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

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In this posting, I chose to describe Weiner’s Cybernetics theory. This theory focuses more on the function of a system than the sum of the system’s parts. It is primarily concerned with whether the system is functioning to meet the identified goal of the system.

In cybernetics, a system uses feedback to determine whether or not the system is meeting the goals of the system. For cybernetics to be effective, the system must have pre-identified goals that will determine whether the system is working correctly or is on the right path to meet the goal of the system. If the system receives feedback that matches the system’s goals, the system will keep functioning as it is currently. However, if the system receives feedback that doesn’t match the system’s goals, the system will change its functionality to correct for the feedback that it has received. The goal of cybernetics is to regulate the system’s function to meet the system’s goal. According to Weiner, cybernetics is a part of every intelligent system. The distinction is made between all systems and intelligent systems since there must be a way for the system itself to determine whether or not the system is on the correct path to meet the goal of the system.

As I initially learned about Weiner’s cybernetics theory, I imagined robots programmed with complex software systems. If a robot ran into a wall, it would use the resistance from the wall as feedback. Due to that feedback, the robot would change its action so that it could still meet the goal of going into the next room. The robot would back up, change directions, and attempt to meet the goal again pending feedback that doesn’t meet the goal of the robot’s system.

The more I think about Weiner’s cybernetics theory; I am able to see the theory applicable to every day life. For example, as I sit here writing, I am continuously being interrupted by my 9 week old puppy. While I wouldn’t call him an intelligent system in any other context, he is exhibiting the theory of cybernetics. He is consistently testing everything around him and changing his actions based on feedback that he receives. For example, when he starts chewing on the couch and receives a scolding and a tap on the nose as feedback, he changes his behavior to discontinue chewing on the couch. We then repeated the same process with the living room chair, dining room table, kitchen cabinets, etc.

Although the cybernetics theory was introduced to me in this HCI course, I think applications for this theory could be interdisciplinary. This theory could be a key piece in work done in the English department by implementing it in training programs and user guides. As foreshadowed by my puppy example above, this theory could also be a key aspect of human/animal social development. This theory should be considered when creating and addressing intelligent systems in every field.