Extracts from Norbert Wiener's

"Cybernetics" ( MIT 1948 )

[belling the cat]

Community as a product of intercommunications: animals may have an active, intelligent flexible means of communication long before the development of language. Whatever means of communication the race may have, it is possible to define and to measure the amount of information available to the race and to distinguish it from the amount of information available to the individual. Certainly no information available to the individual is also available to the race unless it modifies the behaviour of one individual to another, nor is even that behaviour of racial significance unless it is distinguishable by other individuals from other forms of behaviour. Thus the question as to whether a certain piece of information is racial or of a purely private availability depends on whether it results in the individual assuming a form of activity which can be recognised as a distinct form of activity by other members of the race, in the sense that it will in turn affect their activity, and so on.
  Decision-making & autonomy:

It is possible to give a sort of measure to this by comparing the number of decisions entering a group from outside with the number of decisions made by the group. We can thus measure the autonomy of the group. A measure of the effective size of a group is given by the size which it must have to have achieved a certain stated degree of autonomy. Extent of the community: I have spoken of the race. This is really too broad a term for the scope of most communal information. Properly speaking, the community extends only so far as there extends an effectual transmission of information. A group may have more group information or less group information than its members. A group of non-social animals, temporarily assembled, contains very little group information, even though its members may possess much information as individuals. This is because very little that one member does is noticed by the others and is acted on them in a way that goes further in the group......... (There is no necessary relation in either direction between the amount of racial or tribal or community information and the amount of information available to the individual).
  Communications in healthy small communities:

In a small rural community which has been running long enough to have developed somewhat uniform levels of knowledge-intelligence and behaviour, there is a very respectable standard of care for the unfortunate, of administration of roads and other public facilities, of tolerance for those who have offended once or twice against society. After all these people are there, and the rest of the community must continue to live with them..... Small closely knot communities have a very considerable measure of homeostasis; and this, whether they are highly literate communities in a civilised country or villages of primitive savages......
  Communications and The State:

..... In connection with the effective amount of communal information, one of the most surprising facts about the body politic is its extreme lack of efficient homeostatic processes. There is a belief, current in many countries, which has been elevated to the rank of an official article of faith in the United States, that free competition is itself a homeostatic process: that in a free market the individual selfishness of the bargainers, each seeking to sell as high and buy as low as possible, will result in the end in a stable dynamics of prices, and with redound to the greatest common good. This is associated with the very comforting view that the individual entrepreneur, in seeking to forward his own interest, is in some manner a public benefactor and has thus earned the great rewards with which society has showered him. Unfortunately, the evidence, such as it is, is against this simple-minded theory.
  Games Theory and The Market:

The market is a game......strictly subject to the general theory of games, developed by von Neumann and Morgenstern.....the individual players are compelled by their own cupidity to form coalitions; but these coalitions do not generally establish themselves in any single, determinant way, and usually terminate in a welter of betrayal, turncoatism, and deception, which is only too true a picture of the higher business life, or the closely related lives of politics, diplomacy, and war. In the long run, even the most brilliant and unprincipled hucksters become tired of this and agree to live in peace with one another, and the great rewards are then reserved for the one who watches for an opportune time to break his agreement and betray his companions. There is no homeostasis whatever. We are unwilling spectators to the business cycles of boom and failure, in the successions of dictatorships and revolution, in the wars which everyone looses, which are so real a feature of modern times. (Naturally, von Neumann's picture of the player as a completely intelligent, completely ruthless person is an abstraction and a perversion of the facts. It is rare to find a large number of thoroughly clever and unprincipled persons playing a game together).
Corruption of The Media:

