BACK TO EPISODE BACKGROUND

4. Critiques of Flores and Beer

The critiques of Fernando Flores and Stafford Beer emerged from various quarters, targeting their individual projects, which while distinct, had a degree of overlap given Flores' significant involvement in the Project Cybersyn. Both Flores and Beer faced criticism, albeit for slightly different reasons.

For Beer, the main contention with Project Cybersyn was that it seemed to be a system where workers had no input into its design. They were essentially used as sources of knowledge and data, to be mined by an elaborate set of modeling exercises. The data extracted would then be repackaged into a model, which could potentially be employed in high-level discussions with senior management. 

Stafford Beer gives how own critical take on Fernando's later work (around 49 min 29 sec)

Underpinning this approach was the notion that knowledge was neutral and its extraction method was irrelevant, provided it was done efficiently. However, what Beer failed to recognize was that his system was not fundamentally different from Taylorism, which also involved monitoring workers and extracting knowledge about operations for optimization purposes. While Beer's system was touted as more democratic, this was true only on one level. It did not factor in worker input when it came to design, which was a notable shortfall.