On 2 November 2016, the Cyber Studies Programme hosted Colin Williams for a Lunch Seminar on the “Human Story of Cybernetics”, chaired by Dr Lucas Kello. Colin is the Director of Software Box Ltd and an Honorary Fellow at University of Warwick.
The seminar discussed the concepts of “cybernetics” and the “cyber” world that came into being during the mid-twentieth century and how they evolved to become the definitional and transformative contexts for contemporary human interactions. In elaborating these concepts, Colin drew insights and perspectives from a wide range of thinkers from the period between the 1940s and 1970s – including individuals such as Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, and Claude Shannon. Collin encouraged the audience to reflect critically about the varied and sometimes divided intellectual environment out of which the modern Internet emerged. He noted that core insights from early thinking about the differences, similarities, and interactions between humans and machines are today commonly neglected. Colin argued strongly against technological determinism; rather, he contended that humanity’s fate in an era of increasing “artificial intelligence” will be determined by elementally human choices and actions. Other topics that the seminar discussed were machine consciousness, the existence (or not) of a “cyber-physical” boundary, and the “Second Crypto War.”