Where the knaves assemble, there will always be fools; and where the fools are present in sufficient numbers, they offer a more profitable object of exploitation for the knaves. The psychology of the fools has become a subject well worth the serious attention of knaves. Instead of looking out for his own ultimate interest, after the fashion of von Neumann's gamesters, the fool operates in a manner which, by and large, is as predictable as the struggles of a rat in a maze. - "This" policy of lies (or rather, of statements irrelevant to the truth) will make him buy a particular brand of cigarettes; - "That" policy will (or so the party hopes) will induce him to vote for a particular candidate (any candidate) or to join in a political witch hunt. - A certain precise mixture of religion, pornography and pseudo science will sell an illustrated newspaper - A certain blend of wheedling, bribery, and intimidation will induce a young scientist to work on guided missiles or the atomic bomb..... To determine these, they have their machinery of popular fan ratings, straw votes, opinion samplings and other psychological investigations with the common man as their object.......
Importance of non-commercial media:

Luckily for us, these merchants of lies, these exploiters of gullibility, have not yet arrived at such a pitch of perfection as to have things all their own way. This is because no one is either all fool or all knave. The average person is quite reasonably intelligent concerning subjects which come to his direct attention and quite reasonably altruistic in matters of public benefit or private suffering which are brought before his own eyes.  It is only in the large community, where the Lords of Things as They Are protect themselves from hunger by wealth, from public opinion by privacy and anonymity, from private criticism by the laws of libel and the possession of the means of communication, that ruthlessness can reach its most sublime levels.

Of all anti-homeostatic factors in society, the sociopathic control by business of the means of communication is the most effective and most important. One of the lessons of the present book is that: "Any social structure is held together by the possession of means for the acquisition, use, retention and transmission of information". In a society too large for the direct contact of its members, these means are the press, radio, telephone, posts, the theatre, television, the movies, school and church....
Existing Local media:

Besides their intrinsic importance as means of communication, each of the above serves other, secondary functions. The newspaper is a vehicle for advertising and an instrument of monetary gain for the proprietor as are movies and the radio...... In a society like ours, avowedly based on buying and selling, in which all natural and human resources are regarded as the absolute property of the first businessman enterprising enough to exploit them, these secondary aspects of the means of communication tend to encroach further and further on the primary ones. This is aided by the very elaboration and the consequence expense of the means themselves.... The local paper may continue to use its own reporters to canvass the villages around for gossip, but it buys its national news, its syndicated features, its political opinions as stereotyped "boiler plate"...... The great news services cost too much to be available to the publisher of moderate means.....
The Problem:

.....A triple constriction of the means of communication: the elimination of the less profitable means in favour of the more profitable; the fact that these means are in the hands of the very limited class of wealthy men, and thus naturally express the opinions of that class; and the further fact that, as one of the chief avenues to political and personal power, they attract above all those ambitious for such power.

That system which more than all others should contribute to social homeostasis is thrown directly into the hands of those most concerned in the game of power and money, which as we have already seen to be one of the chief anti-homeostatic elements in the community. It is no wonder then that the larger communities, subject to this disruptive influence, contain far less communally available information than the smaller communities.....
False Optimism:

There is a group who see nothing good in the anarchy of modern society, and in whom an optimistic feeling that there must be some way out has led to an over evaluation of the possible homeostatic elements in the community. Much as we may sympathize with these individuals and appreciate the emotional dilemma in which they find themselves, we cannot attribute too much value to this type of wishfull thinking...... It is the mode of thought of the mice when faced with the problem of belling the cat. Undoubtedly it would be very pleasant for us mice if the predatory cats of the world were to be belled, but - who is going to do it? Who is to assure us that ruthless power will not find its way back into the hands of those most avid for it? I mention this matter because of the considerable, and I think false, hopes which some of my friends have built for the social efficacy of whatever new ways of thinking this book may contain. They are certain that our control over our material environment has far outgrown our control over our social environment and our understanding thereof. Therefore they consider that the main task of the immediate future is to extend to the fields of anthropology, of sociology, of economics, the methods of the natural sciences, in the hope of achieving a like measure of success in the social fields. From believing this necessary, they come to believe it possible. In this, I maintain they show an excessive optimism........
 Extracts from Norbert Wiener's * "Cybernetics" ( MIT 1948 )

* The inventor of the term "Cybernetics".