On September 7, 2023, the event “Cybernetic Socialists. Computer and Revolution in Allende’s Chile” took place as part of the discussion series “Digital Humanism - Shaping Transformation”, which is dedicated to the challenge of confronting digital technologies that have fundamentally changed our world and developing a vision of a “good digital life for all”.
The opening address by Wolfgang Renner from the Wiener Zeitung was followed by the radio feature about the “Cybernetic Socialists” by Jakob Schmidt and Jannis Funk. After that, there was a panel discussion with the both authors and Stefan Woltran, Co-head of CAIML, TU Wien, which was moderated by Anita Eichinger, Director of the Vienna City Library.
As the event took place during the 2nd ACM Digital Humanism Summer School, participants of the summer school were also in the audience, and found the chance to ask questions and exchange ideas with the panelists in the networking part after the discussion.
Fifty years ago - on September 11, 1973 - Chile’s cybernetic dream of justice was violently ended by a military coup. Three years earlier, the democratically elected socialist government of the left-wing alliance Unidad Popular, led by Salvador Allende, had come to power. Spurred on by the mood of optimism, a group of engineers, together with the cyberneticist Stafford Beer, developed a computer network to control the economy of the entire country - an experiment that seemed like science fiction: Project Cybersyn.
Algorithms were to calculate where scarcity was imminent and how resources could be distributed most effectively. As an early project of Digital Humanism, “Project Cybersyn” tells the story of idealists who were tragically ahead of their time.