Talk:Project Cybersyn

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The link to the picture of the operations room, hosted at MIT, does not work.

It's a homepage of Eden Miller at MIT. Hope it will become operational again. Samohyl Jan 20:27, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Star-Trek-like control room[edit]

Digression concerning the subject of the article and not the article itself

This is hilarious! How crazy that someone could think the government could plan the economy better than the market! A computerized Star-Trek-like control room?? LOL. Rocket Socket 07:41, 5 August 2007 (UTC)

Not so funny when you realize the Viable System Model because of its recursive System 4 represents an exhaustive heuristic with measurable autonomy of its co-operating parts. The existing highly (mis)regulated so-called free market is a joke of random waste by comparison. "Free Market? Nice idea. We should try it some time" possibly said by Noam Chomsky. Back to your PC sockpuppet and assert your autonomy! The cyberspace revolution has only just begun.--Nick Green 07:53, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
How would you determine what, for example, the rate of inflation is, through this system? or the actual level of demand for goods? how do you decide when to introduce new processes and technologies? how do you create totally new ideas? there seems to be a danger of having the *feeling* that you are in control, when in fact of course, you have only the illusion of control, and in fact, the effort to achieve control stifles the economy. Toby Douglass 16:55, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Well and how do the private companies (which are mostly top-level planned) do those things in capitalism? Both "free market" and state-controlled economies have their failure cases. Anyway, let's end this discussion, talk page should discuss the article, not the subject. Samohyl Jan 18:25, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
The way the market system works is if the price of a class of goods goes up because of higher consumer demand then that signals a profit opportunity. That encourages businesses to increase productions of those goods in order to take advantage of the higher prices that consumers are willing to pay. But since they increase production, that causes prices to come back lower again. The consumers are happy because they have more of what they want and the price has gone down. Businesses then search for other classes of goods that consumers are willing to pay high prices, and the process repeats. The same thing happens in reverse when prices go down. It causes decreased production so that resources can applied somewhere else toward what is more in demand. It's an automatic decentralized control system that balances supply and demand that no one even has to think about it. It just works automatically. The idea that a government could balance supply and demand through decree is ludicrous. It's truly funny for anyone who understands how markets work. The idea is from a bygone era. Rocket Socket 21:28, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
Private companies are top-level planned? what do you mean? do you mean to say that are approximately equivelent to a State run entity? Toby Douglass 20:59, 25 August 2007 (UTC)
And the planned economy works through voting: people vote on what commodities do they want to be produced. They vote by their rights, not by their money as in case of market economy. For example, they can decide that residential appartment building is more necessary than for example, luxury cars.--Dojarca 09:42, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
I could be wrong, but I think your view in this matter is idyllic. In practise, States where political power is decentralised do not centralise economic power, and States where political power is centralised, centralise economic power. Such States are inherently poor at respecting what people want and rather tend very much to do what politicans want. Moreover, voting with rights is utterly unresponsive in comparasion to market forces. How does one vote with ones rights for wanting more variety of shoes? or a second car? how does the State respond to me, one of millions, when I decide I want a better matress? must I register my wishes in all matters with the State so it knows? and what happens when the State decides that what I want isn't important? *how do I know the State has made the right choice in a proper manner?* and what happens when what people vote for with their rights conflicts with what other people vote for with their rights? and why should I have a nice new apartment, because I want it with my rights, when someone else wants a nice new apartment? the whole thing is utterly unjust, because it stops people getting what they have worked for. Toby Douglass 20:59, 25 August 2007 (UTC)
If the state is governed democratically, its decisions connot be independent from people's wishes. And of course the desision is determined by majority, so if one group of people wants to wear better shoes and the other says they want more houses to be built (or to build a space station), the outcome is desided by what wants the majority. Of course someone could suggest a compromise plan. Unlike market economy where a tiny number of rich people trigger the market to produce luxury because they have money while greather number of people suffer from (for example) poor housing, in planned economy luxury will not be produced until the majority wants it. So only when basic needs of the majority are met, they could probably decide to produce luxury. And people vote for their representatives who approve the plan.--Dojarca 15:20, 26 August 2007 (UTC)
As long as their is a profit to be made in providing cheap shelter, as their always is, that will be done. There is no shortage of cheap shelter in economies that are closer to the market ideal. Price signals are the mechanism for determining when consumers preferences change. Profit is the basic motivation behind production. The general human nature is that people are not willing to regularly produce anything unless they can profit from it. So you have a choice between a voluntary system and one where people are forced to do things, which is what a planned economy is.
Production is produced by employees in both cases, who are paid for their work. And profit in market economies goes to shareholders, who are generally not those who produce goods.--Dojarca 09:49, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
When people are forced to produce, buy, and sell things instead of relying on the profit and price system, it's basically going to be trial and error and very inefficient. That's because there is no dynamic real-time indicators of where to increase production, where to decrease it, when consumers should conserve (gas for example) because prices are going up, and so on. There is little chance of a planning agency to be able to gauge all these things. That's why planned economies are highly inefficient and inevitably collapse, because people can't stand living under them and having to endure food shortages, and so on. History proves that markets work better than central planning. I honestly can't believe we're having this conversation. Rocket Socket 05:50, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
