When military forces loyal to Gen. Augusto Pinochet staged a coup here (in Chile) in September 1973, they made a surprising discovery. Salvador Allende's Socialist government had quietly embarked on a novel experiment to manage Chile's economy using a clunky mainframe computer and a network of telex machines. The project, called CyberSyn, was the brainchild of A. Stafford Beer, a visionary Briton who employed his "cybernetic" concepts to help Mr. Allende find an alternative to the planned economies (Planned Economy) of Cuba and the Soviet Union... Cybersyn was born in July 1971 when Fernando Flores, then a 28-year-old government technocrat, sent a letter to Mr. Beer seeking his help in organizing Mr. Allende's economy by applying cybernetic concepts... Cybersyn's turning point came in October 1972, when a strike by truckers and retailers nearly paralyzed the economy. The interconnected telex machines, exchanging 2,000 messages a day, were a potent instrument, enabling the government to identify and organize alternative transportation resources that kept the economy moving... The military never could grasp Cybersyn, and finally dismantled the operations room. Several other Cybersyn team members went into exile. Mr. Flores, who was both economy and finance minister in the Allende government, spent three years in military concentration camps. After his release, he moved with his family to California to study at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy. He later was one of the inventors of the Coordinator, a program that tracked spoken commitments between workers within a company, one of the first forays into "WorkFlow" software. He became a millionaire and returned to Chile, where today he is a senator representing the Tarapaca Region.
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- whoops, too much borrowing from Eden Medina's book, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile
Video: "Free As In Beer: Cybernetic Science Fictions": A paper delivered at the 2009 Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Association Conference by Jeremiah Axelrod and Greg Borenstein that describes how British cyberneticist Stafford Beer's writing, infographics, and industrial design for his ambitious Cybersyn Project worked together to create a science fictional narrative of omniscience and ominpotence for Salvador Allende's socialist government in Chile.