with, versus what individuals self-report as goals.