You're right, but this is a matter of back-reaction. Any economy works well when there is a well-established back-raction. A good-working planned economy should also have good back-reaction. The difference however is not in that planned economy does not have back-reaction, but in that the nature of back-reaction is different. Back-reaction in planned economy works through representative bodies or other political way (although a planning body can perform their own research of consumers' wishes). But you're not right saying that there is no shortage in cheap shelter in market economies. Consider for example African countries and also note that some percent of homeless persons exists even in European countries.--Dojarca 09:49, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Actually, planned economies are common components of capitalist society - almost every private company is driven by top-down model, where it is decided on the top what will be produced and how are the resources and employees allocated, and then the plan is carried out by the employees. Sure, what will be produced depends on market, but this is a different market - analogous to international market in the case of state planned economy. If this is ineffective, why don't private companies use internal markets then? I believe the main reason why planned economy is (wrongly) considered ineffective is because it's associated with centralization of the economy and totalitarian societies. I don't believe actual method of decision-making (price signals vs. voting) makes much difference - what makes difference is how free and egalitarian the society is. In the so-called "communist" states of Eastern bloc, only a small elite group had the power and monopoly for production, and that's why it was inefficient. Samohyl Jan 15:08, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
A company or individual planning its own production is not a planned economy. A planned economy is the act of controlling someone ELSE, not yourself. In a non-planned economy, a business plans its OWN actions. A business doesn't plan other business and therefore the whole economy. As to voting, if you own your own business and it's required of you that you produce what the public votes for then that is not a "free" society. In a free society that decision is left to the voluntary decision of owners based on any criteria they want. A free society has to have freedom of choice. When you prevent freedom of choice is when you start introducing inefficiency into a society. Rocket Socket 16:30, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Any business controlls its own subsidiaries and plants and requires them to produce what the business owner wants. There is no freedom for a worker or plant manager to decide what production he wants to produce. Just the same with planned economy: the state decides what it wants to produce on state-owned plants. The freedom of choice though still exists but the choice is made by other people and is based on other criteria. It is not an invisible hand of market which directs the choice but people's representatives assembled to decide primary economic goals.--Dojarca 17:41, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
There is no freedom for the "worker" to decide what he wants to produce because he doesn't own the business. That's what I'm saying. Owners are not dictated to from others. They decide what to produce and in what quantities. If you force someone to do something other than what they want to do with their own property, that's not a free society. A worker who does not own a machine is free to do what he wants to do with his own body. He himself is guided by the price system. As wages rise in certain industries due to consumer demands changing, he changes jobs to take advantage of the higher wages. As consumer demand is satisified wages start getting lower, and he looks for new industries to get a job in. This is all guided by prices at the individual level. This can't be accomplished with votes, much less is voting for what other people do with their own property consistent with freedom. Rocket Socket 18:05, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Planned economy also does not dictate you what to do with your own body or property. The state just decides what to produce on state owned plants just as any business owner does. But it seems you dont really understand how market economy works. When consumer demands are satisfied in a market sphere, wages do not go down. The business owner simply receives lower profit. If he decides to lieve the market, the employees will get discharged, and if he decides to maintain production, the wages will remain the same. So it is not workers' decision to drop production based on low wages, it is business owner's decision based on low profits.--Dojarca 18:34, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Wages certainly do go down with decreasing demand for labor, and up with increasing demand. Wages vary across industries based on demand for those kinds of labor, which is in turn determined by consumer demand for what is being produced. And yes profits go down to, which means businesses will start closing down, investments will start being pulled out, and then applied to higher demand areas. So you're talking about "state owned plants." I was assuming we were talking about privately owned business directed by the state. Still that is not consistent with freedom if people are not allowed to own their own businesses. In a free society, anyone is free to start a business and not have it confiscated by the state. Rocket Socket 18:40, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Well imagine you're in the USSR something in 1960s-1970s. You want to make business. You need office, but there is no office for rent. You cannot use your flat for business because it makes troubles to your neighbour and prohibited even now. You need machinery, but there is no machinery for sale. What you can do? You can make a brigade of workers and reconstruct buildings in countryside. This was not prohibited. You can collect fruits from your small garden and sell them - this was not prohibited. You can make some handycrafts, such as small things out of wood and sell them. You can become a painter, actor, singer, dancer, writer and work by individual contract. You can put money on to your bank account and collect interest. But you cannot collect your salary and buy an oil refinary or automobile plant and become a tycoon. Because there is no oil refinary and auto plant for sale, not just because you're prohibited to buy.--Dojarca (talk) 02:07, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
In "Fanfare for Effective Freedom", Beer states that the problem it's sort of solved using the Bayesian Forecasting method, the system show the probabilities for some cause-effect relations, to predict demand, social behavior and that kind of stuff.-- (talk) 02:09, 3 July 2010 (UTC)

