Engineering cybernetics: 60 years in the making
The landmark book of Hsue-Shen Tsien, ‘Engineering Cybernetics’, gave birth 60 years ago to an engineering science of interrelations and synthetic behaviors. Clothing the bare bones of Norbert Wiener’s conception of cybernetics, the book delineates for the new science the requirement (of having direct impacts on engineering applications), the aim (of encapsulating engineering principles and concepts), the problems (of analysis, design, and uncertainty), the tools (of basic and advanced mathematics), and the scope (systems that are single input and output or multiple input and output, linear or nonlinear, deterministic or stochastic). The book is a showcase of originality, critical thinking and foresights. In particular, the author calls into question the basic assumption that ‘the properties and characteristics of the system to be controlled were always assumed to be known’ and points out that, in reality, ‘large unpredictable variations of the system properties may occur’. Sixty years later, the full spectrum of Tsien’s prophetic ideas is yet to be fully grasped and engineering cybernetics, as Tsien envisioned, is still in the making.
KeywordsCybernetics Engineering cybernetics Engineering science Feedback Active disturbance rejection
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