Soviet Cybernetics – Red Plenty

Myth of the 20th Century

“Cybernetics attempts to find the common elements in the functioning of automatic machines and of the human nervous system, and to develop a theory which will cover the entire field of control and communication in machines and living organisms.” -Dr. Norbert Wiener writing in The Scientific American. Taken slightly less literally, in communist Russia, central planners sought to do just that. By describing the sprawling Soviet economy as a unified set of equations, all sharing a set of inputs and outputs, they believed they could efficiently plan and organize production to catch up and overtake their capitalist rivals. For a while, it appeared to be working, with annual increases in GDP surpassing all Western nations in the 1950s and 60s. By the 1970s, however, diminishing returns had clearly set in, with even admitted growth rates plummeting, leading to the USSR swallowing its pride and importing grain from America, saved arguably…

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