Comment by[edit]

I can't understand how people believe this crap. I mean Chilean economy was devastated by the time and there was no way to finance such project, in that case why didn't England have it even before Chile did or how is it possible that after the coup the Army didn't continue using such networks to improve the destroyed national economy, and in third place where are all of those 500 computers placed in factories?? what they misteriously dissapeared??? Come on give me a break!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:52, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

It wasn't 500 computers, it was 500 teleprinters (much simpler device). And maybe improving the economy wasn't in their interest immediately after the coup. For example, in my country, large part of secret service archives was destroyed immediately after the Velvet revolution. It also wasn't in the citizens interest, but it still happened. Samohyl Jan (talk) 03:12, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Had you actually researched into it in ANY way, you would have found out that they destroyed the systems because they considered them "tools of communist Big Brother style attitudes", despite the fact the decices did absolutely nothing of the type. They destroyed an amazing design and brilliant inovation over typical red scare ignorance and violent stupidity. Trying to claim "it never happened" doesn't work when the irrefutable facts show otherwise. (talk) 10:50, 2 January 2011 (UTC) Sutter Cane


There is a Spanish page es:Cybersyn, some of it might be useful for this article. There is a bad partial translation below. - Francis Tyers · 19:52, 27 July 2008 (UTC)


In 1971 during the government of president Salvador Allende, an the development of an innovative cybernetic system of management and information transfer was started. The project was called CYBERSYN, cybernetic synergy, or SYNCO, system of information and control. In the socially owned companies of the Chilean state, a system of transfer of information related to the economy was set up in "almost" real-time with the government.

After the nationalisation of various socially owned companies by the state, the economic system of the Allende government was put to the task of co-ordinating the information of the existing state enterprises and those which had been recently nationalised. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to create a flexible and dynamic system of information transfer.

In 1970, Fernando Flores was appointed General Technical Director of CORFO (Corporation for the Development* of the Production of Chile). He started to be responsible for the management and co-ordination between the nationalised companies and the state. He knew of the theories and proposed solutions by the Englishman Stafford Beer from the time when he was a student of engineering, and afterwards by his professional relationship with Stafford Beer's consulting firm SIGMA. Along with Raúl Espejo, who also worked in CORFO and was previously the operational director of the project, he wrote a letter to Stafford Beer with the idea of inviting him to implement the VSM (Viable System Model) in Chile, this model was described in his book "THE BRAIN OF THE FORM (Allen Lane, London, 1972). Beer accepted the proposal and the project started development in 1971.

After almost two years of work and of unimaginable advances, the project of cybernetic government was approved by president Allende for implementation in the Palacio La Moneda.

As a result of the coup d'état of the 11th September 1973, Cybersyn or Synco was never applied and was completely abandoned, ending one of the most advanced political and cybernetic projects of that time in the world.


Cybernet was a visionary communication network between companies and the government; possibly the first of its kind in the world.

It consisted of a network of TELEX machines in various large factories in Chile. This process was started in the November of 1971. The engineer, ex-sailor and translator for Stafford Beer, Roberto Cañete who already had experience with communications networks was in charge of the co-ordination of this network.

Nevertheless, the transfer applications still depended on archaic systems of information processing. The information was transmitted once per day by the companies to the ECOM centre. This information was then processed by engineers led by Isaquino Benadof and sent to the users. This process formed the base of the implementation of one of the first systems of real-time economic information transfer in Chile using an uneditted cybernetic system.


