Journal of Latin American Studies

Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende's Chile 1

a1 Informatics in the School of Informatics at Indiana University
a2 Indiana University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

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This article presents a history of ‘Project Cybersyn’, an early computer network developed in Chile during the socialist presidency of Salvador Allende (1970–1973) to regulate the growing social property area and manage the transition of Chile's economy from capitalism to socialism. Under the guidance of British cybernetician Stafford Beer, often lauded as the ‘father of management cybernetics’, an interdisciplinary Chilean team designed cybernetic models of factories within the nationalised sector and created a network for the rapid transmission of economic data between the government and the factory floor. The article describes the construction of this unorthodox system, examines how its structure reflected the socialist ideology of the Allende government, and documents the contributions of this technology to the Allende administration.

(Published Online July 19 2006)


1 The author wishes to thank the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies for supporting this research through an SSRC International Predissertation Fellowship as well as the Adelle and Erwin Tomash Fellowship in the History of Information Processing awarded by the Charles Babbage Institute. Part of this material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0322278. Any opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in the material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work has benefited from the insight and criticism provided by David Mindell, Peter Winn, Hugh Gusterson, Chappell Lawson, members of the MIT STS writing workshop, and the anonymous reviewers.