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Project Cybersyn

Project Cybersyn was a Chilean attempt at real-time computer-controlled planned economy in the years 19701973 (during the government of president Salvador Allende). It was essentially a network of telex machines that linked factories with a single computer centre in Santiago, which controlled them using principles of cybernetics. The principal architect of the system was British operations research scientist Stafford Beer.


In early 1970, Stafford Beer was asked by the newly elected president Salvador Allende to design this system. It took about a year to become operational but it was never completely finished.

The system was most useful in October 1972, when about 50,000 striking truck drivers blocked the access streets that converged towards Santiago. Using the system's telex machines, the government was able to guarantee the transport of food into the city with only about 200 trucks driven by strike-breakers.

After the military coup on September 11, 1973, the control centre was destroyed.

The system

There were 500 unused telex machines bought by the previous government, each was put into one factory. In the control centre in Santiago, each day data coming from each factory were put into a computer, which made short-term predictions and necessary adjustments. There were four levels of control , with algedonic feedback . The results were discussed in the operations room and the top-level plan was made.

The software for Cybersyn was called Cyberstride, and it used Bayesian filtering and Bayesian control. It was written by Chilean engineers in consultation with a team of 12 British programmers.

The futuristic operations room was designed by a team lead by the interface designer Gui Bonsiepe. It was furnished with seven swivel chairs (considered the best for creativity) with buttons, which controlled several large screens that could project the data, and other panels with status information.

The project is described in some detail in Beer's book Platform for Change, including such social innovations as bringing representatives of diverse 'stakeholder' groups into the control centre.

See also

Viable System Model

History of Chile

Chilean coup of 1973


Fernando Flores


Enterprise resource planning

External links

Eden Medina, "Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende's Chile." Journal of Latin American Studies 38 (2006):571-606.


Lecture of Stafford Beer about the system

Lessons of Stafford Beer

Free As In Beer: Cybernetic Science Fictions

The picture of the "Operations room"

The forgotten story of Chile's 'socialist internet'

Futurism, fictional and science fictional - rambling and inspiring on BoingBoing

Project Cybersyn | varnelis.net

Rhizome.org: Project Cybersyn

The CyberSyn multimedia "reconstruction"

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