Cyberstride was the name of the software designed for the Cybersyn project. Its purpose was to process the information which arrived from the companies in order to transform in predefined variables and generate reports in "almost real-time" and for exception. The information was sent and received by the companies by means of TELEX and processed by an IBM 360 mainframe. The proposal was to send the reports to those who could make decisions about them, in particular the administrators or managers of the companies. The information collected by the companies was sent to the administrators of CORFO and the operations room in a simple understood format. In order to identify the variations which reflected daily, Bayesian statistics were used by the companies, in particular the use of the Harrison-Stevens model was used, defining their activities with amplifiers, filters and pre-determined forms for "normality", "alert" and "crisis", creating a dynamic prospective model which anticipated possible crises, helping to implement solutions before they occurred.

The software was developed by the team of Computation and Information Company of Chile (Empresa de Computación e Informática de Chile, ECOM) along with the English arm of Arthur Andersen. Isaquino Benadof, director in in the area of research and development at ECOM took charge of the project. During the development of Cybersyn, Espejo travelled to England in order to negotiate the contribution of Arthur Andersen, and Benadof visited the United States and Canada in order to investigate and improve the system. Nevertheless, Cyberstride was only ever applied in a pilot stage, leaving one of the principal technical iniciatives of the project Cybersyn unfulfilled. It could have been an information transfer model created in Chile similar to the Internet.


The 'Viable System Model' (VSM) was developed by Stafford Beer and guided the implementation of the CYBERSYN project. It had three basic components which allowed for the management of dynamic processes:

  • The environment of the organisation
  • The operation
  • The administration

VSM is a structural model of any viable system. A viable system is any system organised that unites the demands of survival in a changing environment. One of the primary characteristics of the systems which survive is that they are adaptable to environmental conditions.

El VSM es un modelo de la estructura de cualquier sistema viable. Un sistema viable es cualquier sistema organizado que reúna las demandas de supervivencia en un ambiente cambiante. Una de las características primarias de los sistemas que sobreviven es que son adaptables a las condiciones ambientales.

Cybernetic components of the VSM

The components of a viable system are five subsystems which work reciprocally and which can be identified by the various aspects of the structure of each organisation.

New York Times article[edit]

This New York Times' piece has additional information that I think should be included in the main article.Ulises (talk) 15:57, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

successful system?[edit]

Does anyone have any information regarding if the system was successful before it was destroyed? People use this example on both sides of the argument for system design. Jonpatterns (talk) 16:51, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Medina's book is (IMHO) pretty balanced about this. To try and summarize, the first component that was particularly effective was the messaging network, most obviously showing its value in bypassing the striking truckers in the businessmen's strike. However, the state did not have capital to get more computers, so the network was a lot more primitive than they intended. Instead of realtime economic management, it became, in effect, once-daily management, weakening the economic planning and regulation component. Beer and the Cybersyn team also struggled with getting the interventors (state managers) to report the raw data the economic part used, further slowing the system. Medina provides an example of a factory needing concrete, the manager manually noticing and then driving to a plant providing this, and when getting back, receiving a report from Cybersyn that concrete was needed.
The Cybersyn system also lacked enforcement. Again Medina gives an example: if some factory needed goods from another, Cybersyn could find this out (if the interventors input the data), but it could not ensure the shipment would not be hijacked or destroyed en route.
So to be brief: the networking part worked well. The economic part did work to some degree, but it's hard to tell whether it would have scaled or have worked well enough - the circumstances were dire, so the data just isn't there to tell either way. And while the Cybersyn team managed to build much of the technology they wanted, that technological change needed to be mirrored by social and political change to work well (e.g. interventors getting used to reporting data); and the team found the social and political aspects much harder to change. (talk) 19:31, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

Malware Link Removal[edit]

--Gary Dee 18:26, 8 July 2013 (UTC)

I think the source is not a good one[edit]

The source (note 4 as of this writing) is just someone's blog. It has no citations. Also, it says some pretty incredible stuff about Cybersyn that it offers no source for, for instance,

"Even as it consumed massive amounts of the Chilean economy, Cybersyn initially appeared to be successful when, during October 1972, conservative small businessmen went on strike. Some 50,000 truck drivers blocked the streets of Santiago, but through Cybersyn the government was able to identify 200 trucks that remained loyal and coordinate food deliveries to the areas of the city that needed it most." (talk) 06:45, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

Agreed, maybe the Spanish version and New York times article may have relevant information. Or even better one of the books on the subject. Jonpatterns (talk) 10:37, 19 July 2014 (UTC)


There's no mention of Cyberfolk in this article. Since it's arguably the earliest known attempt at E-democracy, I think it's important enough to be translated from the Spanish article and added here. (talk) 12:27, 15 December 2014 (UTC)


There was a documentary released in 2013 which deals with Cybersyn and how it fits into the history of cybernetics. - (talk) 19:59, 17 March 2017 (UTC)